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member that the end is not far off. Each period of life has its appropriate joys, and duties, and dangers, and cares. But there is one danger, and one duty, from which no period is exempt: it is the danger of death; it is the duty of preparation to meet God.
But the literal numbering of our days is not the only, nor perhaps the most profitable, mode of estimating our age. As "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," so it may be said, that a man's age consisteth not simply in the number of years which have rolled over his head. Years, it is true, give experience, and furrow the brow with wrinkles, and make men old in days. But some men become far richer in experience at middle life, than others do at threescoreand-ten; some live more in a single year than do others in a score of years. An hour of some men's lives is worth more than the whole existence of other men. Nay, in our own existence, we find that some single hours do more for us, more to give us experience, wisdom, power, more to put the stamp of age upon our forehead, and its feeling in our heart, than whole years have done.
"There are swift hours in life, strong, rushing hours,
They uproot long-standing opinions. They open new mines of thought. They tear aside the veil which has been obscuring our vision, and disclose to us great truths. They awaken slumbering fires within the soul,-fires of passion, it may be, which rage with volcanic fury, and scathe all that is around them, and mark with ineffaceable traces the flowing of their fierce lava. They may be "strong" for good or evil. They may do their tempest-work for weal or woe. On their swift wings they may waft the soul onward in a heavenly flight; or with rushing fierceness they may bear it deep down towards hell. Come for a moment into the sphere of such an hour, and let us watch the workings of the storm. A widowed mother sits by her sinking fire and dimly glimmering light, anxiously awaiting the return of her only son. Young, of generous heart, of cultivated intellect, of powerful talents, fitted to command respect, elicit esteem, and gain renown, he sits in the lighted saloon, chained by the fascinations of the gaming-table. Sum after sum of his little fortune is staked and lost, and glass after glass of the fiery liquid is quaffed, to drown the voice which upbraids him. He has played before, and ceased when he chose. He has, at other times, drunk the intoxicating drink, and yet had power to govern himself. But now is his hour of darkness. A mighty tempest is rising within him. He is goaded to desperation. He can no longer free himself from the charmer. He beholds himself ruined. His brain is on fire. In his fury he rushes on his antagonist; but is himself felled to the floor, and lies weltering in his blood. Insensible and bloody he is carried
home to his mother. What an hour for her! But the hour is not yet passed. His sufferings have not sobered him. He awakes from his stupor only to more fearful wildness; and while his weeping parent, heart-broken, seeks to relieve and heal him, he in his frenzy lifts his hand against her, and curses, aye, curses her who bore him! The storm has passed; the swift hour has done its work. Would you see its effects? Yon aged woman, bowed with sorrow, and gathering a miserable subsistence from charity; yon bloated form, a young man prematurely old, outcast and reckless, the companion of worse than brutes; these are its effects. That tempest-hour has cast down hopes and happiness; has driven an iron into the widow's soul, has buried bright talents; has made a man a brute; has made an immortal spirit the prey of stinging furies; has fastened on that young man's heart a gnawing, neverdying worm.
Look again: and you see a mother anxiously watching over a sick child. That child apparently is dying. The physician is hopeless. A man of God comes, and kneels with that mother by the infant's cradle; and earnest is the prayer which goes up to heaven that the child's life may be spared, while from the anguished heart bursts forth, "Thy will be done." That petition is heard-sweetly sleeps the babe, as if lulled by the voice of prayer, or soothed by an angel's whisper. The hour passes away. The crisis is over. The child recovers. Oh, how much was wrapped up in that hour! But look again. That child becomes a young man, and alas! a mother's hopes and prayers have been disappointed. He is without God, irreligious, reckless. Better, seems it, that he had died in his cradle and gone up to heaven. But now another hour arrives. He has been listening to the truth, and the arrows of the Almighty have stuck fast in his soul. He cannot tear them from him. Bitter, bitter is his struggle; now all enmity against God and determined to resist, and then trembling with fear as if in the very jaws of hell; now moved by the thought of a crucified Saviour, and then anxious lest the blessings of salvation should be placed beyond his reach; now ready to trust in God's mercy, and then fearing lest there be no mercy for him. A tempest is sweeping over him, and he is hurled to the ground. At length all is still. Passion subsides, resistance is at an end. He submits to God. Sweet peace takes possession of his soul. He is once more saved. And he now consecrates himself unto Him who has redeemed him with His own precious blood; and as a preacher of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," he gives his talents, and his richly-furnished mind, and glowing eloquence, to the holy work of winning souls to Jesus. That hour!-how important its results!
These may serve as illustrations of the truth of which I speak. The future will be full of the record of such hours; they are nu
merous in the record of the past-hours whose impress on the earth shall last till the earth is destroyed; hours whose effects shall be felt for ever by souls over which they have passed. These are hours which make men "old" quickly, because the events of a life-time seem to be crowded into them.
The most proper mode of measuring time is by events. He may be said to live the longest, whose life is fullest of events. I do not mean simply of stirring, wonderful, or romantic events, but of true actions, as contrasted with indolence; of things done, thoughts generated and uttered, influence created and used ;-not simply of tempest-hours, uprooting and shaking, but of growing hours, each of which produces fruit. Here we may apply, though with a signification different from the meaning of the author, that line of the poet, " It is not all of life to live." Bonaparte's life, though its years were few, was one of centuries. So in a far nobler sphere was Luther's. Henry Martyn lived but a few years after he entered on his missionary life; yet he died older by far than hundreds who long survived him in inglorious ease. We often mourn and wonder, when men are cut down in the vigor of their days, and apparently in the height of usefulness; but we forget to estimate how long they have lived. The Book of Wisdom tells us,* and we ought to remember it, that "honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years. But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age."
The great end of life is the love and service of God; and he lives most who most fully attains this end. In the pursuit of holiness consists true wisdom; and as this is "the gray hair unto man," he may be said to be the oldest who is the wisest of our race. That man has lived to but little purpose, who has not yet commenced this pursuit-to but little good purpose, I mean, for himself; for God may overrule his living for great good to others, and his life may be crowded full of powerful influences. But viewed in the light of the gospel, yet apart from the view of God bringing good out of evil, he may be said to have lived to but little purpose who has not yet commenced the pursuit of holiness, in the revealed way. And the pursuit of holiness comprises a two-fold object: our own growth in grace, and the good of our fellow-men. So our life is to be estimated by what we have done, or left undone in respect to this two-fold object. Two individuals may start together in the same vehicle, to reach the same point of destination. One is listless, inactive, doses, while he is borne swiftly along on his journey. The other is wakeful, full of activity, observes each point along the route, converses with his fellowtravelers and the inhabitants of the country through which
Apocrypha-Wisdom of Solomon, 4: 8, 9.
he passes, diffuses information, relieves doubts, and contributes to the general happiness. Now we have no hesitation in deciding as to the relative claims of these two individuals to our admiration; and if their journey be the journey of life, and they reach the grave together, is it not easy to say which has lived the longer? There are other way-marks along this journey, besides the revolving of the earth, the signs in the heavens. There are voices to tel us of our age besides the salutation of passing years; there are seeds of benevolence, of charity, of love to God; there are tears and hand-pressings of gratitude; there are triumphs over sin, successful resisting of temptation, patient endurance of affliction; these are the tokens of God's favor, the smiles of His reconciled and approving countenance; by these our age is to be reckoned. There is the growth of the mind, the expansion of the heart, the progressive sanctification of its affections: these are lines of estimate to mark our progress. And more of such marks may be counted on the past journey of many a young disciple of Jesus, than can be discovered by searching along the lengthened route of others who are gray with years.
I have already guarded you against the thought, that this rule will apply only to the age of the righteous. The wicked may be old without a gray hair. Oh, how fast do they live whose days are filled with deeds and words of wickedness! Along the course of their lives how many black and dismal way-marks may be counted! What maturity of iniquity have we seen among the young! Many a name is on the page of history, into whose short span of time there are crowded whole years of common wickedness; notorious for crime, they have wrought, in their quick passage through the world, what would have sufficed to fill hundreds of ordinary lives. It is sad to think how many "grow old in sin," long ere time has marked their brows with wrinkles, or a single lock is gray!
And now, my hearers, desultory as these remarks may appear, I trust that you perceive that they are not without a connection and a bearing, and that you are ready to accompany me in their application. The occasion is a fitting one on which to address to you, individually, the question, How old art thou? Let us together give heed to the inquiry, and on the principle we have just considered, let us reckon our age. Have we filled up the year just ended with action? or have we passed through it listlessly and indifferently? What have we done for ourselves, for our fellow-men, for God? Are there any way-marks greeting our vision as we look back? Or is all a blank? And if there are way-marks, are they bright and cheering to look upon? Or does the sight of them fill us with shame and sorrow? Have we been living merely earthly lives?-lives of the body, while the soul has slumbered? How is it with you, my hearers? Have you sought the honor of God?
Have you prayed, and watched, and labored, to gain greater degrees of holiness? Have you been charitable? Have you given freely of what God has bestowed upon you? Or have you been worldly, and cold-hearted, and selfish? Have you continued in sin, neglectful of God and holy things, and sought only your sensual enjoyment in the things which earth produces? How have the blessings which you have received, how have the trials which you have endured, affected you? What use have you made of them? Have you grown old in wisdom, or are you yet in your infancy? Say, my Christian hearer, how old art thou? How much has the past year added to thy age? Count not now simply the days of thy pilgrimage. Reckon thy age by thy growth in grace, by thy deeds of holy living, by the good influence thou art exerting on the world; and then say how old thou art.
And here, at the beginning of a new year, let us resolve that whatever be the number of our days, we will not die young; we will fill up our days, our hours, our moments; we will make our hours swift, and cause them to do full work as they rush along. Let us fix our eye upon the great object before us, and bend all our energies to attain it. Time flies. We have a work to do. The night approacheth. Whatsoever is done must be done
For us "to live is Christ." Oh what a glorious life! Have we be enliving it? Will we live it? Ah! memory bids us weep. Hope bids us rejoice. How far have we come short of our high object! Yet to what a glorious elevation may we attain! Redeemed people of Christ, go on in your pilgrimage, steadfast and rejoicing. Let each year that is added to the past, be full fraught with scenes on which memory will love to dwell. We are drawing near to death. We may not live to see this year's close, or we may live on to feeble old age. But remember,
Though pale grow thy cheeks, and thy hair turns gray,
Our bodies shall fail us. Our work on earth must have an end. If we have lived in communion with Christ; if we have lived as becometh the children of God; we shall be old enough, we shall have lived long enough, whenever our summons comes. Our bodies then may die, their service will have ceased. souls shall live on in immortal youth.
"The soul of origin divine,
God's glorious image, freed from clay,
"The sun is but a spark of fire,
Shall never die."