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For near ten years of my life past, I have purposed to leave off my sins by repentance, and to give up myself to God in an explicit covenant, but always have put off the present time, thinking with myself, the next week, or the next month, or the next year, I would give up myself to God, I would begin a holy life; but I have neglected it under many loud calls and warnings, until having not long since been awakened by the motions of the Spirit in and with the word, read and preached, I set apart a day for prayer with fasting, to humble my soul before God for the sins of my life past, and to beg for mercy, I took up such resolutions as these: Whereas I have formerly rushed irreverently into the presence of God, I resolve for this week to think of some awakening subject, to warm my heart before prayer, and to refrain from some sins I had been guilty of." At the end of the week, I found upon examination, that I had broke my resolutions: Then I thought that it was a dreadful thing to make resolutions before God, and O dreadful to break them! Then I inquired, whether I had best let drop, or renew my resolutions. I inquired, Soul, hadst thou best be saved, or damned, live or die eternally?' Oh horrid, vile creature! if thou dost never begin a holy life, thou wilt never live such a life: And then I considered, that though I had in some measure broke my resolutions, yet they had been a bridle in a great measure to restrain me from sin: I then renewed my resolutions, and made them stronger, and have found them of great use to me."
Thus much of his diary; and by it, you see what care he took to maintain a life of religion: You see how close and severe he was upon himself; what benefit he found by his resolutions, and of what service his diary was to him; and by this he being dead speaks to you, that you imitate his piety; that you guard against what he complains of himself for; and that you endeavor to profit by what he has written for your instruction and encouragement in the ways of God.
3. He being dead speaks to you, by the manner of his death, which was awful and sudden; and will awaken and quicken you, unless you are in a very hardened, sleepy and secure frame. O let not this providence pass without suitable impressions made upon you, and proper reflections made by you. O be hereby quickened to-day, even while it is called to-day, to secure the everlasting interest of your precious souls; for you know not what will be on the morrow. He who is now in the eternal world, was as likely, but a little more than a week since, to have continued in this earthly house of his tabernacle, as any of you; and the Lord only knows whose turn amongst you may be the next, nor how soon it may be. O therefore get ready, lest that hour should come
upon you at unawares. But as his death was awful and sudden, so it was pleasant and joyful, as you will hear under the next head, which is this,
4. And lastly, he being dead, speaks to you in the expressions which he uttered, after he had received the mortal wound, and under the expectation of his dissolution being near at hand. I cannot remember all that was said to him, nor the answers he returned but may this never be forgotten by me; the evidence which he gave, by the firmness of his mind, his satisfaction in his choice, his dependence upon the merits of Christ, and the secret joy that filled his soul, under the expectation of his departure being near, unto the truth and excellency of the Christian religion; unto the solid and substantial pleasure that is to be found in the ways of wisdom, and the well-grounded peace to be thereby obtained. His dying speeches were serious, weighty and pertinent. He took leave of some friends, forgiving and asking forgiveness, and relying upon the mercy of God in Christ for a pardon. He applied himself to parents, and brethren, and by-standers in a very awakening manner, with pertinency and a strain of serious godliness.
When I first visited him, having asked him how he did? he replied, "In a poor condition, both for soul and body." I told him, I hoped he had not put off the thoughts of death and eternity till then, and that he was not without hope. He said, "No, but he wanted assurance of his good estate." I asked him, in what he placed his hope? "Oh!" says he, "in nothing of my own, but alone in the merits and righteousness of my Saviour." I asked him if he was willing to leave this world? He said, "he should be, if he was sure of bis interest in the Lord Jesus Christ." But being, I suppose, under great surprise upon the account of the wound received, and faint and sick withal: "He said that he was not able to talk;" but yet very particularly mentioned his desires of what I should offer to God in prayer for him: after which I took my leave of him, and saw him no more till the morning before he died, when I found him perfectly in his right mind, and in a very calm, quiet and serene frame of soul, and in a most sweet and heavenly temper. I mentioned to him something of the doubts he was under, when I saw him before, and asked him, if the clouds were dispersed? He told me, they were. I asked him, if death was disarmed of its sting? He said, "Yes." I asked him, if he could freely leave his parents and all that was dear to him in the world? He said, "that at the first thought it seemed something hard; but when he considered that he should leave all sin and sorrow, and go to Christ; it overbalanced it all." He was asked again, upon what he built his hopes? He replied," Upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." He was asked, whether Christ
was not very precious to him? He said, "He was; and expressed a sense of Christ's love constraining him to love him again." He was asked, whether he took delight in God's Sabbaths? He said, "they had been to him the best of days, and he could sometimes with a soul swallowed up, say, that a day in God's courts was better to him than a thousand elsewhere, and the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." He was asked, if he loved those, whom he had reason to think were the children and people of God? He asked, "if that were a sure mark of grace?" It was told him that the apostle said, "We know that we are passed from death to life, because we love the brethren :" but he must distinguish betwixt a natural and a religious love; a love to God's people, because they may be good neighbors or good tempered persons, &c. and a love to them because they are good men, because they have the image of God enstamped on their souls, and the tokens of grace evident in their lives. The case was put thus to him, whether or no, if a person, whom upon all other accounts he had a low thought of, yet appeared to have the grace of God in him, this single consideration would draw forth his love to him and esteem of him?
He was put in mind of his neglect of the holy sacrament of the supper; he replied to this effect, that his duty in that article had been very much in his thoughts; that he had been greatly stumbled from the miscarriages of church members, and that the irregular walk of some of them had been a very great temptation to him. But he had come to this resolution (if it had pleased God to have given him opportunity) in a very short time to have offered himself to the communion.
He was put in mind of his being a member of a religious society of young people, and I asked him what I should tell the young people from him as a dying person. He replied, "As a dying creature tell them to take warning by me, to persuade themselves of the uncertainty of life, to beware of being swallowed up by this world, and to get their affections mortified to it, and not to rest contented without an interest in Christ." As he drew near his change at times he was something delirious, and at other times. clear and bright; and so he lay in a patient submissive resigning frame till he breathed out his soul (as we trust) into the arms of his Saviour, and sweetly slept in Jesus; for Christ hath assured us, "that where he is, there shall also his servant be," John
Upon the whole, let the mourning relatives be comforted in this, that though you are bereaved in so sudden and awful a manner, and of one so desirable, yet God can make up this loss to you, in that which will be infinitely better, and your loss is undoubtedly his unspeakable gain. Pray hard, that God's grace may be suf
ficient for you, that you may suitably demean yourselves under his rebukes, that you may by this chastening be made spiritual gainers, that you may be weaned from this world, and ripened for those mansions of delight, where all sorrow and sighing shall cease, and all tears shall be wiped from your eyes.
Let us all take notice of this providence of God, and let us study to answer his expectations from us herein; and from what we have heard, let us be instructed in the truth and power of religion, and in the possibility, pleasure and profit of strict godliness, and be quickened to make religion our main business. In a particular manner, let our young people be awakened to "Remember their Creator in the days of their youth." And O that some good thing might be found in them! Your godly parents, and those which are concerned for your souls, will have no greater rejoicing, than to see you walking in the truth. They speak to you in the language of David's dying charge to his son Solomon, 1 Kings ii. 2, 3. "I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes and his commandments and his judgments and his testimonies, that thou mayst prosper in all that thou dost."
And now for a close, I shall borrow the words of another in an excellent discourse, occasioned by the death of a young man. "The days he lost on earth (says he) we trust are gained in heaven intinitely to his advantage, and though he died young, yet if he had lived long enough to be weaned from this world and fit for heaven, he had a sufficiency of life."
And now my wish and prayer is, "May you that knew him follow his example, and emulate his piety. May there always be found by the grace of God among the young people of this flock, many such instances of early and serious religion, and may such as are walking in the same steps (as I trust a number of you are) be spared to bring forth more of the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God."
Now, to God even our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, be everlasting praises! AMEN.
Our Fathers' God, the Hope of Posterity.
FOUNDATION, RISE AND GROWTH
SETTLEMENTS IN NEW ENGLAND,
WITH A VIEW TO THE EDIFICATION OF THE PRESENT, AND THE INSTRUCTION AND ADMONITION OF FUTURE GENERATIONS.
DELIVERED AT DEDHAM, ON THE DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING, NOV. 23, 1738, UPON THE CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST CENTURY, SINCE A CHURCH OF CHRIST WAS GATHERED IN THAT PLACE.
BY SAMUEL DEXTER, V. D. M.
"O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men."-Ps. cvii. 8.
"And thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children," &c.-Deut. vi. 7.
PRINTED AND SOLD BY S. KNEELAND AND T. GREEN, IN QUEEN STREET, OVER AGAINST THE PRISON.