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danger from his food and medicine ; from his enemies; and from his friends, who unintentionally and accidentally may put a period to his life. These causes of death are often unforeseen and unavoidable by short-sighted men. Man knoweth not his time, because like the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly
Men, like the fishes and the fowls, are continually exposed to a vast many fatal snares and accidents, which unexpectedly and instantaneously produce their fatal effects. What multitudes of mankind have suddenly and unexpectedly perished by fire, by water, and by the hand of violence! No person knows how soon some fatal accident may befall him. He continually walks upon the side of the grave, and the verge of eternity. It is extremely unwise for mankind to indulge strong hopes and expectations of living long in this world, where they are continually exposed to so many unseen, unavoidable, and fatal accidents.
3. Men are unwise to expect that their lives will be long lengthened out, because God, in his providence, is continually and solemnly warning them against such vain expectations. He has for nearly four thousand years been gradually curtailing the lives of men. It has been computed that more than half of mankind die before they are eight years old. How many more die before they reach the age of manhood! How many more before they reach the meridian of life! more before they reach the period of seventy years! And it is very rare to meet a man who has arrived at eighty; and a still more striking spectacle to see a man who is a hundred years old. Providence is constantly and visibly confirming the declaration of scripture, that the grave is without any order. God is continually calling the human race out of time into eternity, without any apparent regard to their age, their character, or their condition in life. He is continually taking away the child before the youth, the youth before the man, the man of twenty before the man of forty, the man of forty before the man of fifty, or sixty, or seventy, or eighty, or any of a greater age. He promiscuously takes away the useless and the useful, the learned and unlearned, the rich and the poor, the religious and irreligious. He apparently disregards the desires, the hopes, the expectations, and even the prayers of the dying, and those of their nearest and dearest friends. As God gives and preserves, so he takes away life, by his particular providence. According to the common and general laws of nature, men might live now as long as they did in the first generations of mankind. But very few of mankind, at this day, die a proper VOL. III.
How many natural death. The decays of age are generally premature, and hastened by the improvidence, intemperance, and excessive labors and fatigues of men in the earlier or later periods of lise. They are extremely apt to be too lavish of their strength, and too careless of their health and safety, by which they bring upon themselves a premature and painful old age, which they might retard and render vastly more easy, pleasant, and useful. The general laws by which God governs the natural world allow men to live much longer in the world than they commonly do. But God, by his particular providence, causes one general law of nature to counteract and obstruct another in producing its natural effect. It is by means of a particular providence that God brings about storms, and earthquakes, and inundations, and conflagrations, and hurricanes, and tornadoes, and pestilences, and sweeping sicknesses, and fatal accidents. We have no account of God's visiting the world with those dire calamities for nearly two thousand years, except in one instance, that of the Flood. It is not so strange, there. fore, that the lives of men were once ten-fold longer than they are generally at the present. But ever since God reduced the common period of human life from about a thousand, to about three-score years and ten, he has appeared to dispose of the lives of men by a more particular providence, and employs innumerable causes to counteract the general laws of nature, which once amazingly prolonged the lives of men. God is now, by his particular providence, visibly and solemnly admonishing the living, not to expect that he will carry many of them to old age, but to expect a short, rather than a long life. God is reading them a solemn lecture upon the shortness and uncertainty of their lives, by causing so many of every age, character, and condition, to fall around them from year to year, from month to month, from week to week, and from day to day. If they would only measure their lives, as God measures them in his providence, they would be more apt to expect a short, than a long life. They are extremely unwise in not measuring their lives by the most accurate standard God has given them, by which to pass a just estimate upon the length of their lives. Let a child, a youth, a man of any age, seriously consider in how many ways God is cutting short the lives of men, every where and every day, how many hair-breadth escapes he has had, and it will convince him that it is folly and presumption in him, to expect that his own life will be lengthened rather than shortened. Will wise men, will bad men, will good men, risk the security of all their property upon the uncertain life of a child, or a youth, or of any man, whether young or old, rich or poor, robust or feeble? No, they will not trust to any such
uncertain foundation for the security of property. How much more unwise and absurd is it, for them to build their fondest and strongest hopes of life itself upon so slender and precarious a foundation !
4. It will appear still more unwise and absurd for men to form and cherish high hopes and expeetations of living long in this world, if we consider how expressly and repeatedly God, in his word, has warned and admonished them against it. Solomon says,
“ Man knoweth not his time.” Job says, “ Man that is born of a woman is of few days." 6. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down : he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” David says to God, “Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand breadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee; verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Again, he says to God, “ Thou turnest man to destruction: and sayest, Return, ye children of men.”
6 Thou carriest them away as with a flood: they are as a sleep; in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up, in the evening it is cut down and withereth.” God says to every man by Solomon, “ Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” The apostle James says, “Go to now,
, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow, we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain : Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow: for what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that.” The inspired writers in these passages have given a lively and instructive picture of the frailty of man, and of the shortness and uncertainty of human life. But Christ still more expressly and pointedly warned men against putting far away the evil day, and banishing the thoughts of death from their minds. He said, “ Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” “ Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning. Lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all,
I Watch.” “ And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The
” ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and
there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou sool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?" All these are but a few of the solemn admonitions which may be found upon almost every page of the Bible, against men's indulging the vain and pleasing expectation of living long in this dying world. But why should God so expressly, so pointedly, and so abundantly warn mankind against their forgetting their frailty and mortality, and expecting to live many days in a world where they know not that they shall live one day? The reason every sober, reflecting person may find in his own mind. Who is not conscious of indulging this vain and groundless expectation ? But God in mercy forbids it, and has employed the best means 10 prevent it. Finally, every one must be conscious that he deserves to die, for his past misimprovement of his precious life. Who can look back upon the days and years he has lived, without a consciousness of having neglected and perverted many golden seasons and opportunities of doing and getting good, and of glorifying the Giver and Preserver of his life, for which he deserves to be cut down as a cumberer of the ground? What ground then has he to expect that God will continue his patience, forbearance, and long-suffering towards him? He can see good reasons why God should cut short his days, but not so good reasons why he should prolong his forfeited, or useless, or worse than useless life. It is nothing less than presumption for any of the living to expect that their forfeited days should be prolonged. They have much more reason to feel and say, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed.”
1. Since mankind are so extremely apt to harbor and cherish habitual expectation of the long continuance of life, there is reason to think that they generally die unexpectedly to themselves. Though God is constantly admonishing them by his word and providence of the frailty and uncertainty of life, yet they imagine that their mountain stands strong, and death at a great distance from them, if not from others; and of course, let death come when it will, whether in an earlier or later period of life, whether by a slow lingering disorder, or by an acute distemper, or some unforeseen accident, it comes unexpectedly. The weak, debilitated person loves to live, and dreads to die, and cherishes the hope and expectation that he may gradually
recover from his low and languishing state, and for a long time enjoy more health and strength than he ever enjoyed before. But if he should not become so strong and robust as some others, yet he secretly indulges a hope and expectation that he may live a long though feeble life, as others have done. And notwithstanding he perceives that he is gradually declining from month to month, and from week to week, and even from day to day, he still fixes his attention on some flattering symptom, and cherishes a hope of living, which diverts his mind from the painful thoughts of dying, until a month, or a week, or day before he suddenly and unexpectedly goes the way of all the earth. How often do such slow, sudden deaths occur! Those who are seized with some acute disorder are apt to hope that it will be of short continuance, and though hard to endure, that they shall soon recover their usual health and strength, until forty-eight or twenty-four hours before they are surprised at the certain prospect of dropping suddenly into eternity. To these may be added the numerous instances of sudden and unexpected deaths, by fatal accidents. Though but very few persons would choose to die suddenly and unexpectedly, yet multitudes choose to do that which exposes them to an unexpected death; for they choose to cherish the expectation of living, as long as possible, and to banish from their minds the thoughts of dying, as long as possible. They will inwardly boast of to-morrow, though they know not what a day may bring forth. They will say to themselves, “ To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." They will “think all men mortal, but themselves." They will think that while they see others taken, they shall be left
. They will disregard what observation, reason and scripture tells them of the uncertainty of life, and strengthen their hopes and expectation of living, from the very evidence God has given of their constant danger of dying. It must be because madness is in their hearts, that they stupidly harbor and cherish the hope and expectation of living till the moment they go to the dead.
2. It appears from what has been said, that death commonly comes to men in an evil time. They are commonly called out of this into another world, suddenly and unexpectedly to themselves, as the fish is caught in the net, and the bird in the snare, in an evil time. It is always an evil time, to do any thing of serious and weighty importance to ourselves, or to others, suddenly and unexpectedly. To die is the great and last act to be done on the stage of life, and extremely solemn and interesting to the dying and to the living; and a sudden and unexpected time is certainly a very evil time to make the solemn and important transition out of this into the invisible and eternal world. To die suddenly and unexpectedly is usually