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from one person or created object to another. If God takes away one idol, which they have set up in their hearts, they will set up another, and place their dependence and hopes upon it. When he takes away one child from parents, they will transfer their affections, and hopes, and dependence to another. When God removed from Jacob his darling son Joseph, he made a darling of his son Benjamin, and his heart became bound up in him. When parents lose an only child, or all the children they have had, they will deeply lament their loss, until they fix their supreme love, hope and dependence on their silver and gold, houses and lands, or other worldly possessions. In all such cases, afflictions and bereavements lead men from God, from duty, and from heaven. But when fiery trials and sore bereavements lead men to trust in God and place their supreme affections, hopes and dependence upon him, and cause them to renounce all their undue attachment to the world, and all the scenes and objects in it, then they produce their proper salutary effects. They then have reason to thank God that he has purged their hearts from their dross and tin in the furnace of affliction. You have all of you, my hearers, been more or less afflicted and bereaved. Some of you have buried brothers and sisters. Some of you have buried sons and daughters. Some of you have buried husbands and wives. Some of you have lost intimate and highly valued friends and acquaintance. And some of you have had a large share in the common evils and calamities of life. Though all these trials, afflictions and bereavements have been transitory, yet their effects have been great and permanent. He who has asilicted you has watched over you every moment, and marked all the conflicts of your minds and motions of your hearts, under his chastising hand. He has seen whether you have trusted in man, or in himself; whether you have renounced your refuges of lies, and taken shelter in his name, as the strong tower of your safety and support. Will you then be so good to yourselves as seriously and impartially to inquire, whether you have from time to time come out of the furnace of affliction purified and refined, or become reprobate silver, because you have rejected the Lord as the supreme object of your hopes and dependence. These are serious and important questions, which every one ought to answer to himself according to truth. You may know, if you examine your own hearts, whether you have learned to submit to and depend upon God, as the ground of your hope, consolation and confidence, by the things you have suffered in the course of life. This is the duty of all, but especially of those who have just been bereaved of an aged father," upon whom they had as much reason to place a subordinate dependence as almost any children ever had. Their father set them a bright example of sobriety, temperance, prudence, industry, economy, paternal care and affection, and indeed of every domestic virtue. God preserved his life, his health, o and usefulness, in mercy to them, even to a very old age. They have good reason to remember and imitate his exemplary life, and to be thankful for the great benefits they have received from his paternal care over them and kindness to them. And, if they are thankful to God for giving them such a valued and esteemed father, they will be cordially submissive to him in taking him away so late in life, though very suddenly and unexpectedly. It becomes them to be still, and not indulge nor utter the least complaint under their sore bereavement, because a wise and holy and merciful God has done it. The brothers, and sisters, and friends of the deceased, have the same reasons to be thankful and submissive under the present afflictive hand of God. Mr. WARE acted with great propriety, integrity and fidelity in all the relations, connections and stations in which he was placed. He commanded the love, respect, and proper confidence of his neighbors, who highly esteemed him for his friendly and obliging disposition, and his beneficent and sympathetic conduct, on all proper occasions. In the lower and higher offices he filled, he uniformly sustained a fair, unblemished character for sound judgment, strict integrity, and an uniform regard for the good of civil society. He was frequently chosen to offices of public trust and confidence, and it is not known that he ever designedly or undesignedly betrayed the public trusts reposed in him. But he was a frail, mutable, mortal man, in whom no supreme trust was to be placed. His breath has gone forth, he has returned to his earth, and all his useful thoughts, intentions and desires towards those whom he has left behind, are perished. This is not a private, but public loss, which ought to be lamented not only by his children and brothers and sisters, but by this whole town, who have received not a little benefit from his long, active, useful live. He died an old man; and old men in particular ought to regard his decease as a solemn admonition to be also ready, to finish their course, and give up their last and infinitely solemn and interesting account.
For man also knoweth not his time : as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare ; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. – EccLEs. ix. 12.
IN the preceding verse, Solomon represents mankind as continually liable to be disappointed in their most sanguine hopes, expectations and pursuits. “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” And he subjoins the text, that the uncertainty of life is the general occasion of their disappointments. “For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.” These words imply, that mankind naturally desire and hope that their life will be preserved and continued; but yet that their desires and hopes of living are often disappointed, by death's coming to them in an evil time suddenly and unexpectedly. The truth of this observation has been visibly and strikingly confirmed by the experience of mankind from age to age, ever since the sentence of mortality has been passed upon them. Hence we may conclude, That men are unwise in expecting to live long in this world. I shall inquire, I. Why men are so apt to expect to live long in this world; and, II. Why they are unwise in cherishing this expectation. I. Let us inquire why men are so apt to expect to live long in this world. It needs no proof that they are apt to expect that their lives will be prolonged even to old age. It is the inward thought, hope and expectation of those in the morning, in the meridian, and even in the decline of life, that they shall live many days, if not many years. There is not, perhaps, a single individual, who has come to years of reflection, that does not hope and expect to live longer in the world. But the question before us is, why do mankind so generally expect to have their lives prolonged 2 This may be owing to two things. One is, that they naturally love life. There is nothing in this world that they deem more precious and valuable, than life. “Skin for skin; all that a man hath will he give for his life.” Solomon says, “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.” This is a beautiful world, and contains ten thousand things which are suited to please its rational inhabitants, and create a fondness for living. Hezekiah regretted that his days should be cut off, and that he should no more behold man with the inhabitants of the world. David said to God, “Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee.” Since men naturally love life and desire to live, they as naturally hope and expect to live. They naturally and insensibly attend to every thing which serves to cherish their fond expectation, and easily persuade themselves that their expectation is well founded. The health they have enjoyed, the dangers they have escaped, the preservations they have experienced, the means they have used and intend to use to lengthen out their days all serve to corroborate and confirm their pleasing expectation that their lives shall be long continued. But their dread of death is another strong and powerful reason why they cherish the expectation of living to the latest period of human life. Death is generally the king of terrors to the most of mankind, which leads them to put far away the evil day, and turn their attention from those truths, those objects, and those scenes, which they know have a tendency to remind them of their frailty and mortality, and weaken their expectation of living. It is not strange, therefore, that their dread of death should strengthen their love of life; and their love of life should cherish, increase and confirm their desire, their hope, and their expectation of living for a great while to come. Men often suffer their high hopes and expectations respecting other things besides life, to blind their minds and stifle the plainest dictates of sound reason. Their natural love of life, and their natural dread of death, are causes sufficient to account for their stupid and absurd thought and expectation, that they shall live for ever and not see corruption. We are next to inquire,
II. Why it is unwise in persons of all ages, characters, and conditions, to harbor and cherish the expectation of living long in this world. Here I may observe,
1. This is unwise, because God has designedly concealed the length of their days. He has not told them how long they shall live, nor how soon they shall die; though he has assured them that he has determined the number of their months, and fixed the bounds over which they cannot pass. He has said to every one, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” He has said, “It is appointed unto all men once to die.” He has said, “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.” And he has said, “Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.” So plainly and repeatedly has he pronounced the sentence of death upon all mankind; but he has reserved the times of executing this sentence upon each individual in his own power. Though he has determined when, and where, and by what means every person shall die, yet he has concealed all these things in his own breast, and revealed them to no man living. All that the living know upon this subject is, that there is “a time to be born, and a time to die.” No man, therefore, says the text, knoweth his time; that is, the time of his dying. Since God has involved all men in this absolute darkness and ignorance respecting the time of their decease, they are very unwise to consider it as an evidence of long life; for it is no more an evidence of a long than of a short life. And God has undoubtedly subjected them to this dark and disagreeable uncertainty respecting this most solemn and interesting event, to check and restrain their too fond desires and expectations of living a great while in the world. In the view of reason, this uncertainty has a tendency to keep death continually in view, and not to push it out of sight and out of mind. And when it is realized in a time of sickness or danger, it seldom fails of producing this salutary effect. It is extremely unwise in mankind to build, as multitudes do, high hopes and expectations of living upon the very uncertainty of life.
2. It is very unwise in men to calculate upon long life, because they are continually liable to innumerable unknown and unavoidable causes of death. Every creature and object in this world is armed against the life of man. He is in danger from the air, the earth, the fire and the water. Each of these elements has destroyed the lives of thousands. He is in danger from every living creature that flies, or moves, or creeps upon the earth, or swims in the stream or ocean. He is in