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from iniquity; and when we see a man professing to be a follower of his Saviour, neglect his precepts, and despise his ordinances, we may well exclaim with the apostle, can such faith save him? Be ours, my brethren, that holier faith, of which St. James himself has declared, that they who are rich in it, though they be poor in this world's goods, will yet be the chosen of God.* Let us hold fast this faith without wavering; it will strengthen us in our earthly pilgrimage, it will comfort us in our earthly troubles, it will carry us in joy and triumph to our journey's end. Here we may be in mourning and sorrow; but a true faith can blunt the dart of anguish, can snatch the sting from death, and the victory from the grave. And if St. Paul has this day been, under God, a light to lighten our souls to the knowledge of the truth; oh! may each of us, when the hour of his last mortal agony is at band, be enabled to exclaim with him, “ I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
* James ii, 5.
When thou art angry all our days are gone, we bring
our years to an end as it were a tale that is told.
The shortness and uncertainty of human life, is a theme on which moralists and philosophers of all ages have been prone to dwell. By those who lived before Christianity had shed its blessings upon mankind, it was employed as an argument to prove the instability and vanity of the great objects of human ambition, and as an inducement to spend the brief span of existence,
, in the enjoyment of such pleasures, as might make life's little day pass cheerfully along. Men were enjoined to consider the present hour, as the only one they could call their own; to seize the gratifications that were within their grasp, and not to suffer their anxiety for the future, to mar or prevent the happiness of the time before them. They were reminded, that the path of death
passes alike through the palace of the prince, and the cottage of the peasant; that his scythe mows down in undiscriminating havoc, the mighty as well as the weak, the young and vigorous, as well as the aged and infirm; that wealth and honours, are but feeble barriers against bis approach, and that sooner or later, we must all fall beneath his unsparing hand. By the teachers of the Jewish, and especially of the Christian dispensation, these considerations were urged with an energy, which might awaken reflection in the breast of the most thoughtless. For their hearts were inspired by motives, of a far higher and holier nature, than those by which the heathen sensualist was instigated. The shortness of our sojourn bere, was insisted on, not as a reason for indulging the more freely in the passing pleasures of the world, but as an inducement to despise them altogether. The uncertainty of the hour at which we may be called away, was again and again bronght forward, as an awful confirmation of the necessity of being always prepared to receive the inevitable summons. Men were also told, that however brief their earthly pilgrimage might be, it was all the time that would be allowed them to prepare for the concerns of eternity; and that that eternity would be happy or miser: able as they should here embrace or reject the offered mercies of God.
These arguments are in no degree weakened by the lapse of ages; they press home upon our hearts and consciences, as forcibly as they did upon those of the persons, to whom they were first addressed. If time has had any influence upon them, it has been to confirm rather than to weaken, by affording so many additional proofs of their validity. Every revolving year, as it rolls away, leaves behind it a mournful record, of the frailty and instability of human hopes and human fears. It tells us of the mighty laid low, of the ambitious humbled to the dust, of the possessions of the rich reduced to a few feet of barren clay, of the pomp and splendour of the proud, changed into the trappings of the hearse, and the blazonry of the escutcheons of death. These reflections are peculiarly forced upon us, when we look back upon
which has just expired.* It has taught us a lesson which we shall all do well to lay to heart; that however exalted our worldly station may be, however we may be surrounded by those advantages in which we are but too apt to place our hopes of happiness, all will be insufficient to protect us, even for a moment, from the hand of the destroyer. Not many months have passed, since England beheld another monarch, gathered to the tomb of his Fathers. We followed, in imagination at least, the long procession of his funeral array. We beheld the vain splendours, which hung, as though in mockery, around his tomb, and heard a voice proclaim, that the festering mass within, had once ranked amongst the mightiest princes of the earth. Had we then suffered our thoughts to wander back a few short years, they would have rested on a pageant, scarcely more gorgeous indeed, but which breathed of nothing but life and joy. There were the same actors on the scene, prepared to pay their appointed services to the same prince. But how different the duties which they came to perforin. In one case, they were summoned to offer their homage to a living king, in the other to consign his ashes to the grave; in one, to bind around his brows, the glittering diadem of a mighty empire; in the other, to encircle them with the cypress wreath of death. So nearly connected, my brethren, is earthly glory with earthly nothingness. But has this instance of the vanity of human grandeur, and of the uncertainty of human life, produced any effectual impression upon our minds ? Has it taught us to view the allurements of power and wealth in their proper light? Has it induced us to set our affections on things above, rather than on the frail and perishable possessions of earth? Perhaps we imagined that in our humbler walk of life, the presence of
* This sermon was written for the first Sunday of the year 1831, being the year after the death of George IV.