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great good Men had small Regard to the Pleasures of Sense, and glittering Gayeties of this World, but kept their Eyes and Hearts intent upon Eternal Joys: Those were their Hope, their Delight, the earnest and only Longing of their Souls : And therefore the Only one, left if their Affections were at all divided, the Love of the Things that are seen, should fasten down their Hearts to mean and earthly Objects, and hinder them from soaring up on high to the infinitely more precious Things that are not seen.
This is indeed a Work of Pains and Time ; but let not that Consideration drive you to despair of attaining an Heavenly Temper of Mind. The Undertaking is great, 'tis true ; and the Time allowed for it but Thort; but still this short Space is enough, if you will take care to make the best of it. Up then, and be doing ; do not purpose well to Day, and put off the Execution to a farther Day, hut rather argue your self into Action by such Reflections as these. This very Instant is the proper Time, This the Season of Amende ment, and fighting the good Fight. It is by Hardship and Suffering, that Men recommend themselves to the Acceptance and Favour of God. He hath ordained, that Fire and Water, Distress and Tribulation should be the way that leads to Refreshment and true Bliss. Without some Violence upon thy self, Sin cannot be fubdued, nor evil Customs broken. Without fome Uneasiness and Pain we cannot live ; And, while we carry this Body of Flesh about us, these will make an inseparable Part of the Burthen. We wish indeed for Ease and untroubled Satisfaction ; but, as the Condition of Mankind stands at present, we wish in vain. For, in losing the Innocence of our Nature, we lost our Happiness too ; and as both left us, so both must be restored, together. Patience is now become a necessary Virtue, and we must be content to wait the Season of God's Mercy ; when he shall E 2
fully repair our Breaches, heal our Infirmities, put a Period to our Unrighteousness, absolve the Guilt, blot out the Remembrance of them, and caufe Mortality to be swallowed up of Life.
In the mean time, it cannot methinks but be a mighty Mortification, to consider how exceeding prone this frail Nature of ours is to Sin. To day you confess
Sins to God, and to morrow you act those very Sins over again, which you lamented but the Day before. This Hour you resolve to be watchful, and take good heed to all your Ways ; and the very next Hour you run on as giddily and rafhly as ever, forget your Refolutions, and stand more Selfcondemned than if you had never refolved at all. So great Reason is there for Thinking very meanly of our selves, and disclaiming all vain Confidences in any Thing we are, or do. But these so sudden and frequent Relapses are not our Misfortunes, but our Faults. They are indeed the Consequents of our Frailty ; but that. Frailty would not affect us to that degree, did not we contribute to it by our own Negligence and Inconstancy. And a small Neglect will soon undo, what cost much Time and Labour to effect ; nay, what could not have been effected even fo neither, had not Almighty God seconded our Endeavours with his Divine Assistance.
But if we cool fo very quickly, and cannot' Watch one Hour, what will become of us at last, and how shall we persevere in Faithfulness unto the End ? Wretched are we indeed, if we faint and grow weary, if we give out and seek Refreshment, as if we were already safe and in absolute Peace ; when we have scarce begun the Battel, and gained but little Ground in Holinefs and Reformation of Manners. Alas! we are as yet but raw Beginners ; fo far from compleat Masters in our Business, that we have still need to learn and practise the very first Rules of Living over again; be
fore we can be so perfect as we wish and ought to be. Nor should we disdain to do so, if those Condefcentions can prove of use to us.
CHA P. XXIII.
Meditations concerning Death.
Ince Life is of short and uncertain Continuance, it
good heed how you employ it. To Day the Man is vigorous, and gay, and Aourishing, and to Morrow he is cut down, withered and gone. A very little Time carries him out of our Sight, and a very little more out of our Remembrance. O the Hardnefs of Men's Hearts ! O the wretched Stupidity! that fixes their whole Thoughts and Care upon the present ; and will not be prevailed with to look before them, or bear any Regard to That which must come hereafter. Whereas in truth, every Work, and Word, and Thought, ought to be so ordered, as if it were to be our Laft : ; and we inftantly to Die, and render an Account of it. Would we entertain our felves more with the Thoughts of Death, it would be less a Terror to us : For, in proportion as our Lives amend, our Fears will abate, and a clear Conscience will enable us to meet Death with undaunted Courage. However Flesh and Frailty may impose upon us, yet, be assured, 'tis greater Wisdom to be afraid of Sinning, than to be afraid of Dying ; a greater Blessing to preserve our Innocence, than to prolong our Lives. And whence is all this Fear and Anxiety ? Is it because we are not fit to Die ? But, if you are not fit to Day, how do you propose to be so to Morrow? Alas ! to Morrow is uncertain ; neither You, nor I, nor any Man can depend
upon it. Or if we could
Or if we could, yet what does it avail to Live, tho' it were much longer, when we by longer Living grow so little better. Assure your felf, long Life is far from being always a Blessing. Too many (God knows) are so far from growing holier, as they grow older, that the Number of their Days only adds to the Number of their Sins, and renders their Account more heavy hereafter.
Happy is that Man, who can comfort himself with having employed any one Day of his Life so perfectly well, as he might, and ought to have done. Many reckon up the Years of their Conversion with great Satisfaction, and think it a mighty Matter that they have so long abandoned the World and a vicious Course. And yet, when the Time they boast of comes to be compared with the Improvements they have made, how shamefully little is the Good they have done ? If Dying now be terrible, yet remember that Living longer may be dangerous ; and many, many a Man finds too great Occasion to wish, that it had pleased God to take him away fooner. Happy therefore is He who keeps the Hour of Death constantly in View ; and from this Prospect of what must come, takes care to reconcile himself to it, and to put his Soul into a proper Temper for it, when it does come.
If you attend at any Time upon a Death-Bed, and see another in his Parting Agonies ; consider that this Friend is gone the same way where you must shortly follow him. In the Morning, question whether you may live till Night ; and when Night comes, do not too confidențly promise your self another Morning. Thus shall you be in a constant Expectation, and in a good Disposition to die. And be sure so to live always, that Death may never overtake you unprovided, nor its suddenest Approach be sudden and furprizing, in respect of You. Many are snatched away in an Instant, and die when they were not in the least
aware of it, for in in such an Hour as we
Matth. xxiv. think not, the Son of Man cometh. Let
44. not the Preparation I am advising, be neglected, as a melancholy unpleasant Thing ; such as embitters Life, and damps Mens present Enjoyment; for be assured, whatever Satisfaction you may take now, when that last Hour draws on, it will give you quite other Notions of the Matter. And the Reflections upon your past Improvidence and Neglect will be more bitter and afflicting then, than any the most follicitous Forecast for Dying well, can possibly be in the mean time.
O how wise, how happy is that Man, who makes it his daily Care to be such while he liveth, as he desires to be found when he comes to Die! We may cherish a good Hope and great Afsurance of leaving the World to our Comfort and infinite Advantage, it, while we continue in it, we can bring our felves to neglect and despise it : If we be zealous to improve in Virtue ; in love with Discipline and Mortification, if we attend to the Exercise of Repentance; if we be of an humble and obedient Disposition ; content to deny our selves, and ready to undergo any Hardship for Christ's fake. But if these Qualifications be necessary, they are necessary to be attained in Health. For then a Man is in a Condition to strive, and to exert himfelf; but when Sickness is upon him, it is a great Question what he will be able to do, or whether any thing at all. Whatever the generality of the World may imagine; who put off their great Work till such improper Seasons ; yet sure it is, that few, but very few, are reformed by a Sick Bed. And they who defer their Repentance and Amendment till then, feldom, alas! repent as they ought, or are amended in good earnest. Depend not upon the Asistance of
Relations and Acquaintance: Nor cherish an Imagination fovain, as that their Prayers hereafter can effect, what you ne