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navigation, when he hath present occasion and use for SERM. the skill which he hath not yet learned, when his versel is driven among rocks, and is every moment in danger of being dash'd in pieces.
Let this then be establish'd for a firin principle and rule, that the best and surest preparation for a happy and comfortable death, is a holy and good life. For nothing will disarm death of its terrors, like the conscience of our own innocency, and of a sincere desire and endeavour to please God in the general course and tenour of our lives, and of a sincere repentance for all the errors and miscarriages of our lives. And though our life be short and uncertain, yet it is a great deal that we may do by way of preparation for another world, if we begin and set out betimes, and be good husbands of the present opportunities. It is a great way that we may go in a short time, if we be always moving and pressing forwards.
But the mischief is, many men pass fifty or sixty years in the world, and when they are just going out of it, they bethink themselves and step back as it were, to do something which they had all this while forgot, viz. the main business for which they come into the world, to repent of their sins and reform their lives, and make their peace with God, and in time to prepare for eternity. This, which is forgotten and deferr'd to the last, ought to have been first thought of, and to have been made the great businefs of their whole lives.
But I proceed to give foine more particular directions concerning our preparation for death ; namely,
1. By frequent meditation of it, which will render it more familiar to us, and help us to tame this monster, and to take off the dread of it; and therefore
SERM. we should accustom ourselves to the thoughts of it,
that we may in some measure be reconciled to it.
2. We should endeavour to mitigate the evil and terror of death, by thinking of something worse, I mean the evils and miseries of life. For when we once come to look upon death as a remedy of all the evils of life, we shall then begin to be reconciled to it; and if we be wise, shall be glad to be out of the noise, and danger, and suffering of so many evils as we are continually liable to in this world; and shall thank God heartily for dismissing us, and giving us leave to die, and by death to put an end to this miserable life, and to begin a better and happier life, which Thall never have an end.
And we should likewise meditate much on the glory and happiness of another world. For if we be once possess’d with a firm belief and persuasion of it, we shall think the time long that we are detained from it, and wish for that which we so much feared, I mean death, that it may bring us to the enjoyment of that which we have much more reason to desire.
And indeed considering (as I said before) the many evils and miseries which we are liable to and always in danger of, while we are in this world, we have cause to thank God that we were born to die, and that we are not condemned to live for ever in this world. So that whenever God shall think fit to re, lease us, we ought to esteemn ir a favour: but if he will have us to stay a little longer, we inust with pa. tience wait for another opportunity of making our escape out of an evil and troublesome world. But me, thinks we should not much desire to ride it out in the storm any longer, when the port is open, and we may safely enter in. And then,
3. By way of farther preparation for death, we SERM. 1hould endeavour to maintain always a lively sense of CLXXXVIU it in our minds, that we may be, to all good effects and purposes, as much under the power of it as if it were just approaching, as if the physician or the judge had past the sentence of death upon us. We should always reckon upon that which may happen the next moment; and if we do to, we can never be extreme ly surprised; but " whenever our Lord comes, “ shall be found watching.” And,
Lastly, we should make it our constant prayer to God, that he would fit us for our diffolution, and stand by us and comfort us in that needful time, without whose gracious support and assistance, both physicians and even the ministers of God themselves, are but “ miserable comforters.” It should be our daily petition to God, that he would enable us to perform this last act of our life with decency and constancy of mind, that neither our disease nor our weakness may break the firmness of our spirits, or leave us to be amazed with fear, or betrayed with peevishness, so as to render us uneasy to ourselves, or to make our friends willing to be rid of us.
But more especially, when God thinks fit, either by the nature or present danger of our distemper, to give us a nearer summons and clearer warning of our mortality, we should take the opportunity to impress upon our minds a deep and more lively sense of ano, ther world, that we may quicken our peace, and “ work the work of him that fent us into the world, “ while it is day; because the night is coming when " no man can work.”
Nature I know is fond of life, and apt to be still longing after a longer continuance here, and to find
SERM.many delays and excuses to'tarry yet a while longer CLXXXV}!in this world : and yet a very long life, with the usual
burdens and infirmities of it, is seldom in reason de sirable; for it is but the same thing over again, or worse; fo many more days and nights, summers and winters, a repetition of the same pleasures, but still with less pleasure and relish; a return of the same or greater pains and troubles, but still with leis patience and strength to bear them.
Let us then be of good courage in the approaches of death, fince we see land, and the storm which we are in will quickly be over ; and then it will be as if it had never been, or rather the remembrance of it will be a great pleasure to us.
Suave mari magno, turbantibus æqucra ventis,
Sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave eft.
And if it should please God to exercise us with great pains or tedious sickness, we should make use of all the considerations which reason and religion do furnish us withal, to help to mitigate and deceive our troubles, and to make that short way a little more smooth and easy. For the best of us have no privilege and exemption from the common accidents of humanity, no piety can certainly secure to any of us an easy and comfortable death ; and therefore it is a groundless confidence for any man to reckon upon it;
we must in this, as in all other things, resign up
as our example.
1 PET. ii. 21. - Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. T HE apostle here propounds to christians SERM,
1 the example of our SAVIOUR, as an CLXXXIX. argument to persuade them to one particular The firft i grace and virtue, namely, patience under sufferings sermon on
this text. unjustly laid upon us, ver. 19, 20, 21. “ For this is hi