« AnteriorContinuar »
death P.” Of the uncertainty and insecurity of wealth the avaricious man, who is usually not deficient in acuteness, is so fully sensible, that his life becomes a scene of carking care. His desires are insatiable, but the time allowed him to gratify them is not boundless. His end approaches, perhaps hastened on by the incessant cravings of that passion of which he has been the victim; and then,“ whose shall those things “ be which thou hast provided?” In a ruder state of society they might become the prey of power, or the booty of unrestrained violence ; even in the well-regulated policy of modern states they may be dissipated in extravagance, spent in useless litigation, or misemployed in destructive vices by those who come after. They may call the new possessors from the healthy and cheerful exercise of some useful employment to scenes of luxury and indolence, and they may consequently disseminate effeminacy, depravity, and misery.
III. With respect to the sensual and looser
p Prov. xi. 4.
9 St. Luke xii. 20.
passions, they lead to no end whatever but present gratification, and their result is either a callous conscience or pangs of remorse ; they effect no object, the attainment of which
be exhibited when our career is drawing to its close, as a monument even of our wicked industry, capacity, or power; they do but serve to deprave ourselves and others; they bring on the season of infirmity with quicker step, and implant premature maladies; and when the end is come, they leave no trophies behind them. The very memory of a man who has indulged in them perishes with him : he cannot bequeath the fruit of his labours, or the acquisitions of a life spent in these courses, to be enjoyed by posterity, neither do they supply a fund out of which he may, by a tardy or death-bed restitution, repair the wrongs which he has inflicted. He indeed, above all men, appears to have laboured for that which profiteth not, and the end is death.
These are the pursuits and this is that life for which so many persons sacrifice the happiness of eternity. Whatever is spent
upon transient objects, merely and exclusively, must lead to disappointment. I have spoken of the three chief heads into which human passions are generally divided, sensuality, ambition, and avarice; and have shown that the objects which men, under the dominion of these passions, severally pursue, are not only essentially valueless and unsatisfactory, when obtained in the utmost degree, but even destructive or prejudicial. But think not because these objects are intrinsically without any adequate worth, they therefore appear so to those who pursue them. On the contrary, they constitute their whole life; and when by the conscious decays of nature and the approach of death they are wrung from the hearts of their admirers, when it is seen and felt that they must be parted with, nothing can exceed the desolation of mind which ensues, unless happily penitence and religion, if it be not too late, come to fill up the void.
the void. No man who is given up to any one of these pas
“ For me, to die is gain.” “ If our Gospel be hid,” says St. Paul, “it
is hid to them that are lost ; in whom
sions can say,
“ the God of this world hath blinded the “ minds of them which believe not, lest “ the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, “ who is the image of God, should shine 66 unto them.”
This then being the case with respect to human life, that it is given us but for a short period of time; that, short as it is in its utmost extent, it is liable to be rendered yet shorter by a countless multitude of accidental causes; perhaps by the original frame of the bodies of some; and that in all the care and toil which we bestow upon objects belonging to this life only, we aim at gaining that which we cannot keep; what remains but that we turn our chief attention to that sublime state which, together with the objects it contains, is permanent and stable ? to that state, the objects of which are always within the compass of our endeavours by the divine grace, and which, when obtained, will neither frustrate our hopes by their inadequacy, nor cloy the appetite by enjoyment ? How happy must be the condition of that man who, when he finds, as we shall find, the earth and all that it contains receding from him, can with equal tranquillity take his leave of it and its concerns; and, turning his eyes to that heavenly country to which he is going, can exclaim, or feel with silent joy, that is my home, there shall I find a resting-place, there are my treasures laid up, there is my heart also: “for me,” therefore, “ to die is
r 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
gain.” Neither will it be inferred from this reasoning that, because those objects which inflame the passions or tempt the desires of vain man in his passage through life are without any essential value, human life itself is therefore of no importance. On the contrary, the dignity and inappreciable excellence of our nature is only thereby rendered the more evident when such things are shown to be unworthy of our chief attention or more serious pursuit. This life is the passage to eternity, and we must so wind our way through its various seductions as not to be corrupted by them : we must so “pass through things temporal that 'we finally lose not the things eternal.” It