A SERMON Preach'd in the Cathedral Church of Norwich, MARCH 8th. 1695/6. BEING The Second Sunday in Lent.

By JOHN JEFFERY, Arch-Deacon of Norwich, and Minister of St. Peter of Mancroft.

[...](Thuc.) [...]. Origen contra Cels. L. 8.

LONDON, Printed for William Rogers, at the Sun over-against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleetstreet, 1696.

To the Right Worshipfull, Augustine Briggs Esquire Mayor of the City of NORWICH.


I Cannot express a truer or greater Regard to You, (in compliance with whose Desires this Discourse is made Pub­lick) than (agreeably to the Subject of it) to Wish and Pray, that You may be ef­fectually prevailed upon thereby, seriously to fore-think what Your Last Wishes shall be; and to make Your Present Re­solutions accordingly, viz. To live the Life of the Righteous, and then, You [Page]shall Die the Death of the Righte­ous, and Your last End shall be like his. This I do most heartily Wish and Pray for, on behalf of You and of all those, for whose Souls I am more especi­ally concerned, for I am, in the best and highest Sense,

Your Faithfull Servant, John Jeffery.
Numb. XXIII. 10.

— Let me die the death of the Righte­ous, and let my last end he like his.

IN these Words we have the very good Wish of a very bad Man, and upon a very remarka­ble Occasion. The Man was Balaam; Numb. 22.23, 24, 25. One of as ill a character almost, as any that is men­tion'd in the Holy Scriptures. The Wish is, That he might die the death of the Righteous, and that his last end might be like his. In which Wish it is implyed, That the Portion of the Wicked is not fit to be desired; but that the Portion of the Righteous is such, as even those men who are most contrary would desire.

This Wish Balaam made upon a very remarka­ble Occasion, viz. When he consider'd the last Re­sult and Consequence of things; when he had a distinct Prospect of the final State of Men. 'Twas Balaam that said this; the man whose eyes are open (or whose Eyes once were shut, but now are open) he said this, who heard the words of God, Numb. 24.3, 4.which saw the Vision of the Almighty falling into a Trance, but ha­ving his eyes open. God represented unto Balaam [Page 2]the final State of the Righteous: and it appear'd so desireable to him, that (altho' he was one of the worst of Men, and most hated the Righteous, yet) he brake forth into these Expressions, Let me die the death of the Righteous, and let my last end be like his.

The Truth contain'd in which words, is this,

That there is a Portion which wicked men necessari­ly desire, but the Righteous only can enjoy. And,

The Desire of this Portion, by wicked Men, has a Threefold Respect.

  • 1st. To what is to come.
  • 2ly. To what is past.
  • 3ly. To what is present.

With respect to what is to come; wicked Men shall wish, That they might escape the Misery due unto Sin; and that they might obtain that Happi­ness, which is the Reward of Obedience. With Respect to what is past, wicked men shall wish they had chosen the Duty they refused; and that they had refused the Sin they chose. With Respect to what is present, wicked Men shall wish, That they were not the Sinners they are; and that they were the Righteous, which they are not.

1st. Wicked Men shall wish, with Respect to what is to come.

1. That they might escape the Misery due un­to Sin: And,

2. That they might obtain that Happiness, which is the Reward of Obedience.

1. Wicked Men shall wish they might escape the Misery due unto Sin: and in that sence, Die the Death of the Righteous, and that their last End might be like his.

When wicked Men have before them the Ap­pearance of their End; they must needs behold such things in it, as are most amazing and terrible to them. And such an Appearance of the Last things there will be unto wicked Men, when ever they are constrained to consider.

Such constraint is sometimes upon them while they are in Health and Safety: as often as God, by over ruling the Vanity of their Minds, makes them serious. I need not show by what means God does this: 'tis sufficient to my present purpose, that this is sometimes done: and that when it is done, wicked Men have the most uncomfortable Prospect of things before their eyes.

And when their natural Death and last End draws near, then the Object is more distinctly viewed, and more seriously considered. Then Men per­ceive what the Desert, and what the Punishment of Sin is: and then they remember they have com­mitted such Sins.

But no Man can be willing to have his Portion in Misery, or to suffer what he is conscious he has deserved. Men naturally and necessarily hate Tor­ment and Perdition; and 'tis not any Man's direct choice, Isa. 33.14. that he be miserable: No Man can be In­different to it; or Unconcerned at it. The Sin­ner's Guilt consigns them to Misery: and the onely way to escape that Misery, is by the Pardon of their Sins. 'Tis Pardon alone that can deliver them from the approaching Perdition; and therefore, that Par­don is the matter of their most importunate De­sires. Lord have Mercy on us, is their Petition: and the meaning of it is, Lev. 16.28. that they may not come into the place of Torment. This, every departing Soul will most ardently Desire: nor can He avoid de­siring it; with the utmost Vehemence, that is pos­sible. Desires stronger than Death, will then har­rass the guilty Mind: and those Desires are there­fore an extream Vexation, because (at the same time) they are Violent, Unavoidable and Vain. The same wicked Man, who most passionately de­sires to escape Misery, knows he cannot: and the Unnatural desire of what is utterly impossible, is tormenting. But such Desires there are in every dying Sinner, who is not so dead in Sin, as to be to­tally without any sense of his Danger.

Beyond the Grave, deep as the bottomless Abyss, is that Region, where miserable Souls abide the Wrath of God Miserrimus omnes Admonet, & magnâ testatur voce per umbras. Dicite Justitiam moniti, & non temnere Divos. Virg. Aen. l. 6. Inclusi poenam expectant.: and into that, the drooping Thoughts of a dying Sinner do descend; and by his dire Imagination, Ranges in that vast Ocean of Darkness, Despair, and Horror ‘Quae scelerum facies? —’. The departing Spirit must needs Reluctate and Shrink back, with the utmost Uneasiness of Nature, when it feels it self dropping into that remediless Con­dition. The Spirit struggles in Wishes contrary to its Doom, and suffers the Violence of invincible Necessity; and is dragged thereby, against all the reluctating Endeavours that are possible.

2. Wicked Men shall wish they might Obtain that Happiness, which is the Reward of Obedience. The Attainment of that Happiness and Ascent un­to the glorious Regions of the Blessed, is that, which those Minds that are depressed with Guilt and Con­demnation, strive in Vain to Raise themselves un­to. Divine Glories dazle the Eyes, and confound the Minds of the Guilty; while the same Glories Transport the Hearts, and Constitute the Blessed­ness of the Righteous. But, through all that Con­fusion, the Sinner lifts up his Desires, unto Rest and Bliss.

The divine Purity, and the Image of a Holy God, which is upon the Souls and Lives of those who are Happy, is so contrary to the Sinner's Inclination and Temper, that the Sufferings of Hell cannot make a wicked Spirit unfeignedly desire the Holi­ness of Heaven. But there is another Notion under which the perishing Sinner considers Heaven, and that is merely as a place of Rest and Ease. There is Rest and Ease, which (in general) every one Desires; and (without advancing one Thought further) wicked Men Wish for that Rest and Ease. 'Tis manifest (if they do think) that the Ease and Rest of Heaven, is inseparable from, and the Effect of the Similitude, and Enjoyment of God: and for a wicked Spirit to Consider this, is Torment. But (stopping short of that Reflexion) Indolency of Bo­dy, Tull. de fin. l. 2. Tuse. Qu. l. 3. §. 38. and Tranquility of Mind are what an Epicurean would desire for his Happiness: and (without con­sidering from whence that Ease and Joy must come) Sinners Wish this may be their Portion for ever. While it was in their Power, to secure the Rest, and Joy of Heaven, they sought their Pleasure from Sense and Sin: and when the Means and Causes of that Pleasure fail, the Desires of that Pleasure con­tinue, though the Sinner know not how to pro­cure it.

But wicked men are a Contradiction to themselves; [...]—Plut vit. Crass. and their Wickedness has made them so. They desire Rest in the midst of Perturbation; and Joy in the Operation of the Causes of Sorrow. But who can avoid those Desires, when he even feels that the perfection of Happiness, or the extremity of Misery must instantly befall him? such Distress and Perplexity does a Man's Wickedness bring him unto; because the Consequences of his Sin, are con­trary to the strongest Instinct of his Nature. The wicked Man knows what the Hope of the Righteous is, in his Death; Prov. 14.32. and what must be his own porti­on at his last End. The wicked also desires, on his own behalf, that he might die the Death, and that his last End might be like unto that of the Righ­teous.

Thus wicked Men desire they may at last, have the Reward of the Righteous without being Righ­teous. They desire to escape that Misery which their Sin has made necessary, and they desire to ob­tain that Happiness which their Sins have made im­possible. So inconsistent are the Choices and the Wishes of bad Men, that while they chuse Death, in chusing Sin; they desire to obtain Life and Happi­ness, notwithstanding that Choice. They would be happy, and yet refuse that, without which, no Man can be happy: they would not be miserable, [Page 8]and yet make themselves such as cannot be other­wise.

All this is done by sinfull Men, i. e. by those who are endowed with Reason and Foresight, and can be astonished at infinitely less Absurdities in o­ther matters. They can decry and wonder at the Folly of those who desire to be Rich, and practise what is impoverishing; who desire to be honoured, and do what is infamous. What Infatuation then is it for the same Men obstinately to chuse the ne­cessary causes of Misery, and as obstinately to wish for the Enjoyment of Happiness? Remember this, and bring it again to mind, O ye Transgressors; consi­der and shew your selves Men. Such palpable Con­tradiction there is between the Desires and the Choi­ces of Sinners, through the whole Course of their Lives: and the frequent Admonitions of God and Men concerning this, must needs prove, at last, one of the most afflicting Remembrances, that is pos­sible. This will exasperate the Torments of Hell; to call to mind, That all his days, the Sinner did with equal Passionateness, chuse Destruction, and wish for Salvation. Thus the Desires which are in Wicked Men, of the Portion of the Righteous, have a respect to what is to come: and so wicked Men wish at last, That they might escape the Mise­ry due unto Sin; and that they might obtain [Page 9]that Happiness which is the Reward of Obedience.

2ly. The Desire of this Portion by wicked Men, has a Respect to what is past, and so wicked Men shall wish,

  • 1. That they had refused the Sin they chose: And,
  • 2. That they had chosen the Duty they refused.

1. Wicked Men shall wish at last, that they had refused the Sin they chose. At the time of their Account, and at all other times, in which wicked Men are considerate, and have their final State in di­stinct View, they wish (with the utmost Impati­ence) that they had refused the Sin they chose, be­cause, so they had refused Death, Deut. 30.15, 19. in refusing Sin (which is the meritorious Cause of Death.) Life and Death were set before them in this World, and then they made their Choice, which they must abide by for ever. They had indeed a Liberty while they lived here of Retractation: they might have corre­cted the Choice which was bad, by making one that was good. Those Sinners who had chosen Sin and Death, had a Liberty, and were under an Obliga­tion to repent, and to chuse Life and live. But that Liberty did not continue longer than the time of their Probation: this Life, and this Liberty ended together. When this time is at an end, that Choice which was made in it, must be stood to; and there [Page 10]is no correcting that Choice after Death * Math. 25.11, 12, 13.: I had almost said, nor at it Distulet in seram commissa piacula mortem. Virg. Aen. 1.6.. But altho' a Sinner has spent all that time in which he should have avoided his foolish and pernicious Choices, or at least, should have corrected them; yet he cannot avoid at last repenting that he has chosen so ill for himself, and wishing (without end, and without Patience) that he had refused the Sin he chose, because in so doing, he had also refused that Death he suffers. The pe­rishing Sinner has not only his Choice of Sin to re­pent of, Prov. 1.24, &c. but also his Obstinacy in chusing it: and that no consideration could withhold him from making of, and persisting in that Choice.

Yea (which is a special Aggravation of his Fault and Folly) he did in this Life, often repent in that Kind, though not in that Degree, in which he shall repent at last. He who in the Hour of Death, and in that Eternity which is after it; repents (wishing he had never chosen Sin) shall then remember, that those Wishes are not the first he made of this kind: that he did before this, wish he had never done such things, as he perishes for. The last, and the endless Repentings of a Sinner in Hell, will be aggra­vated by his Remembrance, that he often so repent­ed upon Earth. He shall at the same instant cry out, O that I had never done such Sins! and shall then also call to mind, that he had so expressed [Page 11]himself in his Repentings upon Earth. Had he (while he was on Earth) from the time that he made such Wishes (with stinging Remorse) ‘That he had never been in such Company, in which he committed his Sin; that he had never seen the Face of such an one, by whom he was persuaded to sin: that he had rather have lost any Good or suffered any Evil at the time, than been Guilty of such Wickedness.’ Had he (I say) then been constant to those wise and necessary Reflections; he had thence forward refused Sin. And if he had done so, he would have remembred those Repentings with Joy. But, whereas he was so far convinced of his Sin, and so apprehensive of the Consequences of it, while he lived, as to wish (sometimes in great Agonies of Mind) that he had never done it. And afterward (perhaps under the Uneasiness of remem­bring how he repented) again chose the same Sin: these Repentings and these Wishes, he that is wicked, shall never be able to forget in Eternity; and ne­ver be able, without Torment, to remember. Prov. 5.11, 12, 13. Cer­tain 'tis, no Sinner can avoid wishing in Hell, that he had never committed those Sins which brought him thither. We know now, that it must be thus then, Rom. 6.21. why should we now chuse that, which we shall even wish (with the utmost Passion) we had never re­fused? Consider this, when any Temptation offers [Page 12]it self; and make a stand, till this consideration be well weighed: ‘That if I chuse this Sin for this Pleasure or Profit, I shall often before I die, and at Death (if I have my Senses and Understand­ing;) and in Eternity, as long as I have a Being, wish I had never done it.’

2. Wicked Men shall at last wish they had chosen that Duty they refused: and wish they had chosen it whatever had befallen them, or could have befallen them for so doing. Here, the Suffering of Persecu­tion, or Reproach from Sinners: the missing that Benefit which Sin could procure; and the undergo­ing that Trouble which Duty did imply, or might occasion, was the Reason why they did not repent and obey the Commandments of God. Sinners were unwilling to deny their vicious Inclinations or their vicious Company; were unwilling to be at the Trouble which Repentance and Mortification would bring with them; and therefore they would not chuse their Duty, Deut. 32.47. though in so doing, they had cho­sen Life. Sinners chuse, notwithstanding, at the same time, to lose any good, or to suffer any evil, to preserve their Natural Lives: Yea, they did this when they were uncertain, whether such Losses and Sufferings would preserve their Lives or no: when it might so happen, that by those very En­deavours to preserve Life, they might lose it. The [Page 13]desires of natural Life, are so natural, that any thing shall be chosen for the sake of it. Job 2.4. Skin for Skin, yea all that a Man hath, will he give for his Life. Yea a Sinner would (to save his natural Life) do much of that Duty which is necessary to eternal Life. Let it be manifest to him, who is most Intemperate, that there is Poison in the Wine, and he will not tast it. Let it be certain, that a violent stroke will cut off his Life that seizeth upon what is his Neighbours, and the most covetous Person will not touch it. But no Oath to confirm a Threatning, no Anger to incite an Enemy to the Execution of it, no Sword drawn, and Hand stretched forth for that purpose, make Death so certain, as does the Wrath of God declared from Heaven against all Un­godliness and Unrighteousness of Men. Rom. 1.18. This Declara­tion of God is often and expressly repeated in his Word; is continually preach'd and proclaim'd by his Ministers: We see this in the Holy Scriptures; we hear it with our Ears, and why should not our Hearts be affected with this? And our Lives go­vern'd by it. A Man stands over us, with the Wrath of an Enemy, and with the Instruments of Death, and says, Do this, or die: and we do it, nor dare we do otherwise. But God says, (with a Voice more terrible than that of Thunder on Mount Sinai) ‘I am Jehovah thy God; thou shalt do so or so; [Page 14]or thou shalt not do this or that.’ And we are insensible, Isa. 51.12. and follow the Imaginations of our own Hearts.

But we shall not be able to maintain this Stu­pidity for ever: we shall not be able to avoid the most dreadfull Reflections on what we have done, that are possible. We shall, when our Hearts are convinced by the Word of God, or by the Flames of Hell, wish with the utmost Regret and Horror, that we had never stood out one moment against the Calls and Commands of God: that we had never in one particular refused to obey him. All those considerations that prevailed with us, in the day of Temptation; to omit, (if not to contemn) our necessary Duty, will be remembred with Abo­mination. That which we feared, or that which we desired, and through those Passions, violated our Duty, and neglected our Salvation, shall be cal­led to Mind, with unspeakable Remorse. The Sinner shall wonder at himself, and reproach him­self, 2 Cor. 7.11. and be ready to take Vengeance upon himself, that he was so little regardfull of God, in whose hands our Breath is, and whose are all our ways.

The Sinner, Job 12.11. who stands upon the Brink of Eter­nity, or who is plunged into that vast Ocean, shall remember how very small Portions of his time those were, which he spent in the Service of his God, and [Page 15]in Care for his Soul: and shall Wish in vain, Amos 8.5. that time could return; that he had the Day of Grace in his Power again, that so he might (with those Thoughts that now swallow him up) improve the Opportunities of performing his Duty, and Working out his Salvation. But, Time cannot be set back; nothing will then be possible, but direfull Remem­brances of Time mis-spent, Heb. 3.8, 15. & 4.7. and as direfull Reflecti­ons upon its being irrecoverable. That Work which is undone then, must be undone for ever: And who can call to mind, how unpracticably, and how per­niciously he has lived, to himself, Heb. 2.3. (neglecting the great Salvation) without unexpressible Horror? This will be the Case of every Sinner at the last, who shall then Wish he had ever refused that Sin he chose; and ever chosen that Duty he refused.

Thus we see what the Wishes of Sinners are, in the day of their Extremity, and Sensibleness, whether They look forward on what is to come (of the Hap­piness of the Righteous; or the Misery of the Wicked,) [...]. Hierocl.) or whether He looks backward upon what is past, (the Sin he has committed, or the Duty he has violated.) But in vain, and to their Torment, do wicked Men Wish they might Obtain that Happiness, or Avoid that Misery: That they had Forsaken their Sin, or Performed their Duty.

3ly. The Desires which wicked Men shall have at last, of the Portion of the Righteous, has then respect to what is present: for They shall then Wish,

1. That they were not the Sinners they are: And,

2. That they were the Righteous persons they are not.

1. They shall Wish at last, that they were not the Sinners they are. The meaning of this Wish is, That they were not under such Guilt as they have contracted: and that they were not so Vici­ously inclined as they are. By their past Sins (which they have not Repented of) they are con­signed to the Misery they fear: and by their pre­vailing sinfull Disposition, they are uncapable of the Happiness which the Righteous enjoy.

Under that Guilt, and with that Temper, Sin­ners appear before God, who knows what they are, and what they have done. And the same Appearance every Sinner, at certain Seasons, hath unto Himself. When a Sinner has (as Balaam, when he spake the words of the Text, had) a distinct Prospect, and affecting Representation of the last things, then his Conscience awakens, and shows him to himself, in all the odious Characters that a Sinner shall appear, at the Judgment-Seat of God. He then considers what He is; and that God does, and will account him such an one as he is.

But the Sinner who considers this, knows that Wickedness is abominable in the sight of God; and that He (who has committed Wickedness, and not Repented of it) is abominable unto God for it. ‘How shall I (says the Sinner, when he becomes sensible what it is to be such a Sinner:) How shall I appear before God? Psal. 1.5. How shall I stand in Judgment? And what can such an One as I, ex­pect from Him, Hab. 1.13. 1 Pet. 4.18. who is a God of purer eyes than to behold Iniquity? Where shall the Ungodly and Sinner appear? And such a frighted Conscience will be apt to suggest, That 'tis altogether uncertain, whether the Person shall have Time or Heart, to Re­pent: and That (for ought he knows) He must, in the same Condition that his Soul now is, receive his final Doom. What Perplexity must a wicked Man be in, when he has these Thoughts abiding vi­gorously upon his Spirit? and what manner of per­son shall he then wish he were? Sure he will Wish he were such an one, as God will forgive: That he were not guilty of such heinous Sins: That he were freed from that vicious Disposition: That he had the Character and Heart of a Penitent, that so he might hope for Mercy.

But if a Sinner can be thus Distressed by his guilty Conscience, when he is in Health and Safety, and Confidence of Life; What must be his Case? What [Page 18]the Workings of his Mind, when he is upon a Bed of Sickness, and Death? When he is Departed into the other World, and when he shall be Awakened out of the Sleep of the Grave, by the Voice of the Arch-Angel, and the Trump of God? Then he will Wish (with all the Vehemency that is possible; and with such Confusions, as no man can now imagine) that he were not the Sinner he is. He shall wish this, and wish it in vain; for he cannot, by all the Wishes that are possible, become other than he is. Those Wishes can make no alteration in the State of his Soul; and those Means which were provided in order to the Conversion of a Sinner, now are not. The Time in which that Change should have been made, is gone; is gone for ever. The despairing Soul of a wicked Man shall cry out (in Agonies more violent and insupportable than those of Death) ‘O that I were not among the Enemies of God! (this accursed and forlorn Society to which I be­long!) O that I could now be changed into ano­ther Man; and that I were as contrary to what I am, as is possible.’ But he that shall utter such Wishes, shall know, that he must be judged accord­ing to what has been done by him in the Body in time past; 2 Cor. 5.10. and that he is now such an one, as his past wicked Life has made him to be. What he now is, does depend upon what he has formerly done: And [Page 19]the Character of a wicked Man is, That he is one who has lived wickedly, and never so repented as to live otherwise. This is the Quality of a Sinner: and this is no more to be put off by any Wishes, that can be made, or any Action that can be done by him, at last, than he can make that not to have been done which was done; or make that to have been done, which was not done. All the Consternation, and Exclama­tion that a Man is capable of, can make no Altera­tion in the State of his Accounts which is drawn up according to what is past. Yet cannot Sinners see what the final condition of such will be, without wishing (in the most passionate manner) that they were not what they are: that they were not the Sinners they are.

2. Wicked Men shall at last wish, they were those Righteous Persons they are not. When Sin­ners appear to themselves what they are; and appear unto the Judge (who knows them more perfectly than they can know themselves) they do also see o­thers, 1 Joh. 3.20. who are contrary to them in their Lives and Characters. They know who they are, and what man­ner of Persons they are, whom they scorned and ha­ted, whom they maligned and persecuted: and they know what the Reason was of their Ill-will against them, and their Contempt of them. They lived among such as were Righteous, such as minded [Page 20]the things of a better World, and sought their Sa­tisfaction from the Hopes of Heaven, and their Communion with God: they employed the greatest part of their Care and Time, in impressing upon their Souls and Lives, the Image of God, that so they might be fitted by the Likeness of God, for the En­joyment of him. They chose the exercise and the Company of those who studied divine Wisdom, and practised divine Vertue. They kept themselves un­spotted of the World; Jam. 1.27. 1 Joh. 2.16.1 Pet. 4.4. and would not, for the sake of carnal Pleasure, or earthly Riches, or secular Honour, adventure upon those wicked Courses that others took. By this the Righteous were distinguish­ed from the wicked, and became contrary to them. For this they were hated by the Wicked, and shut out of their Friendships and Affections. The cha­racters of Holiness that appeared upon their Speech and Conversation, did manifest what manner of Persons they were, and fuch Persons Sinners had in Abomination.

By the same Marks which formerly Sinners knew and distinguished the Righteous as the Objects of their Malice, they shall at last remember them with Emulation; wishing themselves were such as these (once despised and persecuted) righteous Men are. Sinners shall wish then (at Death and Judgment) that they themselves had been as much rejected and [Page 21]injured as the Righteous were, so they might at the great and terrible day of the Lord, stand before the di­vine Tribunal, with that Advantage which the Righteous do. But as the Righteous shall then have their Character and Distinction according to what they did in the Body; So the Sinner, who did not those things, but the contrary, cannot (with all his Out­crys and Importunities) make himself such an one as the Righteous are. He cannot put on so much of the Similitude of the Righteous, as once was done in Hypocrisie. He is not a righteous Person; and he cannot make a shew of such an one: he can­not then personate a religious Man. If he should pretend to it (in any term whatsoever) he would be discovered: he cannot place himself among the Righteous, or expect to pass for such an one. He cannot mingle with the Saints, or come into the Assembly of those, Ps. 1.5. whose Company he shunn'd while he was on Earth. Nay he cannot then act the part of a Dissembler: he cannot pretend to that Reverence of God, and love of good Men, which the Hypocrite used to do, and which perhaps him­self has sometimes done, in the course of his past Life.

Thus shall wicked Men wish at last and in vain, that they were not what they are; and that they were what they are not, what they cannot (for ever) be.

We see what that good is which wicked Men de­sire, but the Righteous onely can enjoy, viz. The Character and the Reward of the Righteous. Re­ligion is the Foundation of Happiness: and Happi­ness is the Perfection of Religion. That Religion and that Happiness wicked Men shall desire at last (and when they have a distinct View of the last things) wishing they had lived that Religion, and that they might enjoy that Happiness. But the Righ­teous are they alone, who have lived religiously in this World; and the Righteous are they alone, who can live happily for ever. Summum bonum: This is that great Good which wicked Men necessarily, and unavoidably de­sire, but the Righteous only can enjoy.

From this Truth we may reprove the Wicked, en­courage the Righteous, and admonish all Men.

1. From this Truth we may reprove the Wicked, because by this, it is manifest their Wickedness is in­excusable, and their Hopes are vain. There is a notorious Contradiction between their Lives and their Desires, while they wish for the Happiness of the Righteous, and chuse what renders them unca­pable of it. Lu. 19.22. They shall be judged out of their own Mouths, and their own Hearts shall condemn them.

2. By this Truth the Righteous are approved and encouraged in their Duty, and their Expectation, be­cause they live according to the Constitution of [Page 23]Things, and the Declaration of God. They live, as the Consciences of the Wicked tell them they ought to live, and as they shall wish at last they had lived. The Righteousness of the Righteous is approved by all true Wisdom, and those who calumniate the re­ligious, are reproached by their own Hearts for so doing.

3. This Truth may be of use to admonish all Men, to live the Life of the Righteous, and that their early Beginning be like his; Eccl. 12.1. and then they shall die the Death of the Righteous, and their last End shall be like his too.

And since this will at last be the most serious wish of all Men; since those who hated the Life of the Righteous will wish they might die the Death of the Righteous, and that their last End may be like his; what can be more proper, for the Conclusion of this Discourse, than that wish of Moses; O that they were wise, that they understood this, Promethe­us Epime­theus. Dent. 32.29.that they would consider their latter End! If Men were but so kind to them­selves, and so provident for Eternity, as before the great day of Decision comes (now, while they are preparing for it) to place themselves (by a suitable exercise of Faith) in those circumstances, in which they must stand at the last Day: and then look upon themselves, as they are at the time of such Re­presentation: did a wicked Man, who knows the [Page 24]Transgressions of his Life, and that feels the Remorse of his Consoience; did he suppose himself laid upon a Bed of Sickness and Death; and view his Circum­stances as they will at last be, if he dies, such an one as he now is: did he suppose his Soul separating from the Body, and departing into the secret and invisible Society of the Dead: did he suppose the last Trump sounding, and himself (among the rest of Mankind) awakened out of the sleep of Death, by that dread­full Alarm: did he represent to himself the great and universal Assembly standing together upon the face of the trembling Earth; and beholding the Son of God descending from Heaven, in the Glo­ry of his Father, and his Holy Angels: did he sup­pose the Judgment-Seat placed and the Son of God set down upon it; the Books opened (that of the Law of God, and Gospel of Christ; that of Mens Lives and Consciences) and the Dead ready to be judged according to the Things written in those Books: did he consider the Distinction and Sepa­ration of Good from Bad; the one placed at the Right Hand, Matth. 25.33. Dextra, quae ditis magni sub moenia tendit [...] Hac iter Elysium nobis, at laeva malorum▪ Exercet poenas, & ad impia Tartara mi [...] Virg Aen. 1.6. and the other at the Left Hand of the Glorious Judge: did he hearken to the Sentence that will then be passed upon each Man according to his Deeds; and view (by Faith) the Execution of that Sen­tence; [Page 25]looking upon the Wicked as falling headlong into the Bottomless Pit; and looking upon the Righteous ascending their Thrones of Glory. I say, did wicked Men, often and seriously represent these important Truths unto themselves: did they thus consider their latter End, what Effect would that Consideration have upon them?

Thus to do, would be their Wisdom; for thus it will be with them at last: and by a due and time­ly considering, they may prevent, the worst Things being their Portion. If Men did consider, they would say (with the greatest Seriousness) Let me die the Death of the Righteous, and let my last End be like his. And knowing such a Wish cannot be verified merely by vehement Desires and passionate Expres­sions, they might (at one time or other) be per­swaded by such Considerations, to live the Life of the Righteous; and if they did so, They should al­so die the Death of the Righteous, and their last End should be like his: that would be their Everlasting Portion. They should then, Quo fa­t [...] trahunt Virtus se­cura seque­tur. Luc. 1.2. not only make their Wishes, but also have what they wished: they should (at their great Extremity) be received into the Joy of their Lord.


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