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you will, if you can think of any name bad enough for it. It is the most despicable temper in the world, to have no sense of true honor or happiness, or when we know there are greater and better things, to take up with some low enjoyments. And therefore let the thoughts of this enable our minds, and since there are better things in the other world, let us use our utmost endeavors to possess ourselves of them ; let us live like men, who are born for greater things than this world affords ; let us endeavor to inform ourselves, what the happiness of the next world is, and how we may attain it; and let us use all present things, as those who know there are infinitely greater and better things reserved for us in the next world.
III. This should teach us also, not be over concerned for the shortness of our lives : our lives indeed are very short, they fly away like a shadow, and fade like the flowers of the field ; and this were a very unsupportable thought, were there either no life after this, or not so happy a life as this. But besides all the other proofs we have of another life, the very shortness of our lives may convince us, that death does not put an end to our being: for can we imagine, that so noble a creature as man is, wa3 made for a day? man, I say, who is big with such immortal designs, full of projects for future ages, who can look backward and forward, and see an eternity without beginning and without end : who was made to contemplate the wonders of nature and providence, and to admire and adore his maker ; who is the Lord of this lower world, but has eyes to look up to heaven, and view all the glories of it, and to pry into that invisible world, which this veil of flesh intercepts the sight of: man, who is so long a child, and by such slow steps arrives to the use of reason, and by that time he has got a little knowledge, and is earnestly seeking after more ; by that time he knows, what it is to be a man, and to what purpose he ought to live, what God is; and how much he is bound to love and worship him ; while he is enobling his soul with all heavenly qualities and virtues, and copying out the divine image; when the glories of human nature begin to appear, and to shine in him ; that is, when he is most fit to live, to serve God and men ; then I say, either this mortal nature decays, and dust returns to its dust again, or some violent distemper or evil acci dent cuts him off in a vigorous age, and when with great labor and industry he is become fit to live, he must live no longer. How is it possible to reconcile this with the wisdom of God, if man perishes when he dies ; if he ceases to be, as soon as he comes to be a man? And therefore we have reason to believe, that death only translates us into another world, where the beginnings of wisdom and virtue here, grow up into perfection ; and if that be a more happy place, than this world, as you have already heard, we have no reason to quarrel, that we live so little a while here : for setting aside the miseries and calamities, the troubles and inconveniences of this life, which the happiest men are exposed to, (for our experience tells us, that there is no complete and unmixt happiness here) setting aside, that this world is little else than a scene of misery to a great part of mankind, who struggle with want and poverty, labor under the oppressions of men, or the pains and sicknesses of diseased bodies ; yet if we were as happy as this world could make us, we should have no reason to complain, that we must exchange it for a much greater happiness. We now call it death to leave this world ; but were we once out of it, and enstated in the happiness of the next, we should think it were dying indeed to come into it again. We read of none of the apostles, who did so passionately desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, as St. Paul ; and there was some reason for it, because he had had a taste of that happiness, being snatched up into the third heavens. Indeed could we see the glories of that place, it would make us impatient of living here, and posibly that is one reason, why they are concealed from us ; but yet reason tells us, that if death translated us to a better place, the shortness of our lives here is an advantage to us, if we take care to spend them well, for we shall be the sooner possest of a much happier life.
III. From this notion of death, that it is our leaving this world, I observe farther, what this life is, only a state of growth and improvement, of trial and probation for the next : there can be no doubt of this, if we consider what the scripture tells us of it, that we shall be rewarded in the next world, as we have behaved ourselves in this : that we shall receive according to what we have done in the body, whether good or evil ; which proves, that this life is only in order to the next; that our eternal happiness or misery shall bear proportion to the good or evil which we have done here. And when we only consider, that after a short continuance here, man must be removed out of this world, if we believe, that he does not utterly perish when he dies, but subsists still in another state, we have reason to believe, that this life is only a preparation for the next : for why should a man come into this world, and afterwards be removed into another, if this world had no relation nor subordination to the next ? Indeed it is evident that man is an improveable creature, not created at first in the utmost perfection of his nature, nor put into the happiest state he is capable of, but trained up to perfection and happiness by degrees : Adam himself in a state of innocence, was but upon his good behavior, but a probationer for immortality, which he forfeited by his sin : and as I observed before, it is most probable, that had he continued in
nocent, and refined and exalted his nature by the practice of divine virtues, he should not have lived always in this world, but have been translated into heaven : and I cannot see, how it is inconsistent with the wisdom of God, to make some creatures in a state of probation ; that as the angelical nature was created so pure at first, as to be fit to live in heaven ; so man, though an earthly, yet a reasonable creature, might be in a capacity, by the improvement of his natural powers, of advancing himself thither : as it became the manifold wisdom of God to create the earth as well as the heavens, so it became his wisdom to make man to inhabit this earth ; for it was not fitting, that any part of the world should be destitute of reasonable beings, to know and adore their maker, and to ascribe to him the glory of his works : but then, since a reasonable nature is capable of greater improvements than to live always in this world, it became the divine goodness to make this world only a state of probation and dicipline for the next, that those who by a long and constant practice of virtue had spiritualized their natures into a divine purity, might ascend into heaven, which is the true center of all intelligent beings. This seems to be the ori. ginal intention of God in making man, and then this earthly life was from the beginning but a state of growth and improvement to make us fit for heaven, though without dying.