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tality, rather to be numbered among the dead than among the living ? Every day and hour wears away part of our lives; and so much of them as is already spent, so far are we already dead and buried. This present moment is the longest measure of our lives : what is past is dead to us; and what is to come is not yet born. How soon God may put a final period to our present state, how few times more our pulses may beat, and this busy breath in our nostrils return to us again, we know not. So frail and uncertain are our lives, that this may be truly a Funeral Sermon to some one of us before the close of it. Since then we are all of us thus subject to the stroke of death, it can never be unseasonable to warn you, that you be not surprised, and taken by it unprovided.
In the words now read, you have the great Statute-Law of Heaven; that law, which God hath passed upon all the children of men; and that is, that it is appointed to them once to die.
Now that I may make way to press upon you the serious consideration of your own mortality, let me briefly mark out some things, which tend to the explication of the words. ; And,
First. In that the proposition is laid down in the text indefinitely, It is appointed unto men; it is that, which is equivalent to an universal, and reacheth to all men: It is appointed unto all men once to die.
We read of two only, in the whole book of God, who were exempted, by an extraordinary grace and peculiar privilege, from this great law of dying; and they were Enoch and Elias: of Enoch it is said, that he walked with God, and he was not ; for God took him: Gen. v. 24: and of Elias it is said, that he went up by a whirlwind into heaven : 2 Kings ii. 11: the Great God, after a strange and unusual manner, tacked their temporal and eternal life together; making their time run itself into eternity, without any period or interruption. The Apostle also tells us, that all shall not die: to wit, at the Last Day, at the last appearing of Jesus Christ, there shall be a world full of persons, who shall not taste of death : all shall not die; but all shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye : 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. These are exempted; and, being excepted, it is certain all the generations of men, from the first creation, to the last consummation of all things, are all appointed by God unto death.
Secondly. All must die once.
There is frequent mention made in Scripture of the First and Second Death. The First Death is the separation of the soul from the body: the Second Death is the separation of the soul from God. As the union of the soul and body is the life of man; so the union of God with the soul is the life of the soul. Now believers do not die this Second Death; for on such, as the Apostle speaks, the second death hath no power : Rev. xx. 6: they are still united unto God, after an unconceivable and ineffable manner. As when Christ lay in the grave, though his soul was truly separated from his body, yet both soul and body were hypostatically united to the godhead; so, also, though the natural union between a believer's soul and body be dissolved by death, yet both soul and body continue mystically united unto Christ, even in their separation one from another. It is not therefore this Second, but the First Death, which all are appointed unto. The hand of death must untie those secret and sweet bands: those vital knots, which fasten soul and body together, must fall asunder one day in every man.
Thirdly. It is appointed unto every man to undergo this first death.
It is decreed and ordained by God: and that, not upon the account of any natural necessity; but for the punishment of sin. The Apostle tells us plainly, that by sin death entered into the world. Death therefore is not so much a debt due to nature, as a debt due to the arenging justice of God: for, though man at first was created in pure nature, yet was he also created in a deathless state: and death seizeth upon us, not as we are men, but as we are sinners; liable to the curse of the Covenant of Works, containing in it that threatening, In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. It is true, Adam, even before he sinned, had in him the contemperation of the same contrary qualities which we now have; and so, at least, had also the remote principles of death: but yet it is probable, that he was created with such a privilege, that he might by his own will sway and overrule the jars and discords of his elementary constitution, and continue himself in life so long as he should continue himself in obedience: however, whether it was so or otherwise, yet certain it is that death came into the world as the punishment of sin. So, then, it is not primarily man's nature, but man's sin, and the curse of the Law taking hold of him, that brought in this necessity of dying. Sin is not only the sting, but the cause of death : and it gives it not only its terror, but its very being also. And, therefore, it is somewhat remarkable, that, among all the creatures in the world, man only is termed mortal: most certain it is that other creatures decay and perish, as well as he; yet, among all perishing things, man only hath that wretched denomination of being mortal, and there is good reason for it, since he alone, of all perishing things, being created immortal, voluntarily subjected himself unto death; and, by his own fault, brought upon himself that name of mortal, as a brand of perpetual infamy.
And thus now I come to the subject on which I intend to insist: and that is, THE UNAVOIDABLENESS AND CERTAINTY OF DEATH.
go about to prove this, were to lose so much time: every one grants he must die. All other questions about man are answered by peradventures : if it be demanded, whether such an embryo shall see the light; what is the answer, but, perhaps it shall, perhaps it shall not ? if it be born, and it be asked, whether it shall live, and grow up to age; why, perhaps so," perhaps otherwise : if it grow up to age, and enquiry be made, Shall it be rich, or shall it be poor? honourable, or despised? learned, or ignorant? what is the answer ? only, perhaps it shall, perhaps not. But, if it be asked, whether it shall die ? the answer now is, Yes ; it is certain, without any peradventure: there is no doubt at all of this: it is appointed by God for men once to die. And, therefore, though physicians have written books of the preserving of health, yet never any wrote books of avoiding of death. We need no other proof of man's mortality, but to search into the records of the grave: there lie rich and poor, strong and weak, wise and foolish, holy and profane; the rubbish of ten thousand generations heaped one upon another, and this truth that all must die, written indelibly in their dust.
I. That, therefore, which I shall do, shall be, in an applicatory way, to make some REFLECTIONS UPON THE BRUTISH STUPIDITY OF MEN; who, though they know themselves mortal, yet thrust from themselves the thoughts of death, and neglect due preparations for it. Men live in the world, as if they were arbitrary of their own time; as if they should never die and come to judgment. Oh, the beastly sottishness
of men, who, though they see multitudes cut down daily by the hand of death, round about them, yet live carelessly and presumptuously, as if they were privileged persons, and death durst not touch them !
Should we make enquiry into the causes of this gross stupidity and sottishness, perhaps we should find it to proceed from some of these following.
i. THE GENERALITY OF MEN ARE SO IMMERSED AND DROWNED IN THE AFFAIRS AND PLEASURES OF LIFE, THAT ALL SERIOUS THOUGHTS OF DEATH AND PREPARATIONS FOR IT ARE SWALLOWED UP AND DEVOURED BY THEM.
Their minds are taken up about other things, and their time spent upon other matters : like a heap of ants, that busily toil to gather in their provision, not regarding the foot which is ready to tread upon them. So is it with most men: they are taken up with impertinencies and vain things. One contrives how he may melt away his days in luxury and pleasure; and, with variety of invented delights, imp the wings of time, which, in their apprehensions, makes but slow haste, that so their days and hours may roll away the faster : these are such prodigals of their time, and lavish it away at that rate, as if their stock would last as long as eternity itself. Some are busily climbing up the steep ascent of honour and dignity; and are so taken up in seeking after promotions and new titles, that they forget their old stile of mortal creatures. Others are plotting, with the Fool in the Gospel, how they may grow rich, and lay up goods for themselves for many years as they fancy; when yet they know not but God may take away their souls from them this very night: and what then remains to them of all that they have thus greedily scraped together? O vain and foolish men are these the things, which your hearts upon? must the world drink
your thoughts; and death, which shortly will snatch you from all your enjoyments here below, be forgotten by you?
ii. Men PUT OFF THE THOUGHTS OF DEATH AND THEIR PREPARATIONS FOR IT, BECAUSE THEY GENERALLY LOOK UPON IT AS AFAR OFF.
This is the greatest sottishness in the world; and yet most men are too guilty of it. Those, who are young and in the prime of their days, if it be asked them what they think of death, will VOL. IV.
readily answer, that they think they ought of right and course to live till they are aged; and they, who are aged, will tell you their weaknesses and decays are not so many or, so great, but they may well weather away a few more years: those, who are healthful and strong, think surely they need not prepare for dying, till God by some sickness sends them a summons; and those, whom God is pleased to vouchsafe a summons by sickness and distempers, alas, they think that it is yet possible for them to escape from them again. And thus all are ready to thrust death from them, and to put the evil day afar off: and, though God hath told out to them but a few days or hours, yet they liberally and bountifully reckon upon years and ages; as if their time were not in God's hands, but their own. It is a true saying, that usually the hope of a long life, is the cause of an evil life: suppose now that every one of us knew for a certainty, that our lives must run out with the glass which is before us, that at the end of the hour God would strike us all dead upon the place, should we not all of us have more lively apprehensions of death and eternity than ever yet we have had ? should we not pour out our souls, before God requires them from us, in holy affections and fervent prayers ? should we give scope to the gaddings of our thoughts, and the vanity of our hearts ? should we think of such a vain pleasure, or such a worldly employment, if God now from heaven should speak audibly to us and bid us give an account of our stewardship, for, we must be no longer stewards? No, certainly: it is impossible that men should thus behave themselves. And why, Sirs, is it not so with you always ? For ought you know, that film and bubble which holds your lives may be now breaking, your graves may be ready to be digging, and the last sand in your glass may be now running: however, certain it is, that it cannot be long before it will be so with all of
Did we but seriously consider, by what small pins this frame of man is tacked together, it would appear to us to be no less than a miracle that we live one day, yea one hour to an end.
iii. MEN GENERALLY PUT OFF THE THOUGHTS OF DEATH AND THEIR PREPARATION FOR IT, BECAUSE OF THOSE FLIGHTFUL TERRORS AND THAT INSUPPORTAI DRÉAD, WHICH SUCH APPREHENSIONS BRING WITH THEM.
Death is that, which, above all things, human nature most