Copyright
Thomas Wilson.

The works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 3) online

. (page 43 of 49)
Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 3) → online text (page 43 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the grace of God, for having broken their baptismal vow, for
having brought a scandal upon their holy religion ; such
persons have no hopes of mercy and pardon from God.

And those who find ways to escape the censures of the
Church, by leaving their place of abode, or their country,
by prevailing with officers, whose duty it is to present them,
to pass them by, or by any other way, such persons are in
the same sad condition ; they are exposed to the wrath of
God, and no man can pi^omise them any hopes of pardon
without public acknowledgment of their crime, and such as
the Church appoints.

On the other hand : all such who have had the misfortune
to fall grievously, and come to be truly humbled by their
offences, and submit to take shame to themselves, and to
give glory to God in a free confession of their crimes; ac-
knowledging that God is more to be feared than all other
powers on earth, and His judgments dreaded more than death
(which is truly giving glory to God) ; whoever does this in
sincerity may be confident that the absolution he receives
here will most certainly be confirmed in heaven.

From all which you may see, that if the ministers of
Christ's kingdom should neglect their duty, and should
forbear to call notorious offenders to public penance ; though
they should (which God forbid) be partial, and favour some
for their own, or for their friends' sake, or for the place they
bear in the world ; yet this would indeed be no favour at the
last, unless we shall think it an advantage to avoid that



ON CHLmCH DISCIPLINE. 477

shame in this life, which we have justly deserved, to meet
with shame, aud misery, and confusion of face, for ever and
ever, in the next world.

Shame and sorrow are the due reward of our sins, and we
must suffer them either here or hereafter. And we know
that those that have found ways to avoid the censures of the
Church, and the shame aud affliction that attend them,
have visibly been given up to bring double shame and sorrow
upon themselves in this life, that their souls might be saved
in the day of the Lord Jesus.

It was a just sense of this which has ever prevailed with
wise men, when they have fallen into any grievous crime,
not only to submit with patience, and great meekness, to
the judgment of their spiritual governors, but even to desire
to be made public examples, that they might obtain the
prayers of all good Christians, that they might receive
absolution, and have one of the greatest comforts and
assurances which Christ has given to His Church.

They did not look upon themselves, nor did ever au}^
good Christian look upon them as worse, but in a much
better and happier condition, for having submitted to shame
for the glory of God.

And I hope a time will come, when all Christians will
have the same thoughts of the discipline of the Church ;
which God grant in His own good time !

In the mean time, we must not neglect to tell you the
truth, whether you receive it or not ; for what is it we g(!t
by your obedience, but only the blessing of being instru-
mental in saving your souls? We desire not to lord it over
your consciences; we desire you to submit to the laws of
Jesus Christ, not to any rules of ours, which He has not plainly
warranted ; in one word we only desire to be helpers forward
of your salvation, which you all hope for, as Avell as we.

To conclude : it is to be hoped, that all such as submit to
do penance, submit out of a principle of conscience, and in
hopes thereby to find God, for Christ's sake, more favourable
to them.

But because we are but too apt to deceive ourselves, I must
add further, (for the sake of all such unhappy people as do
things worthy of public penance,) that their submission and



478 ON CHURCH DISCIPLINE.

SERM. outward tokens of sorrow will not be accepted as any amends I

XCIII "
'— for their crimes, unless it proceed from an humble and con-|

trite heart. \

Hear how the penitent in the text speaks: "And Achan'
answered Joshua, and said unto him, indeed I have sinned!
against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have 11
done." I

This humble confession shews, that it came from his very
heart; and the danger he exposed himself to by making it I
shews, that he feared the sentence and judgments of God I
more than either shame or death.

We have no power to inflict such punishment, nor any
temporal evil; therefore we had need to be more earnest
with penitents, not to deceive the Church or themselves
with false appearances.

People may submit out of fear, and forget all their pro-
mises of amendment when that is over; but then they forget
their own souls.

Penance is designed to make men better ; and if it does
not do that, it were better it had never been performed.

If an inward change of heart, and an outward reformation
of manners, do not follow, all your promises are lies, and all
your sorrow is vile hypocrisy.

And therefore a person that has any fear of God in his
heart, after he has humbly confessed his fault ; begged God's
pardon for having done dishonour to His authority; asked
forgiveness of the people; obtained absolution from the priest,
the minister of Christ ; he will, from that day forward, resolve
to live more circumspectly ; pray constantly to God for grace,
■without which we can do nothing; attend the Church and
service of God duly ; avoid all temptations to impiety, and
especially drunkenness, which makes way for all manner of
villainies ; and if he falls into any one sin, he will immedi-
ately repent and forsake it, that it may not make way for a
greater.

And he that does so will have great reason to blfess God
that he has had his lot in a part of the Catholic Church,
where the discipline is kept up, the censures executed, and
sin openly as well as in private rebuked.

And all wise and good men will be so far from despising



ON CHURCH DISCIPLINE. 479

those that thus humble themselves, that they will receive
them Avitli open arms, and esteem them the better, as the
father did his prodigal son.

And now, I pray you all to join with me in these petitions,
that God of His goodness would be pleased to continue to
this part of Christ's Church, the power and the spirit of disci-
pline; that He would restore godly discipline to all Christian
Churches ; and that He would vouchsafe unto all that are
engaged in sinful courses, a true sense of tlieir errors, true
sorrow and repentance for them, and His gracious pardon,
that God may be glorified in their confession, amendment,
and salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake.

To Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all
honour, thanksgiving, and praise, now and for ever.



SERMON XCIV.



A FUNERAL DISCOURSE.



THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH PUT INTO PRACTICE.



Lord of life and death, dispose by Thy grace, all that shall hear this
discourse, that, remembering our sentence is already passed, our whole
lives may be a worthy preparation for death. Deliver every soul of us
from the blindness of trusting to a death-bed repentance. Let me not
speak to others upon this serious subject, and forget it myself. And
when this sentence shall be executed upon me, be Thou, Jesu, my
mighty Protector.



2 Kings xx. 1,

See Job 14. This saith the Lord, set thine house in order, for thou

4- 89. 48- shalt die, and not live.

90. 12; '

Matt. 10. Good Christians ; I take tliis occasion, wlien most people
8. 36; f^^^) or should be, serious, to speak to you upon the most
?Cor V^' serious subject in the world, and a subject which concerns
29; 15. 56; evcrv soul of US, as much as our life is worth,

2Cor.4.17; ^-^ , ^ _ . •^

Heb. 9. 27 ; I would dcsirc you, and I would charge it upon myself, to
iPet. 2. 11. consider seriously, what it is to die, and what prepara-
tion IS NECESSARY FOR AN HAPPY DEATH. For surc WO need
not be told, that if death surpriseth any man before he be
[Matt. 26. prepared for it, " it had been better for that man if he had
never been born."

The text I have made choice of is a message sent by the
Prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah : '' Thus saith the Lord, set
thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live."

We little think of it, and yet indeed this very sentence is
already passed upon every one of us. It is true, we know
not when it will be executed, but executed it will be, and
that in a very short while.



THE CONSIDEEATION OF DEATH PUT INTO PKACTICE. 481

It behoves us, therefore, to be prepared for it ; " to set our
house in order," while we have time, while we are in our
right mind, and have our senses and thoughts about us;
always remembering, that it will be no proper time, when
we come to die, to ask this question, " What must I do to [Acts 16.
be saved V

The Spirit of God has already told us this : " Pass the Ji Pet. i.
time of your sojourning here," that is, your whole life, " in
fear," with a great concern for what must become of you
when you die.

That we may all do this more effectually, I will set before
you.

First ; what our condition and business in the world is.

Secondly ; what alteration death vnll make in our condition.

Thirdly ; ivhat preparation for death will be necessary, to
make our life easy, and our death happy.

Lastly ; I will set before you the different thoughts and re-
flections of dying persons, both of good and bad, that we may
be warned betimes, what to choose, and what to avoid.

I. And first, we shall consider, what our condition and
business in this world is.

As for our condition ; we are by nature born in sin ; and
subject to the punishment of sin, which is misery and death.

This punishment and sentence we cannot hope to avoid, it
being passed upon us by a most righteous judge, and never to
be reversed. Yet this comfort we have still left us, that God
has been so good, for His Son's sake, as to make a further
trial of us, and to place us in this world in a state of proba-
tion, in order to try our obedience, and to mend our nature.
And has given vis this assurance, that if, during this short
life, we give such proof of our obedience, as that our nature
is thereby mended, and that we have sincerely endeavoured
to be restored to the image of God, in which we were created,
we shall, whenever we die, be received into that heavenly
state which our sin had made us uncapable of.

All this God has made known to us, in order to awaken
us, and to make us careful how we spend this short life.

Now, because our eternal weal or woe must depend upon
this trial, God has been so gracious as to give us laws and
rules to live by, which are most proper to cure our corrup-
tion, and to fit us for heaven.

WILSON. J j



482 THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH

SERM. He lias also given us warning of siicli things as will cer-
— - — ^— tainly divert us from minding this great work, if we be not
careful to avoid them.

He has indeed forbidden us many things ; but then they
are only such as would certainly shut us out of heaven.

He has foretold us of the dangers we may encounter, and
the enemies we have to struggle with ; but then He has
assured us of all the assistance we shall at any time stand in
need of.

In order to this, He has promised His Holy Spirit to all
that ask for Him in sincerity, to be an almighty principle
of a new life, in every soul with whom He vouclisafes to
dwell. And He is given to, and will dwell with, every
Christian who takes care not to grieve Him by his evil
deeds.

This is our condition, this is our case : we are in this life
upon our good behaviour; we are in a state of penance for
what is past, and we are upon our trial for the time to come,
even for eternity.

And that we may most highly value the love of God, and
not think that these conditions are hard, or impossible to be
performed. His Son did, in our nature, submit to all this, to
convince us, that there is no other way for mortal man to
regain the favour of God, but this : to resign ourselves
wholly to God's will and pleasure, to do what He commands,
to avoid what He forbids, to suffer what He appoints, and to
be pleased with all His choices.

So that nothing but an holy life, and following the com-
mands of Jesus Christ, can possibly secure to us the favour
of God, or save us from eternal misery when we die.

II. And this brings us to the next thing to be considered,
and that is, ivhat altei'ation death will make in our con-
dition.

That it will make a very great alteration, all people are
convinced of it; they/eo/', they avoid it; they take all pains
to keeji it off; and they generally submit to it univillingly.

And indeed there is great reason for all this, if people are
not prepared for death ; or if they have set their hearts upon
this world ; or if they have not a true knowledge of death,
and the reason of it.

If a man is not prepared for death, he cannot but meet it



PUT INTO PRACTICE. 483

with amazement. The night is come when no man can work. [John 9. 4.]
His time of tnal is at an end. And he has a summons to
appear before the bar of God's justice, in these words :
"Careless man! this night shall thy soul be required ofrLukei2.
thee."

Not less terrible is death to those whose souls are ftxstened
to the world, — by its pleasures, profits, honours, or any other
of its idols. So saith the Wise Man : " O death ; how bitter Ecdus.

41. 1.

is the remembrance of thee to a man that liveth at rest in
his possessions ; unto the man that hath nothing to vex him,
and that hath prosperity in all things !"

But if the thoughts of death be so bitter, the sight must
needs be insupportable, to a man whose soul was bound up
in the world. Forasmuch as death strips him of every thing
he valued ; of every friend, of every pleasure, of authority, of
power, of estate, of every thing in which he placed his hap-
piness.

A great alteration this ; and should in reason teach people
to moderate their affections for every thing the world doats
on, if it were but to prevent the trouble of parting with them
at the hour of death.

But, alas ! this is but the least of that anguish which will
then seize men, if the love of the world has till then hindered
them from loving God, and obeying His laws. A frightful
consideration this ! To be going to appear before God, whose
laws I have broken and never repented of it, whose promises
I have slighted, and whose judgments I have never till then
regarded.

But even good men are not altogether without their fears,
upon the prospect of that change which death is going to
make in their condition, whether they look upon death,
either as painful to nature ; or as a just punishment of sin ;
or, lastly, as a messenger calling them before their Judge.
But then these fears, in good men, are capable of being les-
sened, if not quite removed.

Even a dying criminal, if truly penitent, w^ill comfort his
soul with such thoughts as these, and support his spirits
against the terrors of death : ' The pains of death will soon
be over; if they were to be longer, they are the due reward
of my crimes; the sentence is righteous, and just, and as

I i2



484 THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH

SERM. such I submit to it, and I cannot but esteem the very judge

XCIV. J J c

'— who condemned me; and I am sure that if he knew the

disposition with which I receive the sentence of death, he
would pity me, though he would not think fit to recall his
sentence/

And will not such considerations as these serve to sweeten
the approach of death, and strip it of much of its terrors ?

For suppose a man should thus reason with himself: 'I
know by faith, that death is the fruit and the punishment of
sin, a punishment to which we are all condemned by the
righteous judgment of God ; I am therefore bound to sub-
mit to it, out of love to His justice ; if I do it willingly, my
death will (like that of my Saviour's) be a sacrifice of obe-
dience to God. And why should I increase my accounts by
an uneasy and rebellious temper? Rather let me cast my-
self on God's mercy, and, by an humble compliance with
His will, I may hope to make some atonement for my sins,
which I cannot recall.'

But after all, there is nothing like a sober, and a Chris-
tian life, which can give a man any solid comfort, Avhen
death calls him to judgment. Not that we are to set bounds
to the mercies of God; or, by any means, exclude a sincere
and timely repentance. But these are favours in the hands
of God, and not to be expected by such as live in rebellion
against Him.
Rev. 3. 3. Let us rather remember M^hat the Spirit saith : " Thou
shalt not know what hour I will come." Will it not then
be the highest presumption to persuade ourselves that we
have time enough to prepare for death, when God Himself
declares that we have not one moment certain ?

III. And this brings us to consider, lohat preparation is
necessary to make our lives easy, and our death happy.

And first let us remember, that life was given us for this
very end, to make trial of our behaviour here ; and that by
an holy life, and a careful preparation for death, our souls
and bodies may be a worthy sacrifice to God, when He shall
think fit to call us out of this world.

In the next place; let us fix this in our minds, and never
forget it, that now is the time, in which we are to choose
where we are to be, and lohat we are to be, for ever. And



PUT INTO PRACTICE. 485

for our encouragement let us be assured, that a timely prepa-
ration for death will arm us against the fear of death, and
against all other fears whatever.

But forasmuch as the preparations of the heart are [Prov. 16.
FROM the Lord, from Him we must ask this grace; and we
must ask it with great earnestness, as a grace without which
we shall perish everlastingly.

We must beg Him to remove all those hindrances, which
may divert us from considering our latter end, and from pre-
paring for it.

And because the love of the world is the greatest of those
hindrances, we must beg of God, in the first place, to give us
the eyes of faith, that we may see the world just as it really
is ; the folly of its pleasures, the vanity of its promises, the
shortness of its rewards, the multitude of its snares, and the
dangers of its temptations.

When once we shall be well convinced of this, we shall be
better prepared to fix our hearts upon the happiness of
another life, and to love that good God, who has prepared
such happiness for them that in this world strive to please
Him.

The way to do this, and to be so far prepared for death, is,
in the first place, to have our worldly affairs, as much as
possible, in that order, that we may not only have discharged
a good conscience in disposing of them ; but, by declaring
what we owe, and what is owing to us, we may prevent dis-
putes, and preserve peace and charity among those we leave
behind us.

And, forasmuch as God has expressly charged them [i Tim. 6.

17—19;
THAT are rich, THAT THEY BE READY TO GIVE, AND GLAD Heb. 6. 10 ;

TO distribute; and all others are exhorted to be merciful ^^- ^^-^
after their power ; and God having declared, that with such
sacrifices He is ivell pleased ; that He ivill not forget this
labour of love ; that is, their works of charity ; and that this
is the laying up for themselves a good foundation, a growing
stock, for the time to come. All this, I say, shews, that it is
an indispensable duty, a duty most pleasing to God, to be
all our life long, as well as when we come to die, giving to
the poor, according to our ability, and the good disposition
which God shall give us.



486 THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH

SERM. This is called in holy Scripture, lending unto the Lord;

so that we are sure of a good paymaster ; and it Avill still be

better for us, if the payment is deferred till after our death.
And indeed this is so necessary a preparation for death,

[Tobit4. 9.] that it is called, a gathering to ourselves a good reward
IN the day of necessity ; than which none sure can be
greater than the day of death.

And therefore most thoughtful people, lest they should be

[1 Cor. IP. wanting in this duty, do follow the apostle's advice, and "do

1.'] " " regularly lay by them in store, according as God has pros-
pered them," that they may have to give to them that need ;
and "that the Lord may deliver them in the time of trouble,"
as He has promised to do.

The next care of every Christian who desires to be always
prepared for death, must be, to see that his faith be such as
it should be. A firm faith in God's Word, in His promises
and threatenings therein contained ; a firm faith in Jesus
Christ, His only Son, and our only Saviour; and that God
will, for His sake, be reconciled unto all such as with hearty
repentance turn unto Him ; lastly, a firm faith in the Holy
Ghost, and that He it is wlio enlightens the minds of such as
fear God, and that He works in them all good dispositions,

[Luke 11. and enables them to follow that which is good, "and that
°'-' God will give this Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."

Whoever has this faith, and a full resolution to order
his life accordingly, always bearing in mind what the apostle

Kom. 2. 7. assures us of, that eternal life will be the portion of those
only ivho, by continuance in well-doing, seek for glory ; such a
person, we say, is in a very good way of preparation for
death.

But that he may continue in this good way, it is also
absolutely necessary, that he close with the means of grace
which God has ordained for our salvation. That he attend
the Church carefully ; that he hear God's Word reverently ;
that he constantly pray to God; and that especially, when-
ever the memorial of Christ's death is celebrated in the
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, he receive it with great
devotion, as the most sovereign medicine for all the diseases
of the soul, and especially against that universal disease, the
fear of death.



PUT INTO PRACTICE. 4S7

He that expects to have Christ his Saviour when he dies,
must devote himself entirely to God while he lives, and very
seriously resolve, that nothing in this world shall prevail with
him to do what he beHeves will displease God.

Particularly, he will submit patiently to God's will under
all trials and afflictions, because they are of God's ordering.

He will depend upon God's good providence, both for
delivering him out of danger, and for supplying all his
wants ; and he will have great regard to every thing which
has any relation to God ; by which he will recommend him-
self to God's favour at the hour'of death, and in the day of
judgment.

And, that he may have as little as possible to answer for
with respect to his neighbour, he will endeavour to be just in
his dealings, will neither take, nor detain, nor so much as
covet, what is another's.

He will be faithful to his word, and keep his tongue from
evil-speaking, lying, and slandering, and will readily forgive
as he hopes for forgiveness from God.

He will strive to be at peace with all, and will be obedient
to his governors and pastors; and he will endeavour to do
all these things with this view, to please God. And then
he is sure to have God pleased with him.

With regard to himself, he will keep a strict watch over
his senses, lest intemperance get the mastery over him ; and,
above all things, he will be afraid of growing lukewarm and
indifferent for eternity, lest he should be surprised by death
when he least thinks of it.

Every Christian, who has been so happy as to lead such
a life as this, will have reason to hope well for himself, and
to trust in the mercy, and goodness, and promises of God,
when he comes to die. He knows that the sting of [i Cor. lo,

56.1

DEATH IS sin; that therefore an holy life must be the best
security against the fear of death.

And whoever has not been so happy as to lead such a
careful life, has no other way to secure himself against the
fear of death, and the very dreadful consequence of dying
unprepared, but to make his peace with God by a timely
repentance, by not delaying to do it one moment.

In order to this, let the number of sudden deaths oblige



488 THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH

SERM. him to count himself to be one of those who is to be sur-

'- — prised by death ; which, if any thing, will force him to set

about making the best and speediest preparation he can.

And this must be, by not hiding, but confessing the sins
of his life past; by judging and condemning himself for
them ; by putting on the most solemn resolutions of living
more Christianly for the time to come ; by begging God's
pardon and gracious assistance, to enable him to make good
his resolutions.

By keeping these resolutions in his mind, and calling



Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 3) → online text (page 43 of 49)