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then be in vain. Now, time may be improved and the great objects for which it is continued, may be attained ; but once ended, its opportunities will rise again only to haunt you forever! And these alternatives, fearful and momentous as they are
these are at the mercy of every passing moment. Whether all the high ends of existence shall be gained, or whether you shall fail to secure them, all this is at the hazard of life's uncertainty—at the hazard of its brevity. If they are not now secured, it is more than possible they never will be more than possible that your life may pass away, and none of them ever be yours !
IV. What is your life in its influence upon yourself?-We have seen what are the great intended objects and ends of life. As life progresses are you gaining these ends ? Are you making them your own? The world in which we live-the scenes that surround us are full of changes. And these changes, as they pass, never leave us as we were before. “Every one of them, like the thousand imperceptible touches by which time mellows a picture or eats into a ruin, leaves its trace behind it-here a stain and there a lustre ; here adding strength and there working decay ; here corroding the very heart, and there consolidating and coating it with a hard and imperishable shell.” At every moment, life as it passes, is stamping us with its influence moulding us for better or worse, for endless life or endless death. There is not one of its passing moments ; not an incident that occurs, or a friend that we meet; not a thought that springs up in the silence of the soul; not an obligation that is pondered ; not a joy that cheers, or a sorrow that rends the heart, but by it we are changed as moral beings: not one of these, or of all the countless influences of life, of which it is not true, that it is to us, either 6 a savor of life unto life or of death unto death." From our very character as moral beings, it cannot be otherwise than that at every moment we are making progress-that by every step we are pressing on either to life or death eternal. According to our use or abuse, our improvement or misimprovement of every incident and event of life, (for every one is a means of grace,) we are rising or sinking as moral beings. In a higher, and a far more fearful sense than the ancient artist, every one of us is
painting for eternity”-painting, each his own portrait, stroke by stroke, and line by line. And soon the image shall be finished; and when finished, it shall be hung up for our own gaze, and for the inspection of the universe—every part of it to grow brighter and brighter, or darker and darker forever! In eternity we shall see that no touch of life, no contact of probation was neutral in its influence; that by every one we made ourselves either better or worse; that each was like the falling water to us, drop by drop wearing away our hardness, or drop by drop, like that which falls in the dark
caverns of the earth, casing us with incrustations of stone! And if all this be
V. What is your life in its responsibilities ?-Every object-every influence of life implies responsibility. Every moment is inwoven with obligation to God and to your own soul. On every part of it is written, occupy till I come, for this you are to give account.” For all that life brings with it for the improvement or misimprovement of every opportunity and privilege ; for time, that it be redeemed and wisely spent; for property, that we sacredly use it as God's stewards; for our talents and influence, that they be so employed as to afford us joy at the day of judgment; for every thought, and word, and deed; for every mercy and every trial, for all these we are responsible -under obligation and soon to be called to account before the judge of quick and dead. How solemn, and fearful even, is this aspect of life, showing us, as it does, that all we do and all we fail to do—that every act and every omission, is written in the book of God, and for it we are soon to be judged! This, then, suggests another, and the last inquiry,
VI. What is your life, or rather what will it be in its results ?Fleeting as it is uncertain and soon to end, what will be its end to you? And the response is, that the end of probation is retributionthat its result to you will be either heaven or hell. God has left it to your own choice, whether by loving and serving him, you will make life the passway to salvation or perdition. One of the two it must be; and which, God permits you to choose, warning you that by that choice you are to abide forever! Repent of your transgressions as a violator of God's law; believe in Christ as your Redeemer ; live a life of faith, humility, love, and prayer, of self-denying and active holiness; put away every evil feeling, and wrong habit, and sinful action ; cultivate your immortal nature by the rules of eternal truth; live for God in all things; do this, and when life is ended, as soon it shall be, heaven shall be your portion. Its crown and its harp shall be yours, and yours its joys that are unspeakable and full of glory: But neglect and put away all this --go on in your disregard of God and his law; do violence to the better dictates of your own nature ; heed not the calls and reproofs of conscience; turn away from the cross of Christ, and live not as God requires, and soon, as your life shall end, you shall go down to endless death, where in bitterness, but in vain, you shall wish that you had never lived, only to give point by life itself to the sting of death eternal to your soul. Remember, o ! remember this, heir of immortality, that this life is your only probation, and all beyond it is retribution; that here only you are to sow, and hereafter to reap, either a harvest of glory or a harvest of death. Impress it upon your heart that this life is the threshhold of eternity ; it can be passed but once; a little care in passing it, and you are safe forever. It is the infancy of a deathless existence; a little watchfulness, and the manhood of your immortality is all that you could wish. But ah! if you will stumble as you pass that threshhold,
if you will waste the childhood of your endless
being, and that too when you are warned against it, then will your eternity be one of fearfulness and lamentation and wo! To all eternity you will mourn that your “ harvest is past, your summer is ended, and your soul is not saved !”
Such is your life! In its end, in its results; it is either heaven or hell to you. In its obligations, it throws around you the responsibilities of obedience or disobedience to God, and of salvation or perdition to yourself. Its great objects, as designed and enjoined by God, are, that you prepare for holiness and usefulness and heaven; and
you bless others, and honor Christ, and work out your own salvation. In all its progress, by all its influence, it is moulding you for these ends, or for their fearful reverse. In its duration, it is, at longest, but very short, and even in its brevity, it is uncertain ; for at any moment it may be ended, bearing us, in its flight, to the judgment and all the retributions of eternity !
If then these things be so, how does it become us to live; how to pass the days of our sojourning here in fear, when they are so fast Aying, and their issues are so momentous. If salvation or perdition is depending on our present moments and conduct, then how earnest should we be, first of all, to do the great work of life, to make God our friend, to lay up our treasure in heaven! If our life, by all its influences, at every step of its progress, is leaving an eternal impress on us; if by every incident, and at every moment, we are moulded for life or death eternal, then how sacredly diligent should we be, wisely to improve by all, by every thing to mount to heaven, and not to sink to despair. Íf life too is so uncertain, and we have no sure hold upon it, then what madness to live with its great work undone, and with the wrath of God hanging over us, when any moment may close our probation, leaving that work undone forever, and that wrath our endless portion! And if our life, at the longest, is so very short, then how earnestly should we redeem it, making the utmost of its hours while still they are continued to us! How should we guard ourselves against the waste of time, which is the waste of our own existence! How should we grasp “the present moment as it flies, and stamp the marks of wisdom on its wings, and like the good old patriarch of God's word, hold the fleet angel fast until he bless us!”
Our time is short. We are warned of it by the voice of inspired truth. We are warned of it by the flight of years, which, with all our follies and errors and sins, have gone to chronicle their record in the judgment book. Especially we are warned of it by the grave, thať“ pulpit of departed man, from which he speaks, his text and doctrine both, “Thou too must die, and come to judgment.'” From the graves of departed friends or relatives
, torn from us in years that are past; the child from the parent, and the parent from the child, the brother from the sister, and the sister from the brother, the husband from the wife, and the friend from the friend ;—from all these comes back the monition, that our time is short-that we too must soon follow.
And the only safety is in being ever ready, that whenever death shall come, we may meet it with joy and not with grief. Come it will, to us, and that very soon.
6 Whether we smile or weep,
Time wings his flight.
Life speeds like light !
Whether we laugh or groan,
Seasons change fast.
Swift as the past.
Whether we chafe or chide,
On is time's pace.
Doth he retrace.
Speeding, still speeding on,
How, none can tell,
To heaven or to hell.
Dare not, then, waste thy days,
Reckless and proud,
Time spread thy shroud !
Lest while you think not of his coming, the King of Terrors may be upon you, and you wake from the heedlessness and the dreams of time, to the realities of the final judgment and a lost eternity!
The opening year is a time for solemn reviews, serious reflections, and holy resolutions. These urge the importance of holier views of life, and corresponding purposes of living; to begin the redemption of the past, which is lost, by improving, and thus lengthening the future that remains; to search your hearts, to ask how you are living, and how you may live to better purpose, and to determine by God's grace to do it. Old or young, high or low, rich or poor, christian or impenitent, whoever you may be, now is the time to begin to live for higher ends, with holier hearts, with eternity more in your view, than ever yet you have done. Is God the witness that this is your purpose_that, his grace assisting you, it shall also be your performance ?
A few years since, a minister, in a neighboring State, supposed he had ascertained from prophecy, that the world would come to an end, and the Son of Man descend on a given day, which he named to his people. So fully and earnestly did he believe and preach this, that others began to believe it, and his meetings were thronged with those who, in the deepest solemnity, hung upon the truth he proclaimed. Christians were roused to a living, fervent zeal, and the impenitent, alarmed, in numbers began to ask what they should do to be saved. At last, the day on which he had fixed arrived. It was the Sabbath, and to a dense mass of breathless immortals, and with full conviction on his part, he announced that on that day the Son of Man would descend, and come to judgment. The sermon was heard with weeping, and terror, and fear; and the breathless solemnity of that house no tongue could fully tell
. The day, however, of course passed on, and the sun went down in calmless, showing that the preacher had utterly mistaken the meaning of the prophets. And yet if he had not, and if that day the Son of Man had descended, every one would have said that the earnestness of that congregation—that their anxiety to be prepared for the judgment was most reasonable, and that the reverse would have been the deepest folly--the sheerest madness! The judgment may be as near to you as they thought it was to them. Another year or month, another week, another day, may bear you to it.
With this probability, then, before us, let us do with our might what our hands find to do, and do it now while yet we may. Let us be less anxious to live, than to live well; to live as we ought, -as God requires.
Thus shall we ever be ready for the coming of the Son of Man, and when we are called away, it will only be to our rest to the paradise above.