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On the Nature and End of Life

On the Nature and End of Life

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JAMES iv. 14. What is your life?

JAMES iv. 14. What is your life?

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ON THE NATURE AND END OF LIFEREV. JOHN VENN, M.AJAMES iv. 14. What is your life?OF All Misaprehentions nonemore danger-ous, because none are likely to have a more ex-tensive and constant effect, than those which relateto the nature, the end, and the proper objects of life. They influence the conduct, not merely insome particular relation, or with respect to someindividual duty, but in reference to every relationand every duty; for the whole course of humanaction is intimately connected with a just viewof the real nature and design of life. It will nottherefore be useless to direct our thoughts in sucha train as may enable us to form correct ideasupon this momentous subject. In order to dothis, it will be necessary first to notice the mistakeswhich prevail respecting the nature of life.It is not intended, as many seem to suppose, toON THE NATURE AND END OF LIFE. 83be a scene of enjoyment. I say, it is not intended;for the clue which should guide us in all ourinquiries on this, and indeed on every subject, isthe Divine intention. The question is not, whatlife is to any proposed individual : for in judgingof this, our conceptions will vary with the par-ticular circumstances of the case, or with ourpeculiar views and feelings j and, in one instance,it will be pronounced to be a state of great misery;in another, of great happiness; and thus a contra-dictory judgment of life in general would beformed : but the true state of the question is,What did our Creator intend it to be to his crea-tures ? Now to this it may be answered, that hecertainly did not intend it to be directly and prin-cipally a scene of enjoyment. Notwithstandingthe comforts of life, far exceeding as they do whatcould reasonably have been expected, and demand-ing our most grateful acknowledgments, considerthe constant occurrence and universal extension of 
human calamity and disappointment, and the lawof mutual dependence, by which those evils areso strikingly multiplied and ensured. Examinethe texture of our bodies, so frail and subject todisease ; and even the construction of our minds,liable as they are to humiliating infirmities andcorroding passions ; and it will be very evident,that a world so constituted could not have beenG 284 ON THE NATURE AKD END OF LIFE.primarily or mainly designed as a state of happi-ness. Now if this be really the case, how exceed-ingly mistaken are those who are expecting tomake or to find it a state of that description \ Yet this is the mistake of the majority of mankind.Happiness is their chief, almost their exclusive,object. This they pursue in infancy, in youth, inmaturity, in old age ; and though, in general, itcontinues perpetually to elude their grasp, yetwith an unremitting ardour they are ever renewingthe pursuit ; sometimes varying the path of search,but never abandoning the object. Yet surelywisdom should be learned from these disappoint-ments, which should suggest, to those who haveexperienced them, the question, whether earthlyhappiness ought to be their chief object ; whetherit is that which God intended his creatures topursue; whether it is attainable. Nor are thesequestions less necessary to such as are yet young,and whose hopes from life are still very sanguine.If they have not yet learned the lesson from theirown experience, let them at least give credit tothe assurance, that man is in this world but in themidst of his journey ; and that his home, his rest,his scene of enjoyment, is to be expected only ina future state of existence.It is an error equally injurious, on the otherhand, to suppose that life is a source of unmixedON THE NATURE AND END OF LIFE. 85
vexation and misery. "' Man is," indeed, " born totrouble as the sparks fly upward;" and this worldis in a fallen state, and " under the curse" of itsCreator J but it is not a place of punishment. Thegoodness of God has been gloriously displayed init, and there is not a creature living who does notlargely partake of that goodness. Though enjoy-ment, therefore, as distinct from the performanceof his duties, ought not to be his object, yet inthe way of duty a man may humbly hope for andexpect happiness. He may hope to share in thegeneral bounty of his heavenly Father; and par-ticularly, he both may and ought to expect thathappiness which arises immediately from right dis-positions and views of mind, and from upright andconscientious conduct. A gloomy frame of mindis not only destructive of happiness, but is highlyinjurious to the goodness of our heavenly Father,whose mercies are over all his works, and who hathgiven to us in Christ all things richly to enjoy.When the inquiry is made. What is our life ^ let usalways remember that it is not a permanent state.This will be allowed by all, and yet its necessaryconsequences are practically denied. How readilyis it acknowledged, that life is merely a vapour,that appeareth for a little time and then vanishethaway ! And yet how continually do men act asif, with respect to themselves at least, it were86 ON THE NATURE AND END OF LIFE.eternal ! They cherish no ideas of happiness intiny other state : they contrive intricate and pro-tracted designs, which will require years for theirexecution, forgetting that they may not live tocomplete a single plan, that they cannot insure theenjoyment of a single day.Notwithstanding, however, the shortness anduncertainty of life, such persons would be actinglight to make the best of it, provided that thiswere the only state of existence : but since thelife to come is as infinitely long as this is short,no words can describe the folly of those who,wholly engrossed by the transitory objects of thisworld, make no provision for another.

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