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which the soul is destined to exist, with the ages of eternity, which are to succeed the consummation and the ruin of this changing scene; if we regard the mouldering dead, who have long since run their course, and “laid them down in their “ last sleep;" or look upon the living who are rapidly hastening to their exit, and who in every action are removing some intervening barrier, in every step lessening the little intervening distance which separates them from their grave; must we not join in the assertion of the apostle, “Now this " I say, brethren, The time is short.”
The fact being certain, the purpose for which St. Paul employs it, is to teach all men lessons of moderation and wisdom; and these he addresses alike to them who rejoice and to them who weep. The former, the happy and the gay, he reminds of the transitory nature of their joys, and cautions them not inordinately to value what is held by so slight and brief a tenure. To the latter, the sad and the sorrowing, he suggests the folly of giving way to excessive grief, by bidding them remember that their whole continuance upon
earth is but a short and momentary span, and that soon their present sorrows, and their lives together, must terminate in the grave; and therefore upon both he urges this lesson, " That
6. they that weep be as though they wept not, " and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced 5* not.”
But while upon each of these descriptions of men the text inculcates the duty of moderation, it is to all who inherit this frail life an argument in favour of true religion, and declares, in few words, the wisdom of looking forward beyond the passing things, whether of good or ille, which belong to this earthly and perishing scene, to those things which are hereafter to be realized, and which, whether good or ill, will be unchangeable and for ever.
“ Remember thou art mortal, and must die,” was an admonition which a king thought not unworthy to be sounded daily in his ear; and were this truth always realized and always felt, nothing would seem more calculated to give sobriety to the thoughts, to deepen the current of salutary reflection, to cause men seriously io review their purposes and their actions, to induce them to estimate rightly their character and the ground of their hopes, to arouse them to solicitude for their everlasting welfare, and make them diligent in their exertions for securing it; nothing, I
say, would be more effectual thus to awaken men to their best interests and their most important concern, than to have this consideration ever present to the mind, that they are actors in a transient scene, that they are probationers for eternity, and that besides attaining a needful preparation for that, all things here are unimportant and of little account, for that “the time is short." The days of our age are three score years and ten, and though the period be sometimes still farther extended, yet the average of human life is greatly short even of this, its nominal boundary. But with us, my brethren, of those three score years and ten how many are already gone, and over the residue what doubt, what uncertainty, is suspended. Leaving out of the account those which are past and come not again, and even regarding as probable those which are future and may never come, the three score years and ten of our existence are even now, for most of those who hear me, reduced to thirty, to twenty, to less than ten. And if we measure the duration of such a period, not by what it seems when stretching before us in the uncertainty of the future, it is filled up with pictures of fancied enjoyment; but by what it appears to our memory when we look back upon its actual flight, marked as it has been, by disappointments and cares, by weariness and indifference, by pain and affliction; when we thus measure the future of our little life, continually increasing, as it must be, in sorrow, and lessening in joy; who does not confess how worthless is all that he can look for here, and how unimportant would be all that he can gain, even if every moment of it were crowded with those gratifications which he would most desire, and filled up with those successes which he has most at heart. And is it possible, my I boldly
brethren, that there is one before me who would be content to take up with this as his all of happiness? Is there one who, to enjoy this scanty fleeting span of existence, would willingly make forfeiture of heaven? Is there one who can be purchased by so mean a bribe, to sell that everlasting felicity which God has promised? Is there one, can there be one, who, for this fragment of time, would renounce and abandon his hopes for eternity? There is none. answer there is none. But while all intend to be saved, while all expect to receive the approbation of God, while all are calculating upon his pardon and his favour, multitudes are destitute of any just grounds of expectation, and yet are giving no diligence to make sure their calling and election; and though not secure of life for a single day, they are hazarding upon that chance the blessedness of ages. For such as these, and indeed for every one among us, how strongly does the text suggest the duty of ascertaining their character, of reflecting upon their actual state! How does it admonish us to think of the danger of being found unreconciled to God, and to ask ourselves the question, wbat else but the most fatal delusion can sanction in any the continuance of their neglect !
Count up, my brethren, the number of the years you have lived, for so many years has death been steadily advancing towards you. Soon he will look you in the face, and summon you to your last, to your long account; unwarned you have not been, though unprepared you have perhaps to this moment remained; and if this be indeed the case, let these words, I beseech you, sound continually in your ears, “ The time is "short-the time is short!"
Ye who are studiously avoiding all attention to serious things, who, putting far from you the evil day of retribution and judgment, are pursuing courses of irreligion and sin; ye who are destroying reputation and health, squandering time and substance in the resorts of dissoluteness, of riot, of gaming, and of excess; ye who are defying God and neglecting your salvation, turning your back upon the offers of grace, and disre- . garding the calls to repentance and holiness, though for a while ye may succeed in banishing from your mindst hese unwelcome themes, though for a while, in the confidence of youth, and the firmness of strength, ye may repel the thought of accountability and danger, be persuaded, I beseech you, to consider your ways, look well to the end to which they must conduct you, and hesitate not, if wisdom and prudence have any voice to arouse you, to return without delay to the paths of obedience and safety; " for “ this I say, brethren, The time is short.”
Thou that art seeking happiness in scenes of gaiety and pleasure, whom the vanities of life