Page images

citals to him who came from heaven, lived a life of suffering, and died on the cross that we might live for ever. Let every slothful Christian, then, awake to a sense of his condition and character. Let him search his life. Let him probe his heart. Let him mark the little periods in which he has done his duty, and the melancholy chasms, filled up either with doing it by halves, in fragments and scraps, or with doing nothing, or with committing sin. Let him also remember that all these things will constitúte a part of his final account.

III. I will now proceed to the consideration of the reason by which the duty of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ is enforced in the text,-" For the Son of Man cometh in an "hour, when ye think not.”

In other words, death, judgment, and eternity will come at a time which we cannot foresee, and of which we are not aware. The true weight of the reason lies in the fact, that these things are of such vast concern to us. Death ends our probation, and introduces us to the judgment. The judgment finally decides the great question, whether we shall be happy or miserable throughout eternity: and eternity involves all our wellbeing.

As the time when these things shall arrive is wholly uncertain, we ought obviously to be ready for them at every period. We are to be ready for them to-day, to-morrow, the next week, and the next year, because at either of these periods they may arrive. Christ comes, as he himself informs us, and as all experience proves, at even, at midnight, at the cock crowing, and in the morning. How plainly, then, ought every one of his servants to watch, lest, coming suddenly, his Master find him sleeping.

Unhappily, we are always prone to think death at a distance, and thus to feel that we may safely postpone our repentance to a future day. How few persons would be guilty of this procrastination if they really believed that death was at the door? This, then, is our peculiar danger, and to a great extent, the source of our negligence and our ruin. The very uncertainty which ought to rouse us to the greatest diligence, only prompts

[ocr errors]

us to sloth. That which ought to fill us with alarm, only lulls us into security. Thus we go on, postponing the great business of life, till death knocks at the door, and finds the work yet to be begun.

But to all who thus waste their probation and abuse the mercy of God, the time of Christ's coming will be dreadful.

"Death, 'tis a melancholy day
"To those who have no God."

Surprised, hurried, overborne with distress, they leave the world in terror, and awake in eternity, utterly unprepared to meet their Judge.

These solemn truths are peculiarly interesting to persons in middle and declining life. If we are not ready, when are we to become so? If our repentance is not now begun, when is it to commence? If we have not renounced sin, overcome the world, believed in Christ, and given up ourselves to God, what reasons have we to hope that the little of life which remains will be spared to any better purpose than the great portion which is past?

How solemnly ought we to remember that death will not wait for our wishes, that the judgment is now hastening, that eternity is at the door?. Disease, unperceived, may now be making progress in our veins, and may be preparing, without a suspicion on our part, to hurry us to the grave. How absurd, how deceitful, how fatal is our procrastination? How dreadful our stupidity? What terrible reasons have we to do what our hands find to do in this concern with our might?

Are we in health, and for this reason at ease about our salvation? So a month since were those who died yesterday. Their end exposes our folly in this senseless security, and from the tomb calls to us, "Be ye also ready."

To the young this duty becomes immensely interesting, because they now enjoy the best of all seasons for making this preparation. Remember, that however hard your hearts may now be, they are more susceptible than they will probably be at any future period. Lose not, then, this hopeful, verdant



season, this seed-time of life. Should the good seed be actually sown in advanced years, it will find a sterile soil and an inclement sky; and the crop, if it should really follow, will scarcely repay the labours of the reaper. What fearful reasons have you to believe that your hearts will be covered with thorns and briers; that they will be nigh unto cursing, and that their end will be to be burned? How few of you are ready for the coming of Christ? How few would declare that they believed themselves to be ready. How few, while taking a retrospect of their lives, can find in them such a train of actions as they would be willing to rehearse before their Judge?

Open your eyes and see your privileges, and with them your hopes, every day lessening. Behold God every day removing farther from you, and the world taking a more entire possession of your hearts. Look back. Do you not perceive that the gates of heaven have already become more distant, dim, and doubtful to your eyes? Listen. Are not the calls of mercy already more indistinct? What hope can he who is sinking every moment rationally entertain that he shall not be drowned ? What hope can he, who is sliding down a precipice, and all whose efforts stop not his career at the beginning, soberly indulge, when he is farther advanced, that he will not be dashed in pieces at the bottom. Now, then, lay hold on the hope set before you.

Remember further, that life to you also is absolutely uncertain. When your hopes of living long are high, and with full confidence you are promising yourselves many days, go to the neighbouring burying-ground; mark how many monuments are there raised over the young; and consider how many more at the same period of life have become inhabitants of those dark and melancholy mansions, concerning whom no stone tells where they lie! How soon may you join these tenants of the grave? Wait not, then, for hoary locks to inform you that you are tottering over the tomb. The gates of eternity are always open, and the youth, the child, and the infant are passing through them night and day. The knell may soon toll for your funeral also, and your weeping friends may soon follow

you to the grave. How distressing will it be to them to look into that dark and narrow house without a hope, and to follow your souls into eternity, with no supporting evidence that, while here, you believed in the Redeemer, or loved God, or that there you will give your account with joy, be acquitted at the final trial, or find your names written in the Lamb's Book of Life.




"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it."

AFTER the death of one of our fellow-men we hear the funeral-bell summon together the surviving friends and neighbours of the deceased to perform the last kind offices. The assembly gathers, a prayer is made, the coffin is placed on the bier, and borne to the grave. The body is then committed to the earth. A solemn address is made to the living, while surrounding the narrow house; and, with impressions produced by the affecting event, and in some degree suited to its melancholy nature, they then return to their own habitation.

Our friend has now bidden us a final adieu. The intercourse between him and us is terminated, and both the persons and places which knew him in the present world will here know him no more. Nothing is more obvious than that this solemn subject affects the survivors less than its importance demands. The widow, indeed, and the orphan children, usually mourn sincerely, and in earnest. The death of the husband and the father has wounded their affection, lessened their happiness, and overcast their hopes. There are, also, at least

« PreviousContinue »