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been a race out of the way, a perpetual diversion from his main business, that his life has been fruitless and dead to the true end of it? How will he be confounded at his former folly? Then alone we act with understanding, when moved by our blessed end, and our actions by a strict tendency without variation issue into it.
2. Consider attentively the objects that stand in competition for our choice, the present world and heaven, to make a judicious comparison between them in their quality and duration.
(1.) In their quality. The things of the world, according to the judgment of God himself, who is only wise and good, and has the highest authority to decide in the case, are but fallacious appearances of happiness, mere vanity. And certainly the Creator knows the true worth of all things, and would not disparage his own works, but would undeceive men that are apt to judge and choose by the eye of sense. The apostle tells us, “ that an idol is nothing in the world :” although the matter of it may be of gold, or marble, or wood, yet it has no divine perfection, which the idolater attributes to it. So all worldly things, in which men place their chief care, and confidence, and joy, though they have some degrees of goodness, and are a transient relief to us in our passage to eternity, yet they are nothing as to perfect felicity. It is merely opinion and conceit that makes them so valued and pleasing, like a rich dye to a slight stuff from whence its price arises. Reason is either obscured, or not obeyed when the world is the object of our choice. Now what are these appearances of beauty and pleasure, compared with a blessedness that is truly infinite? Carnal joy smiles in the countenance, flatters the fancy, touches the sense, but cannot fill the heart; but the favour of God satisfies the souł. “ Thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than when their corn and wine increased.” Carnal joy in its highest elevation, in the time of the harvest and vintage, is incomparably less than spiritual joy that springs from the light of God's countenance. The world cannot fill the narrow capacity of our senses, but divine joys exceed our most enlarged comprehensive faculties. “ The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing ; but the peace of God passes all understanding." The things of the world are of a limited goodness : wisdom is not strength, nor learning riches, nor beauty fruitfulness : but God is a " universal good,” in whom are all attractives ro raise and satisfy our des sires. If men did consider, they would distinguish and despise in comparison all that is named felicity here, with the favour of God. To seek for satisfaction in the creature and forsake him, is as if one desirous to see the light should withdraw from the presence of the sun, to borrow it from a weak ray reflected by some obscure matter. Now if there be so vast a difference in their nature, as between a painted vapour, and the solid glorious good, between finite and infinite, why is there not a difference accordingly in our esteem, affections and respects to them? How unreasonable is it that a soul capable of God, should cleave to the dust? It would be most egregious folly to hang a weight, that is able to turn a great engine, upon a small clock : it is incomparably more foolish, when the love of happiness, the weight of human nature, which applied aright, will turn our desires to heaven, is only used to give vigorous motion to our endeavours about earthly things.
(2.) Consider their duration. The apostle tells us, that the main “ scope of his actions was things invisible ;” and gives the reason of it, “ for the things that are seen are temporal ; but the things that are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4. 18. To insist upon the vast difference between temporal and eternal, may seem needless : for the first notions of things are of such uncontrolable clearness, that an attempt to prove them, is to light a candle to discover the sun. Yet this principle drawing after it such powerful consequences for the government of our hearts and lives, and conscience being so remiss, and the sensual affections so rebellious, it is needful to consider this seriously, that what is really assented to in speculation, may not be contradicted in practice. Now who can unfold the infinite volume of ages in eternity ? The understanding of an angel can no more comprehend what is incomprehensible, than the mind of a man. A snail will over an immense space as soon as an eagle : for though one dispatches more way than the other, yet both are equally distant from arriving to the end of what is endless. But that the conception of eternity may be more distinct, and affecting, it is useful to represent it under some temporal resemblances, that sensibly, though not fully, express it. Suppose that the vast ocean were distilled drop by drop, but so slowly, that a thousand years should pass between every drop; how many millions of years
were required to empty it? Suppose this great world in its full compass, from one pole to another, and from the top of the firmament to the bottom, were to be filled with the smallest sand, but so slowly, that every thousand years only a single grain should be added ; how many millions would pass away before it were filled? If the immense superficies of the heavens, wherein are innumerable stars, the least of which equals the magnitude of the earth, were filled with figures of numbers without the least vacant space, and every figure signified a million, what created mind could tell their number, much less their value? Having these thoughts, I reply; the sea will be emptied drop by drop, the universe filled grain by grain, the numbers written in the heavens will come to an end; and how much of eternity is then spent ? Nothing; for still infinitely more remains. In short, whatever is temporal, extends the continuance of it to the utmost possibility of conception, is infinitely short of eternity. A day, a hour, a minute, has some proportion with a thousand years; for that duration is determined by a certain number of days, and hours, and minutes: but millions of ages have no proportion to eternity, because it is an indeterminable duration. The mind is soon tired and lost in searching after numbers to represent it: it is confounded and struck with amazing horror, and can only direct the eye upward or downward to the two habitations of eternity, the glorious and the miserable, heaven and hell. Now let us compare the things of the present world with those of the future state. The first are measured by Aying time, the other remain in an unmoveable eternity. The comforts that spring from the earth, suddenly wither and fall to it: the tree of life flourishes only above. Frequent changes from prosperity to adversity, are the properties of this mortal state. As those who are in voyages at sea, sometimes are in a calm, and presently suffer a storm, and are forced to alter their course by the changing of the winds ; so it is with us in our passage here. But upon the first entrance into another world, all the variations of this are at an end. “ Verily every man at his best estate is altogether vanity. Surely every man walks in a vain show, surely they are disquieted in vain.” 'The visible felicity of man is of no continuance. We may frequently observe in the evening, a cloud by the reflection of the sun invested with so bright a lustre, and adorned with such a pleasant variety of colours, that in the
judgment of our eyes, if an angel were to assume a body correspondent to his glory, it were a fit matter for it. But in walking a few steps, the sun is descended beneath the horizon, and the light withdrawn, and of all that splendid Aaming appearance, nothing remains but a dark vapour, that falls down in a shower. Thus vanishing is the show of felicity here. In this, sense assists faith; for the experience of every day verifies what the scripture declares, “ that the fashion of this world passes away." And therefore the guilty folly of men is aggravated, " to set their eyes and hearts upon that which is not.” To see one passionately doat on a face ruined and deformed with age, to be enchanted without a charm, raises wonder, and exposes to contempt. Yet such is the stupidity of men to embrace with their most entire affections the withered vanities of the world, that are hastening to their period. It was a stinging reproach to idolaters from God, “ None considers in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding," to say, “ I have burnt part of it in the fire ; yea, I have also baked bread upon the coals thereof: I have roasted flesh and eaten it; and shall I make the residue an abomination ? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” And are not sensual men equally guilty of such monstrous folly? for though universal experience convinces them, that all things under the sun are fading, and that many times their dearest comforts are snatched away from their embraces ; yet who does advisedly consider, and say to himself, shall I give my heart to transient shadows ? Shall I cherish vain hopes, vain aims and desires of obtaining happiness in a perishing world? Although the worshipping a stock be idolatry of grosser infamy, yet it is as foolish and as destructive to set our chief love and joy, that is only due to God, upon the creature. And what follows in the prophet, is justly applicable to such persons ; “ he feedeth on ashes,” (that not only afford no nourishment, but are very hurtful to the body) "" a deceived heart has turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, is there not a lie in my right hand ?" Thus carnal men are so blinded with their affections to these short-lived pleasures, that they cannot take the true liberty of judging and reflecting that they are deceived and delighted with empty shadows that will suddenly end in disappointment and sorrow? Briefly, these glittering fictions
, and false joys camiot please without an error in the mind, that shall last but a little while. And if you saw a distracted person sing and dance, with a conceit that he is a prince, would you be willing to lose sober reason for his phantastic pleasure, especially if you knew that his cheerful fit should suddenly change into a mournful or raging madness for ever? But the blessedness above is unchangeable as God the author and object of it, eternal as the soul that enjoys it. And shall the “ world that passes away with the lusts thereof, turn our affections from the undefiled immortal inheritance ?” Shall the vanishing appearance, the fleeting figure of happiness, be preferred before what is substantial and durable ? If a spark of true reason, of sincere love to our souls be left, “ we shall count all things but dross and dung, that we may gain the kingdom of glory,” Thus eternity enlights ens, thus it counsels us,
Other motives to seek the kingdom of heaven, God is very willing mea
should partake of his glory. All who unfeignedly and earnestly seek, shall obtain it. Heaven is promised upon gracious terms. An answer to the carnal allegation, that we are commanded to pluck out the right eye, and cut off the right hand, and to submit to the sharpest sufferings. Fervent and constant prayer for divine grace, that we may fix our aims upon eternal bappiness, and be diligent in the use of the means to obtain it. The grace of the Spirit requisite to convince the mind thoroughly of the reality and greatness of an invisible and future happiness. It is requisite to purify the will and affections, that with full consent the soul may desire and prosecute its blessed end.
To encourage us to seek the kingdom of heaven, I shall propound other motives to consideration.
Į. God is very willing that men should be saved and partake of his glory. For this end, “ he' has brought life and immor