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and election sure. It is then the hope of a future repentance, which composes their minds. But how precarious such a hope . is, appears from this undeniable fact, that many have contented themselves with it as long as they lived. And what reason have you to conclude, that the same hope of future repentance which has flattered thousands through life, and flattered you hitherto, will not flatter you, till you die ? You think it now a just ground of inward peace; and yet you know that you must, and intend that you will, by and by, view it otherwise. You resolve, that some day or other, you will give it up, and live upon it no longer.
, But how absurd it is to depend upon that now, which you hope you shall hereafter see to be vain and delusive? If it be a sufficient ground of comfort now, why do you not intend to trust it always? If it be no ground of comfort, why will you trust it at all?
2. The words of the text remind us, that the sinner, however unprepared, must yield to death. Though, in the madness of his heart, he lives thoughtless of death, yet he must go to the dead as well as others.
A man would think his reason affronted, if his neighbor should seriously undertake to convince him that he must die, by laying before him, in a formal manner, the proofs of human mortality. You never met with a man, who would dispute this solemn truth. The most profane sinner in the world, if he ever talks calmly on such a subject, will say, “ All men are mortal—no man hath power in the day of death—there is no exemption from that warfareand no man knows what shall be on the morrow."
It may then, be proper to ask him such questions as these : Since
you believe this important truth, why are you not influenced by it? Since you know that God will bring you to death, why do you live as if you were in league with death ? Since you would be ashamed to have it thought, that you disbelieved your mortality, why are you not ashamed to act as if you disbelieved it? Which is most to your dishonor, to reject a plain and important truth, or to confess it and still live in opposition to it?
Death is an event as solemn and momentous, as it is certain and evident. It will dissolve this animal frame, disunite soul and body, remove us from every earthly interest and enjoyment, and
send us to a new world, where we shall exist in a new manner, and among new inhabitants; and it will there fix us in a condition extremely miserable, or inexpressibly happy. This is a most interesting change. And it is certainly near : it may be even at the door.
Surely the careless sinner does not realize that he shall die, or does not realize what it is to die. If a sense of death, in its solemn nature, and eternal consequences, were impressed on his mind, he could not be careless—he could not spend his time and strength in pursuit of vanities, and content himself with the postponement of his everlasting concerns. Let him, then, remember, and often consider, that there is an important scene before himthat death and judgment await him—that they linger not, nor slumber, but are hastening on—that he with others, must yield to death, and that there is no work, nor device in the grave. Let these considerations be applied, as an antidote to the madness of sin.
3. The text farther intimates, that the madness of sinners is often the means of hastening their death.
They go to the dead; and go the sooner, because madness is in their hearts. This the scripture teaches, and observation confirms. The Psalmist says, “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” They shall perish in the flower of their age. There are, indeed, some wicked men who live and become old; some who do evil, and yet their days are prolonged; and because sentence against their evil works is not executed speedily, their hearts are more fully set in them to do evil. The prophet supposes, that there
may be such a case, as a man's living to be an hundred years old, and yet dying accursed at last. But then the natural tendency of wickedness is, to shorten life; and God often makes the man of vice and impiety an example of his wrath by bringing him to a sudden, violent, or premature death. To this purpose we find many observations in the writings of Solomon. “Be not overmuch wicked-why shouldst thou die before thy time?”—“The wicked is driven away in his wickedness."-"His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall die without instruction." "He that will love life," says St. Peter," and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips
from speaking guile; let him eschew evil and do good; let him seek
pursue it; for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry : but the face of the Lord is against them who do evil, to cut off their remembrance from the earth.” This advice the apostle gave to christians, in a time when the profession of their religion exposed them to reproach and persecution. And the substance of his advice is, that if they would be safe in their christian profession, they must live the religion which they professed. It is as if he had said, “ If you desire to live long and comfortably in these contentious and perilous times, in the first place, bridle your tongues; never employ them in impiety, slander, or deception ; but let all your language be pure, grave, open and courteous. In your conduct avoid what your religion forbids, and strictly observe whatever it enjoins. Especially, live peaceably among yourselves, and cultivate and promote peace among all with whom you are conversant. Thus you will enjoy inward contentment, and serenity of conscience; and God will take you under his gracious protection, and be present with you in all your dangers ; while they, who pursue a contrary course, involve themselves in innumerable perplexities and troubles, and provoke God to withdraw his care, and to leave them to the consequences of their own folly and rashness.”
Many vices directly tend to bring on disease and death. Such are the vices of sensuality. “Who hath wo? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contention? Who hath wounds without cause ? They that tarry long at the wine.”
There are vices which waste men's substance; reduce them to want, and involve temptations to more intolerable vices, which expose them to the stroke of civil justice.
There are vices which divest men of self-command, and deprive them of the capacity of consulting their own safety, or di* recting their own conduct. Many in the paroxysm of lust, or passion, have done those dreadful deeds, which have terminated in their own ruin. Many, enslaved to an intemperate appetite, have perished by sudden accidents, or by slow and silent diseases.
We look with horror on the creature who has been his own executioner. Self-violence is an act so full of guilt, and so contrary to nature, that we all think ourselves in little danger of it.. But some who would shudder at the thought of self-execution are really guilty of it, and will be judged accordingly. If a man vol
a untarily destroy himself, what is the difference whether he cuts his own throat, or drinks poison? The latter is the guilt of the intemperate man. He will say, he has no intention to destroy life. Why then does he pursue a course, which leads to this effect? If he wilfully neglect to preserve his life, he is as really criminal, as if he aimed to destroy it. Will it exonerate him from guilt to say, he had no intention to injure himself, when he knows that injury will naturally ensue? It is every man's duty to consult his own preservation. If he put it out of his power to do this, then he voluntarily exposes his life. Now every man, who suffers himself to be intoxicated, either by passion, or by drink, puts it out of his power to take care of himself. Does he not then trifle with his life? And is. he not answerable for the consequences which follow?
4. The text suggests to us, that death often overtakes sinners suddenly and unexpectedly.
“ Madness is in their heart while they live." Stupidity pos-sesses them as long as life continues. “ After that they go to the dead.” Many are driven away in their wickedness, and by a storm hurled out of their place. God now gives them a space to repent. If they improve it, they will be safe. But their time is at God's disposal. He may cut them off, how and when he pleases. They live every hour on his forbearance. When they abuse, they forfeit their day of grace; and the continuance of it they cannot claim, on the foot either of justice or of promise. God commands them, while it is called to-day, to hear his voice, and not harden their hearts. He has given them warnings. What assurance have they, that he will give them any more? He may, perhaps, cut them off with pining sickness. But if he should, it is far from being certain, what use they will make of it. Pain of body, weakness of reason, stupidity of mind, or distraction of thought may prevent their improving to repentance the space allowed them. While they expect a recovery, they will perhaps flatter themselves as they do now. When they despair of recov.
ery, it may be, they will despair of mercy too. But it is by no means certain that they will have such a warning. Death may come by surprize. And should they have ever so much warning, still if they remain of the same dilatory and self-flattering spirit, death will come by surprize, because they do not expect it. The suddenness of death is owing, not so much to the manner in which it comes, as to the temper of the person on whom it comes. “He that being often reproved, hardens his heart, will suddenly be destroyed,” let destruction come how it may. The only way to prevent a sudden death, is to live in expectation of death and in readiness for it. If a servant say in his heart, my Lord delays his coming, and thus encourage himself to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink and be drunken, the Lord of that servant will come at a time when he looks not for him, and at an hour, when he is not aware, and will appoint his portion with unbelievers. But blessed are the servants, whom the Lord, when he comes, shall find watching and doing the work appointed them. And whether he come in the second or third watch and find them so, blessed are those servants.
5. Our text intimates that when death comes, the sinner will have different apprehensions of things from what he had before. “Madness is in his heart, while he lives"-no longer. Death will awaken him from his dreams and bring him to his senses, open his eyes and restore him to his sight.
When he comes to the verge of life, stands on the brink of eternity, and sees death behind ready to push him headlong into the gulf of wo, if he then have his reason, he will be convinced, that madness was in his heart while he lived. He will have different views of sin-of the world-of his vain pleasures and amusements--of the value of time of the worth of his soul, and the importance of religion; and will be amazed that he had not such views before. And yet his new views, instead of leading him to repentance, may urge him to despair. Who can conceive the distressed condition of an awakened, but hopeless sinner, lying on a death-bed, and looking into eternity ? “Now he thinks of nothing, but that he is going to appear before his Judge, and receive the just rewards of his wickedness. He sees the Judge