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accounts in history are, as I said above, but too hands, and his substance increased every day. probable effects of it.
Indeed, even with this security, riches to him May God of his mercy defend mankind from that hath neither child nor brother, as the wise future experiments of this kind ! and grant we man observes, instead of a comfort, prove somemay make a proper use of them, for the sake of times a sore travail and vexation. The mind of Jesus Christ ! Amen.
man is not always satisfied with the reasonable
assurance of its own enjoyments, but will look X. -JOB'S ACCOUNT OF TIE SHORT- forwards, as if it discovers some imaginary void ;
the want of some beloved object to fill his place NESS AND TROCBLES OF LIFE after him will often disquiet itself in vain, and CONSIDERED.
say, ' For whom do I labour, and bereave myself
of rest?' • Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full
This bar to his happiness God liad likewise of trouble. lle coinetlı forth like a flower, and is cut
taken away, in blessing him with a numerous down : hic fl-eth nlso as a shadow, and continueth nut.'-JOB XIV. 1, 2.
offspring of sons and daughters, the apparent
inheritors of all his present happiness. Pleasing There is something in this reflection of holy reflection! to think the blessings God has inJob's, upon the shortness of life and instability dulged one's self in shall be handed and conof human affairs, so beautiful and truly sublime, / tinued down to a man's own seed ! how little that one might challenge the writings of the does this differ from a second enjoyment of them most celebrated orators of antiquity to produce to an affectionate parent, who naturally looks a specimen of eloquence so noble and thoroughly forward with as strong an interest upon his affecting. Whether this effect be owing in some children as if he was to live over again in his measure to the pathetic nature of the subject own posterity ! reflected on, or to the eastern manner of expres- What could be wanting to finish such a picture sion, in a style more exalted and suitable to so
of a happy man? Surely nothing, except a virgreat a subject; or, which is the more likely tuous disposition to give a relish to these blessaccount, because they are properly the words of ings, and direct him to make a proper use of that Being who first inspired man with language, them. He had that too; for he was a perfect and taught his mouth to utter; who opened the and upright man-one that feared God, and lips of the dumb, and made the tongue of the eschewed evil. infant eloquent;-to which of these we are to In the midst of all this prosperity, which was refer the beauty and sublimity of this, as well as great as could well fall to the share of one as that of numberless other passages in holy man,- whilst all the world looked gay and smiled writ, may not now seem material ; but surely, upon him, and everything round him seemed to without these helps, never man was better quali- promise if possible an increase of happiness, – fied to make just and noble reflections upon the in one instant all is changed to sorrow and utter shortness of life and instability of human affairs despair. than Job was, who had himself waded through It pleased God, for wise purposes, to blast the such a sea of troubles, and in his passage had fortunes of his house, and cut off the hopes of encountered many vicissitudes of storms and his posterity, and in one mournful day to bring sunshine, and by turns had felt both the ex
this great prince from his palace down to the tremes of all the happiness and all the wretched- dunghill. His flocks and herds, in which conness that mortal man is heir to.
sisted the abundance of his wealth, were part The beginning of his days was crowned with consumed by fire from heaven, the remainder everything that ambition could wish for. He taken by the sword of the enemy; his sons and was the greatest of all the men of the east, had daughters, whom 'tis natural to imagine so good large and unbounded possessions, and no doubt a man had so brought up in a sense of their duty enjoyed all the comforts and advantages of life as to give him all reasonable hopes of much joy which they could administer. Perhaps you will and pleasure in their future lives-natural prossay a wise man might not be inclined to give a pect for a parent to look forwards at, to recomfull loose to this kind of happiness, without pense him for the many cares and anxieties which some better security for the support of it than their infancy had cost him!-these dear pledges the mere possession of such goods of fortune, of his future happiness were all, all snatched which often slip from under us, and sometimes from him at one blow, just at the time that one unaccountably make themselves wings and fly might imagine they were beginning to be the away. But he had that security too: for the comfort and delight of his old age, which most hand of Providence, which had thus far pro- wanted such staves to lean on; and as circumtected, was still lending him forwards, and stances add to an evil, so they did to this ; for seemed engaged in the preservation and con- it fell out, not only by a very calamitous accident, tinuance of these blessings. God had set a which was grievous enough of itself, but likewise hedge about him, and about all that he had on upon the back of his other misfortunes, when he every side ; he had blessed all the works of his was ill prepared to bear such a shock; and what
would still add to it, it happened at an hour when ages since the flood, and so universally felt and he had least reason to expect it, when he would acknowledged by the whole species, as to require naturally think his children secure and out of the no evidence beyond a similitude ; the intent of way of danger ;-'For whilst they were feasting which is not so much to prove the fact as to and making merry in their eldest brother's house, illustrate and place it in such a light as to strike a great wind out of the wilderness smote the four us, and bring the impression home to ourselves corners of the house, and it fell upon them.' in a more affecting manner.
Such a concurrence of misfortunes is not the Man comes forth, says Job, like a flower, and common lot of many, and yet there are instances is cut down. He is sent into the world the of some who have undergone as severe trials, fairest and noblest part of God's works, fashioned and bravely struggled under them; perhaps by after the image of his Creator with respect to natural force of spirits, the advantages of health, reason and the great faculties of the mind; he and the cordial assistance of a friend. And with cometh forth glorious as the flower of the field : these helps, what may not a man sustain? But as it surpasses the vegetable world in beauty, so this was not Job's case ; for scarce had these does he the animal world in the glory and es. evils fallen upon him when he was not only cellences of his nature. borne down with a grievous distemper, which The one, if no untimely accident oppress it, afflicted him from the crown of his head to the soon arrives at the full period of its perfection, sole of his foot, but likewise his three friends, in -is suffered to triumph for a few moments, and whose kind consolations he might have found a is plucked up by the roots in the very pride and medicine,-even the wife of his bosom, whose gayest stage of its being; or, if it happens to duty it was with a gentle hand to have softened escape the hands of violence, in a few days it all his sorrows,-instead of doing this, they necessarily sickens of itself, and dies away. cruelly insulted and became the reproachers of Man, likewise, though his progress is slower, his integrity! O God! what is man when thou and his duration something longer, yet the bruisest him, and makest his burden heavier, as periods of his growth and declension are nearly his strength grows less! Who, that had found the same, both in the nature and manner of himself thus an example of the many changes them. and chances of this mortal life ;-when he con- If he escapes the dangers which threaten his sidered himself now stripped and left destitute tender years, he is soon got into the full maturity of so many valuable blessings which the moment and strength of life; and if he is so fortunate as before thy providence had poured upon his head; not to be hurried out of it then by accidents, by when he reflected upon this gay delightsome his own folly and intemperance,-if he escapes structure, in appearance so strongly built, so these, he naturally decays of himself ; a period pleasingly surrounded with everything that comes fast upon him beyond which he was not could flatter his hopes and wishes, and beheld made to last. Like a flower or fruit which may it all levelled with the ground in one moment, be plucked up by force before the time of their and the whole prospect vanish with it, like the maturity, yet cannot be made to outgrow the description of an enchantment,-who, I say, period when they are to fade and drop of themthat had seen and felt the shock of so sudden selves,-when that comes, the hand of nature a revolution, would not have been furnished with then plucks them both off; and no art of the just and beautiful reflections on the occasion, botanist can uphold the one, or skill of the and said with Job, in the words of the text, that physician preserve the other, beyond the periods 'man that is born of a woman is of few days, to which their original frames and constitutions and full of misery; that he cometh forth like were made to extend. As God has appointed a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a and determined the several growths and decays shadow, and continueth not!'
of the vegetable race, so he seems as evidently The words of the text are an epitome of the to have prescribed the same laws to man, as well natural and moral vanity of man, and contain as all living creatures, in the first rudiments of two distinct declarations concerning his state which there are contained the specific powers and condition in each respect.
of their growth, duration, and extinction; and First, That he is a creature of few days; and, when the evolutions of those animal powers are secondly, That those days are full of trouble. exhausted and run down, the creature expires
I shall make some reflections upon each of and dies of itself, as ripe fruit falls from the these in their order, and conclude with a tree, or a flower preserved beyond its bloom practical lesson from the whole.
drops and perishes upon the stalk. And, first, That he is of few days. The com- Thus much for this comparison of Job's, which, parison which Job makes use of, "That man though it is very poetical, yet conveys a just idea cometh forth like a flower,' is extremely beauti- of the thing referred to. "That he fleeth also as ful, and more to the purpose than the most a shadow, and continueth not,'is no less a faithelaborate proof, which, in truth, the subject ful and fine representation of the shortness and will not easily admit of; the shortness of life vanity of human life; of which one cannot give being a point so generally complained of in all a better explanation than by referring to the
original, whence the picture was taken. With when compared with what is to come; and how quick a succession do days, months, and therefore so short and transitory a one as threeyears pass over our heads! how truly like a score years and ten, beyond which all is deshadow that departeth do they flee away insen- clared to be labour and sorrow, may the easier sibly, and scarce leave an impression with us ! be allowed: and yet how uncertain are we of When we endeavour to call them back by that portion, short as it is! Do not ten reflection, and consider in what manner they thousand accidents break off the slender thread have gone, how unable are the best of us to give of human life, long before it can be drawn out a tolerable account! And were it not for some to that extent? The new-born babe falls down of the more remarkable stages which have dis- an easy prey, and moulders back again into tinguished a few periods of this rapid progress, dust, like a tender blossom put forth in an we should look back upon it all as Nebuchadnezzar untimely hour. The hopeful youth, in the did upon his dream when he awoke in the morn- very pride and beauty of his life, is cut off ; ing: he was sensible many things had passed, and some cruel distemper or unthought of accident troubled him too, but had passed on so quickly, lays him prostrate upon the earth (to pursue they had left no footsteps behind, by which he Job's comparison), like a blooming flower smit could be enabled to trace them back. Melan- and shrivelled up with a malignant blast. In choly account of the life of man! which generally this stage of life, chances multiply upon us, runs on in such a manner as scarce to allow time the seeds of disorders are sown by intemperance to make reflections which way it has gone ! or neglect, - infectious distempers are
How many of our first years slide by in the easily contracted; when contracted, they rage innocent sports childhood, in which we are with greater violence, and the success in many not able to make reflections upon them! How cases is more doubtful, inasmuch as that they many more thoughtless years escape us in our who have exercised themselves in computations youth, when we are unwilling to do it, and are of this kind tell us 'that one-half of the whole $0 eager in the pursuit of pleasure as to have no species which are born into the world go out of time to spare to stop and consider them! it again and are all dead in so short a space as
When graver and riper years come on, and we the first seventeen years.' begin to think it time to reform and set up for These reflections may be sufficient to illustrate men of sense and conduct, then the business and the first part of Job's declaration, "That man is perplexing interests of this world, and the end of few days.' Let us examine the truth of the less plotting and contriving how to make the other, and see whether he is not likewise full of most of it, do so wholly employ us, that we are trouble. too busy to make reflections upon so unprofitable And here we must not take our account from a subject. As families and children increase, so the flattering outside of things, which is genedo our affections, and with them are multiplied rally set off with a glittering appearance enough, our cares and toils for their preservation and especially in what is called higher life. Nor establishment; all which take up our thoughts can we safely trust the evidence of some of the so closely, and possess them so long, that we are more merry and thoughtless amongst us, who often overtaken by grey hairs before we see them, are so set upon the enjoyment of life as seldom or have found leisure to consider how far we are to reflect on the troubles of it; or who, pergot—what we have been doing--and for what haps, because they are not yet come to this porpurpose God sent us into the world! As man tion of their inheritance, imagine it is not their may justly be said to be of few days, considered common lot. Nor, lastly, are we to form an with respect to this hasty succession of things, idea of it from the delusive stories of a few of which soon carries him into the decline of his the most prosperous passengers, who have forlife,--so may he likewise be said to flee like a tunately sailed through and escaped the rougher shadow and continue not, when his duration is toils and distresses ; but we are to take our accompared with other parts of God's works, and count from a close survey of human life, and the even the works of his own hands, which outlast real face of things, stripped of everything that him many generations ; whilst (as Homer ob- can palliate or gild it over. We must hear the serves) like leaves one generation drops, and general complaint of all ages, and read the hisanother springs up, to fall again, and be for- tories of mankind. If we look into them, and gotten.
examine them to the bottom, what do they conBut when we further consider his days in the tain but the history of sad and uncomfortable light in which we ought chiefly to view them, as passages, which a good-natured man cannot read they appear in thy sight, o God! with whom a but with oppression of spirits! Consider the thousand years are but as yesterday; when we dreadful succession of wars in one part or other reflect that this hand-breadth of life is all that of the earth, perpetuated from one century to is measured out to man from that eternity for another with so little intermission that mankind which he is created, how does his short span have scarce had time to breathe from them, vanish to nothing in the comparison ! 'Tis true, since ambition first came into the world ! Conthe greatest portion of time will do the same sider the horrid effects of them in all those bar. barous devastations we read of, where whole thousand secret causes of disquiet, pine away nations have been put to the sword, or have in silence, and owe their deaths to sorrow and been driven out to nakedness and famine, to dejection of heart! If we cast our eyes upon make room for new-comers ! Consider how the lowest class and condition of life, the scene great a part of our species, in all ages down to is more melancholy still. Millions of our fellowthis, have been trod under the feet of cruel creatures, born to no inheritance but poverty and capricious tyrants, who would neither hear and trouble, forced by the necessity of their lots their cries nor pity their distresses ! Consider to drudgery and painful employments, and hard slavery – what it is - how bitter a draught, set with that too, to get enough to keep themand how many millions have been made to selves and families alive! So that, upon the drink of it! which, if it can poison all earthly whole, when we have examined the true state happiness when exercised barely upon our and condition of human life, and have made bodies, what must it be when it comprehends some allowances for a few fugacious, deceitful both the slavery of body and mind! To con- pleasures, there is scarce anything to be found ceive this, look into the history of the Romish which contradicts Job's description of it. WhichChurch and her tyrants, or rather executioners, ever way we look abroad, we see some legible who seem to have taken pleasure in the pangs characters of what God first denounced against and convulsions of their fellow-creatures ! us—That in sorrow we should eat our bread, ! Examine the Inquisition, hear the melancholy till we return to the ground whence we were notes sounded in every cell ! Consider the taken.'1 anguish of mock trials, and the exquisite tor- But some one will say, Why are we thus to be tures consequent thereupon, mercilessly in- put out of love with human life? To what purflicted upon the unfortunate, where the racked pose is it to expose the dark sides of it to us, or and wenry soul has so often wished to take its enlarge upon the infirmities which are natural, leave, but cruelly not suffered to depart! Con- and consequently out of our power to redress? sider how many of these helpless wretches have I answer that the subject is nevertheless of been hauled thence, in all periods of this great importance, since it is necessary every tyrannic usurpation, to undergo the massacres creature should understand his present state and and flames to which a false and a bloody religion condition, to put him in mind of behaving suithas condemned them !
ably to it. Does not an impartial survey of If this sad history and detail of the more man--the holding up of this glass to show his public causes of the miseries of man are not sufii- defects and natural infirmities-naturally tend cient, let us behold him in another light, with to cure his pride, and clothe him with humility, respect to the more private causes of them, and which is a dress that best becomes a short-lived see whether he is not full of trouble likewise and a wretched creature? Does not the conthere, and almost born to it as naturally as the sideration of the shortness of our life convince sparks fly upwards. If we consider man as a us of the wisdom of dedicating so small a portion creature full of wants and necessities, whether to the great purposes of eternity? real or imaginary, which he is not able to supply Lastly, When we reflect that this span of life, of himself, what a train of disappointments, short as it is, is chequered with so many troubles vexations, and dependences are to be seen that there is nothing in this world springs up issuing thence, to perplex and make his being or can be enjoyed without a mixture of sorrow, uneasy! How many jostlings and hard struggles how insensibly does it incline us to turn our do we undergo in making our way in the world! eyes and affections from so gloomy a prospect, How barbarously held back! How often and and fix them upon that happier country where basely overthrown, in aiming only at getting affiictions cannot follow us, and where God will bread! How many of us never attain it, at wipe away all tears from off our faces for ever least not comfortably! but, from various and and ever! Amen. unknown causes, eat it all our lives long in bitterness!
XI.-EVIL-SPEAKING. If we shift the scene, and look upwards, towards those whose situation in life seems to If any man among you seem to be religious, and place them above the sorrows of this kind, yet
bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart,
this man's religion is vain.'-JAMES 1. 26. where are they exempt from others? Do not all ranks and conditions of men meet with sad Of the many duties owing both to God and our accidents and numberless calamities in other neighbour, there are scarce any men so bad as respects, which often make them go heavily all not to acquit themselves of some; and few so their lives long?
good, I fear, as to practise all. How many fall into chronical infirmities which Every man seems willing enough to compound render both their days and nights restless and the matter, and adopt so much of the system as insupportable! How many of the highest rank are torn up with ambition or soured with dis- I Most of these reflections upon the miseries of life appointments; and how many more, from a are taken from Woollaston.
will least interfere with his principal and ruling tongue; shall have too much conscience and repassion; and for those parts which would occa- ligion to cheat the man who trusts him, and, sion a more troublesome opposition, to consider perhaps, as far as the business of debtor and them as hard sayings, and so leave them for creditor extends, shall be just and scrupulous to those to practise whose natural tempers are the utmost mite; yet in matters of full as great better suited to the struggle ; so that a man concern, where he is to have the handling of the should be covetous, oppressive, revengeful, party's reputation and good name—the dearest, neither a lover of truth nor common honesty, the tenderest property the man has-he will do and yet at the same time shall be very religious, him irreparable damage, and rob him there withand so sanctified as not once to fail of paying out measure or pity. his morning and evening sacrifice to God.
And this seems to be that particular piece of So, on the other hand, a man shall live with inconsistency and contradiction which the text out God in the world, have neither any great is levelled at, in which the words seem so pointed sense of religion, nor indeed pretend to have as if St. James had known more flagrant inany, and yet be of nicest honour, conscientiously stances of this kind of delusion than what had just and fair in all his dealing. And here it is fallen under the observation of any of the rest that men generally betray themselves, deceiv- of the Apostles, he being more remarkably ing, as the apostle says, their own hearts; of vehement and copious upon that subject than which the instances are so various, in one degree any other. or other, throughout human life, that one might Doubtless some of his converts had been safely say the bulk of mankind live in such a notoriously wicked and licentious in this recontradiction to themselves that there is no morseless practice of defamation and evil speakcharacter so hard to be met with as one which, ing. Perhaps the holy man, though spotless as upon a critical examination, will appear alto- an angel (for no character is too sacred for gether uniform, and in every point consistent calumnny to blacken), had grievously suffered with itself.
himself, and, as his blessed Master foretold him, If such a contrast was only observable in the had been cruelly reviled and evil spoken of. different stages of a man's life, it would cease All his labours in the gospel, his unaffected to be either a matter of wonder or of just re- and perpetual solicitude for the preservation of proach. Age, experience, and much reflecti
his flock, watchings and fastings, his poverty, may naturally enough be supposed to alter a his natural simplicity and innocence of life, all man's sense of things, and so entirely to trans- perhaps were not enough to defend him from form him, that not only in outward appearances, this unruly weapon, so full of deadly poison ; but in the very cast and turn of his mind, he and what in all likelihood might move his sormay be as unlike and different from the man he row and indignation more, some who seemed was twenty or thirty years ago as he ever was the most devout and zealous of all his converts from anything of his own species. This, I say, were the most merciless and uncharitable in that is naturally to be accounted for, and in some respect; having a form of godliness, full of cases might be praiseworthy too; but the obser- bitter envyings and strife. vation is to be made of men in the same period With such it is that he expostulates so largely of their lives, that in the same day, sometimes in the third chapter of his epistle; and there is in the very same action, they are utterly in- something in his vivacity tempered with such consistent and irreconcilable with themselves. affection and concern as well suited the character Look at a man in one light, and he shall seem of an inspired man. My brethren, says the wise, penetrating, discreet, and brave; behold | Apostle, these things ought not to be. The him in another point of view, and you see a wisdom that is from above is pure, peaceable, creature all over folly and indiscretion, weak gentle, full of mercy, without partiality, withand timorous as cowardice and indiscretion can out hypocrisy. The wisdom from above, that make him. A man shall appear gentle, courteous, heavenly religion which I have preached to you, and benevolent to all mankind : follow him into is pure, alike and consistent with itself in all his own house, may be you see a tyrant, morose its parts; like its great author, 'tis universally and savage to all whose happiness depends upon kind and benevolent in all cases and circumhis kindness. A third in his general behaviour stances. Its first glad tidings were peace upon is found to be generous, disinterested, humane, earth, good-will towards men; its chief cornerand friendly: hear but the sad story of the stone, its most distinguishing character, is love friendless orphans, too credulously trusting all --that kind principle which brought it down, in their little substance into his hands, and he the pure exercise of which consists the chief shall appear more sordid, more pitiless, and un- enjoyment of heaven, whence it came. But just than the injured themselves have bitterness this practice, my brethren, cometh not from to paint him. Another shall be charitable to above; but it is earthly, sensual, devilish, full the poor, uncharitable in his censures and of confusion and every evil work. Reflect then opinions of all the rest of the world besides; a moment: can a fountain send forth at the temperate in his appetites, intemperate in his same place sweet water and bitter? Can the