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and cares are? Labor, then, to free others from such burdens and
But, alas ! what power hath selfishness in most. How easily do
that we should not make so great a
Use 7. And now, O my soul, consider how mercifully God hath dealt with chee, that thy strait should be between two conditions so desirable. I shall either die speedily, or stay yet longer upon earth ; whichever it be, it will be a merciful and comfortable state ; that it is desirable to depart and be with Christ, I must not doubt, and shall anon more copiously consider. And if my abode on earth yet longer be so great a mercy as to be put in the balance against my present possession of heaven, surely it must be a state which obligeth me
thankfulness to God, and comfortable acknowledgment; and surely it is not my pain, or sickness, my sufferings from malicious men, that should make this life on earth unacceptable, while God will continue it. Paul had his prick or thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, and suffered more from men (though less in his health) than I have done; and yet he gloried in such infirmities, and rejoiced in his tribulations, and was in a strait between living and dying, yea, rather chose to live yet longer.
Alas! it is another kind of strait that most of the world are in. The strait of most is between the desire of life for fleshly interest, and the fear of death, as ending their felicity. The strait of many is, between a tiring world and body, which maketh them weary of living, and the dreadful prospect of future danger, which makes them afraid of dying; if they live it is in misery ; if they must die, they are afraid of greater misery. Which way ever they look, behind or before them, to this world or the next, fear and trouble is their lot. Yea, many an upright Christian, through the weakness of his trust
in God, doth live in this perplexed strait; weary of living, and afraid of dying; between grief and fear, they are pressed continually. But Paul's strait was between two joys; which of them he should desire most : and if that be my case, what should much interrupt my peace or pleasure? If I live, it is for Christ; for his work, and for his church ; for preparation for my own and others' everlasting felicity : and should any suffering, which maketh me not unserviceable, make me impatient with such a work, and such a life? If I die presently, it is my gain; God who appointeth me my work, doth limit my time, and sure his glorious reward can never be unseasonable, or come too soon, if it be the time that he appointeth. When I first engaged myself to preach the gospel, I reckoned (as probable) but upon one or two years; and God hath continued me yet above forty-four: (with such interruptions as others in these times have had;) and what reason have I now to be unwilling, either to live or die? God's service hath been so sweet to me, that it hath overcome the trouble of constant pains, or weakness, of the flesh, and all that men have said or done against me.
But the following crown exceeds this pleasure, more than I am here capable to conceive. There is some trouble in all this pleasant work, from which the soul and flesh would rest; and blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord; even so saith the spirit; for they rest from their labors and their works follow them.
But, O my soul, what needest thou be troubled in this kind of strait? It is not lest to thee to choose whether or when thou wilt live or die. It is God that will determine it, who is infinitely fitter to choose than thou. Leave, therefore, his own work to himself, and mind that which is thine ; whilst thou livest, live to Christ; and when thou diest, thou shall die to Christ ; even into his blessed hands: so live that thou mayest say, “It is Christ liveth in me, and the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me;" and then, as thou hast lived in the comfort of hope, thou shalt die unto the comfort of vision and fruition. And when thou canst say, “ He is the God whose I am, and whom I serve,” thou mayest boldly add, and whom I trust, and to whom I commend my departing soul; and I know whom I have trusted.'
Phil. i. 23.
For I am in a strait betwirt two, having a desire to depart, and to be
with Christ, which is far better. (Or, for this is much rather to be preferred, or better.)
Sect. 1. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down : he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?" saith Job, xiv. 1-3. As a watch when it is wound up, or as a candle newly lighted, so man, newly conceived or born, beginneth a motion, which, incessantly hasteth to its appointed period. And an action, and its time that is past, is nothing; so vain a thing would man be, and so vain his life, were it not for the hopes of a more durable lise, which this referreth to. But those hopes, and the means, do not only difference a believer from an infidel, but a man from a beast. When Solomon describeth the difference, in respect to the time and things of this life only, he truly tells us, that one end here befalling both, doth show that both are here but vanity, but man's vexation is greater than the beasts'. And Paul truly saith of Christians, that if our hope were only in this life, (that is, in the time and things of this life and world,) we were, of all men, the most miserable. Though even in this life, as related to a better, and as we are exercised about things of a higher nature than the concerns of temporal life, we are far happier than any worldlings.
Sect. 2. Being to speak to myself, I shall pass by all the rest of the matter of this text, and suppose its due explication, and spread before my soul only the doctrine and uses of these two propositions contained in it. I. That the souls of believers, when departed hence, VOL. II.
shall be with Christ. II. That so to be with Christ is far better for them than to be here in the body.
Sect. 3. I. Concerning the first, my thoughts shall keep this order. I. I shall consider the necessity of believing it. II. Whether it be best believing it, without consideration of the proofs or difficulties. III. The certainty of it manifested for the exercise of faith.
Sect. 4. I. Whether the words signify that we shall be in the same place with Christ (which Grotius groundlessly denieth) or only in his hand, and care, and love, I will not stay to dispute. Many other texts concurring, do assure us that “we shall be with him where he is.” (John xii. 26, and xvii. 24, &c.) At least, “with him,” can mean no less than a state of communion, and a participation of felicity. And to believe such a state of happiness for departed souls, is of manifold necessity, or use.
Sect. 5. i. If this be not soundly believed, a man must live besides, or below, the end of life. He must have a false end, or be uncertain what should be his end.
I know it may be objected, that if I make it my end to please God, by obeying him, and doing all the good I can, and trust him with my soul, and future estate, as one that is utterly uncertain what he will do with me, I have an end intended, which will make me godly, charitable, and just, and happy, so far as I am made for happiness ; for the pleasing of God is the right end of all.
But, 1. Must I desire to please him no better than I do in this imperfect state, in which I have and do so much which is displeasing to him? He that must desire to please him, must desire to please him perfectly; and our desire of our ultimate end must have no bounds, or check. Am I capable of pleasing God no better than by such a sinful life as this?
2. God hath made the desire of our own felicity so necessary to the soul of man, that it cannot be expected that our desire to please him should be separated from this.
3. Therefore, both in respect of God, as the end, and of our felicity, as our second end, we must believe that he is the beatifying rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
For, 1. If we make such an ill description of God, as that he will turn our pleasing him to our loss, or will not turn it to our gain and welfare, or that we know not whether he will do so or not, it will hinder our love, and trust, and joy, in him, by which we must please him, and, consequently, hinder the alacrity, and soundness, and constancy, of our obedience.
2. And it will much dismiss that self-love which must excite us, and it will take off part of our necessary end. And I think the objectors would confess, that if they have no certainty what God will do with them, they must have some probability and hope before they can be sincerely devoted here to please him.
Sect. 6. And, 1. If a man be but uncertain what he should make the end of his life, or what he should live for, how can he pitch upon an uncertain end? And if he waver so as to have no end, he can use no means; and if end and means be all laid by, the man liveth not as a man, but as a brute : and what a torment must it be to a considering mind to be uncertain what to intend and do in all the the tenor and actions of his life? Like a man going out at his door, not knowing whither or what to do, or which way to go: either he will stand still, or move as brutes do, by present sense, or as a windmill, or weathercock, as he is moved.
Sect. 7. 2. But if he pitch upon a wrong end, it may yet be worse than none; for he will but do hurt, or make work for repentance: and all the actions of his life must be formally wrong, how good soever, materially, if the end of them be wrong.
Sect. 8. ij. And if I fetch them not from this end, and believe not in God as a rewarder of his servants, in a better life, what motives shall I have, which in our present difficulties, will be sufficient to cause me to live a holy, yea, or a truly honest, life ? All piety and honesty, indeed, is good, and goodness is desirable for itself : but the goodness of a means is its aptitude for the end ; and we have here abundance of impediments, competitors, diversions, and temptations, and difficulties of many sorts; and all these must be overcome by him that will live in piety or honesty: and our natures, we find, are diseased, and greatly indisposed to unquestionable duties; and will they ever discharge them, and conquer all these difficulties and temp