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to live on earth ; for they have no other interest in these days, but that they are the days of a man, and therefore might be their days too.
From what I have now discoursed, there are two things very plainly to be observed. 1. That men may contribute very much to the lengthening or shortening their own lives. 2. That the providence of God does peculiarly over-rule and determine this matter.
1. As for the forst, there is no need to prove it, for we see men destroy their own lives every day, either by intemperance and lust, or more open violence ; by forfeiting their lives to public justice, or by provoking the divine vengeance ; and therefore whoever desires a long life, to fill up the number of his days, which God has allotted us in this world, must keep himself from such destructive vices, must practise the most healthful virtues, must make God his friend, and engage his providence for his defence. Can any thing be more absurd than to hear men promise themselves long life, and reckon upon forty or fifty years to come, when they run into these excesses, which will make a quick and speedy end of them? Which will either inflame and corrupt their blood, and let a fever, or a dropsy into their veins, or rottenness into their bones, or engage them in some fatal quarrel, ruin their estates, and send them to seek their fortune upon the road, which commonly brings them to the gallows; what a fatal cheat is this, which men put upon themselves ? Especially when they sin in hope of time to repent, and commit such sins as will give them no time to repent in ?
The advice of the Psalmist is much better, What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good ? keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile ; depart from evil, and do good ; 'seek peace, and pursue it: these are natural and moral causes of a long life : but that is not all, for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry : the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth: that is, God will prolong the lives of good men, and cut off the wicked ; not that this is a general rule without exception ; but it is the ordinary method of providence, Psal. xxxiv. 12, 13, SC,
2. For though God has not determined how long every man shall live by an absolute and unconditional decree, yet if a sparrow does not fall to the ground without our Father, much less does man: no man can go out of this world, no more than he can come into it, but by a special providence ; no man can destroy himself but by God's leave ; no disease can kill, but when God pleases ; no mortal accident can befall us, but by God's appointment ; who is therefore said to deliver the man into the hands of his neighbor, who is killed by an evil accident, Deut. xix. 4, 5. Those wasting judgments of plague and
pestilence, famine and sword, are appointed by God, and have their particular commissions where to strike ; as we may see Lev. xxvi. 47. Jer. vi. 7. Isa. Ixv. 12. Jer. xv. 2. Psal. xci. and several other places. All the rage and fury of men cannot take away our lives, but by God's particular permission, Mat. x. 28, 29, 30, 31.
And this lays as great an obligation on us, as the love of life can, which is the dearest thing in this world, to serve and please God ; this will make us secure from all fears and dangers ; My times, saith David, are in thy hand, deliver me from the hand of mine enemics, and from them that persecute me, Psal. xxxi. 15. This encourages us to pray to God for ourselves, or our freiods, whatever danger our lives are in, either from sickness, or from men : there is no cause wherein he cannot help us, when he sees fit ; he can rectify the disorders of nature, and correct an ill habit of body, and rebuke the most raging distempers which mock at all the arts of physic, and power of drugs, and many times does so by insensible methods : to conclude, this is a great satisfaction to good men, that our lives are in the hands of God; that though there be not such a fixed and immoveable period set to them, yet death cannot come but by God's appointinent.
Sect. VI. The particular time when we are to die, is
unknown and uncertain to us.
III. THE particular time when any of us are to die, is unknown and uncertain to us, and this is that which we properly call the uncertainty of our lives ; that we know not when we shall die, whether this night or to-morrow, or twenty years hence. There is no need to prove this, but only to mind you of it, and to acquaint you, what wise use you are to make of it.
1. This shews how unreasonable it is to flatter ourselves with the hope of long life ; I mean of prolonging our lives near the utmost term and period of human life, which though it be but short in itself, is yet the longest that any man can hope to live : no wise man will promise himself that which he can have no reason to expect, but what has very often failed others : for let us seriously consider, what reason any of us have to expect a long life ; is it because we are young, and healthful, and vigorous ? And do we not daily see young men die ? Can youth, or beauty, or strength secure us from the arrests of death? Is it because we see some men live to a great age
? But this was no security to those who died young, and left a great many men behind them, who had lived twice or thrice their age, and therefore we also may see a great many old men, and die young ourselves. It is possible, we may live to old age, because some do ; but it is more likely we shall not, because there are more that die young. The truth is, the time of dying is so uncertain, the ways of dying so infinite, so unseen, so casual and fortuitous to us, that instead of promising ourselves long life, no wise man will promise himself a week, nor venture any thing of great moment and consequence upon it : the hope of long life is nothing else but self flattery ; the fondness men have for life, and that partiality they have for themselves, persuades them, that they shall live as long as any man can live, and shall escape those diseases, and fatal accidents with which our bills of mortality are filled every week; but then you should consider, that other men are as dear to themselves, as you are, and flatter themselves as much with long life, as you do, but their hopes very often deceive them, and so may yours.
But you will say, to what purpose is all this? Why so much pains to put us out of conceit with the hope of living long ? For what hurt is it, if we do flatter ourselves a little more in this matter, than we have reason for? If it should prove only a deceitful dream, yet it makes life cheerful and comfortable, and gives us a true relish of it ; and why should we disturb ourselves, and make life uneasy, by the perpetual thoughts of dying?
Now, I confess, were there no hurt and danger in it, this were as ill natured and spightful a thing, as