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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 sanctify our possessions, and keep our prosperity from destroying us; it would lead us to use soberly and profitably those talents of which so 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 com"municate; 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 everlasting habitations."
Accustom yourselves therefore to reflection so useful, 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 soon lay aside forever; 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, "what it is, that I may know how frail I am!" And surely it requires contrivance and difficulty to keep off reflection so reasonable and salutary. Every thing is forcing the consideration upon you; every thing is saying, "The time is short; it remains that they that
"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 "buy as though they possessed not; and they that "use this world as not abusing it for the fashion of "this world passeth away." I am the more diligent, says the apostle Peter, "knowing that I must shortly "put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus
Christ hath shewed me." And has he not shewed 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 personal decays? "Stand "with your loins girded, and your lamps burning." "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 see man going to his long home, and the mourners going about the streets. We enter the sanctuary, and miss those with whom we once took sweet counsel, and went to the house of God in company; their places know them no more for ever. We enter our own dwellings, and painful recollection is awakened by the seats 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 sigh, "Lov
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 FFf
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 wis"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 passions 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 ease, to sickness 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 souls; 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 desiring them consists in two things.
First, In desiring 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 safer than your own,
Hence the prayer which Socrates taught his pupil Alcibiades is not unworthy the use of a Christian; "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 injurious, if by his folly he should 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 pros
per. Silver and gold are useful; but there are durable riches with righteousness. It is pleasing to die in our nest; but it is much more desirable to die even in a prison or upon a dung-hill, if we can say with Simeon, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart "in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have "seen thy salvation."
III. In these words we find something very COMMON. It is affluence and ease cherishing confidence and presumption. It is a supposition that we shall have no changes because we feel none. The consequence is natural, and it is easily explained. Present things most powerfully impress the mind. Take a man in trouble, and with what difficulty will you persuade him to expect better days. The gloom of his situation darkens his very soul, and the burden of his affliction presses and keeps down every cheerful sentiment. Take a man in agreeable circumstances, and his feelings will give a colour to future scenes; every thing will appear favourable because every thing is easy; the mind, softened down by indulgence, shrinks even from the contemplation of difficulties; and when experience has not furnished him with any instances of the precariousness of worldly things, he leans on these supports too firmly, and does not suspect that they will give way. Hence Agur prefers mediocrity to wealth; "Lest I be full and deny thee, "and say, Who is the Lord?" Hence we are to charge the rich, "not to trust in uncertain riches." The admonition implies the tendency there is in the affluent to indulge such a dependence. Having friends