The happiness of this life is brief

October 17, 2021 • 3 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 292

As to the first of these, who will say that that is enduring which at best must end with the brief career of man on earth? Ah! we all know the shortness of human life, for how few attain even a hundred years?

There have been popes who reigned but a month; bishops who have survived their consecration but little longer; and married persons whose funerals have followed their weddings in still less time.

These are not remarkable occurrences of the past only; they are witnessed in every age. Let us suppose, however, that your life will be one of the longest.

“What,” asks St. Chrysostom, “are one hundred, two hundred, four hundred years spent in the pleasures of this world compared to eternity?”

For “if a man live many years, and have rejoiced in them all, he must remember the darksome time, and the many days; which when they shall come, the things passed shall be accused of vanity.” [Eccles. xi. 8.]

All happiness, however great, is but vanity when compared to eternity. Sinners themselves acknowledge this: “Being born, forthwith we ceased to be; we are consumed in our wickedness.” [Wisdom v. 13.]

How short, then, will this life seem to the wicked! It will appear as if they had been hurried immediately from the cradle to the grave. All the pleasures and satisfactions of this world will then seem to them but a dream.

Isaias admirably expressed this when he said: “As he that is hungry dreameth and eateth, but when he is awake his soul is empty; and as he that is thirsty dreameth and drinketh, and after he is awake is yet faint with thirst, and his soul is empty, so shall be the multitude that fought against Mount Sion.” [Isaias xxix. 8.] Their prosperity will be so brief that it will seem like a fleeting dream.

What more, in fact, remains of the glory of monarchs and of princes? “Where,” asks the prophet, “are the princes of the nations, and they that rule over the beasts that are upon the earth? They that take their diversion with the birds of the air; that hoard up silver and gold wherein men trust, and there is no end of their getting; that work in silver and are solicitous, and their works are unsearchable? They are cut off and are gone down to hell, and others are risen up in their place.” [Baruch iii. 16-20.]

What has become of the wise men, the scholars, the searchers into the secrets of nature? Where is the famous Alexander? Where is the mighty Assuerus? Where are the Caesars and the other kings of the earth?

What does it now avail them that they lived in pomp and glory, that they had legions of soldiers, and servants, and flatterers almost without number?

All have vanished like a shadow or a dream. In one moment all that constitutes human happiness fades away as the mist before the morning sun.

Behold, then, dear Christian, how brief it is.

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