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about them, the promises are about them, and therefore we should wait on God for them. Many a sweet experience have the saints got in temporal things, when they have been helped to lay them before the Lord, and leave them there without anxiety, in the use of the means.
8. Lastly, Have a precise respect to all the commands of God, and be truly strict in your lives; that is, deal with men as believing God's eye is upon you, and with God as if the eyes of men were upon you. Never look on the authority of the multitude as sufficient to make that no fault, which will not abide strict examination by the word of God. Let the command of God prevail with you; and whatsoever liberty ye may take for ought that men can say or do to you, let that be a sufficient restraint. Thus may ye attain experimental religion.
THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF A TIME OF SICKNESS AND
Two sermons preached on a congregational fast-day, at Ettrick, April 27, 1720, on occasion of the great sickness and mortality then prevailing.
PSAL. XC. 12. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
THE SERMON IN THE FORENOON,
HIS text is a prayer suitable to the dispensation of this
tality prevailing among us, they have stout hearts indeed, who look not up to the Lord with this or the like petition in their hearts, So teach us, &c.
This psalm was calculated for a dying time, being supposed to be penned upon the occasion of that sentence passed in the wilderness, Num. xiv. 28, &c. concerning the death of those from twenty years old and upward who came out of the land of Egypt, so as none of them should enter Canaan, but Caleb and Joshua. It was penned, I say, by Moses, who
saw, in the space of forty years, six hundred thousand men swept off by death, besides women and children.
There are three things insisted on in the body of this psalm, and summed up together, ver. 10, 11. A short life, a sure death, and a severe judgment. And here is the use of them, O to consider these so as to be wise for our souls, O for a sanctified use of the sad dispensation. In the words there is,
1. A lesson desired to be learned, (1.) The lesson itself, of counting or numbering of our days; i. e. of considering them duly and seriously, as he who tells any thing before him, looks to every one of the number, and makes a just reckoning. (2.) The teacher of whom only we can learn this is God himself. It is a difficult lesson to learn to purpose. Many good counters, who can dextrously count great sums, are quite out in the calculation of their days, Luke xii. 19, 20. There is a necessity of the teaching of the Spirit, in order to learn this divine arithmetic,
2. The standard of proficiency in this lesson, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom; i. e. that we learn it so, as we apply ourselves to serious godliness, which is the only wis dom; Heb. that we may bring in; a heart of wisdom, i. e. a wise heart. We have naturally light and foolish hearts; but he, and only he, learns this lesson well, that brings in a serious, religious, and wise heart, from the school of the word and providence, where that lesson is taught. All under this standard are but bunglers at the lesson, they have not yet learned it truly: though they can talk of it, viz. the shortness and vanity of life, they are never a whit the wiser for all that, in respect of their souls; they have not yet got it by heart, but only by head; and therefore they are still the carnal, careless men they were before.
The words being thus explained, I shall, as the subject of this forenoon's discourse, observe the following doctrine.
DOCT. A time of mortality is a special call to all rightly to number their days.'
Sin brought in mortality into the world, Gen. ii. 17. compare chap. v. And it has never gone out of it since; at all times some are here and there stepping off: but there are some times by way of eminency to be called times of mor
tality,' as that in the wilderness, and as now amongst us in this land. This has a special call.
Here I shall shew,
I. What it is to number our days.
II. That a time of mortality is a special call to this work.
I. I am to show what it is to number our days. It imports, 1. Our days had a beginning, and we must reflect on that, Psal. xxii. 9. Every thing that is numbered must have a beginning; and therefore God's duration is not liable to numbering. But we ny soon perceive our beginning to be in the world; and thence lea and observe,
(1.) That it is by divine appointment, and not by necessity of our nature, that we continue to be. latter is proper to God only; by the former, angels and men, and all creatures, are continued in being. For he that once had no being, can never claim a natural necessity of continuing to be.
(2.) That every moment of our life hangs on the divine will and pleasure, Rev. iv. ult. There is no necessary connection betwixt your living this moment and living the next. The only bond betwixt them is God's word of appointment, Heb. i. 3. Loose that, and remove it, our life goes, and our eyes shall never see the next moment. No food, no physic, can prevent it, Matth. iv. 4. There is no outliving that word, Psal. xc. 3. • Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men,' so much as for one mo
(3.) That we must go the way of all flesh; for many of those we found in the world at our coming into it, are now gone, Zech. i. 5. This world is always like a fair near the height, where some are coming in, others going out, and those within in confusion, Eccl. i. 4. I doubt not but there may be some in this house this day, who, if they will consider, shall not find one of all those that filled it at their first coming into it this day. But these are gone, and others have come into the room of them all. And shall not others reckon so of us in a little time?
2. Our days will have an end, and we must seriously consider that. Hence says the Psalmist, Psal. xxxix. 4. Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is. Every thing that is numerable has an end; and therefore eternity cannot be numbered, since it hath no end.
But we may soon come to the end of our count, when we are counting our days; and thence may learn and ob
(1.) That the shored tree will be cut down at length. know that thou wilt bring me to death,' says Job, and to the house appointed for all living,' Job xxx. 23. When we were first planted in this world, the axe was laid down at the root of the tree, and we have grown up beside it. There is never a pain nor stitch, but it is a stroke of that axe, a pledge of a greater. Sometimes it has almost struck through, but in a little time it will go through for altogether. So that man shall lie down, and not rise till the heavens be no
(2.) We will need nothing for this life ere long. Dip not so deep in the cares of this world as most do, to the ruin of their souls. Many have been anxious to provide for the day which they never saw, as the rich man in the parable did, Luke xii, 17,-20. The clods of earth will serve for back and belly ere long, and we will have no portion in what is done under the sun; others will possess the houses, lands, &c. which we now occupy
(3.) See now how ye will begin eternity. with us when our days are come to an end; gin it, so we will continue in it, Heb. ix. 27. is alterable, but then it is unalterable for ever, Therefore now or never let us secure a happy eternity. Learn your duty from the unjust steward, the serious consideration of which I recommend to you, Luke xvi. 3,—8.
(4.) Working time for eternity will not last. It closeth with the end of our days: Therefore whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whi, ther thou goest,' Eccl, ix. 10.
Use. Be not idle spectators of the dispensation of this day. Number your days, so as ye may apply your hearts unto wisdom. If you will not take warning to prepare for eternity, by the removal of others, take heed lest God make you a warning to others, Let the aged and young hear the voice of the rod, and seriously improve it.
3. Our days are few, and we must consider, that they are the number of a man, they may be counted. There are some things not innumerable in themselves, yet cannot be
It will begin and as we be. Our state now
But there is no such multi
numbered for their multitude. tude of the days of our life.
(1.) Consider the counters the scripture affords us to count our days by. A web, Isa. xxxviii; it is such a web as one is still working at without intermission, and therefore will soon be cut out :-grass, and a flower soon withered, Isa. xl. 6, 7;—green at morn, and cut down at night, Psal. xc. 6:-a vapour that vanisheth away, frail, uncertain, and of short continuance, Jam. iv. 14:-smoke, Psal. cii. 3:— a wind, a blast, or puff, Job vii. 7:-a sleep, Psal. xc. 5: -a dream, Job. xx. 8-a hand-breadth, Psal. xxxix. 5:nothing, ibid. compare Eccl. iii. 2. Count with these counters, and the reckoning will be very small, which the scripture also has cast up to our hands.
(2.) Consider the scripture-reckoning of man's life. The highest reckoning is by years, now brought down to a few scores, Psal. xc. 10. Nay, as we count the age of infants by months, so is man's age reckoned, Job. xiv. 5. As if months were too big a word, it is brought down to days, and a few days, Job. xiv. 1; yea, to one day, wherein there is but a morning, noon, and evening, Job xiv. 6; and yet lower, to an hour, 1 John ii. 18; aye, to a moment, that is past ere one is aware, 2 Cor. xv. 17. Prov. xii. 19. our days is very small.
So the sum of
From both ye may find that our days are few; and thence learn and observe,
(1.) It is no safe counting to count many years in to come, whatever ye be, lest ye be out in your account, as the rich man was, Luke xii. 19, 20. Many whose youth and strength seemed to give them ground for counting so, have been forced to see their mistake, and count again, little to their comfort, death coming ere it was looked for.
(2.) Our days will soon be at an end. We will quickly be over our hand-breadth They fly like a shadow, Job xiv. 2. And though a weaver's shuttle is very swift, in gcing from the one side of the web to the other, our days are swifter than it is, Job vii. 6. See what Job says, chap. ix. 25, 26. Now my days are swifter than a post; they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships; as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.'
(3.) We have no time to be idle. Our work for eternity great, for it is long, and our time is short. They who