Page images

the fame circumstances that they were. They were uri der a peremptory sentence of death within forty years, and none of them knew how much sooner they might be taken away : And this is not much different from our cafe ; for we are liable to death at any time, every day, every moment ; and how few of us in this congregation can reasonably either hope or expect to have our lives prolonged beyond the term of forty years ? Nay, it is very probable, that not one of us in an hundred will hold oưt so long. And then this prayer may be as fit for us, as it was for Moses and the Israelites, that God would teach us fo to number our days ; that is, to make such an account of the shortness and uncertainty of our lives, and so to consider and lay to heart our larter end, that we may apply our bearts unto wisdoin ; that is, that we may na nage and conduct this frail, and short, and uncertain life, in the best manner, and to the wiselt purposes.

And this consideration of our latter end was always esteemed, by the wiseft men, a principal part and main point of wisdom. Socrates, who was, by the general consent of wise men (a more infallible oracle than that of Apollo) esteemed the wiseft of all the philofophers, gives us this definition of philosophy, that it is the inedi. tation or study of death; to intimate to us, that this is true wisdom, to be much in the thought of our latter end, and in a constant readiness and preparation for it. And this a greater than Socrates had long before hiin observed to be a chief point of wisdom, I mean Moses, the main of God, that divine person, and prince of the antient Prophets, not only in this pfalm, but also in his last dins sine fong, a little before his death ; in which he makes this the fum of all his wishes for the people of Israel, that God would endow them with this high point of wiidom, Deut. xxxii. 29. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! This is true wisdom and philosophy, to consider our latter end.

And this, by God's a listance, fhiall be the argument which I intend to handle from these words; namely, to thew what influence and effect the serious confideration of our latter end, and of the shortness and uncertainty of



[ocr errors]

T 2

this present life, ought, in reason, to have upon us. And of this I shall give you an account in these following particulars :

1. The meditation of our latter end should make us to take into consideration our whole lives, and our whole duJation, that we may resolve and act accordingly. And .this is a main point of wisdom, to understand ourselves, and the nature of our beings, of what we confift, and for what duration we are designed; whether we consist only of matter, a little better fashioned and moulded, and made up into a more curious and complicated engine, conlisting of many secret and hidden springs and wheels, and fitted for greater variety of motions, and for more fine and subtile operations, than the bodies of those other creatures which we esteem below us : Or, whether we be endowed with a spiritual principle, wholly distinct from matter, and capable not only of sense, but of acts of reason, and of the impressions of religion, from the apprehension of a Deity, and a superior being that is of itself, and made us and all other things. In a word, whether we shall die like beasts ; or whether there be an immortal spirit witkin us, which hath no dependence upon matter and the bodily and visible parts of ourselves, but is a much better and more enduring substance, which hath no principle of corruption in itself, but shall survive these perifhing bodies, and, when they are mouldered into dust, shall sublift in a happy or miserable condition, according as we have behaved ourselves in this world.

For these are two very different hypotheses and schemes of things, and ought to affect us very differently, and to inspire us with different resolutions, and to put us upon a quite contrary method and conduct of our lives.

For, on the one hand, if we be well assured, that we shall be utterly extinguished by death, like the beasts that perish, then we have nothing to take care of but our bodies, because we are nothing else; then we need not to extend our thoughts, our hopes, or fears beyond this world, and this present life; because we have nothing to do, but to please ourselves with present enjoyments, and to live fo with other men, as may make most for our temporal quiet, and satisfaction, and security,


Bet then we are to confider very well, whether thefe things be certainly fo, and whether we may rely upon it, and whether it will bear all that weight which we lay up@-it'; whether thefë principles will not fail us, when we come nioft to fand in need of the comfort and support of them, and, when death is in view, and making up to Wards us, quite vanish and disappear; because it is of inAité consequence'to us, to be wett affured of this, tince our happiness or misery to all eternity depends upon it. And, therefore, nothing less than a demonftration of the imposibility of the thing, of our having immortal fpirits that fall furvive our bodies, and subfift apart from then, and be extremely miserable or happy in another world; I fày, nothing but a demonstration of the impoffibility of this, ought to be fatisfaction to us in a case of fo great danger, and upon which fo much does depend.

For; if there be a posibility, on the other fdc, of our having immortal fouls, which shalt live for ever in another world, nothing can acquit as from the greateft imprudence, if we should neglect to take care of that better and more lafting part of ourselves, and to provide for that duration which shall never have an end. · And, therefore, if the suppofition of the fouf's inmorTality be infinitely more probable, as better agreeing with all the notions which men have of God and his providence, and with the nartrat defires, and hopes, and fears of nankind, and as moft suitable to all our capacities and expe&tations, and to the general opinion and consent of wife Then in all ages; then is it infinitely more safe, and, confequently, more wise, to proceed upon this supposition, and to provide and act accordingly:

Thus, ' numbexes our days, that is, to make fuch an account of the Shortnefs and uncertainty of this kfe, a's to employ it mainly in the care and preparation for a better life, will engage us effectually in the business of relia gion. And this, perhaps, is the meaning of this phrase in the text, of applying our hearts to wisdom, according 'to that of Job, Job xxviii. 28. But unto nian kefaidy Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wifdomi ;: as if he bad said, this is the true wisdom, the great excellency and perfections of bruman racure is religion, the lively T 3

fenfe part

[ocr errors]

fenfe and firm belief of a Deity, and a carriage and demeanour suitable to that belief; and that man is well taught, and rightly instructed in the great business and concernment of this life, and makes a wise reckoning and account of the shortness and uncertainty of it, who applies himself to the business of religion : for this is the fundamental principle of wisdom, by which our whole life, and all the actions of it, ought to be governed and conducted,

So that, if we have immortal spirits, which shall live and continue for ever, we cannot, is reason, but take our whole life, and our whole duration into consideration, And, if we do so, we can never justify it to ourselves, to employ all our care and time about the worst and more ig. noble part of ourselves, and to make provision only for the few days of our pilgrimage here in this world, without any regard to that eternal duration, which we shall have in another world.

The serious consideration of this cannot fail to make us careful of our souls, and concerned for eternity; and, in order to the securing the happiness of that state, to mind us to work out our salvation with great care and diligence; that, if it be posfible, we may avoid the misery, and obtain the happiness of another world; because there is no comparison between the goods and evils of this life, and those of the other, neither in respect of the degree, nor of the duration of them. And, therefore, it must needs be great wisdom, to forego the good things of this life, to obtain those of the other; and to bear the evils and afflictions of this life, to escape those of the other. For what man, in his wits, for a temporal convenience and fac tisfaction, would forfeit an eternal benefit and advantage, and, to escape a present evil, which cannot last long, would run himself upon one infinitely greater, and which will last for ever?

Confider, then, and thew yourselves mex, Can there be a greater overfight and miscarriage in the conduct of our affairs, than to -mind that least which concerns us most? Is it possible for men to run into a greater mistake than to think, that their great business in this world is to mind the things of this world? And yet the greatest

[ocr errors]

part of mankind not only run into this mistake at their first setting out, but perlift in it all their days; as if their great, and indeed their only concernment, were to pleafe themselves for the present, and to provide for this world, as if they were to live always in it: forgetting all this while that they have immortal fouls, which shall survive their bodies, and, after a time, be re-united to them, to live for ever, deprived of that happiness which they would take no care to secure, and undergoing that misery and punishment which they would be at no pains to prevent, whilst they were in this world, and the opportunity of securing the one, and avoiding the other, was in their hands.

II. The thoughts of our latter end should make us very serious and composed in our spirits. For, if we have immortal souls, as well as dying bodies; if we shall live for ever, and if the happiness of all eternity depends upon the improvement of this short time of our lives, and our carriage and demeanour while we are here in this world; then it is no trifling business, it is not a matter of small concernment to us how we live here, and manage ourselves during our abode in this world.

Whom do not the lively thoughts of death, and the near approach of it make grave and serious, and many men, much wiser, and more considerate than ever they were in any other time of their lives, and much truer judges of things? They can then tell how they ought to have lived, what use they should have made of their time, and what use they would make of it, if God would be pleased to prolong it to them.

The near view of another world is an amazing thing, and apt to inspire men with better thoughts and reso. lutions than ever they had before, And why should not the clear prospect of it at a distance, and the assured be. lief of it, have the same effect upon us, to make us see rious, and to mind, in good earneft, in this our day, the things which belong to our peace, and to wait all the days of our appointed time, till our change shall come?

And, therefore, to engage us to a continual serious pels and watchfulness, the great Judge of the world hath

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »