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THE USEFULNESS OF CONSIDERING OUR LATTER END
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.—Psalm xc. 12.
THE title of this Psalm tells us who was the author of it. It is called, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God;” or, as the Chaldee paraphrase more expressly, “The prayer which Moses, the prophet of the Lord, prayed, when the people of the house of Israel sinned in the wilderness.” Upon which provocation of theirs, God in great displeasure threatened, and was immutably resolved, that they should all perish in the wilderness, and that none of the men that came out of Egypt, Caleb and Joshua only excepted, should enter into the promised land, but should all die in the space of forty years.
Upon this occasion, Moses made this psalm or prayer to God, being a devout meditation upon the shortness and frailty of human life, which was now brought into a much narrower compass than in former ages. But the case of that people was different from that of the rest of mankind, being limited and confined to forty years. They might die sooner than that time; but that was the utmost bound of their lives, which none were to exceed; which seems to be the ground and reason of the petition, which Moses puts up to God in the text, “So teach us,” &c.
For I do not think that Moses does here beg of God to reveal to every one of them the precise end 211and term of his life; that might seem to savour of too much presumption or curiosity: but since they knew that, according to the ordinary course of nature, the life of man was then reduced to threescore and ten, or fourscore years; and since God, by a peremptory sentence, had pronounced, that, two persons only excepted, all that vast number which came out of Egypt, and even Moses himself, should die within the compass of forty years; it was a very pious and proper request, which Moses here puts up for himself and the rest of that people, that God would give them wisdom to make a right use of the notice which they had of their end, since it might happen at any time, but could not reach beyond forty years, reckoning from the time of their coming out of Egypt.
To know the determinate time of our life, or to know certainly that our life shall not exceed such a term (which was the case of the Israelites in the wilderness), is a very awakening thing, and does commonly rouse men more than the general consideration of our own frailty and mortality. And yet, to a wise and considerate man, it ought in reason to be the same; for that which will certainly be, ought to be reckoned upon and provided for; and if it be un certain when it will be, whether at some distance, or the next moment, we ought presently to take care about it, and to be always in a readiness for it, lest we should be surprised and overtaken.
And then this prayer is as proper for us, as it was for Moses and the Israelites, though we are not just under the same circumstances that they were. They were under a peremptory sentence of death within forty years, and none of them knew how much sooner they might be taken away: and this 212is not much different from our case; for we are liable to death at any time, every day, every moment; and how few of us in this congregation can reasonably either hope or expect to have our lives prolonged beyond the term of forty years? Nay, it is very probable, that not one of us in a hundred will hold out so long. And then this prayer may be as fit for us, as it was for Moses and the Israelites, that God would “teach us so to number our days,” that is, to make such an account of the shortness and uncertainty of our lives, and so to consider and lay to heart our latter end, “that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom;” that is, that we may manage and conduct this frail, and short, and uncertain life, in the best manner, and to the wisest purposes.
And this consideration of our latter end was always esteemed by the wisest men, a principal part and main point of wisdom. Socrates, who was, by the general consent of wise men (a more infallible oracle than that of Apollo), esteemed the wisest of all the philosophers, gives us this definition of philosophy, that “it is the meditation or study of death;” to intimate to us, that this is true wisdom, to be much in the thoughts of our latter end, and in a constant readiness and preparation for it. And this a greater than Socrates had long before him observed to be a chief point of wisdom, I mean Moses, “the man of God,” that Divine person and prince of the ancient prophets, not only in this Psalm, but also in his last Divine song, a little be fore his death; in which he makes this the sum of all his wishes for the people of Israel, that God would endow them with this high point of wisdom: (Deut. xxxii. 29.) “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their 213latter end!” This is true wisdom and philosophy, to consider our latter end.
And this, by God’s assistance, shall be the argument which I intend to handle from these words; namely, to shew what influence and effect the serious consideration of our latter end, and of the shortness and uncertainty of this present life, ought in reason to have upon us. And of this I shall give you an account in these following particulars:
I. The meditation of our latter end should make us to take into consideration our whole lives, and our whole duration, that we may resolve and act accordingly. And this is a main point of wisdom, to understand ourselves, and the nature of our beings, of what we consist, and for what duration we are designed; whether we consist only of matter a little better fashioned and moulded, and made up in a more curious and complicated engine, consisting of many secret and hidden springs and wheels, and fitted for greater variety of motions, and for more fine and subtle operations, than the bodies of those other creatures which we esteem below us: or whether we be endowed with a spiritual principle, wholly distinct from matter, and capable not only of sense, but of acts of reason, and of the impressions of religion, from the apprehension of a Deity and a superior Being that is of itself, and made us and all other things. In a word, whether we shall “die like beasts;” or whether there be an immortal spirit within us, which hath no dependance upon matter and the bodily and visible part of ourselves, but is a much “better and enduring substance,” which hath no principle of corruption in itself, but shall survive these perishing bodies; and when they are mouldered into dust, shall subsist 214in a happy or miserable condition, according as we have behaved ourselves in this world.
For these are two very different hypotheses and schemes of things, and ought to affect us very differently, and to inspire us with different resolutions, and to put us upon a quite contrary method and conduct of our lives.
For, on the one hand, if we be well assured, that we shall be utterly extinguished by death, “like the beasts that perish,” then we have nothing to take care of but our bodies, because we are nothing else; then we need not extend our thoughts, our hopes, or fears, beyond this world, and this present life; because we have nothing to do, but to please ourselves with present enjoyments, and to live so with other men, as may make most for our temporal quiet, and satisfaction, and security.
But then we are to consider very well, whether these things be certainly so, and whether we may rely upon it, and whether it will bear all that weight which we lay upon it: whether these principles will not fail us when we come most to stand in need of the comfort and support of them, and, when death is in view, and making up towards us, quite vanish and disappear: because it is of infinite consequence to us to be well assured of this, since our happiness or misery to all eternity depends upon it. And therefore nothing less than a demonstration of the impossibility of the thing, of our having immortal spirits that shall survive our bodies, and subsist apart from them, and be extremely miserable or happy in another world: I say, nothing but a demonstration of the impossibility of this, ought to be satisfaction to us in a case of so great danger, and upon which so much does depend.215
For if there be a possibility, on the other side, of our having immortal souls, which shall live for ever in another world, nothing can acquit us from the greatest imprudence, if we should neglect to take care of that better and more lasting part of ourselves, and to provide for that duration which shall never have an end.
And, therefore, if the supposition of the soul’s immortality be infinitely more probable, as better agreeing with all the notions which men have of God and his providence, and with the natural desires, and hopes, and fears of mankind, and as most suitable to all our capacities and expectations, and to the general opinion and consent of wise men in all ages; then it is infinitely more safe, and consequently more wise, to proceed upon this supposition, and to provide and act accordingly.
Thus “to number our days,” that is, to make such an account of the shortness and uncertainty of this life, as to employ it mainly in the care and preparation for a better life, will engage us effectually in the business of religion. And this, perhaps, is the meaning of this phrase in the text, of “applying our hearts to wisdom,” according to that of Job: (Job xxviii.28.) “But unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;” as if he had said, This is the true wisdom, the great excellency and perfection of human nature is religion, the lively sense and firm belief of a Deity, and a carnage and demeanour suitable to that belief; and that man is well taught, and rightly instructed in the great business and concernment of this life, and makes a wise reckoning and account of the shortness and un certainty of it, who applies himself to the business of religion: for this is the fundamental principle of 216wisdom, by which our whole life, and all the actions of it, ought to be governed and conducted.
So that, if we have immortal spirits, which shall live and continue for ever, we cannot in reason but take our whole life, and our whole duration into consideration. And if we do so, we can never justify it to ourselves, to employ all our care and time about the worst and more ignoble part of ourselves, and to make provision only for the few days of our pilgrim age here in this world, without any regard to that eternal duration which we shall have in another world.
The serious consideration of this cannot fail to make us careful of our souls, and concerned for eternity; and in order to the securing the happiness of that state, to mind us to “work out our salvation” with great care and diligence, that, if it be possible, we may avoid the misery, and obtain the happiness of another world; because there is no comparison between the goods and evils of this life, and those of the other, neither in respect of the degree, nor of the duration of them. And therefore it must needs be great wisdom, to forego the good things of this life, to obtain those of the other; and to bear the evils and afflictions of this life, to escape those of the other. For what man in his wits, for a temporal convenience and satisfaction, would forfeit an eternal benefit and advantage; and to escape a present evil, which cannot last long, would run himself upon one infinitely greater, and which will last for ever?
“Consider, then, and shew yourselves men.” Can there be a greater oversight and miscarriage in the conduct of our affairs, than to mind that least which concerns us most? Is it possible for men to run into a greater mistake, than to think that their great business 217in this world, is to mind the things of this world? And yet the greatest part of mankind not only run into this mistake at their first setting out, but persist in it all their days; as if their great, and indeed their only concernment were to please themselves for the present, and to provide for this world, as if they were to live always in it: forgetting all this while that they have immortal souls, which shall sur vive their bodies, and after a time be re-united to them, to live for ever, deprived of that happiness which they would take no care to secure, and under going that misery and punishment which they would be at no pains to prevent whilst they were in this world, and the opportunity of securing the one, and avoiding the other, was in their hands.
II. The thoughts of our latter end should make us very serious and composed in our spirits. .For if we have immortal souls as well as dying bodies, if we shall live for ever, and if the happiness of all eternity depends upon the improvement of this short time of our lives, and our carriage and demeanour while we are here in this world; then it is no trifling business, it is not a matter of small concernment to us how we live here, and manage ourselves during our abode in this world.
Whom do not the lively thoughts of death, and the near approach of it, make grave and serious? and many men much wiser and more considerate than ever they were in any other time of their lives, and much truer judges of things? They can then tell how they ought to have lived, what use they should have made of their time, and what use they would make of it, if God would be pleased to prolong it to them.
The near view of another world is an amazing 218thing, and apt to inspire men with better thoughts and resolutions than ever they had before. And why should not the clear prospect of it at a distance, and the assured belief of it, have the same effect upon us, to make us serious and to mind in good earnest, “in this our day, the things which belong to our peace, and to wait all the days of our appointed time, till our change shall come?”
And, therefore, to engage us to a continual seriousness and watchfulness, the great Judge of the world hath hid from us both the time of the general judgment, and of our particular summons out of this world, that we might never be unprovided for the main chance, for that which may happen at any time, and which will concern us for ever.
III. The meditation of our latter end should put us upon minding the great business of our lives with all our might, and make us very vigorous and industrious in it; I mean the business of religion, and the salvation of our souls. And if we set up this, as in reason we ought, for the great end and design of our lives, and the main scope of all our actions, it will make our lives of a piece, and every part thereof agreeable to itself; because our mind will stand continually bent one way, and all our thoughts, and cares, and endeavours, will be united in one great end and design.
And it will oblige us to great diligence and industry, and make us work hard, to think how great a work we have to do, and how little time to do it in; perhaps much less than most of us do imagine. It is not an easy work for a man to become good, and fit for heaven; it requires time and care, and great watchfulness over ourselves, great strugglings, and many a conflict with the evil inclinations of our 219minds, which, after we have conquered them, will often rally and make head again; a stout resistance of temptations, a stiff and obstinate resolution not to yield to them, and a “patient continuance in well doing.” The consideration whereof should make us very careful and diligent to get oil into our lamps; that is, all those graces and virtues, all those good dispositions which may fit us for another world, and prepare us for eternity; it should make us very vigorous and industrious to do all the good we can, while the opportunity of doing it is in our hands, and to make ourselves as good as we can, because this is the time and season of laying the foundation of our future happiness, and increasing the degrees of it; for “as we sow, so shall we reap; he that sows sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that sows plentifully, shall reap plentifully.” Every degree of virtue and goodness that we attain to in this world, will meet with a suitable reward, and a more resplendent degree of glory and happiness in the next life.
And we shall have this advantage, by a great industry and diligence in “working out our own salvation,” that, if we have made religion the great care and business of our lives, we shall have nothing to do when we come to die, but to renew our repentance for the errors and miscarriages of our lives, and to beg God’s pardon and forgiveness of them, for the sake of the meritorious obedience and sufferings of our blessed Saviour; to comfort ourselves in the goodness and promises of God, and in the glorious hopes of the happiness which we are ready to enter upon; and in the mean time to exercise faith and patience for a very little while, till death put an end to the sorrows and miseries of life.220
IV. The meditation of our latter end should make us much in the exercise of repentance, and to renew it frequently; because we continually offend God, and provoke him every day, if not by sins of commission, yet of omission and neglect in one kind or other, and by the imperfection of our best actions and services; if not by presumptuous sins and against knowledge, yet by manifold sins of ignorance and infirmity; so that the best of us may say with David every day, “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret sins. If thou shouldest be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who can stand?”
Thus, by exercising a daily, or at least a very frequent repentance, we may keep our accounts in a good measure even, and not be in a hurry and confusion when we come to die, neither knowing where to begin our repentance, nor how to go through with so great a work in so short a time, and in circumstances of so much weakness and destruction. There are hardly any of us, especially of us who are ministers, and have frequent occasion to attend upon sick-beds, but have seen several in these wretched circumstances, not knowing what to do, desirous to repent, but, what through weakness of body, and horror and confusion of mind, not knowing how to go about it, lamenting their neglect of it in the time of their health, and despairing of doing it now with any success and acceptance. These are sad spectacles indeed, and ought to be loud warnings to us who are in health, and have the opportunity of repentance before us, to make use of it, and to set about this necessary work out of hand, “to-day, whilst it is called to-day, lest any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and be at last 221brought into those miserable straits which I have been describing, and which no man that understands himself would be in for all the world.
V. The meditation of the shortness and uncertainty of life should make us great husbands of our time, as that which, next to our immortal souls, and for the sake of them, is the most precious and valuable thing in the world.
For as, on the one hand, nothing will comfort us more when we come to die and leave this world, than the remembrance of a well-spent life, carefully employed in the service of God, and for the benefit and advantage of men; so, on the other hand, there is nothing for which our consciences will more bitterly reproach us at that time, and fly in our faces with greater fury and rage, than for an useless and unprofitable, especially if it have been likewise (as is too commonly seen) a wicked and vitious life.
Our life is uncertain, and therefore we should seize the present time, and improve it to the best advantage, though it be but short in itself, and very short in respect of the great and long work which we have to do in it. To prevent or cure the manifold distempers of our minds, and to preserve our souls in a good state of health, and to keep them free from the disorders of our appetites and passions, requires a wise conduct, and a very careful management of ourselves. Evil and inveterate ha bits are not mastered and mortified in an instant: nor the contrary virtues attained in any measure of perfection, but by long practice and slow degrees. There must be time, and patience, and perseverance, for the doing of these things, and we must “give all diligence to add to our faith knowledge, and to our knowledge virtue,” and one virtue to another, and 222one degree of virtue to another; and nothing with out this can minister true comfort to us in the hour of death, and make us “to lift up our heads with joy in the day of judgment.”
The consideration of this should make us careful not to neglect any occasion of doing good, or of making ourselves better; and restrain us from al lowing too much of our time to those great wasters and devourers of it, diversions and visits; because they do not only hinder us from better work and employment, but are apt insensibly to work us off from that serious temper of mind, which becomes those who do in good earnest design for another world.
VI. The meditation of our latter end should make us always to prefer the doing of our duty, and the keeping of a good conscience, to all temporal considerations whatsoever, whether of fame and the good opinion of men, or of wealth and riches, of honour and dignity, of authority and power. “choosing rather (with Moses) to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to have the temporary enjoyments of sin.”
And as for pleasure, there is little in this world that is true and sincere, besides the pleasure of doing our duty, and of doing good; I am sure none that is comparable to it. A good conscience is “a continual feast;” and he certainly pleaseth himself best, and is most easy in his own mind, who is conscious to himself, that he endeavours as well as he can to do what he ought.
V1I. The meditation of our mortality should teach us the true price and value of all temporal enjoyments, and make us duly affected towards them, and to sit as loose to them in our affections as we can: for nothing surely can be more apt to beget in 223us a coldness and indifferency towards the enjoyments of this world, than the consideration of the uncertainty of all these things, and of the shortness and uncertainty of our own lives.
Or if we suppose, that they and we both should continue for some number of years, yet there will be an end of them or us; and nothing is to be reckoned a lasting happiness, that will have an end, though it should be long first: for where there can be either sorrow or an end of our joy, there can be no true felicity.
Besides, that the nature of the things of this world is such, that they afford but little happiness to us whilst we have them; we cannot do well without them, and yet we can hardly do well with them. Most of the enjoyments of this world, as desirable as they are to us, are very dangerous, and are always attended with some inconvenience or other; and even when we have all that we can wish for in this world, we are apt to be still uneasy, either something troubles us, or nothing pleases us; we are pained with fulness, and cloyed with the long enjoyment of the best things this world can give us. Why then should we set such a high and unreasonable value upon these temporary enjoyments, and be so much concerned for those things of which we have so slippery a hold, and so slender an assurance, and which afford us so very little contentment and satisfaction when we have them, and yet give us so much grief and trouble when we lose them? Considering how soon we must, and how suddenly we may leave this world, and all the enjoyments of it, we ought in reason to set no great price upon them.
VIII. The consideration of the shortness and un certainty of our lives, should make us contented 224with our present condition, and patient under all the evils and afflictions which may befal us in this world. A little may content us for a little while, for the short time of our abode here; and since we do not expect our rest and happiness in this world, we cannot think ourselves disappointed if we do not meet with it. If our condition be tolerable it is well, and we have reason to be contented with it, since it is as much as this world usually affords. If it be very mean and strait, it cannot last long; and even that consideration should silence our murmurings, and should restrain and check our discontent.
And it should make us patient likewise under the greatest evils and afflictions of this present life, to consider that they will shortly have an end; either they will give off of themselves, or they will carry us off and make an end of us, and all the patience we have exercised will be rewarded far beyond the proportion of our sufferings.
At the worst, the afflictions and sufferings of this present time are not like the troubles and miseries of the other world, they will not last always. The most grievous things that can befal us here are not like the torments of hell, neither for the degree, nor the duration of them, without intermission and without end.
IX. The meditation of death, and of the consequences of it, should make us upright and sincere in all our words and actions. Hypocrisy and dissimulation, as much as they are practised, are no part of true wisdom, no, not as to this world; they recoil terribly upon men, and turn to their reproach and disadvantage so soon as they are discerned, and they cannot be long practised without being discovered. But if we regard the other world, all disguises and arts of deceit are perfect folly; because then “God 225will bring every work into judgment, and every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil,” as Solomon assures us, (Eccles. xii. 14.) And our blessed Saviour cautions us against hypocrisy, upon this consideration—that there is a day coming, when all the false pretences of men shall be exposed and laid open, and all those masks and vizors which men wear in this world will fall off, and the actions of men shall appear in their true colours: (Luke xii. 1, 2.) “Beware (says our Saviour there first of all) of the leaven of the pharisees, which is hypocrisy; for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; nor hid, that shall not be known.”
Lastly, The meditation of our latter end should put us upon a careful, and continual, and particular preparation for the time of our death and dissolution. And this is very well worth our while, and the sooner we set about it the better; because, when this work is in any good measure done, we have rescued ourselves from that bondage to which most men are all their life long subject, because of the continual fear of death. Nothing abates the terror of death like a due preparation for it. When this is once made, we cannot be much concerned when it comes; for, to a well-prepared mind, sooner or later makes no great difference; but if we have delayed this necessary work, the longer we have delayed it the more unfit we shall be for it, and the more un willing to set about it; and if necessity drives us to it at last, we shall find that old age and sickness are but bad times to make preparation for death in, to begin our repentance and the change of a bad life. He that prepares not for death before he draws near to it, and comes to lie upon a sick-bed, is like him that begins to study the art of navigation when he 226hath present occasion and use for the skill which he hath not yet learned, when his vessel is driven among rocks, and is every moment in danger of being dashed in pieces.
Let this then be established for a firm 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 tenor of our lives, and of a sincere repentance for all the errors and miscarriages of our lives. And though our life be short and un certain, 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 came 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 deferred to the last, ought to have been first thought of, and to have been made the great business of their whole lives.
But I proceed to give some 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 227we 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 shall never have an end.
And we should likewise meditate much on the glory and happiness of another world. For if we be once possessed 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 release us, we ought to esteem it a favour: but if he will have us to stay a little longer, we must with patience wait for another opportunity of making our escape out of an evil and troublesome world. But, methinks, 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,228
3. By way of farther preparation for death, we should endeavour to maintain always a lively sense of 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 passed the sentence of death upon us. We should always reckon upon that which may happen the next moment; and if we do so, we can never be extremely 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 dissolution, 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 another world, that we may quicken our pace, and “work the work of Him that sent 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 229many delays and excuses to tarry yet a while longer in this world: and yet a very long life, with the usual burdens and infirmities of it, is seldom in reason desirable; for it is the same thing over again, or worse; so 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 less patience and strength to bear them.
Let us then be of good courage in the approaches of death, since 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 æquora ventis,
E terra alterius magnum spectare periclum.
Non quia vexari quendam est jucunda voluptas;
Sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave est.
“It is a pleasant thing to stand upon the shore when we see others in a great storm at sea. Not that it is delightful to see others in danger; but when others are in great difficulties and dangers, it is a pleasure to find ourselves safe and out of danger.”
And if it should please God to exercise us with great pains and 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 230to reckon upon it; we must in this, as in all other things, resign up ourselves to God’s good pleasure, and submit to him the time and manner, and all other circumstances of our departure out of this world; whether our sun shall set in a cloud, or shine brightest and look biggest when it is going down. But however it sets, it is the sun still, and the fountain of light, and will rise gloriously. There are always the seeds of joy and comfort in the conscience of a good man; and though they be hid and buried for a while, they will spring forth one time or other. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart,” as David assures us, (Psal. xcvii. 11.) I will conclude all with the words of the author of this psalm: (Deut. xxxii. 29.) “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!”231
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