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nation towards him. Therefore in the New Testament you have this as the universal common character of christians, they are those that, “ Love the appearance of Christ.” This is their character. And pray do but consider how this coldness of our love that I am now speaking of, is aggravated upon one account: our Saviour had such a love for us, that he left the bosom of his Father, the throne of his glory, and descended into this lower state of misery for us, that he might redeem us from iniquity, and recover us from our lost and undone condition. And shall not our love make us willing to ascend to him where we enjoy him in glory? When the soul is divorced from the body it is immediately united to Christ, married to him for ever? Shall we not be willing to leave this world, that we may be united to him that loveth us? How can we pretend to the love of Christ, and not have this inseparable effect of it, earnest desires to be with him ? Certainly this consideration should make us ashamed, that we live so patiently in this world, that we are not always under earnest longings and languishings to be with Christ above, that he may “Kiss us with the kisses of his mouth, whose love is better than wine;" and that we may enjoy his love which is infinitely sweeter than all the festival entertainments of this world. Did the love of Christ make him willing to come from heaven to earth to suffer for us; and shall not our love make us willing to ascend to heaven to reign with him? I know what I am now speaking, does no more affect a carnal heart, than if I were offering him a stone for food. But I speak to those that have this holy fire in their breasts, and that sincerely love Christ. Methinks it should make us ashamed, to be indifferent whether we continue still in the world, or go to heaven.
(3.) It argues too great an attachment to the world, and how dishonourable is this to the christian. As if his heart were glued to these things; as if they were his chief happiness! I do not wonder if I see a carnal man that is rich and lives in pleasure, if he be unwilling to die. What our Saviour tells of the young man in the gospel, is true of such, “ He went away sorrowful from Christ, for he had great possessions." For such a man to leave the world sorrowful, that hath his heart here, and his happiness here, I do not wonder at it. It is a bad exchange that such a one makes. But for the man that hath a title to an eternal kingdom, to be unwilling to die and leave this world, surely argues a great degree of carnality in his breast, that he should be so taken with these trifles of time, these empty vanities, and that he should be so unwilling to go to that place, where there is the only true treasure, and the only true pleasure and delight, and perfect satisfaction!
Consider how very dishonourable it is for a christian to be unwilling to die, therefore let us labour constantly to conquer this aversion to death, this fear of it; the truth of it is, there is no excuse that a holy man can bring for his unwillingness to die; but indeed the very excuse increases the fault. If you say you are not yet prepared to die, therefore you fear death; it is your own fault that you are not every day prepared, seeing there is a strict and peremptory command of Christ to partake of the symbolical representation of his sufferings, if you neglect to come, and say, you are not prepared ; why are you not? It is a guilty neglect of your souls that you are not prepared for this blessed ordinance. It is not your pretence of unpreparedness will free you, if you neglect and disobey this charge and command of your heavenly Father. So if you are unwilling to die and unprepared it is your fault that you are not ready for death. All those that are united to Christ and have an interest in him, and have mortified their lusts, O let them not be unwilling to die. Indeed many of those that walk holily and humbly, and are conscientious christians, are many times afraid to die; I do not deny this. Sometimes it is with them in reference to the fears of death, as it is with one that hath wasps humming about him that have lost their sting; they may terrify him but cannot hurt him. Death to a saint is like a wasp that hath lost its sting, it may make a humming noise about him, it may raise trouble and fear in him for a time, but cannot really hurt him. Now to such I shall only say this ; where there is a sincere humble soul, that hath made it its business to please God, although many infirmities and many sins have attended his performances (which the best saints are guilty of) nevertheless do but consider, what the gospel saith concerning our Saviour, it tells you he is your Judge; he that valued you so much as to give his life for you; he is your Judge ; your Advocate is to pass sentence; and shall we not be willing to appear before him that is our Saviour ? Shall not the ransomed with joy give up themselves to their Redeemer ?
It is a terrible consideration to appear before an infinite God, VOL. III.
but this is a comfortable consideration, that his goodness is answerable to his greatness. That I may allude to that scripture, that respects the saints coming to the throne of grace, saith the apostle, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace,” Heb. 4. 19. So I may say, let a saint go boldly to a throne of glory; with boldness, calmness, and joy let the saints deliver their souls up to Christ!
This affords comfort in the death of holy friends.
The next use of the point is this ; if there be an eternal rest remaining for the people of God, then this affords us solid comfort in the death of our dearest friends who die in the Lord, and who are ascended to enjoy this rest. It is one of the tenderest trials in the world, when God takes from us our dear relations and beloved friends. There is nothing more affects humanity, nothing more wounding, than when those we value, love, and esteem, and delight in are taken from us. Now the apostle gives this direction, 1 Thes. 4. 13. “But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you sorrow not even as others which have no hope; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Indeed for the heathen, that looks upon death as a gulph that swallows a man for ever, there might be sorrow to part with their dearest relatives; but for the saints that believe an eternal state, and have a well-grounded hope that those that are near them, either in consanguinity or affection, are removed from this land of darkness to the inheritance of the saints in light; they should not be dejected, nor overwhelmed with sorrow.
A dying believer should speak to his friends, as Christ did to his disciples, “ If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I am going to my heavenly Father.” They are going to a place where they shall never be in danger of losing God, or their souls. We should refresh ourselves with consideration : though our departed friends are dead to us, they are alive to God in their better part; they are now infinitely and eternally happy. I shall apply by way of illustration for this part of the argument, that which we read concerning Jacob and Joseph; Jacob, you know, was overwhelmed with sorrow at the apprehension of Joseph's death ; when he saw Joseph's garment torn and covered with blood, Gen. 37.33. he said, “ It is my son's coat, an evil beast hath devoured him ; Joseph without doubt is rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sack-cloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” He thought a wild beast had devoured him, when at the same time, Joseph, the beloved son of his father, was seated next to the throne of Pharaoh in the rich kingdom of Egypt, and made governor of the land. We are wounded many times by the apprehension that our deceased friends are torn in pieces by death, this fills the channel always with new sorrow, when we reflect upon it. But remember, if they were saints they are reigning in a better kingdom than that of this world. Your holy friends, you mourn for them as if they were torn in pieces by death, when they are reigning at God's right hand; “In whose presence there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand, there are pleasures for evermore.” Therefore dry up this current of tears that you shed for the departed servants of God.
Exhortation to prepare for this rest. General rules for it; to purify our
selves more and more, and perfect holiness in the fear of God; whereby our title will be clearer, and our assurance more joyful. Special rules, to fix our choice on this eternal rest as our portion; frequently and seriously think upon it; keep up earnest desires after it, and a lively hope of it; and strictly observe the Lord's Day,
Y the way of exhortation to you all, to prepare for this eternal rest. It is at a distance from us, though the distance be but small from many of us. And there is a great deal of difficulty attending it; but the excellency and the glory of it is that which will justify our greatest pains and diligence in labouring for it. It is our Saviour's counsel, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you," Mat. 6. 33. Therefore seek it first. As we read the first part of God's creation was a heaven, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” An empyreal heaven, the heaven of heavens was the first part of God's creation. And as it was the first part of God's work, so let it be the first part of our work to obtain a title to it, and be qualified for it. Thus saith the apostle Paul, Phil. 3. 13, 14. “ Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended : but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” “I press towards the mark ;" what vehement contention and earnestness do these words signify? So the apostle, 1 Tim. 6. 19. “ Charge those that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all thing to enjoy, and that they do good, and be rich in good works, &c. laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” And our Saviour tells us, “ The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." All these