Ecclesiastes 7:1
A good name is better than fine perfume, and one's day of death is better than his day of birth.
Sermons
A Good NameH. W. Beecher.Ecclesiastes 7:1
A Good NameJ. Hamilton, D. D.Ecclesiastes 7:1
A Well-Grounded Good NameEcclesiastes 7:1
Comparative Estimate of Life and DeathS. Summers.Ecclesiastes 7:1
Of the Birthday and the Dying-DayT. Boston, D. D.Ecclesiastes 7:1
ReputationD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 7:1
ReputationW. Clarkson Ecclesiastes 7:1
The Believer's Deathday Better than His BirthdayEcclesiastes 7:1
The Charm of GoodnessJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 7:1
The Day of the Christian's DeathG. S. Ingram.Ecclesiastes 7:1
The Fragrance of Moral WorthA. M. Stalker.Ecclesiastes 7:1
The connection between the two clauses of this verse is not at first sight apparent. But it may well be intended to draw attention to the fact that it is in the case of the man who has justly gained a good name that the day of death is better than that of birth.

I. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH REPUTATION AMONG MEN IS WORTHLESS, AND IN WHICH SOLICITUDE FOR REPUTATION IS FOLLY. If the reality of fact points one way, and the world's opinion points in an opposite direction, that opinion is valueless. It is better to be good than to seem and to be deemed good; and it is worse to be bad than unjustly to be reputed bad. Many influences affect the estimation in which a man is held among his fellows. Through the world's injustice and prejudice, a good man may be evil spoken of. On the other hand, a bad man may be reputed better than he is, when he humors the world's caprices, and falls in with the world's tastes and fashions. He who aims at conforming to the popular standard, at winning the world's applause, will scarcely make a straight course through life.

II. YET THERE IS A RIGHTEOUS REPUTATION WHICH OUGHT NOT TO BE DESPISED. Such good qualities and habits as justice, integrity and truthfulness as bravery sympathy, and liberality, must needs, in the course of a lifetime, make some favorable impression upon neighbors, and perhaps upon the public; and in many cases a man distinguished by such virtues will have the credit of being what he is. A good name, when deserved, and when obtained by no mean artifices, is a thing to be desired, though not in the highest degree. It may console amidst trials and difficulties, it is gratifying to friends, and it may serve to rouse the young to emulation. A man who is in good repute possesses and exercises in virtue of that very fact an extended influence for good.

III. IT IS ONLY WHEN LIFE IS COMPLETED THAT A REPUTATION IS FULLY AND FINALLY MADE UP. "Call no man happy before his death" is an ancient adage, not without its justification. There are those who have only become famous in advanced life, and there are those who have enjoyed a temporary celebrity which they have long outlived, and who have died in unnoticed obscurity. It is after a man's career has come to an end that his character and his work are fairly estimated; the career is considered as a whole, and then the judgment is formed accordingly.

IV. THE APPROVAL OF THE DIVINE JUDGE AND AWARDER IS OF SUPREME CONSEQUENCE. A good name amongst one's fellow-creatures, as fallible as one's self, is of small account. Who does not admire the noble assertion of the Apostle Paul, "It is a small thing for me to be judged by man's judgment"? They who are calumniated for their fidelity to truth, who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, who are execrated by the unbelieving and the worldly whose vices and sins they have opposed, shall be recognized and rewarded by him whose judgment is just, and who suffers none of his faithful servants to be for ever unappreciated. But they may wait for appreciation until "the day of death." The clouds of misrepresentation and of malice shall then be rolled away, and they shall shine like stars in the firmament. "Then shall every man have praise of God." - T.







A good name is better than precious ointment.
I. THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD NAME. It is something more than being "well spoken of," for often "what is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." It is not even a good reputation, unless that be sustained by the good reality. , on being asked how one might obtain a good name, replied, "Study really to be what you wish to be accounted." "A good name" is enshrined in "whatsoever things are honest, lovely, and of good report" — a "name" not only remembered on earth, but "written in heaven." It includes —

1. Piety.

2. Diligence.

3. Integrity.

4. Patriotism.

5. Benevolence.

6. Devotion.

II. THE SUPERIOR VALUE OF A GOOD NAME. "Better than precious ointment."

1. It is rarer. Rare as some oriental unguents are, they are plentiful compared with Scripture's "good name" in this pretentious world.

2. It is more costly. Not a little did the alabaster box of ointment, poured by one on the Saviour, cost; but who shall estimate the expense at which a rebel against God has been so changed in state and character as to have a name, absolutely fragrant, not only in a sinful earth, but throughout a sinless universe? The sufferings of Jesus and the influences of the Spirit indicate a cost which no arithmetic can compute.

3. It is more enduring than ointment. The latter's delectable properties will soon evaporate, as if it had never been; but a "good name," earned in "doing the will of God, abideth for ever." "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."

4. Than ointment, such a "good name" is "better" for the individual himself. It inlays the soul with satisfaction. "A good man shall be satisfied," not with, but "from himself." He secures a signal luxury. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Such "a good name" is "better" for society. It is stimulating. Barnabas's "good name" was a passport to Saul of Tarsus among the Churches. Paul's "good name" was all that was needed to secure large donations for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Such a name is absolutely beneficial. What woes have not fled before its odoriferous power! What songs has it not kindled on lips unaccustomed to "the music of the spheres"!

(A. M. Stalker.)

The improving of our life in this world to the raising up a well-grounded good name and savoury character in it, is the best balance for the present for the vanity and misery attending our life, better than the most savoury earthly things.

I. SOME THINGS SUPPOSED IN THE DOCTRINE.

1. There is a vanity and misery that is the inseparable attendant of human life in this world. No man in life is free of it, nor can be (Psalm 39:6).

2. Every man will find himself obliged to seek for some allay of that vanity and misery of life, that he may be enabled to comport with it (Psalm 6:6). This makes a busy world, every one seeking something to make his hard seat soft.

3. It is natural for men to seek an allay to the vanity and misery of life in earthly things (Psalm 6:6).

4. But the best of earthly things will make but a sorry plaster for that sore; they will not be able to balance the vanity and misery of life, but with them all life may be rendered sapless, through the predominant vanity and misery of it.

5. Howbeit, the improving of life to the raising a well-grounded good name, will balance the vanity and misery of life effectually; so that he who has reached that kind of living, has what is well worth the enduring all the miseries of life for. There is an excellency and good in it that downweigh all the evils attending life.

II. WHAT IS THE WELL-GROUNDED GOOD NAME THAT IS THE BALANCE OF THE VANITY AND MISERY OF HUMAN LIFE?

1. It is the name of religion, and no less; for there is nothing truly good separate from religion (Matthew 7:18).

2. It is raised on the reality of religion, and no less; for a mere show of religion is but a vain and empty thing, which will dwindle to nothing with other vanities. We may take up that good name in three parts.(1) Friend of God (James 2:23).(2) Faithful to the Lord (Acts 16:15). That designs the man's temper and way towards God.(3) Useful to men, serving his generation (Acts 13:35). That designs the man's temper and way towards his neighbour.

III. WHAT IS THE IMPROVEMENT OF LIFE WHEREBY THAT GOOD NAME MAY BE RAISED.

1. Improve your life by a personal and saving entering into the covenant of grace, and uniting with Christ, by believing on His name.

2. Improve your life to a living a life of faith in this world.(1) Let it be a life of believing and dependence on God in Christ for all.(2) Let it be a life of devotion, despise and scoff at it who will. In respect of the truths of God made known to you, reckoning every truth sacred, and cleaving thereto against all hazards and opposition (Proverbs 23:28). In respect of the worship of God; in secret, private, and public, showing reverence in the frame of your heart and outward gestures; so shall ye have the good name.(3) Let it be a life of heavenly-mindedness and contempt of the world (Philippians 3:20). So Enoch got the good name of walking with God (Genesis 5:24), and the worthies (Hebrews 11:13-16).(4) Let it be a life of Christian deportment under trials and afflictions in flee. So patience, resignation, holy cheerfulness under the cross are necessary to raise the good name (James 1:4).(5) Let it be a life of uprightness, the same where no eye sees you but God's, as where the eyes of men are upon you.

3. Improve your life to the living of a life beneficial to mankind, profitable to your fellow-creatures, diffusing a benign influence through the world, as ye have access; so that when you are gone, the world may be convinced they have lost a useful member that sought their good; so shall ye have the good name, "Useful to men" (Acts 13:36).(1) "Cast the world a copy by your good example" (Matthew 5:18). Of devotion and piety towards God, in a strict and religious observance of your duty towards Him. This will be a practical testimony for Him, a light that will condemn the world's profane contempt of Him (Proverbs 28:4). Of exact justice and truth in all your doings and sayings with men (Zechariah 8:16). Of sobriety in moderating your own passions with a spirit of peacefulness, meekness, and forbearance (Matthew 11:29).(2) Be of a beneficent disposition, disposed to do good to mankind as you have access (Galatians 6:10).(3) Lay out yourselves to forward the usefulness of others (1 Corinthians 16:10, 11).(4) Be conscientious in the performance of the duties of your station and relations (1 Corinthians 7:24). It is exemplified in the ease of the priests (Malachi 2:6); of wives (1 Peter 3:1); and of servants (Titus 2:9, 10). To pretend to usefulness without our sphere is the effect of pride and presumption, and is the same absurdity in moral conduct as it would be in nature for the moon and stars to set up for the rule of the day, the sun contenting himself with the rule of the night.

IV. CONFIRM THE POINT.

1. This improvement of life is the best balance for the present, for the vanity and misery of life.(1) Hereby a man answers the end of his creation, for which he was sent into the world; and surely the reaching of such a noble end is the best balance for all the hardships in the way of it.(2) It brings such a substantial and valuable good out of our life as will downweigh all the inconveniences that attend our life in the world.(3) It brings such valuable good into our life as more than counterbalanceth all the vanity and misery of it. A present comfort and satisfaction within oneself (2 Corinthians 1:12). A future prospect, namely, of complete happiness, which must needs turn the scales entirely, be the miseries of life what they will (Romans 8:35-89).(4) That good name well grounded is a thing that may cost much indeed, but it cannot be too dear bought (Proverbs 23:23). Whatever it cost you, you will be gainers, if ye get it (Philippians 3:8).

2. This improvement of life is better than the best and most savoury earthly things.(1) It will give a greater pleasure to the mind than any earthly thing can do (Proverbs 3:17; Psalm 4:7; 2 Corinthians 1:17).(2) It will last longer than they will all do (Psalm 112:6).(3) It is the only thing we can keep to ourselves in the world to our advantage when we leave the world.(4) The good name will, after we are away, be savoury in the world, when the things that others set their hearts on will make them stink when they are gone.(5) The good name will go farther than the best and most savoury things of the earth. Mary pours a box of precious ointment on Christ, which no doubt sent its savour through the whole house; but Christ paid her for it with the good name that should send its savour through the whole world (Matthew 26:13). But ye may think we can have no hope that ever our good name will go that wide. That is a mistake; for if we raise ourselves the good name, it will certainly be published before all the world at the last day (Revelation 3:5), and we will carry it over the march betwixt the two worlds into the other world (ver. 12).

(T. Boston, D. D.)

There are a thousand men in our cities to-day who are considering, "What is the best investment that I can make of myself? What are the tools that will cut my way in life best?" It sounds to them very much like old-fashioned preaching to say that a good name is the best thing you can have. Now, let us consider that a little. In the first place, what is included in a name? A man that has a name has a character; and a good name is a good character; but it is more than a good character; it is a good character with a reputation that properly goes with character. It is what you are, and then what men think you to be — the substance and the shadow both; for character is what a man is, and what men think him to be; and when they are coincident, then you have the fulness of a good name. In the world at large, what are the elements of conduct which leave upon society a kind of impression of you? The first foundation quality of manliness is truth-speaking. Then, perhaps, next to that is justice; the sense of what is right between man and man; fairness. Then sincerity. Then fidelity. If these are all coupled with good sense, or common sense, which is the most uncommon of all sense; if these are central to that form of intelligence which addresses itself to the capacity of the average man, you have a very good foundation laid. Men used, before the era of steam, to wearily tow their boats up through the lower Ohio, or through the Mississippi, with a long line; and at night it was not always safe for them to fasten their boats on the bank while they slept, because there was danger, from the wash of the underflowing current, that they would find themselves drifting and pulling a tree after them. Therefore they sought out well-planted, solid, enduring trees and tied to them, and the phrase became popular, "That man will do to tie to" — that is to say, he has those qualities which make it perfectly safe for you to attach yourself to him. Now, not only are these foundation qualities, but they are qualities which tend to breed the still higher elements. If with substantial moral excellence there comes industry, superior skill, in any and every direction, if a man's life leads him to purity and benevolence, then he has gone up a stage higher. If it is found, not that the man is obsequious to the sects, but that he is God-fearing in the better sense of the term fear, that he is really a religious-minded man, that he is pure in his moral habits, though he is deficient in his enterprise and endeavours, so that his inspiration is not calculation, so that the influence that is working in him is the influence of the eternal and invisible; if all these qualities in him have been known and tested; if it is found that his sincerity is not the rash sincerity of inexperience, and that it is not the impulse of an untutored and untrained generosity; if it is found that these qualities implanted in him have been built upon, that they have increased, that they have had the impact of storms upon them, and that they have stood; if there have been inducements and temptations to abandon truth and justice, and sincerity and fidelity, but the man has been mightier than the temptation or the inducement — then he has built a name, at least, which is a tower of strength; and men say, "There is a man for you." Now, how does a man's name affect his prosperity? It is said that it is better than precious ointment. Well, in the first place, it works in an invisible way, in methods that men do not account for. It suffuses around about one an atmosphere, not very powerful, but yet very advantageous, in the form of kind feelings and wishes. Then consider how a good name, where it is real, and is fortified by patient continuance in well-doing, increases in value. There is no other piece of property whose value is enhanced more rapidly than this, because every year that flows around about a man fortifies the opinion of men that it is not put on, that it is not vincible, that it is real and stable. Then, a good name is a legacy. There is many and many a father that has ruined a son by transmitting money to him. There is no knife that is so dangerous as a golden knife. But there is no man that ever hurt his son by giving him a good name — a name that is a perpetual honour; a name such that when it is pronounced it makes every one turn round and say, "Ah, that is his son," and smile upon him. A good name is worth a man's earning to transmit to his posterity. And that is not the end of it, where men are permitted to attain a great name. Some such we have had in our history. Some such appear in every age and generation in European history — some far back over the high summits of the thousands of years that have rolled between them and us. But some names there are in European history, and some names there are in American history, that have lifted the ideal of manhood throughout the whole world. So a good name becomes a heritage not only to one's children, to one's country, and to one's age, but, in the cases of a few men, to the race.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Hitherto the book has chiefly contained the diagnosis of the great disease. The royal patient has passed before us in every variety of mood, from the sleepy collapse of one who has eaten the fabled lotus, up to the frantic consciousness of a Hercules tearing his limbs as he tries to rend off his robe of fiery poison. He now comes to the cure. He enumerates the prescriptions which he tried, and mentions their results. Solomon's first beatitude is an honourable reputation. He knew what it had been to possess it; and he knew what it was to lose it. And here he says, Happy is the possessor of an untarnished character! so happy that he cannot die too soon! A name truly good is the aroma from virtuous character. It is a spontaneous emanation from genuine excellence. It is a reputation for whatsoever things are honest, and lovely, and of good report. To secure a reputation there must not only be the genuine excellence but the genial atmosphere. There must be some good men to observe and appreciate the goodness while it lived, and others to foster its memory when gone. But should both combine, — the worth and the appreciation of worth, — the resulting good name is better than precious ointment. Rarer and more costly, it is also one of the most salutary influences that can penetrate society. For, just as a box of spikenard is not only valuable to its possessor, but pre-eminently precious in its diffusion; so, when a name is really good, it is of unspeakable service to all who are capable of feeling its exquisite inspiration. And should the Spirit of God so replenish a man with His gifts and graces, as to render his name thus wholesome, better than the day of his birth will be the day of his death; for at death the box is broken and the sweet savour spreads abroad. There is an end of the envy and sectarianism and jealousy, the detraction and the calumny, which often environ goodness when living; and now that the stopper of prejudice is removed, the world fills with the odour of the ointment, and thousands grow stronger and more lifesome for the good name of one. Without a good name you can possess little ascendancy over others; and when it has not pioneered your way and won a prepossession for yourself, your patriotic or benevolent intentions are almost sure to be defeated. And yet it will never do to seek a good name as a primary object. Like trying to be graceful, the effort to be popular will make you contemptible. Take care of your spirit and conduct, and your reputation will take care of itself.

(J. Hamilton, D. D.)

The day of death than the day of one's birth
This statement must be understood not absolutely, but conditionally. It is applicable only to those who "die unto the Lord," and none can do so but those who are sincere believers in Christ, the sinner's Savior.

I. THE DAY OF THE CHRISTIAN'S DEATH BRINGS DELIVERANCE FROM ALL SUFFERING AND GRIEF. The end of a voyage is better than the beginning, especially if it has been a stormy one. Is not then the day of a Christian's death better than the day of his birth?

II. In the case of the believer in Jesus, THE DAY OF DEATH IS THE DAY OF FINAL TRIUMPH OVER ALL SIN, It is the day in which the work of grace in his soul is brought unto perfection; and is not that day better than the day of his birth?

III. In the case of Christ's followers, THE DAY OF THEIR DECEASE INTRODUCES THEM INTO A STATE OF ENDLESS REWARD (Psalm 31:19; 1 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Revelation 3:21).

(G. S. Ingram.)

You must have a good name, — you must be written among the living in Zion, written in the Lamb's book of life, or else the text is not true of you; and, alas, though the day of your birth was a bad day, the day of your death will be a thousand times worse. But now, if you are one of God's people, trusting in Him, look forward to the day of your death as being better than the day of your birth.

I. First, then, OUR DEATHDAY IS BETTER THAN OUR BIRTHDAY: and it is so for this among other reasons — "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof." When we are born we begin life, but what will that life be? Friends say, "Welcome, little stranger." Ah, but what kind of reception will the stranger get when he is no longer a new-comer? He who is newly born and is ordained to endure through a long life is like a warrior who puts on his harness for battle; and is not he in a better case who puts it off because he has won the victory? Ask any soldier which he likes best, the first shot in the battle or the sound which means "Cease firing, for the victory is won." When we were born we set out on our journey; but when we die we end our weary march in the Father's house above. Surely it is better to have come to the end of the tiresome pilgrimage than to have commenced it. Better is the day of death than our birthday, because about the birthday there hangs uncertainty. I heard this morning of a dear friend who had fallen asleep. When I wrote to his wife I said, "Concerning him we speak with certainty. You sorrow not as those that are without hope. A long life of walking with God proved that he was one of God's people, and we know that for such there remains joy without temptation, without sorrow, without end, for ever and ever." Oh, then, as much as certainty is better than uncertainty, the day of the saint's death is better than the day of his birth. So, too, in things which are certain the saint's deathday is preferable to the beginning of life, for we know that when the child is born he is born to sorrow. Trials must and will befall, and your little one who is born to-day is born to an inheritance of grief, like his father, like his mother, who prophesied it as it were by her own pangs. But look, now, at the saint when he dies. It is absolutely certain that he has done with sorrow, done with pain. Now, surely, the day in which we are certain that sorrow is over must be better than the day in which we are certain that sorrow is on the road.

II. The day of death is BETTER TO THE BELIEVER THAN ALL HIS HAPPY DAYS. What were his happy days? I shall take him as a man, and I will pick out some days that are often thought to be happy. There is the day of a man's coming of age, when he feels that he is a man, especially if he has an estate to come into. That is a day of great festivity. You have seen pictures of "Coming of age in the olden time," when the joy of the young squire seemed to spread itself over all the tenants and all the farm labourers: everybody rejoiced. Ah, that is all very well, but when believers die they do in a far higher sense come of age, and enter upon their heavenly estates. Then shall I pluck the grapes from those vines that I have read of as enriching the vales of Eshcol; then shall I lie down and drink full draughts of the river of God, which is full of water; then shall I know even as I am known, and see no more through a glass darkly, but face to face. Another very happy day with a man is the day of his marriage: who does not rejoice then? What cold heart is there which does not beat with joy on that day? But on the day of death we shall enter more fully into the joy of our Lord, and into that blessed marriage union which is established between Him and ourselves. There are days with men in business that are happy days, because they are days of gain. They get some sudden windfall, they prosper in business, or perhaps there are long months of prosperity in which all goes well with them, and God is giving them the desires of their heart. But, oh, there is no gain like the gain of our departure to the Father; the greatest of all gains is that which we shall know when we pass out of the world of trouble into the land of triumph. "To die is gain." There are days of honour, when a man is promoted in office, or receives applause from his fellow-men. But what a day of honour that will be for you and me if we are carried by angels into Abraham's bosom! Days of health are happy days, too. But what health can equal the perfect wholeness of a spirit in whom the Good Physician has displayed His utmost skill? We enjoy very happy days of social friendship, when hears warm with hallowed intercourse, when one can sit a while with a friend, or rest in the midst of one's family. Yes, but no day of social enjoyment will match the day of death. Some of us expect to meet troops of blessed ones that have gone home long ago, whom we never shall forget.

III. The day of a believer's death is BETTER THAN HIS HOLY DAYS ON EARTH. I think that the best holy day I ever spent was the day of my conversion. There was a novelty and freshness about that first day which made it like the day in which a man first sees the light after having been long blind. Since then we have known many blessed days; our Sabbaths, for instance. We can never give up the Lord's day. Precious and dear unto my soul are those sweet rests of love — days that God has hedged about to make them His own, that they may be ours. Oh, our blessed Sabbaths! Well, there is this about the day of one's death — we shall then enter upon an eternal Sabbath. Our communion days have been very holy days. It has been very sweet to sit at the Lord's table, and have fellowship with Jesus in the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine; but sweeter far will it be to commune with Him in the paradise above, and that we shall do on the day of our death. Those days have been good, I am not going to depreciate them, but to bless the Lord for every one of them. When we say that a second thing is "better," it is supposed that the first thing has some goodness about it. Aye, and our holy days on earth have been good; fit rehearsals of the jubilee beyond the river. When you and I enter heaven, it will not be going from bad to good, but from good to better. The change will be remarkable, but it will not be so great a change as thoughtless persons would imagine. First, there will be no change of nature. The same nature which God gave us when we were regenerated — the spiritual nature — is that which will enjoy the heavenly state. On earth we have had good days, because we have had a good nature given us by the Holy Spirit, and we shall possess the same nature above, only more fully grown and purged from all that hinders it. We shall follow the same employments above as we have followed here. We shall spend eternity in adoring the Most High. To draw near to God in communion — that is one of our most blessed employments. We shall do it there, and take our fill of it. Nor is this all, for we shall serve God in glory. You active-spirited ones, you shall find an intense delight in continuing to do the same things as to spirit as you do here, namely, adoring and magnifying and spreading abroad the saving name of Jesus in whatever place you may be.

IV. The day of a saint's death is BETTER THAN THE WHOLE OF HIS DAYS PUT TOGETHER, because his days here are days of dying. The moment we begin to live we commence to die. Death is the end of dying. On the day of the believer's death dying is for ever done with. This life is failure, disappointment, regret. Such emotions are all over when the day of death comes, for glory dawns upon us with its satisfaction and intense content. The day of our death will be the day of our cure. There are some diseases which, in all probability, some of us never will get quite rid of till the last Physician comes, and He will settle the matter. One gentle touch of His hand, and we shall be cured for ever. Our deathday will be the loss of all losses. Life is made up of losses, but death loses losses. Life is full of crosses, but death is the cross that brings crosses to an end. Death is the last enemy, and turns out to be the death of every enemy. The day of our death is the beginning of our best days. "Is this to die?" said one. "Well, then," said he, "it is worth while to live even to enjoy the bliss of dying." The holy calm of some and the transport of others prove that better is the day of death in their case than the day of birth, or all their days on earth.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

To one who has so lived as to obtain the good name, hie dying day will be better than his birthday, quite downweighing all the vanity and misery of life in this world.

I. SOME TRUTHS CONTAINED IN THIS DOCTRINE.

1. However men live, they must die.

2. The birthday is a good day, notwithstanding all the vanity and misery of human life. It is a good day to the relations, notwithstanding the bitterness mixed with it (John 16:21). And so it is to the party, too, as an entrance on the stage of life whereby God is glorified, and one may be prepared for a better life (Isaiah 38:19).

3. The dying-day is not always so frightful as it looks; it may be a good day too. As in scouring a vessel, sand and ashes first defiling it makes it to glister; so grim death brings in a perfect comeliness. The waters may be red and frightful, where yet the ground is good, and they are but shallow, passable with all safety.

4. Where the dying-day follows a well-improved life, it is better than the birthday, however it may appear. There is this difference betwixt them, the birthday has its fair side outmost, the dying day has its fair side inmost; hence the former begins with joy, but opens out in much sorrow; the latter begins with sorrow, but opens out in treasures of endless joy. And certainly it is better to step through sorrow into joy than through joy into sorrow.

5. The dying-day in that case is so very far better than the birthday, that it quite downweighs all the former vanity and misery of life.

6. But it will not be so in the ease of an ill-spent life. For whatever joy or sorrow they have been born to in this world, they will never taste of joy more, but be overwhelmed with floods of sorrow when once their dying-day is come and over.

II. IN WHAT LATITUDE THIS DOCTRINE IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD.

1. As to the parties, those who have so lived as to obtain the good name. It is to be understood of them —(1) Universally, whatever different degrees be among them in the lustre of the good name.(2) Inclusively, of infants dying in their infancy, before they are capable of being faithful to God, or useful to men; because, having the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, whereby they are united to Christ, they are the friends of God.(3) Exclusively of all others. They that have not so lived as to obtain the good name have neither part nor lot in this matter (Proverbs 14:32).

2. As to the points in comparison, the birthday and the dying-day, it is to be understood of them —(1) In their formal notion as days of passing into a new world. It is better for him when he has got the good name to leave his body a corpse, than it was to leave the womb of his mother when he was a ripe infant.(2) In all circumstances whatsoever. The saint's dying-day compared with his birthday does so preponderate, that no circumstances whatsoever can east the balance; suppose him born healthy and vigorous, dying in the most languishing manner, or in the greatest agonies; born heir to an estate or a crown, dying poor at a dyke-side, neglected of all; yet the day of his death, in spite of all these advantages of his birth, is better than the day of his birth.

3. As to the preference, it stands in two points.(1) The advantages of the saint's dying-day are preferable to the advantages of his birthday.(2) The advantages of the saint's dying-day downweigh all the disadvantages of his birthday.

III. DEMONSTRATE THE TRUTH OF THIS PARADOX, this unlikely tale, That the saint's dying-day is better than his birthday.

1. The day of the saint's birth clothed him with a body of weak and frail flesh, and so clogged him; the day of his death looses the clog, and sets him free, clothing him with a house that will never clog him (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

2. The day of his birth clogged him with a body of sin; the day of his death sets him quite free from it, and brings him into a state morally perfect (Hebrews 12:23).

3. The day of the saint's death carries him into a better world than the day of his birth did.(1) The day of his birth brought him into a world of uncertainty, set him down on slippery ground; the day of his death takes him into a world of certainty, sets his feet on a rock.(2) The day of his birth brought him into a world of sin and defilement; but the day of his death brings him into a world of purity (Hebrews 12:23).(3) The day of his birth brought him into a world of toil and labour; but the day of his death brings him into a world of rest (Revelation 14:13).(4) The day of his birth brought him into a world of care and sorrow; but the day of his death brings him into a world of ease and joy (Matthew 25:21).(5) The day of his birth brought him into a world of disappointment; but the day of his death brings him into a world surmounting expectation (1 Corinthians 2:9).(6) The day of his birth brought him into a world of death; but the day of his death takes him into a world of life (Matthew 10:30).

4. The day of his death settles him among better company than the day of his birth did (Hebrews 12:22).(1) The day of his birth brought him at most into but a small company of brothers and sisters; perhaps he was an eldest child, or an only one; but the day of his death lands him in a numerous family, whereof each one with him calls God in Christ Father (Revelation 14:1). Whatever welcome he had in the day of his birth from neighbours or relations, the joy was but on one side; though they rejoiced in him, he could not rejoice in them, for he knew them not; but in the day of his death the joy will be mutual; he that in the day of his birth was not equal to imperfect men will in the day of his death be equal to the angels. He will know God and Christ, the saints, and angels, and will rejoice in them, as they will rejoice in him. Whatever welcome he had into the world in the day of his birth, he had much uncomfortable society there in the days of his after life that made him often see himself in his neighbourhood in the world, as in Mesech and Kedar (Psalm 120:5), yea, dwelling among lions' dens and mountains of leopards (Song of Solomon 4:8). But in the day of his death he will bid an eternal farewell to all uncomfortable society, and never see more any in whom he will not be comforted to be with them.

5. The day of his death brings him into a better state than the day of his birth did.(1) The day of his birth sets him down in a state of imperfection, natural and moral; the day of his death advances him to a state of perfection of both kinds (Hebrews 12:23).(2) The day of his birth brought him into a state of probation and trial; but the day of his death brings him into a state of retribution and recompense (2 Corinthians 5:10).(3) The day of his birth brought him into a state of changes, but the day of his death brings him into an unalterable state (Revelation 3:12).

6. The day of the saint's death brings him to, and settles him in better exercise and employment than the day of his birth did. He will spend his eternity in the other world better than he did his time in this world, how well soever he spent it (Revelation 4:8).

(T. Boston, D. D.)

What are those circumstances of the Christian which give superiority to the time of death — which justify us in adopting the sentiment of the text as our own?

I. THERE IS AN ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE IN THE CONDITION OF THE CHRISTIAN AT THE PERIODS OF HIS EARLIEST AND LATEST CONSCIOUSNESS. At the day of birth you cannot distinguish the future king from the peasant; the hero from the coward; the philosopher from the clown; the Christian from the infidel. There is a negation of character common to them all; and the positive qualities of each are not to be distinguished from the other. What is there to give value to the birthday of such a being? We pass over the years of childhood and youth, during which the human being is acquiring varied knowledge, to the period when character is more fully developed. He feels his responsibility, and knows himself to be a sinner; but his heart has never submitted to Divine authority, he has never sought for the pardon of his sins, he is an utter stranger to the grace of the Gospel. What reason has such a man to exult in the day of his birth? to commemorate it as a joyous event? But imagine him spared by the goodness of God until he is brought to repentance. He is in an essentially different position to that in which he was on the day of his birth, not only by the enlargement of his faculties, and the exercise of his affections, but they are directed to nobler objects; he knows and loves the character of God, he aspires after the enjoyment of Him, looks forward to enduring happiness with Him after the toils and sufferings of earthly existence, and his faith becomes "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." On the day of his birth he was the mere creature of flesh and sense, but now he is born of the Spirit, and he lives by faith. Oh, let death come when it may to the Christian, his dying day will be better than his birthday.

II. LIFE IS A PERIOD OF PROBATION, THE SUCCESSFUL TERMINATION OF WHICH IS BETTER THAN ITS COMMENCEMENT. It requires the utmost circumspection and watchfulness — the strictest examination of our motives and feelings, to preserve the evidences of our Christian character bright and unclouded. There are few Christians, faithful to their own hearts, who have not had seasons of darkness and gloominess, and been distressed with various doubts and fears. And when once these arise in the mind, they impart a character of uncertainty to our personal salvation. But as we draw nearer to the goal, our confidence increases; the decline of a Christian's life is ordinarily marked by greater stability of mind — by a less wavering faith. God has been, in times past, better to us than our fears; He has frequently perfected His strength in our weakness, and carried us unexpectedly through deep waters of affliction; the ultimate issue appears more certain; we are more habitually confiding on the arm of omnipotence. And when we come to die, with our souls awake to our real condition, conscious that we have been upheld to the last moment, a vigorous faith may enable the Christian go say, with the apostle, in the near prospect of death, "I have fought the good fight," etc. We mean not to say that every successful competitor has a feeling of triumph in the dying hour. The shout of victory may not be heard on this side the stream of death; but, when he has passed through its flood, and reached the opposite bank, his redeemed soul will be attuned to a song of glorious and everlasting triumph.

III. IF WE CONSIDER THE EVILS TO WHICH THE CHRISTIAN IS EXPOSED IN LIFE, WE SHALL SEE HE HAS REASON TO REGARD THE DAY OF DEATH AS BETTER THAN THE DAY OF HIS BIRTH. On this side death there are bitter herbs for medicine, suitable to imperfect and diseased conditions of life; but on the other side are the fruits of paradise, not to correct the tendencies of an evil nature, but to feed the soul, to nourish it up unto everlasting blessedness.

IV. THE PRESENT LIFE IS TO THE CHRISTIAN A PERIOD OF IMPERFECT ENJOYMENT. Here he is, at a distance from home, from his Father's house, in which there are many mansions; here his graces are imperfect, and constitute very limited channels of happiness to his spirit; here he cannot always enjoy God. His weak faith fails to realize the loveliness and perfections of Jehovah. Here he cannot at all times hold fellowship with the Saviour; it is interrupted by doubts and fears — by unworthy suspicions and criminal feelings. Here he knows but in part, sees but through a glass darkly, and this state of imperfection will continue until the period of death. The better country which the Christian seeks is a heavenly country — it is an incorruptible, undefiled, unfading inheritance, not to be realized in mortal flesh not to be reached until the spirit, freed from the bonds of earth, ascends to God who gave it.

(S. Summers.)

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