Imágenes de páginas

happiness is an object as desirable to our Maker as it is to ourselves: but we are too much in haste to judge rightly about it: we mistake our road, through an unhappy persuasion, that it is very easy to be found; that nature will direct us to it, as it does the brutes : but God treats us like what we are, rational men; and therefore gives lis, not what is absolutely best in our present state, as being most pleasant, but what is best, when all our views and interests are considered together. We choose many things, not for the sake of themselves but of their consequences : and shall we think that rule inconsistent either with the justice or wisdom of God, which common prudence obliges us to follow on many occasions?

II. They who have desired to make a right use of their life, have wisely considered it as a journey: from which the following considerations naturally arise. That as every journey is undertaken for the sake of its end, common reason requires that it should be a progress; that no time should be thrown away in unnecessary excursions, for the sake of such objects as have no relation to the purpose we are upon.

A man upon a journey ought to be satisfied, and every reasonable person is satisfied, if he does not find all things as regular and convenient as in his own dwelling: if there is less sunshine than he could wish for while he is travelling; if his meat is less pleasant and his rest less quiet than at home : for he that enters upon a journey exposes himself of course to such inconveniences, and is not surprised if he meets with them. All these things serve to endear his own habitation, and make him in haste to accomplish his business, that he may have some right to enjoy it at his return.

III. Others have considered human life as a state

[ocr errors]

of banishment: and this representation of it will take away much of our eagerness after its enjoyments, If the mind is tender and sensible, it will take but little pleasure in the possession of those things, with which it would be highly entertained, if it were at peace in its native land. While it is sighing for what is distant, it can have no relish for what is present. When the children of Israel were led away into captivity, and spent their days by the waters of Babylon and the trees that adorned their banks; others might have been delighted with the prospect, but they could only sit down and weep. The remembrance of Sion was always uppermost in their minds: so that while their Assyrian companions were full of mirth and music, probably on some occasion of public rejoicing, or some religious festival, and required them to join in it with one of the songs of their own country, they could only reflect with sorrow and bitterness, how improper it was to join with idolaters in their worship, to intermix melody with their heaviness, and to sing the Lord's song in a strange land ; that song, with which their hearts had been delighted, while their eyes were also dazzled with the splendors of their own Temple, and their Nation happy in that favour of God, which they knew not how to value till they had lost it.

IV. But if we remember that Death is the penalty of disobedience, Life will appear to us under a still farther disadvantage; and our passage through it will be the journey of a condemned criminal from the jail to the gibbet. When a man is taken out of prison, and led forth to his execution, though he may be carried to it by the farthest way, the terrors of his mind are not lessened by so inconsiderable a relief; the fatal spot is present to his imagination from the first to the last step of his journey.



Though his limbs are in their full strength, his eyesight perfect, his respiration sound, his appetite good; yet this one consideration takes up all his attention, that he is upon the road to his Death. If we were to hear a person under these circumstances talking about indifferent subjects, or laughing and jesting; or if we should see him anxious about the colour of his clothes, or attempting to drown his senses in strong liquor; we should be shocked at the impropriety, and lament that the poor infatuated wretch was so insensible of his condition. Our conduct would surely be better than it is on many occasions, and our appetite for dissipation would be checked, if we had the sense to remember daily that this is our own case! that Life is the road to Death, and that every step we take brings us nearer to it: that our vanity and attention to pleasure, is so far from being an argument of our sense and spirit, that it is in fact a strong proof of our stupidity; that it is all no better than the amusement of a condemned criminal forgetful of his execution. This may pass for a gloomy consideration, a sort of doctrine which will hardly be received : it disagrees so much with the passions and prejudices of men, that we are apt to reject it with scorn, as invective and not representation. Such is the way of the world! there hath always been too much room for that reflection of Moses-Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their luiler end!

V. The wisdom of God saw how necessary it was to keep his servants attentive to the condition of their tenure here upon earth; and therefore his providence threw them into an unsettled way of life, whence they might with certainty collect, that this world was not to be the object of their affections; that earthly happiness was not proposed to them as the reward of their faith, and that they ought to look forward to another Life for the proper place of their abode. The greatest favourites of heaven, were of all men the greatest strangers upon earth: and the Scripture holds out their examples to us, that we may prepare ourselves to be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. The promise of an inheritance was first offered to Abra, ham: but no sooner had he received this promise, than he was called away from his country and his kindred, trusting to the word of God for a land afterwards to be revealed to him. When God had conducted him to the land of Promise, the apostle (in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews) tells us, he sojourned in it as in a strange country (a place which did not belong to him), dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Of the land promised to him as an inheritance, he had actually no possession; not enough to set his foot upon, that he could call his own; insomuch that he was under the necessity of purchasing a buryingground for a sum of money of Emmor the father of Sychem. We read in the book of Genesis, that his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Macpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre ; the field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth; there was Abraham buried, und Sarah his wife. These circumstances, so exactly related, may seem to be scarcely worth a place in the Bible; but we learn from them this important truth, that Abraham, the father of the church, a man distinguished from all other men as the friend of God, the first elected heir of all his promises, was a pilgrim upon earth, and died without receiving any possession in it, more than a small spot to be occupied at his Death. Then at last did he begin to take possession of it: to teach all his children, that the righteous hath hope in his Death, and that this world is not worth their enjoyment: if it had been such, God would have given it to Abraham.

VI. The Patriarch Jacob, who shall be the subject of our present meditation, was conformed, in his way of life, to the example of his forefather. In his youth he fled from his brother, and served many years as an hireling under a hard master. When he wanted a spot of ground to erect an altar upon, he purchased it, as Abraham had done before him. Hie was the heir of the promised land, yet lived only as a stranger there so long as he dwelt in it: and at a time of his life, when his grey hairs were nearly brought down to the grave with sorrow, he went down into Egypt. When he was introduced to Pharaoh the king enquired after his age: and the answer he makes to this question is worth our attention, 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 I have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage. If we had beheld the figure of this venerable old man when he was brought before the king, and had heard his words, we should have thought his advice worth listening to: let us think it so now, and weigh it accordingly-- H'ew and evil have the days of the years of my life beenIle had lived an hundred and thirty years; and does he call these but few? To us who look forward upon such a space of time, it may appear long; but to him who looked back upon it, it was

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »