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SERMON XIX.

LONG LIFE NOT DESIRABLE.

JOB VII. 16.

"I would not live alway."

THIS chapter is a most solemn and affecting account of the afflictions which Job had experienced, and of his own sense of his sufferings. From himself he makes a natural and almost necessary transition to mankind at large, and utters a variety of just but melancholy observations on the frailty, vanity, and distresses of human life. Full of this subject, he expostulates with God concerning the littleness and insignificance of man, and inquires with wonder, and perhaps with impatience, concerning the regard which God has been pleased to render to him, a being seemingly and really undeserving of his attention or remembrance. All these reflections he concludes with a humble confession of his sins, a humble prayer for forgiveness, and a new and most affecting declaration of the momentary duration of his life, and of the suddenness of his departure into the eternal world.

Among the many declarations contained in this peculiar passage of Scripture, the text is, perhaps, singular, "I would "not live alway." The Hebrew word here rendered “alway” is rendered variously, denoting sometimes eternity, and sometimes other long periods, particularly the longest period of

which any thing is capable. It might, therefore, be paraphrased here, "I would not live the whole of that period, of "which my life, according to the usual course of human affairs, "is capable." In other words, " Very long life is not desira"able to me in the present world."

To this choice Job was, not improbably, taught, in a greater or less degree, by his numerous distresses. Men are apt to love life, even under great sufferings, and much more when in possession of what they deem valuable enjoyments. Had Job's prosperity continued unbroken, it is highly probable, that he would have been desirous of living to the utmost of human destiny, at least, that he would have felt less willing to part with life. Yet the determination made by him in this passage is unqualified; and, as it is expressed, and most naturally understood, may be justly regarded as respecting human life at large, whether prosperous or afflicted. In this manner I shall consider it; and shall, in this discourse, regard Job as choosing, although convinced of the truth and justness of the declaration by adversity, to extend it to all human circumstances; and as pronouncing the choice of a life bounded by moderate limits, to be wise and just in the best, as well as in the worst condition. A declaration made by a wise and good man, demands, when he has had sufficient opportunities, and has exercised sufficient attention to judge well of the subject in question, a respectful regard and careful investigation; when made in the Scriptures of truth, it requires ready and entire belief, however it may contradict our established opinions. Even in this case, however, as well as in the other, it cannot but be useful to explain the nature of the subject, and see how far the state of things, with which we are acquainted, will elucidate or prove the doctrine asserted. Let us, then, examine how far the nature of the subject will furnish sufficient reason to justify this conclusion.

1. Job, so far as a man can be, was a competent judge.

He abounded in the good things of this life, and, from the actual possession of them, knew better than most other men, their real value.

He was head of his countrymen, the greatest of all the men in the land of Uz, and in the neighbouring regions called, in conjunction with that land, the East.

He had a prosperous, and it would seem, a dutiful and pious family.

He had excellent friends, men of great wisdom, sensible of his worth, and attached to him by the strongest ties of good will.

He was a man of distinguished piety: and piety is the spirit which, rejoicing in the truth, conducts us of course to just conclusions. Besides, it mitigates all the sorrows of life, enhances all its comforts, and yields many blessings, to which persons destitute of piety are strangers.

He possessed uncommon wisdom, and was thus able to discern, with peculiar clearness and certainty, the true nature of such things as became objects of his contemplation.

He enjoyed, also, in an eminent degree, the favour of God, and was conscious of this invaluable possession.

Finally, he had enjoyed all these blessings without interruption through a period of life far longer than now falls to the lot of man, and had thus the amplest opportunity for forming a just determination.

Where can we find a more competent judge?

II. Our own experience furnishes strong reasons to conclude, that the decision of Job was just.

This truth will be evident from the following considerations.

First, The world is full of temptations.

These are found in every place, and by every person. The toy and the rattle lay hold on the child, in the same manner as the hope of distinction, and the prospect of pleasure, on the youth. Power, office, and fame, corrupt the man of middle age, while riches fascinate the hoary-headed possessor.

These temptations are most extensively presented to us by ourselves. Our passions and appetites are ever on the search for their respective gratifications. In these, they declare, lies the only good which merits our attention. Weakly we listen

to the declaration, and foolishly submit to have the eyes of our understanding hoodwinked, and thus hasten blindfold after the darling objects; while conscience and revelation in vain recal us from the pursuit. When we have obtained and enjoyed them, we wonder that they furnish no higher good, and then listen again to the same seducers, as if we had never been deceived.

All around us eagerly unite in rendering the seduction effectual. The young, the gay, the splendid, declare with persuasive eloquence, that the good destined for man, is certainly and only found in pomp and pleasure. The ambitious proclaim, that it lies in reputation, place, and power. The industrious and frugal assure us, that nothing but solid wealth can yield the envied boon, and that all things else are toys and gewgaws. The infidel asserts, that no real good consists with the dread of an hereafter. The atheist, still wiser, laughs at them all, and announces, that himself alone has found the coveted object in the disbelief of a God.

With the living beings by which we are encompassed, all others conspire. The bounties of Providence, good in themselves, and glorious proofs of goodness in their Author, become, under the influence of our appetites, solicitations to gluttony and drunkenness. Abundance begets sloth, pride, self-confidence, and forgetfulness of God. Indigence awakens fretfulness, murmuring, ingratitude, fraud, theft, and profaneness. Power prompts to arrogance, oppression, a hard heart, iniquitous claims on others, and an universal corruption of ourselves. Ambition produces a miserable thirst for applause, a servile dependence on popular favour, a deplorable venality of mind, a fatal habit of sacrificing conscience to the hope of preferment, and a fatal idolatry to the world. Science engrosses the heart, and steals it away from God. Taste and refinement enervate independence, reason, and conscience, and offer them up as victims to the pleasures of fancy, or the dictates of fashion. Thus, wherever we turn, and whatever we converse with, we turn from allurement to allurement, and converse almost only with temptations. In a world, replete with such dangers, it cannot be desirable to live alway.

Secondly, The world is full of sin.

This is a calamity from which not an individual is exempted. Ourselves, our dearest relations, our most beloved friends, together with all around us, are involved in the general evil. Nor are we merely sinful, but exceedingly sinful. Our hearts are exhibited by Christ as a treasury of sin, whence evil things only are continually brought out. A propensity to evil only, universal, unresisted, is the predominating character of every child of Adam. Every one is begotten and born in his likeness, in the character of apostacy, revolt, and rebellion. Hence our imagination is full of evil. A leprosy has seized the soul, and corrupted its whole constitution, to which every physician, besides Christ, attempts in vain the application of a cure.

Accordingly we perpetrate iniquity every day, conceive it in our hearts, utter it with our mouths, and finish it with our hands. In the morning we rise with the unhappy purpose; to complete it we toil through the day; and, when we close our eyes at night, reluctantly leave it unaccomplished.

In this manner we commit numberless acts of impiety, iniquity, and rebellion. Day by day the mass is heaped up, the burden rendered more and more insupportable, and the preparation for our account made more and more dreadful. Of course, a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation to devour us is, unless we are benumbed with stupidity, and bewildered with frenzy, made more and more the only view which we can form of our future being, the only prospect of endless reward.

No calamity can be equal to this. Our minds are deformed, our understanding perverted, our hearts polluted, and ourselves debased below the proper level of intelligent beings. Our lives, also, are stained with guilt, and rendered odious and dreadful. Whenever we retire into ourselves; whenever we solemnly explore the recesses of the mind; whenever we cast a just and melancholy survey (for melancholy it cannot fail to be) over the perverse and miserable wanderings of our feet through the journey of life, we are compelled to sit in judgment on ourselves, to anticipate by the distressing decision of our consciences the sentence of final reprobation, and to declare, that

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