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SERMON IV.

On the uncertainty and awfulness of death ; pre

paration for it to be found only in the conscientious practice of christian duties.

1 Thess. CHAP. 5, VER. 2.

« The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

RELIGION bears the same proportion to every human pursuit that eternity does to the short space of threescore and ten years. The concerns of this life soon have an end : at death our connection with the world ceases for ever : when we descend into the tomb, the cares and schemes and business and pleasures and hopes of this life cannot follow us : there the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest : the ties and relations and dependencies of society are for ever dissolved : there the servant is free from his master, and the prisoner hears not the voice of the oppressor. But religion has no end; it reaches

into eternity ; it goes with us into another life, and influences our state of existence beyond the grave. How comes it, then, that we are so much attached to the things of this life, and prosecute them with so great an ardour and so unremitting an assiduity, while the objects of religion occupy so small a share of our attention, and so seldom excite one anxious thought or desire ? This question has raised the attention of every thinking man, and moralists and divines of every age have found it difficult to give it a rational solution ; and, indeed, it must, for ever, continue to perplex them, because, the conduct being irrational and absurd, it is impossible to discover causes fully adequate to the effect. Some causes, however, have been discovered, and the time spent in inquiring into them, has not been misemployed, because, the more we are acquainted with the nature of the disease, the nearer we approach to a knowledge of the remedy.

One cause, which seems to have great effect in procuring to earthly things an attention so disproportioned to their value, appears to be the difficulty, or rather, the impossibility of ascertaining their true and exact importance.-

The duration of life and its affairs is uncertain ; the period of death is to us unknown. It cometh, as the Apostle expresses it, “ like a “ thief in the night,” who gives no warning of his approach, whose coming cannot be foreseen, but, always, takes place when men think not of it. If we knew the number of those hours and days which were appointed to us, then, we could calculate the precise value of every human pursuit, and adapt our projects and business to the time they were to last. But a knowledge of the future is wisely withheld from mortals; and the fatal moment marked out for the hour of their departure, is a secret written in that eternal book which the Lamb alone has a right to open. ment were pointed out to every one of us, if, when we came into life, we had written on our foreheads the number of our years, and the term fixed for their close, then the thoughts of death, in certain approach, would wholly occupyour attention, would disturb our minds, and trouble our repose. The image of death, , ever present to our minds, would embitter our pleasures, disgust us with the affairs of the world, and render us unfit for the business and the duties of society. The day or the hour,

If this mo

But this uncertainty of death's approach, while it contributes so much to our happiness, and is so necessary to carry forward human affairs, tends, also, to bewilder our judgment, and to attach us strongly to worldly objects. It amuses our mind, and takes off our thoughts from reflecting on that period when they shall cease to be interesting. We are left in doubt and suspense : we know not where to place death in the different stages of our life : our vigilance is thus lulled asleep ; and, because it is not certain that we shall die to-day, we act as if we were to live for ever. I beg leave, therefore, at present, to direct your attention to this subject; while I consider a little the uncertainty of death, and endeavour to show the reasonableness of this conclusion ; that, instead of attaching us to the things of the world, this uncertainty of death and life ought to excite us to watchfulness, and to a preparation for eternity. Do not suppose that the subject is unworthy of your attention, because it is neither new nor uncommon, and because you already know or have already heard every thing which can be said. It's being common, shows it's importance: and it is your fault, not the fault of the preacher, that it needs so often to be repeated. If you had made a proper use of those instructions which you have received on former occasions, it would not, now, have been necessary for me to address

therefore, knoweth no man.

you. 1. Let it be observed that it is only the period of death which is uncertain ; the thing itself is absolutely certain, and cannot be escaped. There is no man who liveth, that shall not see death. The first step which we make into life, likewise carries us a step forward to the grave.

The irrevocable sentence, “dust “ thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” is passed upon every man: and, as if it were a crime to live, it is enough that we live, so as to be worthy to die. On the day of our birth, death lays siege to our vital frame ; he assails us in various forms, and by various calamities, accidents, and diseases ; he carries on his attacks throughout the whole of life : day after day we yield to his assaults, till at length we surrender to his irresistible power. And, not only is death certain, but his approaches are near and rapid. No art can stop or arrest, in their course, those winged moments which hasten, with unstaying speed, to number us with the inhabitants of the tomb.

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