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The Time is short.
1 CORINTHIANS vii. 29.
But this I say, brethren, The time is short.
THAT the present life is a state of probation,
is one of those familiar truths which, while it is generally acknowledged, is seldom realized, and more seldom permitted to influence the character. Go through the world, my brethren, and examine where you will the conduct of men, and from that endeavour to estimate the motives by which they are actuated, and few, very few indeed, are the instances in which you will discover such a government of the disposition and of the actions, such an elevation of the purposes and views, such a control of the affections and desires, as indicate in the individual an habitual reference and regard to a life to come. We are not, however, to suppose, that this disregard of a future life arises from any want of evidence respecting
its certainty, nor from any insincerity in the belief of those sanctions which necessarily belong to it. It needs little converse with the world, little experience of its vanities and disappointments, little observation of the emptiness of its highest objects and best pursuits, to discover that this cannot be the end of our being. Every thing around us compels us to acknowledge that we are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, journeying through a land of changes and of shadows, to a state which is permanent, abiding, and full of realities. And what the Scriptures declare, that in that future life God will give to every man according as his work shall be, that "we "must all appear before the judgment seat of "Christ, that every one may receive the things "done in his body, according to that he hath "done, whether it be good or bad," is so consonant to reason, and so powerfully confirmed by conscience, that among the mass of men in Christian countries, a sense of accountability may be said to be universal; and so deeply and indelibly has God written this feeling of accountability on the heart, that in the worst of men it cannot often be effaced, even by the accumulated crimes of a long life.
The certainty of a future state being acknowledged, and the fact of a future judgment admitted, one reason why men do not feel their influence is readily seen in the overpowering and
engrossing nature of present things. The great fact of their interest in the concernments of another existence, escapes from their mind through continual inattention. It is disregarded, because of the opposing power of evil habits, and its impression thus gradually weakened, at last becomes wholly inoperative in comparison of those passions and pursuits which have their origin in a love of this present world.
And if we seek still farther into the causes of this disregard of another life, the ultimate reason will be found in the opinion, that though the danger of a judgment to come be great, it is not immediate; that though a future life be certain,
yet it is very distant. Men are extremely apt to
fancy that the pleasures which it promises, and the apprehensions which it sometimes excites, are too remote to be worthy of very particular regard, too distant to be set in competition with those gratifications and indulgences which are present to the senses, too far removed in the future to make necessary that self-denial and holiness by which its threatenings are to be averted, and by which alone its benefits can be secured.
Now this being a most common and prevalent opinion, and a very fruitful cause of an irreligious and worldly life, there can be no better way to reclaim men from the delusion in which they are perishing, to inspire them with a just contempt of present things, and to awaken them to a due
regard for the concerns of another existence, than to make them sensible that that existence, with all its realities, is at hand; that the distance between them and the scenes of an untried eternity is but a momentary point; that the things which are seen and temporal are rapidly escaping from their grasp; that the things unseen, which are cternal, are as rapidly hastening upon their view. How efficacious such a belief would be in arousing all the solicitude of our souls, and directing all our endeavours to the securing of our salvation, we can be at no loss to perceive, if we have ever witnessed the bitter regrets which are felt, and the salutary resolutions which are formed, in a dying hour, when this truth begins to be clearly realized; and it was with a view to prevent those whom he addressed, from being fatally engrossed with present pleasures and present cares, to induce in them soberness of mind and loftiness of purpose, to make them superior to a world, which is departing, to induce them to set their affections on things above, and not on things on the earth, that St. Paul employed the consideration of the text, "But this I say, brethren, The time " is short."
To go into the proof of this declaration would seem to be a needless task. It is heard in the melancholy confession which falls from the lips of the aged, "Few and evil have been the years "of the days of my pilgrimage." It is read in VOL. II. 43
the fears of manhood, and in the prayer which is offered up for preservation in the midst of life's meridian joys; when, surrounded by dangers, by casualties, and by death, even the happiest and most secure are heard to implore, Oh! “cut me "not off in the midst of my days." And is it not continually presented before us, and some times carried most impressively and affectingly to our hearts, in the vanishing of the young adventurer upon existence, who "cometh up and is cut down "like a flower?"
Take, however, even the longest term to which human life is permitted to extend, and the necessary time of inaction and repose makes much of it literally a deathlike dream; troubles, occupations, and cares, make a large portion of it a period of labour and sorrow; and for the rest, must we not marvel how soon it passeth away and we are gone? Compare this whole period of human life with the protracted ages of the patriarchs, and it would seem that even the oldest among the men of the present race depart and disappear in what was once considered the threshold of existence, the very boyhood of human life. And if we go farther, and compare the present duration of life, not merely with the thousand years of earthly sojourning which belonged to the antediluvian race of men, nor yet with the whole period of time which has elapsed since the creation of the earth, but with the vast period through