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ty upon his immortal spirit. But if this were the case in a world of sin, temptation and opposition to holiness, what will be the rapidity of his increasing resemblance to God by the power of an endless life, in that world where God, in the infinite perfection of his attributes, is all in all; where every hindrance is removed, and a progression takes place that knows no limits, can never diminish, can have no end.
On the other hand, the whole race of antediluvians who lived in wickedness, became so wicked in the progress of less than a thousand years, that it was absolutely necessary for God to destroy them. This was in a state of probation, a limited period of human existence. But, if, in the space of nine centuries, men will become so depraved on earth, even amidst all restraints and inducements to the contrary, all mercies received, punishments forborne, and obligations of gratitude daily incurring, so depraved that creation must be eased of its burthen by the destruction of the race, what will that depravity be, when its increase goes on in the bosom of eternity, unrestricted, unalleviated, uncombined? The human mind is not adequate fully to form or entertain the dread conception. Change time into eternity, remove restraint, and let despair take the place of hope, and you have simply human wickedness, endlessly progressive, without accompanying pleasure. In every age the wickedness of man needs only eternity to act in, and it constitutes hell.
4. We are all naturally as wicked as the race of mankind destroyed by the deluge. The great wickedness of the antediluvians was principally owing to the multiplication of their years; it was probably no greater than we ourselves should arrive at, if our life were as long as theirs. It is remarkable how scripture answers to scripture in regard to the character of man. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets," said our Lord, through the mouth of Abraham, "neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." We are apt to think that in such or such circumstances, if we had been situated in the place of other men, we should have done very differently. The Jews said so, and perhaps thought so, in regard to the persecution of the prophets, when they were themselves contriving the crucifixion of the Savior; if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. We think it strange that in the very presence of Adam, with one for their teacher that had seen God, with those before them who had walked and talked with angels, had been driven out from Paradise on account of sin, and from personal experience, as well as by the spirit of God, could warn their whole posterity like immediate messengers from heaven, the race of man should become so universally and deeply wicked. It argues great depravity, doubtless, but no greater than that which made the Jews idolaters at the foot of Sinai, no greater than that revealed by the crucifixion of the Messiah, and certainly no greater than that which leads multitudes now, in defiance of God's word, an enlightened conscience, a preached gospel, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit, to persist in the indulgence of their sins, and rush down to per
dition. And doubtless it will be more tolerable for the antediluvian world at the Day of Judgment, than for that world of the ungodly, who, under the preaching of the gospel, reject the Savior from their hearts, and die impenitent.
5. The mere duration of years does not constitute a long life, but the fulfilment of life's purposes. Hoc est vivere bis, vita posse priore frui. It was some distinction to have been the oldest man; it would have been a greater distinction still to have been the wisest man; but a greater than all to have been the holiest man. It is only a well spent life that can be enjoyed over again in the recollection. When Enoch was translated, he had lived longer in living to God, than the whole antediluvian race put together, who lived only for their own pleasure. And so, if Methusaleh had lived but one year like his father, having this testimony, that he pleased God, that little year would have been longer, than all the other nine hundred and sixty-eight years of his life united. No man lives long, who does not live to God's glory; but he who does that, LIVES ETERNALLY. When it is said of such a one he died, it means he began to live. It is true, that the christian then begins life, when the will of God lives in him; but he does never realize the full blessedness and power of that existence, till his soul, unfettered by the body, and no more measuring time by mortal years, has winged its flight where time, and sense, and sin, are known no longer. And so, when a man leaves the world impenitent, he only begins to die; entering upon an eternal existence of positive death. He knows not what death is, till his soul is driven from the body, and has the wages of sin paid to it. He began to die, indeed, to God and all goodness, when he first began to sin; but the completion of that death, the conversion of life into death, and the full realization of its misery, do not commence, till the experience, in eternity, of wickedness without pleasure, duration without time, justice without mercy.
6. There was a time in the life of every ungodly antediluvian, in which his wickedness had reached such a point, his long habits of sin had gained such strength, that all hope of his salvation departed. At such a moment, though long before the close of his mortal career, it might have been said with awful emphasis, he died. It is not probable that there ever was a single death-bed repentance in the world before the flood; for when the passions of men had flowed nine hundred years in a course of rebellion against God, though a man rose from the dead, or an angel stood by the bed-side, it would have had no effect over the departing spirit.
There is probably such a time in the life of every ungodly individual now; a time when man's evil habits have become so confirmed, and his heart so hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, that it is morally impossible he should ever after be converted. The lateness, or the comparative earliness of such a period, depends, doubtless, upon the opportunities of salvation already rejected, the influences of the spirit of God resisted, the revivals of religion passed through untouched, the dealings of God's providence disregarded, and a multitude of circum
stances, of which none but an omniscient Being can be supposed to have cognizance. But if that period were known in heaven, as we have reason to think the repentance of returning prodigals is known, with what compassionate intensity of interest would it be viewed by those ranks of spiritual spectators. The angels, for example, who are watching on errands of mercy in the assemblies of God's people, as they hover over the congregation, and witness the indifference of some, the carelessness of others, the dread insensibility of others, with what awe and mournful shuddering would they mark the plague spot on the soul! Methinks we might almost hear them whispering to each other, as they collect in solemn sadness around such an individual, Our business here is ended: he is dead. And if the awful fact were made legible to others, by some appropriate mark upon the forehead, some brand of spiritual death upon the features, like that which designated Cain, to the fearful gaze of society, what a spectacle would our congregations exhibit!
7. Our subject teaches the danger of religious procrastination. At the beginning of the year, to which God in his mercy has spared us, this lesson comes with unusual solemnity. The habit of procrastination would be dreadfully dangerous, even if life were lengthened out to the farthest period of antediluvian existence; its indulgence would harden a man's heart, and carry him, long before the day of his death, beyond the confines of his day of grace. I believe that the older a man grows, the less he expects to die, and consequently, the more unwilfing he is to prepare for death. This is prodigiously strange and abCertainly, every new year that a man commences, there is a greater probability that in the course of it he will die, than there has been in any previous year of his existence. John Foster has pursued this thought in one of his sermons, in so striking a manner, that I shall apply a part of his language in its enforcement here. Let a man know that a thing which he is to find is in one of a hundred places, if he looks into ten or twenty, and finds it not there, he certainly has a greater probability of finding it in the next than in any former one, because the number is so much less of those in which it may be found. If any event will certainly take place in a hundred days, as one day after another passes away, and it does not take place, there is the greater probability that it will take place in the next. If a person has passed through ninety days, it will be deeply impressed that the next will be the one. Now apply this to life. We know there is one extraordinary event that we are to meet; it is in the number of our days; it must happen soon, it may happen any day; and the more time there has already passed away, the more probably the next day or hour will be the time.
The time must come when we shall meet our God, shall quit these wonted scenes, this earthly tabernacle, shall close this succession of terrestrial days and common events in our existence, and enter an unseen world. The time must come. A great many days in our appointed existence have already passed by, and we have not yet found
the great uncommon event, that is to change our days into eternity. More days have passed with us, than with a great many persons who have already met that event, and been taken from us. They have found it in fewer days than we. This makes it more probable still that we are close upon it. The next place we look in, we may find it. All the days between us and the great day are removing out of the way; as in a journey, the hill once before the traveler, is put behind him; the villages between him and the capital are taken from anticipation and put in retrospection, and every hour he is some miles nearer. So rapidly and certainly we are coming to the day of death.
Now it is a solemn question for some of those who hear me, (it is for us all, but especially for those who have no portion in God.) Does your approach to that day make you feel more sensibly its nearness? As you stand in the opening of a New Year, your eager foot just crossing its first step, is the idea of death, as more probable for you this year than the last, one of the images before your mind, or does the King of Terrors appear to be retreating in the distance? Do you find that the distractions of the world, and the love of its pleasures, and the allurements of sin, lose any of their power as you grow older, and overtake, one after another, the different periods to which you have, from time to time, put off a preparation for eternity? Are you not more fertile in suggesting excuses, and more ingenious in expedients to stifle your conscience, and to blind your soul's moral vision, than you ever were before in any period of your life? Does not your disposition to procrastinate increase in its paralyzing power, with every day in which you continue to indulge it, while at the same time a thicker mist of insensibility envelopes your feelings at every new interval, in which you cast your thoughts over the prospect in eternity? And does not every successive movement of your soul towards its eternal destination, restrict its vision more entirely to the world you are leaving, and cast into more alarming indistinctness the world you are entering? Oh, be wise, and arrest in your own soul the progress of this mighty evil, and to-day cast yourself as a penitent sinner at the foot of the cross, and in Jesus Christ be reconciled to God.
We should feel the value of our days, not so much by the rapidity with which they are passing, though that is a solemn consideration, as by what they are doing for us, what they are laying up in store before us. They are so many rapid messengers, whom we send into eternity beforehand; and we are to meet our days again; we do not, cannot annihilate them. We have only sent them before us, to prepare us a mansion in heaven, or to make us a bed in hell. We shall meet them in eternity, for time is eternal, and even now is waiting in . eternity to bear its testimony in regard to us. O, how solemn is this thought! The soul of time, if I may so speak, travels with our souls into eternity.
Now! It is gone. Our brief hours travel post,
Dear friends, what report shall the hours of this year, which even now have begun their rapid flight, bear from us and for us into the eternal world? Surely we ought all to say with Hezekiah, spared to begin a new year, "I will walk softly before God all my days." May God help us so to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom; so to number our days, that now, henceforward, according to that common, but most meaning phrase, we may, by divine grace, spend them all as we shall wish we had done when we come to die.