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4. Let us reckon the days which we have different scenery, a new decoration. I repredevoted to the world, and compare them with sent these vicissitudes to myself, under the emthose which we have devoted to religion. Hu-blem of what is felt by a man who is employed miliating computation! But I take it for grant-in turning over the pages of history. He ed, that in your present circumstances, it has pores over his book, he beholds on this leaf, been rendered familiar to your thoughts. one people, one king; he turns it, and lo, Christians who have been just concluding the other laws, other maxims, other actors, which year with a participation of the holy ordinance have no manner of relation to what preceded of the Lord's Supper, could hardly fail to have them! put this question to their consciences, when employed in self-examination, preparatory to that solemn service: What proportion of my time has been given to God? What proportion of it has been given to the world? And it is sufficient barely to propose the discussion of these questions, to come to this melancholy conclusion: That the portion of our life, which alone deserves to be considered as containing something solid and substantial, I mean the portion which has been given to God, is of a du- So teach us to number our days, that we may apration so short as to be almost imperceptible, when compared with the years which the world has engrossed.
PSALM XC. 12.
ply our hearts unto wisdom.
40 to 50
50 to 60
60 and upwards
WE have seen to what a measure human life is reduced. To be made sensible of this is a very high attainment in knowledge; but it is of still higher importance, thence to deduce conclusions, which have a tendency to regulate the workings of your mind, the emotions of your heart, the conduct of your life: and to assist you in this, is
5. I proceed to the last computation proposed. What is the amount of this total of human life which we have thus arranged in different columns? What is the sum of this compound account of days of nothingness and days of reality; of days of prosperity and days of affliction; of days of languor and days of II. The second object which we proposed to delight; of days devoted to the world, and ourselves in this discourse. This is what the days devoted to religion? My brethren, it is prophet asks of God in the text, this we would God, it is God alone, who holds our times in earnestly implore in your behalf, and this his hand, to adopt the idea of the prophet, Ps. prayer we wish you to adopt for yourselves: xxxi. 15; he alone can make an accurate cal-Lord, so teach us to number our days, that culation of them. And as he alone has fixed we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." the term of our life, he only is likewise capable of knowing it. It is not absolutely impossible, however, to ascertain what shall be, in respect of time, the temporal destination of those who hear me this day. Let me suppose that the present solemnity has drawn together an assembly of eighteen hundred persons. I subdivide these 1800 into six different classes.
The 1st consisting of persons from 10 to 20 years of age, amounting to
530 440 345
2d from 20 to 30 amounting to 3d 66 30 to 40 4th " 5th " 6th "
1. The first conclusion deducible from the representation given, is this: the vanity of the life which now is, affords the clearest proof of the life to come. This proof is sensible, and it possesses two advantages over all those which philosophy supplies, towards demonstrating the immortality of the soul. The proof of our immortality, taken from the spirituality of the soul, has, perhaps, a great deal of solidity; but it is neither so sensible, nor so incontestable. I ain lost when I attempt to carry my metaphysical speculations into the interior of substances. I do not well know what to reply to an opponent who presses me with such questions as these: "Do you know every thing that a substance is capable of? Are your intellectual powers such as to qualify you to pronounce this decision, Such a substance is capable only of this, and such another only of that." This difficulty, at least, always recurs, namely, that a soul, spiritual and immortal of its own nature, may be deprived of immortality, should it please that God who called it into existence, to reduce it to a state of annihilation.
But the proof which we have alleged is sensible, it is incontestable. I can make the force of it to be felt by a peasant, by an artisan, by the dullest of human beings. And I am bold enough to bid defiance to the acutest genius, to the most dexterous sophist, to advance any thing that deserves the name of reasoning in contradiction to it. How! Is it possible that this soul, capable of reflecting, of reasoning, of laying down principles, of deducing consequences, of knowing its Creator, and of serving him, should have been created for the pur
According to the most exact calculation of those who have made such kind of researches their study, each of these classes must, in the course of this year, present to death, a tribute of ten persons. On this computation, sixty of my present hearers must, before the beginning of another year, be numbered with the dead. Conformably to the same rate of computation, in 10 years, of the 1800 now present there will remain 1270 830 480
In 20 years, only
In 50 years, no more will be left than 70 Thus you see, my brethren, in what a perpetual flux the human race is. The world is a vast theatre, in which every one appears his moment upon the stage, and in a moment disappears. Every successive instant presents
ON NUMBERING OUR DAYS.
pose merely of acting the poor part which man fills on the earth? How! the souls of those myriads of infants, who die before they are born, to be annihilated, after having animated, for a few months, an embryo, a mass of unfinished organs, which nature did not deign to carry on to perfection? How! the Abrahams, the Moseses, the Davids, and the multitudes of those other holy men, to whom God made so many and such gracious promises, shall they cease to be, after having been "strangers and pilgrims upon the earth?" How! that "cloud of witnesses," who, rather than deny the truth, submitted to be "stoned," to be "sawn asunder," to be "tempted," to be "slain with the sword," who "wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented?" Heb. xi. 13. 37. How! that "cloud of witnesses" evaporate into smoke, and the souls of martyrs pass into annihilation amidst the tortures inflicted by an executioner! Ye confessors of Jesus Christ, who have borne his reproach for thirty years together, who have yielded up your back to the rod of a tormentor, who have lived a life more painful than death in its most horrid form! You to have no other reward of all your labours and sufferings, except those poor gratuities which man bestows after you have finished your career? How! those noble faculties of soul bestowed on man, merely to sit for a few years upon a tribunal, for a few years to dip into arts and sciences? What brain could digest the thought! What subtility of metaphysical research, what ingeniousness of sophistry, can enfeeble the proof derived from such appearances as these! O brevity of the present economy! O vanity of human life! O miseries upon miseries with which my days are depressed, distracted, empoisoned, I will complain of you no longer! behold light the most cheering; the most transporting, ready to burst forth from the bosom of that gloomy night into which you have plunged me! You conduct me to the grand, the animating doctrine of immortality! The vanity of the present life, is the proof of the life which is to come. This is our first con
You, who have passed thirty years in affliction! there are thirty years of painful existence vanished away. You, whose woes have been lengthened out to forty years! there are forty years of a life of sorrow vanished away. And you, who, for these thirty, forty, fifty years past, have been living at ease, and drowned in pleasure! What is become of those years? The time which both the one and the other has yet to live, is scarcely worth the reckoning, and is flying away with the same rapidity, If the brevity of life does not render all conditions equal, it fills up, at least, the greatest part of that abyss which cupidity had placed between them. Let us reform our ideas; let us correct our style: do not let us call a man happy because he is in health; do not let us call a sick man miserable: let us not call that absolute felicity, which is only borrowed, transitory, ready to flee away with life itself. Immortal beings ought to make immortality the standard by which to regulate their ideas of happiness and misery. Neither the good things, nor the evil, of a life so transient, ought to make a very deep impression on a soul whose duration is eternal. This was our second conclusion.
3. But if I be immortal, what have I to do among the dying? If I be destined to a neverending duration, wherefore am I doomed to drag out a miserable life upon the earth? If the blessings and the miseries of this life are so disproportionate to my natural greatness, wherefore have they been given to me? Wherefore does the Creator take a kind of pleasure in laying snares for my innocence, by presenting to me delights which may become the source of everlasting misery; and by conducting me to eternal felicity, through the sacrifice of every present comfort? This difficulty, my brethren, this pressing difficulty leads us to
2. The second conclusion we deduce is this: neither the good things, nor the evil, of a life which passes away with so much rapidity, ought to make a very deep impression on a soul whose duration is eternal. Do not tax me of extravagance. I have no intention to preach a hyperbolical morality, I do not mean to maintain such a wild position as this, "That there is no reality in either the enjoyments or the distresses of life; that there is a mixture in every human condition, which reduces all to equality; that the man who sits at a plentiful table is not a whit happier than the man who begs his bread." This is not our gospel. Temporal evils are unquestionably real. Were this life of very long duration, I would deem the condition of the rich man incomparably preferable to that of the poor; that of the man who commands, to that of him who obeys; that of one who enjoys perfect health, to that of one who is stretched on a bed of languishing. But however real the enjoyments and the distresses of life may be in themselves, their transient duration invalidates that reality.
A third conclusion: this life is a season of probation, assigned to us for the purpose of making our choice between everlasting happiness or misery. This life, considered as it is in itself, is an object of contempt. We may say of it, with the sacred writer, that it is "a shadow which passeth away;" "a vanity," which has nothing real and solid; a flower which fadeth;" "grass" which withers and is cut down; "a vapour" which dissolves into air; "a dream" which leaves no trace after the sleep is gone; a thought" which presents itself to the mind, but abides not; an apparition, a nothing" before God.
But when we contemplate this life, in its relation to the great end which God proposes to himself in bestowing it upon us, let us form exalted ideas of it. Let us carefully compute all its subdivisions; let us husband, with scrupulous attention, all the instants of it, even the most minute and imperceptible; let us regret the precious moments which we have irrecoverably lost. For this shadow which passes, this vanity which has nothing real and solid, this flower which fades, this grass which is cut down and withers, this vapour which melts into air, this forgotten dream, this transient thought, this apparition destitute of body and substance, this nothing, this span of life, so vile and contemptible, is time which we must redeem, Eph.
viated from the views of his Creator, present to God this day, a heart overflowing with gratitude, that this tremendous sentence has not yet been fulminated against him: "Give an account of thy stewardship," Luke xvi. 2. It is for this that life ought to be prized as infinitely dear; for this we have unspeakable cause to rejoice, that we still behold the light of this day.
4. Fourth conclusion. A life through which more time has been devoted to a present world, than to preparation for eternity, corresponds not to the views which the Creator proposed to himself, when he placed us in this economy of expectation. We were placed in this state of probation, not to sleep, to eat, and to drink; we were placed here to prepare for eternity. If, therefore, we have devoted more of our time to such functions as these, than to preparation for eternity; if, at least, we have not adapted these functions to the leading object of eternity; if we have not been governed by that maxim of St. Paul, 1 Cor. x. 31: "Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," we certainly have not conformed to the views which the Creator proposed to himself, in placing us under this economy of expectation and trial.
"I have been in the world these thirty, forty, threescore years; and ever since I arrived at the exercise of reason, and felt the power of conscience, I have enjoyed every advantage towards attaining the knowledge, and exhibiting the practice of religion. Every display of mercy, and every token of fatherly displeasure have been employed to reclaim me. Not a book written to convince the understanding, but what has been put into my hands; not a sermon calculated to move and to melt the heart, but what has been addressed to my ears. My corruption has proved too powerful for them all. My life has been a tissue, if not of enormous crimes, at least of dissipation and thoughtlessness. If at any time I have shaken off my habits of listlessness and inaction, it was usually only to run into excesses, which have already precipitated so many precious souls into hell. When visited with sickness, when death seemed to stare me in the face, I seemed to behold, collected into one fatal moment, all the sins of my life, and all the dreadful punishments which they deserve. I carried a hell within me; I believed myself to be encompassed by demons and flames of fire; I became my own executioner, when I called to remembrance that wretched time which I had lavished on the world and its lying vanities; and I would have sacrificed my life a thousand and a thousand times to redeem it, had God put it in my power; I would have given the whole world to bring back but one poor moment of that precious time which I had so prodigally squandered away; and God in mercy ineffable, is still prolonging that day of visitation."
We were placed in this state of probation, not merely to labour for the provision and establishment of our families; we are placed here to prepare for eternity. If, therefore, we have devoted more of our time and attention to the provision and establishment of our families, than to preparation for eternity; if, at least, we have not adapted to the leading object of eternity, our solicitudes and exertions in behalf of our families, we certainly have not conformed to the views which the Creator proposed to himself, in placing us under this economy of expectation and trial.
6. Finally, we farther deduce a sixth conclusion. Creatures, in whose favour God is pleased still to lengthen out the day of grace, the economy of long-suffering, which they have improved to so little purpose, ought no longer to delay, no not for a moment, to avail themselves of a reprieve so graciously intended. Creatures who stand on the brink of the grave, and who have too just ground to fear that they should be thrust into hell, were the grave im
We were placed in this state of probation, not merely to govern states, to cultivate arts and sciences; we are placed here to prepare for eternity. If, therefore, we have not directed all our anxieties and exertions, on such subjects as these, to the leading object of eternity, we certainly have not conformed to the views which the Creator proposed to himself, in placing us under this economy of expectation and trial. Imagine not that we shall be judged according to the ideas which we ourselves are pleased to form of our vocation. We are under an economy of expectation and trial: time then is given us, that we may prepare for eter-mediately to swallow them up, ought instantly nity. A life, therefore, through which more to form a new plan of life, and instantly to set time and attention have been devoted to the about the execution of it. I conjure you, my pursuits of this world, than to preparation for brethren, by the gospel of this day, I conjure eternity; corresponds not to the views which you by all that is powerful, all that is interestthe Creator proposed to himself, when he placed ing, all that is tender, in the solemnity which us under this economy of expectation and trial. we are now assembled to celebrate, and in that This is the fourth conclusion. of last Lord's day: I conjure you to enter in good earnest into the spirit of this reflection, to keep it constantly in view through every instant of the years which the patience of God may still grant you, to make it as it were the rule of all your designs, all your undertakings, of all your exertions. Without this we can do nothing for you. The most ardent prayers which we could address to heaven on your behalf, this day, would be as ineffectuai
v. 16; "a time of visitation" which we must know, Luke xix. 44; "a time accepted, a day of salvation" which we must improve, 2 Cor. vi. 2; a period of "forbearance, and long-suffering" which we must embrace, Rom. ii. 4; a time beyond which "there shall be time no longer," Rev. x. 6, because after life is finished, tears are unavailing, sighs are impotent, prayers are disregarded, and repentance is ineffectual. We proceed to deduce a
5. We go on to deduce a fifth. A sinner who has not conformed to the views which God proposed to himself in placing him under an economy of discipline and probation, ought to pour out his soul in thanksgiving, that God is graciously pleased still to lengthen it out. Let each of you who, on taking a review of his own life, must bear the dreadful testimony | against himself, that he has most miserably de
as those which Moses formerly presented in
I have embraced with avidity, my dearly beloved brethren, the opportunity of contributing to the present solemnity, to come to you at a juncture so desirable, and to bring to you the word of life, at a season when I am at liberty to unfold to you a heart which has ever been penetrated with a respectful tenderness for this city and for this church. Deign to accept my affectionate good wishes, with sentiments conformable to those which dictated them.
fortune. The religion which we profess, permits us not to aspire after those proud titles, those posts of distinction, those splendid reti nues which confound the ministers of temporal princes with the ministers of that Jesus whose kingdom is not of this world. But whatever we lose with respect to those advantages which dazzle the senses, is amply compensated to us in real and solid blessings; at least, if we ourselves understand that religion which we make known to others, and if we have a due sense of that high vocation with which we are honoured of God. May that God, who has conferred this honour upon us, vouchsafe to endow us with that illumination, and with those virtues, without which it is impossible for us to discharge the duties of it in a becoming manner! May he vouchsafe to bestow upon us that courage, that intrepidity, which are necessary to our effectually resisting the enemies of our holy reformation; nay, those too, who, under the name of reformed, do their utmost to thwart and to undermine it! May he vouchsafe to support us amidst the incessant difficulties and oppositions which we have to encounter, through the course of our ministry, and to animate us by the idea of those supereminent degrees of glory, which await those, who, after having "turned many to righteousness, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever!"
Venerable magistrates, to whose hands Providence has committed the reins of government, you are exalted to a station which our devotions contemplate with respect! But we are the ministers of a Master whose commands control the universe; and it is from the inexhaustible source of his greatness, of his riches, of his magnificence, that we draw the bene- Merchants, ye who are the support of this dictions which we this day pronounce upon Republic, and who maintain in the midst of us your august heads. May God vouchsafe to prosperity and abundance, may God vouchsafe inspire you with that dignity of sentiment, to continue this blessing upon your commerce! that magnanimity, that noble ambition, which May God cause the winds and the waves, naenable the sovereigns to whom he has entrust-ture and the elements, to unite their influences ed the sword of his justice, to found on the in your favour! But above all, may God basis of justice, all their designs, and all their vouchsafe to teach you the great art of "placdecisions! May it please God to inspire you ing your heart there where your treasure is; with that charity, that condescension, that affa- to make to yourselves friends of the mammon bility, which sink the master in the father! of unrighteousness;" to sanctify your prosperiMay it please God to inspire you with that ty by your charities, especially on a day like humility, that self-abasement, which engage this, on which every one ought to prescribe to Christian magistrates to deposit all their power himself the law of paying a homage of charity at the feet of God, and to consider it as their to God who is love, and whose love has spared highest glory to render unto him a faithful ac- us to behold the light of this day! count of their administration! That account is a solemn one. You are, to a certain degree, responsible, not only for the temporal, but for the eternal happiness of this people. The eternal happiness of a nation frequently depends on the measures adopted by their governors, on the care which they employ to curb licentiousness, to suppress scandalous publications, to procure respect for the ordinances of religion, and to supply the church with enlightened, zealous, and faithful pastors. But magistrates who propose to themselves views of such extensive utility and importance, are warranted to expect from God, all the aid necessary to the accomplishment of them. And this aid, great God, we presume to implore in behalf of these illustrious personages! May our voice pierce the heavens, may our prayers be crowned with an answer of peace!
Fathers and mothers, with whom it is so delicious for me to blend myself, under an address so deeply interesting, may God enable us to view our children, not as beings limited to a present world, but as beings endowed with an immortal soul, and formed for eternity! May it please God to impress infinitely more upon our hearts the desire of one day beholding them among the blessed in the kingdom of heaven, than going on and prospering on the earth! May God grant us the possession of objects so endeared to the very close of life, objects so necessary to the enjoyment of life! May God vouchsafe, if he is pleased to take them away from us, to grant us that submission to his will, which enables us to support a calamity so severe!
Pastors, my dear companions in the great plan of salvation, ye successors of apostolic men in the edifying of the body of Christ, and in the work of the ministry! God has set very narrow bounds to what is called in the language of the world, our advancement and our VOL. II.-28
My dearly beloved brethren, this reflection chokes my utterance. May God vouchsafe to hear all the wishes and prayers which my heart has conceived, and which my lips have uttered, and all those which I am constrained to suppress, and which are more in number than the tongue is able to declare! Amen.
the cross! It is impossible for us to call to re-
THE TRUE GLORY OF THE CHRIS- nesses of it, without following thee, as they did
GALATIANS vi. 14.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
THE solemnity which in a few days we are going to celebrate, I mean the Ascension of Jesus Christ, displays the triumph of the cross. The Saviour of the world ascending in a cloud, received up into heaven amidst the acclamations of the church triumphant, removes the offence given by the Saviour of the world hanging on a tree. The period of the crucifixion, I acknowledge, was precisely that in which he carried magnanimity to its most exalted pitch. Never did he appear so truly great as when" descended into the lower parts of the earth," Eph. iv. 9; "humbled, made of no reputation, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," Phil. ii. 7, 8; he accomplished what was most repulsive to nature, in the plan of redemption. But how difficult is it to recognise heroism, when the hero terminates his career upon a scaffold!
The darkness which overspread the mystery of the cross, is passing away; the veils which concealed the glory of Jesus Christ, begin to withdraw; heaven, which seemed to have conspired with earth and with hell to depress and overwhelm him, declares aloud in his favour; his splendour bursts out of obscurity, and his glory from the very bosom of shame: because he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant; because he humbled himself; because he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: therefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth," Phil. ii. 9, 10.
What circumstances more proper could we have selected, Christians, to induce you to seek your glory in the cross of your Saviour, than those which display it, followed by so much pomp and magnificence? I am going to propose to you as a model the man who of all others best understood the mystery of the cross: for my part, says he in the words which I have read, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Let us meditate on this subject with all that application of thought which it so justly
And thou great High Priest," Minister of the true tabernacle! thou holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," Heb. vii. 26; viii. 21, graciously look down on this people, now combating under the banners of
The text which we have announced, is, as it were, a conclusion deduced from the chapters which precede it. We cannot possibly have a clear comprehension of it, without a general recollection of the whole epistle from which it is taken. St. Paul, in writing to the Galatians, has this principally in view, to revive the spirit of Christianity which he himself had diffused over the whole province of Galatia. Never had preacher greater success than the ministry of our apostle was attended with in this city of the Lesser Asia. He himself gives this honourable testimony in favour of the Galatians, in chap. iv. ver. 15, that "they had received him as an angel of God," and, which is saying still more, "even as Christ Jesus." But the Gauls, of which this people was a colony, have, in all ages, been reproached with the faculty of easily taking impressions, and of losing them with equal facility. The sentiments with which St. Paul had inspired them, shared the fate of all violent sensations; that is, they were of no great duration. With this he upbraids them in the very beginning of the epistle. I marvel, says he to them, chap. i. 6, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel." Mark the expression, removed unto another gospel.
We are not possessed of memoirs of the first ages of the church sufficiently ample to enable us to determine, with precision, who were the authors of a revolution so deplorable. But if we may give credit to two of the earliest historians, to whom we are indebted for the most complete accounts which we have of the first fathers of heresy, I mean Philostratus and St. Epiphanius, it was Cerinthus himself, in the first instance, and his disciples afterward, who marred the good seed which St. Paul had sown in the church of Galatia. One thing is certain, namely, that respect for the ceremonial observances which God himself had prescribed in a manner so solemn, and particularly for the law of circumcision, was the reason, or rather the pretext, of which the adversaries of our apostle availed themselves to destroy the fruits of his ministry, by exciting suspicions against the soundness of his doctrine. St. Paul goes to the root of the evil: he conveys just ideas of these ceremonial institutions; he demonstrates, that, however venerable the origin of them might be, and whatever the wisdom displayed in their establishment, they had never been laid down as the essential part of religion, much less still, as the true means of reconciling men to God. We perceive at first sight this design