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and real, and from which shadows and figures will have entirely passed away? Think of the words of the Bible, and of the holy words which Jesus Christ has instructed His Church to use in the Blessed Sacraments. In themselves what are they but words? but He has given them saving virtue, and so He will to all the good words of all His servants, in their measure, if they live so as to have their speech habitually sanctified by His Spirit.
The more we think on these things, the more reason shall we find to pray night and day with the Psalmist, “ There is not a word in my tongue, but Thou, O LORD, knowest it altogether." “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips.”
Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
THE GOSPEL PROMISE OF LONG LIFE.
PSALM xxi. 4.
“ He asked life of THEE, and Thou gavest him a long life, even for ever and
This psalm is appointed for Ascension Day, because it speaks at large of the glory of our Blessed LORD, and of the great love which His FATHER shewed towards Him, in hearing His prayer, and raising Him, from the cross and grave, to His own right hand in heaven. It is such a hymn, as we may suppose the holy Angels to have sung, when they saw Jesus Christ coming to take possession of His kingdom. Speaking to the Almighty FATHER, they say, "The King (that is, Christ) shall rejoice in Thy strength, O LORD; exceeding glad shall He be of Thy salvation. For Thou hast given Him His heart's desire, and hast not denied Him the request of His lips. Thou shalt prevent Him with the blessings of goodness, and shalt set a crown of pure gold upon His head.” And then we have the words of the Text. HE asked life of THEE, and Thou gavest Him a long life, even for ever and ever.”
Now, it is a strange thing to say, yet if you consider a little you will find it quite true, that this very verse, which king David was taught, by the Spirit of God, to set down as the greatest possible happiness, would yet carry, to most of our ears, rather a disappointing and mortifying sound with it.
For although it be true that every man is fond of life, yet it is certain that very few appear much concerned about life eternal. Such is their perverseness, that what they love best in the world, -when God offers it to them as His own gist, and in the very highest perfection, it loses its value directly in their eyes. There was a sort of proverb in the time of Job, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life.” But the covetous man will not give, though it be but a small portion of what he has, to make his chance better of coming to everlasting life.
It is plain, that persons thus fond of life would have their expectations raised very high by the beginning of the promise in the text: “ He asked life of THEE, and Thou gavest Him a long life.” This, they would allow, was a real part of happiness; and the fear of God, if it could make them sure of this, would indeed be worth practising.
But when these same persons came to the end of the verse, and there found that the promised life was eternal—not only a long life, but one sure to last for ever and ever- r-it is likely that they would feel disappointed. If they were ashamed to complain to others, to themselves they would surely say, “Is this all that is meant? we knew this before~we knew that the fear of God, duly practised, would put us in a way of everlasting salvation. But here we thought we should have found a long life on earth added to it; and it is disappointing to find, that after all, good Christians are not to expect to live longer than other men.” And they would hardly reckon that God had heard their prayers, either for themselves or their sick friends, if an angel were to come and tell them, Your own life, or your friend's, is granted : the sickness, indeed, will be unto death; but afterwards, if it be not your own fault, will come a long life, even for ever and ever. This sort of message would, indeed, be disappointing to most people; and yet this would be only granting them what they asked, life, in much greater perfection and excellency than they asked for it. Is it not, then, a thousand times more unreasonable to be disappointed at this, than it would be in a beggar to be disappointed, if he asked a rich man for a farthing, and the rich man gave him a large estate? What if such an one were to fret, and say he had not the very thing he asked for? should we not stop his mouth directly, and say, No, but you have what is a great deal better?
may be worth while to consider, why we see the absurdity and folly so plainly in this case, and do not see it in (what is much more foolish and absurd) our own or others' fretting at the shortness of life, or the coming on of sickness or old age, when God is all the while holding out to us the promise of everlasting life.
Now, the chief reason is plainly this, That men have got such a liking for the pleasures and profits of this bad world, that, with out them, the thought even of eternal happiness seems something dull and tiresome. For instance: suppose a man given up to the indulgence of his sensual appetites; it is no great recommendation of a good life to such an one, to say that it will bring him into a place, where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; where “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven.” Suppose another loving money best of all things : his affections are already engaged, and he turns a deaf ear when you tell him of “a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” And thus it is plain, that no sensual or worldlyminded man can in earnest desire to go to such a place as hea
He may, indeed, stand in fear of everlasting punishment; but certainly, if he had his choice, he had rather stay here, and continue wallowing in his base delights, or heaping up his money, for ever, than he would go to heaven. And though he earnestly desires to live, yet he cares not for eternal life. Such is the miserable folly in which we lose ourselves, when we set our hearts upon any thing on this side the grave, rather than upon the glorious things which Jesus Christ bought for us with His own blood.
Something of the same sort is the case with many of us, who yet mean nothing but true affection and kind-heartedness, in the sickness and death of dear friends. We ask life for them, and yet are disappointed when God gives them a long life, even for ever and ever. Like the disciples on the day of our Blessed Saviour's death; who trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel, and could not make out, how then HE should have submitted to be crucified. They were called “ foolish and slow of heart to believe” God's word; but surely we Christians are much more inexcusable than they, if we at all permit ourselves to mistrust God, and call our condition unhappy, because of the
shortness of life, when we know that, if we will, we may live for ever and ever. The truth was but just beginning to shew itself to them; they could not as yet understand the prophecies. But we, ever since we were baptized, have been disciples of a crucified MASTER. We have been taught from the beginning, that, as CHRIST, so all Christians “ought to suffer these things, and to enter into their glory.” He knew the way to heaven, we may
be very sure, much better than we do. And He chose the way of the Cross. With that way, then, let us be contented and thankful, both for ourselves and our friends. It is a hard lesson, I allow, even for truly good and affectionate minds to part cheerfully with those, the sight of whom gives them most comfort, and to let them pass before themselves into the other world. Yet who would not endeavour to do so, considering that God has allowed him to hope, that, though life should be denied them for a few years in this world, it is but in order to a blessed, neverending life in the next? And to fret at this is surely no sign of love and friendship; unless it be love and friendship to grudge our neighbour the best that God could give him, because we have not ourselves the pleasure of seeing him enjoy it.
We see then how senseless and absurd it is in a Christian, who knows men may go to heaven, by God's mercy, if they will but seek it with all their hearts; we see, I say, how absurd it is in such an one to be much troubled at the shortness either of his friend's life or of his own. It would be as if labourers should complain of their employer, for paying them their wages and sending them home before their day's work was done.
Yet, foolish as it is to do so, there is hardly any one, I doubt, who is not guilty of it. Not only in this matter of the desire of long life, but in all the rest also of the things which we greatly desire, we are easily tempted to be thus childish and unthinking. Thus, the rich man in the Gospel went away sorrowful, because he was required to exchange his worldly riches for treasures in Heaven. He could not bear to sell all that he had, and give to the poor; although he had our Saviour's promise, that if he would do so, he should receive a hundred fold now in this time, and in the world to come everlasting life.
As we read we see the folly of this; yet how many are there among ourselves, who, if they should speak the truth, must needs