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THAT we must all die, is a fact fo known and certain, that, at sirst view, one would think no man needed to be reminded of. it. None are fo ignorant or vain, as to promise themselves an immortality on earth; and, however disserent their course and (lation of lise may be, yet all expect to be lodged at lad in the house of mourning, in the folitary grave for that, they know, is appointed for all men.
But although this truth be obvious, and univerfally acknowledged, yet the far greater part of mankind seldom think of death; and much less frequently do they make those instructive reflections on it, which a subject of this importance should require. All of us need a monitor, to proclaim in our ears, with aa audible and awakening voice, " Remember, man, "that thou must die." And the most of us need to be taught aud directed, to what excellent -purposes
our our meditations on this solemn and awsul subject; should be improved.
It is to assist you in such reflections., that I haver chosen this passage of scripture; " Man dieth, and wasteth "away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where "is he?"
From the beginning of this chapter, to the 7th verse, Job gives us a lively and afsecting view of the shortness of lise, and the miseries that replenish it. In the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses, he compares the death of a man to the cutting down of n tree; and shews that the latter, in some respects, has the advantage of the former. " For there is hope of a tree, "if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and "that the tender branch thereof will not cease. "Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, "and the stock thereof die in the ground: jet, "through the scent of water, it will bud, and bring "forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and ** wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and "where is he The rational foul, whenever it letires from the body, is too great, too noble a thing, to be recalled by any of the powers of Nature; the sun or the rain cannot affect it; nor can it be restored to the body, except by the immediate operations of the Almighty. Man dieth, ,and man giveth up the ghost. The sirst word translated Man, signisies, in the original language, a great and mighty man; the second, signisies a poor or mean man; plainly intimating, that death makes no distinction; that it enters into the palaces of the great, as well as the cottages.of the poor. The mighty cannot resist its force; the treasures of the rich cannot bribe its. delay; there is no discharge in that war, neither snail wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
"Man dieth." This is a general account of that great change we must all undergo. The expression is awsul and solemn; an expression that ssiouhl humble the pride of man, and hide vanity from his eyes. It is added," he wasteth, away," or, as the word may be rendered, dered," he is cut off." The original language allows it to be taken in both senses; and the meaning is, that some waste away, and decay gradually, through languishing sickness and pain; while others are snatched; away in a moment, perhaps in the vigour of their strength, and the bloom of their years; and, in both cases, they are cut off from this world and all its enjoyments. It is subjoined, " man giveth up the ghost j" which fome tranflate, *l his breath departeth ;" his organs of lise cease to operate; and though it be true that this happens when men die, yet, there is a much more important truth contained in this expression. "He giveth up the ghost that is, he giveth up, or surrenders his foul or spirit, which is she true - signisication of the word Ghost, in scripture: and this represents death to us in another light, namely, as it is a separation between the foul and the body. Then foilows that folemn question in the end of the verse, *? And where is he?" By this question, Job does not suppose that the foul was annihilated by death ; for the former expression, as we. have explained it, proves the contrary; and he declares his belief in a suture state, in many passages of this book. But when the body is buried in the grave, and becomes the food of corruption, who can tell what becomes of the foul? It takes its flight into an invisible world; and .who can, with any certainty, determine its fate there? Who can positively fay, concerning this or that particular perfon; where he is? And indeed it is a very awsul consideration to think where they are who have given up thte ghost, and where we ourselves shall be, when we shall go into eternity.
The words thus explained, represent death to us in three points of view, each of them sull of instruction, and insinitely important. First, As it cuts- us off from the world, aird ail its enjoyments •- §crondly, As it is a separation of the foul from the body: and, Thirdly, As it is the passage to a new and unknownstate. These I shall endeavour to illustrate, and leadyour thoughts to a practical improvement of each.
I. I^et us consider death, as it cuts us off from the world, and all its enjoyments.
It is the conclusion of human lise, which shuts up its transitory scenes, and hufries the actors from the stage. As, in the midnight hour, an entire stop is put to the labour of the day, and all things seem to be wrapt up in silence and obscurity; fo, when death hath overtaken us, all the actions and enjoyments of this lise entirely cease; all the momentary affairs and pleasures of it are past and gone for ever. But, more particularly,
i. Death cuts off the mighty from their honours'. ** Man," fays the Pfalmist, " being in honour^ ** abideth not, but is like the beasts that perish; '* for when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away: ** his glory shall not descend after him, nor his "honour into the grave." They that are now surrounded with multitudes of guards and attendants* that command great armies and mighty kingdoms; in a little their honour shall be laid in the dust: And when they come to this house appointed for all living, the meanest of their subjects shall be on the fame le* vel. Honour and preferment make a great noise m the world. How many court them! How are they envied, who possess a distinguished rank among menl -' How many arts must be practised to acquire and preserve it! What importance do men assume! What homage do they expect from all who crowd around them! And yet, ift a little time, death will lay them in the grave with the meanest of the people. No marks of their former power and greatness, appear in their ghastly remains; but all lie down alike in the dust, and become the food of corruption and of worms. The good order, indeed, and government of the world, require, that those who are in possession of honour,.should be respected : but it concerns them to remember, that they will foon be undistinguished in the grave, and their dust mingle with common dust. What, then, is human greatness? A shining meteor, a painted cloud, which being raised out of the ground, will foon fall back to it again.
. 2. Death cuts us off from the wealth and possessions of this world: " Wise men die," say3 the Psalmist, " likewise the fool and the brutish person pe"rish, and leave their wealth to others." Men rise up early, and watch to a late hour; they are sull of anxiety and care; some, that they may enlarge their treasures, and others, that they may procure the necessary supports of lise: but, in a little, they must go down to the silent grave, and whose shall those things be? 'While the man of the world is employed with the greatest anxiety in adding house to house, and sield to sield; in preserving and increasing his stores; death, in a moment, puts an end to his busy cares; it tears him from all his beloved treasures; and he that, a little before, was grasping at vast possessions, must now take up for his mansion, a solitary cave in the dust of the earth. Riches, acquired by the most honourable means, are vain and unavailing to the man who lies at the point of death. If they are the fruits of oppression or of avarice, they are a heavy load on his conscience.
3. Death cuts us off from all those pleasures and amusements of lise, which are consined to the body, and of a sensual nature. These are so delusive to many, that their whole lives are spent in the pursuit of them. The whole, or at least the greater part of their time, is consumed on sinsul pleasures, or, at best, on vain and idle amusements. But death will soon put an end to all these. The sons and daughters of pleasure may, for a while, indulge in carnal joy, and pass a sew days, perhaps years, in dissipation and vanity; nay, they may, with Solomon, eagerly pursue all the delights of the sons of men, and not withhold. their hearts from any joy : But, in a. little, and they know not how soon, their eyes will be closed in darkness, and nothing remain of their former pleasures, but the painsul remembrance of their guilt and folly. In a word, they may now spend their days in the excess of mirth and riot; but, • M i»