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and yet he speaks of it in the most diminutive expressions, as an empty shade-a passing winda withering flower.
2. The length of human life is various. · Few, very few, reach the period, which is commonly called old age. Multitudes, in every •stage, from the earliest infancy to the last decay of nature, are removed from our world; and no man can, long beforehand, conjecture, in what stage of the progress he must close the scene. Every one, therefore, may justly say, “ The grave is ready for me.” At least, every one ought to entertain this idea and act on this supposition.
3. There are many of the human race, whose exit is sudden, and without any special warning by previous sickness and decay. Or if there have been warnings of this kind, they have come and past away so often, that they have lost their effect, and death comes suddenly at last. And that which happens to many, no man can be sure will not happen to himself.
It is, doubtless, true of some, now in full health, that their breath is almost spent, their life is nearly finished, and their grave will soon be opened. And who can say, this is not his own condition? Who can boast of to-morrow, or tell what it will bring forth? Who can promise himself another hour, or another breath? The uncertainty of the time when death will come, and the frequent intimations given us, in the providence of God, that it may surprize us suddenly, are reasons why we should always watch, and always be ready. It is the command of our Lord to us, and to all, “ Watch, for. ye know not when the time is watch, lest, coming suddenly, it find you sleeping.”
4. Some, under sensible decays of nature, have special reason to view the grave as ready for them. It was disease and affliction which so deeply impressed on Job, a sense of mortality and the grave. .
When one feels his nature languishing, his strength failing, and his spirits wasting, the concerns of futurity ought surely to command his attention. In the firmness of health, and the flow of spirits, we are insensible of our weakness and frailty; we cannot realize the nearness of death; we almost forget that we are more bal. Sickness teaches us what we are, points us to the grave, and
tells us, that we must soon lie there. Sickness is death already begun-already preying on our nature, and reducing it to ruins. There are some diseases, which, by their violence, or obstinacy, or usual effects on others, give the patient reason to conclude, that they will terminate in his death. And every disorder and infirmity of body, in the most moderate degree, is an admonition to think of, and prepare for such an event. Diseases spring from the same fatal cause, and are the effects of the same awful sentence, as death itself. The sin, which brought death into the world, has also introduced those numerous maladies which afflict the human race. The same Divine curse which subjected mankind to mortality, has also subjected them to pain and sorrow, sickness and vanity.
5. The aged have special reason to apply the language of the text. .
In the course of their life, they have passed through various scenes. They have stood spectators on this gloomy theatre, and beheld their fellow-mortals around them, dropping off, and falling into the grave. They have seen the young, as well as the aged ; the strong, as well as the weak, yielding to the power of death. They have visited the mansions of the dead a thousand times, there to lodge, and there to leave, in long darkness, a friend, a neighbor, or acquaintance. They have sometimes had the sentence of death in themselves by diseases, casualties and dangers. They have heard the sentence loudly sounded in their ears by the deaths of their contemporaries, and of their intimate relatives. They have seen death pass along near them to smite the friend who stood by their side, and have felt the wind, and even the stroke of his destroying weapon. Through a thousand perils they have been brought on to the present stage; and here they stand almost alone. In vain they look around for their early friends and associates. There is left of these only here and there a mortal, as faint and as solitary as they. Few, very few, of those who sat out in their company on the journey of life, are now to be found. These have fallen by the way, and slept together in the dust. The aged have reached the point, which few are known to pass, and which none pass far beyond. They feel their powers Wasting, and their nature sinking toward the grave. Their strength bows down; their limbs tremble; their eyes are darkened; the door is shut in the streets; and fear is in the way. With much propriety they may say, “Our spirit is spent, our life is extinct, the grave is ready for us."
Such is the state of mankind. Let us attend to the reflections which such a state readily suggests to us.
1. Undoubtedly there is, for man, another scene of existence, action and improvement.
It is by no means credible, that God should make such an order of intelligent beings for so poor-so short-so precarious an existence as the present life.
How many are cut off in infancy, before the mind opens into rational exercises ? How many are removed in the first stages of reason, before they have opportunity to act a part which can be useful to themselves, or others ? They who reach the latest period, have but a short duration. Time is not allowed them to make those advances in knowledge and happiness, which, in a longer space, they might have made. Here the man—the intelligent being is imprisoned in a dungeon of clay. He cannot go forth and make excursions in the field of science. He can only just peep through the windows of his prison, and perceive that there is a mighty field around him, inviting his eye, but guarded from his entrance. In this short life, the human mind, thus inclosed and confined, cannot reach its full maturity, nor arrive at its just pera fection.
Would the Creator make rational beings merely for such a state as this? Would he give us reason and understanding only to see and lament our inortality--only to feel and bewail our ignorance - only to look and long after, but not to taste and enjoy, the tempting fruits which hang around us ? The supposition is not consistent with our apprehensions of his wisdom and goodness, The Psalmist, contemplating the shortness of human life, expostulates, “ Lord, why hast thou made all men in vain ?" Men, considered as rational creatures, were made in vain, if death finished their existence. The brutal tribes eat and drink, and sleep and wake, and enjoy all the pleasures of sense, probably in as high a
degree as men. And their sensitive pleasures are not, like ours, interrupted and alloyed by the continual apprehension of change, and the certain foresight of death. If nothing greater and better is designed for us than for them, why were reason, reflection and forethought given us ?-_Why were we not, like them, secured from fear and anxiety, in a happy unconsciousness of obligation and blindness to the future? Was this distinction given us only to subject us to peculiar pains, or expose us to delusive hopes ?Most certainly there must be another world, in which man, having acted well his part here, may exist in a more noble manner, rise to his just perfection, and enjoy his true felicity. ..
2. The present condition of mankind bears evident marks of a fallen, and a probationary state. Here is too much misery for a place of rewards; and too much goodness for a place of punishment.
The world in which we dwell is not capable of affording us full satisfaction and complete enjoyment. By disappointing our hopes and crossing our wishes, it calls upon us to look for happiness in a future state. If ever we are happy, it must be there; and surely some way must be provided by which we may arrive there. Had man continued in his primitive innocence, a more easy and eligible passage than death would have been allowed him. But to creatures so corrupt and degenerate as we are, this solemn, gloomy, humiliating change seems necessary, not only as a testimony of God's displeasure against sin, but as a continual admonition of of our fallen, and probationary state. If our fellow-men passed , softly and silently from this to the other world, we should be little affected and awakened by their change. But now their painful conflicts and dying groans; their pale, unanimated bodies; their putrid, disgustful and mouldering carcases, arrest our attention and solemnize our thoughts. To render such spectacles often new, and always alarming, providence calls men out of life at every age, and in an endless variety of ways. These various, repeated, awful admonitions, are well adapted to awaken and quicken such indolent, drowsy creatures as we are, dwelling amidst so many stupifying objects. The afflictions which attend us are suited to our probationary condition. They are useful to wean us from
our faith and sincerity, our hope and patience. They give opportunity for the mutual exercise of kindness and benevolence, and thus they aid our preparation for that world, where love is the distinguishing virtue. · 3. Our mortal condition constantly reminds us of God's awful displeasure against our guilty race, and of his abundant mercy in sending a Redeemer.
That men should be originally formed by the hand of a holy Deity, with those impure and distempered inclinations which they so generally discover, cannot be supposed. “Their spot is not the spot of his children: They have grievously corrupted themselves.” The state in which he has placed them, and the manner in which he deals with them, are suited to the case, not of sinless, but of degenerate creatures. The scripture teaches us, that death entered into the world by sin-by the disobedience of the first man; and that by his single transgression death has obtained' dominion over the whole race in all generations. When we see what dreadful effects one act of sin has produced through the world, in all ages, we are constrained to acknowledge, that it must be highly offensive to God; and that its guilt must be too vast—too immense for man, by any means, to expiate.
God's commandment is exceeding broad, and its sanctions awful and tremendous. By the law we obtain the knowledge of sin; and sin, by the commandment, becomes exceeding sinsul. But, by the deaths which it works among men, it appears more sinful still. If one transgression, of the first offender, has filled the world with deaths, surely nothing that we can do-nothing that we can suffer-not even our death itself, will expiate the guilt of our innumerable transgressions. Men have died in all
deaths have satisfied the sentence, nor exhausted the curse of God's broken law. Deplorable, then, must have been our state, if a Divine Redeemer had not interposed; more deplorable, still, will be the state of those who reject this Redeemer. His death can atone for the guilt of the world-his blood can cleanse from all sin. But, while it secures pardon to the penitent, it will creado