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SERMON XXVIII.

The comfort of a good man at the

approach of death.

2 TIM. iv. 8.

T

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous

Judge, Shall give me at that day; and not to
me only, but unto all thoje also that love his
appearing

HE time when this epistle was writ, SERM.

hath been disputed, whether at St. Paul's XXVIII. first appearing before Nero, or at his second, which was the time of his death: But the reasons which are given why the epistle was wrote immediately before his martyrdom, seem much to out-weigh those of the contrary side ; and the postscript is very express that it was written from Rome when Paul was brought before him the second time, which, if it be allowed authentick, puts the matter out of doubt: And indeed it is not likely that the Apostle

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SER M. would have used such solemn expressions of his XXVIII. courage and behaviour in any one particular V danger, as is supposed by those of the other

opinion. It is much more probable, that these words were a result of a serious view of the manner of his discharging the great trust committed to him, and that at a time when he had an immediate prospect of death, and was like to have ro farther opportunity of confirming the truth of the Gospel, but by his blood. He was now apprehended by the Emperor, as is thought, under pretence of firing the city; and was sentenced to death for that crime, which he himself was guilty of: For when he had fired the city in sport, to take off the odium, he laid it on the christians. And that which is said to have incensed him more against the Apostle, was his converting one of Nero's concubines, from lewdness and heathenism, to the modesty and chastity of the Gospel. His end being near, as he says in the verses before the text, when he was ready to be offered, and the time of his departure being at hand, all his labours and services administer solid joy and comfort to him; his hopes clear up approach of the death; all his despondences begin then to vanish, and he hath such a full afsurance of hope, that he already sees Heaven open to receive him, and the inward teftimony of his conscience is so clear and sincere, that it breaks out into these expressions of a full truft and confidence in the veracity and goodness of God; I have fought a good fight ;

at the

.

I have finished my course. Henceforth, &c.

SERM. In which words, we have these five things XXVIII. expressly contained, in this order.

The ist thing is, That there is a reward of virtue and piety in another world, which is here expressed with a full confidence, and the greatest assurance imaginable, which shews that the faith and persuasion of his mind, founded upon the promises of God, was as firm and unshaken, as any affent could be from demonstration or sensible evidence. When men's minds are purged of the prejudices of sense, by the habits of virtue and piety, and are disentangled from the sensual pleasures of this world, and are used for some time to reflect upon themselves and a future state, then their minds clear up as to these matters ; they begin to have quick and lively sentiments of them ; and then the evidence they have of moral truths, is nothing short of what knowledge we acquire by the strictest methods of reasoning: Ānd that prophane and carnal men, perfons habitually wicked, whofe eyes the God of this world hath blinded, are so much in the dark, as to these things of another life, is no wonder ; for people that do not apply themfelves to search into the nature of any particular science, cannot expect to comprehend the force of any reasoning of that nature : And so it is in religion; unless people will bend their minds this way, and put themselves in the road of thinking, they will not discern the great strength, and invincible force of that evi

dence

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SERM. vidence we have for the moral and mystical
XXVIII. truths of our religion, and particularly of this,

of an eternal weight of glory, for good and
virtuous people, in Heaven ; of which St.
Paul's words Thew us he had such a firm

per-
suasion.

The disposition of men's minds, when death is near them and unavoidable, is very different, according as their lives have been truly good and virtuous, or lewd and vitious : When good people are going out of the world, then they are filled with comfortable and joyful expectations of being for ever happy ; and the wicked in those circumstances, are terrified with a dreadful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation. These things are not fleeting and transient, but lasting and durable, and leave such deep impressions upon the minds of men, that they can never bear them off. Though vitious men, in health and profperity, baniih all thoughts of another world, and feel but little remorse of conscience, yet when any danger threatens them, then they are alarmed with sudden apprehensions of vengeance; whereas, the greater the danger is, the more firm and positive is the testimony of a good conscience ; and the nearer death approaches, these hopes and fears become more strong. And thus St. Paul, when he was in prison, and was convinced that the time of his execution drew nigh, instead of being dejected, his hopes were enlarged at the approach of death. But 2dly,

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The second thing expressed in these words, SERM. is the nature of the reward of virtue and good- XXVIII. ness in another world, and it is here called a crown of righteousness. That of a crown is the most usual representation of those heavenly joys that are to be the reward of virtue hereafter ; and accordingly, it is called elsewhere a crown of glory that fades not away. And it is faid, that Christ bath made us kings and priests to God, and that we shall reign with him for ever : By which expressions is undoubtedly signified some extraordinary dignity that shall be conferred upon us in heaven, but of what nature, we are able not now to conceive. It is called a crown of righteousness for these two reasons :

ist, Because the promises of eternal happiness are made only to good and virtuous persons; and therefore it is said, that without boliness no man skall see the Lord. And,

2dly, Because of the natural tendency of virtue and holiness to make men glorious and happy in another world, infomuch that glory is literally begun in grace; and this is the reason of those Scripture expressions of calling virtue and goodness by the name of light, and that the righteous shall shine beyond the glory of the Sun; and that piety and holiness go by the name of the white robe in the Revelations.

I shall only observe to you, that this crown of glory is faid here to be laid up for us; because the true nature and degrees of this glory anu la piness of the saints is so obfcured from

US

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