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is our reasonable service! Then would the " zeal of his house eat us up,” and we should find it our 6 meat and drink to do his will.” We “ should no longer live to ourselves, but to him that died for us and rose again,” and should “glorify God with our body and spirit, which are God's.*
THE WISDOM OF CONSIDERING OUR
Deut. xxxii. 29. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would
consider their latter end!
It is supposed by some, Moses meant by this wish that the Israelites should lay to heart what he had forewarned them would take place, if they apostatized from the worship of the true God, and from obedience to his laws, and rejected the Messiah when he should be sent to them,—that God would utterly cast them off from being his people, and would scatter them through all lands. But the words contain an evident truth, with relation to every individual of the human race, if they be understood of that latter end which is common to all men; the due consideration of which is both a great part of wisdom, and a great mean of attaining and improving it. For most of the sins and follies of mankind certainly proceed, as from want of consideration in general, so especially from not considering, with seriousness and attention, their latter end. Inquire we,
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN CONSIDERING OUR LATTER END.
By the " latter end” here spoken of, we may understand the future part of our life on earth, should it please God to spare us a little longer, which we ought so to consider, as to provide for the happiness and usefulness of it. We must remember that, though we may now be in health, ease, affluence, and honour, it will not be always so. If we live much longer in the world, the scene will change. Infirmity, affliction, and pain will come, and, perhaps too, poverty and reproach; and we must consider how we are to be supported under such severe trials, and heavy troubles. We must reflect how little money, honour or pleasure, houses or lands, business or the gains of it; nay, even relations or friends, can do for us in affliction, pain and death. And we must provide against such seasons, what alone can support us under them, peace with God, peace of conscience, a well-grounded and lively hope of eternal life, and the consolations of God's Spirit. Or, if it please God that we should, till near the last, be exempted from these trials, nevertheless, we should lay in a stock of wisdom, experience and grace, that we may not live in vain, but may be useful in our generation.
* It appears from Mr. Benson's MS., that he intended, under the Second Head of this Discourse, fully to have shown, how men, in general, do actually * requite the LORD " for his goodness, and the unreasonableness, guilt, and folly, of their ingratitude. He proposed also, in a future Discourse, to treat the subject in a manner particularly adapted to the case of the people of God.
Our " latter end,” however, here rather means death, an event which awaits us all. With respect to this, we must consider, that is, not only believe and know, but lay to heart,
The certainty of it; that, because of the sentence pronounced upon our first parents, and all their posterity, (Gen. iii. 19,) “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,”-it is unavoidable. “ It is appointed unto men once to die.” (Heb. ix. 27.)
“ Since our first parents' fall,
Now, though this is believed and known, it is not laid to heart, at least with regard to ourselves, which gave occasion to the Poet's observation,
“All men think all men mortal, but themselves."
-The uncertainty of the time when we shall die. The exact period is hidden from us with great wisdom, that, being ignorant of the time when we are to be called away, we may look for it continually, and be always ready. Yet, as Dr. Young says,
“ In death's uncertainty thy danger lies.”
Now this uncertainty must be considered, and improved accordingly. -That, at the longest, the period of death is not far distant.--How soon are three-score and ten years over! But the greater part of this congregation have already lived half that time, and have not forty years remaining ; nay, not thirty
“ Is death at distance ? No: he has been on thee;
How many will be swept away in twenty, in ten, yea in five, or even two year's time! This is not considered, and laid to heart. The following beautiful and striking lines are too just a picture of mankind.
“ Life and the scenes that round it rise
Share in the same uncertainties ;
Of future days, serene and long;
Of pleasures fresh, and ever strong ;
Like a fair prospect, still we make
Things future, pleasing forms to take ;
Cool groves and shady copses here,
There brooks and winding streams appear ;
Farther fine castles court the eye,
There wealth and honour we espy ;
Till the remoter distance shrouds
The plains with hills, those hills with clouds;
When death, alas! perhaps too nigh,
In the next hedge doth skulking lie;
Which, while we ramble without fear,
Will stop us in our full career ;
We must “ consider” that it may be to-morrow or the next hour. That we are young, healthy, strong, is no argument against this. How suddenly do many expire !
We must consider that when it comes, it will separate us from all below, our friends, relations, all earthly possessions, all human honours, and carnal pleasures, our cares and business among men, yea from our very bodies, and all the objects perceived through the medium of the senses. It is a removal from a world of sense to a world of spirits ; from time to eternity.
Death does not make an end of us. The body, indeed, returns to dust as it was, but not for ever. Even the Old Testament saints expected a resurrection, (Job xiv. 15; xix. 25; Isai. xxvi. 19; Dan. xii. 2 ;) much more the New Testament saints, to whom life and immortality are brought to light. (John v. 28, 29; 1 Cor. xv. passim.) But the soul does not die at all, (Matt. x. 28 ;) it returns to God, (Eccles. xii. 7,) to be received to happiness, (Luke xxiii. 43 ; Acts vii. 59; 2 Cor. v. 8; Phil. i. 21 ;) or consigned to sery, (Luke xvi. 23.) Well then might the Poet say,
“ When life's close knot, by writ from destiny,
Does she launch out into the sea of vast eternity!” We must consider that death fixes our state and condition for ever; judgment and eternity following upon it :--That it is the termination of our state of trial, and our entrance upon an unchangeable state of retribution :--That, if it find us in our sins, unpardoned, unrenewed, we are undone for ever ; being destitute of the favour of God, and exposed to his wrath.
This leads me to observe, that our latter end,” here also means the future and everlasting state which awaits us ; the certainty, nature, and importance of which we should consider, and lay to heart, and prepare for.
Or, it may mean the consequences of things. These we should consider; we should lay to heart what will be the consequences, here and hereafter, of a life of piety and virtue, on the one hand, or of vice and profaneness, on the other, the happiness we shall lose, and the misery into which we shall plunge ourselves, if we follow such a course of conduct ? and where and how the way we take is likely to end.
II. How IT APPEARS
TO BE A POINT OF WISDOM TO ČON
SIDER OUR LATTER END.
It is a point of wisdom to foresee what is coming, as far as possible ; especially if of great consequence to us, and if the foresight will do us any good. Now our latter end, in the several senses above explained, is what we certainly may foresee,--and it is of great consequence that we should do it, in a variety of ways.
A foresight of our latter end will do us much good in life, in death, and for ever.
In life; which it will render more wise, holy, happy, and useful.-More wise. (For we shall direct and govern our desires, cares, and pursuits with a reference to the future part of our life on earth, and more especially our eternal life in heaven, which is great wisdom, and will give a character of dignity and importance to all we do, which otherwise could not be attained.'
“ The soul of man, (let man in homage bow,
- More holy. For, being conscious that sin would render the future part of our life bitter, and death dreadful, while we seek a pardon for the past, we shall shun it for the time to come, and follow universal holiness, as a necessary qualification for happiness here and hereafter. Now if sin be the greatest evil, and holiness the greatest good, this is wisdom.-More happy. What is it that renders life unhappy? Is it not discontent in our station and circumstances, impatience under troubles, anxious cares, and immoderate desires, and especially the fear of death. Now the consideration of our latter end will make us content with our lot, the time being short; patient under troubles, seeing their end is at hand; free from anxious cares, and immoderate desires after carthly things ; and especially we shall get rid of the fear of death, which keeps so many in bondage all their life. “ Death's terror is the barrier between man and peace.”—More useful. For we shall be induced to improve our time, and employ our talents to more advantage, when we have a constant foresight of the certainty, nearness, &c., of death, and the shortness and uncertainty of life, and of the awfulness of eternity and the life to come.
The proper consideration of our latter end will do us good in DEATH. It will prepare us, by the grace of God to die with safety, with ease, with comfort, and to our everlasting advantage. With safety. What is it that renders death unsafe? Is it not its sting ? Now foreseeing its approach, and laying to heart its nearness and certainty, we shall be stirred up, without delay, to seek deliverance from sin, its guilt, and power, and defilement. This is the sting of death, and where this is drawn, death is harmless as a serpent that has lost its sting; no wrath following.-With ease. Consider what renders death dis-' agreeable ? Either a consideration of sin unpardoned as to its guilt, unbroken as to its power, or not purged away as to its defilement; hence death is dreaded as to its consequences. Or, inordinate affection to the world, or to something in it. Or, mistaken views of death, arising from want of reflection upon it. Frequent and serious reflection upon it stirs us up to get deliverance from sin (as above ;) familiarizes it to our minds, and strips it of much of its terror; tends to loosen our affections from the world, and take away that aversion to death, which arose from that quarter ; to raise our affections to things above, where there is no death nor sorrow, whence we should even desire it.
“O when will death, now stingless, like a friend