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PRAYER AND MEDITATION, For such as prepare themselves for death, by renouncing
O ALMIGHTY God, the Lord of heaven and earth, who dealest out good and evil with a divine foresight, and admirable wisdom ! thou hast not permitted us to have here a continuing city, that we may seek for that which is to come. Thou hast set before our eyes the vanity and inconstancy of all things under the sun, that we may aspire to attain more solid and durable advantages. Thou hast placed and reserved in 'heaven inexhaustible treasures, incorruptible crowns of glory, and eternal triumphs, that we might transport thither our hearts and affections. The fountain of everlasting joys is with thee, that we may always thirst after the mighty and living God; and that we may desire, with an holy earnestness, to look upon thy beautiful and glorious face, O adorable Creator ! seeing thou hast given me an im. mortal sonl, suffer me not to be so wretched, as to grovel in the dust of this miserable earth, or to plunge myself into the filth of its abominable pleasures. Give me grace to renounce the world and all its vanities; and grant that I may possess all these decaying and perishable goods, as not possessing them ; that I may trample upon all the pomp and glory of the age ; that I
I may remember the gold, silver, and precious stones, whose outward beauty dazzles the carnal eye of man, are nothing else but a little concrete earth, that must again be dissolved into dust; and that I may never forget, that after my decease, all these things will profit me, no more, than the earth and stones which shall cover my dead corpse, or the wood or lead which shall serve for a coffin. Give me grace to despise all the honours and dignities, after which the men of this world hunt so impatiently; for the fashion of them passeth away, and they are even as a shadow that flieth. Pluck out of my heart all the cares of this life, and all worldly
solicitudes, that death may not surprise me unprepared, and that there may be prothing to stop or hinder me from going to thee, whenever thou shalt be pleased to call me; that my soul being wholly disentangled and freed from these briars and thorns, I may be ready at every moment to offer it up to thee, a living and holy sacrificé. As thy chosen people Israel pitched their tents, or removed their camps, just according to thy command, so give me grace to be equally disposed either to live or die, to remain in this tabernacle, or depart from it. And as this people passed over the river Jordan with a wonderful joy, to take possession of the promised land; grant that I may also leave this miserable wilderness with transports of delight, to enter into the celestial Canaan, which flows with the milk and honey of divine pleasure and everlasting consolation, O God who art the portion of mine inheritance, number me not with the men of this world, whose portion is in this life. Thou satisfiest their appetite with thy good things, so that they are full, and leave sufficient for their posterity ; but as for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness, and shall be satisfied with thy likeness, when I awake at the sound of the last trumpet. Amen.
The fifth remedy against the Fears of Death, is, to for
sake vice, and to apply ourselves to the practice of true, piety and holiness.
GOD is so wonderful in all his works, and disposes of his creatures in such a manner, that he forces from his very enemies the acknowledgment of bis truth. You have an excellent example of this in the person
of Balaam, who, beholling the tents of the children of Israel
was constrained to break out into this passionate wish, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his, Numb. xxiii. 10. Although he was a wicked wretch, who loved the wages of iniquity, nevertheless he perceived, by that prophetic light with which his understanding was enlightened, how sweet and comfortable death was to such as addicted themselves, during this life, to the service and fear of the Almighty God; and how different it is from the death of the profane and worldly-minded, who abandon themselves to their lusts, and love to wallow in the ordure of their lawless and abominable delights. For as the sleep of a drunkard is restless and unquiet, so those who have made themselves drunk with the filthy pleasures of this life, if they be not altogether Atheists, commonly depart out of the world, in great agonies of mind, and such horrours upon the conscience as cannot be expres- . sed. On the contrary, as the handicraftsman, who hath worked all the day in his shop, or as the husbandman who bath wearied himself in following the plough, ļays himself down at night, and sleeps sweetly, and in peace ; so the good christian, who during this life hath carefully attended the works of piety and mercy, falls into his last sleep with great quiet of mind and serenity of soul. As the Patriarch Jacob, whose life was unblameable, when he travelled a journey at his father's command, was not disturbed to see the sun go down, though he was alone in the midst of a vast plain, but laid him down in peace, and slept sweetly, having no other bed but the earth, no other pillow but a stone, no other covering but the heavens, nor any other curtains than the dark shadows of the night, Gen. xxviii. In the same manner, a man sanctified by the Spirit of God, who walks
in all the commands of his heavenly Father, shall never be afraid. For wheresoever his sun goes down, wheresoever death arrests him, he will look upon himself as another Bethel. He will sleep quietly in the Lord Jesus : and even in the most cruel death, will feel a joy unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Pet. i. 8. with the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, Phil. iv. 7.
We have an instance of this in St. Paul: He had lived in all good conscience before God, and before men, Acts xxiii. 1; and had laboured more abundantly in the mninistry than all the other Apostles, 1 Cor. xv. 10.Therefore he stood in no fear of death : Nay, so far is he from being afraid or apprehensive of it, that he hopes and wishes for it, as the passage into glory and eternal felicity. The same is likewise no less observable in St. Stephen, the first martyr of Jesus Christ; for in the midst of the most grievous torments, he had a countenance shining like that of an angel, Acts vi. 15 ; which was a certain testimony of the inward peace of his conscience, and the extraordinary joy of his soul; for, as the wise man informs us, A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance, Prov. xv. 13. From the same fountain is derived this other oracle, that foretells, in general, what shall happen to every particular, The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death, Prov. xiv. 32. To which agrees this excellent saying of Jesus, the son of Sirach, “Whoso “feareth the Lord, it shall go well with him at the last, “and he shall find favour in the day of his death,” Eccl. i. 13. This life is but a moment, that soon flieth away; yet it determines our eternal state. It either raises us to the glory of heaven, or casts us headlong into the abyss of eternal misery; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall
he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption : but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting, Gal. vi. 7, 8.
If you are afraid of a cruel and unfortunate death, keep yourselves from an evil and profane life : for commonly as a man's life is, so is his death. Most of those who delight to live in filthy lusts and impiety, depart with hardened hearts, or in despair. God's patience wearied out, kindles into a just fury; and we see, that God leaves those at the bours of death, who have left him in the course of their lives. He is deaf to the cries and groans of such as have shut their ears and hearts to his holy word, and his fatherly admonitions. He laughs at the amazing horrors, and exquisite torments, of those who trample upon his sacred commands; as he himself tells us in the following words, which, like so many thunders are capable of overturning mountains, and rending rocks asunder: Because I have called, andye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded ; but ye have set at naught all my counsels, and would none of my reproofs; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh, Prov. i. 24, 25, 26.
King Ahab desired to hear a grateful prophecy of victory over the Syrians ; nevertheless he continued in his impieties and tyranny: therefore the prophet Micaiah, withoutstanding in fear of his displeasure, boldly threatens him with the just judgment of God which hung over his guilty head, 1 Kings xxii. In the same manner, some sinners desire to be flattered ; and notwithstanding they persist in their crimes, expect from us nothing but predictions of joy and triumph. But we should be false prophets, possessed with a lying spirit, if we did pot foretel to such people that a most lamentable and