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SERM. him who appointed the common limits of
human life. It matters not when we de. stroy life, if we do but unnecessarily hasten its destruction. Besides, it is not allowable to think, that life is not always exposed to danger, in every act of excessive indulgence; surely many have been known to die in the midst of their pleasures; many have been as suddenly hurried out of life by the intoxicating bowl, and other gross irregularities, as by the sword of the duellist, or the murderous arm of the suicide. Great is the error then, and most dangerous the mistake, of fancying our health and our lives to be our own; of which, as we have no account to render here, we can have none to render elsewhere ; indeed of no two things, perhaps, shall we have a more formidable account to render; since, as it has been shewn, the wanton abuse, and deliberate exposure of either, are connected with some of the foulest crimes, and most disgusting immoralities.
Time is another thing which men are too apt to fancy to be their own: it is, in
truth, but another name for life, and there- SÉRM. fore needs not much of our consideration XI. here; for time is only that by which life is measured, nevertheless as we may not destroy life abruptly, so long as ever it lasts we are bound not to make an ill use of it. God has placed us in a scene of action, where much is to be daily done, both for our own advancement and the good of others. The employment of our time, therefore, is never a matter of indifference; nor is it our own; we have no unlimited command at all over it; for
every moment of it we are responsible: it should all be devoted to good actions; only the interval naturally assigned to sleep should be suffered to pass without either some useful exertion of the body, or rational exercise of the mind. But if this be so, and so of a truth it is, how many will have an account to render of which they little think at present. Here the poor are better off than the rich; the value of time is better known to them; their daily bread must be procured by daily labour, and labour occupies their time; they are secure from
SERM. the reach of many temptations, because xi. they have no time on their hands which
they can afford either to lose or to waste. Nevertheless, if the rich are more exposed to the danger of wasting and squandering, and misapplying their time, in the case of the poor it may be attended with worse consequences here below; above, both will be brought to the same bar; but, as the world is constituted at present, a rich man may be idle without much detriment to others; if he does not employ his time ill, he becomes only insignificant, and not injurious. But an idle poor man cannot live, without having recourse to some practices disgraceful to himself, and hurtful to others; he must starve, or steal, or live upon the precarious bounty of others; those who depend upon him, as they must needs lose the aid and support he ought to supply, must either do the same, or sink into despondency, and perish through want. Can it be supposed that time should have been allotted to a man, as a thing to be left entirely at his own disposal, when consequences so dreadful to others may flow
from his wanton abuse of it? And this SERM.
XI. naturally enough leads to another consideration in regard to the general error of thinking things to be our own, when in strictness they are not so: a man's family and houshold are often thought to be so much his own, that the management and conduct of them are submitted entirely to his direction; but even these are all trusts; they are talents, delivered into our hands by our Maker, for the use or abuse of which we shall finally be called to answer. When it is as much a truth in nature, as by Revelation, that if we are careful to train up a child in the way he should go, it is likely that, when he is old, he will not depart from that good course that has been taught him, must we not expect to be called to an account for the method in which we bring up our children? When so much may depend on our neglect, can we imagine God would have put moral beings so much into a state of dependence one upon another, without interposing some check or control ? The mischief that befel the house of Eli, was, as God himself tells us,
SERM: for this especial reason inflicted : because,
“ bis sons made themselves vile, and be re
strained them not*." If there is any thing for which we shall be responsible hereafter, surely it will be for this. For, let us remember, that though those so subjected to us by the course of nature, are not so much our own as that we may attend to, or neglect them as we please, yet they are unquestionably, for wise ends, meant to be in a state of relative dependence; and, therefore, it becomes an absolute and positive duty, on our part, not to lead them astray, not to suffer them, for want of instruction, to fall through ignorance, or from the influence of our bad examples, to wander from the right way. It was not Abraham's own righteousness alone which recommended him to the especial notice and choice of God, but the assurance that he would direct and "com“ mand bis children and bis boushold after
bim, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do “ judgment and justice.” Indeed it may well
1 Sam. iii. 13.