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and unenjoyed; or at best their condition in life, they reckon so chequered, that, in their balance of happiness and misery, they can hardly determine which scale preponderates.
To reconcile this class of men to the thoughts of Death (as suggested before) methinks, cannot be an insuperable, nor even a very hard task; either if they will weigh the arguments adduced in the former Sermon, or have patience to wait for, and to hear and consider, what may be offered from our text, in this and the following Sermons. All that seems necessary, is that they strive earnestly, to be well-grounded in the Christian Faith, and the belief of an eternal world, in which their joys will be pure and without alloya world which no evil can approach, because all evil will be done away, and “ every tear wiped from every eye.”
But there is another class of men, if it be possible to believe them sincere, with whom these arguments will have no weight. They say, and would have us to take their word for it, “ that they are so well satisfied with their lot in this world, that they wish for none better; and that all they desire is the stability of their enjoyments, and the perpetuity of their lease-hold in it!" Arguments of revelation and scripture they reject, as Petitio Principiima begging the question; and strive to rest on erring reason, and that wisdom which originates here below!
I am willing to meet them on their own ground, to enter their lists, and fight them with their own weapons; weighing, in the scales of true philosophy, and reason well informed, what they call their best things, against what they account the worst. · Now if, in this contest, I should be able to shew them that where the former (viz. what they account the best things), have been enjoyed in their fullest assemblage, they yield no sure stay or comfort to the mind, amidst this changeable scene of things-that amidst all present enjoyments, there is (as it were) still a void in the soul,--something unsatisfied, like the grave, crying“ give, give"-some longing desire after greater good-some untried, and yet undiscovered, unexperienced bliss, which all their store of earthly treasure and felicity, cannot purchase or supply-I say, when men are once convinced of this,
y have felt and, by feeling, have been called to attend to the doctrine, “ that it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that the judgment,”* when they take leisure and call to mind, that their fathers have died, their grand-fathers have died, the patriarch of old died—that here “we have no con. tinuing city,” and therefore, “ should look for one to come,”t and that, out of all we can amass or possess, out of all on which we were once so doatingly fond, we can take nothing with us from this world, but a coffin and a shroud-I say, when these things are fairly weighed, as in nature they exist- I call on you, nay I challenge you, ye boasting Philosophists, to comfort yourselves, and be easy under your dreary doctrine, or notion of being safe after death, in a state of annihilation, or future nothingness! I call on
* Heb. ix. 27.
+ Heb. siii. 14.
you, ye wise illuminati! of upstart name, to weigh these things seriously, and try whether you can comfort yourlelves, and remain easy, in considering, and striving to make others consider, Death as only as Everlasting Sleep, from which they will never be awakened, nor their ashes disturbed!
The good things of this world, to which ye so doatingly hang, are they not all the gift of God, and. attached to its various stages? among those (reckoned the chief of them), are-youth and Beauty; Health and Strength; Riches and Honours; Power and Greatness; Wisdom and Knowledge; disinterested Virtue; public Spirit; Love of our country, and the like;which the best of men may covet, but should not consider them as their birth-right; or, like those who have no hopes of a greater good, count them as the sum total of happiness, chaining them to this world, and promising themselves perfect satisfaction in the constant possession of them. :
Concerning each of these, I shall speak something, as occasion offers from our text; but not as a Misanthrope, or as querulous of the order as dispensations of Providence; but, with a mind at all times submissive to the heavenly will, and a heart glowing with the love of God and Man, I will enquire whether our life can be considered as so great a good, that the fear of parting with it, should create in us so much uneasiness and pain? It is true that some considerable pain must spring from the recoilings of nature, and the reluctance, or grief, which two such loving partners, as the soul and body, must sustain at the thoughts of their divorcement from each other, by the relent.
less mandate of Death; but the prospect of being united again, in a permanent state of happiness and glory, will allay and finally subdue this pain.
As to the first of the good things enumerated, Youth and Beauty, what are they in themselves? Our very entrance into life, is beset with wailings and weakness. More helpless than any other of the animal creation, we are no sooner born than manacled, and bound in swaddling cloths; our infancy exposed to nameless perils, unless guarded and protected by the hands of others; and when, through a course of Nature and education, often irksome to ourselves, and to those who are set over us, we approach to manhood, with all the blushing honours of our youth and beauty upon us—how often do we enter the wrong road to happiness, and usefulness; pursuing the path of pleasure with rapid and heedless steps; till at length, beneath the roses, with which we thought the way to be strewed, we are pierced with briars and thorns, which arrest us in our career, and lead us to meditate and inquire (if we yet remain capable of meditation and inquiry) whether the pleasures of this
life, adventitious or real, are not far over-balanced by 'its temptations, its snares, and unavoidable dangers?
Oh, ye youth of these rising, and yet happy, American States! for whose admonition, instruction, and illumination, the past and best part of my life has been devoted, through a long term of years; receive, or rather bear, the repetition of a lesson, perhaps the last, of old age!
Boast not, therefore, of your youth or strengtlı or beauty, but in the hopes you entertain, and the re
solution you have formed of preparing yourselves, to live a life of future usefulness! and, to animate you in this resolution, look forward to the glorious scenes in which you will be called to act your part; and look back also “ to the rock from whence you were “ hewed, and the hole of the pit from whence you “ were digged.”* Think of the steps by which your virtuous and frugal ancestors rose into consideration, and say whether you can find one of their number that attained to any eminence but by virtue and industry in some settled calling or profession. Spurn from you, hetimes, the syrens Sloth and Idleness; and seek to come forth on the theatre assigned to you, all energy and action, in the sight of mortal and immortal powers, striving to fill your post with diligence and dignity-abiding therein, but abiding with God! Spurn from you also the love of false pleasure; and seek to make a just estimate of that pleasure, which God in his goodness has ordained as the true alloy of our cares, and the reward of a virtuous course of action!
If you seek Pleasure, let it be the pleasure of your whole nature and existence, considered with respect both to time and eternity! And in this view, the pleasure of a rational being, made in the image of his creator, ordained to bear his head on high, and to hold sacred intercourse with the Father of all is not to stifle the sigh for happiness implanted in his bosom, nor bury the vital principle of action, in the inordinate pursuit of animal
• Isaiah, li. 1.