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3. Observe further, from the history before laid down, how miserable, how melancholy a thing it is, for a man to have sinned to such a degree as to be entirely abandoned by God, and to have the best friend in the world become his enemy. There is no condition so disconsolate, so deplorable as that is: let him sit down to invent and contrive ever so long; there is no expedient that can help him, no contrivance but what will turn against him, and will increase his misery, instead of relieving it. What could unhappy Saul do in his pressing difficulties? God would not assist him, and no one else could. He might think of his court flatterers, or of his ablest counsellors, and of his troops and armies: but nothing in this world could give him comfort, or afford him relief. Then he thought of dead Samuel, whom he had often despised and slighted while alive: and, to show how a sinking man will lay hold on every twig, he was foolish enough to imagine, that he might steal a favour from God's servant Samuel, when he could not obtain one from God himself. He made the experiment, and in a very odd way, as you have heard; and how at length it ended, I have described at large. Let this sad example convince every man who attends to it, how impossible, how impracticable it is, to lay any scheme of happiness which shall at all answer, without first taking care to make God his friend: without this, all our toils and endeavours come to nothing it is but building in the air, or labouring for the wind. What can a man do, when God becomes his enemy, or but ceases to be his friend! Can he hide himself from his presence! Can he run beyond the reach of his power! If he could climb up into heaven, God is there; and if he goes down into hell, even there also will his hand find him, and his vengeance pursue him. Search the whole universe for a moment's protection, and it is all to no purpose: for all is in God's hands; to him all creatures bow, and every element submits to his will and pleasure. The sum then is, that the only way to happiness is, to strike up an in
terest, a league of amity with God, and never to swerve from it, for any temptation, any allurement whatsoever. Make but him your friend, and in him you have all; as on the other hand, by losing him, you are sure to lose every thing that is valuable together with him.
The practical conclusion from the whole is, that we learn to set a true value upon God's favour and friendship, and that we use our utmost endeavours both to procure and to preserve it: and as nothing will do it but a good and holy life, and that certainly will; we may from hence infer the absolute, indispensable necessity of making religion our first and principal care, as it is our last and our greatest concern. So much for the use and application of this famous part of sacred history.
4. There is a slighter, incidental use, which might have been taken notice of by the way, which yet I passed over, and shall here but just mention; and that is, the argument to be drawn from this instance, to prove that souls exist separate from the body after death; and do not only exist, but are awake and active, and have their intellectual powers in perfection. But as that may be abundantly proved from other places of Scripture less liable to dispute, we need not insist much upon this. Indeed I cannot say that there is, in the whole Scripture, any plain and unexceptionable instance of a departed soul's appearing and talking upon earth, if this be not one: Moses once, and Elias came down and talked with our blessed Saviour; but whether in the body or out of the body, we cannot tell, God knoweth : however, the question, as to separate souls existing and acting after death, does by no means depend upon any examples of apparitions, but is sufficiently proved by many and clear testimonies of sacred Writ, as might be shown at large, were this the proper place for it: but I designed only a short hint of this matter, that I might not seem entirely to have passed it over through forgetfulness or haste.
And now I should beseech you, after this short inter
ruption, to let your thoughts return to the principal thing of all; namely, the necessity of looking after and procuring God's friendship by a good and holy life: which, that we may all seriously think of, and with good effect, God of his mercy grant, through Jesus Christ our Lord!