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day, and lives as if he flattered himself with an immortality upon earth. But the believer keeps up a famil. iar acquaintance with it. He does not think of death only when trouble embitters life and forces him to say, " I loathe it, I would not live always.” He reflects upon it when the world smiles, as well as when it
feels and confesses himself to be a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth; his hope is always infinitely superior to his enjoyments ; beyond the grave he has a house not made with hands, a city which hath foundations, a better, a heavenly country, more numerous, more endeared connections. There lies his inheritance ; there dwells his Father ; there is his eternal home. Hence we have seen even persons pofsessed of riches, honour, friends, health, and surrounded with every thing desirable, - willing to depart to “ be with Christ which is far better.”
It must however be acknowledged, that it is far more difficult to maintain this state of mind in pleasing and prosperous circumstances, than in trying and distreff ing scenes. It was a wise reflection of Charles the Fifth to the Duke of Venice, when he shewed him the Treasury of St. Mark, and the glory of his princely Palace, instead of admiring them, he said, “ These 66 are the things that make men so loathe to die." When every thing is agreeable in our condition, we are in danger of feeling a disposition to settle, and of laying, “ It is good for us to be here ;” not, “ Arile, “ let us go hence.” We think of adorning, not leaving ; of pulling down our barns and building greater, not of contracting all into the narrow limits of the grave. But it would be wise to take often realizing views of death. It would come over us as like a cloud to cool our brainless ardours; it would check: the pride of life, which so often carries us away; it would fanctify our possessions, and keep our prosperity from destroying us ; it would lead us to use foberly and profitably those talents of which fo shortly we must give up our account ; it would excite us to secure those things in their uses and effects which we cannot retain in their substance, and urge us to be “ rich in “ good works, ready to distribute, willing to commu“ nicate ; laying up in store for ourselves a good « foundation against the time to come ;” and to make ourselves “ friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, " that when we fail they may receive us into everlastu ing habitations."
Accustom yourselves therefore to reflections fo use ful, and learn to “ die daily.” Say, while walking over your fields, The hour is coming when I shall behold you no more ; when you go over your mansion, “ If I wait the grave is my house ;” as you estimate your property, “ I cannot tell who shall gather it.” This apparel which I now lay aside and resume, I shall foon lay aside for ever ; and this bed, in which I now enjoy the sleep of nature, will by and by feel me chilling it with the damps of death. “ Lord, make me “ to know mine end and the measure of my days, 66 what it is, that I may know how frail I am !" Andi furely it requires contrivance and difficulty to keepoff reflections so reasonable and falutary. Every thing is forcing the confideration upon you ; every thing is: faying, “ The time is short; it remains that they that:
és have wives be as though they had none; and they
that weep as though they wept not ; and they that <rejoice as though they rejoiced not; and they that 6 buy as though they possessed not ; and they that “ use this world as not abusing it : for the fashion of “ this world pafseth away.” I am the more diligent, fays the apostle Peter, “knowing that I must shortly « put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus 6c Christ hath shewed me.” And has he not fhewed you the same, if not by immediate revelation, yet by the language of Scripture, by the brevity of life, by the loss of connections, by perfonal decays ? “ Stand “ with your loins girded, and your lamps burning." 36 Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days and “ full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and “ is cut down : he fleeth also as “a shadow, and con“ tinueth not.” “ The fathers, where are they? and “ the prophets, do they live for ever ?" We enter the city, and fee man going to his long home, and the mourners going about the streets. We enter the fanctuary, and miss those with whom we once took fweet counsel, and went to the house of God in company; their places know tħem no more for ever. We enter our own dwellings, and painful recollection is awakened by the feats they once filled, by the books they once read and have left folded down with their own hands; we walk from room to room, and figh, “ Lova « er and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine “ acquaintance into darkness.” We examine ourselves, and find that our strength is not the strength of stones, nor are our bones brass; we are crushed before the moth; at our best estate we are altogether
vanity. And is it for such beings to live as if they were never to die! O Lord, “ so teach us to number “ our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisw dom.”
II. In these words we see something DESIRABLE. Who does not wish to have his possessions and enjoyments continued ? to escape painful revolutions in his circumstances ? “ to die in his nest ?" We talk of the benefit of affliction, but affliction simply considered is not eligible. We decry the passions, but we are required to regulate the pasmons rather than expel them. We appeal to. Scripture, but the Scripture knows nothing of a religion founded upon the ruins of humanity, and unsuitable to the life that now is. He who made us knows our frame, and does not expect us to be indifferent to pain or eafe, to fickness or health, to indigence or competency, to exile or a place where to lay our heads. These temporal things are good in themselves ; they are needful ; we have bodies as well as fouls; we have connections to provide for as well as our own persons. They are sometimes promised in Scripture. We find pious men praying for them; and their prayers are recorded with honour.. Our error in defiring them consists in two things.
First, In defiring them UNCONDITIONALLY. In praying for temporal blessings, we are always to keep a reserve upon our wishes, including submission to the will of God, and a reference to our real welfare. For we often know not what to pray for as we ought, and: may be more injured by the gratification than by the refusal. of our desires. We know ourselves very im.»
perfectly, and hence we cannot determine what influence untried circumstances would have upon our minds. Placed in the same situations with others, we may act the very part we now condemn. The changes which may take place in our character may surprise others and shock ourselves. “ Who know“ eth what is good for man in this life, all the days of “ his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow ?” Why God, and God only. Refer therefore the decision to Him ; it is your interest as well as your duty to leave him to choose all for you.
* His choice is fafer than your own,
« Of ages past inquiro-
Hence the prayer which Socrates taught his pupil Alcibiades is not unworthy the use of a Christian ; 66 That he should beseech the Supreme Being to give “ him what was good for him though he should not " ask it, and to withhold from him whatever was in«« jurious, if by his folly he fhould be led to pray * for it." ;
Secondly, When we desire them SUPREMELY. For whatever be their utility, they are not to be compared with spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Things are to be valued and pursued according to their importance. Many things are serviceable ; “ but one thing is needful.” Civil freedom is valuable ; but the glorious liberty of the sons of God is much more precious. It is well for the body to be in health ; but it is much better for the soul to prof.