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pose themselves, or are supposed by others, to be the most useful and necessary. Though men would make usefulness the law of mortality, yet God makes this no rule in preserving or destroying their lives. He can let his enemies live, and take away the lives of his friends, at any time, in any place, in any situation, and in any crisis, however apparently critical and important. And by thus holding all his instruments in his sovereign hand, and preserving or destroying them at his pleasure, he exhibits his own power, wisdom and sovereignty; and, at the same time, sets the folly, and weakness, and dependence of all human agents, in the most clear and instructive light. To answer this purpose, he says, he raised up and destroyed the king of Assyria. " Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and upon Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, by the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” It becomes the great Governor of the world, to make men feel their dependence and his supremacy. And to produce this conviction in the minds of the wise, and prudent, and mighty, nothing can be better adapted than to let them all know that, though they are gods, they shall die like men, and that he can carry on his own designs without their counsels or exertions.

2. God may conceal the order of death from the view of mortals, to make them know and feel that he can do what he pleases with them; or dispose of them and all their interests, for time and eternity, according to the counsel of his own will. As all the interests of men depend upon life, so God by disposing of life, necessarily disposes of all their interests, for time and eternity. And by ihus holding them tenants at will, he clearly shows them that they have nothing which they can call their

own, for one future moment. Had he only let them know when, or where, or how he would call for his own, they would have felt themselves independent and secure, till the certain period of death arrived. But by discovering no order in dying, he holds them all in constant suspense, and doubtful expectation, and gives them an opportunity of doing what many would neglect, did they but know the limits of life. The uncertainty of dying creates a hope of living, and the hope of living animates men in all their pursuits. How many have been at the pains and expense of acquiring knowledge, or of accumulating property, or of cultivating fields, or of building houses, or of discharging the most arduous duties of public life, who would have had no heart nor inclination to do such great and useful things, had they only known the number of their days!

The irregularity of death, or the total uncertainty of the time, and place, and manner of its coming, gives God an opportunity to overrule all the prospects and purposes of men, in subserviency to his own wise and holy designs. He means to make men, whether willing or unwilling, the instruments of promoting his own glory; and to answer this important purpose, he wisely holds their lives in constant suspense.

3. God may discover no order in death, to convince mankind that they can do nothing without him. The uncertain approach of death spreads uncertainty over all human hopes, expectations and designs. Men may appoint, but death may disappoint. Hence all mankind are obliged, in point of prudence as well as of duty, to ask God's leave whether they shall go to any particular place, or accomplish any particular purpose. For it is only if the Lord will, that they shall live, and do this or that. Without divine preservation and direction, they can do nothing. The young have no ground to depend upon themselves, nor the aged upon the young. The strong have no ground to depend upon themselves, nor the weak upon the strong. Uncertain death destroys all ground of dependence upon those whose breath is in their nostrils, and whose lives are in the sovereign hand of God. Hence that seasonable and solemn admonition of the Psalmist : “ Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth : in that very day his thoughts perish." By not knowing the order of death, the child cannot afford his presence

and aid to his dying parent, nor the parent afford his presence and aid to his dying child. The friend cannot succor his friend in distress, nor the dearest relatives mutually comfort and relieve each other. The uncertainty of death throws all the world into the hands of God, and is suited to make them realize a truth which they are so unwilling to believe and feel, that they are but the clay, and God is the potter. I may add,

4. God undoubtedly designs, by concealing the order of death, to teach mankind the propriety and importance of being constantly prepared for it. This mode of conduct is wisely and mercifully calculated to make dying creatures feel and act like dying creatures. Were they acquainted with the order of death, many would be more disposed than they now are, to put far away the evil day, and be less concerned about meeting the king of terrors. But now when they all stand upon a level in respect to dying, and they know not who shall be called first, or last, they are loudly admonished to take care of themselves, and live in constant preparation for an event so infinitely interesting to themselves, and to all with whom they are connected. They have no ground to boast of to-morrow, and postpone a preparation for death till a more convenient season. Every instance of mortality is like the boy at Philip's ear, bidding them to be also ready. By sending death without any order, God solemnly calls upon all men, in all circumstances, to set their souls in order, and stand prepared to meet Death who is on his way to call them out of time into eternity.

It now remains to improve the subject.

1. Does God act as a wise and holy sovereign in destroying the bodies of sinners ? and will he not act as a wise and holy sovereign in destroying their souls? Do we see him actually execute the sentence of temporal death ? and shall we not believe that he will as infallibly execute the sentence of eternal death? Does he not appear to consult his own glory, rather than the feelings of sinners, in stripping them of all their worldly pleasures and enjoyments, and in consigning their bodies to the dreary grave? And can we suppose that he will pay any more regard to their hopes and fears, in appointing their portion among the miserable spirits in prison? Though he knows that death is the king of terrors to the wicked, yet he does not exempt them from its fatal stroke. He plainly tells them, that if they abuse his patience, kindness, and mercy in this world, it will aggravate their future and eternal misery. There is an inseparable connection between the first and second death of sinners. The day of their decease is the day of their destruction. The moment they go into eternity, they lift up their eyes in torment. Who can hear what God himself says to dying and despairing sinners, and yet entertain the least gleam of hope that they will find mercy beyond the grave? “ Because I have called, and ye refused ; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh ; when your fear comeih as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you: Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.”

2. If neither the word nor providence of God discovers any order in death, it is extremely unwise and dangerous to observe any order in preparing for eternity. But multitudes of our mortal race are guilty of this dangerous presumption. They

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place some in the rank of the living, and some in the rank of the dying. And though they expect to die, and intend to prepare for death, yet they imagine they may safely neglect, till age, infirmity, or sickness place them in the rank of the dying. This is the order in which thousands and thousands resolve to prepare for eternity; and it is next to impossible to convince them of the folly and danger of their presumption. If the young are admonished to remember their Creator in the days of their youth, and to prepare for the hour of death, they despise the admonition as altogether impertinent and unseasonable. In their apprehension, it belongs in order to the aged, and not to the youth, to prepare for their approaching dissolution. They verily think the time will come, when order and propriety will require them to prepare for their great and last change; but for the present, " they only wish, as duteous sons, their fathers were more wise.” The same presumption will not allow the strong and the healthy, the rich and the prosperous, to number their days aright, and apply their hearts to wisdom. In their view, order requires the weak and infirm, the poor and the impatient of life, to consider and prepare for their latter end. They mean to prepare to leave this agreeable and delightful world, in a future, more proper, and more convenient

Though death be without any order, yet they resolve to observe order in preparing to meet it. But is not this the most dangerous and criminal folly in dying creatures, who are liable every moment to be called into eternity ? How can they be so unwise and stupid as to imagine that death will obey them rather than God? How can they hope to prosper, while they are hardening themselves against the Almighty ? God solemnly forewarns such delaying sinners, that he will surely disappoint their presumptuous hopes and resolutions. “ Judgment will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand."

3. If death is coming to all men, and coming without any order, then it equally concerns all to live a holy and religious life. Every one of the living is constantly walking on the side of the grave, and knows not but the next step he takes will fix him in eternity. It is, therefore, extremely dangerous for any individual in this dying world, to remain a single moment in a state of nature, which is a state of alienation from God. Death may come in a day, or an hour, totally unexpected; and should it come unexpectedly to the unholy and impenitent, it would completely destroy them; for there is no offer of mercy, or space of repentance, beyond the grave. Those who live in

impenitence and unbelief are as much exposed to the death of the soul, as to the death of the body; and did they only realize their exposedness to temporal death, they would equally realize their danger of eternal destruction. A holy and penitent heart lays the only foundation for a safe and peaceful death. Nothing can support a rational and immortal soul in the near and full view of eternity, but a well-grounded hope of the everlasting favor and enjoyment of God. Who will deny that religion is infinitely important to one, as well as another, in a dying hour ? When a violent and mortal disorder seized the man whose remains are before us, how much did he need a pious preparation for a future and blessed immortality? And who, whether young or old, whether rich or poor, whether strong or weak, can place themselves in the same trying situation, without feeling the solemn importance of making their peace with God, and securing the salvation of their souls ? Since every one is going the way of all the earth, it equally concerns every one, to walk in that strait and narrow path, which leads to everlasting life.

4. If God discovers no order in death, then he discovers no order in life. As he gives us no reason for his taking away the lives of some, so he gives us no reason for his preserving the lives of others. In both cases, he equally acts as an absolute and incomprehensible sovereign. Many, however, seem to suppose that they can discover plain and important reasons for his conduct towards the living, though they cannot account for his conduct towards the dead. They imagine that youth, and health, and strength, and usefulness, are the reasons of their being preserved, while others have fallen around them on every side. But all these reasons once plead as powerfully in favor of the dead, as they now do in favor of the living. Who, therefore, can tell why one infant is left, while another is taken? or why one man in high health and activity is spared, while another is cut down ? or why one amiable and useful character is allowed to live, while another no less amiable and useful is laid in the grave? The oldest person on earth cannot give a reason why he did not die in infancy, or in childhood, or in any period or circumstance of life in which others have died. The living are a wonder to themselves. They can assign no reason why they have not before now, been numbered with the dead. They are the monuments of God's sparing, distinguishing and sovereign mercy. It is because he is God, and not man, that he has preserved them amidst the arrows of death, which have been continually flying around them. And as their past preservation has been entirely owing to the sovereign mercy of God, so they have nothing to secure

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