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will then be abased, and the mouths of all the wicked stopped; when they shall see to their confusion the glory of that Christ whom they despised, and of those holy ones whom they made their scorn: in vain will they then knock when the door is shut, and cry, Lord, Lord, open unto us;' and in vain will they then wish, O that we had known the day of our visitation, that we might have died the death of the righteous, and our latter end might have been like his.'
The day of death is to true believers a day of happiness and joy; but it is much easier for them to think with joy on the coming of Christ, and the day of judgment, because it is a day of fuller joy, and soul and body shall be conjoined in the blessedness; and there is nothing in it to be so great a stop to our desires, as death is, which naturally is an enemy. God hath put a love of life, and fear of death into the nature of every sensible creature, as necessary for the preservation of themselves and others, and the orderly government of the world ; but what is there in the blessed day of judgment, which a justified child of God should be averse to? O, if he were but sure that this would be the day, or week, or year of the coming of his Lord, how glad would the confirmed Christian be! and with what longings would he be looking up, to see that most desired sight!
2. And the weak Christian is so far of the same mind, that he had rather come to God by death and judgment, than not at all: (except when temptations make him fear that he shall be condemned.) He hath fixedly made choice of that felicity, which till then he cannot attain. He would not take all the pleasures of this world, for his hopes of the happiness of that day : but yet he thinketh not of it with so strong a faith, and great consolation, nor with such boldness and desire, as the confirmed Christian doth; but either with much more dull security, or more perplexity and fear.
His thoughts of God and of the world to come are much more dark and doubtful; and his fears of that day are usually so great as make his desires and joys scarce felt: only he thinketh not of it with that contempt or stupidity as the infidel or hardened sinner; nor with the errors of those that have no God, no Christ, no hope, (except when temptation bringeth him near to the borders of despair.) His death indeed is unspeakably safer than the death of the ungodly; and the joys which he is entering into will quickly end the terror; but yet he hath no great comfort at the present; but only so much trust in Christ, as keepeth his heart from sinking into despair.
3. But to the hypocrite or seeming Christian, death and judgment are the most unwelcome days, and the thoughts of them the most unwelcome thoughts. He would take any tolerable life on earth, at any time, for all his hopes of heaven; and that not only through the doubts of his own sincerity (which may sometime be the case of a tempted Christian), but through the unsoundness of his belief of the life to come, or the utter unsuitableness of his soul to such a blessedness, which maketh him look at it as less desirable to him, than a life of fleshly pleasures here. All that he doth for heaven is upon mere necessity, because he knoweth that die he must, and he had rather be in heaven than in hell, though he had rather be in prosperity on earth than either: and as he taketh heaven but as a reserve or second good, so he seeketh it with reserves, and in the second place: and having no better preparations for death and judgment, no marvel if they be his greatest terror. He may possibly, by his self-deceit, have some abatement of his fears, and he may by pride and wit seem very valiant and comfortable at his death, to hide his fear and pusillanimity from the world. But the cause of all his misery is, that he ‘sought not first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,' and laid not up a treasure in heaven, but upon earth, and loved this world above God, and above the world to come; and so his heart is not set on heaven, nor his affections on the things above ; and therefore he hath not that love to God, to Christ, to saints, to perfect holiness, which should make that world most desirable in his eyes, and make him think unfeignedly that it is best for him to depart and live with Christ for ever. Having not the divine nature, nor having lived the divine life in walking with God, his complacency and desires are carnal according to the nature which he hath. And this is the true cause (and not only his doubts of his own sincerity) of his unwillingness to die, or to see the day of Christ's appearance.
And thus I have shewed you from the word of God, and the nature of Christianity, the true characters of the confirmed Christian, and of the weak Christian, and of the seeming Christian.
11 The uses for which I have drawn up these cha. racters, and which the reader is to make of them, are these.
I. Here the weak Christian and the hypocrite may see what manner of persons they ought to be. Not only how unsafe it is to remain in a state of hypocrisy, but also how uncomfortable, and unserviceable, and troublesome it is, to remain in a state of weakness and diseasedness; what a folly (and indeed a sign of hypocrisy) is it to think, if I had but grace enough to save me, I would desire.no more, or I would be well content! Are you content if you have but life here, to difference you from the dead? If you were continually infants, that must be fed and carried, and made clean by others; or if you had a continual gout, or, stone, or leprosy, and lived in continual want and misery, you would think that life alone is not enough; and that non vivere tantum sed valere vita est : that life is uncomfortable, when we have nothing but life, and all the delights of life are gone. He that lieth in continual pain and want is weary of his life, if he cannot separate it from those calamities. He that knoweth how necessary strength is, as well as life, to do any considerable service for God, and how many pains attend the diseases and infirmities of the weak, and what great dishonour cometh to Christ and religion, by the faults and childishness
of many that shall be pardoned and saved, would certainly bestir him with all possible care to get out of this sick or infant state.
II. By this you may see who are the strong Christians and who are the weak : it is not always the man of learning and free expressions, that can speak longest and wiseliest of holy things, that is the strong confirmed Christian; but he that most excelleth in the love of God and man, and in a heavenly mind and holy life. Nor is it he that is unlearned, or of a weak memory, or slow expression, that is the weakest Christian; but he that hath least love to God and man, and the most love to his carnal self, and to the world, and the strongest corruptions, and the weakest grace. Many a poor daylabourer or woman, that can scarce speak sense, is a stronger Christian (as being stronger in faith, and love, and patience, and humility, and mortification, and self-denial) than many great preachers and doctors of the church.
III. You see here what kind of men they be that we call the godly; and what that godliness is which we plead for, against the malicious serpentine generation. The liars would make men believe, that by godliness we mean a few affected strains, or hypocritical shows, or heartless lip-service, or singular opinions, or needless scrupulosity, or ignorant zeal ; yea a schism, or faction, or sedition, or rebellion, or what the devil please to say. If these sixty characters describe any such thing, then I will not deny, that in the way that such men call heresy, faction, schism, singularity, so worship we the God of our