« EelmineJätka »
death may want his sting; so that you may triumph over bim; have sin, which is his sting, finally destroyed.
II. BUT SECONDLY, my dear fellow sinners, if the certainty of death will not affect you, let me try what the uncertainty will do. You say, you know, as well as I can tell you, that you must die; then consider, at such an hour as ye think not, death may come..
1. We all allow the certainty of the thing, but the time when, is a secret which - was ever hid from mortals. We do not
find any of the patriarchs could ascertain the precise time wben God would call them hence. They could conjecture from their advanced years, that, their days would be soon extinct, that the graves were waiting for them; and that according to the course of nature they must go down to the barrs of the pit; and as such waited for the hour as for salvation. Moses and Aaron might have the clearest presentiments of any that we read of; each was ordered to ascend a mount, and there wait till the Almighty called their immortal spirits home. Saul seemed to have the most punctual notice, when Samuel said, To-morrow, thou, and thy sons shall be with me. (a)
But it does not appear as if Saul understood what Samuel meant. Nor does it
(a) 2 Sam, xxviii. 19,
appear that God revealed this secret to any of the prophets, except Elijah might have some intimation, when he should be taken to glory. But we must remember, his exit was a translation and not death. The foreknowledge of St. Paul was in consequence of the sentence either already passed, or which he expected daily from a bloody Nero, that made him say, I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. These are all singular and exempt cases, and therefore militate not in any wise against the general proposition.
2. THIS uncertainty should excite us to a diligent use of every means of grace. We see uncertainty has this influence upon men engaged in worldly avocations; they are instant in season and out of season. It is so in husbandry, in trade, in naval concerns and in military operations. All who mean to succeed in any of those concerns well know that, if a desired end is to be obtained, the proper means must be used which lead to that end. And in this respect the children of this world are wiser than the children of light. God can do without what we call means; but he has no where said that he will; and we seldom find him exerting his miraculous power, but where the ordinary methods fail. As soon as the children of Israel came into a land of corn and wine, the manna ceased. We are highly favoured
in this land with opportunities of all sorts. God meets the prejudices of his poor creatures, and many doors are open; and yet it is lamentable how few regard any means of grace whatever.
If we had not liberty of conscience, or if there was but one profession of christianity allowed, we should hear loud complaints enough; but that pretence is taken away; we have various forms and denominations, and we are at liberty where to make our choice; and therefore God and men are clear; and if the sinner will run upon his own ruin, his blood must be upon his own head. Serious and awful are the words of the poet,
In death's uncertainty thy danger lies.
YES, my friends, hear, read, mark and inwardly digest the word of life. Pray without ceasing, eat that bread and drink that cup in remembrance that Christ died for thee. - 3. THE uncertainty is a strong admonition to avoid all sin; yea, even sinful thoughts, sinful tempers and desires, as well as words and actions. I own the motive is of the lowest kind; but however, it is lawful, and even expedient; and it is what the scriptures continually make use of, or all the threatenings would avail nothing. But we need every stimulation, and the threatenings are kind warnings to avoid the ruin which is before us.
It is true, the christian acts from nobler motives; for the love of Christ, constrains him. He finds the service of God his delight, and to him it is perfect freedom. He cannot tread under foot his Saviour; he cannot tear his wounds open, or crucify the Son of God afresh; and therefore, though sin offers itself in the most pleasing form, he rejects it with abhorrence, saying, How shall I do this wickedness and sin against God? Like good old Polycarp, when called upon, by the proconsul, to swear by the image of Cæsar, and blaspheme Christ, and he would release him: “ fourscore and six years,“said the venerable champion,” has Christ been my master, and he has been always kind, how can I blaspheme my Saviour and my king?” That was noble and saint-like. I own I admire such heroism, and wish to imitate it..
BUT, as Kempis obseryes, if the love of Christ will not constrain thee, let the fear of hell do it. Indeed we need every motive, and all will be found in many cases too little. And remember, if death should surprise thee in a fit of anger, or undue levity, or burning with revenge, or impure
desire, would such a soul be fit to enter the pure mansions of unsullied light? or into the presence of him, before whom the angels veil their faces, and all the shining ranks fall down at his feet!
I presume you do not believe that there is any efficacy in death to purify unholy souls, or that there is a purgatory to prepare us for heaven, Othen sinner, prepare to meet thy God.
4. This awful consideration should make us fruitful in every good work, and ready for every kind office. Therefore whatever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ; for there is no work, nor devise, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. And as our blessed Lord, said, I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work. While we have time, says the apostle, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith. Our Lord explains and enforces this doctrine in his own stile and manner in the parable of the talents; and sums up the whole in the application, Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the son of man cometh. (a) There is a time for all things, and that time should be carefully bought up for the best of purposes. We may now be useful; shortly it
(a) Matt. xxv. 13.