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Human nature is subject to so many accidents and misfortunes, that it has been very justly insisted upon, that no man was ever compleatly happy in this life. But surely the reflections which will perforce obtrude upon a wicked man, when sorely oppressed, and conscious that his own ill conduct has brought his misfortunes upon him, will make the weight of them more intolerable. Image to yourselves a man weakened by intemperance, reduced almost to the last extremity, one who feels the violent burning of a distempered blood, who imagines himself upon the brink of the grave, and going to experience the wrath of a God, whose laws he has violated and whose authority he has contemned. At such a time as this, conscience will be heard, and his crimes will then appear in their true light. Every thing then about him will turn to his disquiet ; he will perhaps observe his friends look with unconcern for his sufferings : he is conscious how undeserving he has been, and therefore is not the last to discover what a secret joy dawns in every face, proceeding from the hope that they are soon to be freed from a wretch whose ill conduct has involved them in many troubles. How uneasy must such his temporal condition make him ? Every thing that can happen appears in the worst light to him at one view; his relations and neighbours despising his memory, and rejoicing at his death ; his children, whose education it is most probable has been suited to their father's morals, sharing his fortunes as it were the spoil of some enemy, and rioting even over his grave; forasmuch as wicked and licentious minds have very few touches of humanity. Natural affection too will perhaps point out to him, that his false indulgence, his pernicious counsels, and more especially his bad example, has procured the ruin, the eternal ruin of those, whose welfare ought to have been his chief concern. We find the rich man even in hell, according to the parable, smote with remorse of conscience for the fatal effects of this evil, and intreating Abraham to prevent his brethren from falling into the same dread
ful judgment as himself: the like remorse may fieze the wicked man on this side his death, and how great will his disquiet be, in that he was not duly sensible of his destructive conduct, till the time was at hand, when it was too late to apply a remedy. If then these his earthly affairs will at such a time be so irksome and grievous to him, what must the prospect of eternity afford him ? Intolerable punishments ; unspeakable torments; an offended, and avenging God. All croud upon his soul, and give him up a prey to the most dreadful despair. Though these things are replete with too much horror to be thought of; yet, that they are the most sure consequences of vice, all must bear testimony who have ever attended the last hours of the wicked. How great are their agonies ? How inexpressible the gloomy thoughts that appale and affright them? How often do we hear them, in the bitterness of their souls, cry out,—there is no mercy for me!—God hath forsaken me!-He will not hear !—The torments of hell are preparing for me!-I feel there is a God!—I shall soon be driven into intolerable torments !-.Such exclamations are not uncommon upon a fick bed; and it is wonderful the standers-by should not be more deeply af. fected with them, than they generally are. But you will say, perhaps, this is only the case with the desperately wicked; we have. never been guilty of crimes black enough to occasion such deep defpair. Ah ! let not such a flattering notion lull your souls in deep security : It is not enough, we are not wicked ; if we hope for life and happiness we must be virtuous. It is not enough, that with a cold air and indifference we attend the church of God; but we must likewise diligently practice his commands, and seek him with zeal and warmth ; or else we may fatally feel the terrors of his wrath.Remember !-- he not only punishes the workers of iniquity; but has himself assured us, that the Rothful servant shall be hurried to dreadful darkness, “ Where will be weeping and wailing, and "gnalhing of teeth.”.
But say, should the wicked, the Nothful, the careless Ginner live to grow in years ; what child reveres him? With how much contempt is he treated even by his wicked companions ? Who covets his friendship? Who does not despise his company? A foolish old man is certainly a most contemptible creature ; but a wicked one is the shame of mankind.--How ill suits all manner of intemperance with age? Such behaviour will stifle all kindness in friends, charity in neighbours, and duty in children : he falls into the grave; and, it is to be feared into eternal torment too, unpitied and despi.. sed. The greatest happiness that could befal such a man, would be to perish like the brutes, and have his very name buried in oblivion..
How different is the fate of the wise and virtuous man? His children regard him as their dearest benefactor, their truest friend; they are ready to affist him with all the chearfulness imaginable, and try every expedient in their power to prolong his life and render it comfortable and, if it may be, pleasant. His neighbours court his acquaintance; rejoice in the prosperity of his family, and are ready to testify upon all occasions their approbation of his conduct. Virtue adds such an inexpressible sweetness to old age, that no state of life, in the opinion of the wise and the virtuous ought so much to be envied :-But to proceed; when that life, which he has so happily prolonged by his temperance and sobriety, is so far weakened, as to warn him of his approaching dissolution: how calmly does he wait the Almighty's pleasure? His soul being secure in the gracious pro. mises of the Gospel, the nearer the approaches the borders of death, is the more eager for immortality, and feels the greater longings after happiness :-At the hour of death he resigns this transitory world with delight; and his soul, full of the aweful idea of God's justice, with the strongest assurances of his inexpressible mercy and goodness links calmly into eternal bliss.
As nothing illustrates truth better than example, we shall lay be. fore you a little anecdote of the late pious Doctor Donne, a person Vol. III.
of great parts and learning, who being upon his death-bed, and taking his folemn leave of his attendants, thus addressed them« Oh my friends ! Behold in me the end of this world and all its “ vanities ! Love my memory! Be kind to one another, govern your “ wills and affections by the will and word of your Creator.- When 56 your time shall come you will remember my last words !-You “ will feel their force !-either with comfort or remorse.” Then feizing the hand of him that sat next him—“ Ah! friend, ah! “ brother,-continued he,- I repent of all my life, but that part of “ it I spent in communion with my God, and in doing good.-My “ fpirits fink within me.- Farewell !—Pray for me !—Pray earneste " ly!-Pray for yourselves !—Pray without ceasing !-Watch every " action of your life !-Be happy, as I hope to be, through Jesus “ Christ my Redeemer !-my Judge!--my God !-ever great!-"ever terrible !- but ever merciful and just.”
To conclude ; let us all not only agree in the truth of these things i but seriously resolve to make a diligent enquiry after everlasting happiness, and pray incessantly the Almighty to give success to our endeavours. Let us shew that we believe by our works; and as a very little consideration will assure us, THERE IS A SUPREME Being, let us act as those, who fear his displeasure, dread his: wrath, and trust only in his mercy.
“ Go in thy native innocence ! rely
S E R M O N IV. A future State demonstrated from the Nature
. . of the Soul.
ACTS XXIII. 8. THE SADDUCEES SAY THAT THERE IS NO RESURRECTION,
NEITHER ANGEL NOR SPIRIT.
T T has been often remarked that let an opinion be ever so ab
surd, there are always persons credulous enough to espouse and
SHAKE S P E AR:
This is so apparent a truth that it would be needless to produce arguments to prove it, since the variety of nugatory notions that have found ample credit in the world will sufficiently justify the afsertion. With how much warmth are the grossest fictions; the wildest flights of a distempered imagination maintained as realities; and how firmly are they credited by the bigotted Enthusiast? What strange and irregular principles are held as the sacred mandates of heaven by the blind adorers of Mahomet? And what extrayagant fancies in all ages have led the barbarous heathen astray ?