July 8th On the sentiments we shall have at the hour of our death
Consider first, how different judgment the soul will make of all things at the approach of death, from that which she is apt to make in life. O how shall the world then turn upside down before her eyes! Ah! my soul, how wilt thou then despise all worldly honours ad preferments, when thou shalt see thyself at the brink of the grave, where the worms shall make no distinction between the king and the beggar! How little account wilt thou then make of the praise, esteem, or love of men, who will now think no more of thee! How wilt thou then undervalue thy riches, when thou shalt see them slipping away from thee, and leave thee nothing but a coffin and a shroud! How contemptible will all worldly pleasures then appear in thy eyes, which at the best could never afford thee any true satisfaction, and now will show what they really are, and dissolve into smoke! O let us make the same judgment now concerning all these things as we shall do then! Let us weigh them all in these scales, and we shall not be cheated. For why should we set our affections upon such short-lived slippery toys? Why should we admit of a love that cannot stand the test of death?
Consider 2ndly, O my soul, what shall then be thy sentiments with regard to thy sins, of which perhaps thou hast hitherto made but small account? O how hideous, how odious will they begin to appear to thee, how numerous, how enormous – when the curtain shall begin to be withdrawn, with which thy busy self-love has industriously hidden them, or disguised the deformity and malice of them, and they shall be set before thy eyes in their true light – when that false conscience which thou hast framed to thyself, and under the cover of which thou hast passed over many things in thy confessions as slight and inconsiderable, which thou wast ashamed to declare or unwilling to forsake, shall no longer be able to maintain its ground, at the approach of death? O what anguish, what remorse, what dread, what confusion, what despair, will invade a poor dying sinner at the sight of this dreadful scene, of this army of his sins drawn up in battle-array against him! Ah! Christians, let us be wise in time, and prevent so great an evil by taking all such precautions now, with regard to our sins, as we shall certainly wish to have taken then.
Consider 3rdly, my soul, what thy sentiments will be at the time of thy death, with relation to the service of God, to virtue and devotion? O how lovely then shall the way of virtue appear to thee! O how wilt thou then wish to have always followed that charming path! But what shall thy sentiments be with regard to the value of grace? How bitterly shalt thou then regret the neglect of so many calls and invitations of thy gracious God; the loss of so many favourable opportunities of storing up eternal treasures, the squandering away so much of thy precious time, the misemploying of so many of God’s gifts and talents, the abuse of the sacraments, &c. Ah! how many great but disregarded truths shall then be unveiled to the sinner, against which he had shut his eyes before! How shall the false reasonings of the world, the delusions of his passions, and the subtilties of his self-love, together with the affected ignorance of such things as he had no mind to know, all forsake him at the approach of death and leave him in despondence at the time of his greatest distress?
Conclude to enter into those sentiments now, with regard to all these things, that shall stand by thee at the hour of thy death. For why shouldst thou any longer suffer thyself to be the dupe of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and give in to their impostures, with evident danger of the loss of thy immortal soul?