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the apostle, “yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise us up also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for the things which are seen are temporal ; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” The same support and consolation all christians derive from viewing their light and momentary trials and sufferings in the light of that vast eternity, where all their tears shall be wiped away, and an eternal weight of glory bestowed upon them. .
1. It appears from what has been said that christians have reason to be willing to die. Death is theirs, and will convey them into that blessed eternity which they have contemplated with peculiar pleasure and satisfaction. Good men have often been willing to die, and make the happy transition out of time into eternity, in order to enjoy a blessed immortality beyond the grave. Job said, “ I would not live alway.”
“All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”. David said to God, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.” Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” All the primitive christians had the same desire, and spoke the same language. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and
I to be present with the Lord.”
nt with the Lord.” It is not sti nge that those who have lived in the habitual and joyful view of eternity, should be willing and even desirous to leave things seen and temporal to behold and enjoy things unseen and eternal. They see something worth dying for, which gives them a triumph over the king of terrors, and enables them to say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" But if such are the happy views that christians may have of God, while they see through a glass darkly, what glorious and astonishing views must they have of him, when they first open their eyes in eternity, and find themselves in his presence, and surrounded by all the heavenly hosts! Every being and every object will bear the stamp of eternity. The holiness they see will be
eternal holiness, and the happiness they enjoy will be eternal happiness. They will there shine forth in all the beauties of holiness in the kingdom of their Father, in whose presence is fulness of joy, at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.
2. If christians have reason to rejoice in the view of a happy eternity, then sinners have reason to tremble in the view of a miserable eternity. They have nothing
They have nothing to hope for, but every thing to fear, beyond the grave. They choose to have their portion in this world; but they must soon leave this world, and go into eternity, where their souls must exist as long as the souls of saints, but without the least source of happiness. All that they loved, or valued, or enjoyed in this world will be for ever removed from them; and they will find nothing in eternity to please their eyes, or their ears, or their hearts, but every thing to strike terror and consternation into their minds. They will meet with no friends, but with fixed and eternal enemies. If they look up to heaven, they can see no source of light or hope there. If they look into their own hearts, they can find no source of light or hope there. If they look back upon this world, they can think of nothing but what fills them with selfreproach and self-condemnation. If they look around them, they can see nothing but what will augment their misery, and if they look forward, they can see nothing but endless darkness and despair. This is not an unscriptural and visionary representation of the state of incorrigible sinners beyond the grave; and have they not reason to tremble, when they carry their thoughts into eternity, and realize their future and eternal doom? O how must they feel, when they open their eyes in eternity, and find the gate of heaven shut against them, and the gate of destruction open to receive them! Can their hands be strong, or their hearts endure, in the day when God shall cast them into the bottomless pit? While you are standing upon the borders of this pit, be entreated to escape the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.
3. If eternity has an habitual and powerful influence upon christians, who have an habitual view of it, then we may conclude that sinners in general are extremely stupid in respect to their future state. God has told them that they are rational and immortal creatures ; that their souls will not die with their bodies; that when they leave this, they will go into another world; and that they will there exist for ever completely happy, or miserable. He has told them that while they continue in the state of nature, they are dead in trespasses and sins; that they are unfit for his kingdom ; that they stand condemned by his holy law, and that they are constantly exposed to be called into a miserable eternity. But, notwithstanding all this light in their understanding, they cast off fear, and live in great ease and security. This looks strange at first view. But the cause is obvious. They banish death and eternity from their view. And so long as they can keep future and eternal objects out of view, and the world in their hearts, they see nothing to disturb their peace, or to alarm their fears. This extreme stupidity of sinners. is certainly owing to their habitually keeping eternity out of view; for if they would only realize that future and eternal misery to which they are exposed, a sense of danger would alarm their fears, and destroy all their pleasing prospects, and plunge them in deep anxiety and distress. Whenever God awakens sinners, and causes them to realize that they are going into a miserable eternity, it never fails to throw them into the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. The most stupid, hardened and stout-hearted sinners cannot help trembling like Felix and Belshazzar, when they look into eternity, and realize their lying down in eternal sorrow. They are guilty, therefore, of inexcusable folly and stupidity, in banishing eternity from their thoughts. They bear the same relation to eternity that saints do, and must as certainly take up their everlasting residence in it; and it certainly as deeply concerns them to live in an habitual view of eternity. But their supreme love to the world and the things of the world so darkens their understanding and stupifies their conscience, that they cry to themselves peace and safety, while their feet stand on slippery places, and they know not but the next step they take they may slide into the world of eternal wo. Such stupidity appears astonishing to those who habitually realize eternity, and it will sooner or later appear still more astonishing to those who take pains to shut eternity out of sight. If they are wise, they will look into eternity, and consider their latter end; but if they will not hear Moses, nor the prophets, they must bear the fatal effects of their voluntary stupidity, and lie down in everlasting sorrow.
4. So long as sinners live without a just and realizing view of eternity, they can have no just and realizing view of themselves, or of the world in which they live. This world is inseparably connected with another. Things seen are inseparably connected with things unseen. Things temporal are inseparably connected with things eternal.
The temporal existence of sinners is inseparably connected with their eternal existence. The value of all earthly objects is to be estimated according to their duration. Houses and their furniture are to be estimated according to their duration. Living creatures are to be estimated according to the length of their lives. And mankind are to be estimated according to the duration of their existence. Neither the world, nor the things of the world, will
be of the least value after they cease to exist; and should a time ever come when mankind cease to exist, they would then become perfectly useless and worthless. It is impossible, therefore, that sinners should form a just estimate of themselves, or of the world and the things of the world, without viewing them in the light of eternity. As soon as they view the world and the things of the world in the light of eternity, they appear to them as they did to Solomon when he realized eternity –“ vanity of vanities.” But when they view themselves in the light of eternity, they astonishingly rise in worth and importance. Their own souls and the souls of others appear infinitely precious. So long as sinners live without a realizing view of eternity, they form an unjust and dangerous opinion of themselves, of their fellow men, and of the world and all things in it. They live, and act, and think, as though they were living, and acting, and thinking in a fairy land, and had only a visionary existence. But when they come to themselves, as the prodigal son did, the world loses all its charms, the things of the world all their importance, and eternity absorbs all their attention and concern.
Now, perhaps, one and another is ready to say, I believe all this to be true. I believe a realizing view of eternity would render my mind solemn, absorb my attention, and convince me of the worth of my soul, and of the importance of securing its future and everlasting happiness. But how shall I get a realizing sense of eternity? I have often desired and endeavored to get such a sense of eternity; but my desires and efforts have often been sadly disappointed, and I cannot account for it
. But you might easily account for it, if you would critically attend to the mixed desires of your heart, and distinguish your stronger from your weaker desires. Your habitual desires are stronger than your occasional desires. You habitually desire to live in the world, and to enjoy the world as long as you live in it, without interruption.
This habitual desire is vastly stronger than your occasional desire to look into eternity, and prepare for it. And as soon as your occasional desire begins to be strong enough to disturb your peace, your habitual desire to enjoy the world in peace rises with redoubled power and influence, to check, restrain and completely destroy your desire to look into, and prepare for, what appears a painful eternity. The truth is, every sinner's heart is full of inconsistent desires, and he is holden by the stronger cords of habitual desires. This was the case of Balaam. He desired to die the death of the righteous, and to be happy in his future and eternal state ; but he had an habitual and stronger desire to enjoy the wages of unrighteousness. His habitual desire to be happy in this world overcame and destroyed his desire to be happy in the world to come. The men of the world are all running greedily after the error of Balaam, preferring things seen to things not seen, and things temporal to things eternal ; which, unless they repent, will inevitably lead them to destruction.
5. Since christians view themselves and all things in the light of eternity, they enjoy the world far better than the men of the world do. Though these all possess as large a portion of the world as christians possess, and generally a much larger portion, yet they never enjoy it so well as christians enjoy it. The reason is, they desire and expect more happiness from the world than it does or can afford them; which subjects them to continual disappointment and vexation of spirit. They view the world and the things of the world as unconnected with eternity; and, of course, they form a false opinion of the tendency and design of all earthly objects and enjoyments, which they never properly use, but always abuse. The world and the things of the world are not designed nor adapted to satisfy the vast desires of rational and immortal beings; but the men of the world place their supreme happiness in its unsatisfactory and short-lived enjoyments, which perverts the design of God in giving the world to them, and turns it into a curse, instead of a blessing. The prosperity of the wicked, as they improve it, always tends to destroy them. But christians, who view the world in connection with eternity, use it as not abusing it. They employ it to answer the important purposes for which it was made and given to the children of men. Whether they possess more or less of the world, they enjoy all they possess. They do not desire nor expect to derive their supreme happiness from any or all their worldly possessions, but mean to improve them to promote their present comfort and usefulness, and to prepare them for their future and eternal inheritance in heaven. The apostles, who kept their eyes and hearts fixed on eternity, viewed and enjoyed the world better than any sinners ever did or ever could. They say of themselves, “ as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Every worldly-minded man has found Solomon's observation to be true: “ He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase.” Real christians, who habitually live in the view of eternity, follow the direction of their Saviour: They lay not up for themselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but they lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and