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When the gout or the stone, or a cancer, or any one of those tormenting and deforming distempers, first discovers itself, we are thrown into a mighty consternation, and puzzle ourselves with endeavouring to account for it. As we have, perhaps, never heard that
any of our family were afflicted with it, and we have not brought it upon ourselves by intemperate or irregular living, it is strange, we think, how we should get the disorder. But we forget that we carry the seeds of these and many other sad distempers in our constitutions; though some of them may never appear, and others be kept under till a more advanced period. Job was smitten with boils from head to foot, and became so loathsome a spectacle, that no one cared to attend him: and many men, in every age, have been rendered deplorably miserable in a similar manner. But we will leave this disagreeable subject, and mention two reflections to which it naturally leads us.
In the first place, then, be not proud of your bodies. Never boast of their strength, or complexion; for both may be destroyed by a short fit of sickness. Our foundation is in the dust, and we are crushed before the moth. When we are in full health, we are ready to faney, that our bones are brass, and our sinews iron, and that nothing can do us a serious in, jury: but the days of weakness and pain may begin before we are aware. It is not always the old and de. crepit who complain of restless nights and loathsome disorders; many have met with them early. Let not the strong. man, therefore, glory in his strength: neither let those that are fair, glory in their comeliness ; for, " when the Lord, with rebuke, correcteth
man for his iniquity, he maketh his beauty to consume away like a moth. Verily, every man, at his best estate, is altogether vanity.” If then, you at any time visit persons afflicted with such disorders as we have described, do not come away boasting of your health, and the firmness of your constitution ; do not presumptuously say, “ I defy these wretched and frightful diseases. As I have lived many years, and have been exempted from them hitherto, I doubt not but I shall enjoy a long life, free from all such miserable or offensive disorders.”
Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.”
Hence learn too, the much greater loathsomeness of sin. Some of you do not know what I mean by this expression. You never could see any thing so disgusting in sin. Some grosser crimes, indeed, appear to you odious. But you are not offended at the sight of it in general, either in yourselves or in others. You can pass it by without notice; or you have many a good-natured excuse to make for it: and you understand not why you should ever do otherwise. But be assured, that sin is the leprosy of the soul; and is infinitely more offensive to God, than the foulest ulcers can be to ourselves. The scriptures always speak of it by an allusion to those things which are to us most disagreeable and loathsome; and if, as the Apostle says,
of standing were enlightened, if you were renewed in the spirit of your minds, you also would detest whatever is sinful. Then, your intolerable pride, your ungovernable passions, your immoderate love of the
world, your hatred of the people, the word, and the ways of God, and many other sins, would appear to you as symptoms of your loathsome disease ; and, shocked at the sight of so much deformity and danger, you would hasten to Jesus, the only physician, from whose skill and compassion you might hope for a cure.
Finally, rejoice in the prospect of having better bodies hereafter. Diseases may disfigure us, but death will deform us much more. While our friends are living, let their disorder be what it will, however infectious or offensive, we cheerfully attend them by night and by day; and this constant attendance, by degrees, familiarizes us to what would otherwise be disgusting. But, when the breath stops, such a paleness, such a ghastliness, such a putrefaction presently ensue, that we can endure it no longer. We hasten away from the room or the house, into which death has entered. Our friends must be shut up in a cotlin ; and that is not sufficient, they must be lodged in the grave, and there be left to rest and rot, with thousands in the same humbling condition. Remember then, that sooner or later, this will be also your portion. You will * say to corruption, Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister.” But if you shall be found among those who die in the Lord, (and if not, wo, wo, to you; for a second death ten thousand times more dreadful will certainly follow,) I say, if you sleep in Jesus, your vile bodies will be fashioned like the glorious body of Christ; and when united again to your pure and happy spirits, you will ascend to meet the Lord in the air; and so will you ever be with the Lord.
THE INFIRMITIES OF OLD AGE A MOTIVE TO
ECCLES. XII. 1.
Remember now thy Creator, in the days of thy youth ;
while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt
say, I have no pleasure in thein. Young persons will scarcely believe that such a time will ever arrive. They seem to think that it is only the gloomy imagination of the preacher, who had met with disappointments in life: and because he was out of humour with the world himself, supposed that every other person must be disgusted with it too. “ Life,” say they, “ is sweet; and every period of it has pleasures peculiar to itself. We know that youth has its pleasures. We have nothing else to do, but to enjoy ourselves ; without any cares upon our minds, and with every thing in the world ready to contribute to our amusement. We are told, that there are pleasures in the middle of life, waiting for us in abundance. We shall then be our own masters, and shall have a house, a family, a trade, or a profession, of our own: and we have no doubt of being happy. We expect pleasure in old age too ; and look forward to it without any of those gloomy presages which the preacher suggests. We shall then have done with all labour and bustle; and sit down, and tell over our
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pleasing tale to our listening offspring, whose diverting prattle will revive the remembrance of our own childhood, and make the evening of life as cheerful as any part of the day. We have no fear, whatever others may suppose, that any years can come of which we shall say, we have no pleasure in them."
If your ideas of future happiness be so sanguine, it would not be difficult to convince you of your mistake. But I shall confine my attention to the period alluded to in the words which have been read for our text, and hence I shall suggest the two following observations; that there are infirmities and disadvantages peculiar to old age ; and that, therefore, it is your wisdom and interest to remember your Creator in the days of your youth.
We shall first consider some of the infirmities and disadvantages peculiar to old age.
We have a beautiful description of it in the verses following our text. “ While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease be, cause they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened ; and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low; and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden; and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets."