« AnteriorContinua »
own wickedness blinds*, as they well deserve it should. But supposing them ever so often in the right, the utmost benefit they can receive is but for the present life, it may be, for a small part of it: and all that we can possibly get or lose, enjoy, or suffer in this world, bears no proportion to that which is to come. Indeed, whatever must have an end can bear no proportion to that which hath none. And consequently, were we to live ever so long, provided we were to die at all, there could be no reasonable comparison between our interest in the present life and the future. But when the present not only ought in reason to be looked on as nothing, but shews itself to our very senses to be as nothing; when we can so easily reckon up the few years it is composed of, the bounds appointed, which it cannot passt: even then to let ourselves be cheated with it, and the poor poor false promises it makes us; and for these to quit the hopes of an immortality, just ready to be conferred on us, the blessedness of which exceeds our imagination, and will be continually increasing for ever; this is what nothing, but the melancholy experience of it, could make one believe was possible. But so the fact stands. Men give up eternity in exchange for a moment here they will have their portion, whatsoever shall come after. And though they must know, would they think at all, that the judgment of the wicked lingereth not, and their damnation doth not slumber; yet either they fly from the conviction, or they harden themselves against it; and desperately resolve, that nothing, but what is present, shall make any impression upon them: whereas in just reckoning every thing present should be regarded almost only as it promotes or obstructs our prepara12 Pet. ii. 3.
* Wisd. xi. 21.
+ Job xiv. 5.
tion for futurity. Faithfulness to our duty should be our whole concern: and what we may suffer here by doing it, or gain here by transgressing it, should be accounted very insignificant; as we certainly shall account it, if once we obtain from God the skill of numbering our days aright.
3. The last use, which I shall mention, of considering how soon this life will terminate in another, is, that we should support ourselves with the prospect of being happy shortly under all that may afflict us in the meanwhile.
Indeed, were there to be no future state, the misfortunes of the present would be much the more tolerable for ending so soon. But still, losing the comforts of it would be the losing our all; and going through it in misery would embitter our whole existence. Now were the space of it more or less, yet being the whole, we could have nothing to make us amends for our disappointments and sufferings, or to exalt us above them. Death indeed would free us, earlier or later; and so far be a remedy: but a very gloomy one, were all to end there: such a one as most people would think worse than the disease, and be through fear of it all their life-time subject to bondage*. But now, as the interests of this world are only a small part of our concern, they deserve only a small part of our consideration and as the conclusion of the present scene is immediately followed by a second, which shall never conclude, it furnishes out to us a triumph over its own terrors. O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory †?
Bad persons indeed can derive no comfort from hence for the end of their worldly sorrows is the beginning of infinitely more dreadful ones. But if
Heb. ii. 15.
+1 Cor. xv. 55.
we are sincerely pious and virtuous, the crosses and troubles under which we may labour here, the parting with our friends, the provocations of our enemies, poverty and contempt, sickness and pain, the wearisomeness of old age, the feebleness of decaying nature, whatever can be grievous to us, will not only soon be succeeded by happiness, but will increase that happiness unspeakably, provided we only bear it with a dutiful patience for this little interval. Now therefore, why disquietest thou thyself, seeing thou art but a corruptible man? and why art thou moved, whereas thou art but mortal? and why hast thou not considered the thing that is to come, rather than that which is present * ?
We cannot indeed, through the original weakness of our depraved faculties, be so much cheered by these considerations as we have cause; and we should not despair upon it: but we may be cheered by them much more, than we are; and we should endeavour it to the utmost; assuring ourselves, that in our future state, we shall smile at recollecting the heaviest calamities of this, with much more contempt than we always do, in our maturer years, at remembering the petty afflictions of our childhood.
Let us resolve then, that we will try to take even joyfully not only the losses of this world, knowing that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance; but also the dissolution of this tabernacle, since when we are unclothed we shall be clothed upon with an house eternal, and mortality be swallowed up of life. Let us under all pressures, of whatever kind, look up, and lift up our heads: for our redemp* 2 Esdr. vii. 15, 16.
1 Cor. v. 1-4.
+ Heb. x. 34.
tion draweth nigh*: and contentedly wait all the days of our appointed time, till our change come ; never casting away that confidence, which hath great recompense of reward; for yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. These reflections let us familiarize to ourselves; and learn from them to fix our hearts, not on such unworthy objects, as we are subject to be disappointed about every moment, whilst we have them; and must at farthest in a few years undergo the final disappointment of parting with them for ever; but extend our ambition to nobler views; and since we are made for eternity, become superior both to the pleasures and the griefs of time, that being neither seduced by the one, nor dejected by the other, we may go on with a steady and cheerful attention to our present duty, and our approaching bliss; till the few and evil days of our pilgrimage § being ended, we may have our consummation in peace; and be admitted everlasting inhabitants of that city, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God ||.
Luke xxi. 28.
+ Job xiv. 14.
Heb. x. 35. 37. || Heb. xi. 10.
JOHN XV. 26.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.
THE blessings, which we have received from the sovereign Lord of all, are either the original ones of creation and providence, or the superadded one of redemption from sin and misery. The former sort are in some measure discoverable by reason, but much more fully made known by revelation of the latter our whole knowledge is from revelation alone. But being through its means once acquainted with those new relations, in which God's mercy to fallen man hath placed us, and with the new obligations, to which they subject us: it is no less criminal to disregard this part of religion, than the other: since not only the foundation of it in the truth of things is equally real, but its importance to our happiness, if possible, greater. And the several Persons of the sacred Trinity having manifested their love to us by concurring in our recovery, and conducting and executing, according to the disposition of Infinite Wisdom, their several shares of that gracious work; we are consequently bound to distinct acts of faith and duty towards each: the performance of which, agreeably to the direction of God's word, constitutes the