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of our years ; and then indeed the longest livers of them did not live so long as many men do at this day ; for Methusalah himself, who lived nine hundred sixty-nine years, according to this computation of months for years, lived but fourscore years and five months. But it is very absurd to imagine, that Moses should use two such different accounts of time, that sometimes by a year he should mean no more than a month, and sometimes twelve months, without giving the least notice of it, which is unpardonable in
any historian : and therefore others complain much that they were not born in those days, when the life of man was prolonged for so many hundred years : there had been some comfort in living then, when they enjoyed all the vigor and gaiety of youth, and could relish the pleasure of life for seven, eight or nine hundred years. A blessing which men would purchase at any rate in our days : but now we can scarce turn ourselves about in the world, but we are admonished by grey hairs, or the sensible decays of nature, to prepare for our winding sheet. And therefore, for the farther improvement of this argument, I shall, 1. shew you, what little reason we have to complain of the shortness of life. 2. What wise use we are to make of it.
Sect. II. What little reason we have to complain of
the shortness of human life.
1. WHAT little reason we have to complain of the shortness of life, and the too hasty approaches of death to us : for 1. Such a long life is not reconcileable with the present state of the world. And, 2dly, our lives are long enough for all the wise purposes of living
1. Such a long life is not reconcileable with the present state of the world. What the state of the world was before the flood, in what manner they lived, and how they employed their time, we cannot tell, for Moses has given no account of it; but taking the world as it is, and as we find it, I dare undertake to convince those men who are most apt to complain of the shortness of life, that it would not be for the general happiness of mankind, to have it much longer : for, 1. The world is at present very unequally divided ; some have a large share and portion of it, others have nothing, but what they earn by very hard labor, or extort from other men's charity by their restless importunities, or gain by more ungodly arts : Now, though the rich and prosperous, who have the world at command, and live in ease and pleasure, would be very well con• tented to spend some hundred years in this world, yet I should think, fifty or three score years abundantly enough for slaves and beggars : enough to spend in hunger and want, in a jail and a prison. And those who are so foolish as not to think this enough, owe a great deal to the wisdom and goodness of God, that he does : so that the greatest part of mankind have great reason to be contented with the shortness of life, because they have no temptation to wish it longer.
2ly, The present state of this world requires a more quick succession : the world is pretty well peopled, and is divided among its present inhabi
. tants; and but very few, in comparison, as I obseryed before, have any considerable share in the division : now let us but suppose that all our ancestors, who lived one or two hundred years ago,were alive still, and possessed their old estates and honors, what had become of this present generation of men, who have now taken their places, and make as great a show and bustle in the world as they did ? And if you look back three, or four, or five hundred years, the case is still so much the worse; the world would be over peorled, and where there is one poor miserable man now, there must have been five hundred, or the world must have been common, and all men reduced to the same level ; which I believe the rich and happy people, who are so fond of long life, would not like very well. This would utterly undo our young prodigal heirs, were their hopes of succession three or four hundred years off, who, as short as life
think their fathers make very little haste to
their graves : this would spoil their trade of spending their estates before they have them, and make them live a dull sober life, whether they would or no ; and such a life, I know, they don't think worth having : and therefore, I hope, at least they will not make the shortness of their fathers' lives an argument against providence ; and yet such kind of sparks as these, are commonly the wits that set up for atheism, and, when it is put into their heads, quarrel with every thing which they fondly conceive will weaken the belief of a God, and a providence, and among other things, with the shortness of life, which they have little reason to do, when they so often out-live their estates.
3ly, The world is very bad as it is, so bad, that good men scarce know how to spend fifty or three score years, in it; but consider how bad it would probably be, were the life of man extended to six, seven, or eight hundred years. If so near a prospect of the other world, as forty or fifty years, cannot restrain men from the greatest villanies what would they do, if they could as reasonably suppose death to be three or four hundred years off ? If men make such improvements in wickedness in twenty or thirty years, what would they do in hundreds ? and what a blessed place then would this world be to live in? We see in the old world, when the life of man was drawn out so great a length, the wickedness of mankind grew so insufferable, that it repented God he had made man, and he resolved to destroy that whole generation excepting Noah and his family : and the most probable account that can be given, how they came to grow so universally wicked, is the long and prosperous lives of such wicked men, who by degrees corrupted others, and they others, till there was but one righteous fainily left, and no other remedy left, but to destroy them all, leaving only that righteous family as the seed and future hopes of the new world.
And when God had determined in himself, and promised to Noah, never to destroy the world again by such an universal destruction, till the last and final judgement, it was necessary by degrees to shorten the lives of men, which was the most effectual ineans to make them more governable, and to remove bad examples out of the world; which would hinder the spreading of the infection, and people, and reform the world by new examples of piety and virtue : for when there are quick successions of men, there are few
ages but have some great and brave examples, which give a new and better spirit to the world.
Many other things might be added, to convince those who complain of the shortness of human life, that it would be no desirable thing, as the state of the world now is, to live seven or eight hundred year's in it; but this I suppose is enough, if I can make good the second thing I proposed, that our lives are long enough for all the wise purposes of living.