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A condemned wretch may with as good a grace go dancing to his execution, as the greatest part of mankind go on with such a thoughtless gaiety to their grave.
Oh! with what horror do I recall those hours of vanity which we have wasted together! Return, ye lost neglected moments! How should I prize you above the Eastern treasures! Let me dwell with hermits; let me rest on the cold earth; let me converse in cottages; may I but once more stand a candidate for an immortal crown, and have my probation for celestial happiness.
Ye vain grandeurs of a court! Ye sounding titles, and perishing riches! what do ye now signify! what consolation, what relief can ye give me? I have a splendid passage to the grave; I die in state, and languish under a gilded canopy; I am expiring or soft and downy pillows, and am respectfully attended by my servants and physicians: my dependents sigh, my sisters weep, my father bends beneath a load of years and grief; my lovely wife, pale and silent, conceals her inward anguish; my friend, who was as my own soul, suppresses his sighs, and leaves me to his secret grief. But, oh! who of these will answer my summons at the high tribunal? Who of them will bail me froin the arrest of death? Who will descend into the dark prison of the grave for me?
Here they all leave me, after having paid a few idle ceremonies to the breathless clay, which perhaps may lie reposed in state, while my soul, my only conscious part, may stand trembling before my judge.
My afíicted friends, it is very probable, with great solennity, will lay the senseless corpse in a stately monument, inscribed with,
Here lies the GreatBut could the pale carcase speak, it would soon reply
False marble, where?
While some flattering panegyric is pronouuced at my interment, I may perhaps he hearing my just condemnation at a superior tribunal; where an unerring verdict may sentence me to everlasting infamy. But I cast myself on his absolute mercy, through the infinite merits of the Redeemer of lost mankind. Adieu, till we meet in the world of spirits.
Nothing is so well calculated to convince us of the vast importance of living wholly under the power of the gospel, as seeing great and valuable men dying in such a low and unworthy manner, as many of the first characters of our world have been known to do. The cases of Grotius and Salmasius, of Johnson and Haller, are mortifying instances. Great talents, great learning, great celebrity, are all utterly insufficient to constitute a man happy, and to give him peace and confidence in a dying hour. We know the promises of God are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus: but if the promises be sure, and strongly animating; to the proper objects of them, the threatenings of God are not less infallible, and at the same time are extremely alarming to the proper objects of them. Nothing within the compass of nature can enable a man, with the eyes of a mind properly enlightened, to face death without fear and dismay, but a strong conscious sense, founded on scriptural evidence, that our sins are pardoned, that God is reconciled, and that the Judge of the world is become our friend.
EXAMPLES OF PERSONS LIVING AND DYING EITHER
ASSURANCE OF FAITH,
“ Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
Addison was a very able and elegant advocate for the Bible, in life and death. Just before his departure,
having sent for a young nobleman nearly related to him, who requested to know his dying commands his answer was" See in what peace a Christian can die!”
He spake with difficulty, and soon expired. Through grace divine, how great is man! Through divine mercy, how stingless is death!
“ He taught us how to live; and, oh! too high
A price for knowledge, taught us how to die.” Leland, after spending a long and exemplary life in the service of the gospel, closed it with the following words :-"I give my dying testimony to the truth of christianity. The promises of the gospel are my support and consolation. They, alone, yield me satisfaction in a dying hour. I am not afraid to die. The gospel of Christ has raised me above the fear of death ; for I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
Pascal was one of the most humble and devout believers in Jesus that ever lived. Bayle saith of his life, that
an hundred volumes of sermons are not worth so much as this single life, and are far less capable of disarming men of impiety. The extraordiuary humility and devotion of Pascal gives a more sensible mortification to the libertines of the
than if one was to let loose upon them a dozen missionaries. They can now no longer attack us with their favourite and darling objection, that there are none but little and narrow spirits, who profess themselves the votaries of piety and religion: for we can now tell them, and boldly tell them, that both the maxims and practice thereof, have been pushed to the strongest degree, and carried to the greatest height, by one of the profoundest geometricians, by. one of the most subtile metaphysicians, and by one of the most solid and penetrating genii, that ever yet existed on this earth”(9)
(9) “ This great man, during some of the latter years of his life, spent his whole time in prayer, and reading the Holy Scriptures; and in this he took incredible delight.”
Olympia Fulvia Morata, was one of the earliest and brightest ornaments of the reformation. She could declaim in Latin, converse in Greek, and was a critic in the most difficult classics. ' But after it pleased God by his grace to open the eyes of her mind to discover the truth, she became enamoured of the Sacred Scriptures, above all other books in the world, and studied them by day and by night. And when dissolution approached, she declared she felt nothing but “an inexpressible tranquillity and peace with God through Christ.”-Her mouth was full of the praises of God, and she emphatically expressed herself by saying—“ I am nothing but joy.”
Lord Russel delivered himself, just before his execution, in the strongest terms of faith and confidence. He said.“ Neither my imprisonment nor fear of death have been able to discompose me in any degree. On the contrary I have found the assurances of the love and mercy of God in and through my blessed Redeemer; in whom I only trust. And I do not question but I am going to partake of that fulness of joy, which is in his presence; the hopes of which do so wonderfully delight me, that I think this is the happiest time of my life, though others may look upon it as the saddest.”.
Charles the Fifth having alarmed and agitated all Europe nearly fifty years, retired from the world, and enjoyed more complete contentment in this situation than all his grandeur had ever yielded him. “I have tasted,” said he, “more satisfaction in my solitude, in one day, than in all the triumphs of my former reign; and I find that the sincere study, profession, and practice of the Christian religion, hath in it such joys and sweetness as courts are strangers to.”(10)
(10) Louis, one of the late dukes of Orleans, expressed the delight he found in piety and devotion in the following terms; “I know by experience, that sublunary grandeur and sublunary plea. sure, are deceitful and vain, and are always infinitely below the
Oxenstiern, chancellor of Sweden, was one of the most able and learned men of his time, and yet he was not too great and too wise to be above being taught by the Sacred Writings... “ After all my troubles and
. toilings in the world,” says he," I find that my private life in the country has afforded me more contentment, than ever I met with in all my public employ
I have lately applied myself to the study of the Bible, wherein all wisdom, and the greatest delights are to be found. I therefore counsel you to make the study and practice of the word of God your chief delight; as indeed it will be to every soul that savours the truths of God, which infinitely excel all worldly things."
Selden, the lawyer, whom Grotius calls “ the glory of the English nation,” was, as Hale declared, “a resolved serious Christian, and a great adversary to Hobbes's errors.
He was one of the most eminent philosophers, and most learned men of his time. He had taken a diligent survey of all kinds of learning, and had read as much, perhaps, as any man ever did ; and yet, towards the latter end of his days, he declared to Usher, that notwithstanding he had been so laborious in his inquiries, and curious in his collec
tions we form of them. But, on the contrary, such happiness and such complacency may be found in devotion and piety, as the sensual mind has no idea of.”
Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, was also eminent for his piety towards God, and has been known to spend hours together in religious retirement. So too Alfred.
George II. during war time, would constantly be in his closet between five and six o'clock in the morning, winter and summer, praying for the success of his fleets and armies.
A remarkable instance of attention to the blessing of the Di. vine Being we have also in the conduct of lord Duncan. Previous to the action on the coast of Holland, during the awful moments of preparation, he called all his officers upon deck, and in their presence prostrated himself in prayer, before the God of hosts, conimitting himself and them, with the cause they maintained, to his sovereign protection, his family to his care, his soul and body to the disposal of his providence; then, rising from his knees, he gave command to malue the attack.