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off, because we know our lives are very short. Before the flood men lived many hundred years ; but it is a great while now since the Psalmist observed, that the ordinary term of human life had very narrow bounds set to it, 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 flie away, Psal. xc. 10. There are some exceptions from this general rule, but this is the ordinary period of human life, when it is spun out to the greatest length ; and therefore within this term we may reasonably expect it; for in the ordinary course of nature our bodies are not made to last much longer.
Thus far we are certain ; but then how much of this time we shall run out, how soon, or how late we shall die, we know not, for we see no age exempted from death ; some expire in the cradle, and at their mother's breasts, others in the heat and vigor of youth, others survive to, a decrepit age, and it may be follow their whole family to their graves. Death
very often surpriseth us, when we least think of it, without giving us any warning of its approach; and that is proof enough, that the time of our death is unknown and uncertain to us.
But these things deserve to be particularly discoursed ; and therefore with reference to the time of our death, I shall observe these four things, not so much to explain them ; for most of them are: plain enough of themselves, as to improve them for the government of our lives : I. That the general period of human life, which
is the same thing with the time of our death, is
fixed and determined by God. II. That the particular time of every man's death,
though it be foreknown by God, who foreknows all things, yet it does not appear, that it is per
emptorily decreed and determined by God. III. That the particular time, when any of us
shall die, is unknown and uncertain to us. IV. That we must die but once; It is appointed
for all men once to die.
SECT. I. That the general period of human life is fixed and determined by God, and that it is but very short.
I. That the general period of human life, which is the same thing with the time of our death, is fixed and determined by God: that is, there is a time set to human life, beyond which no man shall live, as Job speaks : Job. xiv. 5. His days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. Which does not refer to the period of every particular man's life, but is spoken of men in general, that there are fixed bounds set to human life, which Ho man can exceed.
What these bounds are, God has not expressly declared, but that must be learnt from observation : such a time as most commonly puts a period to men's lives, who live longest, may generally pass for the common measure of human life, though there may be some few exceptions.
Before the flood, no man lived a thousand years, and therefore we may conclude, that the longest term of human life, after the sentence of death was passed on man, was confined within a thousand years. Methuselah, who was the longest liver, lived but nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died; so that no man ever lived a thousand years : and comparing this observation with that promise of a thousand year's reign with Christ, which is called the first resurrection, and is the portion only of martyrs and confessors, and pure and sincere christians. Rev. xx. ; I have been apt to conclude, that to live a thousand years, is the privilege only of immortal creatures ; that if Adam had continued innocent, he should have lived no longer on earth, but have been translated to heaven without dying ; for this thousand year's reign of the Saints with Christ, whatever that signifies, seems to be intended as a repar.. ation of that death which they fell under by Adam's sin : but then these thousand years do not put an end to the happiness of these glorious Saints, but they are immortal creatures, and though this reign with Christ continues but a thousand years, their
happiness shall have no end, though the scene may change and vary ; for over such men the second death hath no power : Or else this thousand years' reign with Christ must signify an eternal and unchangeable kingdom, a thousand years being a certain earnest of immortality ; but there is an unanswerable objection against that, because we read of the expiring of these thousand years, and what shall come after them, even the final judgement of all the world. But this is a great mystery, which we must not hope perfectly to understand, till we see the blessed accomplishment of it.
But though before the flood some persons lived very near the thousand years, yet after the fluod the term of this life was much shortened: some think this was done by God, when he pronounced that sentence, Gen. vi. 3. And the Lord said, my Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh, yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. As if God had then decreed, that the life of man should not exceed an hundred and twenty years ; but this does not agree with that account we have of men's lives after the flood ; for not only Noah and his sons, who were with him in the ark, lived much longer than this after the flood : but Arphaxad lived five hundred and thirty years, Salah four hundred and three years, Eber four hundred and thirty years, and Abraham himself a hundred and seventy-five years; and therefore this hundred and twenty years cannot refer to the ordinary term of man's life, but to the continuance of God's patience with that wick. ed world, before he would bring the flood upon them to destroy that corrupt generation of men ; that is, that he would bear with them a hundred and twenty years, before he would send the flood to destroy them. But afterwards by degrees life was shortened, insomuch that though Moses himself lived a great deal longer, yet if the ninetieth Psalm were composed by him, as the title tells us it was, the ordinary term of life in his days, was but three score and ten, or four score years, ver. 10. The days of our years are three score ycars and ten ; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow ; so soon passeth it away, and it is gone. And this has continued the ordinary measure of life ever since ; which is so very short, that David might well say, Behold, thou hast made my days as hands-breadth, and mine ageis as nothing before thee : verily, verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity, Psal. xxxix. 5.
I shall not scrupuously inquire into the reason of this great change, why our lives are reduced into so narrow a compass : some will not believe that it was so, but think that there is a mistake in the manner of the account ; that when they are said to live eight or nine hundred years, they computed their years by. the moon, not by the sun ; that is, their years were months, twelve of which make but one