What a brief moment, indeed, in our endless life is the whole period even of the longest life on earth! It is compared to a vapour, which appeareth for a short time, and then vanisheth away; to “a watch in the night,”—“a tale that is told.” And if we but consider how nearly a third portion of our threescore years and ten is necessarily spent in sleep; and add to this the years spent during infancy while preparing for labour; during old age, when our labours are well-nigh past; and many more consumed in adorning and supporting or giving rest to the body; and then if, after summing up those years, we deduct what remains of time at the disposal of the oldest man for the formation of active thought and the improvement of his spiritual being, oh! how brief is the whole period of our mortal life, when longest, though its transactions are to us fraught with endless and awful consequences!
Another characteristic of those moments in life is the silence with which they may come and pass away. No “sign” may be given to indicate their importance to us. They do not announce their approach with the sound of a trumpet, nor demand with a voice of thunder our immediate and solemn attention to their interests; but stealthily, quietly, with noiseless tread like spirits from another world, they come to us, put their question, speak the word, and vanish to heaven with our reply. In after years, possibly, with “the long results of time” to guide us upward as by a stream to the tiny threads of this fountain of life and action, we may be able in a greater degree to realise of what tremendous importance they were to us. “Had we only known this at the time!” we exclaim, as we revolve those memories, and think of all we would have said or done;—“had we only known!” But it is not God’s will that we should know how much of the future is involved in the present, or how all we shall be is determined by what we may resolve to be or do at any particular moment. Such a revelation would paralyse all effort, and destroy the mainspring of all right action. Sight would thus be substituted for faith; the fear of evil consequences for the fear of evil; and the love of future benefits for the love of present duty. God will have us rather cultivate habitually a right spirit at each moment, so as to be able to act rightly when the all-important moment comes, whether we then discover its importance or not. Let us not be surprised, then, if God comes to us, not in the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but only in the still small voice which speaks to the heart or to the conscience, demanding the conduct which becomes us as responsible beings and as obedient children.
But let me illustrate these remarks by a few examples of “moments in life,” and such as must come to us all.