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character of the days of his life, Eccles. viii. 15. things have I seen, in the days of my vanity," i.e. “my vain days.” Moses, who was a very active man, compares our days to a sleep, Psal. xc. 5. “ They are as a sleep," which is not noticed, till it be ended. The resemblance is pat: Few men have right apprehensions of life, until death awaken them; then we begin to know we were living. “We spend our years as a tale that is told,” ver. 9. When an idle tale is a-telling, it may effect a little, but when it is ended, it is forgot; and so is man forgotten, when the fable of his life is ended. It is as a dream, or vision of the night, in which there is nothing solid; when one awakes all evanisheth, Job xx. 8. « He shall fiy away as a dream, and shall not be found; yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.” It is but a vain show or image, Psal. xxxix. 6. “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew.” Man in this world is but, as it were, a walking statue ; his life is but an image of life ; there is so much of death in it.
If we look on our life, in the several periods of it, we will find it a heap of vanities. “ Childhood and youth are vanity," Eccles. xi. 10. We come into the world the most helpless of all animals; young birds and beasts can do something for themselves, but infant man is altogether unable to help himscif. Our childhood is spent in pitiful trifling pleasures, which become the scorn of our own after-thoughts. Youth is a flower that soon withereth, a blossom that quickly falls off; it is a space of time in which we are rash, foolish, and inconsiderate, pleasing ourselves with a variety of vanities, and swimming, as it Were, through a flood of them. But ere we are aware, it is past, and we are in middle age, encompassed with a thick cloud of cares, through which we must grope ; and finding ourselves beset with pricking thorns of difficulties, through them we must force our way, to accomplish the projects and contrivances of our riper thoughts. And the more we solace ourselyes in any earthly enjoyment we attain to, the more bitterness do we find in parting with it. Then comes old age, attended with its own train of infirmities, labour, and sorrow, Psal. xc. 10. and sets us down nexe door to the grave. In a word, All flesh is grass, Isaiah xl. 6. Every stage, or period in life, is vanity. Man at his best state (his middle age, when the heat of youth is spent; and the sorrows of old age, have not yet overtaken him) is altogether vanity, Psalm xxxix. 5. Death carries off some in the bud of childhood, others in the blossom of youth, and others when they are come to their fruit; few are left standing, till, like ripe corn, they forsake the ground; all die one time or other.
Secondly, Man's life is a short thi $; it is not only a vanity, but a short lived vanity. Consider, first, How the life of man is reckoned in the scripture.
It was indeed sometimes reckoned by hundreds of years; but no man ever arrived at a thousand; which yet bears no proportion to eternity. Now, hundreds are brought down to scores; three score and ten, or four score, is its utmost length, Psal. xc. 10. But few men arrive at that length of life. Death does but rarely wait, till men be bowing down, by reason of age, to meet the grave. Yet, as if year's were too big a word, for such a small thing as the life of man on earth ; we find it counted by months, Job xiv. 5. " The number of his months are with thee." Our course, like that of the moon, is run in a little time; we are always waxing or waneing till we disappear. But frequently it is reckoned by days; and these but few, Job xiv. 1. “ Man that is born of a woman, is of few days.” Nay, it is but one day in scripture account; and that a hireling's day, who will precisely observe when his day ends, and give over his work, ver. 6. “ Till he shall accomplish as an hireling his day." Yea, the scripture brings it down to the shortest space of time, and calls it a moment, 2. Cor. iv. 17. Our light affliction (though it last all our life long) is but for a moment. But elsewhere it is brought down to yet a lower pitch, farther than which one cannot carry
it, Psal. xxxix. 5. “ Mine age is as nothing before thee.” Agreeable to this, Solomon teils us, Eccles. iii. 2. “ There is a time to be born, and a time to die ;" but makes no mention of a time to live; as if our life were but a skip from the womb to the grave. Secondly, Consider the va rious similitudes by which the scripture represents the brevity, or shortness, of man's life. Hear Hezekiah, Isa. Xxxviii. 12. “ Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent; I have cut off, like a weaver, my life.” The shepherd's tent is soon removed, for the
flocks must not feed long in one place ; such is a man's life on this earth, quickly gone. It is a web he is incessantly working; he is not idle so much as one moment ; in a short time it is wrought, and then it is cut off. Every breathing is a thread in this web; and when the last breath is drawn, the web is woven out, he expires; and then it is cut off, he breathes no more. Man is like grass, and like a flower, Isa. x). 6. All flesh, even the strongest and most healthy flesh,is grass, and all the goodliness thereof
is as the flower of the field. The grass is flourishing in the morning, but in the evening, being cut down by the mowers, it is withered; so man sometimes is walking up and down at ease in the morning; and, in the evening, is. lying a corpse, being knocked down by a sudden stroke, with one or other of death's weapons. The flower, at best, is but a weak and tender thing, of short continuance, wherever it grows; but observe, man is not compared to the flower of the garden, but to the flower of the field, which the foot of every beast may tread down at any time. Thus is our life liable to a thousand accidents, every day; any of which may cut us off. But though we should escape all these, yet, at length, this grass withereth, this flowep fadeth of itself. It is carried off, as the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away, Job vii. 9. It looks big, as the morning cloud, which promiseth great things, and raiseth the expectations of the husbandman ; but the sun riseth, and the cloud is scattered ; death comes, and man evanisheth. The apostle James proposeth the question, Whatis your life? Hear his own answer: It is even a vapour; that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away, chap. iv. 14. It is frail, uncertain, and lasteth not. It is as smoke, which goes out of the chimney, as if it would darken the face of the heavens;but quickly is scattered, and appears no more: Thus goeth man's life, and where is he? It is a wind, Job vii. 7. O remember that my life is wind. It is but a passing blast, a short puff, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again, Psal. Ixxviii. 39. Our breath is in our nostrils, as it were, always upon the wing to depart, ever passing and repassing, like a traveller, until it go away for good and all, not to return till the heavens be no more.
Lastly, Man's life is a swift thing ; not only a passing, but a flying vanity. Have you not observed how swiftly
a shadow hath run along the ground, in a cloudy and windy day, suddenly darkening the place, beautified before, with the beams of the sun, but as suddenly disappearing ? Such is the life of man on the earth, for he fleeth as a shadow, and continueth not, Job xiv. 2. A weaver's shuttle is very swift in its motion ; in a moment it is thrown from one side of the web to the other ; yet our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, chap. vii. 6. How quickly is man tossed through time into eternity! See how Job describes the swiftness of his time of life: “ Now my days are swifter than a post; they flee away, they see no good. They are hasted away as the swift ships; as the eagle that hasteth to the prey," chap. ix. 25, 26. He compares his days with a post, a foot-posty a runner who runs speedily to carry tidings, and will make no stay. But though the post were like Ahimaaz, who over-ran Cushi, our days would be swifter than he, for they fee away, like a man fleeing for his life, before the pursuing enemy; he runs with his utmost vigour, yet our days run as fast as he. Howbeit that is not all, Even he who is fleeing for life cannot run always ; he must needs sometimes stand still, lie down, or run in somewhere, as Sisera did into Jael's tent, to refresh himself; but our time never halts. Therefore, it is compared to ships, which can sail night and day without intermis sion, till they be at their port; and swift ships, ships of desire, in which men quickly arrive at the desired haven; or, ships of pleasure, that sail more swiftly than ships of burden. Yet the wind failing, the ship’s course is marred; bút our time always runs with a rapid course. Therefore, it is compared to the eagle flying; not with his ordinary flight, for that is not sufficient to represent the swiftness of our days ; but when he flies upon his prey, which is with an extraordinary swiftness. And thus, even thus, our days fly away:
Having thus discoursed of death, let us improve it in discerning the vanity of the world in bearing up, with Christian contentment, and patience, under all troubles and difficulties in it; in mortifying our lusts ; in cleaving unto the Lord with purpose of heart, on all hazards ; and in preparing for death's approach.
And, first, Let us bence, as in a Looking-glass, þes
hold the vanity of the world, and of all those things in it, which men so much value and esteem, and, therefore, set their hearts upon. The rich and poor are equally intent upon this world; they bow the knee to it, yet it is but a clay-god; they court the bulky vanity, and run keenly to catch the shadow; the rich man is hugged to death in its embraces, and the poor man wearies himself in the fruitless pursuit. What wonder if the world's smiles overcome us, when we pursue it so eagerly, even while it frowns upon us ? But look into the grave, O man, consider and be wise ; listen to the doctrine of death, and learn, (1.) That hold as fast as thou canst, thou shalt be forced to let go thy hold of the world at length. Though thou load thyself with the fruits of this earth,
yet all shall fall off when thou comest to creep into thy hole, the house under ground, appointed for all living. When death comes, thou must bid an eternal farewel to thy enjoyments in this world; thou must leave thy goods to another; and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ? Luke xü. 20. (2.) Thy portion of these things shall be very little ere long. If thou lie down on the grass, and stretch thyself at full length, and observe the print of thy body when thou risest, thou mayest see how much of this earth will fall to thy share at last. It may be thou shalt get a coffin, and a winding sheet; but thou art not sure of that : Many who have had abundance of wealth, yet have not had so much when they took up their new house in the land of silence. But however that be, more ye cannot expect. It was a mortifying lesson, Saladine, when dying, gave to his soldiers : He called for his standard-bearer, and ordered him to take his winding sheet upon his pike, and go out to the camp with it, and tell them, That of all his conquests, victories, and triumphs, he had nothing now left him, but that piece of
wrap his body in for burial. Lastly, This world is a false friend, who leaves a man in time of greatest need, and flees from him when he has most ado. When thou art lying on a death-bed, all thy friends and relations cannot rescue thee; all thy substance cannot ransom thee; por procure thee a reprieve for one day, nay, not for one hour. Yea, the more thou possessestof this world's goods, thy sorrow at death is like to be the greater; for though