' For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our
fathers ; our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none
abiding." — 1 Chron, xxix. 15.
This is the testimony of an old man, of
one who had seen what human life is ;
and who was capable of summing up the
total, because he had made himself mas-
ter of all the items of the account. The
young man, indeed, could give the sum ;
but so different are the colours of life as
we look forward to the future, or back-
ward upon the past, that he could give it
only prospectively. David gave it retro-
spectively. He had not merely tasted the
cup ; he had drank it. He had come to that
period of his existence on earth, which
led him to consider death as a merciful
dismission from a long and distressing
warfare, and as opening a door for him
into the mansions of his Father's house
above. He had outlived many of his
friends, his children, and his comforts.
Most of those ties which had connected
him with life had been broken ; and he
was standing on the borders of the grave,
just waiting the commission that would
join him to the departed multitudes of
former ages.
But this is not only the testimony of
an old man ; it is the evidence of one who
could estimate life. There are persons
upon whom all the advantages of experi-
ence are thrown away. Solomon says
that, " though thou shouldest bray a fool
in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet
will not his foolishness depart from him."
Such persons go through life with such
torpid indifference, that none of its occur-
rences, whether prosperous or adverse,
leave any trace on their minds. Their
present plans derive no improvement
from that wisdom which the failure of
their former plans might teach them;
they glide through the world, forgetful
of the past, and careless about the future;
and at the close of life have gained but
little more solid sense and judgment than
they had at its commencement. It is not
surprising, therefore, that from the expe-
rience of such persons the young and
inexperienced should gain but little in-
struction. We all expect that knowledge
should be the consequence of a long life;
and we turn, therefore, with sorrow and
regret, from those who appear not to have
grown .wiser as they have grown older.
And unwilling, as we are, to deny to the
aged that veneration and reverence which
their privilege obtains, we had rathei
trust our own eyes in the journey of life,
than yield to the guidance of those who
have lost their way.
But among those aged travellers we
are not to number David. He had not
mingled with the world to no purpose;
he had seen it in all its varied forms ;
and, in coming to the conclusion of the
text, he had been guided by a long and
observant experience.
And be it remarked, moreover, that
this is the testimony, not only of an old
man, and a wise man, but of a great man.
It will be remembered that David was a
monarch, an absolute monarch ; and this
consideration gives peculiar force to his
testimony. Had it been made by other
men, we mio-hthavethoughtto escape from
2 I 373
such a melancholy conclusion. Had we
been told by one whose experience was
but little, that we are only " strangers
and sojourners, that our days on the earth
are as a shadow, and there is none abid-
ing," we might have considered him as
giving utterance rather to the feelings of
discontent than the confidence of persua-
sion ; and as speaking not so much of the
general state of human life, as of his own
share, and his own situation. But the
character and eminence of David leave
no room for subterfuge ; we are compelled
to admit his conclusion, because of the
soundness and the validity of the pre-
mises. He had witnessed the extremes
of life. He had been a shepherd boy ;
and this may account for his delightful
adoption of a shepherd and his flock, that
occur so frequently in the Psalms ; and
he was raised from that lowly condition
to the summit of all that is great and
illustrious in society. He had in his
possession whatever power and riches
could confer; every power and delight
which others possessed he had authority
to summons, or wealth to purchase ; and
all that royal prosperity could supply
was accumulated upon him. He had
found, however, that the splendour of roy-
alty could contribute very little to the
promotion of happiness, could promise
him no security from the vicissitudes of
life. High though he was placed above
the common standard of earthly prosperity,
he knew that he was still in the sphere of
humanity ; and that the highest point of
its orbit extends not beyond the region of
clouds and storms, by which he was at
all times liable to be invaded.
or was he a stranger to the difficul-
ties of domestic affliction ; for the only
son of whom, we are told, he was pas-
sionately fond, and whose life seems to
have been bound up in his own, was the
only son who took up arms against him.
Yes, brethren, David knew, from expe-
rience, that in every department of human
felicity there is a void ; and that in the
most prosperous life there is some corner
possessed by sorrow.
ow, therefore, at the age of three-
score years and ten, at the height of pros-
perity, (for the Jewish nation had never
appeared to be more at home than at the
close of David's life,) he is lookino- upon
the past, and the last scenes of his his-
tory, and having spread the world in its
amount before him when he looks at the
total this — this is the sum — " We are
strangers before thee, and sojourners, as
were all our fathers : our days on the
earth are as a shadow, and there is none
There are two points in the further con-
sideration of this verse on which I shall
engage your attention.
First, We have here a description of
Secondly, An inference of Christian
First, We have here a description op
HUMA life — a pilgrimage. Our passage
through life is represented in Scripture
under a variety of striking and express-
ive images. Sometimes it is compared to
an arrow flying through the air, which
quickly strikes the mark it aims at ; some-
times to a race in which we soon arrive
at the destined goal ; sometimes to a
flower, which to-day is grovnng in the
field, and to-morrow cut down and
withered. But there is, perhaps, no
figure by which the Christian state on
earth is more frequently described, or
more aptly illustrated, than by that of a
journey. The other figures give us an
idea of some particulars only in the life
of man, to assist his progress to his des-
tined end ; but a journey seems to com-
prehend all its usual circumstances: re-
presenting the whole world in all its dis-
tinctions, rich and poor, wise and foolish,
young and old, all journeying to their
everlasting home. In the common jour-
neys of the world some are long, and
marked, and crossed, with a great diver-
sity of circumstances : others, again, are
short, quietly performed, and passed
without any particular occurrence. So
with the journey of life. Some are pre-
served to toil through the various stages
of childhood, youth, and manhood, and
old age ; others, again, have completed
their journey ere the noonday brightness
beams upon them ; and some in the morn
ing of their days. But the resemblances
are almost too numerous to be told.
Hence, however, Christians are styhd
"strangers and sojourners."
ow a stranger, I need not tell yon, is
the opposite to a home station; and the
Christian is travelling through a strange
country, in which he is commanded to
execute his work with diligence, and pur-
sue his course homeward with alacrity.
The fruits which he sees by the way-side
he gathers with caution ; and he drinks
of the stream with moderation. He is
tliankful when the sun shines upon his
progress, and his way is pleasant ; but if
the way be rough and the weather stormy
he cares not, he is but a traveller ; and
you know if, in an earthly journey, the
accommodation of the inn be not entirely
what we wish, we bear it easily, it is of
little consequence, it is the habitation
only of a night, in the morning we are
gone. And so it is with the Christian ;
he is prepared for vicissitudes ; but he is
travelling to a better country, a country
of unclouded light and undisturbed seren-
ity. He finds, also, that when the accom-
modations to be given are poor, he is less
disposed to loiter. He knows also, that
to the very end of life his journey will be
through an enemy's country, where he
has multitudes to oppose him ; that his
way is beset with snares ; temptations
crowd around him to betray him from his
course, and to check his spiritual advance-
ment. He knows the very atmosphere
of the world induces drowsiness ; so that,
to the very last, it becomes him to be cir-
cumspect and collected. Frequently,
therefore, does he examine the progress
he has made, whereabouts he is, how
he has got forward, and whether he is
travelling in a right direction. Some-
times his progress appears to be consider-
able, at other times it is slender ; and at
all times it is less than he wishes. At
one time he is cheered with hope and
gladdened by success ; at another the
clouds hover too many over his head, he
is disquieted by doubts and damped by
Such is a sketch of the Christian's
journey through life. He is a " stran-
ger," and, as Daj^id describes him fur-
ther, he is a " sojourner." This last
expression is borrowed from the usage of
the Arabs, who pitch their tents in the
evening and strike them the next morn-
ing. In the epistle to the Hebrews, a
list of venerable men of former days : —
"These all died in faith, not having re-
ceived the promises, but having seen
them afar off, and were persuaded of
them, and embraced them, and confessed
that they were strangers and pilgrims on
the earth." You will recollect that such
was the confession of the good old man,
Jacob, upon a question put to him by
the Egyptian monarch : " And Jacob said
unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of
my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty
j^ears : few and evil have the days of the
years of my life been, and have not
attained unto the days of the years of the
life of my fathers in the days of their pil-
grimage." And such as was Jacob's
life, is our life. Oh, brethren, that we
could embrace this grand sentiment : "this
is not your rest." Your life, brethren,
at the longest, is a short journey, and
unless the end is regarded, it is an inef-
fectual journey. " We are but strangers
and! sojourners, as all our fathers were."
It is no new thing in the character of
David's life ; he was that, only, which
all his fathers had been. And we too,
brethren, ma)^ assure ourselves that life,
in all future periods, will continue to be
what it has been to generations past, —
" Our days are as a shadow." What is
a shadow ¦? Let a man look back on his
own life, and he will get the answer to
the question ; let him take a serious and
impartial retrospect of his former history,
and then give in his evidence ; and — " we
are strangers and sojourners as were all
our fathers : our days on the earth are as
a shadow, and. there is none abiding,"
will be the amount of his testimony.
Let me appeal to the older persons in
the church this morning, some of the age
of the writer of the text ; let them tell us,
or rather tell themselves, what it is.
And will you not saj*^, dear brethren, that
it has been a shacfow 1 What has been
grasped — what has been obtained ? I
hope of none of you it may be said, that
he has sown to the wind and reaped the
whirlwind. I know how to make it sub-
stance, you know how to make it sub-
stance; but are you doing it 1 one thing
is needful — an interest in Christ, and
being clothed in the mantle of his spotless
righteousness ; and having all your ini-
quities cast behind Jesus' back into the
depths of the sea. That one thing will
give substance to this shadow, and will
furnish something to grasp in the ilittings
of life.
ow, supposing our days on the earth
were not a shadow — supposing our life
was as substantial as it is shadowy, then
it wants permanency — then there would
be deeper regret at parting with it than
that which we even now feel. But how,
if all were substance instead of shadow,
how would it answer the purpose of spi-
ritual discipline ] Unsatisfactory as its
happiest department is said to be, its
pleasures are too apt to corrupt our hearts.
How awful, then, would the conse-
quences be did it yield us more complete
enjoyment ! If, with all its trouble, we
are declared to be too much attached to
it, how entirely might it have riveted our
affections if no trouble had been mingled
with its pleasures ; if all its shadows had
been substance! God, therefore, has
mercifully tinged all sublunary things
with vanity on purpose to make us feel
that this is not our rest, that here we are,
if we may so say, not in our proper place,
not arrived at our true home. If, there-
fore, we expect to find any substantial
happiness on earth, we pursue a phantom ;
we increase the agitation and unhappiness
of life by engaging in a chase entirely
fruitless, — " For we are strangers and
sojourners: our days on the earth are as
a shadow, and there is none abiding."
Life is so with all ranks. I must remind
you, that this is the confession of a mo-
narch, who had giveii to him power, a
crown, a sceptre, splendour, and domi-
nion ; and yet, all was shadow, and
he says, too, " there is none abiding."
The literal translation of the word
" abiding" is, there is no expectation .• "our
days on the earth are as a shadow, and
there is no expectation,^^ Life is so
shadowy that nothing can be expected
from it.
ow I wish you to mark, brethren,
that this confession was not made before
a select company of pious friends ; it was
not a sentiment formed in the stillness
of retirement, as he was writing in an
animated strain on some topic of religion,
and when the unfettered mind miglit be
allowed to give full utterance to the fer-
vency of his devotion ; but it was a public
confession, made before a full convention
of all his people, his princes, and his son,
who succeeded him. To some modern
minds, and according to the low standard
of present Christianity, it might have
been deemed more prudent to have with-
held from so grave and solemn a subject
before his own son, now rising into life,
and especially from before a convention
of the whole nation. But David was not
a man, like some of you, to shrink from
a bold avowal of religious truth. He
was one of those eminent and fearless
saints, who deprecated the thought of not
being honestly explicit; or to consult the
wishes of a court or a kingdom, at the
expense of sincerity ; and, therefore, he
cannot refrain from declaring publicly
what he felt cordially and deeply im-
pressed with, — the vanity of all sublunary
things, and so utters the heart dictated
confession — " We," monarchs as we are,
and thou, monarch though thou soon wilt
be, "we are strangers and sojourners be-
fore God : our days on the earth are as a
shadow, and there is no expectation from
it." Do you think, then, brethren, that
when David's pilgrimage below had
touched upon its close, and he turned
aside his eyes from scenes of mortality,
it was to him any subject of regret that
he was permitted no longer to remain on
earth, that he was taken from all his
riches and enchanting pleasures, and for
ever to quit that world, of whose grandeur
he formed so conspicuous a part ] Oh !
no. other objects occupied his mind ; other
thoughts engaged his attention, and will
continue to engage it for ever : all things
became changed in a moment, and,
viewed from the pure and ineffable light
of the heavenly regions, the lustre of a
diadem is scarcely visible, m.ajesty itself
emanates a feeble and a sickly ray, and all
ranks and conditions of men appear to be
but so many troops of pilgrims in differ-
ent journeys, toiling through the same
vale of tears, and distinguished only by
different degrees of rank.
So much, then, touching a brief descrip-
tion of human life.
Let us hasten, in the second place, to
gather from it an inference of Chris-
tian DUTY. And it might scarcely be
supposed, although any thing might be
supposed of human nature in an unsaiicti-
fied state, that, knowing ourselves to be
but strangers and sojourners, and that all
our days on the earth are but as a shadow,
we should go through the journey of life
with no concern about its termination.
This thoughtlessness, indeed, is the
most astonishing phenomenon of nature,
and shows what a wreck the mind
has suffered. Our great God has made
man a prospective creature ; and he gives
proof of this prospectiveness in every
action of his life. He has endowed him
with a capacity of comparing the present
with the past, and also of anticipating the
future. And thus it is, too, we are per-
petually dwelling with anxious rumina-
tion on scenes which are yet remote ; we
are capable of carrying our views, and
taking our inquiries, to a period much
more distant than the limits of our present
existence ; we are capable of plunging
into the depth of future duration ; and of
identifying ourselves with the sentiments
and opinions of the distant ages. How
is it, then, that we find it so difficult to
prevail on men to fix their attention on
that other world, that real future exist-
ence, which reason assures us is probable,
which the Bible teaches us is certain,
and to which all the thousands of man-
kind are travelling every moment 1 How
is it that the professed followers of Him,
especially, who descended from heaven,
who came forth from the Father to con-
duct us there, are so indisposed to turn
their thoughts and contemplation to that
unchanging state of being on which they
are so shortly to enter 1 It is not because
we are so much enchanted with the
country through which we are journey-
ing, as to be incapable of diverting our
attention from it. This may be the case,
however, with some of the congregation,
but it is not so with all ; for we are con-
tinually disquieted by disappointments ;
and we meet with strange usage in oui
journey, which convinces us we are not
at home. It is not because we are sel
dom warned or reminded, that our jonrnej
must shortly end ; for every funeral bell
every opened grave, every symptom ot
decay within and of change without us,
teaches us that we are but " strangers
and sojourners, as were all our fathers:
our days on the earth are as a shadow,
and there is none abiding."
ow if any other event of far inferior
moment were ascertained by evidence,
which made but a distant approach to
that which attests the certainty of another
world — had we actual assurance, for ex-
ample, that after a very limited, though
uncertain period, we should be called to
emigrate unto a distant land, whence we
were never to return, the intelligence
would fill every bosom with solicitude,
it would become the theme of our tongue,
the anxious topic of every conversation ;
and we should avail ourselves, with the
utmost eagerness, of all the means of in-
formation respecting the prospects which
await us, in that unknown country ; much
of our attention would be occupied in
preparing for our departure, we should
cease to consider the place we now inha-
bit as our home ; and nothing would be
considered as of moment, but as it bore
upon our future destination. How
strange is it, then, that w^ith the cer-
tainty that every man of us possesses,
of shortly entering into another world,
we avert our eyes as much as possible
from the prospect, that we seldom
permit it to penetrate us, and that the
moment the recollection returns we has-
ten to dismiss it as an unwelcome intru-
sion ! Is it not surprising that tbe very
volume which we profess to recognise as
the record of our immortality, as the sole
depository of whatever information it is
possible to obtain of that unknown coun-
try, the map that will guide us to it,
should be suffered to lay beside us un-
opened, unread, and altogether unattended
to. But, brethren, if we had known, and
surely there is not one in this house
who does not know it, the Bible to be the
only unerring road book to that land to
which we are travelling, oh why after
consulting it in the closet, if, at least,
you do consult it there — but I ana not
speaking to those who do not consult the
Bible, for, I say, if we acknowledge it to
be the only unerring road-book to heaven —
why, after consulting it in the closet in
the morning, do we forget it when we set
out on our journey ; and not only neglect
the directions it affords, but pursue con-
trary paths of our own devising.
Oh, dear brethren, let me beseech you,
now that a kind Providence has permit-
ted you to pass over the old year and to
begin a new one, to remember that you
are "pilgrims and sojourners, that all
your days on earth are only shadows."
Oh, do not act this year, at least so much
of it as you may be permitted to see, as
you have, perhaps, in years that are
past : as if the pleasures and occupations
of the present life were matter and sub-
stance, and as if those of heaven were
dreams and shadows. But let your de-
portment this year, at least, be like that
of citizens of heaven, who are only tra-
velling through the earth to the kingdom
of their reconciled Father who is in hea-
ven, and who are anxious to " depart and
be with Christ, which is far better ;" and
whose chief care is to journey on that
narrow road which will conduct you
safely to the promised land of rest. Oh,
eirdeavour to display more of the mind of
Christ as you draw nearer the throne of
Christ, and then you shall share in the
glory of Christ. As heaven is your
home, there let your affections be.
To those in church, who may be for-
ward in the journey of life, I would say,
and, oh, may the Holy Spirit of God —
without whom all descriptions of human
life, and all inferences of Christian duty
will be utterly powerless — oh, may that
Holy Spirit cause the saying to sink
down into your heart, that, shadowy as
is your life, eternity will turn the whole
into substance. Every action, every
word, every thought will be weighed on
the day of judgment, and will be sub-
stance in the scale, either for your con-
demnation or acceptance ; he that is
unjust will be unjust still, and he that is
holy will be holy still. The vanity which
adheres to the world in every form, when
its pleasures and occupations are regarded
as ultimate objects, is at once corrected,
when viewed in connexion with a bound-
less eternity ; and whatever may be their
intrinsic value, they rise into dignity and
importance when considered as the seed
of a future harvest, as a path which, how
narrow and obscure however, leads to
honour and immortality. othing is
trivial which is referred to such a sys-
tem ; nothing is vain and frivolous which
has the slightest bearing on such an aw-
ful reality.
As you value, then, dear brethren, the
eternal welfare of your souls, bethink
yourselves this morning whether, in your
journey to another world, you are walk-
ing in the narrow way, choosing God for
your Father, and the Redeemer for your
elder brother ; or whether you are hasten-
ing on in your thoughtless career, in the
broad road that leads to destruction. Re-
member that on earth all is shadow ; but
all beyond is substance. Oh be careful
in the great and eventful journey, on which
we have all set out, that none of the plea-
sures and occupations of this life assume
such magnitude, as to intercept our view
of the final prospect. There is, verily,
no abiding, no expectation, in any thing
or from any thing that we meet with in
our passage through life but the one thing
Let me implore you, then, dear bre-
thren, to raise your affections above the
perishing things of earth, to those things
which are above. Plan for eternity, and
choose the unchangeable God as your fa-
ther, knowing that you have here " no con-
tinuing city, but seek one to come ; a city
which hath foundations, whose builder
and maker is God." Let the Lord Jesus
be your leader and guide; under his con-
duct immediately set out, if you have not
yet begun the journey to the heavenly
Jerusalem ; and in due time he shall bring
you to the city of the great King, where
you shall continue, not for a year only,
but for ever ; and where all your shadows
shall be changed into substance — even
unto that glorious inheritance of the
saints in light, which is " incorruptible,
undefiled, and fadeth not away."
And to those who are desirous to gain
fresli strength for the remainder of their
journey, I would say, come now to the
table of the Lord, where wisdom shall be
dispensed to those who are ignorant, and
strength to those who are weary, yea,
come this — the first Sabbath of a new
year, with enlarged expectations, relying
on the unsearchable riches of Christ ; and
according to your faith in the ordinance
so shall it be done unto you.

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