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infirmity, which "weakens their strength by the way, and shortens their days." And those even who have no perceptible disease, often find that, unknown to them, the work of death has long been going on within, until, at length, with but little previous warning, they sleep to wake no more; while with others, the hidden chords of life overstrained by sudden or long-continued tension, are in a moment sundered, and the work of death is done.
But, aside from open and hidden bodily infirmity and disease, there is the constant wear and tear of the cares, anxieties, toils, trials, sorrows, disappointments, and sore and oft-repeated bereavements of life. These are more or less rapidly wasting our strength, and hastening our descent to the grave. Thus, true, indeed, is it, that we are ever dying; and, as the poet has said,
"We do but just begin to live,
Death, then, so to speak, is a life-long act, by which, one after another, the golden chords of life are sundered, the mystic harp of a thousand strings is losing its tension and its music, and the hidden fountain of life and strength within is wasting away; while those few pangs, or convulsive sighs and throbs, which mark our closing scene on earth, are but the parting of the last remaining chords of life-the final exhaustion of the wasted and shallow fountain of being and of strength. Thus is life but a living death, and death the close of a dying life.
But still further it is true, that this our dying life, with its closing scene on earth, is but a small part of what is implied in death; and hence it has well been said,—
"Tis not the whole of life to live,
Nor all of death to die.
Beyond this vale of tears,
Unmeasured by the flight of years,
And all that life is love;
There is a death, whose pang
Christians are united, soul and body, to Christ; and as he lives, so shall they live also. "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall come forth; they that have done. good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to theresurrection of damnation." Our Saviour said to the dying thief, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Lazarus was borne of angels to Abraham's bosom, and the rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment, while his five brethren were
yet living on earth. Thus true is it, that for the Christian to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord; while the final sentence of the wicked lingereth not; they are suddenly cut off, and that without remedy.
As the bodily sight grows dim, and the scenes of earth fade away from before it, the eyes of the undying spirit open on the angel messengers of God around, waiting to conduct it to his judgment-seat on high; and, from beside that throne of light, it beholds its home in heaven, or its fearful prison-house below. It is, then, but a small part of death to close the eyes on earth, and sleep in the grave, when compared with the sublime realities, fearful or joyous, which await us in the spirit land.
II. Let us next notice the cause of death. This is sin. Of the forbidden fruit the Most High said to our first parents, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" and from that fatal hour of sin, infirmity and pain began in them the lifelong work of death, which was ended only when they went down to the grave, leaving behind them a like heritage of woe to all their posterity, with the bitter pangs of endless death to those who, while living, fail to make their peace with God. Thus true, indeed, is it that "sin entered into the world, and death by sin;" that "in Adam all die;"-they die, because connected, by natural descent, with him, the sinning and sinful head of our fallen and guilty race.
It is sin, its immediate or more remote effects, which bows in death, and mingles with the dust, all the sons of men. It causes the infant to writhe with convulsive anguish, and exchange the arms of its loving parents for the chill embrace of death. It calls the child from the midst of its joyous sports, to wither away and die. It seizes the youth, strong and vigorous, and bears him, as a helpless victim, to the grave. From the cheek of the maiden, it drives the glow of health, and shades it with the paleness of mortal disease, or lights it up with the hectic flush of decay and death, like the brilliant radiance of the clouds of night, reflected from devouring flames below. It arrests the strong man, toiling and struggling in the eager strife of life, and bows him down beneath the mighty wrestler, Death. It calls the matron, lovely and beloved, from those who bear the impress of her beauty and her grace, from her joyous home, to the cold, dark silence of death. It brings down the grey hairs of the aged patriarch with sorrow to the grave; and calls the lonely widow, neglected and forsaken, to sleep in death with those who have gone before her to the grave. Thus is sin the cause, not of death alone, but of all the infirmity and disease which result in death.
III. As to the universal extent of death, little need be said. With but two exceptions, namely, Enoch and Elijah, all our
sinful race who have preceded us have tasted death, and all who come after us will die, save those who shall be living when the end of the world and the day of judgment shall come. "Death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." "We must all needs die, and be as water spilled upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up."
Thus does Scripture, with the whole history and experience of mankind, alike teach us that death is universal and inevitable. No weakness or fancied purity of infancy; no playfulness or beauty of childhood; no youthful activity and vigor; no manly symmetry and strength; no matronly loveliness and grace; no patriarchal dignity and worth; none, none of these can arrest or withstand the great destroyer, or escape the chill embrace of Death.
IV. Let us next consider the solemn and important fact, that there is a fixed, certain, and appointed time for each one to die. This was peculiarly true of him whose sentence of death is recorded in our text; for not only was it said to him, "This year thou shalt die," but we also read of him, that "he died the same year, in the seventh month." This was his appointed time to die, which he could not pass by; and such a time have all the race of man. Hence Job truly says, "Is there not an appointed time to man upon the earth? Are not his days also like the days of an hireling? His days are determined; the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass."
Death, in his ceaseless and fearful ravages, passes by no one, when his time has come. The infant in its cradle, in cottage, or in palace, is not hidden from the great destroyer, nor beyond his reach. The youth, fleet and active, cannot elude nor escape him. The wanderer on the trackless desert, the wild man in the forest's depths, and the seaman far away upon the ocean, are not beyond his range or reach. The strong man armed yields to a stronger than he from whom he flies, and with whom he strives in vain. The aged and infirm quickly sink beneath his chill embrace; nor can the smiles of beauty, or the tears of affection, or of anguish, stay his icy hand, or touch his strong heart.
Thus is there, to each of the guilty race of man, an appointed time to die, so surely fixed, and certain, that, when it comes, die he must, and die he will. This is true of each one of us ;-of the speaker, and of every hearer. There is, in the mind and book of God, a given year, and month, and week, and day, and hour, and minute, in which each one of us must die; nor can we avoid it, or pass it by. Each fleeting year brings us so much the nearer to that appointed time. Each month we live lessens the number of our months on earth. Each week hurries us onwards in the race of life. Every day, and hour, and moment, is bearing
us rapidly along towards our final home. Each fleeting breath and beating pulse is a silent signal of our descending progress to the grave; and, as their number lessens, with what watchful care should we guard each advancing footstep, that we err not from the path of life, nor fall to rise no more amid the perils of the second death.
V. Let us next inquire when the hour of death will come to us and to others, as suggested by the words of our text, "This year thou shalt die." And here it is evident that it may, with truth, be said to vast numbers of our race, at the beginning of any passing year, "This year thou shalt die;" for each breath we breathe, and every beating pulse of ours, notes the dying pang of some one of our fallen race; and thus, in but little more than thirty years, a whole generation of men, of nearly one thousand millions, go down to the darkness of the grave.
Thus busy, thus ceaseless, thus unrelenting, is the great destroyer, Death; and O! of how many, of all ages, and of every rank and condition in life, may it now be truly said, "This year thou shalt die!" and this, too, though most of them are looking for many years on earth. Not a few of this number will also be those who had the least reason to think that death was nigh. They will be the most healthy and vigorous, with most of early or of ripened promise; of present joy, and future hope in life those who have much to bind them to earth, and, comparatively, but little, it may be, to remind them of death and the grave.
Humble child of poverty and want, in thy cold and hunger, thy wretchedness and rags, death shall this year come to thy relief; to take thee from thy home of woe to Him who preached the Gospel to the poor, and was himself so poor, he had not where to lay his head.
Fair and lovely infant, cradled in luxury, and cared for as a treasured jewel of the heart, death shall come and seize thee in his chill embrace, shall bear thee to the tomb, and weeping, bleeding hearts shall deeply mourn their loss.
Glad and playful child, with thy sunny face and flowing locks, "This year thou shalt die!" Sickness shall dim thine eye, make pale thy blooming cheeks, waste thy lovely form, and stop thy fragrant breath; and, decked with fading flowers, thou shalt sweetly sleep in death.
Lovely and beloved youth, in the glad morning of life, full of joy and hope; the fond idol of many hearts; the strong and beautiful staff on which hoary-headed age hoped to lean, and thus to stay its tottering footsteps in its descending pathway to the grave, thou, too, must bend and break beneath the mighty hand of Death; and in thy fall, thou shalt bring down with thee the grey hairs of those who loved thee with sorrow to the
Fair and blooming maiden, with the glow of health and beauty on thy cheek, "This year thou shalt die !" The hectic flush of disease on thy face shall be the signal flag of death to those who love thee. That brightly beaming eye, that blush of beauty and decay, glowing with mingled radiance and splendor on thy cheek, mark thee as a bridal offering in a brighter, purer world than this, with Death, as a friendly guide, to lead thee thither,aye, to the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven.
Young man, active and vigorous, with beaming eye and elastic step, full of life and hope, and looking forward to many happy, active years on earth, this year death shall lay thee low. Among thine own kindred, in thy peaceful home, shalt thou lie down and die; or far away, among strangers, shalt thou sleep in death; or the tempest blast shall bear thee from the wave-washed deck, or lofty yard, or broken spar; or the burning ship shall drive thee to an ocean grave.
Man of massive frame and iron strength and hardness, of towering height and manly symmetry and grace, the strong man armed, the King of Terrors, shall claim thee as his own. Like the flowering tree of the forest, stately and fragrant, which the wild tornado bows before it, so shalt thou fall, and mingle with thy native dust.
Man of enterprise and wealth, rising early and sitting up late, watching and toiling at all the avenues of gain; mingling with the eager throng which crowd the temple of mammon, or rush along the thoroughfares of commerce,-Death shall overtake thee, or meet thee by the way. Thy hoarded wealth cannot bribe him, or purchase thy release. Thy ships, swiftly sailing, cannot bear thee beyond his reach. In the midst of thy hopeful schemes of enterprise and gain, thou shalt sicken and die. Thy face shall no more be seen, nor thy voice be heard, in the busy exchange, or along the crowded streets. Those who knew thee not shall take thy place; and soon they, too, shall follow thee to darkness and the grave.
Lowly son of poverty and pain,-humble follower of Him who had not where to lay his head,-Death shall not pass thee by, but, as a welcome messenger, shall come, to call thee from thy lowly dwelling, to a heavenly home, made more delightful to thee from its contrast with thy sufferings on earth, and all thy wants and woes below.
Fair matron, with thy husband by thy side, and lovely children clinging to thee; like some fair flower of suinmer, in its full maturity of fragrance and of beauty, which droops and withers amid the rising plants around, so soon to take its place; so shalt thou fade away and die, leaving the image of thy loveliness and beauty enstamped on those thou dost leave behind thee.
Aged pilgrim in life's weary way, "This year thou shalt die!" No longer shalt thou move amid those who know thee not, a