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Just so his true followers desire the time of their departure to draw near, though they know that death itself is a natural evil, and may be attended with many painful and distressing cir cumstances. These, simply considered, they do not desire; but all things considered, they are willing, and even desirous, to leave the present for a future state, and patiently and joyfully wait for death.
It now remains to show,
III. That they have good reasons for thus waiting all the days of their appointed time, till their change come. Here I would observe,
1. That they have good reason to wait for their appointed change, because it will put them into a state of perfect holiness. While they are passing through the changes of this world, they carry about with them a burden of sin and guilt. They fall far short of that constant exercise of holy love, joy, and gratitude, and submission, which the divine law demands, and which, at times, they ardently desire to feel and express. Paul was ready to sink under the remainder of his moral corruptions. He cried out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" All who have been made the subjects of a saving change from sin to holiness, love holiness and hate sin, and sincerely desire to be delivered from the power and dominion of it. They make it their business to grow in grace, and become more and more conformed to the moral image of God. They have, therefore, good reason to wait for and desire that great change, which will put a final period to all their moral imperfection, and fix them in a state of perfect, uninterrupted, and perpetual holiness. They verily believe, that the moment they pass through the change of death, they shall cease to sin, and become perfectly holy as God is holy, and shall continue in that holy state for ever. This faith and hope are built upon the immutable promises of God, which afford a solid foundation for their joyfully waiting for the day of their redemption from all sin.
2. Good men have good reason to hope and wait for their appointed change, because it will put them into a state of perfect knowledge as well as holiness. Here they are extremely ignorant, and but babes in knowledge. They know but little about God, about Christ, about heaven, and indeed but little about this world in which they live. The divine dispensations towards themselves and the rest of mankind, are involved in impenetrable clouds and darkness. Job was perplexed with darkness. David was perplexed with darkness, and ready to call in question the divine goodness to him, and to Israel. All good men feel and lament their spiritual ignorance, and ardently
desire to obtain greater light respecting the word and providence of God, and the future and invisible scenes of the invisible world. It is called the world of light, and all who are admitted into it will be immediately and astonishingly enlightened. They will receive more clear, perfect, and extensive knowledge in one day, than they ever received through the whole course of life. Christ has assured them, that what they know not now, they shall know hereafter. And how desirable must it be to those who have been seeking divine knowledge in this world, to be put into a state of perfect light, where their views shall be enlarged, their desires of knowledge gratified, and their access to every source of information unrestricted. They cannot anticipate and realize such a great and desirable change, without hoping and wishing for its arrival. This the apostle Paul and his fellow christians joyfully anticipated and realized. "We know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also am known." Moses said to God, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." This is the sincere desire of every one who has a spiritual discerning of spiritual things; and especially of those who are waiting for admission into the world of light. And they have reason to wait for this happy event, since it will immediately open to their view the brightest displays of the divine glory, and enable them to see God and divine objects in a new and most delightful manner. Their views will no longer be limited and obscured by their gross bodies, but every obstruction to the clearest and fullest discovery of the divine perfections will be removed. And for this reason they desire to be unclothed, and hope and wait for their appointed change.
3. They have good reason to wait for their appointed change, because it will put them into a state of perfect and perpetual rest. This is a world of labor and toil, which no man can escape, in any situation or employment of life. Painful labor is the painful consequence of the first apostacy of mankind. They are all doomed to bear the heat and burden of the day. Good men, who are not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, have a large portion of mental and corporeal labor. Even Christ, while he tabernacled in flesh, was faint and weary, and found his bodily strength weakened and exhausted. As the laborious servant, therefore, hopes and desires and waits for the close of the day, so good men have 54
reason to hope and desire and wait for the close of life, when they shall rest from their labors, and their works shall follow them. All their labors, and trials, and sorrows will prepare them, in a peculiar manner, to prize and enjoy eternal rest. Moreover,
4. They have another reason to hope and wait for their appointed change, because it will not only free them from all evil, but put them into the possession of all good. Their holiness, knowledge and rest will open to them every source of enjoyment, and allow them to drink as freely as they please of the waters of life. This, God has given them ground to expect after death, and therefore they have reason to hope and wait for the day that shall bring them to the fountain of felicity. David lived in the joyful expectation of the blessedness he should enjoy beyond the grave. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." Such plain and weighty reasons and motives have good men for hoping and waiting for their appointed change, which shall release them from all the evils and burdens of life, and put them into the possession of all the good they can possibly desire and enjoy.
1. If good men have so many good reasons as we have seen, to hope and wait for their appointed change, then it must argue great imperfection in christians at this day, not to hope and wait for the day of their decease. If we may judge by appearance, there is ground to fear that some real subjects grace do not live in a waiting posture for the day of their departure out of time into eternity. Christians have greater reasons and motives than Job, or any of the saints of old had, to wait for their appointed change. They lived under a dark and obscure dispensation, which discovered but little of the scenes beyond the grave; but christians live under a brighter dispensation, which has brought life and immortality to light, and more clearly and fully disclosed the glory and blessedness of the heavenly world. It must argue something extremely wrong in the hearts of those who live under the clear and glorious light of the gospel, not to live in the habit of waiting and hoping for the coming of their Lord, to receive them to himself, that where he is, they may be also. It argues a want
of faith in the great and precious promises of God. It argues an undue attachment to the world and the things of the world. It argues the inconstancy and deficiency of supreme love to God. These unholy affections must be extremely strong to counteract the great and good reasons which christians have, to hope and wait for their appointed change, which will put them into the immediate possession of their heavenly inheritance. It is not so strange nor so criminal for the men of the world to love the world and pursue the world, as for those whom God has chosen out of the world, and set apart for himself, and entitled to all the blessings of his kingdom, to live unmindful of it, unthankful for it, and unwilling to take possession of it. It is extremely unbecoming and criminal for real christians to set their affections on things below, and not on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, where the spirits of just men are made perfect, and where all good is for ever to be enjoyed. But do saints at this day appear so heavenly minded, as saints of old? Do they appear generally to be desiring and waiting for permission to retire from the stage of life? Do they-not generally manifest a too strong attachment to the present life, and too little desire for the life to come? Can they reconcile such feelings and conduct with the profession they have made, with the obligations they are under, and with the reasons they have to die daily, and to live in the lively hope of the holiness and happiness which they expect to enjoy beyond the grave? It highly becomes them and concerns them, to walk worthy of their high calling, and of the glorious prospects opened before them in the gospel.
2. If good men have such good reasons to hope and wait for their appointed change, then it is of great importance to make their calling and election sure, because without this, they cannot properly wait for the day of death. The scripture every where teaches the doctrine of saints' assurance as well as perseverance. The Old Testament saints speak the language of assurance, and never manifest any doubts of their good estate. Job expressly declared, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." The worthies mentioned in the eleventh of Hebrews, verbally and practically declared their undoubting assurance of a future and blessed immortality in the presence and favor of God. And the apostle Paul maintained the hope and assurance of eternal life to his dying day, which gave him joy and triumph in the nearest view of eternity. "I am now ready to be offered," says he, "and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give
me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." The apostle Peter likewise represents christians in general as obtaining and maintaining assurance of their good estate, and, for the same purpose, of enjoying a peaceful and happy transition out of this world, into the kingdom of glory. "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Here the apostle not only exhorts christians to give diligence to make their calling and election sure, but to persevere in the exercise of those gracious affections which will afford assurance, and secure a joyful entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Since assurance is attainable in the way the apostle points out, it is of importance that christians should attain it, to prepare themselves for living as well as for dying. For so long as they live in doubts and fears respecting their spiritual state, they cannot comfortably wait for their appointed change. They must be continually subject to bondage through fear of death; and dread, rather than wait for that event which they ought, for their own peace, and the honor of religion, to meet with joy and hope.
3. If good men, for good reasons, do wait in the manner that has been described, for the day of their decease, then they derive a happiness from their religion, to which sinners are strangers. Here is a dividing line which sinners cannot pass They can pass over many other things in the conduct and character of christians, and stand side by side with them, with great confidence and self-approbation. If christians are industrious and laborious in their callings, so are they. If christians are honest in their dealings, so are they. If christians are faithful to their trusts, so are they. If christians are beneficent to others, so are they. If christians avoid profaneness, levity, and every appearance of external evil, so do