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guor and days of delight; of days devoted to the world, and days devoted to religion? My brethren, it is God, it is God alone, who holds our time in his hand, to adopt the idea of the prophet, Psa. xxxi. 15: he alone can make an accurate calculation of them. And as he alone has fixed the term of our life, he only is likewise capable of knowing it. It is not absolutely impossible, however, to ascertain what shall be, in respect of time, the temporal destination of those who hear me this day. Let me suppose that the present solemnity has drawn together an assembly of eighteen hundred persons. I subdivide these 1800 into six different classes.
The 1st. consisting of persons from 10 to 20 years of age, amounting to
2d. from 20 to 30, amounting to 440
According to the most exact calculation, of those who have made such kind of researches their study, each of these classes must, in the course of this year, present to death, a tribute of ten persons. On this computation, sixty of my present hearers must, before the beginning of another year, be numbered with the dead. Conformably to the same rate of computation, in ten years, of the 1800 now present, there will remain 1270 only 830
In 20 years
In 50 years no more will be left than 70
Thus you see, my brethren, in what a perpetual flux the human race is. The world is a vast theatre, in which every one appears his moment upon the stage, and in a moment disappears. Every successive instant presents different scenery, a new decoration. I represent these vicissitudes to myself, under the emblem of what is felt by a man, who is employed in turning over the pages of history. He pores over his book, he beholds on this leaf one people, one king: he turns it, and lo, other laws, other maxims, other actors, which have no manner of relation to what preceded them!
ON NUMBERING OUR DAYS.
PSALM XC. 12.
So teach us to number our Days, that we may apply our hearts unto
E have seen to what a measure human life
is reduced. To be made sensible of this is a very high attainment in knowledge; but it is of still higher importance, thence to deduce conclusions, which have a tendency to regulate the workings of your mind, the emotions of your heart, the conduct of your life and to assist you in this, is,
II. The second object which we proposed to ourselves in this discourse. This is what the prophet asks of God in the text: this we would earnestly implore in your behalf, and this prayer we wish you to adopt for yourselves: Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
1. The first conclusion, deducible from the re
presentation given, is this: the vanity of the life which now is, affords the clearest proof of the life to come. This proof is sensible, and it possesses two advantages over all those which philosophy supplies, toward demonstrating the immortality of the soul. The proof of our immortality, taken from the spirituality of the soul, has, perhaps, a great deal of solidity; but it is neither so sensible, nor so incontestable. I am lost when I attempt to carry my metaphysical speculations into the interior of substances. I do not well know what to reply to an opponent who presses me with such questions as these: "Do you know every thing that a substance is capable of? Are your intellectual powers such as to qualify you to pronounce this decision: Such a substance is capable only of this, and such another only of that." This dif ficulty, at least, always recurs, namely, that a soul, spiritual and im nortal of its own nature, may be deprived of immortality, should it please that God who called it into existence, to reduce it to a state of annihilation.
But the proof which we have alleged is sensible, it is incontestable. I can make the force of it to be felt by a peasant, by an artisan, by the dullest of human beings. And I am bold enough to bid defiance to the acutest genius, to the most dexterous sophist, to advance any thing that deserves the name of reasoning in contradiction to it. How! is it possible that this soul capable of reflecting, of reasoning, of laying down principles, of deducing consequences, of knowing its Creator, and of serving him, should have been created for the purpose merely of acting the poor part which man fills on the earth? How! the souls of those myriads of infants, who die before they are born, to be annihilated, after having animated, for a few months,
an embryo, a mass of unfinished organs, which nature did not deign to carry on to perfection! How! The Abrahams, the Moseses, the Davids, and the multitudes of those other holy men, to whom God made so many and such gracious promises, shall they cease to be, after having been strangers and pilgrims upon the earth? How ! that cloud of witnesses, who, rather than deny the truth, submitted to be stoned, to be sawn asunder, to be tempted, to be slain with the sword, who wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, Heb. xi. 13, 37? How! that cloud of witnesses evaporate into smoke, and the souls of martyrs pass into annihilation amidst the torture inflicted by an executioner! Ye confessors of Jesus Christ, who have borne his reproach for thirty years together, who have yielded up your back to the rod of a tormentor, who have lived a life more painful than death in its most horrid form! You to have no other reward of all your labors and sufferings, except those poor gratuities which man bestows after you have finished your career? How! those noble faculties of soul bestowed on man, merely to sit, for a few years upon a tribunal, for a few years to dip into arts and sciences? .... What brain could digest the thought! What subtility of metaphysical research, what ingeniousness of sophistry, can enfeeble the proof derived from such appearances as these? O brevity of the present economy! O vanity of human life! O miseries upon miseries, with which my days are depressed, distracted, empoisoned, I will complain of you no longer! I behold light the most cheering, the most transporting, ready to burst forth from the bosom of that gloomy night into which you have plunged me! you conduct me to the grand, the animating doc