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ruptly breaks into a country, he
take up with the shorter compari son, and then it is easy to see what the conclusion will be.
"The slow progress of this disorder also creates less alarm, as it affords hope from futurity, which other disorders will not give time for. The patient finds himself indeed, growing weaker; but it is owing to the excessive heats of the summer: in autumn he shall be better.' Perhaps he finds himself a little recruited by that mild season. The winter then, he becomes confident, will perfect all, and quite brace him up. On the contrary he finds his cough increase by that severe season, and that the confinement it occasions contributes further to break down his constitution. Well,-He hopes, and his friends encourage him to hope, that the spring will set all right, and free him from all his complaints. So the ex cellent Watts was dealt with, as he himself relates in the following lines: Yet my fond friends would speak a word
Love would forbid despair.-Look out, they
Beyond these gloomy damps, while winter hangs
Heavy on nature, and congeals her power, Look cheerful forwards to the vital influence of the returning spring.
Miscel. Thoughts, No. 47, p. 178. Thus do our friends fatally flatter us with hopes of a May sun-beam, whilst not one of them is kind enough to hint at those cold north-east blasts we must feel before the arrival of that reviving season, and by which so many thousands of inva lids are, in this unsettled climate, every spring sent into eternity; and so many more so broken down as soon to fall a prey to the beat of the summer. Fatal friendship!
"But this is not the only instance in which our friends cruelly lend their assistance to help forwards the delusions of this naturally too delusive disorder. One brings you a remedy for a consumption that has cured this person and the other person, and never was known to miss,
if taken in time. If you have faith in such kind of nostrums, this is sure to keep up your hopes till the event undeceive you, and shews it to be a broken reed, which pierces the hand instead of supporting it. Another bids you not to be discouraged; nothing is more
than for persons to continue weakly a long time, and after all recover their health again. I myself was told of one who recovered after being confined to his house for five years. When you are a little recovered from one of the paroxysms of the disorder, they are sure to tell you how much better you look than when they saw you last, and this not only during the first approaches of the disorder, but even to the last, if they can but recollect any one period in which you looked worse. In short, as the danger of this disorder is well known to be more certain than that of any other whatever, and the case of those who are seized of consequence more hopeless, so there is no one in which it seems to be more the united view of all around them to keep out of sight as much as possible whatever might create any alarm. If any are so thoughtless, or so much your friends as to act a contrary part, and plainly tell you their opinion, if you are not peculiarly happy in those about you, 'tis odds but effectual care is taken that they shall never more see you again whilst, whenever the distemper will permit, your friend's of a different stamp will as certainly be encouraged to get about you as much as they can, in order to keep up your spirits, or in other words, to keep off reflection: and in this they are generally too successful. Thus do friends and disorder join together, to keep the patient ignorant of his real case, and prevent him from making any spiritual improve ment of it.
"But it may be asked, are there no periods in this disorder wherein this deluder cannot cheat; when the patient cannot but be sensible that he is in very imminent danger?
Yes, there are. Oh! the agonizing pains some feel, when every breath they draw is, as it were, tearing to pieces the tenderest membranes in: the human body. Oh! the inexpressible anguish which others feel from an obstructed respiration, when the lungs refuse to fill, and the patient is brought almost to the agonies of death: Oh! the insupportable depressions of others, when their souls faint within them: what they feel none can tell, but those who have felt the like. But these, reader, are times for exercising, not for acquiring Christian graces. The Christian, in such circumstances, finds it quite labour enough to keep his mind in a composed frame, and with a filial temper to submit to the afflictive will of his heavenly Father. It cost me, in these paroxysms, many a sigh and tear to keep mine so; yea, and after all, I had frequent occasions to humble myself before God, that I bare not his will more submissively. Is this then a time (I appeal to thy conscience) is this a time to begin to do auy thing for eternity? If thou suspectest me of misrepresenting matters, or setting things out more strongly than is needful, take the opportunity of applying to the next of thy acquaintance, who is in such circumstances. I will not say, Go and ask him what ability he finds to settle the great account between God and his soul? The question might probably get thee an immediate exclusion from his room. But take an opportunity to ask him to settle some account, or talk over some intricate affair: his answer, I dare say, will be, not trouble me with your accounts now; am I in any condition to attend to business, do you think? I could not do it were it to save my life.' Indeed! Then where will thy prudence be, reader, if thou leavest the great account between God and thy soul to be settled in such circumstances? If he cannot run with footmen without being wearied, how wilt thou be able to contend with horses. Jer. xii. 5....
"But when this extremity of pain is a little abated, may it not then be hoped that season will be favourable? No. The old delusions soon return, The intermissions, even to the last, are regarded as the sure earnest, at least as affording good hope, of a recovery; and no sooner is the severity of pain, or languishing of the disorder, a little gone off, than the patient begins to think himself in but little danger. I speak this from experience. Perhaps thou wilt not think it reader, yet I assure you it is true; that though my legs have begun to swell, so as to be burdensome to me; though I am every night emaciated with the most dread ful sweats, and every morning cough up large quantities of thick matter from my lungs; and though my pen, which used to be the pen of a tolerable ready writer, now so shakes in my hand, that I can scarce write legibly; yet if I did not exercise my reason and judgment, there are times in which I should think my self in little danger. But what room is there to believe that he will exercise his reason, who is conscious that he is utterly unfit for death, and expects to behold nothing after it but blackness and darkness? How much more ground is there to fear that he will indulge the pleasing delusion, till it end in his everlasting ruin ?
"The above is designed to shew how little prospect there is, that a sinner will ever be awakened to faith and repentance during a decline, and therefore, how highly dangerous it is to delay one moment in the great things that belong to our peace, in hopes of dying of such a disorder, Give me leave now to change the scene, and to add, that supposing it had all that tendency to awaken to faith and repentance, which some seem so fondly to imagine, what reason have we to hope that God will, by his grace, give efficacy to it? And yet without this, what hopes can we have of success, even from the most likely means? It was a bold expression of a certain
great preacher, yet not more bold than true, Though God were to shake an unconverted sinner over the pit of hell, however it might frighten him, it would not convert him. No, reader; to this something else is necessary, even that divine blessing, without which Paul may plant and Apollos water, without suc cess. But what reason have we to hope, that God will afford his converting grace to those who have wilfully trifled away their season of grace, and refused to work till the time of working is over? Where is there one instance in all scripture, except that of the thief upon the cross, (which being a case that can never happen again, is by no means a proper precedent) of a person savingly called, after the season for working was over? I know of none, I read, indeed, of persons of the most abandoned characters washed and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of God, 1 Cor. vi. 11. and of a Paul obtaining mercy; that in him, as the chief of sinners, Christ might shew forth a pattern of all long-suffering to them that should hereafter believe, 1 Tim. i. 15, 16. Nay, and I read of some being called into the vineyard at the eleventh hour, Matt. xx. 6. when they had but one hour to work; but none of them called after the twelfth. No; the door seems then to be shut, and nothing left but for the Lord to take an account of his labourers. An awful consideration this for a sinner, who neglects to prepare for the coming of Christ, in hopes of a death-bed repentance. Reader, whoever thou art, may it have its due weight with thee. Methinks it may well make thee tremble, if thou art an unconverted man, to think upon what a precipice thou standest. Oh! think of it, and dread to trust to any thing to be done, when thou art capable of active service no longer. To-day, while it is called to-day, begin to prepare for eternity, lest the Lord swear thou shalt not enter into his rest at all. And concerning whom
have we more reason to fear he is uttering this awful excluding oath, than concerning those who have wilfully trifled away all the time in which they were capable of serving him, in hopes of repenting when they could serve him no longer.
"But supposing all these difficulties got over; supposing that, by a miracle of divine grace, thou art awakened in this most dangerous state to such a sense of thy undone condition as humbles thee thorough ly at the foot of Jesus, produces that godly sorrow for sin which worketh repentance not to be repented of, and which would have brought forth fruits meet for repentance, if oppor tunity had not been wanting. In this case, I doubt not thy state is safe. But what evidence canst thou in such circumstances have that it really is go? Our Lord says, by their fruits ye shall know them, Matt. vii. 20. and orders us to discover the reality of our relation to him by letting our light so shine before men, that they seeing our good works, may glorify our father which is in heaven, Matt. v. 16. In like manner also the apostle James says, that by works is faith made perfect, Jam. ii. 22. that is, illustrated and discovered to be real. But we have no other scripture criterion that I know of. All others are the inventions of men, consequently liable to deceive. What reasonable evidence then canst thou have that thy state is good, even supposing that it be so? I know well there are some who will encourage thee to trust to certain impulses and feelings; who talk of receiving sa tisfactory assurance of seeing Christ holding out his arms to receive them, from dreams, and strong impressions on their spirits, which assure them they are the children of God: but as these are no Scripture marks, a wise man will be very cau tious how he trusts to them. When he considers to what a pitch the imagination may be worked up, he will always doubt such evidences as these; especially he will always have a doubt of them in such dis
orders as we are now treating of. The body being weak, and the spirits for the most part brisk, such impressions on the fancy, either from the operations of our own imagination, or the great enemy of souls, are easily made. We often perceive them in persons in such circum stances, with regard to common things; and what strange agitations are sometimes occasioned thereby!
"No wonder, then, if (without any divine operations in the case} the terrified uninformed mind be elevated with religious imaginations; such as that God is theirs; Christ's blood is shed for them; the devil has no part in them, &c. after conversing with persons of an enthusiastic turn, whose whole discourse consisted of such phrases as these, injudiciously applied: and therefore every prudent person will be very cautious how he rests on such evidence, or indeed takes any comfort from it, till he has had some opportunity of proving its genuineness by its fruits.
"Indeed it may justly make one · very cautious with respect to all kinds of evidence not accompanied by works, when we consider how few of those who have been awak. ened on what they imagined to be a death-bed, ever kept their vows and resolutions when they recovered. For my own part, I do not know one. And though I believe there have been some few instances of this kind, yet the number is so very few, compared with those who have returned again to their folly, and perhaps become seven fold more the children of hell than before, as may well make a man tremble who thinks of a death-bed delusion, and doubt of every evidence of his own change, if he has not an opportunity of proving it by its fruits.
"How uncomfortable then, reader, must thy situation be, even supposing thou art really converted, in this most inconvenient season! While the Christian, who served God from his youth, is rejoicing in the consideration that he remem
bers, and ever will remember, the kindness of his youth; and taking encouragement thence, not only to stay himself upon his God, but to rejoice in him amidst all his trials and afflictions, thou art beclouded with doubts and fears, with only a bare Who can tell but the Lord may be gracious? And when, on the other hand, these sensible joys are fled from thy fellow-Christian, and he can only trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God, because conscious that in the main he has feared the Lord, and obeyed the voice of his servants; how dismal must thy soul be, how full of doubts, fears, and suspicions as to all thou hast felt, and of dismal forebodings concerning what is fu
son for so great a work! Oh! that I could lay before thee, in a view one half as striking as they have often appeared to me, the delusions of the former, and the extreme languor and listlessness of the latter part of this most tedious disorder, wherein, literally speaking, the grasshopper is as a burden! But I cannot. My weak shattered frame forbids it. It is a wonder I have been able to say so much. But from what I have, judge of what I have not, been able to lay before thee, and then ask thyself seriously, whether it be not best immediately to fall in with the wise man's advice, Eccles. ix. 10. and whatsoever thy hand findeth thee to do, to do it with all thy might? Then mayest thou hope to die with comfort whatever death is appointed to thee, and to lift up thy head with rejoicing, amidst all the future horrors of a dissolving world.
The reader will perceive that in the foregoing address, the pious author, in dissuading persons against deferring the momentous concerns of the soul and eternity while health and strength are continued, has argued on the supposition that they should die of a lingering illness, and thus have timely warning of their latter end. But all who depend upon this, might here naturally be reminded, that they are chargeable with a most unwarrantable presumption. Supposing a decline were ever so favourable to a due preparation for death and judgment, it were madness to defer this necessary bu
"Come now, then, and let us reason together. Is the consumption a desirable season, to which to put off the great work of faith and repentance? Is it a disorder in itself likely to awaken thee, or afford thee any peculiar means of awakening? Is there any reason to hope that God will ever bless thee with the aids of his good Spirit, if thou thus wilfully triflest away the time of health, in hopes of a death-bed repentance? Or canst thou have any thoroughly satisfactory evidence of thy good state, supposing thee converted, if thou delayest to this most unfavourable season, or canst thou ever die comfortably without it? Say then, does a consumption appear a favourable season of acquainting ourselves with God, and preparing for eternity? Does it not appear less favoura-siness, since none have the least rable to thee than it once did, from what has now been suggested? Yet I have not been able to tell thee half. Oh! that I could describe to thee half what I have felt in myself, of the extreme unfitness of this sea
tional ground to expect such indulgence, there being numberless other disorders by which mortals are carried to their long home; and we frequently see death sent without a moment's previous notice.