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that we should ever consider ourselves as im. mortal.
The period of death, it must be confessed, is uncertain. The ravages of this spoiler are confined to no stage of life. He is equally an enemy to the bloom of youth, and the hoary head of old age.
Some seem born, but to die, and like the Aowers which wither as soon as they are blossomed, just open
eyes to the light, look about them, and then drop into the dark mansion of the grave. Others are stopt in the middle of their course ; and, while yet flourishing in youth and vigour, like the king of Judah, seek in vain for the remainder of their days. Others grow up in peace to a good old
age ; see their offspring flourishing around them, and spreading their branches far and near ; and, heirs of the blessings of ancient times, descend, by slow and easy steps, into the house appointed for all living. But, if self-love and sanguine expectations did not deceive
us, this uncertainty, instead of lulling us asleep, is the very thing which should lead us to watch without ceasing. Should a misfortune which may happen every day be more disregarded than that which will happen only at the end of a certain period of time? Should
we possess our souls in peace as if we were never to lose them, when they may be demanded of us every moment ? A danger which is always near makes attention the more necessary
In the common affairs of life, we would be at no loss how to act in this case : but, in matters of religion, there seems to be a fatal stupidity attached to the soul which prevents us from making a right use of our faculties. The conduct of that servant, in the gospel, who made use of his master's goods, as if he was no more to render an account of them, upon pretence that his Lord delayed his coming, and that he knew not the hour of his arrival, must appear to every man the greatest folly and imprudence. These things were written for our instruction. Such tives as these does Jesus make use of lo awaken our diligence, and to cause us to regard the things which belong to our peace, ere they be for ever hid from our eyes. “therefore ready also,” said he, “ for the Son " of man cometh at an hour when ye think 66 not.”
2. We ought, constantly, to be on our guard, and in a state of preparation for death, because otherwise we shall inevitably meet with a fatal
“ Be ye
surprise. This is not one of those rare and uncommon accidents which a regard to our own peace of mind makes it more prudent to despise than to provide against. Vain are the terrors of those who live in continual fear, that, the thunder will come forth to blast their devoted heads; that an earthquake will bury them in the ruins of their habitations, or that the shipwreck shall consign them to the watery tomb. The singularity of these calamities makes them terrible, but at the same time the less to be dreaded. The surprise of death, on the other hand, is perfectly familiar to us. Every day affords us examples of it. Almost all men have seen the tyrant approach to claim them as the subjects of his dominion, when they still believed him at a great distance : and, with all their attachment to life remaining, with all their strong passions unconquered, and with all their extensive projects unfinished, they have seen some hurried into the land of silence. This was the fate of that rich man in the parable, (Luke xii. 20) whose ground brought forth plentifully, who pulled down his barns and built greater, and who said to his soul, “Soul thou hast much goods laid
for many days : take thine ease, eat, drink, and
“ be merry.” But God said unto him, “thou “ fool, this night thy soul shall be required of “ thee; then whose shall those things be “ which thou hast provided ?" But we need, only, look to those of our relations, and friends, and acquaintances who have gone before us to the world of souls, and this truth will be brought nearer to ourselves. They have almost all quitted the stage suddenly and unexpectedly. We have been surprised at the quickness of their death : we have sought for the causes of it in the want of assistance, in the imprudence of the patient, or the unskilfulness of the physician; but the true and proper reason is this, that “the day of the Lord cometh as a thief “ in the night.” Human life is an unceasing warfare. To-day we may have escaped from the fight ; but we have seen many fall by our side, who expected, as well as we, to come home in safety. We must return to the field to-morrow : there is no rest in this combat ; and, if fortune has been unfavourable to others, we cannot suppose that it will be always favourable to us alone. One day we must fall in this battle, and, surely, it must be the height of folly, to indulge in security, or to build a settled habitation on that spot where others will soon dig our tomb.
It is impossible to suppose a situation in which death may not surprise us, or in which some of our fellow men have not been cut off from the land of the living. When the fatal mandate is issued, no rank, nor power, nor riches can retain the breath in its mansion.No force can resist the arm ; no Aattery can sooth the dull cold ear of death. up the ghost amidst the shouts of his courtiers who styled him a god. Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain on that night which he set apart for revelry, while drinking and carousing among his princes, and his wives, and his concubines. The conqueror of the world, after having braved the dangers of war, and trod the path of glory in safety, was struck by the unseen hand of death, when seated at a sumptuous banquet. How many have fallen asleep to wake no more ! How many has the scythe of intemperance swept away in the moment of gratification ! How often do the slightest maladies baffle the skill of the physician and the cares of the patient ! How innumerable are the accidents which may prove the boundary of our days ! Death's thousand doors, through which life may issue forth, perpetually stand open. Nothing, then, can