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“ HOW LONG HAVE I TO LIVE ?" This is a simple question; who can answer it? It is an important one; to how few is it welcome! It was once put by an old man to an ancient king, * but is alike suited to those who are in the bloom of youth, or in the strength of middle life. Will you, reader, think over it for a few moments? Do not say, “ I am busy abuut other matters, and cannot now give it my attention ;" or, “ I am naturally averse to hear about death; I would rather turn to a more lively and interesting subject." It may do you good to pause from your present pursuits, and give heed to the inquiry which is now made.
How LONG HAVE YOU TO LIVE? There are some truths which we know by experience. They are too plain to our senses to be denied. Of this kind is the fact that our present
pute about our stay in this world. Every man knows that sickness, or accident, or decay, or some other cause, will, sooner or later, terminate his present existence. The end of those who have gone before us plainly tells us, that after a few years we shall have done with the world. All things around us preach to the eye or ear this truth. Every rising and setting sun proclaims that our days are passing. If the clock strike, it tells us that another hour is gone, never to return. The trees put on their leaves, which flourish for a while, then drop and perish on the ground ; No. 82.
* 2 Sam. xix. 34.
the plants grow and decay; the birds come in their season, and then depart; the changing face of the sky, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, are so many natural monitors, which tell us that our time is ever flowing on, and our end is drawing nigh.
What changes you have seen among your friends and neighbours! If you have known a town or a village for twenty years, how altered it looks since you first knew it! Where are the children who then sported in the fields and streets? Where are the men of business who took the lead in active life? Some are long since dead, and others are gradually sinking into the silence of the tomb. Where are the old men whose advice guided your youthful feet? Not one, perhaps, is left to remind you of former days. And where are those whom you once called, " My father, my mother, my wife or my husband, my son, my daughter, my brother, my sister, my friend?” They too, possibly, have been buried from your sight. You have seen enough to know, that neither youth, nor vigour, nor piety, nor usefulness, can arrest the hand of death. All go to one place—the grave.
Then, what have you felt in yourself? It seems to you only a short period since you began to live, and now you find that much of life is already spent. Perhaps you have been laid down by illness; you were thought to be beyond recovery; and though yet spared, you find you are not so strong as you once were, nor your health so firm. Your sight, hearing, activity, or spirits, are not so good as in past years. There is much in your state and feelings which reminds you that you will not live always, and, probably, not much longer in the world.
To all these sensible proofs of your mortality, Revelation adds its solemn voice: “What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. — As for man, his days are as grass : as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.- Are not his davs also like the days of an hireling? Swifter than a weaver s snuttle, or than a post; they are passed away as the swift snips; as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.-Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.-Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee; verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity.”* How solemnly do these passages fall on the ear, and awaken the personal inquiry, How long have I to live?
The fact that our present life must end is certain. We are taught this alike by experience and by revelation; but the time, the mode, and the circumstances of its termination, are all uncertain. We may waste away under a slow decline, or be rapidly
* James iv. 14 ; Psa. ciji. 15, 16; Job vii. 1 6; ix, 25, 26 ; Gen. iii. 19 ; Psa. “HOW LONG HAVE I TO LIVE?”.
removed by a burning fever. A violent spasm may stop the action of the heart, a small wound may inflame and mortify, or a blood-vessel may suddenly break. As we know not the manner, so we are equally ignorant of the place of our death. We may be laid on our bed, or we may be stricken when in the workshop or the field. We may be in the land of our fathers, or far away among strangers. The time may be at hand, or a few more years may have yet to run their round. No man, however wise, cantell in what way he shall come to the important hour when he shall pass from the present life and enter on the solemn scenes of eternity. Happy are they who, in the words and with the pious feelings of Baxter, can say, “ Lord, I am ready, when thou wilt, where thou wilt, and how thou wilt.”
How THEN OUGHT YOU TO LIVE? After all, this question concerns you more than the one which has been first proposed. Consider what and where you are. An intelligent being, placed for a short season in a condition of trial, and accountable to God; holding your life at an uncertainty, and possessing a soul that must exist for ever in happiness or in misery. What is the manner of your life? Does it answer the end for which life was given? Have you set God's glory before you as your great object, and his commands as your rule? Have you received your daily mercies from him for twenty, forty, or sixty years, and to the present time remained insensible and unthankful to his claims ? What have you done with your time and your talents ? Has the Bible been faithfully read or neglected ? Has the house of God been forsaken, or has it been regularly your place of resort? Has the sabbath been to you a delight, or have its sacred hours been disregarded and profaned ? Have you “ lived soberly, righteously, and godly," in this present world, or have you yielded yourself as a servant to the world, the flesh, and the devil ? Have you fled, under a deep sense of your guilt and danger, to Christ as your Saviour and Refuge? or are you living a stranger to his gospel and his grace ? Feeling your ignorance and natural aversion to that which is good, have you in earnest prayer asked for the blessed influence of the Holy Spirit, to lead you into all truth? or have you resisted his light and love, and are you blindly rushing on in unbelief? Are you living in the hope of an entrance into eternal glory at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? or are you putting away all thoughts of judgment and eternity, living like the beasts that perish?
These are plain and serious questions, and claim plain and serious replies. If they must be answered against yourself, surely it is high time that you should arouse yourself to the first and chief business of life. There is no time to lose, for you know not how long you have to live.
If you would live happily and usefully, and die safely, there must be the life of faith on the Son of God. Like the apostle Paul you must be able to say, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Gal. ii. 20. The Lord Jesus claims your faith and love. You are undone, and must perish without him. On his grace you must depend day by day, and in communion with him you must seek your sweetest pleasures. · Where there is true faith there will be the life of holiness. Your days will be spent in the fear and service of God. There will be a regard to his will as the rule and ground of your conduct. You will pursue your business, frame your habits, and regulate your actions with a wish to approve yourself to your heavenly Master. You will resist all temptation, avoid all sin, and seek after inward as well as outward purity. To please God will be your highest aim, labouring that you, through grace, may be “ accepted of him.” If thus you live the life of faith and holiness, it will be of small moment to you how long your stay in this world may be. You may die soon, or die suddenly, but all will be well.
And now let the inquiry be faithfully put to your conscience, in the view of the shortness and uncertainty of life, WHAT IS MY PRESENT STATE OF MIND? Have you such a confidence that you could now enter on your last hours ? Upon what does this confidence rest ? If it is on the belief that there is no future world, or no future punishment, then it is built on the vain presumption that there is no just God, that the proofs of Divine revelation are insufficient, that the hopes of the wise and good have been mere delusion, and that only the wicked have been right.—Is your confidence built on the mercy of God without a Saviour ? Then know, that to all out of Christ God is “a consuming fire ;' that he is holy and just, and cannot accept a sinner apart from that way of salvation which he has revealed in his word.—Are you relying on your morality and supposed freedom from gross sin ? Such a title will never secure your future happiness; for it is impossible for you to show that your life has been always such as God can approve, and all that his law requires.- Are you depending on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus? Is this dependence attended with deep humility and repentance ?-in short, have you faith in the Son of God, with habitual devotion, and a consistent conduct of life? Then, life to you will be a blessing while it lasts, death to you need have no terrors, and a future world will open to you joys which are unfading, unspeakable, and full of glory.
BE SOBER. “ SOBER! When was I ever otherwise ? Who ever saw me drunk ?" It is well, friend, that you are no slave to strong drink, which has , been the ruin of so many happy hearts and happy homes. But still forgive the question, “ Are you sober?"
When a man is intoxicated, he does not form a correct notion of what is going on around him; he mistakes appearances for realities; he is careless of danger; he squanders his property; he destroys what is most valuable; he does in an hour what he may lament for a year or a life. If you saw a man eagerly running after pieces of gilt paper which the wind was blowing about, gathering them carefully and treasuring them up, while heaps of solid gold were lying near him of which he took no notice, you would not think him in his right mind. Now the pleasures of this life may be compared to those pieces of gilt paper, which sparkle, but are worth very little ; while every wind scatters them about; and if put in the fire, they are instantly burned up. But there are joys which resemble solid gold, the joys of the religion of Christ. The well-grounded assurance of having our sins forgiven, that God is our Friend and Father, and that the kingilom of heaven is our home, pro