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certain that they shall die at the time, the place, and under every circumstance, that God has appointed. Death is on his way to meet them, and he is an unavoidable, unresistible, and an unpitying enemy. How reasonable and how important is it, that they should realize their dying nature and dying condition . They are continually seeing the sentence of death carried into effect, among the young and the old, the strong and the feeble, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the useful and the useless. The arrows of death are constantly flying around them, and cutting down one and another on their right hand and on their left. It is criminal stupidity in the living, to forget that they are dying creatures. . But such stupidity possesses the minds of the great majority of mankind. They feel, and live, and act, as though they thought they should never die. And God, who knows their inmost thoughts, has told them, they do think they shall never die. “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations.” It must be exceedingly displeasing to God, for his dependent and dying creatures to indulge such vain, presumptuous and criminal thoughts. It becomes them to think more soberly and humbly of themselves, and realize that they are born to die, and are actually dying daily, and drawing nearer and nearer to the grave, and that vast eternity which lies beyond it. It is only for God, in whose hand their breath is, to withdraw his supporting hand, and they must cease to breathe. For “there is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war.” Instead of boasting of to-morrow, every one ought to feel the spirit and speak the language of David. “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am.” It is God alone, who can so teach us to number our days, as to apply our hearts unto wisdom. No one can act wisely for time or eternity, who does not habitually realize his frailty and mortality, and feel and act as a dying Creature. 4. Since God can preserve or cut short the lives of men, just as he pleases, death commonly comes to them unexpected. They are very ready to remember that God can preserve their lives as long as he pleases, but they are extremely apt to forget that he has an appointed time to put a period to their lives. And if they do sometimes reflect that he has such an appointed time, yet they never know when that time will come. If they are in health, they hope and expect God will continue to preserve it. If they are sick, they hope and expect that God will remove their sickness, and still prolong their lives; and the oftener he has graciously recovered them, the stronger are their hopes and expectations that he will recover them again and again, if they are sick. If God has saved them once or oftener from great and imminent dangers, they cherish stronger and stronger hopes of his preserving goodness; so that, in every situation, they forget God's appointed time, and put far away the evil day. Hence they imagine that they are always about to live, and never about to die; and of consequence, let death come when it may, it commonly comes unexpectedly both to the living and to the dying. If any disorder attacks the young or the old, they hope it will abate; but if it does not abate, they hope it will come to a crisis, and they shall recover, until a few days, or a few hours, before they actually expire. And their friends commonly entertain the same flattering hopes. So that in most instances persons die unexpectedly to themselves and others. The living generally desire and hope to have some previous warning of their approaching dissolution. But though God does give them premonitions and warnings of their appointed time, they will generally disregard or misconstrue such friendly admonitions, and prepare themselves and others for a grievous disappointment. As they know not God's appointed time, they are fond of appointing their own time of death; and their time is commonly far more distant than God's appointed time; but still they live and depend upon their own time, which is a most dangerous delusion, that has destroyed the souls of thousands. It is extreme folly in the young especially to depend upon long life, when they see and know that but a small proportion of mankind ever live to old age. They have much more ground to expect that God will not carry them even to old age, than that he will. Their depending upon life directly tends to prepare them for a great and fatal disappointment. And it is still more unwise and dangerous for the aged to hope and expect that they shall live much longer. They know that their appointed time cannot be far distant, whether their constitution be strong or feeble, or whether their health continues or declines. They have no time to lose, but need to employ it as good old Barzillai did his, in preparing for a dying hour. 5. Since God can shorten or preserve life, just as he pleases, none can enjoy life without becoming truly religious. All their interests for time and eternity are suspended upon the sovereign will and appointment of God, who has determined the precise time of their probationary state, and concealed that time from them. They live on sparing and distinguishing mercy, and they know not when that distinguishing and forfeited mercy may fail. They are in a dangerous situation, and there are continually objects and events occurring which they cannot avoid, and which silently and solemnly remind them of their dangerous and critical situation. Those, therefore, who are destitute of religion are all their life-time subject to bondage through fear of death. If they have health, they cannot enjoy it in peace. If they have friends, they cannot enjoy them in peace. If they have prosperity, they cannot enjoy it in peace. If they are in trouble, the uncertainty of life increases it. Indeed, there is no peace to the graceless; for they are not reconciled to the appointment of God, respecting the day of their death; and while they are unreconciled to this, there is nothing in the universe that can give them solid comfort. Let God give them ever so many good things, this availeth them not, whenever they think of the appointed and unknown time of death, which will strip them of all they hold most desirable and valuable, and destroy all their future and eternal hopes. They can find no peace until they become at peace with God, and exercise that supreme love to him which will produce faith, repentance, submission, hope and confidence. These pure and holy affections constitute vital piety, which prepares all who possess it for peace and comfort in all conditions of life. But neither the young nor the old, neither the rich nor the poor, neither the prosperous nor the afflicted, can have peace, until they hope in God through grace. Godliness with contentment is great gain. No person can live comfortably without it. All the apparent peace and comfort, which the unholy, the unsubmissive, and the ungodly flatter themselves that they enjoy, is owing to nothing but stupidity and delusion, out of which they must sooner or later awake into remorse and despair. They stand on slippery places, and their feet will slide at God's appointed time. It is presumption in them to expect that God will give them warning long enough beforehand to prepare for death, or that he will cause them to take warning and prepare for the solemn event. They have much more reason to fear that God will cut off their lives suddenly and unexpectedly, and hurry them into eternity. Finally, since God always brings about every one's death at the appointed and best time, mourners always have reason to exercise cordial and unreserved submission to his bereaving hand. He does not afflict willingly, or unwisely, or prematurely. He fixes the time of every death in a full view of all its antecedents, attendants and consequences. He regards with an equal and impartial eye both the dying and the living. He is never absent from the dying at the moment they expire. He is never an unconcerned spectator. He feels compassion towards them that weep, though he does not weep with them. He not only does right, but he does well, with respect to both the dead and the living. Why then should the living ever murmur or complain They ought to be thankful that God spared the dead so long, and that he has spared them still longer. In sparing their lives, he has bestowed a good upon them, greater than the evil he has inflicted by his bereaving hand.
Those who have recently lost a son, or a daughter, or a brother, ought to be still, and not open their mouths; for God has done it, and done it in perfect wisdom and goodness. It is true that they all have reason to mourn, but especially those who have been bereaved of a brother in the morning of life. The death of a young man of an amiable disposition, of respectable talents, of a reputable profession, and of a regular life, is a just cause of mourning and regret, not only to his nearest relatives but to all his friends and acquaintance. But neither a brother nor sister have any right to say, Lord, hadst thou been present, my brother had not died. God was present, and has done his pleasure, which is a solid ground, not only of submission, but of consolation. And if they only improve this bereavement aright, they will have reason to say, and be disposed to say, that it has been good for them that they have been afflicted and bereaved.
And now the death of Dr. KINGs BURY solemnly admonishes those of his age to be ready also. He was born and brought up with them, and shared in their esteem and regard, and was as likely, to human appearance, to live, as they were when he died, or are now. You have a demonstration that you are the monuments of God's sparing mercy; and will you not devote your spared lives to the service of your kind Creator and Preserver ? Boast not of to-morrow. Another year, or another month, or even another week, may close your eyes in death. “Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.”
WOL. III. 28
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth ; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. – Eccl. xi. 9.
Youths have often been compared to trees in their bloom; but, like beautiful and promising blossoms, they often disappoint the hopes they inspire. It depends upon the principles they imbibe, and the courses they pursue, whether they shall or shall not be blessings to their parents, to their friends, and to their fellow creatures. Those who have lived to acquire the wisdom of piety and experience, have always felt a tender solicitude for the rising generation, and endeavored to guide and guard them in their young and inexperienced age. Solomon possessed all the wisdom which piety and experience could teach. He knew what it was to remember his Creator in the days of his youth, and to pour out his heart before him in prayer and praise. And he knew by experience the evil and folly of walking in the ways of his heart and in the sight of his eyes. This excited in his breast a peculiar concern for those who were coming upon the stage of life, and were about to be exposed to all the dangers of this smiling and ensnaring world. His paternal feelings for the safety and happiness of the young, he expresses in terms the best adapted to make a strong and deep impression on their minds. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” I propose in the present discourse,