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is another habitation provided for you; but it is a dismal one! When a saint dies, heaven above is as it were moved to receive and entertain him ; at his coming, he is received into everlasting habitations, into the inheritance of the saints in light. When an unbeliever dies, we may say of him, "Hell from beneath is moved for him, to meet him at his coming ; it stirreth up the dead for him.” Isa. 14:9. No more sports, nor plays, nor cups of wine, nor sensual delight; the more of these you enjoyed here, the more intolerable will this change be to you. If saints are immediately with God, others are immediately with Satan.
3. How little cause have they to fear death, who shall be with God so soon after their death! Some there are that tremble at the thoughts of death ; that cannot endure to hear it mentioned; that would rather stoop to any misery here, yea, to any sin, than die, because they are afraid of the exchange. But you that are interested in Christ can lose nothing by the exchange : the words death, grave, and eternity, should have another kind of sound in your ears, and make contrary impressions upon your hearts. If your earthly tabernacle be broken up, you shall not be found naked; you have "a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ;” and it is but a step out of this into that. Oh what sweet and happy thoughts should you have of that great and last change! But what speak I of your fearlessness of death? Your duty lies much higher than that ; for,
4. If believers are immediately with God after their dissolution, then it is their duty to long for that dissolution, and cast many an anxious look towards heaven. So did Paul, "I desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better." The advantages of this exchange are unspeakable : you have gold for brass; wine for water; substance for shadow, solid glory for very va.
nity Oh! if the dust of this earth were but once blown out of your eyes, that you might see the Divine glory, how weary would you be to live, how willing to die! But then be sure that your title is sound and good: leave not so great a concern to the last; for, though God may do for you in an hour, what was not done all your days, yet it is not common.
Proposition 3. God may, though he seldom deth, prepare
men for glory immediately before their dissolution by death.
There is one parable, and no more, that speaks of some that were called at the last hour. Matt. 20:9, 10. And there is this one instance in the text, and no more, that gives us an account of a person so called. We acknowledge God may do it, his grace is his own, he may dispense it how and where he pleaseth. Who shall fix bounds or put limits to free grace, but God himself, whose it is ? If he do not ordinarily show such mercy to dying sinners (as indeed he doth not) it is not be. cause their hearts are so hardened by long custom ia sin that his grace cannot break them, but because he most justly withholds that grace from them. When blessed Mr. Bilney, the martyr, heard a minister preaching thus: "Oh, thou old sinner, thou hast lain these fifty years rotting in thy sin, dost thou think now to be saved? that the blood of Christ shall save thee ?” O, said Mr. Bilney, what preaching of Christ is this! If I had heard no other preaching than this, what had become of me? No, no, old sinners or young sinners, great or small sinners, are not to be beaten off from Christ, but encouraged to repentance and faith; for who knows but the bowels of mercy may yearn at last upon one that hath all along rejected it? This thief, a few hours before he died, was as unlikely ever to receive mercy as any person in the world could be.
But surely we have no encouragement to neglect the present season of mercy, because God may
mercy hereafter. Many, I know, have hardened themselves in ways of sin, by this example of mercy. But what God did at this time for this man, cannot be expected to be done ordinarily: for,
1. God hath vouchsafed us the ordinary and stated means of grace, which this sinner had not; and therefore we cannot expect such extraordinary and unusual conversion as he had. This poor creature probably never heard one sermon preached by Christ, or any of his apostles: he lived the life of a highwayman, and con: cerned not himself about religion. But we have Christ preached freely and constantly in our assemblies: we have line upon line, precept upon precept: and when God affords the ordinary preaching of the Gospel, he doth not use to work wonders. When Israel was in the wilderness, then God gave them bread from heaven, and clave the rocks to give them drink; but when they came to Canaan, where they had the ordinary means of subsistence, the manna ceased.
2. Such a conversion as this may not be ordinarily expected by any man, because such circumstances will never occur again. It is possible, if Christ were to die again, and thou to be crucified with him, thou mightest receive thy conversion in such a miraculous and extraordinary way; but Christ dies no more ; such a day as that will never come again. Mr. Fenner, in his excellent discourse upon this point, tells us, that as this was an extraordinary time, Christ being now to be installed in his kingdom, and crowned with glory and honor; so extraordinary things were now done; as when kings are crowned, the streets are richly adorned, the conduits run with wine, and great malefactors are pardoned, for then they show their royal munificence and bounty; it is the day of the gladness of their
hearts. But let a man come at another time to the conduits, he shall find no wine, but ordinary water. Let a man be in the jail at another time, and he may be hanged; yea, and have no reason but to expect and prepare for it. What Christ did now for this man, was at an extraordinary time.
3. Such a conversion as this may not ordinarily be expected, for as such circumstances will never occur again, so there will never more be the same reason for such a conversion. Christ converted him
cross, to give an instance of his Divine power at that time, when it was almost wholly clouded; as in that day the Divinity of Christ broke forth in other miracles; the preternatural eclipse of the sun, the great earthquake, the rending of the rocks and vail of the temple; all, to give evidence of the Divinity of Christ, and prove him to be the Son of God whom they crucified; but that is now sufficiently confirmed, and there will be no more occasion for miracles to prove it.
4. No one has reason to expect such a conversion that enjoys the ordinary means; because, though in this convert we have a pattern of what free grace can do, yet, as divines pertinently observe, it is a pattern without a promise ; God has not added any promise to it, that ever he will do it for any other; and where we have not a promise to encourage our hope, our hope can avail but little.
INFERENCE 1. Let those that have found mercy in the evening of their life, admire the extraordinary grace that therein hath appeared to them. Oh that ever God should accept the bran, when Satan hath had the flour of thy days! The above named reverend author tells us of one Marcus Caius Victorius, a very aged man in the primitive times, who was converted from heathenism to christianity in his old age. He came to a minister, and told him he heartily owned and embraced the
christian faith. But neither the minister nor the church for a long time would trust him, from the unusualness of conversion at such an age. But after he had given them good evidence of its reality, there were acclamations and singing of psalms, the people every where cry. ing, Marcus Caius Victorius is become a christian. This was written for a wonder! Oh! if God have wrought such wondrous salvation for you, what cause have you to do more for him than others! To appear to you at last, when so hardened by long custom in sin, that one might say, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?" Oh! what riches of mercy have appeared to you!
2. Let this convince and startle such, as even to their grey hairs remain in an unconverted state. Bethink yourselves, ye that are full of days, and full of sin, whose time is almost ended, and your great work not begun; who have but a few sands more in the glass to run, and then your conversion will be impossible: your sun is setting ; your night is coming ; the shadows of the evening are stretched out upon you; you have one foot in the grave. Oh think how sad a case you are in : God may do wonders, but they are not seen every day, for then they would cease to be wonders. O strive, strive, while you have a little time, and a few more helps and means; strive to get that work accomplished now that was never yet done ; defer it no longer, you have delayed too long already. It may be you have been these sixty, seventy; or eighty years, beginning to live, about to change your practice; but hitherto you still continue the same. Do not you see how Satan has deceived and cheated you with vain purposes, till he has brought you to the very brink of the grave and hell ? Oh it is time now to make a stand, pause a little where you are, and see to what he hath brought you. The Lord now at last give you an eye to see, and a heart to consider.