Section I. MAN'S LIFE IS VANITY
"For I know that you will bring me to death, and
to the house appointed for all living." Job 30:23.
I come now to discourse of man's eternal state, into
which he enters by death. Of this entrance, Job takes a solemn serious view,
in the words of the text, which contain a general truth, and a particular
application of it. The general truth is supposed; namely, that all men must,
by death, remove out of this world; they must die. But where must they go?
They must go to the house appointed for all living; to the grave, that
darksome, gloomy, solitary house, in the land of forgetfulness. Wherever the
body is laid up until the resurrection, there, as to a dwelling-house, death
brings us home. While we are in the body, we are but in a lodging-house, in
an inn, on our way homeward. When we come to our grave, we come to our home,
our long home, Eccl. 12:5.
All living must be inhabitants of this house, good and
bad, old and young. Man's life is a stream, running into death's devouring
deeps. Those who now live in palaces, must leave them, and go home to this
house; and those who have not where to lay their heads, shall thus have a
house at length. It is appointed for all, by Him whose counsel shall stand.
This appointment cannot be shifted; it is a law which mortals cannot
transgress. Job's application of this general truth to himself, is expressed
in these words: "For I know that you will bring me to death, and to the
house appointed for all living." He knew, that he must meet with death; that
his soul and body must part; that God, who had set the time, would certainly
see it kept. Sometimes Job was inviting death to come to him, and carry him
home to its house; yes, he was in the hazard of running to it before the
time– Job 7:15, "My soul chooses strangling, and death rather than my life."
But here he considers God would bring him to it; yes, bring him back to it,
as the word imports. Whereby he seems to intimate, that we have no life in
this world, but as runaways from death, which stretches out its cold arms,
to receive us from the womb– but though we do then narrowly escape its
clutches, we cannot escape long; we shall be brought back again to it. Job
knew this, he had laid it down as a certainly, and was looking for it.
I. ALL MUST DIE. Although this doctrine
is confirmed by the experience of all former generations, ever since Abel
entered into the house appointed for all living, and though the living know
that they shall die, yet it is needful to discourse of the certainty of
death, that it may be impressed on the mind, and duly considered.
1. There is an unalterable statute of death,
under which all men are concluded. "It is appointed unto men once to die,"
Heb. 9:27. It is laid up for them, as parents lay up for their children–
they may look for it, and cannot miss it; seeing God has designed and
reserved it for them. There is no peradventure in it; "we must die," II Sam.
14:14. Though some men will not hear of death, yet every man must
see death, Psalm 89:48. Death is a champion all must grapple with– we
must enter the lists with it, and it will have the mastery, Eccl. 8:8,
"There is no man that has power over the spirit, to retain the spirit;
neither has he power in the day of death." Those indeed who are found alive
at Christ's coming, shall all be changed, I Cor. 15:51. But that change will
be equivalent to death, will answer the purposes of it. All other people
must go the common road, the way of all flesh.
2. Let us consult daily observation. Every man "sees
that wise men die, likewise the fool and brutish person," Psalm 49:10. There
is room enough on this earth for us, notwithstanding the multitudes that
were upon it before us. They are gone, to make room for us; as we must
depart, to make room for others. It is long since death began to transport
men into another world, and vast multitudes are gone there already– yet the
work is going on still; death is carrying off new inhabitants daily, to the
house appointed for all living. Who has ever heard the grave say, It is
enough! Long has it been getting, but still it asks. This world is like a
great fair or market, where some are coming in, others going out; while the
assembly that is in it is confusion, and the most part know not why they are
come together; or, like a town situated on the road to a great city, through
which some travelers have passed, some are passing, while others are only
coming in, Eccl. 1:4, "One generation passes away, and another generation
comes– but the earth abides forever."
Death is an inexorable, irresistible messenger, who
cannot be diverted from executing his orders by the force of the mighty, the
bribes of the rich, or the entreaties of the poor. It does not reverence the
hoary head, nor pity the harmless babe. The bold and daring cannot outbrave
it; nor can the faint-hearted obtain a discharge in this war.
3. The human body consists of perishing materials,
Gen. 3:19, "Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return." The
strongest are but brittle earthen vessels, easily broken in shivers. The
soul is but basely housed, while in this mortal body, which is not a house
of stone, but a house of clay, the mud walls cannot but molder
away; especially seeing the foundation is not on a rock, but in the dust;
they are crushed before the moth, though this insect be so tender that the
gentle touch of a finger will destroy it, Job 4:19.
These materials are like gunpowder; a very small spark
lighting on them will set them on fire, and blow up the house– the seed of a
raison, or a hair in milk, having choked men, and laid the house of clay in
the dust. If we consider the frame and structure of our bodies, how
fearfully and wonderfully we are made; and on how regular and exact a motion
of the fluids, and balance of humors, our life depends; and that death
has as many doors to enter in by, as the body has pores; and if we
compare the soul and body together, we may justly reckon, that there is
somewhat more astonishing in our life, than in our death; and
that it is more strange to see dust walking up and down on the dust, than
lying down in it.
Though the lamp of our life may not be violently blown
out, yet the flame must go out at length for lack of oil. What are those
distempers and diseases which we are liable to, but death's harbingers, that
come to prepare his way? They meet us, as soon as we set our foot on earth,
to tell us at our entry, that we do but come into the world to go out
again. Nevertheless, some are snatched away in a moment, without being
warned by sickness or disease.
4. We have sinful souls, and therefore have dying bodies–
death follows sin, as the shadow follows the body. The wicked must die, by
virtue of the threatening of the covenant of works, Gen. 2:17, "In the day
that you eat thereof, you shall surely die." And the godly must die too,
that as death entered by sin, sin may go out by death. Christ has taken away
the sting of death, as to them; though he has not as yet removed death
itself. Therefore, though it fastens on them, as the viper did on Paul's
hand, it shall do them no harm– but because the leprosy of sin is in the
walls of the house, it must be broken down, and all the materials thereof
5. Man's life in this world, according to the
Scripture account of it, is but a few degrees removed from death. The
Scripture represents it as a vain and empty thing, short in its continuance,
and swift in its passing away.
First, Man's life is a vain and empty thing– while it is,
it vanishes away; and lo! it is not. Job 7:6, "My days are vanity." If we
suspect afflicted Job of partiality in this matter, hear the wise and
prosperous Solomon's character of the days of his life, Eccl. 7:15,
"All things have I seen in the days of my vanity," that is, my vain days.
Moses, who was a very active man, compares our days to a sleep, Psalm
90:5, "They are as a sleep," which is not noticed until it is ended. The
resemblance is just– few men have right apprehensions of life, until death
awaken them; then we begin to know that we were living. "We spend our years
as a tale that is told," ver. 9. When an idle tale is telling it may affect
a little; but when it is ended, it is remembered no more– and so is a man
forgotten, when the fable of his life is ended. It is as a dream, or
vision of the night, in which there is nothing solid; when one awakes, all
vanishes; Job 20:8, "He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found;
yes, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night." It is but a vain
show or image; Psalm 39:6, "Surely every man walks in a vain show." Man, in
this world, is but as it were a walking statue– his life is but an image
of life, there is so much of death in it.
If we look on our life, in the several periods of it, we
shall find it a heap of vanities. "Childhood and youth are
vanity," Eccl. 11:10. We come into the world the most helpless of all
animals– young birds and beasts can do something for themselves, but infant
man is altogether unable to help himself. Our childhood is spent in pitiful
trifling pleasures, which become the scorn of our after thoughts. Youth
is a flower that soon withers, a blossom that quickly falls off; it is a
space of time in which we are rash, foolish, and inconsiderate, pleasing
ourselves with a variety of vanities, and swimming as it were through a
flood of them.
But before we are aware it is past; and we are, in
middle age, encompassed with a thick cloud of cares, through which we
must grope; and finding ourselves beset with prickling thorns of
difficulties, through them we must force our way, to accomplish the projects
and contrivances of our riper thoughts. The more we solace ourselves in any
earthly enjoyment we attain to, the more bitterness do we find in parting
Then comes old age, attended with its own train of
infirmities, labor, and sorrow, Psalm 90:10, and sets us down next door to
the grave. In a word, "All flesh is like grass," Isa. 40:6. Every stage or
period in life, is vanity. "Man at his best state," his middle age, when the
heat of youth is spent, and the sorrows of old age have not yet overtaken
him, "is altogether vanity," Psalm 39:5. Death carries off some in the bud
of childhood, others in the blossom of youth, and others when they are come
to their fruit; few are left standing, until, like ripe corn, they forsake
the ground– all die one time or other.
II. Man's life is a SHORT thing. It is not
only a vanity, but a short-lived vanity. Consider,
1. How the life of man is reckoned in the Scriptures.
It was indeed sometimes reckoned by hundreds of years– but no man
ever arrived at a thousand, which yet bears no proportion to eternity. Now
hundreds are brought down to scores; threescore and ten, or fourscore, is
its utmost length, Psalm 90:10. But few men arrive at that length of life.
Death does but rarely wait, until men be bowing down, by reason of age, to
meet the grave. Yet, as if years were too big a word for such a small thing
as the life of man on earth, we find it counted by months, Job 14:5.
"The number of his months are with you." Our course, like that of the
moon, is run in a little time– we are always waxing or waning, until we
But frequently it is reckoned by days; and these
but few, Job 14:1, "Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days."
No, it is but one day, in Scripture account; and that a hireling's day, who
will precisely observe when his day ends, and give over his work, ver. 6,
"Until he shall accomplish as an hireling his day."
Yes, the Scripture brings it down to the shortest space
of time, and calls it a moment, II Cor. 4:17, "Our light affliction,"
though it last all our life long, "is but for a moment." Elsewhere it
is brought down yet to a lower pitch, farther than which one cannot carry
it, Psalm 39:5, "My age is as nothing before you." Agreeably to this,
Solomon tells us, Eccl. 3:2, "There is a time to be born, and a time
to die"; but makes no mention of a time to live, as if our
life were but a skip from the womb to the grave.
2. Consider the various SIMILITUDES by which the
Scripture represents the shortness of man's life. Hear Hezekiah, Isa.
38:12, "My age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent;
I am cut off like a weaver's shuttle." The shepherd's tent is soon
removed; for the flocks must not feed long in one place; such is a man's
life on this earth, quickly gone. It is a web which he is incessantly
working; he is not idle so much as for one moment– in a short time it is
wrought, and then it is cut off. Every breathing is a thread in this web;
when the last breath is drawn, the web is woven out; he expires, and then it
is cut off, he breathes no more.
Man is like grass, and like a flower, Isa.
40:6. "All flesh," even the strongest and most healthy flesh, "is grass,
and all the goodness thereof is as the flower of the field." The grass is
flourishing in the morning; but, being cut down by the mowers, in the
evening it is withered– so man sometimes is walking up and down at ease in
the morning, and in the evening is lying a corpse, being struck down by a
sudden blow, with one or other of death's weapons.
The flower, at best, is but a weak and tender
thing, of short continuance wherever it grows– but observe, man is not
compared to the flower of the garden; but to the flower of the field, which
the foot of every beast may tread down at any time. Thus is our life liable
to a thousand accidents every day, any of which may cut us off. But though
we should escape all these, yet at length this grass withers, this flower
fades by itself. It is carried off "as the cloud is consumed, and
vanishes away," Job 7:9. It looks big as the morning cloud, which promises
great things, and raises the expectation of the husbandman; but the sun
rises, and the cloud is scattered; death comes, and man vanishes!
The apostle James proposes the question, "What is your
life?" chapter 4:14. Hear his answer, "It is even a vapor, that
appears for a little time, and then vanishes away." It is frail, uncertain,
and does not last. It is as smoke, which goes out of the chimney, as
if it would darken the face of the heavens; but quickly it is scattered, and
appears no more– thus goes man's life, and "where is he?" It is wind,
Job 7:7, "O remember that my life is wind." It is but a passing blast, a
short puff, "a wind that passes away, and comes not again," Psalm 78:39. Our
breath is in our nostrils, as if it were always upon the wing to
depart; ever passing and repassing, like a traveler, until it goes away, not
to return until the heavens be no more.
III. Man's life is a SWIFT thing; not only a
passing, but a flying vanity. Have you not observed how swiftly a
shadow runs along the ground, in a cloudy and a windy day, suddenly
darkening the places beautified before with the beams of the sun, but is
suddenly disappearing? Such is the life of man on the earth, for "he flees
as a shadow, and continues not," Job 14:2. A weaver's shuttle is very swift
in its motion; in a moment it is thrown from one side of the web to the
other; yet "our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle," chap. 7:6. How
quickly is man tossed through time, into eternity! See how Job describes
the swiftness of the time of life, chap. 9:25-26. "Now my days are swifter
than a runner; they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the
swift ships; as the eagle that hastens to the prey." He compares his days
with a runner, who runs speedily to carry tidings, and will make no
stop. But though the runner were like Ahimaaz, who overrun Cushi, our days
would be swifter than he; for they flee away, like a man fleeing for his
life before the pursuing enemy; he runs with his utmost vigor, yet our days
run as fast as he.
But this is not all; even he who is fleeing for his life,
cannot run always– he must needs sometimes stand still, lie down, or turn in
somewhere, as Sisera did into Jael's tent, to refresh himself– but our
time never halts! Therefore it is compared to ships, that can
sail night and day without intermission, until they reach their port; and to
swift ships, ships of desire, in which men quickly arrive at their desired
haven; or ships of pleasure, that sail more swiftly than ships of burden.
Yet the wind failing, the ship's course is checked– but our time always
runs with a rapid course! Therefore it is compared to the eagle
flying; not with his ordinary flight, for that is not sufficient to
represent the swiftness of our days; but when he flies upon his prey, which
is with an extraordinary swiftness. And thus, even thus, our days flee away.
Having thus discoursed of death, let us
APPLY the subject in discerning the
vanity of the world; in bearing up, with Christian contentment and patience
under all troubles and difficulties in it; in mortifying our lusts; in
cleaving unto the Lord with full purpose of heart, at all hazards, and in
preparing for death's approach.
I. Let us hence, as in a looking-glass,
Behold the vanity of the world, and of all those things in it,
which men so much value and esteem; and therefore set their hearts upon. The
rich and the poor are equally intent upon gaining this world; they bow the
knee to it; yet it is but a clay god– they court the bulky vanity,
and run eagerly to catch this shadow. The rich man is hugged to death in its
embraces; and the poor man wearies himself in the fruitless pursuit. What
wonder if the world's smiles overcome us, when we pursue it so eagerly, even
while it frowns upon us!
But look into the grave! O man! consider and be wise;
listen to the doctrine of death; and learn,
1. that, "hold as hard as you can, you shall be forced to
let go your hold of the world at length." Though you load yourself with the
fruits of this earth; yet all shall fall off when you come to creep into
your hole, the house, under ground, appointed for all living. When death
comes, you must bid an eternal farewell to your enjoyments in this world–
you must leave your goods to another; Luke 12:20, "And whose shall those
things be which you have provided?"
2. Your portion of these things shall be very little
before long. If you lie down on the grass, and stretch yourself at full
length, and observe the print of your body when you rise, you may see how
much of this earth will fall to your share at last. It may be you shall get
a coffin, and a winding-sheet; but you are not sure of that; many who have
had abundance of wealth, yet have not had so much when they took up their
new house in the land of silence. But however that be, more you cannot
It was a sobering lesson, which Saladin, when dying, gave
to his soldiers. He called for his standard bearer, and ordered him to take
his shroud upon a pole, and go out to the camp with it, and declare that of
all his conquests, victories, and triumphs, he had nothing now left him, but
that piece of linen to wrap his body in for burial.
3. "This world is a false friend," who leaves a man in
time of greatest need, and flees from him when he has most to do. When you
are lying on a deathbed, all your friends and relatives cannot rescue you;
all your substance cannot ransom you, nor procure you a reprieve for one
day; no, not for one hour! Yes, the more you possess of this world's goods,
your sorrow at death is likely to be the greater; for though one may live
more commodiously in a palace than in a cottage, yet he may die more easily
in the cottage, where he has very little to make him fond of life.
II. It may serve as a
storehouse for Christian contentment and patience under worldly losses and
crosses. A close application of the doctrine of death is an
excellent remedy against fretting, and gives some ease to a troubled heart.
When Job had sustained very great losses, he sat down contented, with this
meditation, Job 1:21, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall
I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the
name of the Lord." When Providence brings a mortality or disease among your
cattle, how ready are you to fret and complain! but the serious
consideration of your own death, to which you have a notable help from such
providential occurrences, may be of use to silence your complaints, and
quiet your spirits. Look to "the house appointed for all living," and learn,
1. That you must suffer a more severe tragedy than the
loss of worldly goods. Do not cry out because of an illness in
the leg or arm– for before long there will be a long home thrust at the
heart. You may lose your dearest relations– the wife may lose her husband,
and the husband his wife; the parents may lose their dear children and the
children their parents; but if any of these trials happen to you, remember
you must lose your own life at last; and "Why does a living man complain?"
Lam. 3:39. It is always profitable to consider, under affliction, that our
case might have been worse than it is. Whatever is consumed, or taken from
us, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we ourselves are not consumed," ver.
2. It is but for a short space of time that we are in
this world. It is but a little that our necessities require in so
short a space of time; when death comes, we shall stand in need of none of
these things. Why should men rack their heads with cares how to provide for
tomorrow; while they know not if they shall then need anything? Though a
man's provision for his journey be nearly spent, he is not disquieted, if he
thinks he is near home. Are you working by candle light, and is there
little of your candle left? It may be there is as little sand in your
glass; and if so, you have little use for it.
3. You have matters of great weight that challenge
your care. Death is at the door, beware that you lose not
your souls. If blood breaks out at one part of the body, they often open a
vein in another part of it, to turn the stream of the blood, and to stop it.
Thus the Spirit of God sometimes cures men of sorrow for earthly things, by
opening the heart-vein to bleed for sin. Did we pursue heavenly things more
vigorously when our affairs in this life prosper not, we should thereby gain
a double advantage– our worldly sorrow would be diverted, and our best
4. Crosses of this nature will not last long.
The world's smiles and frowns will quickly be buried together in everlasting
forgetfulness. Its smiles go away like foam on the water; and its
frowns are as a passing ache in a man's side. Time flies away with swift
wings, and carries our earthly comforts, and crosses too, along with it–
neither of them will accompany us into "the house appointed for all living."
"For in death the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
Even prisoners are at ease in death, with no guards to curse them. Rich and
poor are there alike, and the slave is free from his master." Job 3:17-19.
Cast a look into eternity, and you will see affliction
here in this world, is but for a moment. The truth is, our time is so very
short, that it will not allow either our joys or griefs to come to
perfection. Therefore, let them "that weep be as though they wept not; and
those who rejoice as though they rejoiced not," etc., I Cor. 7:29-31.
5. Death will put all men on the same level.
The king and the beggar must dwell in one house, when they come to their
journey's end; though their entertainment by the way may be very different.
"The small and the great are there," Job 3:19. We are all in this world as
on a stage; it is no great matter, whether a man acts the part of a prince
or a peasant, for when they have acted their parts, they must both get
behind the curtain, and appear no more.
6. If you are not in Christ, whatever
your afflictions now be, "troubles a thousand times worse, are abiding you
in another world." Death will turn your crosses into pure unmixed curses!
and then, how gladly would you return to your former afflicted state, and
purchase it at any rate, were there any possibility of such a return.
7. If you are in Christ, you may well bear
your cross. Death will put an end to all your troubles. If a man
on a journey is not well accommodated, where he lodges only for a night,
he will not trouble himself much about the matter; because he is not to stay
there, it is not his home. You are on the road to eternity! let it
not distress you that you meet with some hardships in the 'inn of this
world'. Fret not, because it is not so well with you as with some others.
One man travels with a cane in his hand; his fellow traveler, perhaps, has
but a common staff or stick– either of them will serve the turn. It is no
great matter which of them be yours; both will be laid aside when you come
to your journey's end.
III. It may serve for a bridle, to curb all manner of
lusts, particularly those conversant about the body. A serious
visit made to cold death, and that solitary mansion, the grave, might be of
good use to repress them.
(1.) It may be of use to cause men to cease from their
INORDINATE CARE FOR THE BODY; which is to many the bane of their souls.
Often do these questions, "What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and with
what shall we be clothed?" leave no room for another of more importance,
namely, "With what shall I come before the Lord?" The soul is put on
the shelf, to answer these base questions in favor of the body; while
its own eternal interests are neglected. But ah! why are men so busy to
repair the ruinous cottage; leaving the inhabitant to bleed to
death of his wounds, unheeded, unregarded? Why so much care for the body, to
the neglect of the concerns of the immortal soul? O do not be so anxious for
what can only serve your bodies; since, before long, the clods of cold earth
will serve for back and belly too!
(2.) It may abate your pride on account of BODILY
ENDOWMENTS, which vain man is apt to glory in. Value not yourselves on the
blossom of youth; for while you are in your blooming years, you are
but ripening for a grave; death gives the fatal stroke, without
asking any body's age. Do not boast in your strength, it will quickly
be gone– the time will soon be, when you shall not be able to turn
yourselves on a bed; and you must be carried by your grieving friends to
your long home. And what signifies your healthful constitution? Death
does not always enter in soonest where it begins soonest to knock at the
door; but makes as great dispatch with some in a few hours, as with others
in many years.
Do not value yourselves on your beauty, which
"shall consume in the grave," Psalm 49:14. Remember the change which death
makes on the fairest face, Job 14:20– "You always overpower them, and then
they pass from the scene. You disfigure them in death and send them away."
Death makes the greatest beauty so loathsome, that it must be buried out of
sight. Could a mirror be used in "the house appointed for all living," it
would be a terror to those who now look oftener into their mirrors than into
their Bibles. And what though the body be gorgeously arrayed? The finest
clothes are but badges of our sin and shame; and in a little time will
be exchanged for a shroud, when the body will become a feast to the worms!
(3.) It may be A CHECK UPON SENSUALITY AND FLESHLY LUSTS.
1 Peter 2:11, "I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly
lusts, which war against the soul." It is hard to cause wet wood to take
fire; and when the fire does take hold of it, it is soon extinguished.
Sensuality makes men most unfit for divine communications, and is an
effectual means to quench the Spirit. Intemperance in eating and drinking
carries on the ruin of soul and body at once; and hastens death, while it
makes the man most unfit for it. Therefore, "Be careful, or your hearts will
be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and
that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." Luke 21:34
But O how often is the soul struck through with a dart,
in gratifying the senses! At these doors destruction enters in. Therefore
Job "made a covenant with his eyes," chap. 31:1. "The mouth of a strange
woman is a deep pit– he that is abhorred of the Lord, shall fall therein,"
Prov. 22:14. "Let him that stands, take heed lest he fall," I Cor. 10:12.
Beware of lustful pleasure; study modesty in your apparel, words, and
actions. The ravens of the valley of death will at length pick out the
lustful eye– the obscene filthy tongue will at length be quiet, in the land
of silence; and grim death, embracing the body in its cold arms, will
effectually allay the heat of all fleshly lusts!
(4.) In a word, it may CHECK OUR EARTHLY-MINDEDNESS; and
at once knock down "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the
pride of life." Ah! if we must die why are we so fond of temporal
things; so anxious to get them, so eager in the embraces of them, so
mightily bothered with the loss of them?
Let me, upon a view of "the house appointed for all
living," address the worldling in the words of Solomon. Prov. 23:5, "Will
you set your eyes upon that which is not?" For riches certainly make
themselves wings, "they flee away as an eagle towards heaven." Riches, and
all worldly things are but 'a lovely nothing'; they are that which is not.
They are not what they seem to be– they are but gilded vanities, that
deceive the eye.
Comparatively, they are not; there is infinitely more of
nothingness and non-being, than of being, or reality, in the best of them.
What is the world and all that is in it, but a fashion, or fair show,
such as men make on the stage– a passing show? I Cor. 7:31. Royal pomp is
but gaudy show, or appearance, in God's account, Acts 25:23. The best name
they get, is good things– but observe it, they are only the wicked
man's good things, Luke 16:25, "You in your lifetime received your good
things," says Abraham, in the parable, to the rich man in hell. Well may the
men of the world call these things their goods; for there is no other good
in them, about them, nor attending them.
Now, will you set your eyes upon empty shadows and
fancies? Will you cause your eyes to fly on them, as the word is? Shall
men's hearts fly out at their eyes upon them, as a ravenous bird on its
prey? If they do, let them know, that at length these shall flee as fast
away from them, as their eyes flew upon them– like a flock of fair-feathered
birds, that settle on a fool's ground; which, when he runs to catch them as
his own, do immediately take wing, fly away, and sitting down on his
neighbor's ground, elude his expectation, Luke 12:20, "You fool, this
night your soul shall be required of you; then whose shall these things be?"
Though you do not make wings to them, as many do;
they themselves make wings, and fly away; not as a tame house-bird, which
may be caught again; but as an eagle, which quickly flies out of sight, and
cannot be recalled. Forbear then to seek these things. O mortal! there is no
good reason to be given why you should set your eyes upon them. This world
is a great inn, on the road to eternity, to which you are traveling.
You are attended by those things, as servants belonging to the inn where you
lodge– they wait upon you while you are there; and when you go away, they
will convoy you to the door. But they are not yours, they will not go
away with you; but return to wait on other strangers, as they did on you.
4. It may serve as a spring of CHRISTIAN RESOLUTION, to
cleave to Christ, adhere to his truths, and continue in his ways; whatever
we may suffer for so doing. It would much allay 'the fear of man, that
brings a snare'. "Who are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall
die?" Isa. 51:12. Look on persecutors as pieces of brittle clay, that shall
be dashed in pieces, for then shall you despise them as foes, that are
mortal; whose terror to others in the land of the living, shall quickly die
The serious consideration of the shortness of our time,
and the certainty of death, will teach us, that all the advantage which we
can make by our seeking the world, is not worth the while; it is not worth
going out of our way to get it– and what we refuse to forgo for Christ's
sake, may be quickly taken from us by death. But we can never lose it so
honorably, as for the cause of Christ, and his gospel; for what glory is it,
that you give up what you have in the world, when God takes it away from you
by death, whether you will or not?
This consideration may teach us to undervalue life
itself, and choose to forgo it, rather than to sin. The worst that men can
do, is to take away that life, which we cannot long keep, though all the
world should conspire to help us to retain the spirit. If we refuse to offer
it up to God when he calls for it in defense of his honor, he can take it
from us another way; as it fared with him, who could not burn as a martyr
for Christ, but was afterwards burned by an accidental fire in his house.
5. It may serve for a spur to INCITE US TO PREPARE FOR
(1.) YOUR ETERNAL STATE WILL BE ACCORDING TO THE STATE IN
WHICH YOU DIE– death will open the doors of heaven or hell to you. As the
tree falls, so it shall lie through eternity. If the infant be dead born,
the whole world cannot raise it to life again– and if one die out of Christ,
in an unregenerate state, there is no more hope for him, forever.
(2.) SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHAT IT IS TO GO INTO THE ETERNAL
WORLD; a world of spirits, with which we are very little acquainted. How
frightful is converse with spirits to poor mortals in this life! and how
dreadful is the case, when men are hurried away into another world, not
knowing but that devils may be their companions forever! Let us then give
all diligence to make and advance our acquaintance with the Lord of that
(3.) IT IS BUT A SHORT TIME YOU HAVE TO PREPARE FOR
DEATH– therefore now or never, seeing the time assigned for preparation will
soon be over. Eccl. 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your
might– for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the
grave, where you go." How can we be idle, having so great a work to do,
and so little time to do it in? But if the time is short, the work of
preparation for death, though hard work, will not last long. The shadows of
the evening make the laborer work cheerfully; knowing the time to be at
hand, when he will be called in from his labor.
(4.) MUCH OF OUR SHORT TIME IS OVER ALREADY; and the
youngest of us all cannot assure himself, that there is as much of his time
to come, as is past. Our life in the world is but a short preface to long
eternity; and much of the tale is told. Oh! shall we not double our
diligence, when so much of our time is spent, and so little of our great
work is done?
(5.) THE PRESENT TIME IS FLYING AWAY– and we
cannot bring back time past, it has taken an eternal farewell of us–
there is no kindling the fire again that is burned to ashes. The time to
come is not ours– and we have no assurance of a share in it when it
comes. We have nothing we can call ours, but the present moment; and
that is flying away. How soon our time may be at an end, we know not. Die we
must– but who can tell us when? If death kept one set time for all, we were
in no hazard of a surprise– but daily observation shows us, that there is no
such thing. The flying shadow of our life allows no time for loitering. The
rivers run speedily into the sea, from where they came; but not so speedily
as man to dust, from where he came. The stream of time is the swiftest
current, and quickly runs out to eternity!
(6.) If once death carries us off, THERE IS NO COMING
BACK to mend our matters, Job 14:14, "If a man dies, shall he live again?"
Dying is a thing we cannot get a trial of; it is what we can only do once,
Heb. 9:27, "It is appointed unto men once to die." And that which can
be but once done, and yet is of so much importance that our all depends on
our doing it right, we have need to use the utmost diligence that we may do
it well. Therefore prepare for death.
If you who are unregenerate ask me, what you shall do to
prepare for death, that you may die safely; I answer, I have told you
already what must be done. Your nature and state must be changed– you must
be united to Jesus Christ by faith. Until this is done, you are not capable
of other directions, which belongs to a person's dying comfortably.