« AnteriorContinuar »
causes us to complain of this last enemy, is a continual eye that we have fixed upon the power of the flesh, and a too great confidence upon second causes. We are like the dog that bites at the stone that strikes him ; for we commonly curse the means that God employs to call and withdraw us out of the world.
It will easily appear that God hath numbered our days, and that by his wonderful and eternal wisdom he hath decreed the hour and moment of every man's death ; for besides what our Saviour Christ saith in general, that “ God hath reseryed the times and the seasons in his own power,” Acts i. Job tells us expressly, “ The days of man are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass,” Job xiv. The royal prophet speaks to the same purpose in the xxxist psalm,“ I trust in thee, O Lord; I said, Thou art my God, my times are in thy hand." He is of the same judgment in the xxxixth psalm, « Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth.” And Psa. Ixviii. Unto God the Lord belong the issues of death.” He also teacheth us the same lesson in his divine hymn, Psa. xc. for when he had represented how that it is God that reduceth man to ashes, and maketh him return to his first substance, he tells us, speaking unto God, “ Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Return again, ye children of men.”
King Hezekiah's comparison is very notable: he compareth the life of man to a thread that God hath twisted, and that he cuts off at his pleasure, Isa. xxxviii. “ Mine age is departed and removed from me as a shepherd's tent; I have cut off, like a weaver, my life; he will cut me off with pin, ing sickness; from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.” Hannah, Samuel's mother, removes all difficulty, and confirms this truth sufficiently, 1 Sam. ii. 2.“ It is God," said she, “who killeth and maketh alive ; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” There is nothing more significant to the same purpose, than our Lord and Saviour's words, “ I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell and death," Rev. i. This great God and Saviour closeth the gates of the grave when he pleaseth, and it is not possible to open them against his will. In short, “ Whether we live, we live to the Lord ; or whether we die, we die to the Lord; whether therefore we live or die, we are the Lord's,” Rom. xiv.
And our reason being enlightened with divine revelation, teacherh us this good and profitable lesson ; for if God harh a hand in our conception and birth, and if he appoints the time of our entrance into the world, wherefore should not he also have a band in our death, and mark out the time of our departure ? David speaks thus to God in Psa. cxxxix. “ My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest part of the earth : thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect, and in thy book all my members are written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them.” We may therefore speak unto God in the same language : My substance shall not be hid from thee, when this miserable body shall fall to pieces, as rotten wood, and as a moth-eaten garment; thine eyes shall see me, when Death shall cut off the thread of my life, and separate what thou hast joined together so wonderfully by thy power and wisdom; thy providence shall dispose of me at my departure, and nothing shall happen to me but that which thou hast fore-orda..ed in thine unsearchable decrees.
· If God appoints the time of our resurrection, and if it be certain, that without his express commission the Holy Spirit will not breathe upon our dry bones to cause them to revive ; it is not probable that our bodies shall fall into the bed of .corruption, without the orders of the great and living God,
Ezek. Ezek: xxxvii. He hath appointed the sun in its course, and to the stars that shine in the heavens, their several motions and stations, Isa. xl. And should he not also appoint to his children their motions, since they are to shine for ever in the heaven of heavens, where righteousness dwells, as so many immortal stars ? He hath measured the water in his hand; he hath compassed the heavens with his span; he hath weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills with a balance ; he hath fashioned the earth with his hands, and givea bounds to the roaring sea ; and is it possible that he hath not measured the time of our life, and that he hath not marked out with his finger the last moment? He who hath numbered the kingdoms of the heathen princes, hath he not also numbered the days in which he intends to reign in our hearts by his holy Spirit? Hath he not appointed the time for us to ascend up into the highest heavens, where we are to reign with him in the kingdom of his glory?
· If it be certain that God hath numbered the hairs of our head, Matt. x. it is not to be doubted but that he hath also numbered the days of our life. And if a sparrow fall not to the ground without his order, how can it be that a man can take his flight up to heaven without his express condition ? He bottles up our tears, he keeps a record of all our affilictions, and takes an account of our sorrows, Psa. 1. and can we imagine that he doth not keep an account of the life and death of men, and that he minds not the time that we are to spend in the valley of tears ? He takes notice of our rising and of our down-sitting; he compasseth thee round about, whether thou dost stop or go, Psa. lix. And can it be conceived but that he observes thy rising at thy birth, the several passages of thy life, and thy going down at thy death?
In short, if God hath appointed, in his eternal counsel, the continuance of the great world; be hath also, without
doubt, doubt, limited the life of man, the little world, and the image and compendium of the great, as our Lord and Saviour teaches us. Man is not able by his solicitous care to add one cubit to his stature; and our experience sufficiently demonstrates, that we cannot add a year, a day, or a moment, by all our labour and industry, to the continuance of our life. ·
If life and death were not in God's hand, there would be nothing settled or constant, either in the kingdoms of the world, or in the church of Christ. The prophets would be often found in grievous errors, and the eternal election would be totally abolished; for tbe most weighty affairs of a commonwealth depend upon the life of princes. The death of one man is able to turn an empire upside down, and to change the state of the kingdom. If Alexander the Great had been stifled in his cradle, what would become of the prophecy of Daniel, who declared the glorious victories that this prince should obtain against king Darius, the Persian monarch, under the emblem of an he-goat, that should run at a ram with all his might, that should break his two horns, and trample him under his feet? And if king Cyrus had died before the obtaining the kingdom of- Babylon, how should Isaiah's prophecy be accomplished ? For he paints out this young conqueror in the most lively colours, and calls om by his name in this expression; “ I have said of Cyrus,
e is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure ; even saying unto Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built ; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid,” Isa. xliv.
the devil could have destroyed St. Paul's life, before his Putney to Damascus, where he was strangely converted by
miracle, how could God's immutable decree be accompushed? for he had designed him, from his mother's womb,
be a noble vessel of his grace and mercy, and a “faithful bassador of his Son,” Gal. i. If the penitent thief had died
for he hadded God's
before he had seen the light, or if he had been killed in one of his robberies, how could he have been converted upon the cross, where he repented of his crimes? Or how could he have heard from our Saviour these blessed and comfort. able words, “ Verily I say unto thee, thou sbalt be with me this day in paradise ?” Luke xxiii.
The heathens have perceived and understood this truth, but they have darkened and defaced it by their impertinent and ridiculous fictions: for their poets tell us there are three Parcæ, or infernal goddesses; the one holds the distaff, and spins; the other winds up the thread; the third cuts it, and puts a period thereby to the life of man. By this fable they intend to teach us, that God lengthens or shortens at his pleasure man's life. As it is therefore certain that God has numbered our days, he hath also appointed, in his infinite wisdom, the means to convey us out of the world. If one dies in peace, another is killed in war ; if one departs in his bed, another is hanged upon a gibbet; if one perishes with famine, another is stifled with the plague ; if one is struck with thunder, the other is torn in pieces by wild beasts; if one is choaked in the waters, the other perishes in the flames; in short, if the separation of the soul from the body happens in a different manner, it is not without the express leave and orders of our heavenly Father.
Therefore when we see the strangest accidents come to pass, and the most unexpected tragic deaths before our eyes, we must remember the saying of the prophet Jeremy, when he saw the burning and plunder of Jerusalem, “ Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not ? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good, Lam. iii. We must then consider with the prophet Isaiah, that it is God that creates light and darkness, and that sends prosperity and adversity, Isa. xv. 45. or