Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

tion of their latter end, and a necesary prc. paration for it, than the serious contemplation on the shortness and vanity of human life: This is an argument which requires no depth of wisdom to conceive, no superior faculties to discuss, but appeals to the senses, and speaks to the hearts of all men; and yet the senses of all men deceive, the hearts of all men betray them, and those things which should be for their learning, are unto them an occasion of falling. The certainty of death is perhaps among those truths, which, merely because they are obvious, we do not think fufficiently worthy of our attention; it is almost the only thing we know, and we treat it as if it were the only thing we were ignorant of. In the midst of life we are in death; but, like hardy and fearless foldiers, though we are in the heat of the battle, though thousands fall beside us, and ten thousand on our right hand, yet, whilst we have fociety to animate, whilst we have hope to encourage, and all the noise and bustle of the war to divert our thoughts, we are strangers to fear, and insensible of our danger. The goodness of the Almighty is alike visible in what it shews, and in what it conceals from us: God, of his mercy, has thought fit to hide from our knowledge the fatal hour of our diffolution, because, were the prospect of death continually before our eyes, the affairs of this world could never be carried on with that chearfulness and alacrity which are so highly requisite to the performance of them. It would damp all the faculties, and

put

[ocr errors]

put a stop to all the efforts and designs of the human mind, and leave a gloom and horror upon it, too great for reason and reflection to remove: in short, were the sword perpetually hanging over our heads, the feast of life would afford us but little comfort in the enjoyment of it.

An eminent heathen writer, in an elegant discourse on the idle pursuits and enjoyments of men in this uncertain state, among many other sensible reflections, put into the mouth of one of his imaginary deities, thus ridicules the folly of mankind. Look, says he, on " that builder there, and think, what would « he not rather do, though he now fo indus“ triously preffes on the labourer to finish his “ costly mansion, did he know it should be no « sooner built but that he must die, and leave " the possession of it to his heir, ere he, poor « wretch, shall have had even once the plea“ sure of supping in it. Or look on him who

hugs himself on his becoming a father, en." “ tertains his friends at a feast of joy, and calls 6 the boy by his own name. If he knew this

darling child should never outlive his fes venth year, would he, think you, be fo 6 wanton at his birth? But he fondly imagines “ himself happy in a child who shall hereafter 6 be crowned in the olympic games, and oh“ ferves not, at the same time, his afflicted

neighbour carrying out his son to the last 66 fire.”

Thus could an unenlightened heathen laugh at, and expose the folly and vanity of mankind,

and

[ocr errors]

and deservedly reproach them for 'not confidering their latter end. If their behaviour, in a point fo important, was a proper subject of ridicule, what shall we say to those to whom life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel of Chrift? We, who have such threats to alarm, and such hopes to encourage us, ought to be wiser, to understand better to number our few days, and seriously to consider and prepare for our latter 'end.

But that the weight and importance of the precept in my text may appear the more plainİy, it may not be amiss to consider and enforce it in the various stages of this our short journey, that men may be convinced how necessary it is to number their days, and apply their hearts unto wisdom. To those therefore who are in the Spring of life, I would first address myself; those who are yet untainted by false principles, and uncorrupted by bad example. Let us send up our offerings to the Almighty, whilst we have something worthy of his acceptance: our loyalty to our Sovereign will then be most meritorious, when the enemy is using ever method to alienate our affections from him: let us not make a merit of resigning what we can no longer maintain, but when the passions are most importunate, and the appetites moft unruly, yield them up to the guidance of reason and religion; with such facrifices God is well pleased. To whom should we dedicate the temple, but to him that raised it? or who is more worthy of the first-fruits, than he who gave us the whole harvest? If in

the

the days of our youth we remember our Creator, we may rest assured he will not forget us in our more advanced years; if we give the earlier part of life to religion, habit will strengthen reason, and self-love fide with virtuę. When tlie mind has long employed itself on any particular ftudy, it contracts a fondness and partiality not easily removed; besides that the elder biass of the foul, either towards good or evil, will ever claim the privilege of its birth-right, and assume an authority over the future conduct of our lives. With how much care and caution therefore are the first tendencies of youth to be observed. How much may their happiness, both here and hereafter, depend upon them?

It has of late years been too often observed, that the foolish vanity of parents hath conspired with the natural forwardness of their chil. dren to ruin and destroy them, by pushing them too early into the business and pleasures of a licentious age. Our youth have found out methods to antedate old age, and hasten the foot-steps of death; to croud their vices into as short a space as possible, and fill up as soon as they can the measure of their iniquity. They scorn to owe their infirmities to grey hairs, or their decay to nature; but without ever numbering their few days, are quickly worn down by vice and debauchery, and hurry themselves out of the world at an age when their forefathers were scarce entered into it.

Pass we on then from the slippery and dangerous path of youth, to the middle state of

manhood.

manhood. Here our feet tread firmer, and our labour grows more easy: judgment steps in to our affiftance, the voice of reason is clearer and more distinct, the violent and tumultuous paífions begin to fubfde; but because the waves are less disturbed, and the storm a little blown over, we must not th=refore fancy ourselves in the haven; we are as loth to confider our latter end, and to think on the one thing needful, at this time, as at any period of our lives. In infancy and in youth every toy can please, and every novelty delight; and as we advance in years we do not lay aside, but change the bauble; cur amusements are still as idle as before, and only not so innocent. When we are talking to men, to put them in mind that they were men, would, one should think, be a sufficient reproof: it is then high time to put away childish things, and apply our hearts unto wisdom; to reflect that the hour is come when there is no dallying with life, when youth can no longer excuse our errors, nor inexperience palliate our crimes, and every sin is aggravated and inflamed by our own knowledge and consciousness of it. And yet I know not how it is, but in this stage of life we are still liable to the tempta. tions of pleasure, and all those vices which are strengthened and improved by habit; besides that the common business and affairs of life call away our attention, and will not let our affections there be fixed where only true joys are to be found; we apply our hearts, in Thort, too much to the wisdom of this world,

Q

to

« AnteriorContinua »