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THE HOUSE OF MOURNING.
ECCLES. vii. 2.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting ; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart.
You may remember, my brethren, that the subject on which I last addressed you, was the great uncertainty of life, and the consequent necessity of preparing for death. It seems almost, (nor do I know why it may not without presumption, be believed) as if there were a providential design that led to the selection of that particular subject at the very time when it was about to be so strikingly illustrated, as it since has been, within the observation of all who heard the re
marks then made. For since that period, no less than four individuals have been called into the other world from the little society assembled together within the walls of our town; and in the very week that is past, four times have our streets exhibited the solemn spectacle of a funeral procession, attending the remains of the dead to the grave, which is “the end of all men.” Nor is it unworthy of remark, that each of the four
ages into which human life is commonly divided, has furnished its own example to enforce the great lesson of mortality which God has thus set before our eyes. Infancy, youth, manhood, and old age, have sent each a victim from its own class, thus combining, as it were, with one consent, to press upon our minds the important admonition, that life in every stage is insecure. Oh, blind must be our eyes, if we do not perceive our danger, and hardened our hearts, if we do not provide against it! What young persons will now tell me that they have a long life in prospect, when they have seen the joyous days of youth so speedily brought to a close? What healthy persons will now dare calculate on the warning of a protracted sickness, when within our sight the most established health was unable to contend even for one little week with the messenger of death? When but a few Sundays ago, both the
persons to whom I now more especially allude, formed part of the congregation met to worship God and to hear his word in this very chapel. If you had been asked to point out whọ of all the number would first die, and how soon, you would scarcely have selected any two, on whom, according to human probability, it would have seemed less likely that the lot would fall so speedily. What follows? Why that every one here present at this moment, is in the very same uncertainty with regard to the termination of his life, as they were ; that the very next sabbath may see us again diminished by the hand of death; and that no one of us can say, “This night I shall sleep in peace, to-morrow I shall awake in health, my soul shall not as yet be required of me;" for it is in every respect as likely that the funeral bell should toll in a few days for myself or any one of you, as a very little while ago it was that those two of our neighbours, whom now we miss, should in one week have been consigned to the grave, and that their place in this congregation should know them no more.
Shall we be so unwise, my brethren, as not to profit by these warnings ? Shall we just make our general reflections on the insecurity of life, and forget the personal application with which they ought to be pressed upon our own hearts?
Shall we feel as if we were secure spectators of events that happen to others, and verify by our own folly that too well-founded observation, that "all men think all men mortal but themselves?" We may be cut off at a moment that we least expect: surely we know this, or our own treacherous memories will not serve us for a day.
But now comes the important question. Do we know all this to any purpose? Is our knowledge of any practical use? Or, assured as we are of the insecurity of life, do we still live as if it could never elude our grasp? Do we live warily and circumspectly, as men who are waiting for the coming of their Lord, and who are persuaded that it is of the utmost importance that he should find them watching? Or do we turn our eyes away from the truth that is displayed so clearly before them, and run our giddy round of pleasure, or toil on in the laborious drudgery of business and worldly occupation, without a serious thought of that approaching hour, when earthly pleasure and occupation must alike and for ever end.
Alas! I fear the impressions made by such solemn events as those which we have recently witnessed, are for the most part but momentary. Every one of you perhaps made some passing reflection on them. You said, how young to die! or how strong, to die so quickly! and that, with
many, was the sum of their meditations. Few went on to say, -"my own life then is very uncertain, and may very
brief-I ought to be prepared for death--) ought to wean myself from the follies and interests of the world, lest I should be surprised in my heedless course;" and fewer still carried those thoughts into immediate effect, and prayed to God to “teach them so to number their days, that they might apply their hearts unto wisdom !” Every thing about us conspires to banish the useful thought from our minds. There is business that calls us to active engagement in the affairs of life, and there are pleasures that invite us into scenes, where forgetfulness sprinkles her poppy-juice even on the once awakened conscience.
The funeral pomp passes away like a fancied vision from the sight; the tolling of the bell, which struck for a moment on the startled ear, disturbs the air no more with its mournful sound; and we almost as soon forget the scene we saw, and the knell we heard, and hurry again into the busy scenes of our various pursuits, with scarcely a thought that similar sights and sounds will one day announce to our neighbours, our own removal from this world of vanity
Such is usually the case with us, when we have no immediate interest in the affliction which