Only One thing is Certain in Life

Published: 29th September 2008
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It is certain that we shall die.

1. "It is appointed unto men once to die. (Heb. ix. 27.) The decree has been passed for each of us : we must all die. St. Cyprian says, that we are all born with the halter on the neck : hence, every step we make brings us nearer to the gibbet. For each of us the gibbet shall be the last sickness, which will end in death. As then, brethren, your name has been inserted in the registry of baptism, so it shall be one day written in the record of the dead.

As, in speaking of your ancestors, you say : God be merciful to my father, to my uncle, or to my brother ; so others shall say the same of you when you shall be in the other world ; and as you have often heard the death-bell toll for many, so others shall hear it toll for you.

2. All things future, which regard men now living, are uncertain, but death is certain. "All other goods and evils,"; says St. Augustine, "are uncertain ; death only is certain.";

It is uncertain whether such an infant shall be rich or poor, whether he shall enjoy good or ill health, whether he shall die at an early or at an advanced age. But it is certain that he shall die, though he be son of a peer or of a monarch.

And, when the hour arrives, no one can resist the stroke of death. The same St. Augustine says : "Fires, waters, and the sword are resisted; kings are resisted: death comes; who resists it ?" (in Ps. xii.) We may resist conflagrations, inundations, the sword of enemies, and the power of princes ; but who can resist death ?

3. We must all die. This truth we not only believe, but see with our eyes. In every age houses, streets, and cities are filled with new inhabitants : their former possessors are shut up in the grave. And, as for them the days of life are over, so a time shall come when not one ot all who are now alive shall be among the living. "Days shall be formed, and no one in them." (Ps. cxxxviii. 10.) "Who is the man that shall live, and shall not see death ?"(Ps. Ixxxviii. 49 )

Should any one flatter himself that he will not die, he would not only be a disbeliever for it is of faith that we shall all die but he would be regarded as a madman.

We know that all men, even potentates and princes and emperors, have, utter a certain time, fallen victims to death. And where are they now ? "Tell me," says St. Bernard, "where are the lovers of the world? Nothing has remained of them but ashes and worms."

Of so many great men of the world, though buried in marble mausoleums, nothing has remained but a little dust and a few withered bones. We know that our ancestors are no longer among the living : of their death we are con stantly reminded by their pictures, their memorandum books, their beds, and by the clothes which they have left us. And can we entertain a hope or a doubt that we shall not die ? Of all who lived in this town a hundred years ago how many are now alive ?

They are all in eternity in an eternal day of delights, or in an eternal night of torments. Either the one or the other shall be our lot also.

4. But, God! we all know that we shall die: the misfortune is, that we imagine death as distant as if it were never to come, and therefore we lose sight of it. But, sooner or later, whether we think or think not of death, it is certain, and of faith that we shall die, and that we are drawing nearer to it every day. "For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come." (Heb. xiii. 14.)

This is not our country : here we are pilgrims on a journey. "While we are in the body we are absent from the Lord." (2 Cor. v. 6.)

Our country is Paradise, if we know how to acquire it by the grace of God and by our own good works. Our house is not that in which we live ; we dwell in it only in passing ; our dwelling is in eternity. "Man shall go into the house of his eternity." (Eccl. xii. 5.)

How- great would be the folly of the man, who, in passing through a strange country, should lay out all his property in the purchase of houses and possessions in a foreign land, and reduce himself to the necessity of living miser ably for the remainder of his days in his own country ! And is not he, too, a fool, who seeks after happiness in this world, from which he must soon depart ; and, by his sins, exposes himself to the danger of misery in the next, where he must live for eternity ?

 5. Tell me, beloved brethren, if, instead of preparing for his approaching death, a person condemned to die were, on his way to the place of execution, to employ the few remaining moments of his life in admiring the beauty of the houses as he passed along, in thinking of balls and comedies, in uttering immodest words, and detracting his neighbours, would you not say that the unhappy man had either lost his reason, or that he was abandoned by God ? And are not you on the way to death ? Why then do you seek only the gratification of the senses ? Why do you not think of preparing the accounts which you shall one day, and perhaps very soon, have to render at the tribunal of Jesus Christ ?

Souls that have faith, leave to the fools of this world the care of realizing a fortune on this earth ; seek you to make a fortune for the next life, which shall be eternal. The present life must end, and end very soon.

6. Go to the grave in which your relatives and friends are buried. Look at their dead bodies : each of them says to you : "Yesterday for me ; to-day for thee." (Eccl. xxxviii. 23.) What has happened to me must one day happen to thee. Thou shalt .become dust and ashes, as I am. And where shall thy soul be found, if, before death, thou hast not settled thy accounts with God ? Ah, brethren ! if you wish to live well, and to to have you accounts ready for that great day, on which your doom to eternal life or to eternal death must be decided, endeavour, during the remaining days of life, to live with death before your eyes. "death, thy sentence is welcome."(Eccl. xli. 3.)

Oh ! how correct are the judgments, how well directed the actions, of those who form their judgments, and perform their actions, with death before their view ! The remembrance of death destroys all attachment to the goods of this earth. "Let the end of life be considered," says St. Lawrence Justinian, "and there will be nothing in this world to be loved." (de Ligno Vitac, cap. v.)

Yes ; all the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world are easily despised by him who considers that he must soon leave them for ever, and that he shall be thrown into the grave to be the food of worms.



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