Job xxx. 23. I know that thou will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living. The certainty of death ; the uncertainty of that hour when we shall feel its stroke ; and the solemn and eternal consequences connected with the state of our soul when we close our eyes upon the earth : these are subjects on which you have often been addressed in the house of God, and when you stood by the mouth of the grave, open to receive the cold corpses of your relatives and friends. It is not my intention at the present time, to re-urge upon you these important truths; but I have selected these words to lead us to the consideration of a subject which, if properly improved, will tend much to augment our holiness, and prepare us for the inevitable hour of our dissolution. This subject is the variety in the feelings, expressions, and conduct, which we observe both in good and bad men on the bed of death. To illustrate.

MISCELLA EOUS. 243 explain, and apply this one point, is the sole design of the ensuing discourse. I. Let us then consider those whom we esteem pious, whom we have reason to regard as the real children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. Recall the scenes which you have witnessed when you have stood by the deathbed of such persons; and add to your own observa-

tion the knowledge which you have derived from the information of others, or the biographies of the pious. You will find three classes, widely differing from each other in their dying experiences ; some are agitated hy terror, and doubts, and apprehensions ; some are exulting and triumphant ; some, without any extraordinary raptures, have a sweet calm, and tranquillity of spirit, a filial confidence and trust in their Redeemer. You perceive that I am speaking only of those who have the exercise of their reason ; among those who are deprived of it, there are some, who, in the most unconnected wanderings of their mind, show what is the object of their chief affections, and where their heart and their treasure are fixed : and there are others, whose wild ravings give no indication of those sentiments, the truth and strength of which have been attested by their past lives, ft is painful indeed to see our pious friends expire in this manner ; but it is consolatory to recollect, that our "God knoweth whereof we are made; ever remembereth that Ave are dust;" and will not impute to us as crimes the involuntary wanderings of delirium. I return to those whose rational powers are unimpaired. Among them, I have said, 1. There are some whom we believe to be the children of God. whrmo dooth-beds arc marked bv

244 SERMO XC1I. doubts, and terror, and apprehension. I need not point you to the closing hours of the excellent Cowper, in illustration of this remark; you yourselves have probably beheld similar scenes.

Sometimes this darkness continues to the very termination of life; but more frequently it is dissipated before dissolution. If we consider the causes of this darkness, we shall only be surprised that it is not more frequent. These causes are various. The first and most common is the coldness and lukewarmness of those who experience it ; by a life inconsistent with their engagements and their privileges, they made an assignation with terror to meet them on their bed of death. They had the Christian graces, but they suffered these graces to wither. Instead of continually cultivating spiritual mindedness, they had been too much attached to the pleasures, or riches, or honours of the world : instead of a close walk with God, and of keeping the things of eternity fresh upon their souls, they lived too much as do those who have never tasted the grace of the Redeemer; they have indeed built upon Christ as the only foundation, but they have placed much " hay and stubble'' upon this foundation ; and therefore, in the language of the apostle, though they are saved, " it is so as by fire." (I Cor. iii. 10, &c.) Though they are among the wise virgins, they have slumbered, and are therefore filled with alarm at the unexpected coming of the bridegroom. Such persons as these can look for no special cordials in their last hours; no peculiar supports in the moments of dissolution : recalling their many neglects of duty, the little that they have done to glorify their Redeemer or advance his cause ; having lived without daily self-

MISCELLA EOUS. 245 examination, and constant converse with God and the Saviour through the eternal Spirit, it is not won-

derful that their last hours should be clouded with doubt, and that they should depart from this world trembling, uncertain whether they are going to heaven or to hell. Since such is often the just punishment of God upon the slothful Christian, let us rouse ourselves, my brethren; instead of lying thoughtlessly " at ease in Zion," let us endure hardships as good soldiers of Christ," " quit ourselves like men,"" and fight courageously the battles of the Lord; let us secure the blessing promised to him " whom, when his Lord cometh, he shall find watching!" But there are lively and active Christians who expire in terror and alarm. For this no doubt God has reasons which we do not always understand. Frequently we must bend and adore, reverencing the darkness in which he shrouds himself, confessing that his wisdom is unsearchable, and acknowledging that " He moves in a mysterious way " His wonders to perform." But we may suppose that he sometimes permits (to use an expression of Flavel) " a bright sun to set under a dark cloud," in order to teach us not to judge of the future state of a man merely by his death-bed exercises. This is an error to which we are far too prone ; an error, that in its consequences, is most pernicious. The Lord, therefore, for the benefit of survivers, suffers him whose life gave the most splendid proofs of piety ; whose " path was like that of the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day;" of whose salvation we can entertain no doubt, to go down in darkness, that we may feel


that it is from a holy and devoted life that we must derive our best hopes of the happiness of the pious. The Lord permits this to teach us our absolute dependence upon the freeness and riches of his grace, for our spiritual comforts. If these were always connected with a holy life ; if every one who died safely, died also triumphantly, we should imagine that the communication of these special joys to the pious, was necessary and unavoidable. To teach us that they are dispensed " according to the good pleasure of his will," and to inspire us with gratitude for that portion of them which we or our friends feel, he sometimes withholds them from those who are the objects of his dearest affection. The Lord permits this in order to alarm the careless, and bring them to repentance. If many a sinner has been attracted by the triumphs of a departing Christian, and compelled to exclaim, " Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !" so also, many have been terrified, and brought to serious reflection by the doubts and apprehensions of the expiring believer. They have gone from the sick chamber exclaiming, « If death be so awful to one who has lived as the servant of God, what must it be to me, a rebel against him ? If one who has glorified the Redeemer, finds " the swellings of Jordan" so dreadful, when just beyond them is for him the promised land, what must be the fury of those waves with which I must contend, and which will bear me, if 'I die in my present state, to the gulf of eternal despair? "If the righteous scarcely are saved, where, oh where ! will the wicked and ungodly appear?" Such reflections are calculated deeply to impress the sinner, and cause him to " flee from the wrath which is to come."

MISCELLA EOUS. 247 May we not suppose also, that this is sometimes permitted, in order to make us properly and gratefully estimate the grace of Jesus in submitting to that mysterious dereliction of his Father upon the cross, under which he cried, " My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me ?" When we view the pangs and the agonies of these pious men ; their longings and pantings after the light of God's countenance ; the readiness with which they would renounce all created joys for this blessing; can we fail to raise our grateful praises to Him, who, that we might have joy and triumph, underwent a desertion far more grievous ; consented to have the light of that countenance, of which from eternity he had made his only joy, eclipsed for a season, and to have all those infinite delights intermitted, the full value of which he only could appreciate ? But if these are probably some of the reasons why, at times, the pious are permitted to expire in apprehension and in doubt, there are also inferior causes to account for this dispensation. It sometimes is produced by the violent assaults of evil spirits. As they most furiously assailed the Saviour in the garden just before his death, so do they also act towards his members ; as they most violently tortured the demoniac just before they were ejected, so do they endeavour to harass and distress the believer the more, as they perceive the hour is at hand, when he shall be entirely free from their malice and seductions ; and they now make this assault with the more readiness, because from the state of the soul, distracted in its powers, they hope for more success. Imperfect views of divine truth ; of the scheme of redemption ; of the nature, the extent, the freeness,

248 SERMO XCIJ. and the grace of* the Christian covenant, may produce the same effect. A man may be a sincere believer, and yet from prejudice, from education, or other causes, may have erroneous sentiments, which, without dissolving the union of his soul to Christ, may mar his comforts and overshadow him with gloom. Sometimes it results from a habit too frequent even among good men, of building their eomfort only on sensible joys and manifestations, instead of deriving it from the grace and stability of the covenant, from its everlasting promises, and from the steady adherence of the soul to Christ. This was the case with a good man oppressed with melancholy, who cried to a pious minister who came to visit him, " O what will you say of him who is going out of the world, and can find no comfort?" " What will you say ;" (was the satisfactory and impressive answer,) " what will you say of our Saviour Christ, who, when going out of the world, found no comfort, but cried out " My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me ?" The answer reached his heart ; he felt that faith and the joy of faith are not inseparable, and became tranquil and composed. In consequence of the intimate connexion of the soul and the body, and the operation of one upon tho other, there is no doubt that the despondency of some pious persons upon their death-beds, has been the effect of a temperament constitutionally melancholy, or of the bodily languor consequent upon exhaustion. And finally, there are some who recoil from the

tomb, in consequence of the natural fear of death implanted in us : and who, because they are thus afraid

MISCELLA EOUS. 249 of dying, are filled with doubts of their sincerity, and fears that they have no interest in the Redeemer. Such are some of the reasons why there are persons, whom death introduces into the joy of their Lord, who yet go down trembling into the grave. But I turn with pleasure to a 2d. Class of good men, who on their death-beds are exulting and triumphant. Instances of this kind you have seen, if you have been in the habit of attending the sick chambers of departing Christians : you have beheld all the pains of sickness vanishing before their overpowering raptures ; while they fix a steady eye upon the atonement, not only are the accusations of conscience silenced, and the fears of future wrath subdued, but they also taste of joys which they never felt before, and pant for the moment that shall dissolve their connexion with earth and earthly objects, and put them in possession of the crown of righteousness : they have had temptations and combats with their spiritual foes, but these have already ceased ; and " the purity which had struggled with imperfection and sin, as the morning contends with the lingering darkness, shines with all the lustre of the perfect day." They need not seek comfort from others ; they bestow it upon all who surround them ; " the spirit feels itself free, even in the grasp of death ; the opening of the portals of bliss to receive their departing souls, sheds upon their pale countenances the light of eternal glory, dazzling the spectators with its ineffable radiance ;" their faces,

like that of Stephen, when he saw his glorified Redeemer, appear " as it had been the face of an angel ;" their souls are encompassed with a lustre more brilliant than the splendour which surrounded the ascending Elijah; their ecstasies are not the vain vol. iil 32

250 SERMO XCII. glows of a deluded imagination, nor the mere raptures of enthusiasm, but the natural and reasonable effect of that bright vision of eternal joys, vouchsafed to them by the Holy Spirit, and of the assurance which lie gives them, that these joys are theirs. ot only is their heart warmed ; their mind also is enlightened and strengthened. Attend to their conversation, vou remark an energy which they never before exhibited ; " you discern the high pulsations of mental health ;" you perceive a warmth of feeling, a vigour of understandings brightness of imagination, that were never before displayed by them ; listen to the fervour, the holy eloquence, the touching earnestness and comprehensiveness of their prayers, and then confess that, he must be a poor and miserable fanatic in the worst of causes, who will dare to sneer at this as enthusiasm. Such dying exercises, though not unknown among us, are more frequently found in times when the church is persecuted, and when the friends of the Redeemer seal their attachment to him with their blood. In the history of the martyrs, you have met with many examples of this triumphant departure from earth. This exalted privilege, is also granted not unfrequently to those good men who have gone mourning

and dejected through life. There are few pastors who cannot recollect some trembling, humble, timid, but deeply conscientious and zealous Christians, whose death-beds were thus animating and glorious. It is often the case too, with those young persons whose hearts glowed with love to the Redeemer; and on whom the church fixed its brightest hopes and fondest expectations ; but who, in the flower of their days, were removed from earth. By such u

MISCELLA EOUS. 251 triumphant departure, God gives consolation to the hearts wounded by their loss. 3. There is a third class of good men, who on the death-bed have not these raptures, but who on the other hand are not oppressed by doubts and apprehensions. They have a steady composure, a calm and serene reliance iipo?t their Redeemer. They look with holy confidence and tranquillity to heaven as their home, and without anxiety submit their interests for time and for eternity to the disposal of their covenant-God. They feel that the foundation on which they rest their everlasting all, is secure and immoveable. They believe and relish the precious promises of God. Rejoicing in the fulness and perfection of the covenant, in the love of the Father, in the grace and atonement of Jesus, in their past experience of divine mercy, and of the influences of the Spirit, they sweetly compose themselves on the bosom of their Redeemer, and in the tender language of scripture, " fall asleep in Christ." This, if I mistake not, in ordinary states of the church, is the general temper of those more mature and advanced believers who have long walked with God, when they approach the hour of their dissolution. Such was the serenity of Jacob : " I die ; but God shall be with you. I have waited for thy

salvation, O Lord." Such was the composure of Joshua : " Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth ; and ye know in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you." And such was the temper of manyother distinguished saints of the Old Testament. How many thousands in more modern times have displayed the same calm serenity ! When Baxter was asked, just before his dissolution, how he was;

252 &ERM0 XClf. looking tip to heaven, he replied, " Almost well/* When Watts was near the eternal state, he said, " I bless God, I can lie down with comfort at night, unsolicitous whether I wake in this world or another." " I have nothing," said Gill, when dying, " to make me uneasy ; my Father. O my Father !" Examples of the same kind might be multiplied without number ; but they are unnecessary ; for such death-beds who of us has not seen ? Let me only further remark, that perhaps this temper in our last hours is most correspondent to the example of our Redeemer. It is true that at times we hear him expressing a desire to pour out his blood for our salvation ; declaring that he had a baptism to be baptized with, and was straitened until it was accomplished ; and rejoicing that the last passover which he was to celebrate with his disciples had arrived. It is true also, that we behold him at one period upon the cross experiencing darkness and distress ; but I speak of the prevalent temper displayed upon the cross, and in that last conversation with his disciples, and prayer for them, that are preserved by St. John. What can exceed the confidence, the composure, the serenity, and tenderness, that appeared in his actions and shone in his discourses ! Oh ! that we

may imitate him in life and in death! We have marked the last hours of the children of God. We have exhibited to you three classes of expiring Christians : those who expire in doubt and alarm; those who leave the world in triumph and rapture ; and those who, with a sweet and calm composure, yield up their spirits into the hands of their Redeemer. I!. In approaching now the death-beds of those who have lived impenitent and unbelieving, without God

MISCELLA EOUS. 253 and without Christ in the world, we behold no less diversity. Of these some are filled with agony and horror; some have a false joy, and an unwarranted exultation; and some are stupid, insensible, and unconcerned. Let us rapidly describe these three different classes. 1. Some, who mocked at the restraints of religion during their health, who neglected the offers of salvation made them by the Redeemer, who lived as though there were no God, no soul, no eternity; are in their last moments filled with horror, anguish, and despair. They feel the lashes of an enraged conscience, which at last has waked from its lethargy. By the new and terrible light which God sheds down in their souls, they perceive those overpowering and eternal realities with which they have hitherto trifled, and some drops of the wrath of the Almighty afford an earnest of that wo which shall never end, and excite terror and agony that give a solemn and impressive warning to those who have lived like

them. In vain do they look for consolation to the past, the present, or the future ; every where only images of horror start up around them. Life and death fill them equally with dismay : life is agony ; and when they would rush forward to death to escape, they behold the world of darkness and the gulf of horrors yawning to receive them. They find earth impotent to comfort them ; and they receive no ray of consolation from heaven. Those around their bed are pierced by the look of supplicating anguish which they raise to heaven ; and shocked by the imprecations of rage and fury with which it is not unfrequently succeeded. But the tempest at last has spent its fury ; the head falls back ; the king of ter-

254 SERMO XCII. rors sits on his throne : the survivers scarcely breathe, and dare not think of the future : all is still and cold. Such horrible spectacles are often exhibited; they freeze ihe blood ; but constrain us to cry out, M O my soul ! come not thou into their secret ; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united." 2. But do all sinners die thus ? o ! there are some who, after the most careless and profane lives, leave the world with the most rapturous expressions of triumph upon their lips. They have an air of exultation, when we would desire to see tears; they talk of joys unspeakable, when we would rather witness the sighings of the contrite heart ; they depart full of joy and confidence ; they are often eulogized, canonized by their friends; but, alas! many who thus die are sentenced by God to perdition ! and could we follow r the soul into the eternal world, we should hear " from the darkness in which it vanishes, instead of its expiring raptures, the shrieks of sur-

prise and terror, and the overpowering accents of the messenger of vengeance." Think not that in speaking thus, we are uncharitable ; we decide not concerning particular individuals : God has judged them, and their doom will be announced to us at the decisive day. But that many are thus deceived, we know from the lives of thousands, who, after expressing all these raptures, w r ere unexpectedly restored to health, and too unequivocally proved by their walk and conversation, that these joys were a delusion ; that they were utter strangers to regenerating grace ; and that had they died even in the midst of their transports, their souls with equal surprise and horror would have found themselves in the world of despair. We know it from the want of the Christian graces, of deep humility, of self-loathing;

MISCELLA EOUS. '25i> for their past sins, and of unfeigned repentance ; of a holy self-distrust and jealousy over their own hearts. We know it from the plain testimony of the word of God; which in many places, and in various modes, by parable and direct assertion, teaches us that many, who confidently expected to enter into the kingdom of glory, shall be addressed by the Saviour in those terrible words : " Depart from me ; I know you not." " We frequently," says the excellent Dr. Scott, " hear of persons that have lived strangers to evangelical religion and the power of godliness, dying with composure, resignation, and even triumph ; and such instances are brought forward as an objection to the necessity of faith and a devoted life. But what do they prove ? what evidence is there that such men are saved ? Is it not far more likely that they continued to the end under the power of igno-

rance and self conceit; that Satan took care not to disturb them ; and that God gave them over to a strong delusion, and to perish with a lie in their right hand ? Men who have neglected religion all their lives, or have habitually for a length of years disgraced an evangelical profession, being when near death visited by pious persons, sometimes obtain a sudden and extraordinary measure of peace and joy, and die in this frame. This should in general be considered as a bad sign : for deep humiliation, yea, distress, united with some trembling hope in God's mercy through the gospel, is far more suited to their case, and more likely to be the effect of spiritual illumination. But when a mere visit from a minister of any sect, a few general questions, and a prayer with or without the sacrament, calm the mind of a dying person whose life has been unsuitable to the Chris-

256 SERMO XCII. tian profession ; no doubt, could we penetrate the veil, we should find him meeting with an awful doom." We have not time to illustrate the various causes contributing to this delusion. Among them are a false system of religion, leading to unscriptural hopes of divine mercy. We have seen that erroneous views of divine truth sometimes produce fear in the pious : it as often causes presumption in the ungodly. A sanguine temperament under the exaltation of fever ; the vain flatteries of self love ; counterfeit graces, having some resemblance to real ones ; these are other causes producing this lamentable effect. 3. There is a third class of the impenitent, who die with a stupid unconcern, and with the* insensibility of brutes. They show neither agony nor joy ; " they have no bands in their death." Like Hume, they

can jest and laugh when just about to plunge into eternity. I know not whether to call such conduct folly or frenzy; this gayety is the sport and jesting of the malefactor, as he advances to execution ; is the dancing of the prisoner in his chains ; a spectacle which fills the soul with horror and anguish. It is a dreadful price at which this fatal peace in sin, even when death approaches, has been bought. Reason, conscience, the incitements of grace, the impressions of early education, the lessons that were nourished by the prayers, and watered by the tears, of parents: these and much more have been immolated in order to obtain the awful privilege of dying like a brute ; and of forgetting in the moment of dissolution their God, their Redeemer, their duty, and that eternity which will so soon burst upon them. The heart shrinks with horror at the tranquillity of such persons. It is a sight far more appalling than even the agonies of the despairing sinner who sees

MISCELLA EOUS. 257 no hope in his last hours. Could angels weep, their i^ars would flow in contemplating the carelessness and insensibility of such undone, ruined beings. f have not time to dwell on the causes of this insensibility. .Sometimes it is the result of judicial hardness : God has said to conscience and to the Holy Spirit, ;i Let him alone.*' Sometimes it is an affectation : they are acting a part ; the heart is racked while the deportment is calm; but they resolve, like many a criminal on earth, to go decently to that execution at which they inwardly shudder. Sometimes it is from a belief, that death in reality is not near; frequently from a strange persuasion, which is evident in all their conversation, although perhaps

they would not explicitly avow it, that their belief or disbelief altered the nature of truth. " But let them know that though heaven, hell, and eternity, are blotted out of their mind, they do not therefore cease to be realities : they will find at last to their shame and confusion, that their infidelity made no change in the nature of things ; that though the y were " deceived. God was not mocked."



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