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troduce a discourse on the subject of death. Then we should rejoice in those who might say to us, "Let us go up to Jerusalem." Then we should reply, "our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!" Ps. cxxii. 2. Then we should see that fervour, that zeal, that transports, are the virtues, and the attainment of the dying.
You would wish to be partakers of St. Paul's rapture to the third heaven, but if this privilege be denied you to its full extent, nothing forbids your aspiring after one part of it at least. When was it that St. Paul was caught up into paradise? You have been told; it was when engaged in prayer. "While I prayed in the temple," says he, "I was in a trance," Acts xxii. 17. The word trance or ecstacy is of indeterminate meaning. A man in an ecstacy is one whose soul is so entirely devoted to an object, that he is, in some sense, out of his own body, and no longer perceives what passes in it. Persons addicted to scientific research, have been known so entirely absorbed in thought, as to be in a manner insensible during those moments of intense application. Ecstacy in religion, is that undivided attention which attaches the mind to heavenly objects. If any thing is capable of producing this effect, it is prayer. It is by no means astonishing that a man who has "entered into his closet, and shut the door," Matt. vi. 6, who has excluded the world, has lost sight of every terrestrial object, whose soul is concentrated and lost in God, if I may use the expression, that such a man should be so penetrated with admiration, with love, with hope, with joy,as to become like one rapt in an ecstacy.
But farther. It is in the exercise of prayer that God is pleased to communicate himself to us in the most intimate manner. It is in the exercise of prayer, that he unites himself to us in the tenderest manner. It is in the exercise of prayer, that distinguished saints obtain those signal marks of favour, which are the object of our most ardent desire. A man who prays; a man whose prayer is employed about detachment from sensible things; a man who blushes, in secret, at the thought of being so swallowed up of sensible things, and so little enamoured of divine excellencies; a man who asks of God, to be blessed with a glimpse of his glory, with a foretaste of the felicity laid up in store for him, and that he would fortify his soul against the difficulties and dangers of his career; such a man may expect to be, as it were, rapt in an ecstacy, either by the natural effect of prayer, or by the extraordinary communications which God is pleased to vouchsafe to those who call upon his name.
eminent saints, and to say, "I have a desire to depart: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God;" becoming all at once a seraph, burning with zeal; I acknowledge myself to be always under an apprehension, that this zeal derives its birth from some mechanical play, or to the unaccountable duty which the sick impose upon themselves, even such of them as are most steadily attached to the earth, of declaring that they feel an earnest desire to leave it. But a man who, through life, has been busied about eternity, whose leading aim was to secure a happy eternity, who has, as it were, anticipated the pleasures of eternity, by habits of devotion; a man who has been absorbed of those ideas, who has fed upon them; a man who having devoted a whole life to those sacred employments, observes the approach of death with joy, meets it with ardent desire, zeal, transport, such a man displays nothing to excite suspicion.
And is not such a state worthy of being envied? This is the manner of death which I ask of thee, O my God, when, after having served thee in the sanctuary, like the high priest of old, thou shalt be pleased, of thy great mercy, to admit me into the holy of holies. This is the manner of death which I wish to all of you, my beloved hearers. God grant that each of you may be enabled powerfully to inculcate upon his own mind, this great principle of religion, that there is a third heaven, a paradise, a world of bliss over our heads! God grant that each of you may attain the lively persuasion, that this is the only desirable felicity, the only felicity worthy of God to bestow, and of man to receive! God grant that each of you, in meditation, in prayer, in those happy moments of the Christian life in which God communicates himself so intimately to his creatures, may enjoy the foretastes of that felicity; and thus, instead of fearing that death which is to put you in possession of so many blessings, you may contemplate it with holy joy and say, "this is the auspicious moment which I have so long wished for, which my soul has been panting after, which has been the burden of so many fervent prayers: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." May God in mercy grant it to us all. To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
ON NUMBERING OUR DAYS.* PART I.
PSALM XC. 12.
ply our hearts unto wisdom.
From this source proceeds that earnest longing "to depart," such as Paul expressed: hence that delightful recollection of the pleasure en- So teach us to number our days, that we may apjoyed in those devout exercises, pleasure that has rendered the soul insensible to the empty delights of this world; hence the idea of those blessed moments which occupy the mind for fourteen years together, and which produces, at the hour of death, a fervour not liable to suspicion: for, my brethren, there is a fervour which I am disposed to suspect. I acknowledge, that when I see a man who has all his life long stagnated in the world, affecting in the hour of death, to assume the language of VOL. II.-27
THROUGH What favour of indulgent heaven does this church nourish in its bosom members sufficient to furnish out the solemnity of this day, and to compose an assembly so numerous and respectable? Through what distinguishing goodness is it, that you find yourselves with your children, with your friends, with
Delivered in the church of Rotterdam, on New Year's day, 1727.
your fellow-citizens; no, not all of them, for the mourning weeds in which some of you are clothed, plainly indicate, that death has robbed us, in part of them, in the course of the year which is just terminated. But through what distinguishing goodness is that you find yourselves, with your children, with your friends, with your fellow-citizens, collected together in this sacred place?
The preachers who filled the spot which I have now the honour to occupy, and whose voice resounded through this temple at the commencement of the last year, derived, from the inexhaustible fund of human frailty and infirmity, motives upon motives to excite apprehension that you might not behold the end of it. They represented to you the fragility of the organs of your body, which the slightest shock is able to derange and to destroy: the dismal accidents by which the life of man is incessantly threatened; the maladies, without number, which are either entailed on us by the law of our nature, or which are the fruit of our intemperance; the uncertainty of human existence, and the narrow bounds to which life, at the longest, is contracted.
After having filled their mouths with arguments drawn from the stores of nature, they had recourse to those of religion. They spake to you of the limited extent of the patience and long suffering of God. They told you, that to each of us is assigned only a certain number of days of visitation. They thundered in your ears such warnings as these: "Gather yourselves together, yea gather together, O nation not desired; before the decree bring forth before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you," Zeph. ii. 1, 2. "I will set a plumb line in the midst of my people: I will not again pass by them any more," Amos vii. 8. "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown: yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown," Jonah iii. 4.
him who shall dare henceforth to abuse... But no, let us not fulminate curses. Let not sounds so dreadful affright the ears of an audience like this. Let us adopt a language more congenial to the present day. We come to beseech you, my beloved brethren, by those very mercies of God to which you are indebted for exemption from so many evils, and for the enjoyment of so many blessings: by those very mercies which have this day opened for your admission, the gates of this temple, instead of sending you down into the prison of the tomb, by those very mercies, by which you were, within these few days, invited to the table of the Eucharist, instead of being summoned to the tribunal of judgment; by these tender mercies we beseech you to assume sentiments, and to form plans of conduct, which may have something like a correspondence to what God has been pleased to do in your behalf.
How is it possible that we should have escaped, at the same time, the miseries of nature, and the fearful threatenings of religion? And to repeat my question once more, through what favour of indulgent heaven does this church nourish in its bosom members sufficient to furnish out the solemnity of this day, and to compose an assembly so numerous and respectable?
It is to be presumed, my brethren, that the principle which has prevented our improvement of the innumerable benefits with which a gracious Providence is loading us, prevents not our knowledge of the source from which they flow. It is to be presumed, that the first emotions of our hearts, when we, this morning, opened our eyes to behold the light, have been such as formerly animated holy men of God, when they cried aloud, amidst the residue of those whom the love of God had delivered from the plagues inflicted by his justice, in the days of vengeance: "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not: they are new every morning," Lam. iii. 22, 23. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah," Isa. i. 9. Wo! wo! Anathema upon anathema! be to
And thou, God Almighty, the Sovereign, the Searcher of all hearts! thou who movest and directest them which ever way thou wilt! vouchsafe, Almighty God, to open to us the hearts of all this assembly, that they may yield to the entreaties which we address to them in thy name, as thou hast been thyself propitious to the prayers which they have presented to thee. Thou hast reduced "the measure of our days to an hand breadth:" Ps. xxxix. 5, and the meanest of our natural faculties is sufficient to make the enumeration them: but "so to number our days, as that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom," we cannot successfully attempt without thy all-powerful aid -"Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Amen.
In order to a clear comprehension of the words of my text, it would be necessary for me to have it in my power precisely to indicate who is the author of them, and on what occasion they were composed. The psalm, from which they are taken, bears this inscription, "A prayer of Moses, the man of God." But who was this Moses? And on the supposition that the great legislator of the Jews is the person meant, did he actually compose it? or do the words of the superscription, "A prayer of Moses, the man of God," amount only to this, that some one has imitated his style, and, in some measure, caught his spirit, in this composition? This is a point not easily to be decided, and which indeed does not admit of complete demonstration. The opinion most venerable from its antiquity, and the most generally adopted, is, that this psalm was composed by the Jewish lawgiver, at one of the most melancholy conjunctures of his life; when after the murmuring of the Israelites, on occasion of the report of the spies, God pronounced this tremendous decree: "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number . . . shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein," Num. xiv. 21. 29, 30.
If this conjecture be as well founded as it is probable, the prayer under review is the pro
duction of a heart as deeply affected with grief, as it is possible to be without sinking into despair. Never did Moses feel himself reduced to such a dreadful extremity, as at this fatal period. It appeared as if there had been a concert between God and Israel to put his constancy to the last trial. On the one hand, the Israelites wanted to make him responsible for all that was rough and displeasing in the paths through which God was pleased to lead them; and it seemed as if God, on the other hand, would likewise hold him responsible for the complicated rebellions of Israel.
Moses opposes to this just displeasure of God a buckler which he had often employed with success, namely, prayer. That which he put up on this occasion, was one of the most fervent that can be imagined. But there are situations in which all the fervour, of even the most powerful intercessor, is wholly unavailing. There are seasons, when, "though Moses and Samuel stood up before God," Jer. xvi. 1, to request him to spare a nation, the measure of whose iniquity was come to the full, they would request in vain. In such a situation was Moses now placed. Represent to your selves the deplorable condition of the Israelites, and the feelings of that man, whose leading character was meekness; and who, if we may be allowed the expression, carried that rebellious people in the tenderest and most sensible part of his soul: to be excluded from all hope beyond thirty or forty years of life, and to be condemned to pass these in a desert; what a fearful destiny!
Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
What course does Moses take? Dismissed, so to speak, banished from the throne of grace, does he however give all up for lost? No, my brethren. He was unable by entreaty to procure a revocation of the sentence pronounced against persons so very dear to him, he limits himself to imploring, in their behalf, wisdom to make a proper use of it. "Thou hast sworn it, great God; and the oath, which thy adorable lips have pronounced against us, can never be recalled. Thou hast sworn that none of us, who came out of Egypt, shall enter into that land, the object of all our hopes and prayers. Thou hast sworn that die we must, after having lingered out for forty years, a miserable existence in this wilderness, a habitation fitter for ferocious beasts of prey, than for reasonable creatures, than for men whom thou hast chosen, and called thy people. The sighs which my soul has breathed to heaven for a remission are unavailing; the tears which I have shed in thy bosom, have been shed in vain; these hands, once powerful to the combat, these hands which were stronger than thee in battle, these hands against which thou couldst not hold out, which made thee say, "let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them," Exod. 'xxxii. 10; these hands have lost the blessed art of prevailing with God in the conflict! Well, be it so. Let us die, great God, seeing it is thy sovereign will! Let us serve as victims to thy too just indignation; reduce our life to the shortest standard. But at least, since we had not the wisdom to avail ourselves of the promises of a long and happy life, teach us to live as becomes persons who are to die so soon.
This is a general idea of the end which our text has in view. But let us enter somewhat more deeply into this interesting subject. Let us make application of it to our own life, which bears a resemblance so striking to that which the children of Israel were doomed to pass in the wilderness. We are to inquire,
I. What is implied in numbering our days. II. What are the conclusions which wisdom deduces from that enumeration.
I. In order to make a just estimate of our days, let us reckon, 1. Those days, or divisions of time, in which we feel neither good nor evil, neither joy nor grief, and in which we practise neither virtue nor vice, and which, for this reason, I call days of nothingness; let us reckon these, and compare them with the days of reality. 2. Let us reckon the days of adversity, and compare them with the days of prosperity. 3. Let us reckon the days of languor and weariness, and compare them with the days of delight and pleasure. 4. Let us reckon the days which we have devoted to the world, and compare them with the days which we have devoted to religion. 5. Finally, let us calculate the amount of the whole, that we may discover how long the duration is of a life consisting of days of nothingness and of reality; of days of prosperity and of adversity; of days of pleasure and of languor; of days devoted to the world, and to the salvation of the soul.
1. Let us reckon the days of nothingness, and compare them with the days of reality. I give the appellation of days of nothingness to all that portion of our life in which, as I said, we feel neither good nor evil, neither joy nor grief; in which we practise neither virtue nor vice, and which is a mere nothing with respect to us.
In this class must be ranked, all those hours which human infirmity lays us under the necessity of passing in sleep, and which run away with the third part of our life: time, during which we are stretched in a species of tomb, and undergo, as it were, an anticipated death. Happy at the same time in being able, in a death not immediately followed by the judgment of God, to bury, in some measure, our troubles, together with our life!
In this class must be farther ranked, those seasons of inaction, and of distraction, in which all the faculties of our souls are suspended, during which we propose no kind of object to thought, during which we cease, in some sense, to be thinking beings; seasons which afford an objection of no easy solution, to the opinion of those who maintain that actual thought is essential to mind; and that from this very consideration, that it subsists, it must actually think.
In this class must be farther ranked, all those portions of time which are a burden to us; not because we are under the pressure of some calamity, for this will fall to be considered under another head, but because they form, if I may say so, a wall between us and certain events, which we ardently wish to attain. Such as when we are in a state of uncertainty respect ing certain questions, in which we feel our selves deeply interested, but which must re
he hears himself continually reproached with being an incumbrance on the face of the earth, and that he is occupying, too long, a place which he ought to resign to one who might be more useful to society?
main undecided for some days, for some months, for some years. We could wish to suppress all those intervals of our existence, were God to put it in our power. Thus, a child wishes to attain in a moment, the age of youth; the young man would hasten at once into the con- But this is not the worst of the case. Nodition of the master of a family; and some thing more is necessary, in many cases, than times the father of a family would rush for- a whim, a mere chimera, to disturb the hapward to the period when he should see the be-piest and most splendid condition of human loved objects of his affection settled in the world: and so of other cases.
In this class we may still rank certain seasons of preparation and design: such as the time which we spend in dressing and undressing upon the road, and in other similar occupations, insipid and useless in themselves, and to which no importance attaches, but in so far as they are the means necessary of attaining an object more interesting than themselves.
Reckon, if you can, what is the amount of this first class of our days; compare them with what we have called days of reality. Whoever will take the trouble to make such a calculation with any degree of exactness, must be constrained to acknowledge, that a man who says he has lived threescore years, has not lived twenty complete: because, though he has in truth passed threescore years in the world, forty of these stole away in listlessness and inaction, and during this period, he was as if he had not been. This is the first enumeration, the enumeration of days of nothingness compared with days of reality.
2. Let us reckon the days of adversity, and compare them with the days of prosperity. To what a scanty measure would human life be reduced, were we to subtract from it those seasons of bitterness of soul which God seems to have appointed to us, rather to furnish an exercise to our patience, than to make us taste the pleasures of living.
What is life to a man, who feels himself condemned to live in a state of perpetual separation from persons who are dear to him? Collect into one and the same house, honours, riches, dignities; let the tables be loaded with a profusion of dainties; display the most magnificent furniture; let all that is exquisite in music be provided; let every human delight contribute its aid: all that is necessary to render all these insipid and disgusting, is the absence of one beloved object, say a darling child.
What is life to a man who has become infamous, to a man who is execrated by his fellowcreatures, who dares not appear in public, lest his ears should be stunned with the voice of malediction, thundering in every direction upon his head?
What is life to a man deprived of health; a man delivered over to the physicians; a man reduced to exist mechanically, who is nourished by merely studied aliments, who digests only according to the rules of art, who is able to support a dying life only by the application of remedies still more disgusting than the very maladies which they are called in to relieve?
What is life to a man arrived at the age of decrepitude, who feels his faculties decaying day by day, when he perceives himself becoming an object of pity and forbearance to all around him, or rather becoming absolutely insupportable to every one; when he imagines
Now, in which of our days shall we find those pure joys, which no infusion of bitterness has poisoned? In which of our days is it possible for us to behold the perfect harmony of glory in the state of triumph in the church, of vigorous health, of prosperous fortune, of domestic peace, of mental tranquillity? In which of the days of our life did this concurrence of felicities permit us to consider ourselves as really happy?
Farther, if, in the ordinary current of our days, we had been deprived of only a few of the good things of life, while we possessed all the rest, the great number of those which we enjoyed, might minister consolation under the want of those which Providence had been pleased to withhold. But how often would an almost total destitution of good, and an accumulation of wo, render life insupportable, did not submission to the will of God, or rather, did not divine aid enable us to bear the ills of life?
Shall I have your permission, my brethren, to go into a detail of particulars on this head? For my own part, who have been in this world during a period not much longer than that which the children of Israel passed in the wilderness; I have scarcely heard any thing else spoken of, except disasters, desolations, destructive revolutions. Scarcely had I begun to know this church, into which I had been admitted in baptism, when I was doomed to be the melancholy spectator of the most calamitous events which can be presented to the eyes, or the imagination of man. Have you forgotten them, my dear compatriots, my beloved companions in affliction, have you forgotten those days of darkness? Have you forgotten those cries of the children of Edom: "Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof!" Ps. cxxxvii. 7. Have you forgotten those dead bodies of our brethren, "given to be meat unto the fowls of heaven, the flesh of the saints unto the beasts of the earth; their blood shed like water round about Jerusalem, and none to bury them?" Ps. lxxix. 2, 3.
In order to escape calamities so many and so grievous, we were reduced to the necessity of fleeing from the place of our birth. We were constrained to drag about, from place to place, a miserable life, empoisoned by the fatal shafts which pierced us. We were constrained to present objects of compassion, but often importunately troublesome, to the nations whither we fled in quest of a place of refuge. We were reduced to the misery of being incessantly haunted with the apprehension of failing in the supplies necessary to the most pressing demands of life, and to those of education, as dear as even the support of life.
Scarcely did we find ourselves under covert from the tempest, when we felt that we were
still exposed to it, in the persons of those with whom we were united in the tenderest bonds. "One post run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another:" to adopt the prophet's expression, Jer. li. 31, to announce dismal tidings. Sometimes the message bore, that a house had been recently demolished: sometimes that a church had just been sapped to the foundation: sometimes we heard the affecting history of an undaunted believer, but whose intrepidity had exposed him to the most cruel torments; at another time, it was of a faint-hearted Christian whom timidity had betrayed into apostacy, a thousand times more to be deplored than tortures and death in their most horrid form.
Let each of us here recollect the history of his own life. How often has a man found himself a prey to languor and disgust in the midst of those very pleasures of life which he had conceived to be the most lively and affecting? Objects in which we generally take the greatest delight, sometimes depress us into the most intolerable languor. It is frequently sufficient for exciting distaste in us to an object, that we once doated on it; to such a degree is the will of man capricious, fluctuating, and inconstant. Parties of pleasure are sometimes proposed and formed; the place, the time, the company, every thing is settled with the most solicitous anxiety; the hour is looked to with eager impatience, and nothing less is found than what the fond imagination had promised to itself. It is a mere phantom, which had an appearance of solidity, when viewed at a distance; we approach, we embrace it, and lo! it melts away into air, "thin air."
The believer whose taste is purified, is unano-doubtedly better acquainted with this languor, when, amidst the pleasures of this world, there occurs to his mind one or another of the re flections which have been suggested, respecting the vanity of all human things; when he says to himself, "Not one in this social circle, among whom I am partaking of so many delights, but would basely abandon me, if I stood in need of his assistance, did the happiness of my life impose on him the sacrifice of one of the dishes of his table, of one of the horses of his equipage, of one of the trees of his gardens." When stating a comparison between the tide of pleasure into which he was going to plunge, and those which religion has procured him, he thus reflects: "This is not the joy which I taste, when alone with my God, I pour out before him a soul inflamed to rapture with his love, and when I collect, in rich profusion, the tokens of his grace." When coming to perceive that he has indulged rather too far in social mirth, which is lawful only when restrained within certain bounds, he says within himself, "Are such objects worthy of the regard of an immortal soul? are these my divinities?" Then it is he feels himself oppressed with languor and disgust; then it is that objects, once so eagerly desired, are regarded with coldness or aversion. Hence that seriousness which overspreads his countenance, hence that pensive silence into which he falls,
Received into countries whose charity extended their arms to embrace us, it seemed as if we carried, wherever we went, a part of those disasters from which we were striving to make our escape. For these forty years past, my brethren, what repose has Protestant Europe enjoyed? One war has succeeded to ther war, one plague to another plague, one abyss to another abyss. And God knows, God only knows, whether the calamities which have for some time pressed these states around on every side; God only knows, whether or not they are to be but the beginning of sorrows! God only knows what may be preparing for us by that avenging arm which is ever lifted up against us, and that flaming sword, whose tremendous glare is incessantly dazzling our eyes! God only knows how long our bulwarks against the ocean may be able to withstand those formidable shocks, and those violent storms, which an insulted God is exciting to shatter them! God knows . But let us not presume to draw aside the veil under which Providence has been pleased to conceal the destiny of these provinces from our eyes. It is abundantly evident, that were we to subtract from the number of our days, those heavy periods of existence, when we live only to suffer; were we to reckon the days of prosperity alone, our life would be reduced to an imperceptible duration; we should not discover any exaggeration in the expressions which Moses employs to trace the image of the life of the Israelites in the preceding context: "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men: thou carriest them away as with a flood: they are as asleep: in the morning they are like grass which grow-in eth up: in the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withered."
3. Let us reckon the days of languor and weariness, and compare them with the days of delight and pleasure. This particular must not be confounded with the preceding. There is a wide difference between the days which we have called those of adversity, and which we, under this head, call days of languor and weariness. By days of adversity, we meant those seasons of life, in which the privation of some worldly good, and the concurrence of many evils, render us actually miserable. By days of languor and weariness we now mean those in which exemption from the ills of life, or the possession of its good things, leaves the mind void and dissatisfied.
spite of every effort to the contrary, hence certain gloomy reflections which involuntarily arise in his soul.
But this languor is not peculiar to those whose taste piety has refined. There is a remarkable difference, however, in this respect, between the men of the world, and believers; namely, that the disgust, which these last feel in the pleasures of life, engages them in the pursuit of purer joys, in exercises of devotion; whereas the others give up the pursuit of one worldly delight, only to hunt after a new one, equally empty and unsatisfying with that which they had renounced. From that scanty portion of life, in which we enjoy prosperity, we must go on to subtract that other portion, in which prosperity is insipid to us. Calculate, if you can, the poor amount of what remains after this subtraction.