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of dying, are filled with doubts of their sincerity, and fears that they have no interest in the Redeemer.
Such are some of the reasons why there are persons, whom death introduces into the joy of their Lord, who yet go down trembling into the grave.
But I turn with pleasure to a
2d. Class of good men, who on their death-beds are exulting and triumphant. Instances of this kind you have seen, if you have been in the habit of attending the sick chambers of departing Christians; you have beheld all the pains of sickness vanishing before their overpowering raptures; while they fix a steady eye upon the atonement, not only are the accusations of conscience silenced, and the fears of future wrath subdued, but they also taste of joys which they never felt before, and pant for the moment that shall dissolve their connexion with earth and earthly objects, and put them in possession of the crown of righteousness: they have had temptations and combats with their spiritual foes, but these have already ceased; and “the purity which had struggled with imperfection and sin, as the morning contends with the lingering darkness, shines with all the lustre of the perfect day.” They need not seek comfort from others; they bestow it upon all who surround them; “the spirit feels itself free, even in the grasp of death; the opening of the portals of bliss to receive their departing souls, sheds upon their pale countenances the light of eternal glory, dazzling the spectators with its ineffable radiance;" their faces, like that of Stephen, when he saw his glorified Redeemer, appear “ as it had been the face of an an
6 gel;” their souls are encompassed with a lustre more
" brilliant than the splendour which surrounded the ascending Elijah; their ecstasies are not the vain
glows of a deluded imagination, nor the mere raptures of enthusiasm, but the naturaland reasonable effect of that bright vision of eternal joys, vouchsafed to them by the Holy Spirit, and of the assurance which he gives them, that these joys are theirs. Not only is their heart warmed; their mind also is enlightened and strengthened. Attend to their conversation, you remark an energy which they never before exhibited; “ you discern the high pulsations of mental health ;" you perceive a warmth of feeling, a vigour of understanding, a brightness of imagination, that were never before displayed by them; listen to the fervour, the holy eloquence, the touching earnestness and comprehensiveness of their prayers, and then confess that he must be a poor and miserable fanatic in the worst of causes, who will dare to sneer at this as enthusiasm.
Such dying exercises, though not unknown among us, are more frequently found in times when the church is persecuted, and when the friends of the Redeemer seal their attachment to him with their blood. In the history of the martyrs, you have met with many examples of this triumphant departure from earth.
This exalted privilege, is also granted not unfrequently to those good men who have gone mourning and dejected through life. There are few pastors who cannot recollect some trembling, humble, timid, but deeply conscientious and zealous Christians, whose death-beds were thus animating and glorious. It is often the case too, with those young persons whose hearts glowed with love to the Redeemer; and on whom the church fixed its brightest hopes and fondest expectations; but who, in the flower of their days, were removed from earth. By such a
triumphant departure, God gives consolation to the hearts wounded by their loss.
3. There is a third class of good men, who on the death-bed have not these raptures, but who on the other hand are not oppressed by doubts and apprehensions. They have a steady composure, a calm and serene reliance upon their Redeemer. They look with holy confidence and tranquillity to heaven as their home, and without anxiety submit their interests for time and for eternity to the disposal of their covenant-God. They feel that the foundation on which they rest their everlasting all, is secure and immoveable. They believe and relish the precious promises of God. Rejoicing in the fulness and perfection of the covenant, in the love of the Father, in the grace and atonement of Jesus, in their past experience of divine mercy, and of the influences of the Spirit, they sweetly compose themselves on the bosom of their Redeemer, and in the tender language of scripture, “ fall asleep in Christ.” This, if I mistake not, in ordinary states of the church, is the general temper of those more ma.ture and advanced believers who have long walked with God, when they approach the hour of their dissolution. Such was the serenity of Jacob: “ I die; but God shall be with you. I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” Such was the composure of Joshua : “ Behold, this day I am going the way
of all the earth; and ye know in all your hearts, and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you.” And such was the temper of many other distinguished saints of the Old Testament. How many thousands in more modern times have displayed the same calm serenity! When Baxter was asked, just before his dissolution, how he was;
looking up to heaven, he replied, “ Almost well.** When Watts was near the eternal state, he said, “ I bless God, I can lie down with comfort at night, unsolicitous whether I wake in this world or another." “ I have nothing," said Gill, when dying, “ to make me uneasy; my Father, O my Father!" Examples of the same kind might be multiplied without number; but they are unnecessary; for such death-beds who of us has not seen? Let me only further remark, that perhaps this temper in our last hours is most correspondent to the example of our Redeemer. It is true that at times we hear him expressing a desire to pour out his blood for our salvation; declaring that he had a baptism to be baptized with, and was straitened until it was accomplished ; and rejoicing that the last passover which he was to celebrate with his disciples had arrived. It is true also, that we behold him at one period upon the cross experiencing darkness and distress; but I speak of the prevalent temper displayed upon the cross, and in that last conversation with his disciples, and prayer for them, that are preserved by St. John. What can exceed the confidence, the composure, the serenity, and tenderness, that appeared in his actions and shone in his discourses! Oh! that we may imitate him in life and in death!
We have marked the last hours of the children of God. We have exhibited to you three classes of expiring Christians: those who expire in doubt and alarm; those who leave the world in triumph and rapture; and those who, with a sweet and calm composure, yield up their spirits into the hands of their Redeemer.
II. In approaching now the death-beds of those who have lived impenitent and unbelieving, without God
and without Christ in the world, we behold no less diversity. Of these some are filled with agony
and horror ; some have a false joy, and an unwarranted exultation; and some are stupid, insensible, and unconcerned.
Let us rapidly describe these three different classes.
1. Some, who mocked at the restraints of religion during their health, who neglected the offers of salvation made them by the Redeemer, who lived as though there were no God, no soul, no eternity; are in their last moments filled with horror, anguish, and despair. They feel the lashes of an enraged conscience, which at last has waked from its lethargy. By the new and terrible light which God sheds down in their souls, they perceive those overpowering and eternal realities with which they have hitherto trifled, and some drops of the wrath of the Almighty afford an earnest of that wo which shall never end, and excite terror and agony that give a solemn and impressive warning to those who have lived like them. In vain do they look for consolation to the past, the present, or the future ; every where only images of horror start up around them. Life and death fill them equally with dismay: life is agony; and when they would rush forward to death to escape, they behold the world of darkness and the gulf of horrors yawning to receive them. They find earth impotent to comfort them; and they receive no ray of consolation from heaven. Those around their bed
. are pierced by the look of supplicating anguish which they raise to heaven; and shocked by the imprecations of rage and fury with which it is not unfrequently succeeded. But the tempest at last has spent its fury; the head falls back; the king of ter