The Consideration of Death
Deuteronomy 32:20
And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very fraudulent generation…

That there is very generally a strange want of reflection and concern respecting our condition as mortal is most apparent in many plain familiar truths. Perhaps nothing in the world that appears so out of consistency is so obvious. The fact of a whole race dead, from the beginning of time to the present generation, comes with but little impression on us, except at occasional moments. In surveying history it is with the men of past ages as living that our thoughts are busy. But there is no need of illustrations of such wide reference. The insensibility may be shown in more familiar exemplifications. Persons inhabiting a house of considerable age — how often are they reminded that persons formerly occupying its apartments, treading its avenues, are dead, with a pointed application of this thought to themselves? And so of places of worship, and of other resort. But there is still more immediate evidence. How little effect, in the way of reflection on ourselves, appears to be produced by the instances and spectacles of actual mortality; the termination of a life in our near neighbourhood, or among those whom we well knew! Persons frequently and officially conversant with circumstances of death are often very remarkably estranged from reflection upon it, as applied to themselves. Consider, again, how little and seldom we are struck with the reflection, how many things we are exposed to that might cause death! what little things might be fatal! But we go forward just as if none of these smaller poisoned arrows of death were flying, or of the greater darts either. Observe, too, how soon a recovery from danger sets aside the serious thought of death. Observe, again, how schemes are formed for a long future time, with as much interest and as much anticipating confidence as if there were no such thing in the world as death. And when it is asked, "And how comes this to be?" the general explanation is that which accounts for everything that is wrong — namely, the fearful radical depravity of our nature. But to assign this general cause does not suffice to the inquiry. There doubtless are special causes, through which that great general one operates, availing itself of them.

1. One of these may be the perfect distinctness of life and death. They do not partially co-exist in the individual like imperfect health with a degree of illness. We have life absolutely, and death not at all; so that we can make no experimental comparison between them; we cannot know by means of the one what the other is.

2. Again, we think that even the certainty and the universality of death may be numbered among the causes tending to withdraw men's thoughts from it.

3. We might specify another thing as one of the causes sought for; that is, the utter inability to form any defined idea of the manner of existence after death. The thoughts sent onward to that boundary of life cannot stop there; the mere termination itself is nothing; they look beyond; but beyond is thickest darkness, as often as they go there; so that there is, as it were, nothing shown to draw the mind thither to look over the limit. But, after all, the chief causes that there is so little thought and concern on this great subject are of a much more obvious kind, and involving guilt.

4. One is a general presumption of having long to live. In each stage of life still this beguiled confidence is indulged.

5. Another great cause of the thoughtlessness and insensibility (indeed, it is both cause and effect) is that men occupy their whole soul and life with things to preclude the thought of its end.

6. We may add to these causes an inadequate, contracted notion of what is necessary as a preparation for the event.

7. And to give full force to all these causes, there is, in a large proportion of men, a formal, systematic endeavour to keep off the thought of death. A strong action to turn the thoughts in another direction — an amusing book seized, or a hasty recourse to occupation, or an excursion, or a going into a gay circle, possibly a plunge into intemperance. And all the unfortunate things that may have befallen have not been a measure of calamity equal to that involved in the success of this endeavour! We have hardly a moment left for the topics of admonition and remonstrance against indulging such a habit of the soul. But let it be impressed upon us that to end our life is the mightiest event that awaits us in this world. And it is that which we are living but to come to. It holds out a grand protest against being absorbed and lost in this world. It is the termination of a period confessedly introductory and probationary. Without thinking of it, often and with deep interest, there is no possibility that our scheme and course of life should be directed to the supreme purpose of life. To have been thoughtless of it, then, will ultimately be an immense calamity; it will be to be in a state unprepared for it.

(J. Foster.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.

WEB: He said, "I will hide my face from them. I will see what their end shall be; for they are a very perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.

The Close of the Year
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