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ments of sense that this life affords : whereby it comes to pass that as death itself is unwelcome when it draws near, so the thoughts and pre-apprehensions of it become as unwelcome as the thing itself.
2. A vain foolish conceit, that the confideration of our latter end is a kind of presage and invitation of it; and upon this account I have known many superftitiously and foolishly to forbear the making of their wills, because it seemed to them ominous, and a prefage of death; whereas this consideration, though it fits and prepares a man for death, it doth no way halten or presage it.
3. A great difficulty that ordinarily attends our hu. man condition, to think otherwise concerning our condition than what at present we feel and find. We are now in health, and we can hardly bring ourselves to think that a time must and will come, wherein we shall be fick : we are now in life, and therefore we can hardly cast our thoughts into such a mould, to think we shall die; and hence it is true, as the common proverb is, That there is no man so old, but he thinks he shall live a year longer.
It is true, this is the way of mankind to put from us the evil day, and the thoughts of it; but this our way is our folly, and one of the greatest occafions of those other follies that commonly attend our lives : and therefore the great means to cure this folly, and to make us wise, is wisely to consider our latter end. This wisdom appears in those excellent effects it produceth, which are generally these two: 1. It teacheth us to live well. 2. It teacheth us to die easily.
I. For the former of these, the consideration of our latter end doth in no fort make our lives the shorter, but it is a great means to make our lives the better.
l. It is a great monition and warning of us to avoid fin, and a great means to prevent it. When I shall consider that certainly I must die, and I know not how foon, why should I commit those things, that if they haften not my latter end, yet they will make it more. B 3
uneasy and troublesome by the reflection upon what I have done amiss ? I may die to-morrow, Why should I then commit that evil that will then be gall and bitterness unto me? Would I do it if I were to die tomorrow? Why should I then do it to-day? Perchance it may be the last act of my life, and however let me not conclude so ill; for, for aught I know, it may be my concluding act in this scene of my life.
2. It is a great motive and means to put us upon the best and most proîtable improvement of our time. There be certain civil and natural actions of our lives that God Almighty hath indulged and allowed to us, and indeed commanded us with moderation to use : as, the competent supplies of our own natures with moderation and fobriety; the provisions for our families, relations, and dependencies, without covetousness or anxiety; the diligent and faithful walking in our callings, and discharge thereof: but there are also other businesses of greater importance, which are yet attainable without injuring ourselves in those common concerns of our lives; namely, our knowledge of God, and of his will; of the doctrine of our redemption by Christ; our repentance of fins past; making and keeping our peace with God; acquainting ourfelves with him ; living to his glory; walking as in his presence; praying to hiin; learning to depend upon him ; rejoicing in him; walking thankful unto him. These, and such like as these, are the great business and end of our lives, for which we enjoy them in this world ; and these fit and prepare us for that which is to come: and the confideration that our lives are short and uncertain, and that death will sooner or later come, puts us upon this resolution and practice to do this our great work while it is called to-day; that we loiter not away our day, and neglect our task and work while we have time and opportunity, left the night overtake us, when we cannot work ; to gain oil in our lamps before the door be shut: and if men would wisely consider their latter ends, they might do
this great business, this one thing necessary, with ease and quietness; yea, and without any neglect of what is necessary to be done in order to the common necessities of our lives and callings. It is not these that disable us and rob us of our time: but the thieves that rob us of our time, and our one thing necessary, are negligence, excess of pleasures, immoderate and excessive cares and solicitousness for wealth, and honour and grandeur ; excessive eating and drinking, curiosity, idleness: these are the great consumptives that do not only exhaust that time that would be with infinite advantage spent in our attainment, and perfecting, and finishing the great work and business of our lives; and when fickness and death comes, and God Almighty calls upon us to give up the account of our stewardship, we are all in confusion, our business is not half done, it may be not begun; and yet our lamp is out; our day is spent; night hath overtaken us; and what we do is with much trouble, perplexity, and vexation ; and possibly our soul takes its flight before we can finish it. And all this would have been prevented and remedied by a due consideration of our latter end; and that would have put us upon making use of the present time, and present opportunity to do our great work while it is called to-day, because the night cometh when no man can work.
3. Most certainly the wise consideration of our latter end, and the employment of ourselves, upon that account, upon that one thing necessary, renders the life the most contenting and comfortable life in this world : for as a man, that is a nian afore-hand in the world, hath a much more quiet life in order to externals, than he that is behind-hand; so such a man that takes his opportunity to gain a stock of grace and favour with God, that hath made his peace with his Maker through Christ Jesus, hath done a great part of the chief business of his life, and is ready upon all occasions, for all conditions, whereunto the divine Providence shall assign him, whether of life or death, or health or sickness, or poverty or riches; he is as it were afore-hand in the business and concern of his everlasting, and of his present state also. If God lend him longer life in this world, he carries on his great business to greater degrees of perfection, with ease, and without difficulty, trouble, or perturbation. But if Almighty God cut him shorter, and call him to give an account of his stewardship, he is ready and his accounts are fair, and his business is not now to be gone about: Blessed is that servant whom his Master when he comes shall find so doing.
II. As thus this consideration makes life better, so it makes death easy.
1. By frequent consideration of death and dissolution, he is taught not to fear it; he is, as it were, acquainted with it afore-hand, by often preparation for it. The fear of death is more terrible than death it. self; and by frequent consideration thereof, a man hath learned not to fear it. Even children, by being accustomed to what was at first terrible to them, learn not to fear.
2. By frequent consideration of our latter end, death becomes to be no surprize unto us. The great terror of death is when it surprizeth a man unawares; but anticipation and preparation for it, takes away all possibility of surprize upon him that is prepared to receive it. Bilney the martyr was used, before his martyrdom, to put his finger in the candle, that so the flames might be no novelty unto him, nor surprize him by reason of unacquaintedness with it; and he that often considers his latter end, seems to experiment 2 death before it comes, whereby he is neither surprized nor affrighted with it, when it comes.
3. The greatest sting and terror of death, are the past and unrepented sins of the past life; the reflection upon these is that which is the strength, the elixir, the venom of death itself. He therefore that * frequent.
wisely considers his latter end, takes care to make his peace with God in his life-time; and by true faith and repentance to get his pardon sealed; to enter into covenant with his God, and to keep it ; to husband his time in the fear of God; to observe his will, and keep his laws; to have his conscience clean and clear; and being thus prepared, the malignity of death is cured, and the bitterness of it healed, and the fear of it removed. And when a man can entertain it with such an appeal to Almighty God, as once the good king Hezekiah made, in that sickness which was of itself mortal. “Remember now, I beseech
thee, O Lord, how I have walked before thee with a perfect heart 1,' &c. It makes as well the thought, as the approach of death, no terrible business.
4. But that which, above all, makes death easy to such a considering man, is this : That by the help of this consideration, and the due improvement of it, as is before shewn, death to such a man becomes nothing else but a gate unto a better life. Not so much a dissolution of his present life, as a change of it for a far more glorious, happy, and immortal life. So that though the body dies, the man dies not; for the soul, which is indeed the man, makes but a transition from her life in the body, to a life in heaven. No moment intervenes between the putting off of the one, to the putting on of the other; and this is the great privilege that the Son of God hath given us, that by his death he hath fanctified it unto us, and by his life hath conquered it, not only in himself, but for us.
Thanks be unto God, who hath given us the victory, Sthrough Jesus Christ our Lord ?;' and our victory, that is thus given us, is this: 1. That the sting of death is taken away: and 2. That this very death itself is rendered to us a gate and passage to life eternal; and upon this account it can neither hurt, nor may justly affright us. It is reported of the adder, that when she
* Isaiah, xxxviii. 3. ' į Cor. xv. 57.