Page images

· 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 fattery can sooth the dull cold ear of death. Herod

gave 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 secure us from a state of surprise, but a state of constant preparation, or, as our Lord expresses it, to have our loins girt, and our lights burning, and to be like those who wait for the coming of their Lord. Of this truth all men pretend to be convinced. What fatality, then, O ye deluded race ! for ever prevents you from taking a single precaution to secure yourselves from danger ?

3. The uncertainty of death becomes highly important, and ought to excite us to constant and serious attention, when we reflect, that, it involves in it not only the time, the place, and the manner of death, but likewise the condition of our souls at that awful momeni. If we die in the Lord and fall asleep in Jesus, every other thing is of little importance. It is the wish, indeed, of every man (and the sage and the philosopher will never be able to eradicate it from our breasts) to have his eyes closed by some friendly hand, even when the name of friend or of kinsman is in. teresting no more ; and to have some memorial erected on his grave to protect his bones from insult. But the great question is, whether we shall die in a state of reconciliation with God, or with all our sins and imperfections on

our heads ? What will be the condition of our souls in that other world where the state of every man is unalterably fixed ? into what hands shall we fall, when we have left this tenement of clay? whether shall we be conveyed by blessed spirits into the bosom of Abraham, or be dragged by accursed fiends into the prison of everlasting darkness and despair ?

I do not say that it is impossible to obtain, even in this life, such hope and assurance of glory as will smooth the bed of death, and calm the terrours of the last hour. But, surely, the best way to get rid of such terrours, is to be prepared for them, and the most effectual way to add strength to them, is, in thoughtfulness and security, to let death approach, as if it were to determine nothing in which we are concerned. Upon the supposition that death was nothing, and that there was nothing after death, then there might be some foundation for this resolution of the wicked man, “ let

us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die :" because it would be his interest to enjoy present life as much as posssible. But, when the gospel reveals to us a state of everlasting rewards and punishment beyond the grave, how

66 Let us

different should our language be. “ be up and be doing, let us be providing for “ eternity, let us be laying up treasure in hea“ ven, for to-morrow we die, and there is no “ work nor device in the grave.” This is the awful crisis of our fate : it must be folly, it must be madness, to be unconcerned about this decisive moment, or to be unemployed in preparing, by a lively faith, against that trouble and anxiety which it must necessarily produce.

4. The uncertainty of death is different from every uncertainty in life, not only in point of importance, but also in its nature. In the calamities which may surprise us in this life, the number of those who will probably suffer along with us gives us encouragement ; the resources which we may possess leave us easy; at the worst, the surprise we meet with teaches us to be more on our guard for the future. But in that terrible uncertainty which we are considering, the number of those who run the same risk with ourselves, does not in the least diminish our danger. It is often so sudden, that it leaves us no resources ; and even those resources which are resorted to, when leisure is granted, are commonly vain and deceitful. In short, the surprise of death never returns : we die but once, and we cannot turn our imprudence to account on any future occasion. Our state is immutably determined. That light which discovers to us the folly of our conduct, instead of leading us to repentance, will only stir up that worm which never dies, and kindle that flame whose smoke ascendeth for ever and ever.

When these considerations have been duly attended to, I may be allowed to ask, upon what pretence men can possibly justify that security and profound forgetfulness of their last hour in which the greatest part of mankind live? Do you build upon youth which seems to promise you a length of days? Go to the repositories of mortality, and be undeceived. You will there find death to be the land without order, where youth, and manhood, and old age are indiscriminately mingled, and equally rest together in silence. Indeed, youth is that uncertain period of life in which death is most to be dreaded. In that tender age, the constitution is not yet hardened by maturity, or accustomed to disease : and the storm which in vain assails the oak of the mountain, will blast, in a moment, the opening blossom of the

VOL. I..


« PreviousContinue »