페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER IX.

The third remedy against the Fears of Death, is, to con

sider that God hath ordained the time and manner of our death.

WE are either hypocrites, who draw nigh unto God with our mouths, and honour him with our lips, while our heart is far from him, Matth. xv. 8; or we must desire the accomplishment of the will of God, and resign ourselves to it without murmuring ; for every day we say unto him in our prayers, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven, Matth. vi. 10. Whence it follows, that we cannot have death in abhorrence, nor fly from itin a cowardly manner, if we are firmly persuaded, as we ought to be, that God has appointed the time, and ordained the manner of our death. In truth, our complaints of death are generally occasioned by our having our eyes too much fixed below, and by the too great deference we pay to second causes. We are like a dog that bites the stone that strikes him; for we curse the means which God employs to remove us from the world.

Now, it is easy to show, that God hath numbered our days; and that, in the eternal counsel of his adorable wisdom, he hath decreed the hour and moment of every man's death. For, besides what our Saviour Jesus Christ saith in general, “ That God hath put in his “own power the times and the seasons,” Acts i. 7. Job expressly tells us, “The days of man are determined, the numberof his months are with thee; thou hast appointe

sed his bounds that he cannot pass,” Job xiv. 5. The royal prophet speaks to the same purpose in the 31st Psalm, “ I trusted in thee, O Lord : I said, Thou art my “God ; my times are in thy hand,” ver. 14, 15. He expresses himself to the same sense in psalm xxxix. “Be

hold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth," ver. 5 ; and in psalnı lxviii.“ Unto God the Lord, belong “the issues from death,” ver. 20. The prophet Moses likewise teaches us the same lesson, in his divine song; where he represents to us, that it is God who reduces man to ashes, and maketh him return to his first origipal: “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men,” Psal. xc. 3.

King Hezekiah's comparison is very remarkable. He compares the life of man to a piece of cloth, which God hath weaved, and cuts off at his pleasure, “Mine age is "departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: “I have cut off like a weaver my life : he will cut me off “ with pining sickness : from day even till night wilt thou “make an end of me,” Is. xxxviii. 12. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, leaves no room for a doubt: “ The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down " to the grave, and bringeth up,”1 Sam. ji. 6. And nothing can be more express to our purpose than these words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell, and of death, Rev. i. 18. This great Lord and Saviour shutteth the gates of the grave when he pleaseth ; and it is not possible to open them against his will. In short, whether we live, we live unto the Lord ; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord : whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's, Rom. xiv. 8.

Reason also, enlightened by revelation, teaches as the same good and salutary lesson : for if God presides over the conception and birth of man, and appoints the time of our entrance into the world, why should he not also preside over our death, and point out the time of our departure? The Royal Prophet speaks thus to God :

My substance was not hid from thee when I was made “in secret and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of “the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance yet being “imperfect, and in thy book all my members were writ“ten, which in continuance were fashioned; when as yet “there was none of them," Psal. cxxxix. 15, 16. But, in my opinion, we may say to him, in much stronger terms, The scattering of my bones shall not be hid from thee, when this miserable body shall fall in pieces as rotten wood, or a moth-eaten garment; thine eyes shall see me, when death shallcut off the thread of my life, and separate what thou hast joined together with such admirable wisdom ; thy providence shallwatch over my last moments; and nothing shall happen unto me, but what thou hast ordained, from the beginning, in thy secret counsel.

If God decrees the time of our resurrection, and if without his express command his spirit will not breathe upon our dry bones, to cause them to live, Ezek. xxxvii. is it in the least probable, that our breath should depart from our nostrils, and that our body should fall into the bed of corruption, without the express order of the great and living God ? He who hath appointed their course to the sun, moon and stars, that shine in the firmament, hath he not also appointed his children their course, who are to shine forever before him, as bright stars, in the new heavens, where righteousness does forever dwell? fle who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span; who hath weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance, Is. xl. 12 ; who hath stretched out the earth with a plummet, and set bounds to the sea; hath he not also meted out to us the measure of our life, and marked its last period with his finger? He who hath numbered the kingdoms of Heathen princes, hath he not also numbered the days in which he will please to reign here below in our hearts by his Holy Spirit? And hath he not appointed the time when we shall ascend up to the heaven of heavens, to reign in the kingdom of his glory?

If God numbers the hairs of our head, how much more will he number the days of our life ; and if a sparrow falls not to the ground without his permission, Matth. x. 29, 30, how is it possible that a soul should take its flight to heaven without his order? He who putteth our tears in his bottle, Psal. lvi. 8; who writeth our afflictions in his book, and keepeth an account of all our sorrows, shall he not also keep an account of the life and death of men; and hath he not writ in his book the days which we are to spend in this vale of tears? He who knoweth thy down-sitting and thy up-rising, who compasseth thy path and thy lying down, Psal. cxxxix. 2, 3. Hath he not also observed thy rising at thy birth, the way of thy life, and thy lying down at thy death ?

In short, if it is true, that God, in his infinite wisdom, hath ordained how long this world shall continue, it is no less certain, that he hath also prescribed bounds and limits to the life of man, who is the little world, and a compendium of the great one.

As our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ teaches us, that no man by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature, Matth. vi. 27: so we find by experience, that all our care and industry never will be able to add one year, no, not one day, nor even so much as a single moment, to the duration of our life.

If life and death were not in the hand of God, there would be nothing settled or constant, either in the kingdom of the earth, or in the Church of Christ. The prophets would be often convicted of grievous errors, and elections from eternity would, in a manner, be totally abolished; for the most weighty affairs of kingdoms depend upon the lives of their princes; and the death of one man is sufficient to overturn an empire or to change entirely the face of affairs. If Alexander the Great had been destroyed in his cradle, what would have become of the prophecy of Daniel, who represents to us the glorious victories this prince should obtain over Darius king of the Medes and Persiaps, by the emblem of an he-goat that runs against a ram in the fury of his power, breaks his two horns, and stamps upon him with his feet ? Dan. viii. 7. And if Cyrus had died before he had made himself master of the kingdom of Babylon, how would Isaiah's prophecy have been accomplished, who not only points out this young conqueror in the most lively colours, but also calls him expressly by his name, and engraves these words of him in the eyes of the sun, an hundred and fourscore years before he was born: “I have said of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and “shall perform all my pleasure, even saying to Jerusa“lem, Thou shalt be built ; and to the temple,. Thy “ foundation shall be laid ?" Is. xliv. 28.

Had the devil had power to have taken away St. Paul's life before his journey to Damascus, on which he was converted by a glorious miracle, Acts ix. how could the decree of God have been fulfilled, who separated him from his mother's womb, Gal. i. 15; to make

« 이전계속 »