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us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Ps. xc. 12.) We all number our days in some sort or other, but for the most part are wretchedly out in our calculation. We hear the Psalmist say (verse 10) “ The days of our years are threescore years and ten;" and from thence conclude that we shall certainly live to seventy, and in all probability our strength will hold out to fourscore ; and then having, as we think, so much time upon our hands, we foolishly squander away year after year, depending upon having time enough for religion twenty, thirty, or even forty years hence. Let us go to the house of mourning, and see if we have ground for this presumption. There, they tell us of a Branch lately cut off; a young person just in the prime of life, and with a constitution that promised many, many years' continuance; but God weakened her strength in the way: he shortened her days. And now the axe was laid to the Root of the tree, and presently down it came, though as it were in his full strength, with his breasts full of milk, and his bones full of marrow, He also is lain down in the dust, and the worms shall cover him ;
and both of them seem to call to us from under the - clods, “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it
with thy might; for there is no more work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
"Is there not? Then I will not be so lavish of my time as I have been. The time past shall suffice to have wrought the will of the flesh ; and, laying aside every weight, and the sin that doth most easily beset me, I will run with patience the race that is set before me, and give diligence to make my calling and election sure, I will
attend to nothing else till that most important point is settled; for what should I be profited, were I to gain the whole world, and lose my own soul? I find now, that I cannot be sure of living to old age, as I fondly dreamt I should.
I see that persons may die young, and do die young; and how do I know but I may die young too! The very thought of dying in my present condition makes me shudder: I will not give sleep to my eyes, nor slumber to my eye-lids, till I have lodged my soul with Christ, who, I am assured, is able to keep whatever I commit unto him against that day.'
4. The preciousness of Christ.
It was our Lord's observation, and we see it daily verified, They that are whole need not a physician: but they that are sick.” When persons are vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds, and fancy themselves to be “ rich, and increased in goods, and to have need of nothing,” they always think meanly of Christ: “ What have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Son of God ?” And while they are in health and spirits, and death and judgment are at a distànce, their confidence keeps up. But go to the house of mourning, and hear what becomes of it at last. When a man comes to lie upon a sick bed, and he begins to auticipate in his own mind the judgment he is soon to be called to before the bar of God; when conscience begins to remind him of his breaches of God's holy law; and the Lord lets in a few drops of his displeasure, which is more bitter than death; the poor aftrighted soul perceives that those duties, and good deeds, and inoffensive behaviour, which he had boasted so much of, and trusted so much to, are no better than “ filthy rags,"
which he dares not appear in before the holy, holy, holy Lord God. He perceives, and confesses, that he hath been an unprofitable servant, and hath not done a thousandth part of what he ought to have done, and might have done. He finds, from what hath passed already, that God caunot be deceived, and will not be mocked; and that he must quickly, and eternally, perish, if God enter into judgment with him, and be strict to mark iniquity. Now he recollects, what he hath formerly heard with indifference and scorn, of the righteousness of Christ, and his gracious offer to be a propitiation for the sins of the world; and, oh with what eagerness doth he stretch out his feeble arms to lay hold on the hope set before him, saying, • Lord, save me, or I perish :” “ Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“ What things were gain to me, those I count as loss, for Christ: yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Nobly said! Well, I never knew so much of the worth of Christ before. I have hitherto lived without Christ in the world, and I thought I could die without him too; but now I see there is no such thing. I am astonished at his goodness, that he hath borne so much neglect and insult from me. This long suffering of his encourages me to hope for further favour. I will go home, and beseech
him to save me too. I will tell him, if he will be my Saviour, he shall be my Prince. I will us take with me words, and turn unto the Lord, and say unto him, take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us : we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, “ Ye are our gods : for in thee the fatherless find mercy.” 65 Other lords have had dominion over me; but from this time forth I will make mention of thy name only,” and expect from thee alone, righteousness, strength, and salvation.'
5. The reality of religion, which not merely supports, but comforts, a believer under the greatest and most heart-piercing calamities.
When such a stroke hath fallen on some, it presently throws them into an agony of grief and rage : they kick and toss like bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke; quarrel with Providence, and charge God foolishly, and refuse to be comforted: and because they are thus outrageous, they think every one else must be so too. But go to the house of mourning, and there you will see the triumphs of grace.
will see nature melted into tears, deeply affected with the heaviness and smart of the stroke; and yet meekly kissing the rod, and blessing the hand that holds it; and (if I may so speak) with an April countenance, a kind of mournful smile, saying, “ It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good :" " the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; and blessed be the name of the Lord:” “ Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and this is all my
salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow ;” and, therefore, “ though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
You are affected, and cry out with astonishment, • Is this religion ? Who would not be religious ? i am quite ashamed of myself. Here is a person all resignation and serenity, under trials that would have turned my brain or broke my heart, I will go home and inquire how I may be religious too. I know not how soon I may be called to bury a near and dear relation; I know not how soon they may be called to bury me: and what should I do, in either of these cases, who am a total stranger to the consolations of religion ?--O Thou, who leadest the blind by a way which they know not, show me the path of life. What I know not, teach thou me; and wherein I have done iniquity, I will do so no more.'
These are some, and but some, of the lessons to be learnt there. And now, whether it be not better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, judge ye. But, however, lest any, after all, should remain unconvinced, I will just mention, and shall do little more than mention,
III. The Preacher's reason for this preference.
“ It is better,” says he, “ to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all men.” Every one of your houses will in its turn be a house of mourning; and all that you have now seen done for the deceased, shall ere long be done for you.
" What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the