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Death often sudden, and in an evil time.
ECCLES. ix. 12.
For man also knoweth not his time; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it fülleth suddenly upon them.
HESE words, as we have already observed, suggest to us, The uncertainty of the time of our death.
The secret manner of its approach. And
The impossibility of escape, when the snare falls. IV. The next thing here suggested, is the suddenness of death. "The snare falleth suddenly up
There are several senses, in which death may be called sudden.
1. It is sudden, when it surprises mortals without previous warning; or at a time, when they have no special reason to expect it.
We have general warning of death at all times. But there are cases in which it comes without particular notice, either from the state of the body, or
from visible external circumstances. Such are most cases of casualty by falls, wounds, lightning and drowning. Besides cases of this kind, there are many diseases, whose fatal effects are as sudden and inevitable as those of casualty. From one cause and another a considerable proportion of mankind die in a manner, which we call sudden. They are taken as the fishes are caught in a net, and the birds in a snare. Among my own people about one eighteenth part of the deaths have been by casualty, though not all these instantaneous; and many have died as suddenly by disease.
Undoubtedly one principal reason, why providence appoints so many sudden deaths is, that all may hold themselves in readiness. If no deaths were sudden, none would be expected. If all were sudden, they would become too familiar to produce any moral effect. Who more regardless of death, than soldiers in an army? And who see more sudden deaths? In the ordinary course of providence, deaths are diversified in a manner well adapted to awaken mens' attention to, and preparation for their This is the language of scripture and of reason; "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." "Go to, ye who say, Today or tomorrow, we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow; for what is your life? It is even a vapour, which continueth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that. But now ye rejoice in your boasting. All such rejoicing is evil." The folly of such boasting our Lord reproves in the parable of the rich man, who, having laid up goods for many years, said to his soul, "Take thine ease, eat drink and be merry ;" But in the midst of his flattering and delusive prospects,
he received the solemn sentence of approaching death. "This night shall thy soul be required of thee." We are commanded to watch, because we know not the hour when our Lord will come.
2. Death, though gradual in its real approach, may be sudden in regard to the work of preparation.
To accomplish this effectually, there must be a review of life, an examination of heart, an attention to the calls and promises of the Gospel, a sorrow for and resolution against sin, and a humble application to the mercy of God through the Saviour, who died to redeem a guilty race. In order to such exercises, there must be reason in the head, calmness in the mind, and sensibility in the heart. But how common is it that disease extinguishes them all, and introduces delirium, distress or stu pidity.
Besides; In those capable of consideration, the thoughts often take an unhappy turn. When they view eternity opening before them, and reflect on their past abuse of divine grace and patience, their consciences are affrighted at the magnitude of their guilt, and their souls amazed at the nearness of their danger. And though they see their dependence on God's mercy, they hardly dare to place confidence in it, or make application to it. While they suffer God's terrors, they are distracted.
3. The scripture speaks of some, 66 who, after their hard and impenitent heart, treasure up wrath against the day of wrath,"-of some, "who in the greatness of their folly go astray, are holden in the cords of their sins, and die without instruction,”— of some, "who being often reproved harden their necks, and are destroyed suddenly and without remedy."
Now there is little more reason to hope for. the repentance of such persons in a time of sickness, than for the repentance of those who are remov
ed by a violent casualty. Could the sinner be assured that death, when it came, would approach him with lingering steps, he could from hence draw no reasonable encouragement for the delay of repentance, unless he could also be assured of a sound mind, a tender heart, and a supporting hope.
Death is always sudden, when it is unexpected. To them who cry, Peace and safety, sudden destruction comes. Sodom had warning, but did not regard it; therefore it is said to have been destroyed suddenly, as in a moment. It is not the previous notice of an event, but attention to that notice, which prevents a surprize. You deprecate a sudden death. Tell me, why? You say, Because this will allow you no time for preparation. Beware then, lest you make your death sudden by neglecting preparation, while you have time. It is not the manner in which death comes, but the manner in which you live before it comes, that endangers your souls. If you live in the temper and practice of religion, a sudden death cannot hurt you. If you live in the opposite temper and practice, a slow death will not secure you.
You say, you wish for warning of death by previous sickness, that you may prepare for death by sincere repentance. But for this great work, is not health better than sickness-reason better than distraction-ease better than pain? Attend then to the work, while you have these advantages. When you say, sickness may be a useful warning of death, you acknowledge death to be certain, and preparation necessary. And what warning do you need? Why do you wish to be painfully admonished of an event which you already know, when that very admonition which you wish for, will place you under great disadvantages, for the work which you contemplate? Improve the warnings which you have, and the other will not be needful. If you neglect the former, the other, I fear, will come in vain.
If you knew, you were to live a given time; say three or four years, would you pray, that some of the last months of that time might pass in pain of body, and anguish of mind? No: You would think it more desirable to enjoy health to the last, that you might be in a better capacity to prepare for death. And is it not for the same reason, equally desirable to enjoy health to the last, though you know not how long you shall live? Be wise, attend to your duty, and you need not fear a sudden death. It is your own folly, which makes the last severe warning needful; and the same folly may defeat the warning, when it is given. The blessedness of Christ's servants depends not on the time of his coming, but on the manner of their waiting. He may come, when they think not; but if, when he comes, he shall find them doing his will, all is well; he will approve them as faithful, and pronounce them happy. The only way to prevent death from being sudden, is to live every day in readiness for it.
V. Our last observation is, that the snare of death falls on some in an evil time.
1. Death comes in an evil time to those, whom it finds too deeply immersed in the cares of the world.
We cannot entirely disconnect ourselves with the world, until we go out of it. We have bodies to sustain, families to support and friends to serve. Every man has, or ought to have some honest calling, and in this to abide. It is a precept of the gospel, "Study to be quiet, and do your own business." A man who is not attentive to some business of his own, is seldom quiet himself, or content to leave others so. We must not imagine, that abstraction from the occupations of the world is necessary to our preparation for heaven. No man goes to heaven in idleness. This is a vice in itself, and a source of many other vices. But our Sav VOL. I. A a a