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Oh! were it not for that blest hope which even death endears,
How weary were our pilgrimage through this dark vale of tears!
MAN CONSTANTLY DYING.
THERE is no point of life which we divide not with death; so as, if well considered, we live but only one point, and have not life but for the present instant. Our years past are now vanished, and we enjoy no more of them than if we were already dead; the years to come we live not, and possess no more of them, than if we were not yet born. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow we know not what shall be; of to-day many hours are past, and we live them not; others are to come, and whether we shall live them or not is uncertain; so that we live but this present moment, and in this also we are dying.
Life is given to us by pieces, and mingles as many parts of death as there are of life; the age of infancy dies, when we enter into that of childhood; and that of childhood, when we become youths; that of youth when we come to the age of manhood; that, when we are old; and even old age itself expires, when we become decrepit; so that during the same life we find many deaths, and yet can hardly persuade ourselves that we shall die once.
As death is the total change of life, every change is the death of some part; sickness is the death of health; sleeping, of waking; sorrow, of joy;
impatience, of quiet; youth, of infancy; age, of youth. All things which follow time, and even time itself, at last, must die.
REFLECTIONS ON THE MORTALITY OF MAN.
THE frail and precarious condition of man is demonstrated by proofs which can neither be denied nor mistaken. No one requires an accumulation of arguments, to convince him that he must one day die; the fact is on all hands admitted; but the great point is to have the mind duly impressed with it. Oh! how soon are the most striking events and solemn admonitions forgotten! The excitement which is produced in us, however strong, is for the most part transient and momentary. A strange sort of delusion seizes and stupifies the mind, and it settles down again upon the lees of earth and carnality. Hence, in the Holy Scriptures, the same searching appeals on death and eternity are so often repeated. Hence the most vivid and affecting descriptions of the shortness of our continuance here, and of the infirmity and sorrow which enter into the lot of our present pilgrimage. But some may ask, Are three-score years and ten, the ordinary term of human life, to be called a short period? I answer, Certainly it is, when compared to eternity. The life even of Methuselah was but, to endless duration, what a drop of water is to the ocean, or an atom to the universe. In the flush of youth, while fancy forms a thousand flattering pictures, and sports amidst the delights of sense and sin, this representation is wholly disregarded. Time then seems slow in its
movement; and life presents a vast and varied field, illumined with all the gay visions of hope and happiness. But the gray-headed senior, who is just finishing his mortal race, has widely different views. With him the enchantments of a delusive imagination have successively vanished away, in the progress of sober experience. The similes and figures used in Scripture, to set forth the rapidity and shortness of life, are remarkably apt and striking. It is a tale, a dream, a flower, a flood, a vapour. These are objects with which we are all familiar; but how few, alas! receive the monitory lessons they teach! The tale is soon told; the dream, with which we are tumultuously occupied, vanishes with the morning light, and not a fragment or trace remains; the flower opens its rich tints to the sun, but even in its bloom begins to fade, and shrink, and wither; the flood, caused by a tempest, rolls down the mountainchannel, and is swallowed up in the sea; the vapour gilds with gold and purple the evening sky, but while we gaze and admire, melts and disappears. And why is human life so short and full of trouble? Why does God deface and destroy the work of his own hands? Whence this dire displeasure of the Almighty, which has swept away so many generations of our race, and has every. where suspended signs and tokens of mourning, lamentation, and woe? "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." Here the mystic veil is pierced-the cause of human frailty and suffering is disclosed.
"The same rash hand,
The view of our frail and dying condition gives rise to many serious and important reflections.
1. If the time of our continuance here is so short, and so speedily gone, how wretched is their state, whose hopes and hearts are confined to the things of earth! The men of the world, said David, have their portion in this life. And what a poor, uncertain, and unsatisfying portion is it, even at the best! They toil to heap up riches, and know not who shall gather them; riches which profit not in the day of wrath, because they can neither assuage the anguish of disease, nor bribe the King of terrors. Some walk in a vain show of pomp and power, and, girt with a little brief authority, are for a season the objects of admiration and envy; while others pursue the chase of pleasure-crying with restless solicitude, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewith shall we be clothed?" But misery lurks under the garniture of splendour, and walks in the rounds of amusement and gaiety. The mere men of the world are subject to a thousand disappointments, in regard to those things on which their hearts are most passionately set. Thorns of vexation pierce them, while plucking their roses; bitters are dashed with all their sweets; and pangs, latent pangs, follow all their pleasures. Many have honestly acknowledged this; and those who deny it in words, give proof of it by their actions.
But let us suppose the worldling to be successful up to the very point of his most sanguine expectations and wishes. Let him wade in wealth, and soar in fame, and revel in luxury. Is he now happy? No; for he sees,-and cannot shun the sight,—the ghastly spectre of death rapidly approaching, with a warrant from the King of kings
to summon him away, and seize him in that cold hard hand, whose grasp is irresistible. Every tolling bell, every passing funeral, tells him that the end of his race is near; every pain and disease in his body, every hidden sting and dark surmise in his soul, tells him that his triumph will be short, The more any one possesses of earthly enjoyment, the more gloomy and horrible must be the sight of the grave, if there be no hope beyond it. Just when he is beginning to say to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thy case, eat, drink, and be merry ;" his conscience hears a voice from heaven exclaim, "Thou fool! this night thy soul is required; and now whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?" Wretched then, beyond conception wretched, is their condition, whose hearts and hopes are glued to earth.
2. If the time of our continuance here is so short, and speedily gone, how necessary is it to seek a better inheritance beyond the grave.
Had we been left to the bare dictates of reason, or the vague notions of tradition, how much perplexity would have agitated and harassed our minds! But Jesus Christ hath brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel. We are sure that all must feel an eternal weight of misery, or possess an eternal weight of glory, in the world to come. How, then, may we attain the final happiness of the saints? In no other way, than by looking to and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. All who have a part in the great salvation, are prepared to enter a better world. They can welcome the event, which makes nature shudder; they can exclaim, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin.