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graves will be counted ? Who of us will be missed from the solemn assembly that shall then be gathered here? Shall it be the old man who has already reached his threescore-and-ten.
-or the aged mother-or the blooming youth-or the sportive child? Or shall he who now addresses you be then among the dead? We are yet alive! But the dead of this rolling year - who shall they be ?
I have said, we are constantly going onward. And it is well to have some marks by which to estimate our progress. And the great Creator of the world was not unmindful of his creatures' wants in this respect, when he said (Gen. 1 : 14), “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.” He hath established such way. marks on the face of his creation ; and these, though silent, speak to our hearts. Each year comes and goes with an appeal to us. As the earth finishes its annual circuit around the sun, and then starts anew upon its course, a voice whispers to us of flight of time, and of that limitless ocean upon whose shores we shall soon stand. And as year after year is added to the past, we count up the number that have fled, and reckon our age, and speculate about the number that yet shall come. “How old art thou ? " asks the fleeting year; and unwilling though we be, we are forced to give an answer.
“How old art thou ?" In our text, these words form the inquiry of a proud and powerful monarch, addressed to an aged man. Jacob had come to Egypt to live and die with his long lost, but lately found, and dearly loved Joseph. “And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh : and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou ? And Jacob said unto Pharaoh : The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years : few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage." His days had indeed been few when compared with those of his ancestors, whose existence extended through several centuries. And sorrowful had been his pilgrimage ; for his domestic peace had been often invaded, and his dearest objects had been snatched from him. The duration of human life, as we thus perceive, had already, even in Jacob's time, greatly diminished; and since that time it has become still less. And though the Psalmist, in his day, spoke of seventy years as man's allotted period, and though occasionally some outlive that period, yet few, comparatively, at present attain unto it, and a little more than thirty years sweeps away a generation of our race. Death has “all seasons” for his own; from earliest infancy to extreme old age, he is constantly bearing off his victims; and it is the utterance of humanity, “ few are the days of our pilgrimage.”
Now there is occasion for serious reflection in the fact, that the average duration of human existence is so short. Great numbers never reach its limit. The numbers of those who pass by the limit must be diminishing as they recede from it. After reaching a certain distance from it the probability of a further continuance becomes slight. So that, independently of the consideration of the uncertainty of life, of our liability to death at any moment, the shortness of human existence, even upon the most favorable calculation, gives great force, and pertinence, and solemnity to the inquiry, “ How old art thou ?" There is cause for solicitude as we ask, how large a proportion of our allotted period of existence has passed away, how much yet remains. Each year gone, has advanced us so much nearer to the end of our pilgrimage ; and whether viewed simply with reference to this life, or more philosophically and religiously, with reference to the future, it is a matter of no small concern to behold the space upon which we may reasonably calculate, so sensibly and rapidly diminishing. And especially, when the light of the gospel shines upon us, and causes us to regard our earthly existence as a period of probation, of preparation for an ever-during, unalterable state of being; when we are assured that all which can be done to secure eternal happiness must be done on this side of the grave—that Repentance is an inhabitant of earth, and Faith has here her appointed sphere of action—that unless we be reconciled to God by faith in Jesus Christ, before we leave this world, we must for ever remain at enmity with him, and, consequently, be for ever miserable : when we thus regard life; we may well take note of our fleeting years, and be warned by the voice of Time, as he hurries past us. Time performs to us a kind office in propounding the inquiry, " How old art thou ?" Subtract the past from the whole allotted period, putting each at the most favorable point-compare the past with the probable future, and have we any leisure for loitering ? Is not each moment too precious to be wasted ? Thirty, twenty, ten years, seem long to us, when in the outset of life we look forward to them; but how quickly do they pass ? The old tells us that time seems not to them as in the days of their youth. Jacob at the end of a hundred and thirty years, regarded his days as “ few.” The school-boy counts the weeks that must intervene before his enjoyment of a release from study, and they seem to him almost interminably long. The aged pilgrim, nearly done with the cares of life, looks back upon his pilgrimage, and it appears to him as but yesterday that he was the school-boy, chiding the slowly-moving wheels of time.
How old then art thou, my hearer ? Count thy years; and be they few or many, in childhood, youth, maturity, old age, remember that the end is not far off. Each period of life has
escore-and of years existe do others in than the "And that 80
its appropriate joys, and duties, and dangers, and cares. But there is one danger, and one duty, from which no period is exempt: it is the danger of death ; it is the duty of preparation to meet God. .
But the literal numbering of our days is not the only, nor perhaps the most profitable, mode of estimating our age. As "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," so it may be said, that a man's age consisteth not simply in the number of years which have rolled over his head. Years, it is true, give experience, and furrow the brow with wrinkles, and make men old in days. But some men become far richer in experience at middle life, than others do at threescore-and-ten; some live more in a single year than do others in a score of years. An hour of some men's lives is worth more than the whole existence of other men. Nay, in our own existence, we find that some single hours do more for us, more to give us experience, wisdom, power, more to put the stamp of age upon our forehead, and its feeling in our heart, than whole years have done.
There are swift hours in life, strong rushing hours,
That do the work of tempeste in their might in They uproot long-standing opinions. They open new mines of thought. They tear aside the veil which has been obscuring our vision, and disclose to us great truths. They awaken slumbering fires within the soul, fires of passion, it may be, which rage with volcanic fury, and scathe all that is around them, and mark with ineffaceable traces the flowing of their fierce lava. They may be “strong” for good or evil. They may do their tempest-work for weal or woe. On their swift wings they may waft the soul onward in a heavenly flight; or with rushing fierceness they may bear it deep down towards hell. Come for a moment into the sphere of such an hour, and let us watch the workings of the storm. A widowed mother sits by her sinking fire and dimly glimmering light, anxiously awaiting the return of her only son. Young, of, generous heart, of cultivated intellect, of powerful talents,' fitted to command respect, elicit esteem, and gain renown, he sits in a lighted saloon, chained by the fascinations of the gaming-table. Sum after sum of his little fortune is staked and lost, and glass after glass of the fiery liquid is quaffed, to drown the voice which upbraids him. He has played before, and ceased when he chose. He has, at other times, drunk the intoxicating drink, and yet had power to govern himself. But now is his hour of darkness. A mighty tempest is rising within him. He is goaded to desperation. He can no longer free himself from the charmer. He beholds himself ruined. His brain is on fire. In in his fury he rushes on his antagonist; but is himself felled to the floor, and lies weltering in his blood. Insensible and bloody he is carried home to his mother. What an hour for her ! But the hour is not yet passed. His sufferings have not sobered him. He awakes from his stupor only to more fearful wildness; and while his weeping parent, heart-broken, seeks to relieve and heal him, he in his frenzy lifts his hand against her, and curses, aye, curses her who bore him! The storm has passed ; the swift hour has done its work. Would you see its effects? Yon aged woman, bowed with sorrow, and gathering a miserable subsistence from charity; yon bloated form, a young man prematurely old, outcast and reckless, the companion of worse than brutes; these are its effects. That tempest-hour has cast down hopes and happiness ; has driven an iron into the widow's soul, has buried bright talents ; has made a man a brute ; has made an immortal spirit the prey of stinging furies; has fastened on that young man's heart a gnawing, never-dying worm.
Look again : and you see a mother anxiously watching over a sick child. That child apparently is dying. The physician is Hopeless. A man of God comes, and kneels with that mother by the infant's cradle ; and earnest is the prayer that goes up to heaven that the child's life may be spared, while from the anguished heart bursts forth, “Thy will be done.” That petition is heard-sweetly sleeps the babe, as if lulled by the voice of prayer, or soothed by an angel's whisper. The hour passes away. The crisis is over. The child recovers. Oh, how much was wrapped up in that hour ! But look again. That child becomes a young man, and alas! a mother's hopes and prayers have been disappointed. He is without God, irreligious, reckless. Better, seems it, that he had died in his cradle and gone up to heaven. But another hour arrives. He has been listening to the truth, and the arrows of the Almighty have stuck fast in his soul. He cannot tear them from him. Bitter, bitter is his struggle ; now all enmity against God and determined to resist, and then trembling with fear as if in the very jaws of hell ; now moved by the thought of a crucified Saviour, and then anxious lest the blessings of salvation should be placed beyond his reach ; now ready to trust in God's mercy, and then fearing lest there be no mercy for him. A tempest is sweeping over him, and he is hurled to the ground. At length all is still. Passion subsides, resistance is at an end. He submits to God. Sweet peace takes possession of his soul. He is once more saved. And he now consecrates himself unto Him who has redeemed him with his own precious blood; and as a preacher of “the unsearchable riches of Christ," he gives his talents, and his richly-furnished mind, and glowing eloquence, to the the holy work of winning souls to Jesus. That hour ! how important its results !
These may serve as illustrations of the truth of which I speak. The future will be full of the record of such hours ; they are numerous in the record of the past-hours whose impress on the earth shall last till the earth is destroyed; hours whose effects shall be felt for ever by souls over which they have passed. These are hours which make men "old" quickly, because the events of a life-time seem to be crowded into them.
The most proper mode of measuring time is by events. He may be said to live the longest, whose life is fullest of events. I do not mean simply of stirring, wonderful, or romantic events, but of true actions, as contrasted with indolence; of things done, thoughts generated and uttered, influence created and used;—not simply of tempest-hours, uprooting and shaking, but of growing hours, each of which produces fruit. Here we may apply, though with a signification different from the meaning of the author, that line of the poet, “It is not all of life to live.” Bonaparte's life, though its years were few, was one of centuries. So in a far nobler sphere was Luther's. Henry Martyn lived but a few years after he entered on his missionary life; yet he died older by far than hundreds who long survived him in inglorious ease. We often mourn and wonder, when men are cut down in the vigor of their days, and appar: ently in the height of usefulness; but we forget to estimate how long they have lived. The Book of Wisdom tells us,* and we ought to remember it, that “honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years. But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and and an unspotted life is old age.”
The great end of life is the love and service of God; and he lives most who most fully attains this end. In the pursuit of holiness consists true wisdom ; and this is "the gray hair unto man,” he may be said to be the oldest who is the wisest of our race. That man has lived to but little purpose, who has not yet commenced this pursuit-to but little good purpose, I mean, for himself ; for God may overrule his living for great good to others, and his life may be crowded full of powerful influences. But viewed in the light of the gospel, yet apart from the view of God bringing good out of evil, he may be said to have lived to but little purpose who has not yet commenced the pursuit of holiness, in the revealed way, And the pursuit of holiness comprises a two-fold object : our own growth in grace, and the good of our fellow-men. So our life is to be estimated by what we have done, or left undone in re. spect to this two-fold object. Two individuals may start together in the same vehicle, to reach the same point of destination. One is listless, inactive, doses while he is borne swiftly along on his journey. The other is wakeful, full of activity, observes each point along the route, converses with his fellowtravelers and the inhabitants of the country through which he passes, diffuses information, relieves doubt, and contributes to the general happiness. Now we have no hesitation in decid
• Apocrypha-Wisdom of Solomon, 4 : 8.9.