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opens, till he sees at last, with the eye of faith, that land of promise to which he hastens; a sight that cheers and revives him ; when, after the labours of his journey, his soul begins to faint within him. And this suggests to us a third advantage resulting from an early sense of Religion, namely, the satisfaction and comfort it will afford us on the bed of death.
3. However the young libertine may now boast himself, and triumph in his impiety, and laugh at the scrupulous timidity of those who deny themselves a thousand pleasures, which he boldly snatches without hesitation or remorse, yet there will come a time, and God knows how soon it may come, when his heart will quake for fear, when he will believe and tremble. Nor must he vainly flatter himself that the evil day is far off, or that when it does come, he shall face it with the same steadiness and intrepidity with which he now affronts his Maker. For whilst he sees “thousands 6 even of his own age, fall beside him, and “ ten thousand at his right-hand,” how can he be sure that the danger will not come nigh him, especially as he takes the
surest method to bring it near him, and to quicken the pace of death by his intemperance. It must, however, at last overtake him; and when it does, all his vaunted courage will at once desert him. The stoutest hearts will fail, and the fiercest spirits will be broken, when that dreadful day arrives. Our own history and that of other nations, will furnish us with abundant instances, where the boldest chiefs in iniquity, who have gloried in the most open and avowed contempt of Religion, have yet been so utterly dismayed at the approach of death, as to sink into the most abject superstition and unmanly complaints. It is not that enterprising spirit which carries a man so successfully through this world, that will avail him in his entrance on the next. Nothing can then support him amidst the terrors of dissolution, and the pangs of parting with all that is dear and near to him, but the reflection on a wellspent life; and as we shall stand in need of every possible increase of comfort, we ought to sweeten this reflection all we can, by beginning early to remember God. For we must not imagine, what some are will
ing to persuade themselves, that a deathbed repentance will have the same effect upon our minds in our last moments, as a life of early piety or early repentance. They who think so, show themselves to be utter strangers to the real situation of a dying man. They know not the terror and amazement, the fears and apprehensions, of a soul that stands trembling on the brink of eternity, and whose salvation depends on a death-bed repentance. He fears, he knows not what, about the sincerity of that repentance; he fears his contrition may not have been deep enough, his amendment not complete; that some crimes may not have appeared to him in their full guilt and baseness, and some may have entirely escaped his search. He enhances every real danger, and creates to himself a thousand more; and whatever may be the efficacy of that repentance, with regard to his future condition, it cannot in his present yield him that comfortable hope, that humble confidence in the merits of his Redeemer, which is absolutely
necessary to the quiet of the mind, in so interesting a point. This can only be the result of a life, in which upon the most impartial review, there appears nothing to lament but those frailties and infirmities which man cannot but sometimes fall into, and which God, through the mediation and death of Christ, has most graciously promised to forgive. And in this review, the further we can cast our eyes backwards on our sincere, though imperfect endeavours after holiness, and the nearer we can trace up the beginning of our religious obedience to the beginning of life, the more pleasing will be the retrospect, the more unallayed our satisfaction. Every impulse of passion we have subdued, every temptation we have resisted or escaped, every evil thought we have restrained, and every good one we have encouraged, will then each rise up to befriend us, and speak peace to our affrighted souls. And though the religious young man, may now, perhaps, complain of the difficulties he hath to struggle with, yet let him remember, that the bitterer his present sensations are, the more joyful will be his reflections at that momentous period. It is then, in short, and only then, we see the true difference between him that serveth God in his youth, and him that serveth him not; and whoever compares their different circumstances and behaviour on that trying occasion, will most sincerely wish “ that he may die the death “ of the righteous, and that his latter end “ may be like his. But let us remember, that it is not a mere inactive wish alone that can procure us this inestimable blessing; let us remember, that if we would die the death of the righteous, we must seriously resolve and endeavour, from our youth up, to live his life, and that the best preparation for a latter end like his, will be to take care that our early years be like his also.