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talk of acquaintances and others, how often do we find, as it were accidentally, that they are now among the dead, and not among the living! And, indeed, with all persons who have lived any time in this world, and who are at all given to reflection, their affections and their thoughts are more among the dead than among the living; their best treasures are among them. Did I call them the dead, and ourselves the living ? It is so we use the terms, but the fact is, that many of them may be much more alive and truly living than we are-living in blessed hope and peace, and released from the death of sin ; and are very likely more near to us—and more alive to what we do, than those whom we consider to be living.
Now, though all things in nature, and in Scripture, thus conspire to cry aloud to us, that things here are but temporal, it is obviously the very last thing that people ever consider as true, or pay any serious adequate regard to; but are so taken up with things temporal and seen, as if they would never have an end : and therefore it is, their minds being thus occupied, that they do not generally see the force of these expressions until they look back upon life, and are upon their death. beds: then, indeed, it appears in its true colors, but not till then: then, indeed, it appears as a dream when one awaketh, so quickly passed away.
And now, with regard to the latter part of the subject, that the things which are not seen, are eternal.
It is true that nature does not declare this truth to us as it does the other ; but when God has made every thing to preach aloud to us such warnings, about every. thing here slipping away from under our feet, we might conclude that there was something behind--something coming on, which was of great consequence.
And this great truth is one which the Old Testament does not declare to us as it does the other, which it so constantly presses upon us; but this it leaves: and this was perhaps one of the things which Moses alludes to when he says that there are secret things which belong unto God.” And this silence of the earlier Scriptures is very re.
markable on the subject of everlasting happiness, and everlasting misery.
For it would seem as if this was so awful a truth, when considered, as every truth ought to be considered which comes from God, that perhaps good people might have been overwhelmed at the thought of it.
And therefore, perhaps, it was that the Almighty, in his wisdom and mercy, has thought proper not to urge this distinctly upon us, until Jesus Christ came and showed us his exceeding goodness and compassion toward us, and the great sacrifice and propitiation he was to make for us. Then it was that he ventured, as it were, to lift up the veil, and to show us everlasting heaven and everlasting hell, into one of which we are all so fast dropping one after the other!
Now what eternity is—what it is to live a life for ever and ever—without an end or prospect of change, of this we can have no idea in this life. For very likely anything like an adequate conception of such a state, either for good or for evil, would be to us so overpowering that it would at once separate the soul from the body, even to think of it.
All that we can do is to liken it, and compare it with things temporal.
For instance, we can very well imagine what it might be to live for a thousand, or for ten thousand years, and then to imagine that we have ten thousand years again to live; and then to look back from this state and to think what were thirty or seventy years! This will give
some notion of the difference between the things which are temporal, and those which are eternal : but still it is only a faint notion: for what are ten thousand years to eternity? they are but a grain of dust on the balance. Or again, what it will be to awake from the
grave, and to find ourselves in one of these states, for good or for evil, this must be a thought of the greatness of which we can have no adequate conception.
But we may form some faint idea of it from things temporal. For a sailor to find after a very dangerous voyage
that he is indeed safe upon shore-or for a soldier to find that the battle is over and that he is safe--for persons to find after a state of very great danger such as being in the midst of a terrible plague or pestilence, and to hear of a sudden that it has gone by, and to find that they are safe: we may tell what their feelings are, and this may give us some idea of what it will be to wake in eternity, and to find that we are safe, that we shall never again be separated from Jesus Christ.
Again, the true value of things temporal as they will appear to us in eternity-of the true importance of those things which we now consider of so much consequence, that we make no scruple to sacrifice our religion for them-such as wealth and the indulgences it affords, or the cares of acquiring it, both of which are commonly such as to exclude and shut out all serious thoughts of eternity-or unlawful and sensual pleasures of various kinds, or seditious and disloyal thoughts in political matters, on which the heart is set till it thinks them of the very greatest moment : all these things, for which religion is sacrificed so commonly that we think nothing of it—these will appear in eternity in their true colors and importance. How trivial they will then appear, we cannot now tell.
But we may gain some slight notion from what we find in things temporal.
If a man could recal the objects which occupied his mind when a child, and which when a child appeared to him of the greatest consequence, and such as to have occasioned very much real distress or joy at the time, they appear to him now the most absurd trifles.
Or if he was to see a place where he was used to be when a child, which he has not seen since, and which he then thought very large, everything there appears to him
very small and insignificant. And the reason is because his own mind has opened and grown.
But the earthly objects which now occupy his mind as a man, and with regard to which he acts as if he thought them of the very greatest importance, these will appear to him infinitely more trifling and insignifi
cant, when he looks back upon them from the shore of eternity, and his heart opens to know what God is.
If all this be indeed the case, and things present as of such trivial importance and so short-lived and unreal, and the things which are not seen so real, so substantial, so momentous ;-how earnestly, how constantly, ought we to labor, so to act now as we shall then wish we had done!
For, although all things else are of so little, so very little real importance, yet what we do each day for good or for evil, is of the very greatest, for that will affect our condition through the whole of that eternity.
May the Almighty and everlasting God, who, by adding to our lives, continues to call us each day to repentance, grant that we may seriously, and in time, prepare ourselves for another life. May he open our eyes, that we may see and turn from our manifold sins and failings, before the day of grace is past, and the night cometh, when no man can work; for there is no repentance in the grave whither we all are going! May he awaken us to a deep sense of the eternal things which are fast coming upon us all, so that we may make haste to make our peace with him, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
St. Matt. xxiv. 44.
“Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the
Son of man cometh."
It is very difficult to persuade persons to consider how very liable we all are at all times to sudden death.
For notwithstanding anything that may be urged on this subject; and the frequent instances of it, that occur among us; yet no person will be induced to believe that he himself is liable to it, so as to live under a practical sense of such a consideration : but each person will, notwithstanding, persuade himself that it will not be so in his case.
He does not see why he should not live as long as others, who are older than himself; and therefore he persuades himself that he shall. And however many there are who die around us of all ages ;-yet there are also many who continue to live, and some of them older than ourselves.
And if we are induced at any time seriously to reflect on this very frail and uncertain condition of our lives, yet every day that is added to our lives, takes away more and more of this apprehension: so that if feels strongly his liability to, and the nearness of, death to-day, he is the most callous to-morrow, because it does not come to him. For until death does really come, it will always appear long in coming ; but whenever it does come, it will seem doubtless quick
and sudden, beyond all conception.
For these reasons it might be thought by some, that it is not so advisable to warn people of the danger of