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and pious purposes, which are begun by men upon a fick-bed, when they are in fight of death, and expect a diffolution, there are so few that continue with them, and prove effectual to make their lives and actions answer them, when they recover. There is not, I believe, one unconverted Christian in some hundreds, but will thew fome signs of sorrow, and put up devout prayers, and make holy vows and purposes, when he apprehends himself about to die : And yet, of all those who are raised up again, it is a very small and inconfiderable number in comparison, that make good those vows, and effect what they had refolved upon." And now, if these men had died when they thus repented, in what a miserable state had they been? For this change in their will and purpose, is no further available to their everlasting salvation, than it would be effectual to work a like change in their lives and practice. God accepts the holiness of the mind, only as it is an holy principle; and imputes the reward of obedience to it no farther, than he foresees, that if he allowed time, obedience would ensue upon it. The will is never taken for the deed, but when it is able to effect the same; when the deed would be sure to follow, so soon as an opportunity were offered for it. And this, God fees beforehand, although we do not. He is able to judge of the fincerity of men's desires, and of the sufficiency of their pur. poses, before their following works declare them. And according to what he foresees they would afterwards effect, he either accepts or rejects them. But when men's after-works come as a clear evidence, of the ingncerity, or insufficiency of their sick-bed resolutions; they may fee plainly themselves, what God saw long before, that all the change of mind, which was then wrought in them, was utterly insig. pificant and unavailing. When they trustçd to it, they relied upon a broken reed; their confidence upon it was ill-grounded, and if they had died with it, would most certainly have deceived them. .
Thus utterly uncertain and uncomfortable a thing, is a mere unworking change, and a late death-bed repentance. It may
sometimes Sometimes prove sufficient, to beget an after change of practice; and when God sees it would, there is no doubt but he will accept it. But it very feldom doth; and no man who dies in it, can possibly tell, whether it would or no. It is very great odds, that it would prove too weak : fo that although there be fome, yet is there very small hope, that any dying man can place
And that which renders it ordinarily so insufficient, and thereupon so uncertain and uncomfortable, is this : Because it generally proceeds from an unconftant and temporary principle; to wit, the nearness of death, and the present fears of it. It is commonly founded upon a reason, that doth not hold in all times; a reason, that is good in sickness, but not in health; that concludes for a pious change whilst we are under our fick-bed forrows, but not when being freed from them, we are placed again under the pleasure of temptations,
For the great and general motive, which makes all those who never thought of re
forming in all their lives before, to resolve upon it when they are on their death-bed, is plainly the nearness of the next world, and their apprehension of their sudden death and departure. . Could they hope to live longer, they would fin fill. But they look upon themfelves as going to judgement, and they have fo much confcience left in them, as to believe that there is a hell for the impenitent; and their own felf-love is extremely startled at that, and makes them run to any fhelter : so that they make many fearful confeffions, and fervent prayers, and holy purposes, and say and do any thing whereby they may quiet their present fears, and catch at any comfortable hopes of avoiding the eternal torments which they are afraid of. The ordinary cause then of all this procedure, is not any love of God, or hatred of fin; but only a fear of punishment. And that too, not a fear of it at a distance, and as at some removes from them; but only as it looks near at hand, and just hanging over them.
But now, as for this apparent nearness of death, and this confounding fear upon it; . it is plainly a short and transient, an unconstant, temporary principle. It is a read fon to them no longer, than they are sick; for when they recover and are well again, death is as far off, and they are become again as fearless as ever. They are got out of its neighbourhood, and it gives them no further trouble. So that all their former fears abate, and their virtuous resolutions fall, as beginning now to want that which first gave life to them, and should support them. And now, when opportunities of fin are offered, and the pleasurable baits of temptations invite ; they have nothing left that is able to resist them. Whilft they were fick, they were not capable to be tempted; and then death being near, it enabled them to purpose well, and to make à pious refolution. But now, since they are well, temptations are become as strong as ever ; and the thoughts of death being far removed, they have no resolutions that can withstand them, but are quickly