« PreviousContinue »
taken and slain. Nothing is more offensive to the ungodly than your efforts to convince them that they are unsafe. “ There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” But if they may approach that death, and not see it, if you will suffer them to dream on, and not awake them to the reality that it is a dream, they will be your debtors. But tell them of another God than him they worship, of another Savior than him they trust in, another gospel than that which they have believed, another hope than that which they have leaned upon, and another heaven than that which they have expected, and be your creed the truth, or theirs, they are outraged. “A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep: so shall poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man.” They wish not to have their old foundations torn up. They wish not to begin in their advanced years to learn another gospel. They are quite satisfied that they are on the way to heaven-yours may conduct to the same destiny, but they cannot now retreat. “We have loved idols, and after them we will go.” “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Thus the good man, in attempting to cure the plagues around him, rolls. up a steep acclivity a ponderous rock, that but rolls upon him, and consumes his strength and his spirits.
Men have polluted hearts, but they are unwilling either to know that they are polluted, or to have them cleansed. They are whole, and see no need of a physician, and know not that they are poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked. Tell them of a fountain where they can wash and be clean, and they will either deny their need of cleansing, or, like him of Syria, they will inquire, “ Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? why may I not wash in them and be clean ?" Or they will use the ancient proverb of Nazareth, “ Physician, heal thyself.” So the maniac believes himself the only man in the community who can reason, and supposes himself surrounded with madmen. Men do not thank you for discovering their unrighteousness, and consider your pity and your tears but weakness. It but mortifies them that you should presume to doubt but that their mountain stands strong. “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my own heart, to add drunkenness to thirst." O, how can the good man not weep, to see every plague that preys upon an ungodly world incurable, and find all his kindness suspected, and all his benevolence repulsed? The prophet uttered himself like a man of God, when he said, “O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.”
Men have polluted their morals, and are not willing to know that the course they pursue renders them unhappy. Their wars, their litigations, their backbitings, their pride, and envy, and ambition, and avarice, are but so many instruments of mutual slaughter. If men were content to let others have the life God has given them, 'and the wealth they have accumulated, and the influence they have acquired, how happy this world might be. Then every man would hold the place that his talents give him, and that his Maker gives him, and each would scatter blessings on all around him. Moses might not reprove his brethren, when they strove together. The one that did the wrong repulsed his kindness, and he had to flee for his life. You cannot commit a greater sin, in the world's esteem, than to persuade men that they would do well to love one another. And if you urge them to be kind to themselves, you have no thanks. Tell the profane man that his vulgarity hurts his reputation ; tell the drunkard that his cups will devour him ; tell the adulterer that his steps take hold on hell, and lead down to the chambers of death ; tell the Sabbath-breaker that God will not have his institutions trifled with, and you but utter your charms in the ear of the deaf adder. Tell men to save them. selves from this untoward generation, and will they rave or thank you ? Ah, the experiment has been too often made to allow a doubt to remain, but that the man of God will be abused so much the more, by how much he is faithful in attempting to cure the plagues he laments. Hence, why wonder that the wish often escapes him, “O, that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away, and be at rest.”
1. While such may lawfully be the sentiments of the good man, we may not suppose him at liberty to quit the post of duty. If the world, or if his country, or commonwealth, or the Church, does not please him, it is his duty to make every possible effort to render them better. It may seem impossible that we should do any good when so much needs to be done. But if every man will exert the powers God has given him, he will be accepted. And moreover, if every good man will render one little spot verdant, the gloomy picture we have contemplated will soon become brighter. Let
every child of God be what he should be, and one of the gloomiest shades in the picture is gone.
2. The subject is calculated to endear the scenes of the closet. If all without is dark, then have we the more occasion to be alone with God. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee : hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." In the closet there is light, be every other part of this world shrouded in impenetrable darkness.
3. The subject is calculated to turn our eyes to heaven. There is a retreat provided for the good man, where storms and darkness never come. When a few more dark days have hurried over him, he will be furnished with angels' wings, and will soar away to a place of rest.
Hence let there be no impatience. Heaven will be the more wel. come, and the more pleasant for what we here endure.
THE EVENING OF LIFE SORROWFUL.
PSALM Xc. 10. The days of our years are three score years and ten ; and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow: for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
To those who do not credit the history of the Apostacy, and who still believe that there is one God, and that he is good, there must be something mysterious in the history of man. Why his days so few, and why those few so filled with sorrow? Why so protracted, and helpless, and feeble, the years of his childhood ? Why his members so slow to do their office, and why the faculties of the mind so tardy in their development ?
few arrive at any thing like what may be termed the perfection of their nature, while the great mass of the human race never put forth any effort of thought that very highly distinguishes them from the beasts that perish? They reach the common stature and acquire the agility and the strength of manhood, without their own care or choice, but the mind, untaught and undisciplined, remains almost in its state of infancy, till the body has reached its perfection and commenced its decay.
Thus there begins a second childhood, at the remove of but a few years from where the first was terminated. The man is seen to stand, for a moment, a being capable of some small degree of effort, and is then, while yet we have hardly known him, merged again into all the helplessness of a second humility. The body, it is true, retains its stature, but every limb is palsied, and every organ powerless. The mind sinks with the body, and seems at length on the point of being extinguished with it. But that the book of God has taught us otherwise, it would hardly be a sin to doubt whether the mind were not material like the body, and destined to perish at that juncture when the body begins to moulder.
Now why, says the infidel, would a good being give to any of his creatures, and especially to man, the noblest of the whole, an existence so immature, so transitory, and so miserable? Nor can he ever gain a satisfactory answer to his gloomy inquiry, till he believes that by sin came death, and so death hath passed upon all men for that all have sinned.
There is some mystery in all this even to the believer. In his creed, life is a scene of probation, where the soul may ripen for its future destiny. Hence why is so large a proportion of a life so short, filled up with incapacity of mental action? Why does not the mind come into being strong and vigorous, prepared to do the task assigned it? Why is not the heart prepared to put forth at the first, matured and powerful affections? Then the character might be formed at once, and the man might become, while in the present case he is an infant, matured in piety, and far less than half the probation now allowed him, would fit him to be the enlightened and useful associate of angels.
It is true, that many things could be said to vindicate the ways of God in all this, and if not, it would be easy to show, that as he is wise and good, and holds under his entire government the beings he created, he must have directed wisely all the circumstances of our probation. Here the humble believer could rest satisfied, and would be content to wait patiently till that day when all the appointments of heaven shall be freely vindicated.
The text brings into view a period of life peculiarly laborious and sorrowful: the years beyond seventy. This is an age at which but few arrive, and the few who do, rather sigh and groan than live. Not that every man is happy precisely up to that period, and then miserable: this would contradict experience. Some sink under the weight of years before they arrive at seventy, while a few others carry through perhaps another score of years, all the vigor of undecaying manhood. Still should we, from our own observation, draw the line between vigorous and pleasureable manhood and the haltings and gloominess of old age, we should probably fix it at three-score years and ten, where it is already fixed by the pen of inspiration.
In what follows, it will be my object to illustrate the truth of the text, and show that the proper evening of life must ordinarily be laborious and sorrowful. This will follow,
1. From the ordinary weaknesses of the body, in that advanced period of life. What our Lord said to Peter with reference to his crucifixion, might apply to every man: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest : but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, 'and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” Very few are permitted to carry VOL. 11