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person would be extremely unwilling to breathe his last. But there is hardly any place to be found where some have not been constrained to die. God, who appoints the time, equally appoints the place of death, without regarding the hopes, or fears, or desires of those whom he takes, or of those whom he leaves. He arrests some at home, and some abroad; some on the road, and some in the field; some on the ocean, and some in foreign lands. No man knows, when he goes out of his house, that he shall ever come in again. There is no place in the world where men can be, or where they can go, but it may be the place where they must die. God can lead every person to the place where he has appointed his death and his grave; and no man can avoid dying at the place, any more than he can avoid dying at the time, God has appointed. If a man is to die at home, God will keep him at home. If a man is to die on land, God will keep him on land. If a man is to die on the ocean, God will carry him on the ocean, and there put a period to his life. Though mankind generally dread a watery grave, yet thousands have been buried in the mighty deep.
3. God acts as a sovereign in respect to the means of death. He employs a vast variety of means in bringing mankind to their appointed end. He brings some to the grave by means of the sword, the pestilence, and famine; some by means of storms and tempests; some by means of conflagrations, inundations, and earthquakes; some by acute and chronic diseases; and some by sudden and unexpected casualties or accidents. The visible and invisible means of death are innumerable; but they all produce their fatal effects, according to the original appointment and invisible agency of the Deity. If a man fly from an iron weapon, a bow of steel may strike him through. Though Ahab disguised himself to escape the arrows of death, yet a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel with a mortal wound. God can give a fatal energy to the most trifling causes. He can crush men before the moth. Unexpected sorrow, and even unexpected joy, has been the means of instantaneous death. The means of death lie in every path we tread; and God can employ them at any moment, to put a period to our lives; and while he preserves one, he may destroy another, pursuing the same path. He may preserve one, and destroy another, in the same bloody battle. He may preserve one, and destroy another, in the same dreadful tempest. He has ten thousand instruments of death, and he may employ which of them he sees fit, to put a period to the life of any person of any age, character or condition, in the most sovereign manner.
4. God acts as a sovereign in regard to the circumstances of death. He takes one, and leaves another, under the very same circumstances. He takes one healthy man, and leaves another. He takes one feeble man, and leaves another. He takes one rich man, and leaves another. He takes one poor man, and leaves another. He takes one fortunate man, and leaves another. He takes one learned man, and leaves another. He takes one great man, and leaves another. He takes one amiable, virtuous, useful, and promising man, and leaves another. Among the great, the wise, and the good, he takes one, and leaves another. Though men place dependence on their external circumstances, to secure them from the stroke of death, yet they afford them no security of life. For God acts as a sovereign, in respect to the circumstances of death. He commands death to enter the palaces of princes, as well as the cottages of peasants. He takes one, and leaves another, according to the order in which he has been pleased to place their names in death's commission; regardless of all exterior circumstances or distinctions.
5. God acts as a sovereign in calling men out of the world, whether they are willing or unwilling to leave it. Some men long to live, and dread to die. They have formed designs, which they ardently wish to live and accomplish; or they have bright and flattering prospects before them, which they wish to realize. But God often frustrates their designs, and disappoints their raised hopes and expectations, by a sudden and unforeseen death. On the other side, some who lie languishing under pains and misfortunes, long to leave the sorrows and sufferings of the present evil world, and to take refuge in the grave, where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." But God takes one, and leaves another, of this description. Neither the desire nor the dread of death, prevent God from taking away any person, at his appointed time. He is continually disappointing the desires, the hopes, and the fears, of both the living and dying, by carrying into effect the sentence of mortality, which he has passed upon all mankind. I may add,
6. God displays his awful sovereignty, by calling men out of time into eternity, whether they are prepared or not prepared to go to their long home. He takes some away as soon as they are prepared to die, while he leaves others who are better prepared for death, to live and act a long while in the world, which causes them innumerable pains, trials and sorrows. And though he often waits long to be gracious to the unprepared, yet he never waits beyond their appointed time. When that period arrives, though they are ever so much unprepared,
he spares them no longer; but as the Psalmist says, drives them away in their wickedness. Neither a good nor evil character can divert the stroke of death. God will not suffer any to pass the bounds of life which he has determined. He will not regard the hopes or fears, the cries or prayers, of the dying or living, when his set time is come to call any from the stage of life and from the state of probation. In such a variety of important respects, God acts as a sovereign in disposing of the lives of men, which are so interesting and precious. It now remains to show,
III. Why God acts as a sovereign in this very important Several plain and pertinent reasons may be mentioned. 1. Because he has an independent right to act as a sovereign, in taking away the lives of men. He is the former of their bodies, and father of their spirits. In him they live, and move, and have their being. It is owing to his constant and powerful visitation, that they are preserved in life from day to day. They are his property, and he has a right to do what he will with his own. As he has in sovereignty given them life, so he may in sovereignty take it away whenever he sees cause, without assigning any reason for his conduct. He is under no obligation to consult the wills, or desires, or hopes, of any of mankind, whether he shall take one and leave another, when he has an absolute right to take all. Though men have some mutual claims upon the lives of one another, yet God's claims are paramount to all other claims. He has a higher claim to the life of a parent, than any child has; and a higher claim to the life of a child, than any parent has; and a higher claim to the lives of great and useful men, than the world have; and a higher claim to all the blessings of life, than the possessors have. There is nothing in the universe to bound or limit the sovereign right of God to take one and leave another of the children of men, whenever he pleases. As he is by nature an absolute sovereign, so it becomes him to display his sovereignty in disposing of the lives of men, upon which all their interests for time and eternity are suspended.
2. God acts as a sovereign in the article of death, because he only knows when and where to put a period to human life. Death is a most important event to every particular person, and not only to him, but to all intelligent creatures with whom he is connected, both in time and eternity. Indeed the whole intelligent universe is interested in, and will be affected by, the death of every infant, of every child, of every youth, as well as by the death of the greatest potentates on earth. Death, in every instance, fixes the immortal soul in a state of endless joy, or endless sorrow. And the eternal interests of precious and
immortal souls are too great for men or angels to dispose of. None but God is possessed of wisdom and goodness enough to dispose of his intelligent creatures in the wisest and best manner, through the interminable ages of eternity. And in order to take away the lives of men at the best time, by the best means, and under the best circumstances, God is obliged to act as a sovereign. If he should hearken to the wisdom or wills of creatures, he would commit ten thousand mistakes and errors, in respect to the proper persons to be taken away, and in respect to the proper time, and manner, and means of their removal from this to another world. And to make any mistake in the article of death might mar the glory of God and the good of the universe for ever. This God knows, and this is a weighty reason why he should shorten, as well as lengthen, the lives of men, after the counsel of his own wise, benevolent and immutable will. He always knows what the living and the dying will think and feel and say, when he takes one and leaves another; but he has a sovereign right to act contrary to what they may think and say and feel, in respect to his wise and holy conduct. He knew what David would think, and feel, and say, if he took away his beloved son Absalom; and he knew how Rachel would bitterly lament and bewail the loss of her children; but he paid no regard to such misguided feelings. Whenever he takes away any father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister, he sees better reasons for taking them away, than any of their dear friends or connections can see for their being spared. And he certainly has a sovereign right to regard the general good more than the good of any individual.
3. Another reason, why God disposes of the lives of men as a sovereign, in all those respects which have been mentioned, is because he is under indispensable moral obligations to dispose of his own creatures in the wisest and best manner. "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." This, with reverence, may be applied to God himself, as well as to any of his rational and accountable creatures. For he is under higher moral obligations to do right than any other being in the universe. When he sees it best to preserve any one's life, he is morally bound to protect him from every fatal sickness and mortal accident. But when he sees it best to take away any one's life, he is under equal moral obligation to take it away, whether he is willing or unwilling, and whether he is prepared or unprepared, for the solemn and interesting event. God's natural perfections lay him under infinite obligation to employ them in a sovereign manner to promote the highest good of the intellectual system, or according to his moral and
immutable rectitude. God is the supreme guardian of the lives and interests of all mankind; and he is morally obliged to dispose of their lives and interests in the wisest and best manner; and for this reason he is obliged to order the times, the means, and the circumstances of both their living and dying. There are undoubtedly many malignant beings conversant in this world, who would wish to lengthen the lives of some, and shorten the lives of others, beyond their appointed time. This renders it necessary that God should take the power of life and death out of the hands of all his creatures, and exercise that power himself in a sovereign and independent manner. He is infinitely more tender of the lives and happiness of men, than they are themselves; and therefore he could not answer it to himself, if he neglected to order every thing respecting the life and death of every person. So that we have always reasons to admire and adore the wisdom, the goodness, and the sovereignty of God, when he calls one or more out of time into eternity, while at the same time and under the same circumstances, he rescues one or more from the jaws of death. In all such cases, it becomes him to act as a wise, holy and sovereign God.
1. If God acts as a sovereign in taking away the lives of men, then the aged have great reason of gratitude for the continuance of life. They have lived in the same world in which others lived, who were taken away in infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and the decline of life. Thousands have fallen on their right hand and on their left. They have buried almost the whole world, and yet they are among the living to praise God. They have been exposed to innumerable diseases and accidents, which have proved fatal to others, and through the divine care and kindness they have been happily preserved. They have reason to say to God as David did, who in his old age was a wonder to himself as well as to others, "Thou hast kept mine eyes from tears, my feet from falling, and my soul from death." It is of the Lord's mercies that the aged are yet alive, who have never deserved to live, but have always deserved to die. God might have taken them and spared others, but he has taken others and spared them. What peculiar reason have they to be thankful for his undeserved and distinguishing goodness! And what peculiar obligations are they under to spend the residue of their lives in his service, and in a constant preparation for that great and solemn change which others have experienced, and which they must soon, at longest,