The previous two posts can be found here:
I might by many other arguments demonstrate this truth to you, but let these suffice; because I would not unwillingly keep you longer from the use and application of the point—application being the life of all teaching. Now the
1. First use shall be this, Then never mourn immoderately at the death of any believer, let them be the most excellent and useful that ever lived.1 Death is to them the greatest gain; and it speaks out much selfishness in us to be more taken with the gain and benefit that redounds to us by their lives, than with the happiness and glory that redounds to them by their deaths.
2. Then, in the next place, Fear not death. Compose your spirits; say not of death as that wicked prince said to the prophet, ‘Hast thou found me, O my enemy?’ 1 Kings 21:20; but rather long for it, not to be rid of troubles, but that the soul may be taken up to a more clear and full enjoyment of God. Your dying-day is your best day….
Believers, your dying-day is your best day. Oh, then, be not afraid of death, and that you may not, remember that it is not such a slight matter as some make it, to be unwilling to die. There is much reproach cast upon God by believers being unwilling to die. You talk much of God, heaven, and glory, &c., and yet when you should come to go and share in this glory, you shrug and say, Spare me a little. Is not this a reproach to the God of glory?
[1.] Christ’s death is a meritorious death. Can a believer think upon the death of Christ as meriting peace with God, pardon of sin, justification, glorification, and yet be afraid to die?
[2.] Is not death a sword in your Father’s hand? It is true, a sword in a madman’s hand, or in an enemy’s hand, might make one tremble; but when the sword is in the father’s hands, the child doth not fear.
[3.] Remember that Christ’s death is a death-conquering death. He hath taken away the sting of death, that it cannot hurt you; and his death is a death-sanctifying and a death-sweetening death. He hath by his death sanctified and sweetened death to us.
Death is a fall that came by a fall. To die is to be no more unhappy, if we consider death aright.
Death reigned from Adam to Moses, saith St Paul. Oh! but the Lord Jesus hath, as it were, disarmed death, and triumphed over death. He hath taken away its sting, so that it cannot sting us, and we may play with it, and put it into our bosoms, as we may a snake whose sting is pulled out. The apostle, upon this consideration, challengeth death, and out-braves death, and bids death do his worst, in that 1 Cor. 15:56, 57.
[4.] Did not Christ willingly leave his Father’s bosom for your sake? …. Ah, souls, you should reason thus, Did Christ die for me that I might live with him? I will not therefore desire to live long from him. All men go willingly to see him whom they love; and shall I be unwilling to die, that I may see him whom my soul loves? … Man is a future creature. The eye of his soul looks back. The labourer hastens from his work to his bed, the mariner rows hard to gain the port, the traveller is glad when he is near his inn; so should saints when they are near death, because then they are near heaven, they are near their inn.
[5.] Are you not complete in Christ? Why should a believer be afraid to die that stands complete before God in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus?
[6.] Sixthly, Consider that the saints’ dying-day is to them the Lord’s pay-day. Every prayer shall then have its answer; all hungerings and thirstings shall be filled and satisfied; every sigh, groan, and tear that hath fallen from the saints’ eyes shall then be recompensed.2 Then they shall be paid and recompensed for all public service, and all family service, and all closet service. …! Then God will make good all those golden and glorious promises that he hath made to them, especially those that are cited in the margin.1 Now God will give them gold for brass, and silver for iron, felicity for misery, plenty for poverty, honour for dishonour, freedom for bondage, heaven for earth, an immortal crown for a mortal crown.
[7.] Seventhly, Consider this, the way to glory is by misery; the way to life is by death. In this world we are all Benonis, the sons of sorrow. The way to heaven is by Weeping-cross. Christ’s passion-week was before his ascension-day; none passeth to paradise but by burning seraphims; we cannot go out of Egypt but through the Red Sea; the children of Israel came to Jerusalem through the valley of tears, and crossed the swift river of Jordan before they came to the sweet waters of Siloam.2 There is no passing into paradise but under the flaming sword of this angel, death; there is no coming to that glorious city above but through this strait, dark, dirty lane. No wiping all tears from your eyes but with your winding-sheet, …
[8.] Eighthly, Consider that while we are in this world, our weak and imperfect and diseased bodies cast chains, and fetters, restraints, hindrances, and impediments upon the soul, that the soul is hindered from many high and noble actings, which in a state of separation it is free to. In a state of separation the soul works clearer, and understands better, and discourses wiser, and rejoices louder, and loves nobler, and desires purer, and hopes stronger than it can do here.
… It is more proper to ask when we shall make an end of dying, than to ask when we shall die. Death is a worm that is always feeding at the root of our lives, which should make death more desirable than life.
[9.] Ninthly, Dwell much upon the readiness and willingness of other saints to die. Good old Simeon having first laid Christ in his heart, and then taking him up in his arms, he sings, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,’ Luke 2:28–30… Ah, Christians! if the exceeding willingness of the saints to die will not make you willing to die, what will?
[10.] Tenthly and lastly, Consider this, that the Lord will not leave thee but be with thee in that hour: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,’ saith the psalmist, Ps. 23:4. So the apostle, Heb. 13:5, ‘Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have, for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’1 There are five negatives in the Greek, to assure God’s people that he will never forsake them; five times in Scripture is this precious promise renewed, that we may press it till we have pressed the sweetness out of it. Though God may seem to leave thee, thou mayest be confident he will never forsake thee. Why should that man be afraid of death, that may be always confident of the presence of the Lord of life?
3. The next use shall be to stir you all up to prepare and fit for your dying-day. Ah, Christians! what is your whole life, but a day to fit for the hour of death? what is your great business in this world, but to prepare and fit for another world? … Ah, Christians! you have need every day to pray with Moses, ‘Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom,’ Ps. 90:13, …. To provoke you to prepare and fit for a dying-day, consider seriously these following things:—
(1.) He that prepares not for his dying-day, runs the hazard of losing his immortal soul. Though true repentance be never too late, yet late repentance is seldom true….Ah, souls! you are afraid to die in such and such sins; and will you not be afraid to live in those sins?
(2.) Again, The certainty of death should bespeak you to prepare for death. When we would affirm anything to be infallibly true, we say, ‘As sure as death.’ …. Death hath for its motto, Nulli cedo, I yield to none. It is decreed that all must die. Every man’s death-day is his doom’s-day.
The French have a proverb, ‘Three things,’ say they, ‘agree in the world—the priest, the lawyer, and death.’ The priest takes the living and the dead, the lawyer right and wrong, and death the weak and strong. But the Jews have a better: ‘In Golgotha are to be seen skulls of all sizes;’ that is, death comes on the young as well as the old; the lot is fallen upon all, and therefore all must die. All men are made of one mould and matter, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,’ Gen. 3:19. ‘All have sinned, are fallen short of the glory of God,’ Rom. 5:12; and therefore death must pass upon all.
(3.) The uncertainty of the time of your death does bespeak you with open mouth to be in a constant readiness and preparedness for death.
Consider, in the last place, That it is a solemn thing to die. Death is a solemn parting of two near friends, soul and body. Remember, all other preparations are to no purpose, if a man be not prepared to die. What will it avail a man to prepare this and that for his children, kindred, or friends, &c., when he hath made no preparations for his soul, for his eternal well-being? As death leaves you, so judgment shall find you. If death take you before you expect it, and are prepared for it, it will be the more terrible to you; it will cause your countenance to be changed, your thoughts to be troubled, your loins to be loosed, and your knees to be dashed one against another.1 Oh the hell of horrors and terrors that attends those souls that have their greatest work to do when they come to die! therefore, as you love your souls, and as you would be happy in death, and everlastingly blessed after death, prepare and fit for death.
The last use then is this, If a believer’s last day be his best day, then by the rule of contraries, a wicked man’s last day must be his worst day, for he must there lie down with the sins of his youth. Death shall put an end to all the benefits and comforts that now thou enjoyest. Now thou must say, Honours, friends, pleasures, riches, credit, &c., farewell for ever; I shall never have good day more; I shall never be merry more; my sun is set, my glass is out, my hopes fail, my heart fails; all offers of grace are past, the Spirit will never strive with me more, free grace will never move me more, the golden4 serpent shall never be held forth more; death will be an inlet to judgment, yea, to an eternity of misery.5
1 Death is not mors hominis, but mors peccati, not the death of the man, but the death of his sin.
2 That is not death but life, that joins the dying man to Christ; and that is not life but death, which separates the living man from Christ.
1 Rev. 2:10, 3:4, 12, 22, and 7:16, 17.
2 A man will easily swallow a bitter pill to get health. The physician helps us not without pain, and yet we reward him for it.
1 Maximilian the emperor was so delighted with that sentence, Si Deus nobiscum? &c., If God be with us, who shall be against us? that he caused it to be written upon the walls in most rooms of his palace.
1 He that prepares for his body and friends, but neglects his soul, is like him that prepares for his slave, but neglects his wife.
4 Query, ‘Brazen’?—G.
5 Sigismund the emperor and Louis the Eleventh of France straitly charged all their servants that they should not dare to name that bitter word death when they saw them sick, so dreadful was the very thoughts of death to them.