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naturally decays of himself ;-a period comes fast upon him, beyond which he was not made to last.
-Like a flower or fruit which may be plucked up by force before the time of their maturity, yet cannot be made to outgrow the period when they are to fade and drop of themselves ; when that comes, the hand of nature then plucks them both off, and no art of the botanist can uphold the one, or skill of the physician preserve the other, beyond the periods to which their original frames and constitutions were made to extend. As God has appointed and determined the several growths and decays of the vegetable race, so he seems as evidently to have prescribed the same laws to man, as well as all live ing creatures, in the first rudiments of which there are contained the specifick powers of their growth, duration, and extinction ; and when the evolutions of those animal powers are exhausted and run down, the creature expires and dies of itself, as ripe fruit falls from the tree, or a flower preserved beyond its bloom drops and perishes upon the stalk.
Thus much for this comparison of Job's, which, though it is very poetical, yet conveys a just idea of the thing referred to. That he fleeth also as a " shadow, and continueth not,”-is no less a faithful and fine representation of the shortness and vanity of human life ; of which one cannot give a better explanation, than by referring to the original, from whence the picture was taken.With how quick a succession do days, months, and years pass over our heads !-how truly like a shadow that departeth, do they flee away insensibly, and scarce leave an impression with us When we endeavour to call them back by reflection, and consider in what man
ner they have gone, how unable are the best of us to give a tolerable account !-and were it not for some of the more remarkable stages which have distinguished a few periods of this rapid progress, -we shonld look back upon it all as Nebuchadnez. zar did upon his dream when he awoke in the morning :-he was sensible many things had passed, and troubled him too, but had passed on so quickly, they had left no footsteps behind, by which he could be enabled to trace them back. Melancholy account of the life of man! which generally runs on in such a manner, as scarce to allow time to make reflec. tions which way it has gone !
How many of our first years slide by in the innocent sports of childhood, in which we are not able to make reflections upon them !-how many more thoughtless years escape us in our youth, when we are unwilling to do it, and are so eager in the pursuit of pleasure, as to have no time to spare, to stop and consider them!
When graver and riper years come on, and we begin to think it time to reform and set up for men of sense and conduct, then the business and perplexing interests of this world, and the endless plotting and contriving how to make the most of it, do so wholly employ us, that we are too busy to make reflections upon so unprofitable a subject.As families and children increase, so do our affections, and with them are multiplied our cares and toils for their preservation and establishment;-all which take up our thoughts so closely, and possess them so long, that we are often overtaken by grey hairs before we see them, or have found leisure to consider how far we were got what we have been
and for what purpose God sent us into the world! As man may justly be said to be of few days, considered with respect to this hasty succession of things, which soon carries him into the de. cline of his life,~so may he likewise be said to flee like a shadow and continue not, when his duration is compared with other parts of God's works, and even the works of his own hands, which outlast him many generations ;-whilst (as Homer observes) like leaves, one generation drops--and another springs up, to fall again and be forgotten.
But when we farther consider his days in the light in which we ought chiefly to view them, as they appear in thy sight, O God! with whom a thousand years are but as yesterday; when we reflect that this hand-breadth of life is all that is measured out to man from that eternity for which he is created, how does his short span vanish to nothing in the comparison ! 'Tis true, the greatest portion of time will do the same when compared with what is to come ;
and therefore so short and transitory a one as threescore years and ten, beyond which all is declared to be labour and sorrow, may the easier be allowed : and yet how uncertain are we of that portion, short as it is! Do not ten thousand accidents break off the slender thread of human life, long before it can be drawn out to that extent ?- The new-born babe falls down an easy prey, and moulders back again into dust, like a tender blossom put forth in an untimely hour.—The hopeful youth in the very pride and beauty of his life is cut off ; some cruel distemper or unthought-of accident lays him prostrate upon the earth (to pursue Job's comparison) like a blooming flower, smit and shriyelled up with
a malignant blast.-In this stage of life, chances multiply upon us,-the seeds of disorders are sown by intemperance or neglect,-infectious distempers are more easily contracted; when contracted, they rage with greater violence, and the success in many cases is more doubtful, insomuch that they who have exereised themselves in computations of this kind, tell us, " That one half of the whole species which " are born into the world, go out of it again, and are « all dead in so short a space as the first seventeen “ years."
These reflections may be sufficient to illustrate the first part of Job's declaration, " That man is of « few days.” Let us examine the truth of the other, and see whether he is not likewise full of trouble.
And here we must not take our account from the Hattering outside of things, which are generally set off with a glittering appearance enough, especially in what is called higher life. Nor can we safely trust the evidence of some of the more merry and thoughtless amongst us, who are so set upon the enjoyment of life, as seldom to reflect upon the troubles of it;-mor who, prehaps, because they are not yet come to this portion of their inheritance, imagine it is not their cominon lot.--Nor, lastly, are we to form an idea of it from the delusive stories of a few of the most prosperous passengers, who have fortunately sailed through and escaped the rougher toils and distresses :--but we are to take our account from a close survey of human life, and the real face of things, stript of every thing that can palliate or gild it over. We must hear the general complaint of all ages, and read the histories of mankind. If we look into them, and examine them to the bottom,
what do they contain but the history of sad and uncomfortable passages, which a good-natured man cannot read but with oppression of spirits !-Consider the dreadful succession of wars in one part or other of the earth, perpetuated from one century to another with so little intermission, that mankind have scarce had time to breathe from them, since ambition first came into the world! consider the horrid effects of them in all those barbarous devastations we read of, where whole nations have been put to the sword, or have been driven out to naked. ness and famine, to make room for new-comers ! Consider how great a part of our species, in all ages down to this, have been trod under the feet of cruel and capricious tyrants, who would neither hear their cries, nor pity their distresses ! Consider slavery, -what it is,-how bitter a draught, and how many millions have been made to drink of it!-which, if it can poison all earthly happiness, when exercised barely upon our bodies, what must it be when it comprehends both the slavery of body and mind ! To conceive this, look into the history of the Romish church and her tyrants, or rather executioners, who seem to have taken pleasure in the pangs and convulsions of their fellow-creatures Examine the inquisition, hear the melancholy notes sounded in every cell Consider the anguish of mock trials, and the exquisite tortures consequent thereupon, mercilessly inflicted upon the unfortunate, where the racked and weary soul has so often wished to take its leave,but cruelly not suffered to depart ! -Consider how many of these helpless wretches have been hauled from thence in all periods of this tyrannick usurpation, to undergo the massacres and