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XVI.

SER M. was but threefcore Years, and ten, and feldom reached to fourfcore Years. A few Exceptions have been sometimes known, fome few are known amongst us ftill. But yet this has been the ordinary Measure of Life ever fince, and which is fo fhort in Comparison of what it was before, that David might well and properly fay, Behold, thou haft made my Days as it were a Span long, and mine Age is even as nothing in Comparison of thee, and verily every Man living is altogether Vanity, Pfal. xxxix. 5.

I shall not spend Time fcrupulously to enquire into the Reafons of this Change, or to shew why our Lives are now reduced into so narrow a Compafs. Perhaps it might be. proved that as the State and Condition of the World now is, it would not be confiftent with the Happiness of Mankind to have them longer*. But it is fufficient to my Design to obferve in general, that as fhort as they are, they are ftill long enough for all the good Ends and Purposes of Living. The principal End of our being born, into this World, is to prepare us for another. This Life is not appointed for itself, but only for a State

* See Sherlock on Death. p. 134. &c.

XVI.

of Trial and Probation, and as a Paffage to SER M. Eternity. If therefore the Time that we live in this World, is long enough to fecure us the next; all fure will allow it to be long enough for a State of Warfare, a Race or a Pilgrimage. If the Life that is here so short, be long enough to prepare ourselves for an eternal one hereafter; most of us, I dare fay, after we are prepared, fhall think it long enough, or rather too long, whilft it keeps us from Heaven.

Let this fuffice for the Period of Human Life in general: A thoufand Years we fee is the utmost Extent, that Man was ever designed to pass in this World below: And the Law of Nature, fince the Fall, has gradually reduced us, fome few excepted, to a tenth Part of that Term. A fingle Century or thousand Years, generally fpeaking, may now be faid to take us in all. But how much of a Century a Man fhall live, whether more or lefs, depends much upon the Conftitution he brings with him into the World; much also upon his own Virtue, Temperance and Care; little upon any Predetermination of God.

No Man indeed, with the utmost Care he can take, can be fure of any fixed or certain Number of Years. Accidents may befall VOL. II.

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XVI.

SERM. the beft, and the strongest Man alive: Nor can the utmost Degree of Temperance and Sobriety repair a Conftitution, when it is once regularly decay'd: And this falling to pieces, fometimes by flow Degrees and fometimes by fwift ones; it is impoffible for any Man fo much as to guess, just how long it is he shall live. And this Uncertainty is what many complain of and are impatient under; and what fome are fo foolish as to endeavour to remove, by confulting Perfons as wife as themselves, whether they are destined to a long Life or a fhort one. But would People confider the Confequences that would follow from a Certainty in this Affair; they would foon fee Reafon to be thankful to Providence for concealing it from them. For put the Cafe a Man fhould know, whether he was to die young, or whether he should live to be old; Let either the one or the other be his Lot; it is certain that his knowing it would be very prejudicial both to himself and the World. For fhould he know that a few Years would put an End to his Life, and that he fhould die about twenty or thirty Years old; can we fuppofe a Man already arrived at the Years of Understanding, and that knew his Days were fo foon to have an End, would

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XVI.

interest or concern himself any further with SER M.
the World, than just to live fo long in it?
Would any one under fuch Expectations as
these, apply themselves to the ordinary Call-
ings of Life? Would Hufbandry or Trade,
would Traffick or Merchandize, would Arts
or Languages, be learned by one who knows
he muft die as foon as he has learned them?
And yet of what Ufe and Benefit to the Com-
munity, do the Improvements of
young Men
in any of thefe Sciences often prove? And
therefore how neceflary is it, for the fake
of the World, that no Man should know how
much or how little Time he may have, to
acquire and make Ufe of them?

Thus then the Good of Society requires
that a Man fhould not know how foon he
may die.
And if we go on to look nearer to
himself, we shall find it most eligible for his
own Satisfaction that he should be ignorant of
it. We would most of us perhaps be glad to
know, that we had forty or fifty or threescore
Years good: But which of us would delight
to know we are within a Week, a Month
or a Year, of our End? This very likely is
the Cafe of fome of us; and yet which of us
all would defire to know it? How would it
chill and make our Blood run cool? How
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SER M. would it overcaft all the Pleasures of Life?

XVI.

and put us into the State of a Man that is under the Sentence of Death, and in a continued Dread of the Day of Execution?

But perhaps you will fay, were you certain or fure that this was your Lot; you would make the best of the Time that is left; pafs your few remaining Days in Retirement and Devotion; and fince you must so shortly take your Leave of this World, make as fecure as you can of the other. This is the Method I fuppofe you would follow; I am fure it is the Method that any good Adviser would recommend to you. But is this a Reason why God should give us Warning of our Deaths? No one fure, will dare to fay it. It is true, this is certainly the best Preparation for Death, that fuch Circumstances will admit: But even the best Preparation, when we certainly know that Death is approaching, is more the Effect of Force and Violence, than of free Option or Choice. It is not, at fuch Times, the Effect of our Faith, but the Refult of our Fear. But now we know the Design of Providence is not to force or drive Men to Heaven. And therefore we must not expect that he will fet Death in our View to terrify and frighten us. God expects

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