When you draw near your end, when there are but a few steps between you and the grave, between you and eternity; when you have but a little time to live, when death stands at your back, and treads on your heels, and knocks at your door; when the eyes begin to grow dark, when the grinders begin to cease, when the keepers of the housethe hands and the armsbegin to tremble, and when the strong menthe legs and thighsbegin to bow and stagger, and totter, as being too weak to bear the body's burden, Eccl. 12:2-5. Oh then! what a holy people should you be!
This very consideration had a very great influence upon that great apostle's spirit, "So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things." 2 Peter 1:12-15 [There is a sinful sluggishness and drowsiness that often hangs upon the best of men, and therefore they stand in much need of being awakened and roused up, to look after their spiritual and eternal concernments.]
The apostle having the sentence of death in himself, oh, how does he bestir himself, and how does he stir up all that grace and holiness that was in his heart, yes, in all his ministerial and apostolical gifts, and all to better himself, and to make those who were genuinely holy, to be eminently holy! Peter being very sensible of the near approaches of death, did very earnestly desire, and greatly endeavor so to act his part before he went off the stage of life, that when his head was in the dust, and his soul in heaventhose saints that should survive him might be very famous in grace and holiness.
O sirs! when once the gray hairs of holiness and righteousness are upon you, it highly concerns you to shun the very shows and appearances of evil, so that you may not spot nor stain the honor of your white head. I have read of Joshua, that valiant soldier, that when he was a young man, and in the prime and flower of his days, when his "bones were full of marrow," as Job speaks, that then he was least in vigor and valor for God, and how that sometimes in cases of imminent danger he would hide himself; but when he grew older, and found the strength of nature declining and decaying, then he bestirred himself exceedingly for God.
O sirs! when you have one foot in the grave, God calls aloud upon you to bestir yourselves exceedingly for His honor and glory, and for your own internal and eternal welfare! Solon was not ashamed to say that he learned much in his old age. And Julianius, the lawyer, was accustomed to say that when he had one foot in the grave, he would have the other in the school. O sirs! shall nature do more than grace? Shall morality excel genuine piety? It was the glorious commendation of the church of Thyatira that her last works were greater than her first, Rev. 2:19, "I know your worksyour love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first." Oh, the happiness of that man who is best at lastwho brings forth most of the fruits of righteousness and holiness in old age. Oh, the blessedness of that man whose faith is more strong at last than at first; and whose love is more inflamed at last than at first; and whose hopes are more raised and elevated at last than at first; and whose knowledge is more clear at last than at first; and whose zeal is warmer at last than at first; and whose thoughts are more heavenly at last than at first; and whose heart is more spiritual at last than at first; and whose communion with God is more high at last than at first; and whose life is more holy at last than at first!
If there be any man in the world that is ripe for heaven, and that enjoys a heaven in his own soul on this side heaven, this is the man whose graces, and whose gracious works, are more at last than at first. Well, Christians, forever remember this, the nearer death makes her approaches to you, the louder God calls upon you to be holy.
And thus, by a hand of grace, which has been in me, upon me, and with meI have showed you what those special times and seasons are, wherein God calls loudest for holiness, and so, according to my weak measure, I have given out all that the Lord has graciously given in, concerning that most necessary, that most noble, that most glorious, and that most useful point of points of holiness; and therefore I have nothing more to do but earnestly to pray that what has been spoken and written may be so blessed from on high, that it may work mightily to the internal and eternal welfare both of writer, reader, and hearerso that, when their race is run, and their work done here on earth, they may be everlastingly blessed with a happy sight of the beatifical vision of God in heaven! Amen.