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O moment, which art neither time nor eternity, but art the horizon of both, and dividest things temporal from eternal! O narrow moment! O most dilated point! wherein so many things are to be concluded, and so strict an account is to be given, and where so rigorous a sentence is to be pronounced, is ever to stand in force! A strange case, that a business of eternity is to be resolved in a moment, and no place allowed for the intercession of friends, or our own diligence!
It will be then in vain to make any addresses or application; there is none will intercede for thee, nor can give thee absolution; the rigour of the Judge in that instant wherein thou expirest, will allow no farther mercy: St. John says, that heaven and earth shall fly from the presence of the Judge ; whither wilt thou go, to what place canst thou repair, being the person against whom the process is commenced? It is therefore said, that heaven and earth shall fly, because neither the saints of heaven shall there favour thee, nor the powers of earth assist thee; there shall be place for nothing that may help thee: what, then, would a sinner give for leave to offer up one poor prayer to God, when it is too late! That which would now serve thy turn, and thou despisest, thou wouldst then have done, and canst not. Provide thyself, therefore, in time, whilst it may avail thee, and defer it not until that instant, wherein nothing can do thee good. Now thou mayest help thyself, now thou mayest find favour expect not that moment wherein thy own endeavours will be useless, and there will be none to help or assist thee.
O what a lamentable thing will it be for a sinner, to see himself not only abandoned by men, but also by angels, and even by God himself; and to be delivered over into the power of the infernal dragon, without all hopes of escaping from him, who will seize upon his soul, and carry it to the abyss of hell, there to be tormented for ever!
How can men be careless, seeing so important a business, as is the salvation of their souls, depends upon an instant, wherein no new diligence nor preparation will avail them? Since, then, we know not when that moment will be, let us not be any moment unprovided; this is a business not to be one point of time neglected, since that point may be our
damnation. What will a hundred years, spent with great austerity in the service of God, profit us, if, in the end of all those years, we shall commit some grievous sin, and death shall seize upon us before repentance?
Let no man secure himself in his past virtues, but continue them unto the end; since, if he die not in grace, all is lost; and if he doth, what matters it to have lived a thousand years in the greatest troubles and afflictions this world could lay upon him? O moment, in which the just shall forget all his labours, and shall rest assured of all his virtues! O moment! which art certain to be, uncertain when to be, and most certain never to be again! I will therefore now fix thee in my memory, that I may not hereafter meet thee in my eternal ruin and perdition.
There are three things which would make a sinner tremble: The first, when his soul is to be plucked out of his body; the second, when it is to appear before God to receive judgment; and the third, when sentence is to be pronounced. How terrible, then, is this moment, wherein all these three things so terrible are to pass! Let a Christian often, whilst he lives, place himself in that instant, from whence let him behold, on one part, the time of his life which he is to live; and, on the other, the eternity whereunto he enters; and let him consider what remains unto him of that, and what he hopes for in this; in that instant a thousand years of life shall appear unto the sinner no more than one hour; and one hour of torments shall appear a thousand years. Behold thy life from this watch-tower, from this horizon, and measure it with the eternal, and thou shalt find it of no extension.
O dreadful moment, which cuts off the thread of time, and begins the web of eternity! I will therefore provide for this moment, that I may not lose eternity; this is that precious pearl, for which I will give all that I have or am; it shall ever be in my memory, I shall ever be solicitous of it, since it may every day come upon me.
For eternity depends upon death, death upon life, and life upon a thread, which may either be broken or cut; and that even when I most hope, and most endeavour to prolong it. My life is never secure; I will therefore ever fear that instant, which gives an end to time, and beginning to eternity.
Benediction and praise be to him who is seated upon the throne, and to the Lamb, who hath redeemed us in his blood, and hath placed us in his eternal kingdom. Amen.
The End of Temporal Life is terrible.
DEATH, because it is the end of life, is, by the philosopher, said to be the terrible of all things terrible: what would he have said, if he had known it to be the beginning of eternity, and the gate through which we enter into that vast abyss, no man knowing upon what side he shall fall into that profound and bottomless depth! If death be terrible for ending the business of life, what is it for ushering in the instant, wherein we are to give an account of life before that terrible and most just Judge, who, therefore, died that we might use it well!
It is not the most terrible part of death to leave the life of this world, but to give an account of it unto the Creator of the world; especially in such a time wherein he is to use no mercy this is a thing so terrible, that it made holy Job to tremble, notwithstanding he had so good an account to make; who was so just, that God himself gloried in having such a servant.
Death is terrible for many weighty reasons; whereof, not the least is the sight of the offended Judge, who is not only judge but party, and a most irrefragable witness; in whose visage shall then appear such a severity against the wicked, that it is better to suffer all manner of torments, than to behold the face of his angry Judge.
How will it then amaze us, when we shall behold Jesus Christ himself alive, not a dead image; not in the humility of the cross, but upon a throne of majesty, and seat of justice; not in a time of mercy, but in the hour of vengeance; not naked, with pierced hands, but armed against sinners with the sword of justice; when he shall come to judge and revenge the injuries which they have done him! God is as
righteous in his justice as in his mercy; and as he hath allotted a time for mercy, so he will for justice.
As in this life the rigour of his justice is, as it were, repressed and suspended; so in that point of death, when the sinner shall receive judgment, it shall be let loose, and overwhelm him. A great and rapid river, which should, for thirty or forty years together, have its current violently stopped; what a mass of waters would it collect in so long a space! and if it should then be let loose, with what fury would it overrun, and bear down all before it! and what resistance could withstand it? Since, then, the Divine justice, which the prophet Daniel compares not to an ordinary river, but to a river of fire, for the greatness and fury of the rigour, shall be repressed for thirty or forty years during the life of man, what an infinity of wrath will it amass together! and with what fury will it burst out upon the miserable sinner, in the face of the offended Judge? And, therefore, the prophet Daniel saith, That a river of fire issued from his countenance, and that his throne was of flames, and the wheels of it burning fire, because all shall then be fire, rigour, and justice; he sets forth unto us his tribunal-throne with wheels, to signify thereby the force and violence of his omnipotency, in executing the severity of his justice; all which shall appear in that moment, when sinners shall be brought into judgment, when the Lord shall speak unto them in his wrath, and confound them in his fury.
O man! which hast now time, consider in what condition thou shalt see thyself in that instant; then neither the blood of Christ, shed for thee, nor the Son of God crucified, nor the intercession or prayers of the blessed saints, nor the Divine mercy itself, shall avail thee; but thou shalt only behold an incensed and revenging God, whose mercies shall then only serve to augment his justice: thou shalt perceive that none will take thy part, but all will be against thee; thou art to expect no patron, no protector, but thy virtuous actions; only they shall accompany thee; when all shall leave thee, they only shall not forsake thee; the rich man shall not then have multitudes of servants to set forth is greatness, nor well-feed lawyers to defend his process; only
a Dan. vii.
his good works shall bestead him, and they only shall defend him.
There, when their treasures, which have been heaped up in this world, and guarded with so much care, shall fail their masters, their alms bestowed on the poor shall not fail them; there, when their children, kindred, friends, and servants, shall all fail them, the strangers which they have lodged, the sick which they have visited, and the needy which they have succoured, shall not fail them: let us, therefore, provide for that day, and take care that our works be good ones.
It is to be admired how many dare do ill in the presence of that Judge, with whom nothing can prevail, but doing well; and the wonder is much the greater, that we dare, with our evil works, offend him who is to judge them. The thief is not so impudent as to rob his neighbour, if the magistrate looks on; but would be held a fool, if he should rob or offend the magistrate himself, in his own house. How dares, then, this poor thing, man, injure the very person of his most upright and just Judge, (before whom it is most certain he shall appear,) to his face, in his own house; in so high a manner as to prefer the devil, his and our greatest enemy, before him? Every one who sins, makes, as it were, a judgment, and passes a sentence in favour of Satan against Jesus Christ; of this unjust judgment of man, the Son of God, who is most unjustly sentenced by a sinner, will, at the last day, take a most strict and severe account; let him expect, from his own injustice, how great is to be the Divine justice against him.
Let him take heed how he works, since all his actions are to be viewed and reviewed by his Redeemer. An artist who knows his work was to appear before some king, or to be examined by some great master in the same art, would strive to give it the greatest perfection of his skill: since, therefore, all our works are to appear before the King of heaven, and the chief Master of virtues, Jesus Christ, let us endeavour that they may be perfect and complete; and the rather, because he is not to examine them for curiosity, but to pass upon us a sentence, either of condemnation, or eternal happiness. Let us, then, call to mind that we are to give an account unto God Almighty, and, therefore, let us take heed what we do; let us weep for what is amiss; let us forsake