Page images
PDF
EPUB

But now he is a tree, with an ax laid to the root of it; and is cut down in wrath, long before his life hath reached to its extent: his bones lie scattered be. fore the pit, like as when one breaketh, and heweth wood upon the earth.

When the sentence of death was first executed upon the generations of men, the time of their abode on earth was much longer than it is now: God, who remembers mercy even in his wrath, departed as little as might be from his first rule. But in process of time, the corruption and wickedness of the world made it necessary that the period of human life should be contracted to a much smaller number of years * : and this dispensation, severe as it may seem, proceeds wholly from the mercy of God, who willeth not the death of a sinner, but is desirous that he should turn from his sin and be saved. The world is now a theatre of temptation, sin, and wickedness; and it is the interest of man, that the days of his pilgrimage in such a place should not only be few, but also that they should be full of trouble. For the happiness of man is now to arise from his misery; as God at first made light out of darkness, which is contrary to it; and doth generally bring his purposes to pass by such means as seem to be of all others the most unpromising; in which practice, the difference between the workmanship of God and that of man doth principally consist. How many thousands and millions do we see in the world, who, short as life is, seem to think they have many days to throw away in idleness and vanity? And even among those who attend to the precepts of the Gospel, some there are, who

• Semotique priùs tarda necessitas
Lethi corripuić gradum.

Hor. lib. i. od. %.

think the offices of devotion may be omitted for the present time, promising themselves some future ops portunity of attending upon God and the concerns of their own souls. But let them remember, that God hath contracted the life of man into so short a space, and made the date of his days so very uncertain, only that the Christian may be always upon

his guard, and be prevailed upon to lose no single opportunity of doing good to himself and others.

Upon the whole then, we have nothing to complain of. Sin and death having entered into the world, this is not a place for any man to set his affections upon: and for this reason, he is cut down like a flower, and fleeth as a shadow. By the shortness of his days the number of his temptations are lessened: and yet, short as they are, he has time enough to prepare himself for the kingdom of God; which is the work he is sent into this world to perform.

Thus far, the view we have taken of this subject hath been but dark and uncomfortable. We will now consider it in another light: for this state, which consists but of few days, and those full of trouble, is recommended to the Christian, and sanctified, because God himself hath partaken of it for this purpose. He also condescended to become man in the person of Christ, and was born of a woman. tered, by the same way, upon the same state we are now in; and, by the purity of his conception and birth of the blessed virgin, renewed and restored the human nature. In him that sentence was accomplished in every respect, which was originally passed upon the human nature in general. He was of few days; cut off in the prime of his life. Which should teach us, that death may come early, without being untimely; and that an early death is not an evil

He en

thing in itself, but is made such only by an unprofitable, a careless, and an ungodly course of life. The days of our blessed Saviour were likewise full of trouble; trouble of every sort; and first, that of poverty. He was born of mean parents, in a stable, among brute-beasts, at Bethlehem.

When he went about doing good, he had not where to lay his head; he was reviled and persecuted for his best deeds; forsaken of all his friends, and afflicted to the uttermost both in soul and body: so full of trouble, that the evangelical prophet calls him a man

sorrows.

He came forth also as a flower, springing as a root out of a dry ground; and having been agitated by the rough blasts of human pride, diabolical malice, and divine wrath, this rose of Sharon bowed its head, and withered

upon

the cross. Nor was Christ unlike to his brethren, even in the last article--he fleeth as a shadow and continueth not. The 109th Psalm, according to the use that is made of it in the New Testament, is to be understood throughout the whole, as spoken in the person of Christ; who declares concerning himself in that prophetical composition--I go hence like the shadow that departeth. For this cause came he into the world, that he might taste of death for every man; and every action of his life brought him a step nearer to Calvary and the Cross. In the sight of the unwise his death seemed as vain and unworthy of regard, as the departure of a shadow at the close of the evening. Thus did the righteous perish, and no man layed it to heart. They accounted him deceitful as a shadow, an impostor, and deceiver, who pretended to be what he was not.

In these things, every believer must find his corsolation against the troubles of life, and the fears of death. God himself, being born of a woman, hath experienced all the evils that man complains of: in all our afflictions he hath been afflicted: and as that fire had no power to burn, in which the Son of God walked with the three children; so the sorrows of life, and the terrors of death, should no longer be dreaded by the Christian; Christ having endured them for this end, that thenceforward they should be deprived of all their force. Be of good cheer, says he, I have overcome the worldAnd again-he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. That frailty and misery, which man uninstructed must esteem as the greatest of evils, is by these means transformed into a blessing. By the sufferings of Christ, and his sacrifice for our sins, all the sufferings of his servants are sanctified; and we may now say he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceused from sin. By an act of infinite wisdom, the misery of man is thus turned into a medicine. Man, born of woman, is now born of God: he that was of few days, is now made a living member of that great High-Priest, who hath neither beginning of days, nor end of Life; and may lift up his head from this state of trouble, in expectation of new heavens, and a new earth, from whence all sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The flower that is cut down shall spring up again from its root that lies buried in the earth; yea, it is not quickened, except it die: and the shadow that departeth shall be again renewed by the rising of that Sun of righteousness, which shall go down no more.

. Such is the view which the Scripture hath set before us of this great and important subject--the uncertainty, vanity, and brevityof human life; under which, as we see (whatsoever the word, the flesh, or the Devil may suggest to the contrary) there is no comfort to be found, but from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and a life ordered according to the precepts of it. Our days being few and evil, he is the only wise and happy man, who hath the grace so to number them as to apply his heart unto wisdom ; such wisdom, as will guide him in safety, through this world of shadows, to the great Realities of the world to come.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »