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probation, records not a single effort to gain the blessings of immortality? What an afflicting story must that be concerning such a being, which is made up of impiety, rebellion, ingratitude, unbelief, impenitence, evil thoughts, evil designs, evil conversation, and evil conduct? What a dreadful blank must that volume of life be, in which there is found not "one good thing towards the Lord God of Israel;" which records no service done for God; no voluntary beneficence to mankind; not a solitary attempt to oppose sin; not a single exercise of gratitude, or faith, towards the Redeemer? With what emotions will you see this volume opened, and yourselves about to be "judged out of the things, which are written" on its pages? How guilty, how deplorable, how pernicious, will your procrastination then appear; and how will your hearts die within you, to find it all perfectly known, and perfectly abhorred, by your Judge?
But is there not the most afflicting reason to fear, that the whole year has passed by you, without witnessing even a single attempt to renounce your sins, and turn to God? Are you not now conscious, that not even one solitary prayer has ascended from your lips for the forgiveness of your sins, and the sanctification of your souls; that God has not been even asked to remember you with mercy; that not a single wish has started up in your minds for immortal life? What a melancholy year must this then be, to be remembered by you beyond the grave?
With all these solemn reflections before your eyes, let me in the 5th place, exhort you most seriously to consider in what manner the present year ought to be employed.
The present year may, without any improbability, be your last; and, if not, it may be the last of your accepted time. Should you survive it; as most of you probably will; GOD may say of you, if another year should find you still hardening your hearts, and postponing your repentance, as he said of such as you are, by the mouth of the Prophet. "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked, that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to
my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will lay it waste it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds, that they rain no rain upon it." These things were "written for your admonition." They are indeed awful things: and, however stouthearted, however far from righteousness you may be, they ought to force you not merely to hearken, but to tremble. How dreadful would be your situation, should GoD execute them upon you?
Fasten your eyes, then, upon this year, as to you the golden season of life. Feel the uncertainty of living to another. Tremble, lest another, if it should arrive, should find you given over to hardness of heart. Awake out of the lethargy, by which you have heen so long benumbed. Say no longer "A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep." Mark the progress of your past conduct? What has it produced? Hardness of heart, blindness of mind, and guiltiness of life. What will it hereafter produce? The same blindness, the same hardness, the same guilt. In what will it end? In everlasting "lamentation, mourning, and woe.”
Prize then the present year, as of value literally inestimable. Enter upon it with solemn resolutions, formed with an affecting remembrance that God is a witness of them, to consecrate it to his service, your own duty, and the attainment of life eternal. You are now living. There is now hope concerning you. GOD is now waiting to be gracious. Pardon is still proffered. Christ with infinite tenderness still invites you to repent, and be saved.
How delightful to a benevolent mind is even the thought, how much more delightful the hope, that, induced by these considerations, or by any considerations, some of those, who are now before me, will, during the present year, enter the way to heaven; that some, who never uttered a prayer, will have it truly said of them "Behold they pray!" How charming an object to the eye of compassion, to see the Bible, hitherto left on the shelf, unread and forgotten, seriously and daily opened, to find the words of
eternal life? Who, although an obstinate sinner himself, can fail, from natural tenderness only, to rejoice in the thought, that that sacred Book will solemnize, enlighten, and allure, even a little number of those, to whom it has hitherto spoken in vain? What a glorious prospect must it be in the view of Christians, to see the kingdom of heaven enlarged from this congregation? Realize with me, for a moment, the transporting nature of this mighty change. In the place of stupidity, unbelief, and irreligion, behold a sober mind; a sweet, pure, and heavenly conversation; a sanctified Sabbath; and a Sanctuary solemnized, warmed, and hallowed, with devotion. The miserable sinners of this assembly, so long lost in the sleep of death, awake, stand on their feet, and become living children of GOD. Here GOD is feared, loved, and glorified; the Redeemer is trusted, honoured, and blessed; and his Church, no longer a wilderness, blossoms and smiles as the garden of GOD. Must not those ministering spirits, who are "sent forth to minister to them that are heirs of salvation," defight, peculiarly, to minister here? Nay, must not these very walls rejoice to see immortal minds, in the morning of life, here dedicated to God in the eternal covenant, and mercifully taken into the arms of the Saviour? Hasten, O hasten, ye happy days, when a divine intercourse between this Seat of Learning and the World of Life shall be gloriously enlarged; when, not from the deserted Bethel of Judea, but from this house of GOD, the Ladder, seen by Jacob, shall ascend to heaven; the prayers of every worshipper daily rise to that benevolent world; and Angels, and Blessings, daily descend. Fly, thou happy period, when the prophetic eye, with a rapturous anticipation, shall behold all those, who here assemble for the worship of GOD, finally and forever assembled in the glorious worship of heaven, and the supreme enjoyment of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.
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 enquires 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 desirable to me in the present world."
To this choice, Job was not improbably brought 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.
1st. 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.