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NATIONAL PREACHER .
FROM LIVING MINISTERS OF THE UNITED STATES.
EDITED BY REV. J. M. SHERWOOD.
PUBLISHED BY J. V. PETTIS,
120, NASSAU STREET.
• Funeral Sermon of the late Dr. Porter, Catskill, N.Y.
“ It is appointed unto men once to die.”—HEBREWS 9: 27.
The fact asserted in this text is admitted by all; but how few appear to feel its practical influence. Who would infer from the conduct and conversation of most meu, that they believed themselves to be mortal, or that they expected anything less than that their residence on earth is to be perpetual? They live as carelessly, plan as confidently, and pursue the world with as much eagerness, as if they were exempted from change, and could set at defiance the attacks of disease and death. Yet they must die-must die soon, and may die suddenly; and after death cometh the judgment. This is the appointment of God, and in this war there is no discharge. It is wise, then, to consider our latter end, to be familiar with the thought of dying, often and seriously to consider what will be our feelings and views when we shall come to lie upon our death-bed, and feel that we are going into eternity. This is a duty which especially demands our attention now, as we have just taken leave of the olckyear, and are entering upon the unknown, untried scenes of a new one, which, to some of us, no doubt, will be the last year of life.
Let us, then, endeavor to bring the closing scene near, to think of ourselves as having reached the end of our earthly course, and about to take our final leave of the world and all its busy cares. The question arises, what, in such a case, would be our feelings, what the reflections that would press upon our minds with the greatest weight and solemnity? 'We may, indeed, die so suddenly, that we shall have no time to think till we think
ILP NICH 23 JAN 1907
in eternity. We may drop in a moment into the unseen world, as many do, without any warning of our end, till the blow is struck, and the spirit finds itself in the immediate presence of God. Or the last sickness may come in such a form as to rack the body with agonizing pain, put out the light of reason, and cloud the mind in wild delirium. But on supposition that we shall be notified of our approaching end by the usual precursors of death, and that the dying scene shall find us in the exercise of our reason, capable of reflecting upon the past, and anticipating the future, let us inquire how we shall feel, what will be our judgment as to our present course of life, and what our thoughts, as we draw near the invisible world, and know that we are standing on the verge of a boundless eternity. We cannot, indeed, know all that we shall feel and think in that solemn hour. It will be to each of us a new and untried scene, till we are actually called to pass through it, and learn from dying what it is to die. But it is certain we shall feel and think very differently from what we now do. On many subjects our views will
. be wholly changed; they will appear to us in an entirely new light, and awaken new feelings within, of which we can now form but a very faint conception. We know this from the nature of the case, and also from the feelings and views which are wont to be expressed by men when they come to die. We have seen many persons die, and we have authentic accounts of the manner in which many others died whom we did not see. Let us, then, study the experience of the dying. It is the last school of wisdom to which the children of men can be advanced; and as we shall all ere long be placed in that school, let us recall a few particulars respecting which the feelings and sentiments of men are wont to undergo a great change as they view themselves near to the close of life. As I shall illustrate the subject by a frequent recurrence to what persons have felt and said in that situation, I may entitle my discourse-CONFESSIONS OF DY
1. In the first place, when men come to die, they are wont to feel, with a vividness of impression wholly unknown before, the shortness of life, and the unspeakable value of time. Viewed in prospect, or in the season of health and happiness, life usually seems long, and time is but little valued. To the young, a year is wont to appear longer than a whole life does to him who is about to depart out of it; and time hangs so heavily on their hands that they know not what to do with it. And even when they have attained to the meridian of their days, and their sun is on the decline, they usually have but a very faint impression of the shortness of life, or of the immense value of the hours that are fitting by them. Especially is this the case with the irreligious and worldly-minded. Immersed in the cares and
pursuits of earth and sense, they perceive not how rapidly the Iittle span of life is wasting away, nor how soon all the time allotted them in this state of probation will have passed with the years beyond the flood. They still live under the delusive im. pression that they have time enough before them to accomplish all their plans, and to do what they please.
But when they come to die, the whole scene is changed. Life is then seen to be indeed but a vapor, that appeareth for a little moment, and then vanisheth away. All the months and years they have passed on earth are then compressed, as it were, inte a point, and seem more like a dream than a reality. Hear how the worthies, whose names are recorded in the Bible, spoke on this subject, as they approached the close of life. “My days,
are swifter than a post, they are passed away as a shadow." “Remember how short thy time is,” cries the Psalmist. "Behold thou hast made my days as a handbreadth, and mine
age is as nothing before thee; as for man, his days are as grass; in the morning it is green; in the evening it is cut down and withered.”. And the patriarch Jacob, though he had lived an hundred and thirty years, felt constrained to say, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.”
Such'are the feelings of all men at the close of life. It seems but a transient moment, and the events of it as a dream when one awaketh. Lord Chesterfield, though a skeptic, and devoted to a life of pleasure, was compelled to say, near the close of his days, "When I reflect upon what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, myself, I can hardly persuade myself that all the frivolous hurry and bustle and pleasure of the world are a reality; but they seem to have been the dreams of restless nights.” Voltaire, after having spent a long life in blaspheming the Saviour, and opposing his Gospel, said to his physician on his dying-bed, "I will give you half of what I am worth, if
you will give me six months of life.” “O, time! time !" exclaimed the dying Altamont, “how art thou fled forever. A month! oh, for a single week! I ask not for years, though an age were too little for the much I have to do." Said Gibbon, "The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more, and my prospect of futurity is dark and doubtful.” Hobbes said, as the last hour approached, “If I had the whole world to dispose of, I would give it to live one day.” “Oh!" cried the Duke of
. Buckingham, as he was closing a life devoted to folly and sin, "what a prodigal have I been of the most valuable of all possessions, time! I have squandered it away with the persuasion that it was lasting; and now, when a few days would be worth a hecatomb of worlds, I cannot flatter myself with the prospect of half a dozen hours."
You see from these examples what are the impressions of dy