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Brethren, this is our high calling. He that knows these things, he that daily and hourly meditates therein, does not run like a fool without knowing his errand: And the Divine Wisdom, which has opened his eyes to see the great work he has to do, opens them farther to choose the only way of doing it. 'I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: No man cometh unto the Father but by me.' He considers, then, that as all things were created by the Son of God, and without him was not any thing made that was made;' so are all things redeemed and restored by the same Divine Person. As nothing came into being without Jesus, so nothing can enter into a state of happiness but by him. He is, then, continually applying to his crucified Lord for an increase of spiritual wisdom and strength; he hangs upon him by the desires of his heart; he lives by faith; he spiritually eats his flesh and drinks his blood, whereby his soul is nourished as with marrow and fatness. In a word, by faith he becomes one spirit with the Lord, and can say with St. Paul, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.' O that we were thus wise! O that we now understood and considered these things, and were prepared for our latter end. Then let the Bridegroom come never so unexpectedly, he would find us waiting for him, and we should enter into the joy of our Lord.
But to come to the application of the text: Is this our case? Can we all say, we have the wisdom of the holy man that has been described? Nay, do we so much as seek after it in sincerity? Suppose we had attained unto it, should not we shew it in our conversation ?
If the drunkard, for example, knew his calling, instead of quenching, in a monstrous abuse of God's mercies, that spark of reason he has; instead of setting himself below the very brutes, to the disgrace of Christianity, and the shame of human kind; would not he
prepare to drink of that river of pleasure which flows from the throne of God? Would not he beg to be enabled to say, by happy experience, with David, 'The Lord is my Shepherd; he makes me rest in green pastures, and leads me along the waters of comfort:' He fills my cup with a foretaste of heavenly joys, so that it runs over even on earth. If the unclean persons were wise, and had used themselves to consider these things, would they sell themselves to work wickedness in the sight of the holy angels? Would they make their body, which was formed to be the temple of God, the body of a harlot? Would they not rather serve the God of purity with soul, and body, and spirit, which he created with so much power, redeemed with so much mercy, and which he still preserves with so much patience?
If the swearer had wisdom enough to understand his madness; if he considered the accuser of the brethren, writing down every curse he utters, to bring them all upon his guilty head in a dying hour; do you think he would provoke God to hasten his damnation? Do you think he would be so impatient to secure a place where he may be sure that cursing, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth will be his portion to all eternity? No, they could not; and if any act in that manner, it is because they have not one spark of true wisdom.
Let us, then, join to pray over them in the words of the text, O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !'
And you, poor worldlings, (if there be any such here,) who never yet made religion your chief business and concern; who, with the rich man in the gospel, endeavour to take your pleasures in this world, not considering that this is the way to have your torments in the next; you who drown all the concerns of your immortal souls either in the transient joys, or the unnecessary cares of life; have you attained unto true wisdom? You may imagine so, and carry your delusion so far as to applaud yourselves on account of your fancied goodness: But,
alas! ere long you must be undeceived; and death (if nothing else can) will teach you that true wisdom consisted in preparing to meet him with comfort: When he looks you in the face; when he shall summon you to the bar of God-where will you seek for peace and assurance of his love, if it is not in your soul?—In the gold you endeavoured to hoard up? "Perish the hour (shall you say) in which I was mad enough to load myself with thick clay, instead of running to Jesus for my life!"-In the money you have spent in vanity and self-indulgence? You will have then what you now buy with it; fear and remorse.Will you seek relief in the remembrance of your past pleasures? Alas, it will only awaken your guilty conscience, and add new degrees to your horror.-You expect, perhaps, some consolation from those with whom you endeavour to forget your latter end; with whom you squander away the best of your time in unprofitable talk or vain diversions. Alas! you are mistaken; they will be the first to turn their backs upon you: And while they go in quest of companions better able to run after vanity and excess than you, you shall be left to shift for yourself upon a dying bed.
Meantime, God, that Almighty God, whom you take so little care to make your friend now; nay, whom you daily offend by your impenitence and stubbornness : That Almighty God, I say, will find you there. And what will you do, when he says, "Away to judgment, unprofitable servant, who hast neglected the one thing needful;' and cared for every thing more than for the salvation of thy immortal soul: Fit or unfit, launch into eternity-hasten to thy latter abode!" Ah! surely, in that hour, if not sooner, you will own your want of true wisdom. And we have reason to pray also over you in the words of Moses, O that they were wise, that they understood this; that they would consider their latter end!'
And who are those that do not need to consider it? Not you, young people, to whom health and youth seem to ensure a long and happy life. Ah! know that sick.
ness may overtake you to-day, and that youth is as little able as old age to resist the spear of death. Witness many of the tomb-stones that are set up round these places of worship. Nothing, then, nothing can secure you but an interest in the blood of the dear Redeemer, of him who, having created you to make you happy, has again purchased you by all the sufferings of his most holy life and bitter death.
Now, then, consider that your highest wisdom and truest interest is to give him your hearts, to remember him in the days of your youth, and put yourselves under his almighty protection; which, if you do, O how happy shall you be in your life! how triumphant in your death! how transcendantly blessed through all the ages of eternity! that you were wise—that you understood this-that you would consider your latter end!'
As for you, Brethren, who see one half of your days run out already, and yet are tempted by the corruption of the world, and your hearts, to mind nothing but the affairs of this life, you need, above all, to consider your latter end. Alas! you are too apt to forget that the better half of your days is gone, and gone for ever. Look back these thirty or forty years that you have lived. How short! it is a vapour which the wind has carried away. Oh, consider, that in thirty or forty years more, if you live so long, the whole of your days will look like the same dream; and learn, by what is past, to redeem what is to come.
But above all, forget not that eternity is at the end of your half-spent life. Eternity, that sea, without either bottom or shore, in which a thousand years are swallowed up as a drop of rain in the ocean. Eternity, to which you hurry as fast as the wings of time can carry you. And what have you done for eternity? I do not ask, what have you done for time? The rivers of sweat that daily water your face in providing for flesh and blood, save you the trouble of an answer. (Nor are you to be blamed for caring for the body, if you do it always in subordination to the concerns of your soul.)
But what have you done for eternity? Have you so much as shed one tear for the forgiveness of your manifold-sins? Have you spent one hour in secret to entreat the Lord to prepare you for eternity? Or do you say by your lives, if not with your mouths, "There is time enough to think of that ?" Ah! if this is your case, we pray in your behalf, O that they were wise— that they understood this-that they would consider their latter end.'
Here I would also address myself to those whose grey hairs are ready to descend with you into the grave, at the first touch of sickness. I would ask you, if you have been wise, and if your souls are as ripe for heaven as your bodies for the ground? But if your broken constitution, and the infirmities of old age, have not yet been able to awake you into a constant preparation for your latter end-what reason is there to expect that words will do it? But I would hope better things of you; I would hope that you have long ago devoted your lives to the Lord; and stand now waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom, and ready for the marriage. feast. Nevertheless, if among you there is a greyheaded sinner, let us with double fervour say over him, 6 O that he were wise! O that he would understand this! O that he would consider his latter end!'
To conclude. Whosoever thou art, O sinner, whether young or old, rich or poor, in the name of the Lord, I call upon thee to awake unto wisdom. Let not the god of this world blind thine eyes any longer. Consider, ere it be too late. See death behind thee, and eternity at thy feet. Renounce trifles. Set aside the anxious cares of the world. Give up unlawful pleasures. Leave nothing untried to make thy calling and election sure. For, in the scenes of futurity which shall soon be displayed in thy sight, there is no room for alteration; all is steadfast, unmovable, beyond the grave. Whether we are, then, seated on a throne, or stretched on a wrack, a seal will be set to our condition by the hand of everlasting mercy or inflexible justice.