« PreviousContinue »
ECCLES. ix: 5.
LIFE is but a short journey from the cradle to the tomb; and death, with its awful solemnities, must be experienced by men of all nations. We are ignorant of many other things; but no man is ignorant of his mortality: “ For the living know that they shall die."
We shall consider three things in this discourse : first, what is implied in dying secondly, how the living know that they shall die; and, thirdly, what improvement should be made of this awful subject.
1. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN DYING ?
The question is bold, and cannot be fully answered; for the living have not experienced it, and the dead do not reveal the profound secret. Some
that it implies an utter extinction of being; but they neither regard the dictates of reason, nor
the discoveries of revelation; both of which proclaim the soul of man immortal., The following things are generally allowed to be implied in dying: a separation of soul and body; a final departure out of this world; and an entrance upon a new state of existence.
1. Death implies a separation of soul and body. Man is a compound being, of body and soul; of matter and spirit. His body is of the dust; his soul is from God. These are mysteriously united; but death dissolves the union, and breaks the unknown tie. « Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was : and the spirit shall return to God who gave it."
This separation is awful to a good man. Frail nature shrinks at the prospect! What, then, must it be to a bad man? In his calm and sober moments he views it with horror; but, inflamed by diabolical passions, he rushes into it as the frantic horse into the battle.
We can form but very imperfect ideas of the pain which may attend our dissolution. Some appear to suffer much. Nature is.convulsed with dreadful agonies. Others go quietly away, like the dying taper, or the ripe fruit which gently drops from the parent tree. But this must be left to God, who will order the circumstances of our
6 Here we
death in such a way as shall be most for our good and his glory. isi 2. Another thing implied in death is a final departure out of this world. have no continuing city." We are strangers, who appeared but lately; and we are pilgrims who are hastening away. Death ends our journey; and we leave all behind, to return no more. The husband leaves his wife; the parent his children; the master his servants; the minister his people; the general his army, ; and the monarch his throne. In that awful moment every thing earthly is given up for ever! Houses and lands, gold and silver, honours and titles, are left behind. The pleasure-taker leaves his pleasures; the drunkard quits his cup; the afflicted leave poverty and affliction; and the pious are taken from their friends, and from all the lovely means of grace. «Man dieth and wasteth away ; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" He is not to be found. No eye will ever see him again upon earth. His place will be vacant, and his possessions occupied by others. We hear no more of the dead. *Their names are blotted out, and their memory is soon forgotten.
“ As for man, his days are as grass : as a flower of the field so he flourisheth. For the wind
eth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
Thus man passeth away. His glory fades; his greatness declines; and he sinks into the silent grave! O that the living would lay it to heart; and feel the vast importance of a thorough preparation for a better world!
3. The last thing implied in death is an entrance upon a new state of eristence. Man, as a compound being, is nearly allied both to the visible world and the invisible; and the moment he quits his tenement of clay, having done with the visible and material world, he enters into the invisible world of spirits, and mixes either with devils and the damned, or with angels and the saints of God. How we shall exist in that unknown world is a deep secret. We are lost in wonder when we think upon it. Here we see objects through the medium of the eye: we hear sounds through the medium of the ear: we speak with our tongues : we have feet to walk, and hands to handle. There we shall exist without a body; and how we shall either see or hear, taste or smell, speak or feel, or move, will never þe discovered, this side the grave. We must die to know... One thing we know, and it is the only thing with which we are .concerned, namely, that we shall be either
happy or miserable. Our state will be fixed and unalterable; for there is no probation in eternity. That this will be the case, appears from these awful words: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still."
11. How DO THE LIVING KNOW THAT THEY SHALL DIE? .... 1. The living know, by the appointment of God, that they shall die. “It is appointed unto men once to die.” The time when, and the manner how, is uncertain ; but .nothing is more certain than death itself. Our first parents, presuming to eat forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, brought death both upon themselves and their posterity. By man came death," and in Adam all die." Whatever God appoints is right; for, such is the rectitude of his nature, that he cannot do wrong
When men do wrong, it is owing either to ignorance or wickedness; but God is both infinitely wise and infinitely good. On this ground, we may view death as a wise, just, and necessary appointment: and it is an appointment which will be executed. Man can neither evade it by cunning, nor overcome it by force. 66 All