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with good works, and the beauties of holiness, whilst outward things are comparatively slighted; or they whose conduct is the very reverse,) do you suppose most ready for death and judgment? Should you choose to live as the latter, I am sure you will wish to die as the former. Oh, that men would think of these things! that they would "be wise, that they "would consider their latter end!"
Nor are the ambitious pursuits of greatness, power, or praise; or even the indefatigable labours of the learned, whilst Christ is rejected, and his gospel, (which is the wisdom of God,; undervalued and despised, in any respect a preferable preparation for a dying hour. Nor would any of you wish to receive the awful summons at the masquerade, the theatre, the opera, or the card-table. After all, which apologists have urged in behalf of such diversions, they cannot pretend that they are any part of that watchfulness, and readiness for the coming of the Lord, about which we are enquiring. They cannot say that in frequenting such amusements they are walking in the steps, and imitating the example, of Jesus Christ. Nor can they shew that in seeking relief from the tediousness of duty by such relaxation, they have that mind in them, which was in him, " whose meat it was to do the will of "God." Nor can they reconcile such diversions with these three precepts: "Be not conformed to this "world:" " Redeem your time:" " Whether yeeat, "or whether ye drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to "the glory of God." Make these precepts the rule of your conduct, delight yourselves in God, and prepare to meet him in judgment; and you will have n& more leisure or inclination for such vanities.
Permit me to add, that even moral decency of conversation, formal worship, or evangelical profession and notions, with various similar religious attainments, however men may rest in them, and value themselves upon them, come far short of the necessary preparation: "For except your righteousness exceed the "righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall ." in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." But if all these things are improper, or inefficacious, what shall we think of the conduct of vast numbers, who are so far from being ready, or making diligent suitable preparation, that they are daily adding " drunken"ness to thirst," and " sin to sin;'» profaneness to debauchery, and infidelity to profaneness?
I hope your attention is not wearied, nor our enquiry interrupted, by this seeming digression not foreign, I trust, to the main subject. For by considering some of the most common ways in which men waste their lives, till death surprises them unprepared, and plunges them into irremediable misery; we may, to more effect, contrast that diligent, and constant, and earnest preparation, which the word of God enforces. This preparation, I apprehend, is twofold. A preparation by which the soul is secured; and a preparation by which that security is evidenced, improved, and rendered apparent for our comfort. Every true believer habitually possesses the former: when vigorously exercising grace, and diligently practising his duty, he actually enjoys the latter. We may, therefore, call the
forma" the habitual, the latter the actual, preparation for deatli and judgment.
1. Our precedent and introductory preparation, by which we become habitually safe, and therefore ready, consists in acceptance with God and meetness for heaven.
Having incurred the divine displeasure by transgression, the wrath of God must abide upon us, unless, or until, we obtain forgiveness.—If cut off by death without the pardon of our sins, that wrath must abide upon us for ever; for " the wicked is driven "away in his wickedness:" Nor will even the ransom of the death of Christ avail in this case. "Be. ." ware lest he cut thee off with a stroke, and then a "great ransom cannot save thee."—On the other hand, "Blessed is that man, whose transgression ia "forgiven, whose sin is covered, and to whom the "Lord imputeth not iniquity." How vile soever he hath heretofore been, he is now safe, and happy.— We have already seen whence this forgiveness springs; in what manner the Way is opened for its honourable exercise; how it is proposed to all who hear the gospel, and how God with authority demands our acceptance of it. This is " the obedience "of faith," and Christ " is become the Author of "eternal salvation to all them that obey him." The man who truly believes the testimony of God in the sacred scriptures, concerning the Deity, the incarnation, humiliation, sufferings, death, resurrection, and Mediatorial exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ; who perceives the necessity, the nature, and the glory of such an extraordinary expedient to render the salva
tion of sinners consistent with the honour of the divine law, justice, and purity; who cordially approves of a salvation so humbling to man, and so honourable to God; who, as a sinner, is sincerely desirous to be saved from a deserved eternal condemnation, in this way; and who applies to, and trusts in, Christ alone for the pardon of his sins, the acceptance of his person, the sanctification of his heart, and the eternal salvation of his soul, through his merits, atonement, intercession, and grace:—This man, I say, "sets to his "seal that God is true," honours all the divine attributes, displayed in the Gospel, and is thus fully pardoned and justified, and shall be eternally saved. "He "shall not come into condemnation, but is passed "from death unto life." But he who does not believe this testimony; who rejects this salvation, as seeing no occasion for it, and no glory in it; and who either is careless about eternal things, or seeks acceptance in ways of man's devising, and more suited to his pride, makes God a liar, pours contempt on every divine attribute, defies his justice, despises his grace, and affronts his manifold wisdom, which angels behold and adore, in the church purchased with Emmanuel's blood. But it is to his own loss; for thus he seals and aggravates his own condemnation.
As unbelief is always accompanied with impenitency; so faith springs only from a penitent heart. "Therefore repentance towards God, and faith to"wards our Lord Jesus Christ," comprise the con* duct, character, and experience of the sinner, who seeks salvation in the acceptable method. That blessed Spirit, who applies to the soul the salvation, which flows from the love of the Father, through the atonement of the Saviour's blood, (that glory may be to God the Father, Son, and Spirit for ever,) begins the work by "convincing us of sin." Illuminating the mind to perceive in some degree the glorious character and perfect law of God, he shews us proportionably the odiousness of sin, and the vileness of our conduct and character; and produces a disposition to abhor sin, and abase and condemn ourselves as sinners: while he convinces us that justice is armed against us, and undeserved mercy our only refuge. When the mind is thus in some degree prepared for the discovery, we are led to consider the truths of the Gospel, and to see something of their nature and glory, which before were hid from us. In proportion as we, with enlightened minds, under the influences of the Spirit of truth, look to the cross of Christ, we are made more sensible of the demerit and hatefulness of sin, of our own guilt and depravity, and of the sinfulness even of our best performances. This effectually deprives us of all hopes of being saved in any other way, and inspires us with ardent desires, and with expectations, of being saved in and by the Lord Jesus Christ.—Thus we are led to seek salvation, where it may be found; to use the means which God hath appointed; to wait with patient expectation, though tried by delays and discouragements (for we have nonno where else to go, and are consciously unworthy of every favour;) to long and pray for faith; to be willing to leave all worldly interests and pleasures for Christ, and count them but loss and dung; to examine anxiously what is wrong in our manner of coming to Vol. III. E