- Betroth thyself to Christ. The covenant of grace is the jointure which God settles only upon Christ’s spouse. Rebekah had not the jewels and costly raiment till she was promised to become Isaac’s wife, Gen 24:53. ‘All the promises of God are yea’ and ‘amen’ in Christ. If once thou receivest Christ, with him thou receivest them. He that owns the tree hath right to all the fruit that is on it. Now, that thou mayest not huddle up a marriage between Christ and thee, so as to be disowned of Christ, and it prove a nullity at last, it behoves thee to look to it, that there be found in thee what Christ expects in every soul that he espouseth. First, therefore, consider whether thou canst heartily love the person of Christ. Look wishly on him again and again, as he is set forth in all his spiritual excellences. Are they such as thy heart can close with? Doth his holy nature, and all those heavenly graces with which he is beautified, render him desirable to thee? or couldst thou like him better if he were not so precise and exactly holy? Yea, is thy heart so inflamed with a desire of him, that thou canst love him with a conjugal love? A woman may love one as a friend, whom she cannot love so as to make him her husband. A friendly love may stand with a love of some other equal to it, yea, superior, but a conjugal love is such as will bear neither. Canst thou find in thy heart to forsake all other, and cleave to Christ? Does thy heart speak thee ready, and present thee willing, to go with thy sweet Jesus, though he carry thee from father, and father’s house? Is thy confidence such, of his power to protect thee from all thy enemies—sin, wrath, and hell—that thou canst resolvedly put the life of thy soul into his hands, to be saved by the sole virtue of his blood, and [by the] strength of his omnipotent arm; and of his care to provide for thee for this life and the other, that thou canst acquiesce in what he promiseth to do for thee? In a word, if thou hast Christ, thou must not only love him, but for his sake all thy new kindred, which by thy marriage to him thou shalt be allied unto. How canst thou fadge to call the saints thy brethren? canst thou love them heartily, and forget all the old grudges thou hast had against them? Some of them thou wilt find poor and persecuted, yet Christ is not ashamed to call them brethren, neither must thou. If thou findest thy heart now in such a disposition as suits these interrogatories, I dare not but pronounce Christ and thee husband and wife. Go, poor soul—if I may call so glorious a bride poor—go and comfort thyself with the expectation of the Bridegroom’s coming for thee; and when the evil day approaches, and death itself draws nigh, look not now with terror upon it, but rather revive, with old Jacob, to see the chariot which shall carry thee over unto the embraces of thy Husband, whom thou hearest to be in so great honour and majesty in heaven, as may assure thee he is able to make thee welcome when thou comest there. Amongst the ‘all things’ which are ours by being Christ’s, the apostle forgets not to name this to be one, ‘Death is ours.’ And well he did so, or else we should never have looked upon it as a gift, but rather as a judgment. Now soul, thou art out of any danger of hurt that the evil day can do thee. Yet there remains something for thee to do, that thou mayest walk in the comfortable expectation of the evil day. We see that gracious persons may for want of a holy care, fall into such distempers as may put a sting into their thoughts of the evil day. David, that at one time would not fear to ‘walk in the valley of the shadow of death,’ is so affrighted at another time when he is led towards it, that he cries, ‘Spare me,’ O Lord, ‘that I may recover my strength, before I go hence,’ Ps. 39:13. The child, though he loves his father, may do that which may make him afraid to go home. Now, Christian, if thou wouldst live in a comfortable expectation of the evil day,
(1.) Labour to die to this life, and the enjoyments of it, every day more and more. Death is not so strong to him whose natural strength has been wasted by long pining sickness, as it is to him that lies but a few days, and has strength of nature to make great resistance. Truly thus it is here. That Christian whose love to this life and the contents of it, hath been for many years consuming and dying, will with more facility part with them than he whose love is stronger to them. All Christians are not mortified in the same degree to the world. Paul tells us he died daily. He was ever sending more and more of his heart out of the world, so that by that time he came to die, all his affections were packed up and gone, which made him the more ready to follow: ‘I am ready to be offered up,’ II Tim. 4:6. If it be but a tooth to pull out, the faster it stands the more pain we have to draw it. O loosen the roots of thy affections from the world, and the tree will fall more easily.
(2.) Be careful to approve thyself with diligence and faithfulness to God in thy place and calling. The clearer thou standest in thy own thoughts concerning the uprightness of thy heart in the tenure of thy Christian course, the more composure thou wilt have when the evil day comes. ‘I beseech thee, O Lord,’ saith good Hezekiah, at the point of death as he thought, ‘remember now, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight,’ II Kings 20:3. This cannot be our confidence, but it will be a better companion than a scolding conscience. If the blood be bad, the spirits will be tainted also. The more our life has been corrupted with hypocrisy and unfaithfulness, the weaker our faith will be in a dying hour. There is a great difference between two children that come home at night, one from the field, where he hath been diligent and faithful about his father’s work, and another that hath played the truant a great part of the day; the former comes in confidently to stand before his father, the other sneaks to bed and is afraid his father should see him, or ask him where he hath been. O sirs, look to your walking. These have been as trying times as ever came to England. It has required more care and courage to keep sincerity than formerly. And that is the reason why it is so rare to find Christians—especially those whose place and calling have been more in the wind of temptation—go off the stage with a plaudite—praise ye—of inward peace in their bosoms.
(3.) Familiarize the thoughts of the evil day to thy soul. Handle this serpent often. Walk daily in the serious meditations of it. Do not run from them because they are unpleasing to the flesh; that is the way to increase the terror of it. Do with your souls, when shy of and scared with the thoughts of affliction or death, as you used to do with your beast, that is given to bogle and start as you ride on him. When he flies back and starts at a thing, you do not yield to his fear and go back, that will make him worse another time, but you ride him up close to that which he is afraid of, and in time you break him off that quality. The evil day is not such a scareful thing to thee that art a Christian, as that thou shouldst start for it. Bring up thy heart close to it. Show thy soul what Christ hath done to take the sting out of it, what the sweet promises are that are given on purpose to overcome the fear of it, and what thy hopes are thou shalt get by it. These will satisfy and compose thy spirit; whereas the shunning the thoughts of it will but increase thy fear, and bring thee more into bondage to it.