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in the midst of their days. And he is still of one mind, and who can turn him? And what his wisdom and goodness dictate, he will do, notwithstanding the hopes, and fears, and prayers, and cries, and efforts, of erring mortals. "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?" It becomes both the dying and the living to say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good."
1. If those in the meridian of life are so unwilling to die, then those who have been preserved through that period have peculiar reason to be thankful that they are still among the living. God might have taken us away in the morning or meridian of life. How long have some of us lived, and how many have fallen on our right hand and left, and in the nearest connection with us! We have been in deaths oft, and yet have escaped. God has graciously regarded our former expectations and desires of living, our fears of death, and perhaps our prayers for preservation. In some instances, we have reason to hope that his sparing mercy has been connected with his saving mercy. If not, it may be that he is still waiting to be gracious to us. Others have had as strong desires and expectations of living, and as great a dread of dying, and put up as sincere prayers for sparing mercy, as we ever felt or expressed; and yet God, in his amiable and awful sovereignty, consigned them to an early grave. How thankful should we be for such distinguishing goodness! And how reasonable it is that we should henceforward be willing to die, and wait with patience until our appointed change come! We ought to give up the world before it is taken from us; and, like good old Barzillai, spend the residue of our days in a practical preparation for death. Good old men of old used to die daily, and speak frequently of the time of their departure, which they realized to be at hand. The aged at this day and in this place have the same admonitions of their dying hour, by the decays of nature, and by the late frequent deaths of their contemporaries. The young may die, but we must die. The young have many duties to perform, but one thing and one duty is most needful to us. Let us stand waiting, and watching, and preparing for the coming of our Lord.
2. If those in the meridian of life are so unwilling to die, and so desirous of living, then they have been greatly favored and distinguished. God has taken away more than half of mankind since you were born; many of whom were as unwil ling to die, and as desirous of living, as you now are, or ever
have been; and who had as good ground to expect long life as you now have, or ever have had. But God, for wise and holy reasons, has counteracted their desires, defeated their designs, and buried all their promising prospects in the grave; while, in sovereign mercy, he has guarded, guided and prolonged your lives, which you have valued more than all the ten thousand temporal blessings God has ever bestowed upon you. You have never seen the time, perhaps, when you would not have been willing to give up any and every thing you possessed in the world, if it might be the means of preserving your precious lives. This blessing, which comprises all other temporal blessings you have ever enjoyed, God has been pleased to preserve and continue, amidst innumerable dangers, diseases and accidents. You, yourselves being judges, are under the most strong and endearing obligations to give God your hearts and your spared lives. And whether you have or have not given God your hearts and your lives, you have no claim upon him to spare you any longer. God has done enough and more than enough by the way of means, to make you prepared and willing to die. Why then should you not expect to die, as well as the aged? Why then should you not be willing to die, as well as the aged? Distinguishing goodness calls for distinguishing love, gratitude and obedience. If any of you have hitherto withholden that love, gratitude and obedience, which you owe to God for his goodness, you have great reason to fear that he will soon cut you down as barren and unfruitful trees, that cumber the ground.
3. If those in the meridian of life are the most unwilling to die, then they are the most unwilling to hear and obey the voice of God in his word and providence. The same things that conspire to make them the most unwilling to die, make them the most unwilling to hear any thing which reminds them of their frailty and mortality, and of their duty to prepare for leaving this world and going into another. They are in their full strength, and hate to hear of their weakness and frailty. They are attached to the world and to the men and things of the world, and hate to hear of their ever leaving them. They love life, and hate to hear of death. They love time, and hate to hear of eternity. They love their business, their purposes, and promising prospects, and hate to hear of leaving this business unfinished, their designs unaccomplished, and their desirable objects unattained. They are too busy to read, or hear, or speak of future and eternal realities. Their thoughts of the world exclude their thoughts of God. Their love to the world excludes their love to God. The consequence is, that they become habitually stupid and inattentive to the concerns of
their souls, and dread to see, to hear, or to feel any thing which serves to awaken them out of their habitual and sinful stupidity. They know how to guard their eyes, their ears, their hearts and their consciences, against what God says to them, either in his word or providence. In this respect, they differ from those who are younger, and those who are older than they. Children and youth are easily affected by hearing and reading the word of God, and by feeling and seeing the sovereign hand of God in the holy and sovereign dispensations of his providence. Their eyes and ears affect their hearts. But those who are in the midst of their days have learned to bar their minds against every thing that tends to disturb their peace, and lead their thoughts into eternity. So that they can coolly and carelessly see and hear the most solemn truths, and the most alarming providences. They imagine that their mountain stands strong, while the young, the aged and infirm have reason to fear and tremble at the admonitions of God in his word and providence. God complained of the peculiar stupidity of this class of men among his people of old. To every individual of this class he said by the prophet Jeremiah, "I spake unto thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear." And Solomon said, "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them." Those who are in the midst of their days, and at the height of prosperity, take care not to put themselves into the rank either of the young or of the old. And therefore they consider themselves uninterested, and feel unaffected, by what God says to the aged and the young. They are ready to imagine that they have a peculiar right to disregard what both the young and the aged ought to regard; and to say unto God, "Depart from us;" for we desire not to be disturbed. Whether this be not true, I appeal to your own conduct and consciences to determine; and to draw the solemn conclusion, whether you, of all men, are not the most unprepared to live, to die and go into eternity, and whether you may safely wait for a more convenient season to set your souls and houses in order.
4. If those who are in the midst of their days are the most fond of living, and the most unwilling to die, then we may see one reason why God does actually take away some in that period of life. Though he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; and though he knows that death, in the midst of life, and high hopes and expectations, must be extremely grievous to the dying and the living; yet sometimes he sees fit to send death in such an evil time. He may do this for the benefit or hurt of the dying, or for the benefit or hurt of the living. He knows that the deaths of those in the midst of their days are more alarming, and make a deeper im
pression upon the human mind, than the deaths of the young, or of the old. He knows how painful and distressing it will be to the dying, to have all their earthly desires and hopes destroyed; and he knows how distressing it will be to the living, to have those taken away on whom they had placed peculiar hopes and dependence. But he may see it best to disappoint all such mutual hopes and expectations, to teach them and others the vanity of the world, the uncertainty of life, and the infinite importance of being habitually and practically ready to go the way of all the earth. Those who die in the midst of their days, and in their full strength and activity, commonly die suddenly and unexpectedly to themselves and others, which is a most alarming circumstance of their death. It speaks to the young and to the old, but especially to those who are in the midst of life, health, strength, activity, prosperity and promising prospects, and bids them to be ready also. They have no excuse for applying the voice of providence, in such instances, to any but themselves. Their views and feelings, and circumstances in life, tell them that they are the very persons to whom God is speaking, and giving a solemn admonition of their frailty and mortality, and of their duty to prepare for their dying hour. He knows how much they need such admonitions, and how difficult it will be to resist the impressions he designs to make upon their minds. Though they may have disregarded the voice of his word, they may regard the voice of his providence, which directly warns them of their danger and duty. And how often have such admonitions of providence proved the means of the saving good of the living!
5. If those in the midst of their days are the most unwilling to die, then those in this stage of life, in this place, are in a very dangerous situation. If we look round upon those who are between thirty and fifty years of age, how few can we find that have made their peace with God, and begun to live to his glory! How few are either habitually or practically prepared to leave the world! How many are entirely absorbed in the cares and concerns of the world, and are too busy to think, to read, to hear, to meditate, or pray! They are standing all the day idle, and refusing to enter into the vineyard of Christ. They neither worship God in secret, nor in private, nor in public. They neither serve God, nor their generation according to the will of God, but serve themselves supremely and entirely; and throw their whole weight and influence to obstruct the cause of God, their own good, and the good of their fellow men. And is it safe to stand, and live, and act in such a manner, while God has need of you, and calls you into Are you willing to live in this manner; are you 58
willing to die in this manner? What account can you give of your time, your talents, and the religious advantages God has given you? Though your Lord has gone to heaven, he will soon, and perhaps suddenly and unexpectedly, call you to an account. Your feet stand on slippery places; and it is as much as your precious souls are worth, to wait for a more convenient season; it may never come; and if it does not, you are lost for ever.
Finally, this subject, and the late instance of mortality in this place, call aloud upon those in the midst of their days to prepare to follow one of their own age into that vast eternity whither he has gone, and never to return. He lived stupid, thoughtless, and secure in sin, until he was brought to the very sight of death. He was carried away with the vanity of the world, and the pleasing prospects of living, and abused the calls, the mercies, and patience of God, which gave him pain, self-condemnation and remorse. He was constrained to say, "The world, the world has ruined me." He was brought to give up all his vain hopes and expectations from the world, and to feel the duty and importance of choosing the one thing needful. But whether he did ever heartily renounce the world and choose God for his supreme portion, cannot be known in this world. In his own view, he did become reconciled to God, and derived peace and hope from his supposed reconciliation. But it is more than possible, that like others on a sick bed, he built his hopes upon a sandy foundation. Let his case, however, be what it may, he is dead, and called away from his relatives and friends, just as he entered the meridian of life. His death, therefore, speaks with an emphasis to parents, brothers and sisters, and especially to those of his own age, to be wiser and better than he was, and not delay seeking and serving God to a dying hour. It is not I, but my son, who now preaches to you, whose voice once sounded pleasant in your ears. Be pleased, therefore, to hear his voice from the dead; and prepare to follow him to heaven, if he has been permitted to enter there.