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THE use our Lord makes of the doctrine of death, is, Matt. xxiv. 44. There
fore be ye also ready, for in such hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh: Either to judgment, or by death : and happy they, who, with the wise virgins, are ready to go in to the marriage-chamber, and partake of the marriage-supper, Matt. xxv. 10. and it is one great business of the gospel ministry, under the inAuence of the Spirit and grace of God, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, Luke i. 17. that is, the elect of God, whom he has referved for himself. But the great question is, wherein lies this readiness and preparation for death and ecernity ? and this may be considered,
First, Negatively, what it is not. Many and fatal are the mistakes of persons about it; some placing it in one thing, and some in another.
(1.) Some think it is a well-spent life ; and that if a man can look back on such a life, he is ready for death, come when it may. But let us consider what this well-spent life is. The life of the apostle Paul was undoubtedly a life as well- . spent, as, perhaps, any that can be mentioned among men. Before conversion, his life was irreproachable; as to external morality, he lived in all good conscience before men; after conversion, his life was devoted to the service of Christ and his gospel ; his gladness and ambition were, to spend and be spent, wherever he came, for the good of immortal souls; he travelled much, endured great hardships, and laboured more than the rest of the apostles; which he imputes not to his own goodness, industry and power, but to the grace of God. And when the time of his departure was at hand, as it was when he wrote his Vol. II.
epistle to the Philippians, being then a prisoner at Rome ; what did he feek after, or judge to be his readiness for another world ? not his well-spent life : no; he desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness; in which must be included his well-fpent life, and which indeed was the main of it; but the righteousness which is of God by faith, even the righteousness of Christ. He forgot the things which were behind; his labours, services and sufferings for Chrilt, all his attainments and usefulness; and presed forward, not in a view of his well-spent life, but having his eye on the mark, Christ and his righteoulness, for the prize of the high calling of God in him, Phil. iii. 9–13, 14. The life of a common believer is a well-spent life, in comparison of others; he lives by faith on Christ, and gives him the glory of his falvation ; and, from a principle of love to him, walks in all his commandments and ordinances, and is very
desirous of living a life of holiness, and of spiricual and heavenly-mindedness, and does so live in some measure. But when the believer comes to look back on his past life of faith and holiness, what deficiencies and imperfections in his faich! what unbelief in him, at such and such a time will he observe! what tarnishes in his life and walk ! and how few the minutes were in which he was fpiricual and heavenly-minded! and how frequently and long was such a frame interrupted with carnal and sensual lusts! The faint, before his conversion, is as other men, being born in fin, and living in it: after conversion, prone to backsiding; even in all things he offends, and fins in his most folemn and religious services. He must therefore betray great ignorance of himself, who flatters himself, or suffers himself to be Aattered, with a reflection on a wellspent life, as his readiness and preparation for death and another world.
(2.) Others imagine, because they have done no injury to any man's person and property, nay, have done justice beciveen man and man, and have paid every man his own, they are ready for death come when it may. These are all very good things, and ought to be done ; for it is written, owe no man any thing ; but then they are no other than what such a man would chure to have done to himielf, and which he ought to do to others; and are no other than what ho. nour, conscience, and the laws of God and man oblige to ; and where is the merit of all this? And what obligation does this lay upon God? As Elibu ar. gues, Job xxxv. 7, 8. If thou be righteous, what givest thou bim? or what receiveth be of thine band? Thy wickedness may hurt a man, as tkou art, by injuring his person or property; and iby righteousness may profit the Son of man, by fair trade and paying just debts; but what profit is this to God? And, perhaps, after all, such a man has never thought about the payment of his debts to God, and how they must be paid, when he owes ten thousand talents, and has nothing to pay, nor to make a composition with. How can he think of appearing
before his great creditor, with such a charge and load of debes upon him? may he not justly fear, that he will order him to prison, there to lie, until che uttermost farthing is paid? The great concern should be, to know whether Christ is his surety, and has paid his debts for him, cancelled the bond, and blorced out the hand-writing against him, and so his account with God stands clear and fair. This is the best preparation for death and eternity.
(3.) Others think, that by giving alms to the poor, they get a readiness for death: To do good and to communicate, to do acts of beneficence from a right principle, are sacrifices with which God is well pleased; but these may be done only to be seen of men, and get applause from men; and such have their reward in this world, but not in another. A man may give all his goods to the poor, and yet not have charity, or true grace, and so be unfit to die. And very preposcerous and monstrously absurd it is, in some persons, who choose to give little away in their lifetime, and leave large estates for charitable uses after their death, as if what was to be done after death could be a preparation for it: chan which nothing can be more ridiculous.
(4.) Some place readiness for death in the mercy of God; imploring that in their last moments : and yet they cannot be sure they shall have time even to lay, “ Lord have mercy on us.” There is mercy with God, and it is a ground of hope ; but then it must be applied for by such who are sensible of their fins, confess them, forsake them, and turn to the Lord; such find mercy.' And besides, mercy is only had through Christ. God, out of Christ, is a consuming fire; a finner should go to God through Christ for mercy, saying, as the publican did, God be merciful, or propitious, to me a finner; that is, through the pitiatory sacrifice of his Son, Luke xviii. 13.
(5.) Others flatter themselves that they have made their peace with God, and so are prepared for death whenever it comes. And yet these persons, perhaps, never saw the faming sword of justice brandished against sin, nor the heavens opened, and wrath of God revealed from thence against all ungodliness of men; nor never heard the vollies of curses from a righteous law, which pronounces every man cursed, that continues not in all things written in it do them; and were never truly acquainted with what is required to be done in order to make peace, as satisfying justice by fulfilling the law, through obeying its precepts and bearing its penalty, with their own inability to do these things : they imagine, that their own humiliation, repentance, and imperfect obedience, are to make peace for them. They should know, that Christ ONLY is the peace-maker ; and their concern should be to know that he has made peace for them by the blood of his cross, and to lay hold upon him as such, Isai. xxvii. 5.
(6.) Others make their readiness for death to lie in a little negative holiness, and thank God, as the Pharisee did, that they are not as other men are; not
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guilty of such gross and Aagitious crimes as some are; they have not been guilty of murder, adultery, theft, and such like fins as others have. But this is a very Nender preparation for death ; publicans and harlots, repenting and believing, go into the kingdom of heaven before such.
(7.) Others, with greater plausibility, please themselves with a profesion of religion they have made and held. They have constantly attended on hearing the word, have submitted to baptism, sat down at the Lord's table, and observed every duty of religion. But all this a man may do, and not be ready. He may have a form of godliness, without the power of it. Some who have heard Christ preach, or his ministers, have eat and drank in his presence, will be bid to depart from him, as not known by him. In short,
(8.) Not any external righteousness whatever makes a man ready for death and eternity. For by ic he is not justified before God, and by it he is not faved. Except he has a better righteousness, he will never enter into the king. dom of heaven. And it should be our concern, with the apostle, to be found in Christ, and in his righteousness, and not in our own, which will leave us short of heaven and happiness.
SECONDLY, Positively, what that is, which constitutes a readiness and preparation for death; that which is certain, constant, and abiding, let a man's frames and circumstances be what they may; lies in the following things :
(1.) In regeneration. Without this, a man cannot fee, nor enter into, the kingdom of heaven. It is by the washing of regeneration God saves inen;
and the life with which a man is then quickened, is connected with eternal life. The grace then implanted is a well of living water, Springing up into a life that never dies. As soon as a man is born again, he is prepared for death, be his regeneration fooner or later, and from that moment always continues fo.
(2.) In SanElification, or a work of grace and holiness, which takes place im. mediately upon regeneration; and without which no man shall see the Lord; but where this is begun, it shall be carried on, and be performed, until the day of Christ, and so furnishes us with a readiness for that day. This is that oil of grace, which the wife virgins had in the vesiels of their hearts, besides lamps of profession; and so were ready when the bridegroom came.
(3.) The righteousness of Christ imputed, is a constant readiness for death and eternity. The church is said to make herself ready; which was done, by putting on the fine linen clean and white, the righteousness of Christ, which made her seady to meet him. Were it possible for a man to get into heaven, the marriage-chamber, without the nuptial robe, as it is not; he would be turned out, as unready and unfit, with, friend, how comest thou in bitber, not having a wed
ding garment? And he speechless, having nothing to alledge as a plea for his being there. Now such as are found in Christ, and cloathed with his righteousness, will be found, at death, neither naked nor speechless, but shall have a ready and an abundant entrance into Christ's kingdom and glory.
(4.) A being washed in the blood of Christ, and so clear from all guilt and charge of it, and condemnation by it, is a sure and lasting readiness for death. Christ's blood is a fountain opened to wash in; and it has such virtue in it, as to cleanse from all sin wbatever, and leaves none behind; so that a person once washed or purged by it, is clear from it, and when death comes, shall inimediately inherit the kingdom of God: which none sall, but those who are walhed, sanctified, and justified.
(5.) Spiritual knowledge of Christ, and true faith in him, have eternal life connected with them inseparably; though not always clear, and unbeclouded, and in lively exercise, yet the principle itself always abides, and is never loft ; and such who know in whom they have believed, are faithfully kept by him, to whom they have committed themselves, against the day of death and judgment.
There is another fort of readiness which is not always the same, and lies in the frame and posture of the soul, and which a saint is desirous of having when death comes, both for his own comfort and the glory of God; though he knows that his safety does not lie in it, yet he wishes to be found in the lively exercise of faith, and hope, and love, and patience, and resignation to the will of God: to be awake, and not in a Numbering frame; but watching and on his guard against the enemy, and expecting his Lord's coming; to be frequently meditating on death, and making it familiar to himself, and so become free from the fear and dread of it; and to be in such a disposition of mind, as to be defirous of dea h, and willing to depart; and rather choosing it, and longing for it; saying, why are bis chariot-wheels so long in coming? And to be so fearless of death, as to triumph over it, and say, Death, where is thy sting! Grave, where is thy victory! Or however, he wilhes to be in a waiting posture when death comes, waiting for the hope of righteousness by faith, and looking for his Lord's coming, with his loins girt and his lamp burning; and blesed indeed are those servants whom, when their Lord comes, he fall find. so doing, Luke xii. 35–37, 43.
JI. There are several things which may serve to reconcile men to death, though it is so disagreeable to nature; as, 1. The necesity of death to free chein from sin and sorrow, without which they will not be free. Whilst they are in this tabernacle they are burdened with sin, and groan under their burden; ner will they be eased till the tabernacle is dissolved, or pulled down by death. Whilst they are in this land, the Canaanites are in it, their inbred fins and cor