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JOB xxx. 23.
For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house ape
pointed for all living.
ON THE CERTAINTY OF DEATH.
THERE is no truth which the holy scripture more frequently and more warmly inculcates than this, that man is born to die :- the voice of experience loudly proelaims the same, and the language of reason and reflection, if attended to, must undoubtedly bring it home to ourselves-addressing every one of us in the words of the prophet to David, « Thou art the man ;” thou art subject to the universal law; in a very little time thou must resign thy being, and be reduced to the same state with all the preceding ages and nations of the world, which have been successively swept away with the besom of destruction.
The order and frame of nature are big with the seeds of corruption and dissolution, and these bodies of ours are so constructed, that though
we were exempt from the outward accidents by which life is often destroyed, and those inward distempers whose violence every day carries off mankind by thousands, and ten thousands, they would of themselves fade, wither, and die away; the springs of life would by little and little relax, the wheel stand still, motion would utterly cease, and man become a lump of insensible earth.
The certainty and universality of this event then is deducible from the course of nature, and the constitution of our bodies, as well as from the
supreme positive will of God, which, as part of the punishment of sin, has given death a commission to extend its dominion over the whole human race. As this then is a subject in which all of us, and at all times are equally interested, whatever be our station or situation in life, it never can be improper to lead our attention this way, for there is nothing so likely to engage us to live well, as the remembrance that we are one day to die-as it is chiefly owing to a neglect of this awful truth, that we are so indifferent about the great objects which religion offers to our consideration.
It is proposed, then, through the divine assistance, in discoursing from this subject, to consisider death in the following views :-first, as the separation of the soul and body; secondly, as a removal from this world with all its employinents, pleasures, and troubles; thirdly, as the commencement of an eternal state, and then to lead to the practical use of these considerations.
First then, death is the separation of the soul and body. I shall not, at this time, go about to prove either the existence of the human soul, or the immortality of it, independent of, and separatod from the corporeal part, as I am persuaded that every one now hearing me is fully satisfied of the truth of these particulars; and though we are ignorant of the nature and manner of the union which subsists betwixt the two constituent parts of man, that there is in reality such an union, we need little argument to be convinced of, and indeed an union of the closest kind it must be, as we find each of them affected in the most sensible manner with whatever affects the other--the soul taking part in all the sensations of the body, whether pleasurable or painful, and the body in its turn participating in all the emotions and passions of the soul; and so intimate, so tender is their mutual sympathy, that nature is shocked and shrinks back at the thought of separation, and by its strongest principle is unceasa ingly actuated to retard this gloomy eyent. Hence that unremitted care of the soul, to préserve its companion in beauty, in health, in vigour, that tender anxious concern, when it is likely to fall into decay, that pain when it suffers, and that joy when it recovers and revives. Hence, on the other hand, that assiduous tendency of all the bodily senses to procure, and convey pleasure to the soul, and that languor or disquiet which takes possession of it, according as the soul is depressed or violently agitated, so that there is between them a perpetual strife of mutual affection, each aiming at conveying delight. Death then is the dissolution of this union, in consequence of which, the spiritual and corporeal parts of man are wholly disjoined, and indeed very differently disposed of; “ the body returns to the - dust from which it came, and the spirit to God “ who gave it.” The former consideration how humbling, the latter how awful. Those bodies, which we now take so much pains in adorning, cherishing, pampering, will ere long be stretched out pale, ghastly, and loathsome; a clod of common earth, a morsel for the crawling worm--the ceremonies subsequent to death are in their nature awful, and the sight of a funeral is ready to strike a damp into the mind. He must be very insensible who can, unmoved, behold a fellow çreature, one who but the other day was engaged in the same pursuits and views with himself, and who perhaps had as fair prospects of long life and happiness, carried out to his long home, cut off in the midst of his schemes and projects, his hopes blasted, and his designs reduced to nothing. When nature calls upon us to perform the last sad duties to our own departed relations, our feelings must be still more lively and pungent; and if a beloved friend, in whom our soul delighted, claims our sorrow--if affection, as well as duty and humanity, represents death to us as the final separation between us, and what we love as our own souls, we must be still more deeply concerned; but how much more lively must be our emotions, how much more affecting the scene, when we bring the case home to ourselves, when we view ourselves as parties in all the sad solemnities of death, by such reflections as these: “ Yet a little while, and these eyes which « now behold the sun and the moon, and the “ heavens in all their glory, which now are de
lighted with the various beauties which shine “ in the face of nature, shall be closed in the “ darkness and shadow of death; this heart shall
ere long cease to move, these hands and arms “ shall forget their functions, and all the powers “ and faculties of this body be reduced to a
state of inaction; then shall I sleep with the * clods of the valley, and the worms shall feed