And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very fraudulent generation…
I. In the first place, DEATH, WERE IT SERIOUSLY ATTENDED TO, WOULD DIRECT OUR JUDGMENT AND CORRECT THOSE FALSE THINGS WHICH ARE THE GREAT SOURCES OF ALL OUR MISTAKES IN LIFE. Would it not lower our opinion of temporal enjoyments if this sentiment were familiar to our minds that we must shortly be torn from them? How would it raise our esteem of Christian dispositions! In what lively colours would we see the evil of sin, and the danger of practising it, did we live in the remembrance of that awful event which will fix our eternal condition! Would we not see the great importance of time, and the absolute necessity of improving it, if we thought that it is short and uncertain, and that eternity depends upon it?
II. The serious contemplation of death, besides correcting our mistaken notions, WOULD HELP TO MODERATE OUR UNRULY PASSIONS, WHICH ARE SO DIFFICULT TO BE RESTRAINED. At the lively idea of death all the passions subside and leave the soul in a state of serious tranquillity. Pride falls; vanity is extinguished; envy dies; resentment cools; and the fond admiration of worldly things decays and vanishes.
III. An habitual attention to our latter end, as it would wean our affections from the things of time and sense, WOULD FIX THEM UPON OBJECTS OF A SPIRITUAL AND ETERNAL NATURE. The great virtues of the Christian life, such as love to God and love to man, are not, like worldly possessions, of a perishing kind. They continue after this life; they are the qualifications for admission into the kingdom of glory; nay, they constitute the very temper of heaven itself, and are the essential ingredients of future and eternal happiness. Death guides the imagination forward into futurity; it gives the rewards and punishments of the world to come their full weight and impression upon us. Thus, by suggesting the most powerful motives to a godly life, it will naturally deter men from sin and enforce the practice of holiness and virtue. It will engage them to avoid that course of life which would expose them to the future punishment. And it will excite them, by a patient continuance in well doing, to seek for glory, honour, and immortality in the kingdom of heaven. As death, from the consideration of its awful consequences, enforces a holy life; so by representing the shortness and uncertainty of time, it would lead us instantly to set about the great business of human life, and to pursue it with unremitting attention. Why do men allow themselves the continued practice of vice? It is because they flatter themselves with the hopes of living still longer, and with designs of future repentance: and thus the great business of eternity is frequently put off, from day to day, till sickness or death overtakes them. Now there is not a surer, there is not a more effectual, way of avoiding this fatal mistake, than by remembering our latter end.
IV. IT WOULD CAUSE US TO TAKE HEED LEST AT ANY TIME WE SHOULD BE OVERCHARGED WITH SURFEITING AND DRUNKENNESS AND CARES OF THIS WORLD, AND THUS THE DART OF DEATH COME UPON US UNAWARES. It is one of the great advantages of considering death that it would help to keep our temper even and composed in every condition of life. As in prosperity, it would preserve us from insolence, so under adversity, from dejection of mind.
V. In the last place, by frequently meditating on our latter end, WE MIGHT MAKE THE IDEA OF DEATH FAMILIAR TO OUR MINDS, AND OVERCOME THE FEAR OF IT. The awe which it naturally strikes upon the mind wears off in proportion as we increase our acquaintance with it. But instead of cultivating this acquaintance, we industriously avoid it; and the surprise must add to the horror of its appearance whenever it constrains, as sometimes it will constrain, our attention. There are certain occasions on which it is impossible for us to shun the remembrance of death.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.