Page images
[blocks in formation]

SERMON FOR THE END OF THE with affectionate humility. The YEAR.

whole forms one of those simple Gen. xlvii. 9.

and touching pictures, which ihe « Few and evil have the days of the years

inspired writers love to paint. It of my life been."

acquaints us with the primitive

manners of those ancient times. It This declaration was a part of assures us that piety and virtue Jacob's answer to Pharaoh, when were esteemed even by the idolater, Joseph brought his father and his It enables us to ascertain the exact brethren, and set them before the meaning of Jacob's well known king. And Jacob blessed Phan words. raoh, And Pharaoh said unto For the situation in which the Jacob, how old art thou? And patriarch stood, and the action by Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days which his answer was accompaof the years of my pilgrimage are an nied, prove that he did not speak hundred and thirty years. Few and under the pressure of affliction, that evil have the days of the years of my he was not influenced by the quelise bein, and have not attained rulous disposition of old age, that unto the days of the years of the he did not utter the dictates of life of my fathers. And Jacob blessed misanthropy or superstition. JoPharaoh, and went out from before seph his son was yet alive, and he him. The scene is well calculated had come down to see him before he to excite our attention. The actors died. He bad found him flourishing in it are a wise and powerful king, in power, reputation, and happiand a venerable and favoured ser- ness, and exhibiting in his exalted vant of God. They meet with feel- station a bright pattern of filial ings of mutual admiration and good piety. He had been honourably will. Pharaoh, rejoicing in the op. treated by the great king, and portunity of doing honour to the admitted into his presence with parent of his favourite Joseph; Jaevery token of regard. He felt cob, grateful for the kindness with and expressed a proper sense of which that favourite had been treatthese favours, and blessed the moed, and for the refuge pow afforded narch by whose instrumentality they to his father and his brethren. The had been received. There was no grandeur of an absolute monarch is room in his heart for disappointment, laid aside. Age and sanctity are and his conduct did not savour treated with the deference that is of peevishness, but of satisfaction. due to them. The patriarch be. His speech, therefore, is to be con. stows his advice and his blessing, sidered not as the view of life which and the king receives them both is faken by the çaptive in his dunREMEMBRANCER, No. 48.

4 X

geon, or the mourner in his weeds, and promise, to another pleasant by the young who are cut off in the summer, and another fruitful autumn. commencement of their career, or While the sun and the seasons are by the old, who survive their nearest thus continually changing, is man and dearest connections, but as the permanent and stable? Is he to mature and solenin judgment of be found to-morrow where he is wisdom, prosperity, and religion, found to-day-fixed, immoveable, as a declaration of the real length and enduring? Or has the Church and nature of this life, a warning rightly instructed us to say, “ Man not to be engrossed by the days that that is born of a woman hath but a are few and evil. Few, because short time to live, and is full of whatever may be their extent, they vanity. He cometh up, and is cut can never satisfy that appetite for down like a power; he fleeth as it life, that love and that hope of a were a shadow, and never contipermanent existence, which is na- nueth in one stay." Which of these tural to man. Evil, because they is an accurate description of our are cliequered with faults and suf. state? Whether your life has been ferings, because they are never protracted, like Jacob's, to extreme exempted from injury and calami. old age, or whether you are in the ties, because they are often pro. full strength and confidence of mantracted amidst want and misery, and hood, or whether you are escaping always exposed to the apprehension from the fetters of weakness and of danger.

childhood, in every imaginable case This is an adequate summary and you must acknowledge that your explanation of the patriarch's words, days are few, and that there is no and in making them the subject of pretence and no excuse for nisem. the present discourse, I shall com- ploying them. Few as they are press my remarks upon the first they are not all your own. Infancy head within a very short compass. and youth are the mere seasons of If you have yet to learn that your preparation; most important, most days are few, you are ig:10rant not invaluable; but still not that which merely of the lessons of Scripture, the irreligious and the worldly termi but of the first and plainest lessons life. And if they are followed by of common sense. The shortness, a brief space of gratification and the uncertainty of human life is noto- self-indulgence, that space is sucrious, proverbial, self-evident. One ceeded but too certainly and too cay telleth another, and one year quickly by the complicated diseases certifieth another, that in the morn- of old age. ing man is green as the grass, and without exaggerating the descripin the evening he is cut down, dried tion with which it is so important to up, and withered. His days are become acquainted, look to the fact. swifler than a weaver's shuttle. He Let those who live, as if this world says to corruption, thou art my were an abiding city, simply make father; and to the worm, thou art à calculation of the years which my mother and my sister. And if they may expect to pass here, Let there be a season in which these them, if they please, put all acci. truths are incontestible, that season dents and casualties out of the acis present to us now. Another year count. Let them take it for granted is about to be added to those that that they shall live to the full age eannot return. Another stage in of man. And even then how short the great journey of life has been is the season which they can pass in reached, and will soon be passed. sin! how few are the days which they Another winter has arrived with can dedicate to worldly joy! In clouds and darkness, and we look childhood man is necessarily subject forward to another spring of hope to the will and direction of others.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

His declining years are beset by of glory unto him that is humbled pain and weakness; and all that can in earth and ashes, from him that in any sense be called his own, is weareth purple and a crown, unto a space which is literally but a span him that is clothed with a linen long, and even that may be annihi- frock.-All things are full of la. lated in an instant. These truths bour; man cannot utter it. The eye may be forgotten, but they can is not satisfied with seeing, nor the neither be denied nor doubled. ear with hearing. So said King They are impressed upon our minds Solomon in the days of his most by the circumstances of our present perfect wisdom, when he had made situation. The lamps of heaven, trial of every thing under the sun. that have been set for signs and So said and so felt the upright and seasons, are about to accomplish the patient Job, when his prostheir annual revolution. They warn perity was turned into sorrow, and us that we likewise have an ap- his mirth into sickness. His grief pointed course, and that its com. was embittered by the happiness pletion is not far off. Shall we be from wbich he had fallen, and bis deaf to their voices and live on in suffering would have been less acute carelessness, or shall we endeavour if he could bave blotted out the so to pass through things temporal, recollection of his joy. O that I that finally we lose not the things were as in months past ; when the eternal ? To this plain question Almighty was yet with me, when my each of you should be prepared to children were about me! The result make a distinct answer, and it is of so much happiness, was an un. probable that your answer will be due feeling of security. I said I influenced by the second division of shall die in my nest, and I shall my subject, by remembering that multiply my days as the sand. It life is not more happy than it is was in order to correct this prelasting, and that your days are evil sumptuous expectation, that God as well as few.

suffered Job to be tempted. And It is not my intention to deny the when the Lord answered his serexistence of much comfort and of vant out of the whirlwind, the pur. many blessings upon earth. Life is port of his sublime discourse, was the gift of the Father of mercies, to prove that we ought to submit to and we are bound to thank him for the calamities which may be inour creation and preservation. But ficted upon us, and ought not to the question is, ought we to be en- deny or question the wisdom of the grossed by present enjoyments and Almighty. God shewed that all his gratifications, and to lose sight of works were the works of goodness better and more enduring bliss ? and strength. And, therefore, if he The negative answer which religion thinks fit to bring the righteous directs us to return, is strengthened into trouble, there is every reason by reflecting upon the real nature to conclude that such an appointof our present state, and that state is ment is for the best. It humbles admirably described by the wise Son the confidence of the human heart. of Sirach. Great travail is prepared It awakens the torpid, and restrains for eviry man, and an heavy yoke the giddy. It recalls our thoughts is upon the sons of Adam, from to the Ruler and Preserver of the the day that they go out of their world, and keeps up a perpetual mother's womb, till the day that they sense of our dependence upon his return to the mother of all things. will. Therefore God has ordained, Their imagination of things to come, that our days shall be evil as well and the day of death trouble their as few, and so accurately and uni, thoughts, and cause fear of heart. versally is his plan performed, that From him that sitteth on a throne each of us may join in the decla

ration of Jacob, and may trace up pose, still preventing our enjoyment our misfortunes to that plentiful of any unmixed good, and warning source which sprinkled his life with us to seek a better country, where tears.

the wicked cease from troubling, His first and longest and most and the weary are at rest? The painful sufferings were produced by case of the notoriously wicked is vice and frailty. He was guilty of not at present under consideration; a gross and aggravated false bood, though every thing that we say and the result was, that be fled might be applied with greater force from the wrath of his injured bro- to them. But confining our attenther, renounced the rich inheritance tion to such as, in the main, are dewhich he had sinned to secure, pas- vout and virtuous, and to such por. sed over Jordan with no other pos- tion of the devout and virtuous as session than his staff, and endured may be said to enjoy a prosperous twenty years of severe labour and life, are not they perpetually dispain, under the orders of a cruel turbed by their own and others' master. Thus, said he, I was, in faults, and by the ordinary oceurthe day the drought consumed me, rences of the world ? Tempted by and the frost by night, and my sleep some agreeable prospect, they fordeparted from mine eyes. These get the pure and perfect law, deprivations and calamities were the viate, like Jacob, from the line of effects of his own wickedness, and truth and duty, and involve them. other misfortunes were accumulated selves in all the danger, trepidation, upon him by the wickedness of his fel. and disgrace, to which such actions low-creatures. His children afflicted lead. How continually do we hear him by their folly and misconduct of the sins of a man's youth, perSimeon and Levi troubled him by haps even bis forsaken and te their savage slaughter of the Sheche- pented sins, rising up against him mites. And the still more inexcu. when his hairs are gray, and em. sable treatment of Joseph by his bittering the last hours of his life! brethren, threw a gloom over a How perpetually are we doomed to considerable portion of their fa- suffer acute and lasting pain fror ther's days, and nearly brought the behaviour of our nearest condown his gray hairs u orrow nections. Some Laban defrauds as to the grave. Another os, of the by changing our wages ten times, evil which he declared and self to and leaving us at last in penury. have experienced, is to be found in Some profane and angry Esau en• the scarcity with which God af- dangers our lives by his violence, flicted Egypt and Canaan. The faand our peace by his threats. Chilmine was sore in the land, and he dren, that should unite to become was forced to send his sons on a the support and honour of your de long and dangerous journey, to go clining years, bate and envy each and buy a little food in Egypt, that other, until their fury knows no they might live and not die, he and limit, and the most promising is they and their little ones.

undone and lost. Such were the three principal Lastly, the inevitable decrees of sources of that uneasiness and trou. Providence will frequently afflict us ble, which made the days of Jacob in as sensible a manner. The hardevil: his own and his fellow.crea- ly earned, and the best beloved are tures' faults, and the calamities taken away from us, as Rachel was which nature brings upon us all, taken away from Jacob. Poverty And have these sources failed ? and hunger torment and overwhelm Or are they still as productive as us, and the famine is sore in the in the days of old, still wearying land. Every expedient is resorted our spirits, and breaking our re, to for diminishing our distress, and

they serve but to plunge us deeper Lord be my God. This was a pro. in ruin. We exclaim with the pa- mise made in sorrow, and in the triarch, in the most pathetic of his hour of gladness it was not forgotlamentations, Joseph is not, and ten. While he was in servitude Simeon is not, and ye will take Ben- with Laban he trusted in the God jamin away. All these things are of Bethel, and all that God had against me. They were against the promised was performed. When venerable old man, and rendered he was about to encounter Esau, his few days evil. They are alsu in- and was afraid of his anger and different proportions' against every strength, he prayed earnestly and one of you, and they make life so humbly to God. I am not worthy unsatisfactory, so delusive, so pain- of the least of all the mercies, and all ful, that the grossest folly of which the truth, which thou hast shewed we are guilty in our temporal af. unto thy servant, for with my staff fairs, is prudence and foresight, and I passed over this Jordan, and now wisdom and discretion, when com- I am become tuo bands. When an pared with that perverseness which angel met him and wrestled with turus the face from God, and makes him, he refused to let him go, until us act as if here only we had hope. he prevailed and obtained the blessThere is nothing in these calamities ing. And when his dangers and which God cannot or will not ena- fears were over, and he returned to ble us to endure. All ihe days of Bethel in peace, he made there an our appointed time are we bound to altar unto the God that answered wait, until our change cometh. But him in the day of his distress, and there is enough to wean us from the was with him in the way which he world. There is enough to make went. Lastly, when the time drew us look forward to a happier state; near that Israel must die; his first there is enough to satisfy us that request to his beloved Joseph was, our days are evil, and that the bury me not in Egypt, but I will lie longest and fullest enjoyment of with my fathers in their buryingthem wbich is attained by man, is a, place. God Almighty appeared poor and paltry object of ambition, unto me at Luz in the land of Ca. unworthy of a rational being, un- naan, and blessed me, and said unto able to gratify the longing of an im- me, Behold I will make thee fruitful mortal soul.

. and multiply thee, and make of thee If the words and the experience a great multitude of people; and of Jacob induce you to reflect upon will give this land to thy seed after this fact, survey it in its whole ex- thee for an everlasting possession. tent and consequences; and then Here was humble trust and faith, the example of the patriarch will in a tried and powerful defender. 'enable you to feel that faith and Fear, toil, danger, famine, had all trust in God is the remedy for the been endured and escaped by the evil with which your days are full. assistance of the Lord. With the Io all the afflictions of the great same never-failing aid, death was Father of the Israelites, God was cheerfully undergone, and the prohis stay. As he fled from the pro- mises of God became a plentiful voked and cruel Esau, God shewed source of consolation. The whole him the mystical ladder which is worthy of our strictest imitation, reached from earth to heaven, and and there can be no better opporpromised to be with him and keep tunity of exhorting you to observe him wbithersoever he went. And it, than the conclusion of a dis. Jacob vowed a vow and said, If course, in which we have endea. God will be with me and keep me, voured to prove that few and evil 80 that I come again unto my fa. are your days. ther's house in peace, then shall the The ladder that Jacob saw indis

« PreviousContinue »