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Ps. cxxiv, 7, and returned to its proper rest; what reason will
have to say,
Those we call wretched are a chosen band.
Her death, my own at hand-
OUR PROSPECTS from this House of Sorrow, as the inhabitants of a present and future world.
Many suppose that they can best contemplate the present world, by frequenting the House of Mirth :' Eccl. vii, 4. Their whole deportment, however, shows that it makes them much too giddy for serious observation : 'having eyes they see not Mark viii, - 18.
Look at the deceased, and contemplate present things. His days a hand-breadth: his beauty, consumed like the moth-fretten garment: his cares and pleasures, a dream : his attainments, as the grass ; which flourisheth in the morning, and in the evening is cut down and withereth: his years, a tale: his strength labour and sorrow. So soon is the whole cut off and fled, that we cannot help repeating with the Psalmist, ' Verily, every man, at his best estate, is altogether VANITY:' Ps. xxxix and xc; but'a vapour, that appeareth for a little while, and then vanishes away: James iv, 14.
Few, perhaps, reflect, when they follow a friend to his grave, that life itself exhibits little more than a funeral procession, where friend follows friend; weeping to-day, and wept-for to-morrow. While we are talking of one, another passes : we are alarmed: but behold a third! There is, however, relief in this very
a very reflection : “My friend is gone; but am I weep
ing, as if I were to stay? Is he sent for in the morning? in the afternoon I shall certainly be called.' Inconsolable distress, therefore, may ungird our loins, may waste our hours, and cause us to make fatal mistakes in the journey, but does not bring us forward a single step toward meeting our Friends in that state, where present joys and sorrows will be recollected only as the dream of a distempered night.
If, after many former admonitions, an ENEMY still urged us to climb: and, as we ascended, pointed 'to the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, Matt. iv, 8; if our hearts have been the dupes of the vanishing prospect, and our ears eagerly heard the proposal, All these things will I give thee,' Matt. iv, 9; let us now hear the voice of a FRIEND, calling us, though in an unexpected way, 'to commune with our heart and be still: Ps. iv, 4; to know at least in this our day of visitation, the things which belong to our peace:' and also what those things are which hide them from our eyes :' Luke xix, 42.
It is at such seasons as these, that we more clearly detect the lies of life. It is in the House of Mourning, that, what the Scripture calls, lying vanities, lie peculiarly naked and exposed. Let us here examine what so lately dazzled us. What now is the 'purple and fine linen,' Luke xvi, 19; that caught our eye? What is it to fare sumptuously only for a day? Who is he that cries, 'Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease: eat, drink, and be merry ? Luke xii, 19. I trust you now feel the deep misery and utter ruin of that dying creature, who can say nothing better to his soul than this. You can scarcely help crying out, What sottishness, what madness this, in a moment so interesting as Life! with a prospect so awful as eternity !!!
The truth is, God speaks variously and incessantly to man respecting his prospects both present and future: but present things seize his heart, blind his
eyes, stupify his conscience, and carry him away captive. Now " affliction is God speaking louder," and striving with the heart of man: crying, as he has lately in your house, ‘Arise and depart: this is not your rest: it is polluted ;' and, if you persist in attempting to make a rest of it, ' will destroy you with a sore destruction: Micah ii, 10.
Our plan, indeed, is the very reverse of his. We love our native soil, and try to strike our roots deeper and deeper into it: firmly fixed in earth, we would fain draw our whole life, strength, and nourishment from it. And here we should not only “fade as a leaf,' Isa. Ixiv, 6; but, with every tree that beareth not good fruit, be hewn down and cast into the fire,' Matt. iii, 10, did not mercy interpose.
We seldom, however, discern mercy in its first approach. “Is it mercy," say you," that tears me up by the roots ? that cuts the fibres of sweetest union ? Does it prune away the finest branches, nip the loveliest buds, and cover the earth with blossoms ?" Yes, verily: since the very life of the whole often depends upon the removal of a part, Mercy will wound to heal. Regard to the tree will strip off its most flourishing suckers. The great husbandman will not fail to adopt the sharpest means for the improvement of his choicest plants: 'for every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit:' John xv, 2. "Though the Lord cause grief, yet it is in
compassion, and according to the multitude of his mercies; for he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,' Lam. iii, 32, 33; but, soon or late, instructs all his children to say, “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right; and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me: Ps. cxix, 75.
Let not, therefore, the change of the present scene discompose, but direct us. It changes, in order to present the only unchangeable one. By thus 'rending the veils which men try to throw over a dying
state, and discovering TEKEL* written on every creature, the most careless are often so roused, that they seem to awake and recover themselves: they appear, for a time at least, to become wise, to understand these things,' and seriously to consider their latter end:' Deut. xxxii, 29. May this salutary impression, however, my dear friend, never be worn from your mind; but lead you habitually to look from this fading, to that abiding prospect, which is to be found only in the ETERNAL WORLD,—and on which it may be necessary here to drop a reflection or two.
I think you must often have remarked, that the urgency and bustle of present things, not only raise a cloud of dust before our future prospects, but early beget a false principle that the present life is the only
You must also have observed, that ten thousand false maxims, which daily fly through the world, take their rise from this prime falsehood. Whereas, in fact, the present life, instead of being the whole, is comparatively nothing: a Stage, a Porch, a Dream, a weary day's Journey. What is this drop, to the Ocean before us? What this moment, to Eternity ? As a Theatre, indeed, in which God exhibits the wonders of his providence and grace; or as a Stage, on which we are to act our parts without any opportunity of repetition; the present state is infinitely grand and important: but surely no greater imposition can be put upon the Pilgrim, than to persuade him that he is at Home; or to make him forget and drown his eternal interests in such a vision of the night as this life!
Do you not, my dear friend, sensibly perceive this ? While you sit here, does not the cloud break, and the mist subside? Have you not already so realised 'a better, that is a heavenly country,' Heb. xi, 16, as to admire him who pitched only a tent here, Heb. xi, 9, but steadfastly looked for 'a city that hath founda
i. e. “ wanting." Dan. V, 27.
tions,' Heb. xi, 10. Are you not ready to take hold of the skirt of this Jew,' saying, 'We will go with you,
, for we have heard that God is with you ? Zech. viii, 23.
Seeing this, you only see truths ever exhibited in the Scriptures, and living principles in all who are
taught of God," John vi, 45: for he alone can enable us to use his own discoveries ; and how gracious is he, when he removes any object which might prevent our thus seeing Himself, his Kingdom, and his Righteousness ! or the removal of which may prove the occasion of our seeking them!
Just before the flood, there were doubtless, among their ‘men of renown,' Gen. vi, 4, admired projeciors : but there appears to have been only one truly wise man among them; one who saw and seriously regarded his Prospects. And he, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an Ark for the saving of his house : Heb. xi, 7. Now such a man is the Christian. He feels the world passing away with the lusts thereof, but that he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever:' 1 John ii, 17. “I feel,” says he, “ that however finely they dress the pageant of this world; it “ passeth by,' 1 Cor. vii, 31. To a creature like me, going, hastening, such an Ark is worth more than ten thousand dying worlds. Let the Gay laugh: let the Despisers wonder and perish : Acts xiii, 41 : with such Prospects before me I must be serious. He, that cannot lie, has revealed the terrors, as well as the glories, of a future state: he speaks of a worm that dieth not, and a fire that is not quenched, Mark ix, 44, as well as of 'a fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore. Ps. xvi, 11. I must not, I dare not, shut my eyes against these awful realities. I will not sacrifice my soul to a jest; nor miss the single opportunity afforded me for its salvation. He, that calls for my whole heart, is worthy of it: while the things which have hitherto engrossed it,