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on the vanity of this life. A life of fourscore years appears to me a most abundant source of reflections on human frailty. True it is that diseases, which consume us; sudden deaths, which cry to us, Children of men, return, and which cut off numbers before they have lived half their days; fires, shipwrecks, assassinations, epidemical diseases, all these are very proper to teach us what a little account we ought to make of the present life. But how frequently soever these sad accidents happen, we generally take care to harden ourselves against any apprehensions of danger from them, by considering them as extraordinary events, by hoping we shall escape them, and by flattering ourselves that we shall arrive at a good old age.
Well! you are to arrive at this good old age ! But how many years will elapse before you do arrive at it ? No, no, I repeat it again, nothing is more proper to discover our frailty. Should a thousand uncommon circumstances concur, shoulda vigorous constitution, a wise and cautious course of action, and a proper choice of diet unite to preserve you to this age ; should you escape water, and fire, and thieves, and earthquakes, the frailty of infancy, the impetuosity of youth, and the infirmities of advanced
should you, by a kind of miracle, arrive at the utmost limits prescribed to mankind, what then? Must you not presently die? The longest life seldom extends to a century. When a man hath lived an hundred years in the world, he is the wonder of the universe, and his age alone renders him famous. The most obscure life becomes conspicuous, when it is drawn out to this length. It is spoken of as a prodigy, it is published in foreign countries; history records the man, who had the extraordinary happines to live to such an age, it writes his name with precision, and trans
mits his memory to the most distant posterity ; it say's, at such a time, in such a place lived a man, who attained his hundredth year. After this, he must die. Old age is an incurable malady, and we are old at fourscore. O! shadow of life? how vain art thou ! O grass ! how little a time dost thou flourish in our field ! O wise and instructive principle of Barzillai. There is very little distance between old age and death! How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem ? I am this day fourscore years old, I pray thee let me return, that I may die in mine own cia ty, and be buried by the grave of my father and my mother.
But if the principle of this good old man be well founded, the consequence derived from it is better founded, that is, that worldly affairs do not suit a man drawing near the end of his life; that when death is so near, a man should be wholly employed in preparing for it. If Barzillai had been a wise man through the whole course of his life, as we suppose he had, he had not put off till now a preparation for this event which is certainly the most serious and important of life. Even they, who have lived the most regular, and gone innocently through all the busy scenes of life, have long accounts to settle, and questions of the last importance to agitate, when they come to die. Every thing engages Barzillai to avoid disconcerting himself in his last moments, and to devote the few that remain to seriousness. Yes, every thing engages him to do so ; and, to confine myself to some reflections, the length of time he had lived, the cares of his mind at present, and the consolation arising from a meditation of death, all incline him to take leave of the king and the court, the pleasures and the business of the world, tables richly served and
concerts well performed, all incline him to think of nothing but death.
1. The long time he had lived. If the account, which God requires every man to give at death, be terrible to all men, it should seem particularly so to old men. An old man is responsible for all the periods of his life, all the circumstances he has been in, and all the connections he hath formed. Then, before a tribunal of impartial justice, will every instant of that long life, which is now at an end, be examined. Then will all the objects, which time seems to have buried in eternal silence, be recalled to view. Then sins of youth, which have left no trace on the mind, because the eagerness with which we proceed to the commission of new crimes does not allow time to examine what we have committed, then will they arise out of that sort of annihilation, in which they seemed to be lost. Four, score years spent in offending thee, my God !* said a dying man. Too true in the mouth of him, who said so ! Too true in the mouths of most old men ! A motive powerful enough to engage an old man to employ in penitential exercises every moment, which the patience of God yet affords, and which at his age cannot be many.
2. The continual cares, which exercised the mind of Barzillai, were a second spring of his action. We consider riches as protectors from care : but in general they are the direct contrary. A rich man is obliged, as it were, to give bimself wholly up to discover and defeat a general plot laid to engross his fortune. He must resist such as would violently force it from him. He must unmask others, who, under color of justice, and supported by law, involve him in law suits to establish illegitimate claims. He must penetrate through a thousand pretences of generosity, disinterestedness and friendship, into the soul of a false friend, who aims at nothing but gratifying his own avarice or ambition. He must watch night and day to fix bis riches, which having wings are always ready to fly away. How difficult is it for a sout, distracted with so many cares, to devote as much time to work out salvation as a labor so important requires ! How necessary is it to make up by retirement and recollection in the last stages of life, what has been wanting in days of former hurry, and which are now no more! I recollect, and I apply to Barzillai, a saying of a captain, of whom historians have taken more care to record the wisdom than the name. It is said, that the saying struck the Emperor Charles V. and confirmed him in his design of abdicating his crown, and retiring to a convent. The captain required the Emperor to discharge him from service. Charles asked the reason. Tlie prudent soldier replied, Because there ought to be a pause between the hurry of life and the day of death.
* Mr. de Montausier.
3. In fine, if Barzillai seemed to anticipate his dying day by continually meditating on the subject, it was because the meditation, full of horror to most men, was full of charms to this good old
When death is considered as a companion with condemnatory sentences, formidable, irreversible decrees, chains of darkness, insupportable tortures, smoke ascending up for ever and ever, blazing fires, remorse, rage, despair, desperate exclamations, mountains and rocks fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ? Rev. x. 11. and vi. 16, 17. When we consider death, as so many men, alas! ought to
consider it, and as by their continual irregularities they prepare it for consideration, no wonder the thought is disagreeable, and must be put far away. . But when death is considered as some of you, my brethren, ought to consider it, you whose faults have been washed with penitential tears, and repaired by a real conversion, your view of death is more delightful, and affords yon more pleasure than the tables of the great, the amusements of a court, and the most melodious concerts could procure. Then these expressions, in appearance so mortifying, let me return, let me die, are fraught with happiness.
Let me die, that I may be freed from the many infirmities, and diseases and pains, to which my frail body is exposed !
Let me die, that I may get rid of the misfortunes, the treachery, the perfidy, the numerous plots and plans, which are always in agitation against me in a society of mankind!
Let me die, and let me no more see truth persecuted, and innocence sacrificed to iniquity!
Let me die, let all my doubts and darkness vanish, let me surmount all my difficulties, and let all the clouds that hide interesting objects from me disappear! Let me go to know as I am known, and let me put off this body of sin ! Let me leave a. world, in which I cannot live without offending God! Let me kindle the fire of my love at the altar of the love of God!
Let me die, and leave this untoward company of men, who seem almost all to have taken counsel against the Lord, and against his anointed, to subvert his throne; and, were it possible, to deprive him of the government of the world!
Let me die, that I may form intimate connections with happy spirits, and that I may enjoy that