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ful and the diligent, because Christ's righteousness was perfect. Paternal justice maketh difference according to that worthiness which is so denominated by the law of grace. And as sin is its own punishment, holiness and obedience is much of its own reward. Whatever God appointeth thee to do, see that thou do it sincerely, and with all thy might. If sin dispose men to be angry because it is detected, disgraced, and resisted, if God be pleased, their wrath should be patiently borne, who will shortly be far more angry with themselves. If slander and obloquy survive, so will the better effects on those that are converted; and there is no comparison between these. I shall not be hurt, when I am with Christ, by the calumnies of men on earth ; but the saving benefit will, by converted sinners, be enjoyed everlastingly. Words and actions are transient things, and, being once past, are nothing; but the effects of them, on an immortal soul, may be endless. All the sermons that I have preached are nothing now; but the grace of God, on sanctified souls, is the beginning of eternal life. It is unspeakable mercy to be sincerely thus employed with success; therefore, I had reason, all this while, to be in Paul's strait, and make no haste in my desires to depart. The crown will come in its due time; and eternity is long enough to enjoy it, how long 'soever it be delayed: but if I will do that which must obtain it for myself and others, it must be quickly done, before my declining sun be set.
O that I had no worse causes of my unwillingness yet to die, than my desire to do the work of life for my own and other men's salvation; and to finish my course with joy, and the ministry committed to me by the Lord.
Use 6. And as it is on earth that I must do good to others, so it must be in a manner suited to their state on earth. Souls are here closely united to bodies, by which they must receive much good or hurt: do good to men's bodies, if thou wouldest do good to their souls; say not, things corporeal are worthless trifles, for wbich the receivers will be never the better ; they are things that nature is easily sensible of; and sense is the passage to the mind and will. Dost not thou find what a help it is to thyself to have, at any time, any ease and alacrity of body? And what a burden and hindrance pains
and cares are? Labor, then, to free others from such burdens and temptations, and be not regardless of them. If thou must rejoice with them that rejoice, and mourn with them that mourn, further thy own joy in furthering theirs; and avoid thy own sorrows, in avoiding or curing theirs.
But, alas! what power hath selfishness in most. How easily do we bear our brethren's pains, reproaches, wants, and afflictions, in comparison of our own : how few thoughts, and how little cost or labor, do we use for their supply, in comparison of what we do for ourselves. Nature, indeed, teacheth us to be most sensible of our own case ;
but grace tells us, that we should not make so great a difference as we do, but should love our neighbors as ourselves.
Use 7. And now, O my soul, consider how mercifully God hath dealt with thee, that thy strait should be between two conditions so desirable. I shall either die speedily, or stay yet longer upon earth; whichever it be, it will be a merciful and comfortable state ; that it is desirable to depart and be with Christ, I must not doubt, and shall anon more copiously consider. And if my abode on earth yet longer be so great a mercy as to be put in the balance against my present possession of heaven, surely it must be a state which obligeth me to great thankfulness to God, and comfortable acknowledgment; and surely it is not my pain, or sickness, my sufferings from malicious men, that should make this life on earth unacceptable, while God will continue it. Paul had his prick or thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, and suffered more from men (though less in his health) than I have done; and yet he gloried in such infirmities, and rejoiced in his tribulations, and was in a strait between living and dying, yea, rather chose to live yet longer.
Alas! it is another kind of strait that most of the world are in. The strait of most is between the desire of life for fleshly interest, and the fear of death, as ending their felicity. The strait of many is, between a tiring world and body, which maketh them weary of living,
, and the dreadful prospect of future danger, which makes them afraid of dying; if they live it is in misery ; if they must die, they are afraid of greater misery. Which way ever they look, behind or before them, to this world or the next, fear and trouble is their lot. Yea, many an upright Christian, through the weakness of his trust in God, doth live in this perplexed strait; weary of living, and afraid of dying; between grief and fear, they are pressed continually. But Paul's strait was between two joys; which of them he should desire most : and if that be my case, what should much interrupt my peace or pleasure? If I live, it is for Christ; for his work, and for his church ; for preparation for my own and others' everlasting felicity : and should any suffering, which maketh me not unserviceable, make me impatient with such a work, and such a life? If I die presently, it is my gain; God who appointeth me my work, doth limit my time, and sure his glorious reward can never be unseasonable, or come too soon, if it be the time that he appointeth. When I first engaged myself to preach the gospel, I reckoned (as probable) but upon one or two years; and God hath continued me yet above forty-four: (with such interruptions as others in these times have had ;) and what reason have I now to be unwilling, either to live or die? God's service hath been so sweet to me, that it hath overcome the trouble of constant pains, or weakness, of the flesh, and all that men have said or done against me.
But the following crown exceeds this pleasure, more than I am here capable to conceive. There is some trouble in all this pleasant work, from which the soul and flesh would rest; and blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord; even so saith the spirit; for they rest from their labors and their works follow them.
But, O my soul, what needest thou be troubled in this kind of strait? It is not left to thee to choose whether or when thou wilt live or die. It is God that will determine it, who is infinitely fitter to choose than thou. Leave, therefore, his own work to himself, and mind that which is thine; whilst thou livest, live to Christ; and when thou diest, thou shall die to Christ; even into his blessed hands : so live that thou mayest say, “ It is Christ liveth in me, and the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me;" and then, as thou hast lived in the comfort of hope, thou shalt die unto the comfort of vision and fruition. And when thou canst say,
“ He is the God whose I am,
and whom I serve,” thou mayest boldly add, and whom I trust, and to whom I commend my departing soul; and I know whom I have trusted.'
Phil. i. 23.
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be
with Christ, which is far better. (Or, for this is much rather to be preferred, or better.)
Sect. 1. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down : he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?" saith Job, xiv. 1-3. As a watch when it is wound up, or as a candle newly lighted, so man, newly conceived or born, beginneth a motion, which, incessantly hasteth to its appointed period. And an action, and its time that is past, is nothing; so vain a thing would man be, and so vain his life, were it not for the hopes of a more durable life, which this referreth to. But those hopes, and the means, do not only difference a believer from an infidel, but a man from a beast. When Solomon describeth the difference, in respect to the time and things of this life only, he truly tells us, that one end here befalling both, doth show that both are here but vanity, but man's vexation is greater than the beasts'. And Paul truly saith of Christians, that if our hope were only in this life, (that is, in the time and things of this life and world,) we were, of all men, the most miserable. Though even in this life, as related to a better, and as we are exercised about things of a higher nature than the concerns of temporal life, we are far happier than any worldlings.
Sect. 2. Being to speak to myself, I shall pass by all the rest of the matter of this text, and suppose its due explication, and spread before my soul only the doctrine and uses of these two propositions contained in it. I. That the souls of believers, when departed hence,
shall be with Christ. II. That so to be with Christ is far better for them than to be here in the body.
Sect. 3. I. Concerning the first, my thoughts shall keep this order. I. I shall consider the necessity of believing it. II. Whether it be best believing it, without consideration of the proofs or difficulties. NI. The certainty of it manifested for the exercise of faith.
Sect. 4. I. Whether the words signify that we shall be in the same place with Christ (which Grotius groundlessly denieth) or only in his hand, and care, and love, I will not stay to dispute. Many other texts concurring, do assure us that “we shall be with him where he is.” (John xii. 26, and xvii. 24, &c.) At least, “ with him,” can mean () no less than a state of communion, and a participation of felicity. And to believe such a state of happiness for departed souls, is of manifold necessity, or use.
Sect. 5. i. If this be not soundly believed, a man must live besides, or below, the end of life. He must have a false end, or be uncertain what should be his end.
I know it may be objected, that if I make it my end to please God, by obeying him, and doing all the good I can, and trust him with my soul, and future estate, as one that is utterly uncertain what he will do with me, I have an end intended, which will make me godly, charitable, and just, and happy, so far as I am made for happiness ; for the pleasing of God is the right end of all.
But, 1. Must I desire to please him no better than I do in this imperfect state, in which I have and do so much which is displeasing to him? He that must desire to please him, must desire to please him perfectly; and our desire of our ultimate end must have no bounds, or check. Am I capable of pleasing God no better than by such a sinful life as this?
2. God hath made the desire of our own felicity so necessary to the soul of man, that it cannot be expected that our desire to please him should be separated from this.
3. Therefore, both in respect of God, as the end, and of our felicity, as our second end, we must believe that he is the beatifying rewarder of them that diligently seek him.