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short. Take the oldest man you can meet with, and ask him whether his life seems to have been short? I dare promise you what his answer will be. And if you were to ask him also, whether it seems to have been vain and empty? here again we may judge what his answer would be, unless his head too should be empty : for every wise man, after he hath tried human life, hath reason to pronounce, as Jacob did, that the days of it have been evil : as to Jacob himself, the case is plain to those who consider his history. He was twenty years in the service of the hard-hearted Laban, his kinsman. In the day the drought consumed him, and the frost by night ; and his sleep departed from his eyes. His mind was agitated with the terrors of Death when he was about to meet his savage brother Esau, and his body was maimed in a mysterious struggle with an angel. In after time, he was afflicted by the unnatural offence of Reuben; disgraced by the cruelty of Simeon and Levi ; wounded to the heart by the untimely Death of his favourite Rachel in the midst of a journey; bereaved of his comfort afterwards by the supposed loss of his beloved Joseph; terrified with the apprehension of losing Benjamin; distressed by a famine, and called away at an hundred and thirty years of age to a strange country, when he was rather wishing to be released from the burthen of life. Surely we must allow that the days of this man were evil. He calls them the days of his pilgrimage, and with great propriety; for he was never settled any where, till his Death. In the last stage of his life, he lived in a state of dependence on one of his sons, to whom he owed the very bread that he eat. It is said, that Joseph nourished his father and his brethren, and all his father's household with bread, according to their families. In Egypt, a strange and idolatrous country, he died; and the journey of his funeral at last concluded his pilgrimage : he was carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money.
VII. Such was the Life, Death, and Burial of this holy Patriarcb.
In his life he was a distressed wanderer, at his Death an alien, and a pilgrim even in his Burial. What shall we say to these things? was this man forsaken of God? certainly not: for every step of his Life was under the special direction of an extraordinary providence. He died without receiving the inheritance which had been promised to him. Did the promise therefore fail? we have an answer to this question from the apostle, who assures us, that this same Jacob, with the other Patriarchs, died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afur off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. They knew the promise of God was secured to them, and signified their hope in it by the manner and place of their Burial; so that being dead they yet spake of it, and their holy example is speaking to us at this day. When Jacob was about to die, he took a solemn oath of his son Joseph, that he would not bury him in Egypt, but carry him out of Egypt, to lie with his fathers in their burying place. Joseph, in like manner, before bis Death, gave commandment concerning his bones, that the children of Israel at their departure should carry them up from Egypt, and bury them in Canaan. What could make these men so anxious about the place of their Burial? this world is lost to a dead man: and if his body must be turned to dust, what difference could it make whether that happened in Egypt or in Canaun? what could they express by this ceremony of their Burial, but that they still depended upon the promise of God, and were fully persuaded, that even Death itself could not cut them off from the enjoyment of it? To signify this hope, their bodies were translated from the house of bondage to the land of promise. The place of their Burial is a testimony of their faith, which shall last till the day of their resurrection. When the last trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be summoned from every quarter of the earth, where shall the angels of heaven gather up the bodies of these men, but in that land, where they knew their Redeemer would be manifested in the latter days; and to which he shall return, when the last enemy of his church shall be put under his feet? Animated with this hope, they were enabled to bear all the changes of human life: they were contented to live as strangers in a land, of which they had a grant from heaven itself: when they were absent from it, they had no desire of returning to it in their life-time: all they wanted, was a small spot of ground, wherein to express, by their Burial, their contempt of the world, and their hope of a resurrection. There they were all buried; and there they lie unto this day, expecting the time when God shall visit them; and their bones so deposited by an act of faith, shall flourish again out of the dust.
VIII. Thus much being said on the life, death, and burial of Jacob, let us consider what we are to learn from his example.
As we are the spiritual children of Jacob, and the heirs of his faith; it may be expected, that God will treat us also as strangers upon earth; that he will lead us through many changes, and teach us, by fre
quent interruptions, that this world and its happiness are not the proper objects of our desires.
This lessou is as needful for us as for our forefathers: and though the almighty land of God may not be so visible and open in the conduct of our lives as of theirs, yet his agency may be as real in the one case as in the other. And it will be our duty to resign ourselves, as they did, to his disposal. Shall we account it an hardship, if Providence shall at last convince us, that the favour of God is more valuable than the praises of men? that the improvement of the spirit is preferable to the gratification of the flesh? that the salvation of the soul is better than the health of the body? that Glory in Heaven is more desirable than enjoyment upon earth? If we are persuaded of these things, we shall gain more than the whole world can bestow upon us, and lose nothing but shadows and visions which cheat us with imaginary forms, and fly from us while we endeavour to secure them. If death finds us possessed of our errors, and bereaves us of them against our will, he will plant sorrow and remorse in the place of them. If we humble ourselves under the hand of God, and part with them frecly, peace and hope will immediately succeed them; and they are the only blessings, of which we cannot be deprived either by the uncertainty of life, or the certainty of death. We cannot pronounce upon any man's happiness till we see the end of him: his death is the index to his life. We count Jacob happy, notwithstanding all the travail and sorrow of his life, because he never forsook God, nor was ever forsaken by him. If we would be like him in our latter end, we must follow the example of his faith while we are alive. We must depend upon the
mises of God, as he did; and regard this world only as a passage to a better. Let us examine our own hearts then, and see what account we can give of ourselves.
IX. Do we witness the same good confession? that our present life is no better than a pilgrimage? that the days of it are few and evil? that therefore, laying aside our confidence in things present, we ought to place our hope and our affections on things to come? Do we not rather declare by our actions, that we have chosen things temporal instead of things eternal? that this world is to be used, as if it were to last for ever? that the one thing needful is the improvement of our estates; and the one thing excellent the enjoyment of them? Are not these the principles by which men (I had almost said Christians) are now directed? why else do we see them hunting so eagerly after pleasure, grasping at wealth, or soliciting honour? When our Saviour preached against worldly wisdom, the Pharisees derided him because they were covetous: this worldly Spirit had got possession of them, and soon turned them into complete infidels. That gain is Godliness, is now the ruling principle of the whole generation of Jews, and they stick at nothing to promote it. If the spiritual sons of Abraham are influenced by the same principle as the natural, they may call themselves Christians, but they will be so like Jews that we shall scarcely know the difference; and their uncircumcision will be counted for circumcision, in a sense quite opposite to that of the Apostle. What comfort can such men receive from the prospect of an heavenly Canaan? What relief can they find under any of the troubles of life? What pleasure can they take, in meditating upon death? The whole subject is to them no better than a death's