27 SEPTEMBER (PREACHED NEW YEAR’S MORNING, 1770)
Work at dying!
‘I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.’ 1 Corinthians 15:31
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: 1 Corinthians 15:50–58
What is it to die daily? It is a believer’s work and his only. It is not merely to entertain frequent thoughts of death—to converse much with funerals and tombstones and to repeat often to ourselves that we are all mortal. Many things of this kind may be done with much formality. A friend of mine has told me that when he first began to have serious thoughts, he proposed a great advantage to himself: he could daily think of death. And for this purpose he procured a skull out of a churchyard, which for a time he had always lying upon his chamber table that he might look at it night and morning and say, ‘This is what I must come to.’ For a few days this seemed to affect him, but a little use took off the impression and it was no more to him than the table it lay upon. In fact, we see that few people are more hardened to the thoughts of death than many whose business calls them to be much employed about dying or dead people. Nothing of this kind will truly affect the heart, but so far as we understand the influence of the light of faith.
I shall mention two things. Firstly, to die daily is constantly to resign ourselves into the hand and will of God with respect to the time and manner of our death, an event which we are sure must soon take place, and we are uncertain when [for the second point see 5/6].
FOR MEDITATION: We are now going down the hill of life. Oh, my Lord, cast us not off in our old age, forsake us not when our strength faileth. But do thou strengthen us according to our day! I trust thou wilt. Into thy gracious hands I commend myself and her [Polly, his wife]. I rejoice that future events, to us unknown, are under thy direction. There I would leave them. I pray that we may live with thee from day to day without anxiety. Help us to redeem the time, to fill up the uncertain remainder in a manner more suitable to thy will and our obligations than we have yet done. And when the summons shall at length arrive, may it find us waiting, willing, longing to leave all below, that we may see thee as thou art and be with thee for ever.
Diary, 12 February 1784
SERMON: 1 CORINTHIANS 15:31 [2/6]