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were to happen to any one besides himself, but were a new thing appointed to be his peculiar destiny alone.
Were we from some place of safety to be spectators of the slaughter of thousands on a field of battle, the fall of any one amongst so many, would be observed with indifference; and yet to every one that perished, the circumstance would be one of the same tremendous importance. Each one would, in that moment, experience the conclusion of all the interests and cares of life; each one would then close the account of his
probationary state of existence, and pass into a world, in which either his joys or his sorrows should never cease; and each one, who should have been so inconsiderate as not to have thought of it before, would then, if allowed time for reflection, wish in the agony of his soul, that his whole life had been a preparation for that dreadful hour. Such a field of battle is the world itself, and
a such spectators are we, with this grand difference, that all must eventually be slain, and that we who behold are no more exempted than those who seem most exposed to the danger. Can we therefore look around us with composure, while this work of destruction is going on, and not reflect, as we observe one and the other falling successively out of the scene, that a fatal blow will one day reach us also?. Can the multitudes who die about us render us insensible to our own personal hazard, and harden us against fear, when that very circumstance ought to produce the contrary effect, and make us the more feel our insecurity? And yet that this is generally the case, and that the greater part of men, when in health, and apparently at some distance from their last hour, scarcely think at all of the immense importance of the subject as it relates to themselves in particular, I think I can make evident, by a very simple fact, which must in a certain measure, have fallen under every one's observation, but which is necessarily more frequently obvious to a minister of religion, than to any other. It is this; that the immediate apprehension of death, almost always makes men exceedingly earnest and serious on the subject of religion, very anxious, about the state of their souls, very fearful of the consequences of their sins, very much interested in the prospect of eternity; it thoroughly awakens them to a sense of the utter vanity of life, of the extreme value of God's favour, of the solemn importance of the alternative of heaven or hell hereafter. How few comparatively are in this state of mind, while they imagine that they can calculate on years
to come! and how few comparatively are in any other state of mind, when they have reason to think themselves within a few days of the close of their existence.
Now what does this prove? What but that irreligion chiefly proceeds from thoughtlessness about deatli, and that the bringing of that subject home to our minds has the most certain efficacy in producing religious sentiments ? Oh, that all men were but as much alive to the necessity of religion, as they are, who think themselves at the point of death! We should then see but little of the carelessness and vice which now abound in the world, the preacher would then have but little occasion to exhort and entreat his hearers to think about the salvation of their souls, to study the neglected word of God, to pray for the help of his Holy Spirit, to fly to the Redeemer’s cross for refuge, and to despise the world and its allurements—for all these things men do of their own accord, and without needing admonitions from any other, when death appears close at hand, and prepared to execute his commission.
My brethren, there is not, I think, an individual among you all, however indifferent about these subjects now, however worldly minded, however profane and impious (if there be such a man present), who, if he were sure of dying to-morrow, would not spend the intermediate time in the most anxious state of fear concerning his destiny in a future life. Such information would work a miracle in bis mind immediately; it would in an instant produce an entire change and alteration in his thoughts; it would give a supreme importance to things, of which he has hitherto been perfectly heedless, and which he has scarcely thought worthy of a moment's attention; and it would dissipate and drive away from his bosom at once, all the trifles and follies which now possess it; he would not have a thought to bestow on any subject, but the awful and stupendous truths of religion; it would act, as if by magic, and
eyes of those who do not see, and the ears of those who do not hear, and the hearts of those who do not understand. I say that this would be the certain effect upon every individual, if he were to be informed, upon such authority as he should believe, that he would be summoned out of the world to-morrow, or in a few days, aye or even in a few months—what a new creature he would instantaneously become! How he would condemn the whole of his past life! What a fool he would esteem himself for having never before seen these important matters in their true light! How almost incredible it would appear to him, that he should have lavished all
his former years upon the sins that now upbraid him! And that he should have neglected the concerns of a soul, which now appears to him of more value than the whole world! What a sacred and most serious book would he now think the gospel to be! How clearly would its truth flash - upon his enlightened mind!
What weighty doctrines would he discover in every page! How glorious would seem the prospect of heaven! How dreadful the menaces of hell! How great and fearful a being the God whom he had disregarded! How immensely valuable the short time yet allowed him to endeavour to flee from the wrath to come!
Such would be your thoughts upon the supposition which I have made, of your being positively informed that you had but a few days more to live. All your faculties would be absorbed in
. religious contemplations, and such will be your thoughts, if you are granted time for reflection upon your death beds, however you may thrust them from you, now that you think the hour of death remote. But would this be the death of the righteous, mentioned in my text? Oh no; such a a death is not worthy to be made the subject of a prayer; it is a death to be carefully shunned, and earnestly deprecated—it is the death of the wicked—the death of the unprepared ; not harm