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“ sheep in the midst of wolves : be ye there“ fore wise as serpents, and harmless as “ doves.” “Remember the word that I said
unto you, The servant is not greater than his “ Lord. If they have persecuted me, they “ will also persecute you“. Ye shall be “ hated of all men for my name's sake."
There would hardly, therefore, be any period in the lives of our Saviour's disciples and adherents at which each one might not have said for himself and for the rest, in the words of the text, Behold, to us“ to die is
gain.” And accordingly we find frequent aspirations after a change in the writers of the New Testament, but always mingled with expressions of perfect resignation to the will of heaven, and an ardent desire to finish the work which they had undertaken, by planting the pure knowledge of God and Christ in the midst of a corrupt and benighted world.
“For in this,” says St. Paul, “ we groan, earnestly desiring to “ be clothed upon with our house which is “ from heaven.... For we that are in this ta
St. Matt. x. 16. St. John xv. 20.
• St. Matt. x. 22.
up of life?"
6 bernacle do groan, being burdened; not for “ that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed
. But the conflicting passions, of the desire to die, and the wish to be spared long enough to establish the Gospel, are yet more accurately described in the following passage : “ What I shall choose I wot not: “ for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a
desire to depart, and to be with Christ; “ which is far better : nevertheless to abide “ in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Thus, then, might each of our Saviour's Apostles say with peculiar strength and propriety, “ For me, to die is gain :" both as being exposed in a remarkable degree to persecutions and sufferings here on earth, and as having reason to hope through the divine favour for a peculiar reward hereafter h
St. Paul thus expresses himself a short time, it should appear, before his martyrdom,
2 Cor. v. 2-4.
& Phil. i. 22-24. h St. John xiv. 2.
in his second Epistle to Timothy: “ Watch “ thou in all things, endure afflictions, do " the work of an Evangelist, make full proof “ of thy ministry : for I am now ready to be
offered, and the time of my departure is
at hand. I have fought a good fight, I “ have finished my course, I have kept the “ faith : henceforth there is laid
for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day."
But, my brethren, there is an humbler sense in which each of us should be able to apply to himself the words of my text, · For me, to die is gain;" and in which sense if we cannot apply them at the close of our earthly career, it were better (for the denunciations of God's vengeance must be proclaimed in men's ears as well as the promises of his love) it were better that we had never been born. We have neither the persecutions of the first preachers of Christianity to sustain, nor are we entitled to their eminent rewards in that house in which are said to be “ many mansions”;" but we have i 2 Tim. iv. 5–8.
i St. John xiv. 2.
all important duties to perform in life, to the faithful discharge of which is attached the promise of a recompense of such value that the heart of man cannot conceive its magnitude and duration.
And now, that we may learn rightly to estimate human life, and that we may be prepared fitly and resignedly to leave it, adopting to ourselves the words of our text, “For me, to die is gain,” whenever our end seems to approach, or shall arrive, I will here take a summary view of human life itself, and of those objects in it which daily engross the attention of the worldly-minded man, and show how unworthy they are of that value which he puts upon them.
First, then, let us observe that human life is a possession, if it may be so called, of precarious and limited tenure: we hold it this day, but cannot be certain that we shall hold it to-morrow ; and under all circumstances it is given us but for a while.
In the general Epistle of St. James we find the following observations : “ Go to now, ye
that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue
" there a year, and buy and sell and get
gain : whereas ye know not what shall be
on the morrow. For what is your life? “ it is even a vapour, that appeareth for a “ little time, and then vanisheth away The law of our nature speedily brings human life to its close: it is usual in Scripture, and in other writings, to compare the life of man to that of the flower or of
vegetable nature; “ All flesh is as grass, and all
the glory of man as the flower of grass. “
The grass withereth, and the flower thereof “ falleth away.” Indeed, when the end is fully come, it matters but little whether the space run out be that of a flower or of a human life: it matters not at all in comparison with eternity.
By death, therefore, we pass from a precarious and short life to one which is neither perishable in its nature, nor exposed to fatal accidents, but certain and eternal.
And then what are the worldly objects that occupy the thoughts and excite the efforts during this short life, and to the
k St. James iv. 13, 14.
11 Pet. i. 24.