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Now I will not promise myself to satisfy all men in this matter; for those who think it the only end of living, to eat and drink, and enjoy the more impure delights of flesh and sense, will never be satisfied, that three score and ten years are as good as eight or nine hundred for this purpose ; for the longer they enjoy these pleasures, and the oftener they repeat them, the better it is : but these men ought to be convinced, that this is not the true end of living, that these are only means to preserve life, which God has sweetened with such proper satisfactions, or made the neglect of them so uneasy and painsul, that no man might forget to take care to preserve himself; but man was made at first for higher and nobler ends, and since by the sin of Adam we are all become mortal, this lifeis not for itself, but in order to a better life.
We come into this world, not to stay here, or to take up our abode and rest, for then indeed the longer we lived the better ; but this world is only a state of trial and discipline, to exercise our virtues, to perfect our minds, to prepare and qualify ourselves for the more pure and refined and spiritual enjoyments of the other world. We come into this world, not so much to enjoy, as to conquer it, and to triumph over it, to baffle its temptations, to despise its flatteries, and to endure its terroro ; and if we live long enough to do this, we live long enough, and ought to thank God, that our work, and labor, and temptations are
at an end : for what laboring man is not glad that his work is over, and that he may go to rest ? What mariner is not glad that he has weathered all storms, and steered a safe course to his desired haven.
There are two things necessary to the improvement of our minds, knowledge and virtue : and as God has shortened our lives, so he has shortened our work too, and given us a more easy and compendious way to both.
Knowledge indeed is an infinite and endless thing, and it is impossible thoroughly to satisfy that appetite in great and generous minds, in this blind and obscure state of life ; but the comfort is, all the knowledge that is necessary to carry us to heaven, is now plain and easy, and will not take up many years to learn it, for, this is life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent ; which is plainly revealed to us in the gospel : and when we get to heaven, we shall quickly understand all the difficulties of nature and providence in another manner, than the greatest philosophers do now, or can do, though they should live many hundred years.
And as for virtue, we have as short and easy a way to it: the plainest and most perfect precepts, the most admirable examples, the most encouraging and inviting promises, and which is more than all, the inost powerful assistances of the divine spirit to renew and sanctify us; and he who is not reform
ed by these divine and supernatural methods of grace, in forty or fifty years, is not likely to be the better for them, though he should live to Methusa
As for doing good, I confess, the longer a good man lives, the more good he will do, and make himself the more useful to the world ; but this is God's care, and whenever he calls him out of the world, he excuses him from doing any more good in it.
The truth is, nothing could be more improper under the state of the gospel, than such a long life, as worldly men are very fond of; for our Savior has taught us to expect persecutions and sufferings for his name ; and this is very often the portion of true and sincere christians, that St. Paul could say, If in this life only we had hope, we were of all men the most miserable. "Thanks be to God, it is not always so, but when it is, it would be too great a temptation for human nature, to live some hundred years in a state of persecution, as they might, if they and the persecuting prince should live so long.
Nay, such a long life as men talk of, would greatly weaken the promises and threatenings of the gospel, which are all absent and unseen thing's, to be expected in the other world ; but if the next world were so many hundred years ofi, both the promises and threatenings of it, would lose their efiect upon the generality of mankind.
Nay, it might be thought very hard upon good men, who are taught by the gospel of Christ to live above this world, and to have a very mean opinion of, and a great indifferency to all the delights of it, to live so many hundred years in it, not so much to enjoy it, as to despise it, and to contend with it. And it is not less hard for men, who are transported with the ravishing hopes and expectations of a better life, whose hearts and conversations are already in hearen to be kept so long out of it : this is a severe trial of their patience ; for hope, when it is so long delayed, is a very troublesome and uneasy passion ; and though few men long to die, yet a great many good men do very impatiently long to be in heaven, and can be contented, whenever God pleases, to submit to dying, though with some natural reluctancy, that they may get to heaven.
In short, this life is long enough for a race, for a warfare, for a pilgrimage ; it is long enough to fight and contend with this world, and all the temptations of it ; it is long enough to know this world, to discover the vanity of it, and to live above it ; it is long enough, by the grace of God, to purge and refine our minds, and to prepare ourselves to live for ever in God's presence ; and when we are in any measure prepared for heaven, and possessed with great and passionate desires of it, we shall think it a great deal too long to be kept out of il.
Sect. III. What use to make of the fixed term of hu
2. LET us consider what wise use is to be made of this ; and here are two things distinctly to be considered : 1. That the general term of human life is fixed and determined by God. 2. That this common term and period of life, at the utmost extent of it, is but very short.
1. That the general term of human life is fixed and determined by God; and this is capable of very wise improvements : For,
1. When we know that we cannot live above three score or four score years, or some few years over or under, we should not extend our hopes and expectations and designs beyond this term. 2. We should frequently count our days and observe how our lives waste, and draw near to eternity. 3. When this period draws nigh, and death comes within view, it more especially concerns us to apply ourselves to a more serious and solemn preparation for death.
1. We should not extend our hopes and expectations and designs heyond this term, which God has fixed for the conclusion of our lives : we should not live as if we were immortal creatures, who are never to die ; for if God have set bounds to our lives, it is absurd for us to expect to live any longer, unless we hope to alter the decrees of heaven.