" Who redeemeth thy Life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving'kindness and tender mercies. " — Psalm cm. 4.

As an appropriate exercise for this afternoon, I design to direct your attention to the valuableness of life, and the consequent gratitude and thanksgiving which we owe the Father of mercies for the prolongation of our days. At first sight the subject seems to be a plain and simple one, requiring no argumentative explanation, and fit to be dealt with only in way of declamatory appeal ; but such is the disturbance and disorder which sin has produced, that on reflection we see not a little thoughtful discrimination is necessary before we can render our thanksgivings in a proper spirit. Here is an obvious difl5culty : if we should be thankful for the preservation of our own lives, what should we think and say of God's dealings towards our friends who have died ? If life be a mercy to us, has not death been a severity to them ; or, if it be answered that it is in mercy He has taken them away from the evil of the world, will not the objection occur that He has not dealt mercifully by us in prolonging our days amid sorrows and dangers ? If to the one party life be an advantage, must not death have been a disadvantage


• This was one of the last manuscripts which Dr. Anderson fully wrote out for the pulpit, and was delivered in John Street United Presbyterian Church, Glasgow, on January Ist, 1871.

Digitized by



to the other; and vice versai If the one have profited by death, must not the other lose by the continuance of life? These difficulties I shall afterwards resolve; but the statement of them is in the meantime sufficient to show that it requires discrimination to make thanksgiving for life a rational service.

Observe, therefore, generally, that life in this world is advantageous and thankworthy chiefly in connection with


and as having a bearing on life in the world to come. I qualify the statement by saying " chiefly," though I am persuaded I would not have erred far, nor been judged by the Lord as treating his benefits with despite, had I made the statement absolute, and said that the present life is precious and thankworthy only when viewed in connection with immortality. The Lord does not design or require that any of us be grateful for prolonged existence, nor will He accept of our praise for it unless it be rendered in the spirit of men who rejoice that that existence is to be perpetuated for ever.

Brethren, let us calmly review the matter, and see if life would be worth having if this world were all we are to get. Take it at the best conceivable. Suppose that such happiness were vouchsafed us as that which was bestowed on man in his original state of innocence, in a world which sin had not desolated ; in which there was no poverty, no sickness, no upbraiding of an evil conscience ; no treachery nor contention ; in which luxuries and delicacies abounded, procured without toil ; where all was mutual love; where literature and science enlightened and delighted the minds of the whole of the members of the fair population. Well, would a thousand years of it, I appeal, be worth the taking, if it all terminated then ? Would any rapturous song of gratitude for it be sung to


Digitized by


LIFE— A NEW year's ADDRESS. 231

the divine Giver ? Would not the sun shine dimly and sickly ; would not the grape be insipid ; would not the music sink into a wail ; would not the dance be arrested were the proclamation heard from heaven, " Y^ shall have a thousand years of this, but then ye shall die " ? What would it signify though the assurance were subjoined that they would die without pain, falling gently asleep in everlasting insensibility? Would that revive the music and the dance ? If they were a reflective people, would they not sit down to complain that they had been created in vain?

To this representation it may be objected that we are


called on to admire the goodness of God in the pleasures which He confers on the irrational tribes though He has not constituted them immortal. The answer is at hand. These animals are not sensible of their nature, and enjoy themselves as if they were immortal; whereas man's rational powers, fitting him to understand his ephemeral existence, would incapacitate him in times of reflection for the enjoyment of any pleasure with any high degree of relish.

If all this be true on the supposition that there was no misery in the world — that man would not feel the prolongation of his life to be a great benefit though extended to a thousand years, if assured that at their conclusion he would pass out of a state of existence into a state of annihilation — ^how much more would not a reflective mind declare life to be a vanity not worth the name of a gift and calling for no gratitude to the Bestower, if such a world as this is, and such a short time of it as we enjoy, were all our destiny ?

Make the most favourable supposition possible : let the man be born to fortune ; let him be possessed of a robust


Digitized by



constitution; let him be accomplished with the highest education ; let him be wedded to one of the fairest and most amiable ; let him have a family of beauteous sons and daughters; let him be celebrated for scientific discovery ; let him be renowned and exalted to office for his wisdom and eloquence in the senate of the nation ; let him be the favourite of the sovereign and have the confidence of the people; and now he is seventy years of age — he sits down to reflect, and is forced to conclude that the best part of his existence is past — that he has seen better days than he will ever see again. But what would it signify though he were sure of seventy more as good? He himself knows what a life of toil and anxiety it has been. The assurance of another seventy years would give him little joy ; at best there are before him ten or twenty years of languor, imbecility, and comparative neglect on the part of


the world. To such a man, is a New Year's day any gift demanding his gratitude, if there be no other world for him 1 Was it ever any gift to him ? Would it not have been as well, would it not have been better, that the hour of his birth had been also the hour of his death ?

How much more then, brethren, is not such a reflection suitable for us; us toiled and harassed so much in winning our bread ; us pained with disease and the bereavement of our children and friends ; us receiving so little of the world's honour; us fretted and vexed with a thousand nameless cares, anxieties, and disappointments ? Is this all we are to get ? Shall our New Year bring us nothing better ? Not much better to the one half of us, and probably worse to the other half of us. Then little thanks for it, if this world be all. On that supposition it would have been better that we had all quietly slept in death the last night of the season which has passed

Digitized by




away. And for the prolongation of his life, God will accept of the thanks of no man who does not regard it as a benefit in connection with efeemity ; not only because they are the thanks of an unbeliever, but the thanks of a fooL What a soul that man must have— of a spirit how low — who can be thankful for such a life as any of us is passing, just for its own sake, and without any reference to the immortality beyond !

L Observe, particularly, in the first place, that an extension of life is profitable to the unconverted, as giving them time and opportunity to repent and be saved. To none is it so profitable, for it is indispensable. There are others of whom we shall presently see that all would have been well with them though they had died, so that the extension of life is valuable to them, only as a means of increasing their future glory ; but if the unconverted and unbelieving had died, for them it would have been certain misery.

May there not imhappily be some such present? I


shall afterwards speak of feeble saints ; but are there not some of us who are not saints at all — of whose unbelief and want of godliness there can be no doubt — ^who, whatever may be the opinions of their friends about them, themselves well know that, though they may at times be sobered by compunctious visitations of conscience, they have no experience of what it is to repent towards Gtod and believe in his Son, for reconciliation to his goverument and filial communion with Himself? Oh, that such would reflect — that they would sum up all the evils of which they recollect they have been guilty, and imagine the amount of that which they have forgotten \ — or, without an enumeration of particular sins, if they would make a general reflection on the negligence and despite with

Digitized by




which all their life-time they have been treating everything divine — setting God at nought in all their thoughts and ways — ^and then reflect that death might have overtaken them and ushered them into the presence of the Eternal Judge with all this wickedness on them unrepented of and unforgiven.

What an escape such men have made to have escaped death during last season — ^to have been brought up from the precipice over the edge of which they were hanging — to have been delivered from the sinking wreck, and received a safe standing in the life of another year, with opportunity to repent, believe and reform, and be saved for eternity! Oh, that they were wise and saw it, and felt it, and praised the Lord for his mercy, and took advantage of it ! Knowest thou not, O man, that the goodness and forbearance of God are designed to lead thee to repentance ? And when He has prolonged your life to this end, if you trifle away or abuse the time which He has vouchsafed, then better you had died last year, better that you die this night, better that you had never been bom.

Ahl why will you die the second death? What present profit are you making by a state of alienation


from God ? In what respect, even on worldly principles, are you a happier man than the saint 1 But though you could show that at present you have the more joyous life, of how short continuance at the longest it will be, and then what a shriek of despair it will be when your wretched spirit is apprehended to be carried off to the judgment seat! Woe for you then that New Year after New Year should have prolonged your existence so as to give you an opportunity of accumulating your guilt I I therefore repeat the remonstrance, " Why will you die the

Digitized by


LIFE — A NEW year's ADDRESS. 235

second death ? " Make it a New Year indeed. Make it the year of your birth — of your being spiritually born again. Then shall you ever have reason to bless God


that He spared you to its light.

Well, what say you to it ? What is your resolution ? Wilt thou not from this time cry unto God, " Thou art my Father!" Alas for the heart that resents it! Alas for the heart that replies, " Not just yet, I will wait for a more convenient season "I "A more convenient season," say you? I have been expressing myself somewhat loosely, as if, having gained the first day of another year, you were sure of living till its end. But the years of grace are not determined by the circuit of the sun. It may be this night that year expires which the Great Intercessor gained for thee, when He pled that you might be spared for trial before you were cut down. This night thy soul may be required of thee. Now, even now, as you sit in your seat, is the only sure accepted time. Lift up thy soul, then, and vow that henceforth thou art a changed man.

II. Betwixt the patently unconverted and the equally patently and decidedly pious there stands a large dass for whom the prolongation of life is a great benefit. It consists of those who are weak in the faith — of the genuineness of whose profession their friends and neighbours are not sure. They do not pass on them the judgment of hypocrisy and reprobacy, and they tolerate their fellowship


at the communion table ; but so equivocal is their conduct, that it is the toleration of charity, in the hope that notwithstanding unfavourable appearances there may be a root of grace in the heart ; so that were they to die in their present state their friends, though they did not mourn over them as lost, yet would not rejoice over them

Digitized by



afl saved, but be afflicted with doubts concerning their eternal condition. But this is as nothing — they themselves are doubtful of their spiritual condition; at times they are the subjects of emotions from which they argue that surely the root of the matter is within them ; but next day their conduct has been such that on reflection they are cast down again into a state of dubiety about


themselves, questioning if all their sacramental and other solemn professions be not a system of surface hypocrisy.

It is amongst this class that the most anxious deathbed scenes often occur, more frequently than among those who are ignorantly insensible, or whose consciences are indurated by a course of flagrant sin. I have said the class is a large one. It would be wonderful if there are not some present; and supposing they are, to them I address myself. Friends, observe that in the judgment of charity I hope that the root of the matter is within you, though in feebleness ; and that, dying even as you are, you would be admitted into the kingdom. But you yourselves are doubtful of that, and hence are so uneasy now, and, unless you amend your ways, will be so distressed when the death-time comes.

Bless God, then, that He has given you another year for that amendment, so as to '' make your calling and election sure." How ? By acting with more decision ; by having a plan of life and not living at random; by Watchfulness and circumspection that you may not be overcome unawares by temptation ; by a strict regard to the divine commandment, without those tamperings with its authority and sacredness by which your conduct is at present characterized ; and in like manner by greater faithfulness


to the admonitions and remonstrances of your own conscience. Acting in this way you will have something to

Digitized by



which you can refer — I do not mean others — ^but to which you can refer yourself when you begin to question the genuineness of your profession of faith, in evidence and proof that certainly the root of the matter is within youi This will difiuse some composure and satisfaction over your heart instead of that uneasy, restless self-suspicion which is at present fretting your life.

But oh ! especially, when tried with the near prospect of death you will be able to say that, notwithstanding much shortcoming and deficiency which you humbly


confess, you are persuaded that radically you were influenced by the faith of the Son of God, and die in peace. In more than that, perhaps, so as to have part with the next class whose case I shall consider presently. But at present I satisfy myself with this appeal, that you so work out your own salvation, and make your calling and election so sure, that your death-bed experience shall be that you die in peace, instead of that distressing anxiety which would befall you, were you laid down to die in your present unsatisfactory condition. And then, I pray you, have mercy on your frienda Let them have something solid and substantial to which they can refer as their grounds for trusting that you are saved, and not mourning for you in silence, or expressing themselves doubtfully about your salvation. It will be worth thanksgiving indeed to have gotten a New Year if you turn it to such happy account.

III. I observe, thirdly, that the prolongation of life is a thankworthy blessing on the part of the advanced saint, well assured of the genuineness of his profession. Though prepared to die, it is desirable that he should live a little longer, and first in respect of his own personal interests. Now, what is the manner, according to the common run


Digitized by



of what is falsely called orthodoxy, in which this proposition would be illustrated? What is all the length that the most of preachers would go, either as personally convinced, or restrained by the fear of being censured by the pretentiously orthodox among their hearers? Is it not that the prolongation of life to an advanced and wellconfirmed saint is an advantage, so far as his own interests are concerned, only as it furnishes him with an opportunity of purging himself more and more of the remains of sin, so that when the heavenly vision opens on him he will be spiritually more qualified to join in the song, " Worthy is the Lamb *' ? Of course I do not mock at the representation of this being a part of the advantage — ^a morally prepared state of mind for enjoying the heavenly vision and exercises is a favourite topic of discourse with


me — ^but I do mock when it is represented as being the only, or even the principal, advantage secured for the saint by the extension of his life.

The grand advantage lies in the opportunity of performing more work, so as to gain a greater share of the reward of grace. He is sixty years of age, from his youth he has been faithful, and having improved the pound, with which he was intrusted, into ten, were he presently removed from the field of labour he would be rewarded with the honour of the administration of ten cities ; but through the prolongation of his time for work, so as to increase the pound into twelve, or more, there will be a proportional increase of the reward.

The principle admits of varied application. For instance, at fifty years of age, being but recently a convert, you have improved your pound to only a small extent. How precious is life to you, that through your diligent use of it you may yet attain to a five-city, yea, a ten-city

Digitized by



LIFE — ^A NEW year's ADDRESS. 239

principality in the kingdom ! There is only one difficulty in the case ; and its full resolution can be found only in the general principle that " the Judge of all the earth will do right." But we can go a short way in resolving it specially. The difficulty is this, that if time is profitable for one saint, for the increase of his heavenly glory, must not death have been prejudicial to one as good, in bereaving him of an opportunity also to augment the glory of his heavenly reward ? I answer, first, that if he who has died has been taken away from evil to come — not only the evil of sorrow, but the evil of sin into which, through foreseen temptation, he might have fallen — ^then it is not opportunity of advancement which death has in severity cut short for him, but opportunity for his destroying himself and losing all. But, secondly, I answer that death is frequently dispensed by the Lord among his saints, not from any direct respect to anything in their own characters or conditions, but from respect to the characters and conditions of others, for their chastisement or quick-


ening, or for serving some other important end in the government of the world.

In these circumstances it is evident that the righteous Judge will elevate his prematurely deceased saints to that eminence in the kingdom to which He sees they would have attained if permitted to proceed in their career of holiness and well-doing. As already stated, however, this leaves much of the difficulty to be resolved on the principle that we may be certain that " the Judge of all the earth will do right."

lY. Life is precious to the saint as giving him an opportunity of continuing his ministrations of benevolence to those whom he loves. How precious to the husband when he reflects what desolation his death would inflict on the

Digitized by



240 Discx)nRS£S.

wife of his bosom ! How precious to the father when he reflects what desolation it would inflict on his endeared children! There is a great multitude of relations in which a man stands to others respecting whom he may cherish similar reflections; and I should hope there is no one present who is so useless and friendless that he cannot mention to himself one individual that would suffer or lose by his death, and for being presei'ved to benefit whom he does not render thanksgiving.

But there is a counterpart to all this : as much as the benevolent man himself values his own life that he may be helpful to the objects of his love, so much surely should these objects of his love value it. How much the wife ought to prize the life of her husband; how much the child ought to prize the life of his father !

O life ! sweet, sweet life ! Sweet to be sensible to the shining of the sun, and all the beauty and grandeur of nature which it irradiates; sweet to be sensible to the lusciousness of the fruits of the earth and the milk of the kine ; sweet to be sensible to the strains of music and the forms and colours of the artist's picture ; sweet to be


sensible to the narrative of the historian, the imaginations of the poet, the revelations of the philosopher, and the eloquence of the orator ; sweet to be sensible to love — ^love in all its sweet variety from friendship into and throughout the domestic circle round and round — ^yes, sweet, sweet life, to be all thus so sensible, instead of the insensibility of death, down the deep and dark grave, " rotting in cold abstraction !"

Yet the sweetness of life is as nothing when compared with its profitableness — profitable to the sinner for the opportunity which it gives him to save himself for eternity — profitable to the saint for the opportunity which it gives

Digitized by




him of amassing treasure for the kingdom of heaven — profitable for the opportunity which it gives him for blessing his family, counselling and helping his friends, relieving the poor and needy, promoting the interests of the Church, and in various ways being beneficial to society at large.

Brethren, are we not a wonder to ourselves— even the most thoughtless among us — ^that we are so dull in our gratitude to God for what is so sweet, and so slack in our taking advantage of what is so profitable? Let us, therefore, condemn ourselves, and be ashamed of ourselves, and resolve that we shall amend this great wrong. It is, therefore, that I take the liberty in your name to express our fervid thanksgiving towards God for life prolonged, and our resolution before his throne that if He extend his mercy to the close of the year, we shall be more faithful in consecrating our time to those great ends for which He bestows it.





Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful