July 7th On preparing for death
Consider first, that the preparing for death is a business of the utmost importance; it is the great business of life. We came into this world as pilgrims and travellers, to make the best of our way towards our true and everlasting home, a happy eternity. The great business of our whole life is to secure this happy eternity, and nothing else can secure it but a good death. This is the necessary gate, through which we must pass to eternal life – if we think of arriving at it by any other way, we shall miss the road. A good death then must be the study and business of our whole life; our whole life ought to be a preparation for it. Happy they who are continually preparing for it by a good life! Unhappy they who defer their preparation for their death-bed; and thereby put the issue of an eternity upon the poor chance of a death-bed performance!
Consider 2ndly, the great but general error of men, who promise themselves to do great things in point of devotion and contrition, when they are sick and like to die; and upon the confidence of this are often careless in preparing for death, during the time of their health. Alas! how strangely will they one day find themselves deceived! For if a small pain or indisposition be at any time enough to spoil all our devotion, what must a mortal illness be, when either the dullness and stupidity caused by the distemper, or the anguish of body and mind, scarce allow of any application at all of our thoughts to the greatest of all our concerns? O my soul, see thou suffer not thyself to be thus imposed upon. Do now all thou art able; prepare thyself now for thy last end, by daily and fervent acts of devotion and contrition; every night strive to put thyself in the condition in which thou desirest to be found at thy death; but never tempt God by designing to live in sin and then to die in grace, or by expecting, at thy death so extraordinary a miracle of grace, as to pass from being a slave all thy lifetime to sin and Satan, to thy loving God. No, God is not to be mocked in this manner.
Consider 3rdly, that the best manner of preparing for death is to die daily to our sinful inclinations and passions; to the love of the world, and of the flesh, and to our own unhappy self-love, the root of all other evils; and this by the means of a general mortification and self-denial. This is that great lesson, perpetually inculcated by the Son of God in the gospel, of leaving all to follow him, of disengaging our hearts from all things else, of renouncing our dearest affections for his sake, of denying and hating ourselves in this world, that so we may save our souls, and possess our God for ever in the world to come. O how sweet, how happy, how secure, shall our death be, if it finds us thus untied from the earth, and all earthly clogs! O how shall we then long for the wings of the dove, to fly away from this land of misery and sin, and to repose eternally in God!
Conclude to be ever preparing thyself for death, by refraining from all that thou wouldst then wish not to have done; and by living every day, and doing every work, as if it were to be the last of thy life, and thou shalt not fail to die happily.