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shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him— Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap-For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad-and the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." It appears, then, that the purpose for which we were sent into this world is, to prepare for another; that our condition hereafter, (which will be a condition either of infinite happiness or infinite misery,) will entirely depend on the temper which we have here possessed, and the part which we have here acted. How unspeakably important does our present character and conduct appear in the light of these solemn truths! Consequences-eternal in their duration and boundless in their magnitude-follow inevitably from the complexion of that moral character of heart and life which we here possess. Thoughtless and inconsiderate man! awake and think of thy situation! An endless existence of unutterable joy or wo, is pending on what thou now art, and on what thou now dost. Thou art now deciding thy own condition for an interminable state of enjoyment or of suffering-Thou art now upon this awful probation! Every thought, word and action, constitutes a part of it. Every fleeting moment brings thee nearer to the end of it; nearer to the time when the seal of an unchanging destiny will be set upon thy state. Think then of the circumstances in which thou art placed; look into thy heart; take counsel of thy conscience; take heed to all thy steps; for nothing ever was so important and interesting to thee, as that thou shouldst be prepared to go hence whenever thou art called. And let us remember
II. That the period of our departure cannot be prolonged by any of our wishes or efforts, being fixed and determined by God. This is a truth to which the text directs our attention. The time which is there mentioned is called "an appointed time." And this appears to refer to an expression still more explicit in the fifth verse, where it is said "his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." Numerous passages of Scripture might be added to these, all going to establish the point, that in the counsel and determination of God, the period of human life, as of every thing else, is not uncertain or fluctuating, but fixed and decisive. Reason, also, confirms the same conclusion. To suppose the Deity either ignorant of any event, or changeable in regard to it, is to suppose him imperfect; and this is to deny his essential character. How the absolute determinations of God coincide with the freedom, operation, and influence of second causes, I pretend not to explain, and expect not, in the present state, fully to understand. But I think it perfectly consistent with this to say, that I believe both; because, on proper evidence, I ought to believe, and do believe, a great variety of facts, the manner of whose agreement I can neither illustrate nor comprehend. From each class of these facts, I also deduce practical consequences of the highest importance. In the instance now in view, I derive from the assured belief that means and instruments, under the Divine blessing, have an influence in preserving life, an encouragement to endeavour to avoid danger, to strive to preserve my health, and to recover it when it is lost. I know that if it be preserved or restored, it must usually be in the use of these means; that the means are as much in my power as any thing whatever can be; and that I am, therefore, blameable if I neglect them. Consequences
equally important, I also draw from a full belief of the other factthat all depends on God. I derive from this an impressive sense of his sovereignty, a conviction of my being absolutely in his hand and at his disposal, my obligations to reverence and fear him, and the comfortable thought that no accident, and no design of any wicked being, can destroy my life, or do me any injury, contrary to his sovereign will.
In regard to the subject immediately before us and to which I shall now confine myself, the entire disposal of human life by the will of our Creator, teaches us that it is infinite folly and presumption to reckon with certainty on a long continuance here; and especially on a period in which we may indulge in sin. How wicked, how infatuated, to calculate on having a protracted space to offend that God in whose hand our life is, and who can cut it short at any moment? What! shall we expect that Heaven will grant us time to be employed in insulting it! Verily if it be granted, it is likely to be granted not in mercy, but in judgment to the presumptuous sinner-granted that he may have time to fill up the measure of his iniquity, and become ripe for a more awful doom. But experience as well as reason, teaches us that it is folly without a parallel, to reckon with certainty on length of days. We see that God's appointed time for different individuals leaves no room for such a calculation. At all periods, from infancy to old age, we see our fellows finishing the space assigned them. Reasons not fully known to us, but doubtless wise and sufficient in themselves, decide that one shall have a longer, and another a shorter period. Time enough is allowed to each to be prepared for that account which he will be called upon to render up; for this account will be proportioned to the means and opportunities enjoyed. But, when called, neither youth, nor health, nor prudence, nor friends, nor physicians, nor wealth, nor esteem, can disappoint or delay the fixed purpose of Jehovah. He will not be influenced by any of these circumstances or considerations, but the stroke of death shall unavoidably do its office, on him who has lived his appointed time. Let us now consider
III. That it is our duty piously and patiently to wait till this period be accomplished. This was the resolution of holy Job, as expressed in the text. *All the days of my appointed time will I wait"--Taking this subject, as I have proposed, in a general view, it may be affirmed with propriety, that the duty of waiting for our great change comprehends in it, 1. Preparation or readiness to depart; 2. Expectation or desire of the destined moment; 3. Palience while it is delayed, or acquiescence in the will of Him whose coming or determination we look for. It will I think be found, that to wait, always refers to some one of these ideas, or to the whole of them united.
1. It implies preparation or readiness to depart. When we wait for an event, the implication ever is, that, let it come whenever it may, it will find us in a state promptly to obey its call—with every thing done which is necessary to be done, or which we wish to do, before its occurrence. We cannot be said to be waiting for our departure out of time into eternity, unless we are thus circumstanced, in regard to that momentous transition-unless all that is necessary to fit us for it, and render it a happy event to us, is fully accomplished.
What then, my hearers, is necessary, to render our departure from life a happy event! It is, be assured, essentially necessary, that our natures should be renewed-that our hearts should be changed and sanctified by the Spirit of grace. For—"except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Every one of us possesses, by
nature, a heart wholly depraved—“The carnal mind is enmity against God." This enmity must be removed; this heart of alienation must be taken away—or we can never be partakers of the happiness of the world to come. It becomes impossible, because, without holiness, God will never admit us to his blissful presence; and even if he would, we should be miserable still, for the want of that temper, taste, and disposition, which are necessary to qualify us to enter into and enjoy the pure and spiritual exercises which constitute the happiness of glorified spirits. And as this change is absolutely indispensable, so it is equally necessary that it take place in the present life; for after death there can be no change. Then it will be said—“He that is unjust let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy let him be filthy still." The Holy Spirit is the Almighty agent who performs this work; and hence the inspired declaration that we must be “born of the Spirit.” He must enlighten us to see our guilt and danger. He must give us eyes to behold, and a disposition to accept of the Lord Jesus Christ, as all our salvation and all our desire-trusting entirely to his merits for pardon and eternal life. The influence of the Holy Spirit must bring us truly to loath and repent of all sin; to see its abominable nature; to desire most earnestly and sincerely, a deliverance from it; to love holiness; to delight supremely in God; to possess real benevolence toward all men-enemies as well as friends; and to discharge, as we have opportunity, all the duties which we owe to our Creator, to each other, and to ourselves. These dispositions and exercises are the fruit and evidence of a new nature; they proceed from a sanctified heart; they are its natural produce flowing like sweet waters from a pure fountain. Thus qualified, the renewed soul holds spiritual communion with God at present, and is fitted to find its highest happiness in him to all eternily. But without this qualification, we cannot have such communion now, and, as we have seen, we cannot possibly be prepared for the enjoyment of God, and therefore cannot be admitted to it, at the hour of deatlı.
You perceive, then, that those who are unacquainted with this great spiritual change—who have not been reconciled tu God through Jesus Christ, who have not truly repented of sin, cannot, with any propriety, be said to be waiting for their change. The essential preparation for it, they have as yet, wholly neglected. They have forgotten or disregarded the main concern, the great errand, on which they were sent into the world. Whether they be in the morning, the meridian, or the decline of life, the great business of life is yet untouched by them; it is still all upon their hands; and it urges them to put forth all the powers of their souls-calling on God for help--in an immediate and effectual attention to its demands. But those who know by happy experience what it is to have passed from death to life, have made what may be denominated the essential preparation for death. They are so waiting for the coming of their Lord, as that his appearance, whenever or however it shall take place, will be a happy event to them. Yet it is important, and will be found highly comfortable, 2. To
possess and cherish the desire that the appointed hour for dismission from the world should speedily arrive. This seems clearly to have been the disposition of the penman of the text. He plainly intimates, that although he would endeavour to wait with resignation, as long as God should please to continue him bere, yet it was his choice and inclination to be speedily dismissed. The same sentiment is distinctly expressed by the apostle Paul; “I have, said he, a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” Through an undue
attachment to the world, the weakness of their faith, the want of present and satisfactory evidence of their interest in the covenant of grace, and a clear view and sensible anticipation of the entertainments of the heavenly world, it frequently comes to pass, that those who are the real heirs of glory, are unwilling for the present to leave the worldfearful of the hour of death, and desirous to have it delayed. In opposition to this, it should be their aim, to acquire a firm and settled confidence of their covenant interest in the Redeemer, to have their affections weaned from the earth, their worldly concerns so settled and arranged, and their minds so constantly and daily raised up to God, and so delighted in the contemplation of his glorious excellence, as that they should long to be swallowed up in the near and perfect vision of him; as that the summons to depart would be to them a matter of real gratification. This may be called an actual and habitual readiness or preparedness for their dissolution. It is that temper and state of mind in which every child of God would wish to be found, when the messenger death shall deliver the mandate to depart. I say not, indeed, that this state of habitual desire “ to be absent from the body and present with the Lord,” is one of easy or general attainment. But I do say, that it is not only desirable and possible, but that it has been actually attained by some, and that it ought to be pressed after, with serious care and diligence, by every real Christian. We ought to endeavour to have our minds so habitually filled with holy desires after God and glory, as that we may view the coming of our Lord like the arrival of a friend, for whom we have been long looking, with anxious and earnest expectation. This it is, in deed and in truth, to wait for our change. But,
3. While it is delayed, we ought to exercise patience, and resignation to the will of Him who hath appointed the time of our release. This is to be the guard and qualification of what you have just heard. We are not to be impatient, or to murmur and repine, that the hour does not arrive, at which we are to have done with the world. Of this, it may be thought by some, there is little danger; and in reality it is that extreme which is less frequently seen than ihe other. Yet its occurrence is sometimes witnessed. It is not a thing unknown in experience, that a child of God should find it far more difficult to be willing to live than willing to die. The pious author of our text himself, was an example of it. Some of his expressions appear to manifest an impatient wish to be released from his sufferings by death; and the whole spirit of our text, as used by him, is a resolution to guard against this unjustifiable emotion. Elijah and Jonah are other instances, with which the sacred records furnish us, of good men who sinfully wished to die. Nor are instances wanting in every age and place. What shocking proofs are given us of this, when men, through rage or despair, put an end to their own lives, and rush, all covered with their sins, to the tribunal of their insulted Creator. Wicked men, who either deliberately disbelieve a future state, or who have no distinct or impressive apprehensions of what awaits them there, are not unfrequently seen to be impatient for death. But good men may also indulge in a degree of this spirit; although preserved, while reason holds its throne, from carrying it to the horrid lengths that have just been mentioned. The cares, and burdens, and perplexities, and fatigue of worldly business, or of relative duties, may sometimes urge them to this sinful impatience. Long sickness, or much bodily infirmity, or heavy afflictions of any kind, may tempt them, as they did Job, to indulge it.
The languor, lassitude, and various inconveniences and sufferings of old age, are sometimes seen to produce it. The believer hopes for unmingled happiness beyond the grave, and is ready to be dissatisfied that he is detained in a state of sorrow and affliction. But he ought to remember, that "his times are in the hand of God," and that duty demands that this concern be resigned entirely to the divine disposal. The believer should recollect that it is not acting the part of a good servant, to be reluctant to work till evening, nor of a good soldier, to be too desirous of being called from his post. He should remember that it is incumbent on him to suffer the will of God, as well as to do it; and that the former of these is often as important, both to himself and to others, as the latter. He should remember that the reward of fidelity is so great, that he may well wait, and do, and suffer, as long, and as much, as God may require, before it be conferred?-eternity will surely be long enough. to be happy. While, therefore, he may and ought, with the apostle, as already stated, to indulge a desire to depart and to be with Christ, he should also be willing, as the apostle was, to stay as long as he may be profitable to the church or to the world; or may, in any wise promote the divine glory: and longer than this, he may be well assured, God will not suffer any of his children to remain in exile from their heavenly home. Cordially, therefore, let them adopt the language of the text-" All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come"-I am now to remark briefly
IV. In the last place, that this change will be, in the highest degree, important and decisive to all. It is spoken of with emphasis in the text-it is denominated "my change," as if there were no other that could be mentioned or thought of, while this was in contemplation;— or as if no other deserved notice in comparison with this. And such, in reality, is the fact. Death will change all the circumstances of our present existence. The body will change its appearance and its capacities. It will change from an animated and attractive form, into a lifeless and unsightly lump of clay. The soul will change worlds. It will change time for eternity, a state of probation for a state of eternal fixedness of character and perceptions; a state where happiness and misery are blended together, for one where there will be either happiness or misery without any mixture, and with an intensity of which we can now have no adequate conception; a state where things are seen through the dim medium of the senses, for one where the unimprisoned spirit will discern God and eternal realities, with naked and unobstructed vision.
Widely different, as already hinted, will be the nature of that transition, which the righteous and the wicked will make, when their last final change shall come. The wicked will then change their indifference to religion, into an unavailing and endless agony of soul, that they wasted the period of probation, without making preparation for this momentous event. The infidel will change his unbelief of revelation, and his sneers at its truth, into an awful conviction of its verity, and into curses on his impiety and folly, for neglecting the counsel of God for his eternal well being. The prosperous and pleasurable sinner will change his wealth, his pomp, his fame, his flatterers, and his sensual indulgences, for the blackness of darkness for ever, the society of blaspheming spirits, tormenting devils, and the gnawing of that worm which shall never die. The giddy, the thoughtless, and the vain, will change all those sportive scenes, which once allured them, and kept their souls from God, for weeping and wailing, and gnashing