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ing men, whether good or bad, respecting the brevity of life, and the worth of time. One sentiment is then felt by all-life is very short, and time is of infinite value.
2. Another confession which is wont to he made by dying men is, that there is nothing in this world that can satisfy the wants of the immortal soul. This is a lesson which men in general are extremely slow to learn. Though they are continually taught by the Word and the Providence of God, that all things earthly are but for a moment, and perish in the using, they still pursue them as their supreme good, and vainly flatter themselves that when this plan is accomplished, and that object attained, they shall be satisfied; they shall be happy. This is the delusion of the young, the middle-aged, and the aged; and it is the mainspring of that restless activity and ambition, and aspiring after the world, which we witness around us. All wish to be happy, and all expect to be happy in the possession of worldly good.
But in the dying bour this is discovered to be a most fatal mistake, and men look back with amazement upon the folly and madness with which they pursued the world, and looked to its possessions for a satisfying portion. As they stand upon the verge of time, and extend their view to the boundless eternity that stretches before them, the world sinks into utter insigniti. cance, and they wonder how they ever could have been so enamored of its glittering toys, and how the living can be so deluded as to chase its fleeting vanities in the expectation of deriving from them a satisfying good. When Salmasius, one of the greatest scholars of his time, drew near to death, he ex. claimed bitterly against himself, —“Oh, I have lost a world of time; time, the most precious thing on the earth, whereof if I had but one year more, it should be spent in David's Psalms and Paul's Epistles. Oh, mind the world less and God more !" Grotius possessed the finest genius ever recorded of a youth in the learned world, and rose to an eminence in literature and science which drew upon him the admiration of all Europe; yet, after all his attainments and high reputation, he was constrained at last to cry out, -"Ah, I have consumed my life in a laborious doing of nothing! I would give all my learning and honor for the plain integrity of John Urick,”-a poor man of eminent piety." John Mason, on his death-bed, said, “I have lived to see five princes, and have been privy counsellor to four of them; I have seen the most important things in foreign parts, and have been present at most state transactions for thirty years together; and I have learned, after so many years' experience, that seriousness is the greatest wisdom, temperance the best physic, and a good conscience the best estate. And were I to live again, I would change the whole life I have lived
in the palace for an hour's enjoyment of God in the chapel.” Philip, the third king of Spain, when he drew near the end of his days, expressed his deep regret for a worldly and careless life in these emphatic words, —"Ah, how happy it would have been for me, had I spent these twenty-three years I have held my kingdom in retirement !" "Good God I" exclaimed a dying nobleman, “how have I employed myself! In what delirium has my life been passed! What have I been doing while the sun in its race and the stars in their courses have lent their beams, perhaps, only to light me to perdition! I have pursued shadows, and entertained myself with dreams. I have been treasuring up dust
, and sporting myself with the wind. I might have grazed with the beasts of the field, or sung with the winged inhabitants of the woods, to much better purpose than any for which I have lived.”
Examples of this kind might be multiplied to almost any extent, but enough have been cited to show how men regard the riches and honors of the world when they find themselves drawing near to a dying hour, and are called to look into eternity.
3. When men are laid upon a dying bed, they are wont to feel and to acknowledge the utter insufficiency of a mere moral life to prepare them to appear in the presence of God. Many there are who trust to such a life as their only ground of hope ? for eternity. They do not, perhaps, believe in the reality of a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit, or at least they do not feel the need of such a change in themselves. They mean to lead a correct moral life, to be honest in their dealings, and kind in their treatment of their fellow-men, and this, they imagine, will avail to secure the approbation of their final Judge. They have no just sense of sin, nor of their need of pardon through the blood of Christ, but trust all to a moral life. There is no more common delusion than this, and it is a delusion which vanishes at the approach of death, and leaves the soul trembling in prospect of going to appear before God. The actions of life then appear in a far different light from what they do in the days of health and thoughtlessness. Many things which are indulged, without the slightest apprehension of their being wrong, are then seen to be sins deeply offensive to God, and dangerous to the soul. The law is seen to be unspeakably more strict and holy, sin to be a much greater evil, and the trial before the judgment seat of Christ far more dreadful. What the sinner needs in the dying hour, is something to take away the sting of death ; something to sustain his spirit as he passes into the dark valley, and to assure him of the for. giveness and favor of that Almighty Being before whom he is about to appear.
But this the fairest morality is utterly in
sufficient to do. It meets not the exigencies of the sinner's case. It is neither obedience to the law, nor to the gospel, neither love to God, nor faith in Christ. It is in its loveliest form only the cobweb covering of a fair exterior, and wrapped only in this covering, the soul shudders at the thought of death, and falls back in dismay at the sight of the great tribune.
The Apostle enjoyed great peace in the near prospect of death; but it was derived not from a moral life, but from faith in Christ, from evidence felt within that he had a personal interest in the great salvation, and was clothed in His righteousness who had loved him and given himself to die for him. This is the only sure ground of peace in the hour of death. Every other is then found to be insufficient, and trusted in, ends in destruction. It is not giving up the breath, said the nobleman before referred to, it is not being for ever insensible, that is the thought at which I shrink; it is the terrible hereafter, the something beyond the grave, at which I recoil. Those great realities which in the hours of mirth and vanity I have treated as phantoms, as the idle dreams of superstitious beings, these start forth and dare me now in their most terrible demonstrations. O, my friends, exclaimed the pious Janeway, we little think what Christ is worth on a death-bed. I would not now for a world, nay, for millions of worlds, be without Christ and pardon. God might justly condemn me, said Richard Baxter, for the best deeds I ever did, and all my hopes are from the free mercy of God in Christ.
Said the meek and learned Hooker, as he approached his end, Though I have by his grace loved God in my youth and feared him in my age, and labored to have a conscience void of offence to him and to all men, yet, if thou, O Lord, be extreme to mark what I have done amiss, who can abide it? And, therefore, where I have failed show mercy to me, for I plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, for His merits who died to purchase pardon for penitent sinners. Such too were the feelings of our own venerated Hooker* in his dying hour. To a friend who said to him, Sir, you are going to receive the reward of your labors, he replied— Brother, I am going to receive mercy. And not to mention other examples under tiis head, let me refer to the case of Dr. Johnson. IIe was a moral man; but his morality could not soften the terrors of a death-bed, nor give him the least peace in prospect of meeting his Judge. When a friend, to calm his agitated inind, referred him to his correct morals and useful life for topics of consolation, he put them away as nothing worth, and in bitterness of soul exclaimed, Shall I, who have been a teacher of others, be myself cast away? This great man had not then fled for refuge to the blood of atonement, as he afterward did; and therefore, notwithstanding his moral and useful life, he was afraid to die, and all beyond the grave looked dark and gloomy to him. And so must it look to all who come to the dying hour with no better preparation than is furnished in a moral life.
* First pastor of the First Church in Hartford,-died 1647,
4. Men, at the hour of death, are constrained to acknowl. edge the folly and guilt of an irreligious life, and the supreme importance of a saving interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever apologies are made in the days of health and prosperity for the neglect of religion, those apologies are found utterly worthless on a death-bed, and are renounced as vain and delusive. All excuses vanish in the presence of the king of terrors, and the sinner looks back with self-reproach and astonishment upon the presumption and folly which led him to disregard God, and neglect the concerns of his eternity. Religion is then felt to be indeed the one thing needful, and the whole earth too poor to be given in exchange for the soul. I have attended many death-beds in the course of my ministry, but I recollect no instance where reason was in exercise, in which this acknowledgement was not ready to be made. All are then ready to exclaim,-0 that I had been wise, that I had understood and considered my latter end. And even Christians, as much as they love and prize religion in life, feel, when they come to die, that their highest and best views of its importance were far below the reality. They see, then, that it is the only true wisdom to live for God and eternity, and they are amazed to think that they have lived at so poor a rate, and have done so little for the honor of Christ and the advancement of his cause on earth. However men may differ respecting the value and importance of religion in health, there is but one opinion on the subject when they come to lie upon the bed of death. The great question which then absorbs all others, and presses with overwhelm. ing weight on the soul, is : Have I a saving interest in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have I been born of the Spirit? Am I doned through the blood of atonement, and prepared to appear before my Judge in peace? The world, with all its pomp, pleasures, and interests, then appears infinitely too light to engage a single thought in comparison with the great question, -Am I a Christian, and may I hope on good ground to enter into the joy of my Lord on leaving this earthly abode ? None find peace and hope in that hour, but those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel. The world retires then, and leaves its wretched votaries in pov. erty and despair. But heaven comes near to sustain and comfort the faithful servants of God; and they feel that an interest
Am I par.
in Christ is of more value than a thousand worlds like this. Look at Enoch walking with God, and through faith was exempted from death, and was not for God took him: at David comforting himself in the close of life in the assurance that God had made an everlasting covenant with him, ordered in all things and sure: at Paul joyfully declaring in the near view of death, “I know in whom I have believed :" at the dying missionary, Ziegenbalger, exclaiming, “Washed from my sins in the blood of Christ, and clothed with his righteousness, I shall enter into his eternal kingdom:" at Swartz sweetly singing his soul away to everlasting bliss : at Baxter, saying, amid the sinkings of nature, "I am almost well:" at Owen, lifting up his eyes and his hands as if in a kind of rapture, and exclaiming to a friend, "O, brother, the long looked-for day has come at last, in which I shall see the glory of Christ in another manner than I have ever yet done:” at Edwards, comforting his family, as they stood around his dying bed, with the memorable words, “Trust in God, and you have nothing to fear:" at Martyn, in the solitudes of Persia, writing thus a few days before his death, "I sat alone, and thought with sweet comfort and peace of God, in solitude my company, my friend, and comforter:" at Dwight, exclaiming, when the seventeenth chapter of John was read to him, “O, what triumphant truths :" at Evarts, shouting “Glory! Jesus reigns!" as he closed his eyes on death: at Payson, uttering the language of assurance, as he grappled with the last enemy, "The battle is fought! the battle is fought! and the victory is won forever!" In a word, look at the great cloud of witnesses, who, in the faith of Jesus, have triumphed over death and the grave, and peacefully closed their eyes on the world in a joyful hope of opening them in another and a better, and you will learn in what estimation religion is held, when the scenes of earth are retiring, and those of eternity are opening upon the vision of dying men.
When men are laid upon the bed of death and know that they must go hence to be seen here no more, they always feel that it is indeed a solemn thing to die and pass into eternity. If there be exceptions, they are very rare, and occur only in cases of extreme skepticism, or of profound stupidity. Hume could amuse himself with playing chess when death was at the door; and Rousseau could lightly talk of giving back to God his soul as pure as when it came from his hand. But conduct like this is the extreme of infatuation, and can be regarded in no other light than as a part of the accursedness of those who are reprobate of God. Think of it as we may, while the event is viewed as future and distant, we shall all find, when the last hour comes, that it is indeed a serious matter to die. To close all our connection with this world; to lie down upon the bed