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great, or honourable ? that we have lived a-top of the world, and enjoyed all things in it at wish ? Certainly, our dust will know no heraldry: dead bones will keep no distance : all our prerogatives will be levelled in the grave; and all those little differences which we put between ourselves and others, our style, our titles, and our names, will be all blotted in that dust that buries us. Why, then, should we be só vain, as to lay out our care, and our time, and our strength, upon those things, which can.go no farther with us than to the brink of the grave, when as the soul is to live infinite ages afterwards ? Life, should it reach to that which we call extreme old age, yet is it all but the childhood of man: and, it is as great a folly to busy ourselves about the things which belong to this temporal life, as it were to lay up the playthings of childhood to be the comfort and solace of age.
4. Nothing in this world is truly satisfactory.
And, therefore, there is great reason, we should look beyond temporal things which are seen, unto things eternal which are
Here, when our real wants are supplied, as indeed a very little will suffice to do that, yet our craving desires are boundless, and will still torment us: but, in a blessed eternity, we shall neither want any thing which we should have, nor desire any thing but what we have. But I must hasten.
5. Because eternity is an unchangeable state. : There, is no repenting, nor amending of errors, nor recalling of mistakes. It will be too late then, to desire forgiveness or to hope for mercy. If these things be not now done in this world, alas! it will be for ever too late, when once you are entered into an unchangeable condition. It is not so in earthly concernments : if, by imprudence, we have brought ourselves into any straits or difficulties, we may afterwards correct our miscarriages, and redeem ourselves from those inconveniencies. But our eternal state stands fixed and immutable, for ever. Death delivers us over to judgment, in the same condition in which it finds us; and judgment delivers us up, either to glory or to condemnation, both unalterable. This life is the only time allotted us, to make provision for eternity. Every day, and hour, wears away a considerable part of our lives; yea, we are nearer to eternity, while we are speaking this. We are all of us hastening to our last abode; and a few days will determine our everlasting condition. And, therefore, it principally concerns us, chiefly to mind how we may obtain that glory which is unalterable, and escape that damnation which will be remediless.
That is a Fifth Demonstration.
6. And, lastly, (together with which, I shall give you some reflections on the folly of most men, who regard every thing but their souls and their eternal state :) because nothing, but what is eternal, can bear any proportion to the soul : and, therefore, nothing, besides that, is worth our regard.
Indeed, were man only made up of dust and clay, were his constitution wholly material, temporal things might well suit so gross and sordid a composure. But there is in him a divine spark, an ethereal and spiritual substance, by which he is of kin to the angels, yea, and bears some resemblance of God himself : yea, indeed, it is not so much in him, as it is himself: the soul is the greatest and chief part of man: the body is but his garment, or his utensil. Now, nothing temporal is proportioned to this soul, which is immortal, and shall survive the death of the world, when heaven and earth and all things shall fall in their last funeral flames. And, oh! what will become of thy immortal soul, if thou hast laid up for thyself no better things than these, which thou canst never rake from out of the ashes of the universe, nor redeem from the general consumption that God will bring upon them? Whosoever lies down on these, thinking here to take his rest, doth but, as the Prophet speaks, stretch himself upon a bed that is too short for him, infinitely too short: the greater part of himself lies over and beyond these temporal things, and reaches as far as into eternity. And, yet, as short a date as the world itself bears, still it is more lasting than thy present life: death will soon snatch us from all these dear and precious vanities, that we set our hearts upon : they cannot go one step with us, beyond this present life: they, like the rest of our friends, may attend on us as far as the grave, but there must leave us. And, oh! what a sad parting hour will it be, when the soul must be hurried away into another world, and leave all its provisions behind in this, and have nothing to support, nothing to cherish it, to all eternity! Do but seriously consider, what a boundless and infinite state eternity is : it is a duration, that overwhelms all our thoughts; and, though they can, at one glance, pierce both earth and heaven, and make an axis to the world, yet, when we attempt to measure out the unwearied stretch of eternity, they grow giddy, and sink, and leave us nothing but confusion, disorder, and astonishment :
that arithmetic can sum, yet, these are but the threshold to eternity; for, it is a state, wherein ages, yea millions of ages, make no difference. Now, tell me, doth it not strike a chill horror through you, to consider, that, within a few days, or, it may be, hours, you must enter upon that unalterable condition, wherein days, and years, and ages, are swallowed up as nothing, nor allowed to be so much as points of that duration ? and this incomprehensible eternity, to be either inconceivably glorious, or insufferably wretched and tormenting? And, what! shall we, who may be in this very state, ere our breath returns to us again, or our pulses beat once more; shall we be so stupid, and brutish, as to be affected only with these present things which perish with the using, and neglect that state which is of eternal duration and infinite concernment ? Certainly, one would think, that men had some very great business to do upon earth, that they can neither afford time nor thoughts about heaven and their eternal interests : well, what are these mighty affairs, that so employ them ? why truly, poor, vile, vain trifles: some are devising their pleasures, how they may melt away their days in luxury: others are scraping together muck and thick clay ; others dangerously aspiring to dignity and honour: this is the great business and employment of the world; which, when I seriously reflect upon, seems to me as vain and sottish, as if a man, in a shipwreck, should only take care to preserve his clothes from wetting, when he himself is drowning. Vain men! death is at your heels; and, at its, judgment and eternity. Is it time for you to mind every trifle of this life? how to make a compliment or a visit, when you are just splitting against the rock of ages, and plunging into the lake of fire and brimstone? Is it time for you now to pursue your pleasures, when everlasting burnings are kindling upon you? in which, unless you be here persuaded to embrace the severities of a holy life, you must for ever wallow; for ever, without ease or release? Is it time for thee to hoard up thy wealth, and to lay up goods for many years, when yet thou knowest not, whether God will not take away thy unprovided soul this very night ? Death and eternity are coming upon us : we are all entering upon our everlasting state: and, if these temporal things be those, which we chiefly regard, they shall perish, and we perish together with them, for III. Now, then, be EXHORTED,
when we have reckoned
1. NOT TO DELAY THY PREPARATION FOR ETERNITY, ONE DAY OR HOUR LONGER.
Depend not upon the warning of a sick-bed: God doth not always afford it; but, sometimes, doth execution before he shoots off a warning-piece: and, why may it not be so with thee? Possibly, again, thy sickness may be such, as may render thee incapable of doing thy last good office for thy soul : however, I am sure, it is the unfittest time of all thy life, then to be making up thy accounts, when thou shouldst be giving them in; then to have thy evidences to clear, when thou shouldst produce them.
ii. If thou wouldst be prepared for eternity, LIVE EVERY DAY SO, AS IF EVERY DAY WERE THY DYING AND THY LAST DAY, AND THE VERY NEXT TO ETERNITY.
If it be not so, it is more than thou knowest. And, therefore, since we have no assurance of an hour or day longer, it is but reason and wisdom, to look upon every one as that which may be our last.
iii. Be CONSTANT IN THE EXERCISE OF A HOLY LIFE; and be always doing that, which thou wouldst be content Christ should find thee doing, when he comes to judge thee.
Think with thyself, if thou wert now upon thy sick-bed, and hadst received the sentence of death, and sawest thy friends stand mourning about thee ready to close up thine eyes in a long night, what would be thy thoughts, what thy discourses. Let the same seriousness of thoughts and discourses fill up every day of thy life: for thou knowest not, whether thou art not as near death, as those, whom their friends and physicians have given over,
iv. LABOUR FOR AN ASSURED HOPE OF GLORY. This will make thy passage into eternity lightsome and joyful.
When thou, and all things in the world, must take leave and part for ever, then, to have the sense of the love of God, and our interest in Christ, and our title to eternal life, will sweetly bear up our hearts in a dying hour. These are things, which are as immortal as thy soul is, and will enter heaven with thee, and abide with thee to all eternity. Oh! whom will it not comfort, to think, that death will change his bottle into a spring? that, though here our waters sometimes failed us, yet, in heaven, whither we are going, we shall bathe in an infinite ocean of delight, and shall lie at the breast of an ever-flowing fountain of life and sweetness ? Whosoever hath but such an assurance as this, cannot but welcome death with embraces; and, while his soul struggles to unclasp itself and get loose from the body, cannot but, with holy panting and longing, say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.