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But some are not entirely without the saline principle; yet have it in great weakness. They are, if I may so speak, only a little brackish with it. Let such give diligence to grow in grace. And let us all see to it that we have salt in ourselves, that we may be in this respect also what Christ says his disciples are, “the salt of the earth.”

43. The Distance of Death.


How far from any human being is death? This is not equivalent to asking when he will actually die. That may not be for years to come. But all that time how far off is death from him? Not far-only a step “ There is but a step between me and death." Death is always at just the same distance from every man, though all do not die at the same time, and some live to a much greater age than others. Death is as contiguous to childhood and youth, as it is to manhood and old age. Facts are every day proving it. From no subject of human life, and from no point or period of it, is death ever at a greater distance than may be measured by a step. David said what I have quoted, of himself. It is just as true of all men, un. less some are protected, as Hezekiah was, by a promise of God that he should live a number of years.


David said it in a moment of panic. He might have said it in his calmest hour. It is no piece of extravagance. It is a sober reality. It is plain matter of fact that all we who live, live at precisely this little distance from death, and no more. David said it in view of a particular danger. But there are a thousand dangers besetting every man, any one of which could justify the language. We sometimes seem to be nearer death than at other times; and we are actually sometimes nearer dying. Every hour brings us nearer dying, but not nearer death, for that is never but “a step" off. That is always close at our side-our companion through life. The whole course of life is in the closest proximity to death. We are not merely tending toward a brink, over which ultimately we are to plunge, but we are all the time traveling on that brink. We are not journeying towards a precipice which may be more or less distant from us, but our whole way winds along the frightful edge of the precipice. Our danger does not commence just before we actually die, but it attends us all the way of life. It is true, some escape it for a long time, but there is not a point in the path which has not been so dangerous as to prove fatal to some travelers.

It is this, if I mistake not, which makes our condition here so fearful—this perpetual insecuritythis ever-present and imminent peril. It is not the certainty of the fact in regard of death that is so very appaling to the soul. It is the uncertainty of the time It is not that ultimately we must die, but that presently we may. It is the thought of being necessarily always so near that great evil_always immediately adjacent to the judgment—always close upon the confines of eternity, and always within a little of our everlasting abode--the journey from every point of our path so short-a single stage, a single step! Now here; anon there—this hour with men; the next with God—to-day only candidates for immortality; to-morrow its incumbents--to-day on trial for eternity; tomorrow tried, and the case decided irreversibly and forever-on earth to-day; tomorrow in heaven or in hell—nor yet the interval always so great as a day. I do not think the fearfulness of man's condition in view of these considerations is capable of being exaggerated. No language can overstate it. If the change awaiting us were gradually brought about, it would not be so fearful. If one by one the mysterious ligaments of life were sundered, and one by one the objects of earth faded from our view, and the novelties of eternity were slowly and separately unfolded to our vision; if the summons of death designated a distant day for our appearing at the bar of God, and our way thither was long and difficuit, dying would not constitute so formidable a prospect as now it does. But the fact is, the change is as sudden as it is great. The familiar scenes of the one world all vanish at once, and


the unimagined realities of the other all at once burst on the beholder. The summons requires immediate attendance, and the way is but a step. There is no doubt about this. There are not two minds on the subject. Every one, when asked what his life is, answers in similar language,

It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away." No one contends for the power or right to boast of to-morrow. All see that the Son of man cometh at such an hour as men think not. The frequent sudden precipitation into the grave and the eternal world, of persons of all ages, and of every condition of body, evinces that between them and death there was but a step. And how should there be more between us and death? The reasons which determine God in the dispensations of life and death are perhaps more inscrutable than those which govern any other part of his conduct. There is no class of facts out of which it is so perfectly impossible to construct a theory, as those which relate to human mortality.

So then, death is but a step off, and we cannot move him farther from us. He will keep just at that distance, though he may long maintain it. He will be ever threatening us- -his weapon ever uplifted and over us, though he cannot strike until the word is given him from another. Is it so ? Is death but a step removed—so near as that? Then, if there be anything in death which requires preparation, (and is there not ?) how important that from the earliest dawn of reason it should be made ! so that we may be ever prepared for that which is ever so nearalways in panoply to meet an enemy always at hand ! How absurd to put off preparation for death, when one cannot put off death itself! Is the reader prepared to die? He has entertained less momentous questions than this. Is he in readiness to take the step which separates him from all that is final and formidable in death? Will he not seriously institute and faithfully prosecute this inquiry?

But if death is so near, there are other things even more formidable than death, which cannot be far off. Judgment is near, if death is. Yes, “ The Judge standeth before the door.” How near to every accountable being is the place and period of his final reckoning! To-morrow he may have to answer for the deeds of to-day; or to-day, of yesterday's. How many accounts are closed every day-how many cases decided daily at that court of ultimate adjudication! And are we so near the awful interview the tremendous audit? And does it not affect us at all ? Are we so well prepared for it, or so careless of being prepared for it?

Retribution ensues immediately on judgment. That also is but the distance of “ a step.” Now, if that retribution were temporal and mutable, the thought would be alarming. But it is eternal and irreversible. Ah, then, if these things be so, how 19

Pr. Thoughts.

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