July 9th On the death of the just man
Consider first, these words of the royal prophet, Ps. cxv., ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’ And reflect how true it is that the death of such as have served God in good earnest, is indeed both precious in the sight of God and edifying in the eyes of men, because of those happy dispositions with which they meet death, especially that faith and confidence which they have in the goodness and mercies of their heavenly father, and in the infinite merits of Jesus Christ their redeemer, and that perfect conformity to the divine will, accompanied with a profound humility, a deep sense of sorrow for sin, and an ardent love of God, with which they close their eyes and yield up their souls into their creator’s hands. O what a happiness it is for a dying man to be in these dispositions! With what willingness does such a Christian as this leave the world! What peace and tranquillity does he find in his soul from the testimony of a good conscience! How joyfully does he fling himself into the arms of his tender father, who, he is well assured, will never reject his loving children, that cast their whole care upon him! O ‘let my soul die the death of the just, and let my last end be like to theirs!’ Numb. xxiii. 10
Consider 2ndly, what a comfort it is to a good man, at the approach of death, to see himself now so near to the end of all his labours, of all the miseries of this wretched life, and of all those dangerous conflicts and temptations to which he has hitherto been exposed from those mortal enemies of his soul, the world, the flesh, and the devil; and to find himself just upon the point of being delivered from his long prison, from the body of this death, from the servitude of corruption, and from sin that surroundeth him on all sides in this vale of tears, and of being called home from his banishment to his true country, which he has always longed for. O what a satisfaction it is to a lover of God to see himself now at the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, where he is to see, love, and enjoy his God for ever! What a pleasure to look forward into that blessed eternity into which he is just now entering; and to sing with the psalmist, Ps. cxxi. ‘I rejoice at the things that are said to me, we shall go into the house of the Lord,’ ‘O blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord, they shall praise thee for ever and ever.’ Ps. lxxxiii. To such souls as these, when they are near their death, those words of our divine Saviour are directed, Luke xxi. 28. ‘Look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.’
Consider 3rdly, the particular providence of God in favour of his servants at their death, expressed by the prophet, Ps. xl. 4, in these words: ‘The Lord helps them upon the bed of their sorrow, he turns all their couch from them in their sickness.’ He restrains their enemy at that time, he mitigates their fears and apprehensions, he supports them under their pains and agonies, he encourages them against the terrors of death and judgment, he protects them in that critical hour under the shadow of his wings, that they may be able to say with the psalmist, Ps. xxii., ‘Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils for thou are with me.’ In fine, he never forsakes them in death, who in their life have been faithful to him; but more particularly helps them then, when they stand most in need of his assistance, and when all the world besides forsakes them. O blessed be his goodness for ever!
Conclude, if thou desirest to die the death of the just, to live the life of the just, and to do the works of the just; for such as thy works are during life, such will thy death also be. ‘Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, they may rest from their labours, for their works follow them.’ Rev. xiv. 13. See then that thy works be such as may make thy life holy, and thy death will not fail to be happy.