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And it is this makes a retirement from the world so necessary or so very useful, not merely to ease our bodily labors, and to get a little rest from business, to dissolve in sloth and idleness, or to wander about to seek a companion, or to hear news, or to talk politics, or to find out some way to spend time, which now lies upon our hands, and is more uneasy and troublesome to, us than business was : this is a more dangerous state, and does more indispose us for a happy death, than all the cares and troubles of an active life ; but we must retire from this world to have more leisure and greater opportunities to prepare for the next, to adorn and cultivate our minds, and dress, our souls like a bride, who is adorned to meet her bridegroom.
When men converse much in this world, and are distracted with the cares and business of it, when they live in a croud of customers or clients, and are hurried from their shops to the Exchange or Customhause, or from their chambers to the bar, and when they have discharged one obligation, are pressed hard by another, that at night they have hardly spirits left to say their prayers, nor any time for them in the morning, and the Lord's day itself is thought more proper for rest and refreshment, than devotion ; I
say, what dull cold apprehensions must such men have of another world ? And after all the care we can take, how will this world insinuate itself into our affections, when it employs our time and
thoughts, when our whole business is buying and selling, and driving good bargains, and making conveyances and settlements of estates? How will this disorder our passions, occasion feuds and quarrels, give us a tincture of pride, ambition, covetousness ; that there is work enough after a busy life, even for very good men, to wash out these stains and pollutions, and to get the taste and relish of this world out of their mouths, and to revive and quicken the sense of God and of another world.
This is a sufficient reason for such men, as I observed before, to think when it is time to leave off, and if not wholly to withdraw from the world, yet to contract their business, and to have the command of it, that they may have more leisure to take care of their souls, before they have so near a call and summons to death ; but much more necessary is it, when death is even at the door, and by the course of nature we know that it is so.
It is very proper to leave the world, before we are removed out of it, that we may know how to live without it ; that we may not carry any hankerings after this world with us into the next; and therefore it is very fitting that there should be a kind of middle state between this world and the next; that is, that we shonld withdraw from this world, to wean ourselves from it, even while we are in it; which will make it more easy to part with this world, and make us more fit to go to the next. But it seems strangely indecent, unless the necessities of their families, or the necessities of the public call for it, and exact it, to see men who are just a going out of the world, who it may be bow as much under their riches, as under their age, plunging themselves over head and ears in this world, courting new honors and preferments with as much zeal, as those who are but entering into the world. It is to be feared, such men think very little of another world, and will never be satisfied with earth, till they are buried in it.
Sect. IV. What use to make of the shortness of hu.
2. AS the general period of human life is fixed and determined by God, so this term of life at the utmost extent of it, is but very short : for what are three score and ten, or four score years? How soon do they pass away like a dream, and when they are gone, how few and empty do they appear? The best way to be sensible of this, is not to look forward, for we fancy time to come, to be much longer than we find it, but to look backward upon the time which is past, and as long as we can remember; and how suddenly are thirty or forty years gone? How little do we remember, how they past? But gone they are, and the rest are going a pace, while we eat, and drink, and sleep ; and when they are gone too, we shall be sensible, that all together was but very short. Now from hence I shall observe several things of very great use for the government of our lives.
1. If our lives be so very short, it concerns us to lose none of our time ; for does it become us to be prodigal of our time, when we have so little of it? We either ought to make as much of our lives as we can, or not complain that they are short, for that is a greater reproach to ourselves, than to the order of nature, and the providence of God : for it seems we have more time than we care to live in, more than we think necessary to improve to the true ends and purposes of living; and if we can spare so much of our lives, it seems they are too long for us, how short soever they are in themselves : and when our lives are too long already for the generality of mankind to improve wisely, why should God give us more time to play with, and to squander away? And yet let us all reflect upon ourselves and consider, how much of our lives we have perfectly lost, how careless we have been of our time, which is the most precious thing in the world ; how we have given it to every body that will take it, and given away so much of ourselves, and of our own being with it.
Should men sit down, and take a review of their lives, and draw up a particular account of the expence of their time, after they came to years of discretion and understanding, what a shameful bill would it be? What unreasonable abatements of life?
How Ittle time would there be at the foot of the account, which might be called living?
So much extraordinary for eating, and drinking, and sleeping, beyond what the support and refreshment of nature required; so much in courtship, wantonness, and lust ; so much in drinking and revelling; so much for the recovery of the last nights debauch ; so much in gaming and masquerades ; so much in paying and receiving formal and impertinent visits, in idle and extravagant discourses, in censuring and reviling our neighbors or our governors ; so much in dressing and adorning our bodies; so many blank and long parentheses of life, wasted in doing nothing, or in counting the slow and tedious minutes, or chiding the sun for making no more haste down, and delaying their evening assignations; but how little would there appear in most men's account, spent to the true ends of living?
The very naming of these things is sufficient to convince any considering man, that this is really a misspending of time, and a flinging away great part of a very short life to no purpose ; but to make you all sensible of this, consider with me, when we may be said to lose our time ; for time passes away very swiftly, and we can no more hold it, than we can stop the chariot wheels of the sun ; but all time that is past, is not lost ; indeed no time is our own, but what is past or present, and its being past makes it