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ally carry their thoughts into eternity, because they habitually live in the love of the great and glorious objects of the eternal world. They love to live by faith, as well as other men do by sight. They love to contemplate upon their future and eternal inheritance, as well as other men do upon their present temporal possessions. They therefore habitually live in the view of eternity, because they habitually love to live so.
4. The scripture represents good men as living habitually in the view of the invisible world. We are told that Enoch walked with God; which implies that he lived habitually in view of him who inhabits eternity. Moses lived as seeing him who is invisible, and having an_habitual respect to the recompense of reward. Job saw his Redeemer by the eye of faith, and lived in the habitual expectation of seeing him face to face. David assures us that he habitually lived in the view of God, and of a blessed eternity. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope; for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” If we now turn to the eleventh of Hebrews, we shall find that all the ancient patriarchs lived habitually in that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. “ These,” says the apostle, “all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly. Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God : for he hath prepared for them a city." According to this representation of the ancient saints, they not only now and then had a faint view of eternity, but they lived habitually under a realizing sense of future and eternal realities. The apostles and primitive christians also lived in the same manner. The apostle Paul, speaking in their name, says, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This looks like their living in the habitual view of eternity; and what he says in the next chapter, and in the next words after our text, more fully expresses the same idea. know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,
- For we
we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house, which is from heaven.” “ Now he that hath wrought us for this self-same thing is God, who also hath given us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.” In another place he says, “Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” And agreeably to this the apostle says to christians in general, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Thus it appears that true christians look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen; that they have their conversation in heaven; and that they habitually live in the view of eternity. I now proceed, as proposed,
II. To consider the habitual influence which the habitual view of eternity has upon christians. Eternity is the greatest idea that ever entered the mind of man, that ever entered the mind of Gabriel, or that ever existed in the mind of God. God can number all the stars of heaven. God can number all the drops in the ocean. God can number all the sands on the sea shore. God can number all the particles in the whole material system. God can number every creature and every object in the whole circle of creation. But to speak with reverence, God cannot number the days, or years, or ages of eternity. This is absolute infinity, which never has been and never can be comprehended. After ages and ages have rolled away; yea, after millions and millions of ages are gone, our idea of eternity may be enlarged, but its duration will still remain unlimited and incomprehensible. Immense duration gives immense importance to every being and object with which it is inseparably connected. Eternal existence gives immense importance to the Deity, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect, to the holiness and happiness of heaven, to the sin and misery of hell, and in a word, to all the invisible world. Accordingly, when we would represent the invisible world in the most solemn and important light, we call it eternity itself; and by going into another world, we always mean going into a boundless eternity. Now, since eternity gives such immense importance to every being and object with which it is inseparably connected, it must have a very impressive influence on the minds of christians, who live habitually under a realizing view of it.
This leads me to say, in the first place,
1. That the habitual view of eternity must give christians an habitual sense of the shortness of time. Eternity sinks time to a moment. Those who habitually realize eternity, habitually realize the shortness of time. Jacob said, “ few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." David, and Job, and the prophets, and the apostles, viewed time as a moment or a vapor. Such must be the appearance of time to those who live habitually in the view of the invisible and eternal world.
2. The habitual view of eternity impresses on the minds of christians a deep and solemn sense of their own frailty and mortality. Death and eternity are so nearly connected, that the one spontaneously brings the other into view. The habitual view of eternity made Paul die daily; and it has the same effect
upon all christians. They realize that their lives are constantly shortening, and that they are daily drawing nearer and nearer to their long home. The christian does not feel and say with the worldling, I shall live for ever, and never see corruption; but he feels and says with Joshua, I am this day going the way of all the earth, and there may be but a step between me and eternity.
3. The habitual view of eternity gives christians not only a realizing sense of their frailty and mortality, but also a realizing sense of the vanity of all temporal enjoyments. The greatest and best things that the world contains appear like mere trifles and vanities to christians, when they carry their thoughts into eternity. They then view the world and all its enjoyments very much as sinners do when they are dying and going out of it. So Paul felt, when he said to christians, “ We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Peter tells christians, “ You took joyfully the spoiling of your goods; knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Though Solomon was once carried away by the riches, honors and enjoyments of the world, yet when he drew near the closing scenes of life and had a more realizing sense of death, judgment and eternity, he
exclaimed, “ Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities; all is vanity!" The habitual view of eternity sinks the world and all its enjoyments in the estimation of christians, and leads them to value all beings and objects according to their real worth and importance in another world.
4. The habitual view of eternity gives christians a proper sense of the worth of the human soul. God has made man wiser than the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven, and endued him with a rational and immortal soul, which gives him the preëminence, in point of importance, to all the lower creation. Every human soul shall exist for ever, and be for ever happy or miserable. It is only in the view of eternity that its worth and importance can be justly estimated. But christians, who live in the habitual view of eternity, can and do view it according to its eternal and inestimable value. The immortality of the soul gives it infinite worth and importance. Those who never carry their thoughts into eternity, never have a just view of the vast importance of their precious and immortal souls. But christians, who believe the gospel, which has unfolded the invisible world, and brought life and immortality to light, view their own souls and the souls of all men as more precious and valuable than the whole world. And it is their heart's desire and prayer to God, that they may be saved from the wrath to come, and be for ever happy beyond
5. The view which christians have of eternity impresses their minds with a deep conviction of the value and importance of all the means of grace. They have found that the Bible, the Sabbath, and the ordinances of the gospel, have had a powerful, a happy and saving effect upon their minds. They ascribe all their peculiar knowledge of God, of themselves, of time and eternity, to the light they have derived from these means of grace. They are sensible that they would have lived without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world, and been still strangers to the covenant of promise, if they had not enjoyed and improved the precious privileges of the gospel. These means of grace they constantly prize and improve, in order to enjoy comfort, grow in knowledge, and make advances in the christian and divine life. Though mankind generally make light of the gospel and all the means of grace, yet christians, who live in the light of eternity, view all religious advantages as infinitely important to themselves, and to all who enjoy them. They know that the gospel is an everlasting gospel; that its truths are everlasting truths; that they will make everlasting impressions on their minds; and that they will prove a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death to all eternity ; which stamps an infinite importance upon them. This inspires them with a zeal to read the Bible, sanctify the Sabbath, and attend divine institutions themselves, and to lead others to improve the means of grace to their own spiritual and eternal benefit.
6. The habitual view of eternity never fails to dispose christians to order all their secular concerns with discretion, and bring them into subserviency to their eternal interests. These things, which are seen and temporal, appear light while they look at things which are not seen, and which are eternal. They see the propriety and feel the force of what Christ says to them. " Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” They sincerely desire to bring all their secular designs and pursuits into subordination to their spiritual concerns, and to eat and drink, and do every thing to the glory of God. While they live in the exercise of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, they gain the victory over the world, and the things of the world, and make them all the means of laying up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.
7. The habitual view of eternity animates and encourages christians to live a life of usefulness in this world. They see much to be done for the temporal and spiritual benefit of their fellow and they have but a short time to serve God and their generation in this life. They know that God has set them apart for himself, and requires them to be instrumental in promoting his glory and the best good of their fellow men, while the day of life lasts; and has solemnly admonished them that the night of death will put a final period to their usefulness on earth. He
says every man, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” But so long as christians are allowed to live in the world, they have great encouragement to be steadfast, and indefatigable in discharging all the relative duties of life; for their labor shall not be in vain to themselves nor to their fellow men, but meet a glorious reward.
8. There is another great and happy effect which the habitual view of eternity has upon christians; and that is, to support and comfort them under all the trials, afflictions and bereavements which they are called to experience in this present evil world. This happy effect the apostles and primitive christians derived from viewing all their troubles and afflictions in the light of eternity. “We are troubled on every side," says