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my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds, that they rain no rain upon it.” These things were “written for your admonition.” They are indeed awful things: and, however stouthearted, however far from righteousness you may be, they ought to force you not merely to hearken, but to tremble. How dreadful would be your situation, should God execute them upon you
? Fasten your eyes, then, upon this year, as to you the golden season of life. Feel the uncertainty of living to another. Tremble, lest another, if it should arrive, should find you given over to hardness of heart. Awake out of the lethargy, by which you have heen so long benumbed. Say no longer “A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.” Mark the progress of your past conduct? What has it produced ? Hardness of heart, blindness of mind, and guiltiness of life. What will it hereafter produce? The same blindness, the same hardness, the same guilt. In what will it end? In everlasting " lamentation, mourning, and woe."
Prize then the present year, as of value literally inestimable. Enter upon
it with solemn resolutions, formed with an affecting remembrance that God is a witness of them, to consecrate it to his service, your own duty, and the attainment of life eternal. You are now living. There is now hope concerning you. God is now waiting to be gracious. Pardon is still proffered. Christ with infinite tenderness still invites you to repent, and be saved.
How delightful to a benevolent mind is even the thought, how much more delightful the hope, that, induced by these considerations, or by any considerations, some of those, who are now before me, will, during the present year, enter the way to heaven ; that some, who never uttered a prayer, will have it truly said of them “Behold they pray!" How charming an object to the eye of compassion, to see the Bible, hitherto left on the shelf, unread and forgotten, seriously and daily opened, to find the words of
eternal life? Who, although an obstinate sinner himself, can fail, from natural tenderness only, to rejoice in the thought, that that sacred Book will solemnize, enlighten, and allure, even a little number of those, to whom it has hitherto spoken in vain? What a glorious prospect must it be in the view of Christians, to see the kingdom of heaven enlarged from this congregation ? Realize with me, for a moment, the transporting nature of this mighty change. In the place of stupidity, unbelief, and irreligion, behold a sober mind ; a sweet, pure, and heavenly conversation ; a sanctified Sabbath; and a Sanctuary solemnized, warmed, and hallowed, with devotion. The miserable sinners of this assembly, so long lost in the sleep of death, awake, stand on their feet, and become living children of God. Here God is feared, loved, and glorified; the Redeemer is trusted, honoured, and blessed ; and his Church, no longer a wilderness, blossoms and smiles as the garden of God. Must not those ministering spirits, who are " sent forth to minister to them that are heirs of salvation," de light, peculiarly, to minister here? Nay, must not these
walle rejoice to see immortal minds, in the morning of life, here dedicated to God in the eternal covenant, and mercifully taken into the arms of the Saviour ? Hasten, o hasten, ye happy days, when a divine intercourse between this Seat of Learning and the World of Life shall be gloriously enlarged; when, not from the deserted Bethel of Judea, but from this house of God, the Ladder, seen by Jacob, shall ascend to heaven ; the prayers of every worshipper daily rise to that benevolent world; and Angels, and Blessings, daily descend. Fly, thou happy period, when the prophetic eye, with a rapturous anticipation, shall behold all those, who here assemble for the worship of God, finally and forever assembled in the glorious worship of heaven, and the supreme enjoyment of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.
J.ONG LIFE NOT DESIRABLE.
Jos vii. 16.
I would not live alway.
This Chapter is a most solemn and affecting account of the afflictions, which Job had experienced ; and of his own sense of his sufferings. From himself he makes a natural and almost necessary transition to mankind at large; and utters a variety of just but melancholy observations on the frailty, vanity and distresses, of human life. Full of this subject, he expostulates with God concerning the littleness and insignificance of man ; and enquires with wonder, and perhaps with impatience, concerning the regard, which God has been pleased to render to him; a being seemingly, and really, undeserving of his attention or remembrance. All these reflections he concludes with a humble confession of his sins ; a humble prayer for forgiveness ; and a new, and most affecting declaration of the momentary duration of his life, and of the suddenness of his departure into the eternal world.
Among the many declarations, contained in this peculiar passage of Scripture, the text is, perhaps, singular : " I would not live alway." The Hebrew word, here rendered alway, is rendered variously; denoting sometimes eternity, and sometimes other long periods ; particularly the longest period, of which any thing is capable. It might, therefore, be paraphrased here, “ I would not live the whole of that period, of which my life according to the usual course of human affairs is capable." In other words, * Very long life is not desirable to me in the present world.”
To this choice, Job was not improbably brought in a greater or less degree by his numerous distresses. Men are apt to love life, even under great sufferings; and much more, when in possession of what they deem valuable enjoyments. Had Job's prosperity continued unbroken ; it is highly probable, that he would have been desirous of living to the utmost of human desti: ny; at least, that he would have felt less willing to part with life. Yet the determination, made by him in this passage, is unqualified ; and, as it is expressed and most naturally understood, may be justly regarded as respecting human life at large, whether prosperous or afflicted. In this manner I shall consider it; and shall in this discourse regard Job as choosing, although convinced of the truth and justness of the declaration by adversity, to extend it to all human circumstances; and as pronouncing the choice of a life bounded by moderate limits, to be wise and just in the best, as well as in the worst, condition. A declaration made by a wise and good man, demands, when he has had suffi
. cient opportunities, and has exercised sufficient attention, to judge well of the subject in question, a respectful regard and careful investigation ; when made in the Scriptures of truth, it requires ready and entire belief, however it may contradict our established opinions. Even in this case, however, as well as in the other, it cannot but be useful to explain the nature of the subject; and see how far the state of things, with which we are acquainted, will elucidate or prove the doctrine asserted. Let us, then, examine how far the nature of the subject will furnish sufficient reason to justify this conclusion.
1st. Job, so far as a man can be, was a competent Judge.
He abounded in the good things of this life ; and, from the actual possession of them, knew better than most other men their real value.
He was head of his countrymen ; " the greatest of all the men in the land of Uz,” and in the neighbouring regions, called, in conjunction with that land, “ The East."
He had a prosperous, and, it would seem, a dutiful and pious family.
He had excellent friends ; men of great wisdom ; sensible of his worth ; and attached to him by the strongest ties of good will.
He was a man of distinguished piety; and piety is the spirit, which,“ rejoicing in the truth,” conducts us of course to just conclusions. Besides, it mitigates all the sorrows of life; enhances all its comforts ; and yields many blessings, to which persons destitute of piety are strangers.
He possessed uncommon wisdom ; and was thus able to discern with peculiar clearness, and certainty, the true nature of such things, as became objects of his contemplation.
He enjoyed, also, in an eminent degree the favour of God; and was conscious of this invaluable possession.
Finally, He had enjoyed all these blessings without interruption through a period of life, far longer than now falls to the lot of man ; and had thus the amplest opportunity for forming a just determination.
Where can we find a more competent judge ?
2dly. Our own Experience furnishes strong reasons to conclude, that the decision of Job was just.
This truth will be evident from the following considerations.
These are found in every place, and by every person. The toy and the rattle lay hold on the child in the same manner, as the hope of distinction and the prospect of pleasure, on the youth. Power, office, and fame, corrupt the man of middle age: while riches fascinate the hoary-headed possessor.
These temptations are most extensively presented to us by ourselves. Our passions and appetites are ever on the search for their respective gratifications. In these, they declare, lies the only good, which merits our attention. Weakly we listen to the declaration, and foolishly submit to have the eyes of our understanding hoodwinked; and thus hasten blindfold after the darling objects; while Conscience and Revelation in vain recall us from the pursuit. When we have obtained and enjoyed them, we wonder that they furnish no higher good; and then listen again to the same seducers, as if we had never been deceived.