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Let us change the scene. They who are in the early stages of life, through which we have passed, remind us that our day is far spent.
We are attached to those who succeed us in the world; whose attention, and cheerfulness, and strength, engage and delight and assist us; , and whom perhaps we might otherwise envy and grudge a little, even this transient possession. Parents are attached by instinct; their image is renewed and their memory embalmed by children... While you learn from them your passing state, you are led by attachment to transfer the world to then., and to rejoice in their joy.
From this the young will probably look forward, and think of a time when they shall see us who now occupy the world laid in the grave, and another generation arise. Your desire of seeing many days is natural; and if you add a desire of serving God, and of teaching wisdom to the succeeding race, may your desires be accomplished ! Still it is meet to warn you that the morning of life is often clouded with pain, and darkened with the shadow of death: To warnings of mortality, the ears and hearts of the young open. I have seen their resignation whilst the hour drew nigh. I often see you, at the burial of the dead, standing round the grave with looks of thoughtful earnest attention. You think it is a cold, and dark, and lonely house. Gladly would I then announce immortality, and present to your
mind's eye this corruptible putting on incorruption, and hear you also saying with Job, I would not live alway.
III. We are led to this from the nature of human enjoyments. Human enjoyments indeed there are, nor does our Father grant them with a sparing hand ; for he remembers that we are dust. In infancy, agreeable sensations spring from nourishment and care. In the days of our youth every thing that is new, or beautiful, or great, delights the imagination. As we advance in life, affection, and friendship, and love, are sources of peculiar and sweet enjoyment; it is enhanced by hope, and our ignorance of the evil to come. Employments which call forth our powers to exercise; money which purchaseth all things; and a good name, are the comforts of riper years. Many of us know from experience that they are fluctuating, and that the memory of our early joys is all of them that remains. There is, indeed, a melancholy pleasure in remembering them. The old love to talk of former days, and to tell us they were better than these : there is a predilection for the scenes of childhood and youth; they recall the smiling countenance and the careless heart:'our early friends are endeared by many pleasing remembrances: the mournful remembrance of a first love long ago in the dust, is preferred to any present pleasure. In old age the senses decay, the memory fails, the fire of imagination is extinguished, every
year invades some faculty, we are at best supportable to our friends, and at last a burden. The sources of enjoyment are gradually dried up; to live alway would be to survive them all.
Human enjoyments not only fade and decay; they are often blasted in the bud or the blossom. The most of men have met with disappointment in the pursuit of some favourite object of desire. We seldom live long without something to allay our happiness, to tell us we are men, and that man is born to trouble. Job's sad and sudden reverse of fortune is a remembrancer to the happy.
Besides the real disappointments and evils of life, there are imaginary evils. Some have hours of deep and awful melancholy. Darkness overspreads the soul. All earthly enjoyments lose their relish. The ordinary cares of life are a burden. Even friends displease. There is an appetite for retirement, for the lodging-place of a way-faring man in the wilderness; to sit alone, and listen to the howling wind, and see the leaves falling, and muse on the end of man. With difficulty we are dragged to the duties of life, and fulfil as an hireling our day. The soul is struggling to break through the mist of human things, to know their emptiness, to know itself, to know its large capacity for happiness which God alone can fill.
There is a time of life with every thinking person, when he looks no more forward to worldly objects of desire, when he leaves these things bebind, and meditates the evening of his day. “ Age,” said a pious old man, “ age is the most busy period of human life, but its transactions are not with men." Commune with your own heart, on the dangers you have escaped, and the duties you have fulfilled. The season of inexperience and passion is past; thank God if it has passed with innocence. Think on the mercies of so long a life, and take up songs of praise. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit; faith, and hope, and love. These flourish in the winter of life; they are rooted in the soul, and the decay of these bodies, and the dissolution of this world, cannot destroy them; they shall soon be transplanted into the garden of God, and watered with the river of pleasure, and spring up into eternal life. Every root of bitterness shall then be plucked up, and no enemy shall sow his tares any more.
IV. We are led to think and say with Job, I would not live alway, from difficulty in the duties of life.
Favourable circumstances often attend our entrance into the world. The vigour of youth, the pleasure of novelty, conscious dignity from acting a part, pleasant connections that are formed, countenance, and encouragement, and applause : these reconcile and attach us to our duty, they induce the power of habit.
By and by, difficulties arise which gradually reconcile us to our change. The honest labourer, who earns his bread with the sweat of his brow, has found his rest sweet, and his bread pleasant, and the testimony of his conscience a continual feast : but he has likewise found, from weariness and pain, from the hardships of poverty, perhaps of oppression, that his labour is part of the curse on fallen man : he thinks with comfort of a new heaven and a new earth, where there is no more curse.
It is somea times difficult to fulfil the demands of justice : then a Christian redoubles industry, denies himself, accepts alms, does every thing hard and humbling rather than be unjust: it is not his least consolation that the time is short. Even in a high station honours are apt to fade and cares to multiply. It was the prayer of Moses, the lawgiver and prince of Israel, “ Kill me, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight.”
The detail of human affairs and duties must be attended to and fulfilled; the pleasures and honours of the world must to a certain degree interest and elevate, and the evils of it depress us: but the conscious soul often rises above them, and anticipates a more exalted exercise. In childhood we busied ourselves with imitations of the works of men; and if any accident befel them we were distressed, and wept: we now think that these were trifles, and we shall one day think the same of every worldly care.
V. We would not live alway, from the remains of