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Forty, fifty, or seventy years, seemeth a great time with us; yet with God, who is infinite, ten thousand years is no considerable space, but a very short and small duration.
2ndly, As time, so the things of the world: “ The things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal ” (2 Cor. iv. 18). They are short as to continuance and use. As to continuance, he calleth the honours and delight of Pharaoh's court, “ the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. xi. 25). Whatsoever is temporal, a man may see the end of it: be it evil, a man in the deep waters is not discouraged, as long as he can see banks ; but in eternity there are neither banks nor bottom: if good, “I have seen an end of all perfection” (Psalm cxix. 96). The most shining glory will shortly be burnt out to a snuff, it wastes every day. Eternity maketh good things infinitely good, and evil things infinitely evil. If it be temporal, whatsoever paineth us, is but a flea-biting to eternal torments; whatever pleaseth or delights, it is but a may-game to eternal joys; so for use too, it is but for a season, the law gave an indulgence to eat of his neighbours' grapes for refreshment, “but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel” (Deut xxiii. 24); “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. vi. 7). The manna was useful and refreshing, when used in the day; but, if kept all night, it perished, and was useless. It was useful in the wilderness, but ceaseth when they came to Canaan.
USE I.-Uses are many. First, comfort to the godly, 1. For their own particular. He is an eternal God, that ordereth and guideth all things, that he may bring them to their eternal felicity, and will in time admit them into it : “ For this God is our God, for ever and ever; he will be our guide unto death” (Psalm xlviii. 14). After death, he will be their God still; death doth not put an end to this relation; for God is Abraham's God, when he is dead (Matt. xxii. 32). God is the same still, both in him. self, and to those that believe in him: he will constantly guide them all the days of their life, and, after death, receive us to the everlasting enjoyment of himself, and revive our dust. Oh! what a blessedness is this to have an interest in such an eternal God!
2. As to the community and society to which they do belong. God's eternity is the church's stability, and so it is urged in Scripture: “For I am the Lord, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. iii. 6); “Thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end: the children of thy servants shall continue” (Psalm cii. 27, 28). So, when the flourishing of the wicked is spoken of, when they spring as grass, “ But thou, O Lord, art most high for evermore” (Psalm xcii. 8). If they be high, God is higher, and they are but upstarts to him ; their power is of a late rise and short continuance : so, “ Thy throne is established of old, thou art from everlasting” (Psalm xciii. 2). God's throne is as eternal as his being: so, “ Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever : thy throne from generation to generation” (Lam. v. 19). Is the life of thy enemies long? God endureth for ever : is their power great? it is but dependent ; God had power before them, and will have power when they shall be no more.
Use II.-Is terror to the wicked : “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. x. 31). They may outlive other enemies, but they cannot outlive God, who abideth for ever, to avenge his quarrel against them; and judge you, if his controversy against them be not just,
since they are such impious fools and brutes, as that they prefer the creature before the Creator ; and choose temporal things, rather than everlasting; and prefer earth before Heaven; and the satisfaction of their bodily lusts, before the saving of their souls. Can you blame God of any injustice in dooming them to everlasting misery? What part of the punishment would you have relaxed ? the loss or the pain? The loss is double, of God's favour, or their natural comforts. Would you have God admit those to the sight and everlasting fruition of himself, who never cared for him ? or return again to their natural comforts, that they may eternally run riot with them, or abuse them to an occasion of the Hesh? Or is it the pain? would you have God take off that, when the sin and impenitent obstinacy doth still continue? Since they preferred a temporal good, before that which is eternal, and would sell their birthright for one morsel of meat (Heb, xii. 16), how just is it for God to make them everlastingly to lie under the fruits and effects of their own evil choice!
USE III.- Is to press us to seek after the everlasting fruition of this blessed and ever-glorious God, because many live as if they had never heard of things eternal ; most live as if they did not believe any such thing; the best do not improve those things as they ought: therefore, I shall a little insist upon a quickening exhortation, to stir you up to seek an eternal happiness in God.
1. As we are reasonable creatures, we were made for eternity ; for God hath given us an immortal spirit, and there is no proportion between an immortal soul and temporal things : it cannot be content with anything that shall have an end ; for then we may survive our happiness: if we had souls that would perish, it would be more excusable to look after things that perish. What will you do, when your souls shall be turned out of doors, “ when ye fail” (Luke xvi. 9). To what region will the poor, shiftless, harbourless soul betake itself when you die? All your thoughts, that concern the present world, perish; and, if you did perish too, it were no such great matter ; but you shall live; and what will you have to comfort yourselves, if you have not an interest in the eternal God? In whose hands will you be, if you have slighted him while you were upon earth, and the eternal happiness he offereth to us, and could not find enough in God and his eternal salvation to take off your hearts from the pleasures and vanities of the world. Can you expect that he will favour you and be kind to you?
2. Eternity is made known to us Christians, and clearly set before us in the doctrine of the Gospel : “ Christ hath brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel” (2 Tim. i. 10). Nature hath but guesses at it, the law but shadows; but here it is clearly, certainly, and fully revealed. You know that you have an eternal God to please, and an infinite and eternal reward to expect. The whole drift of our religion is to call us off from time to eternity, from this world to a better. Christ came not to settle us here in a state of prosperity, nor to make this world our rest and portion; but to draw us up to God and Heaven.
3. The same religion showeth that we are already involved in an eternal misery, and stand under a sentence binding us over to the curse and everlasting wrath of God : “ He that believeth not, is condemned already, &c. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John üïi. 18, 19). God hath offered life and immortality to them, who have so miserably lost it, and involved their souls in eternal death. Therefore, if we know what it is to be liable to the wrath of an eternal God, and to be interested in the hopes of eternal glory, we should awaken and be more serious in a business of such concernment.
4. You will shortly be summoned to give an account (Luke xvi. 2). You have received so much from me, such riches, honours, parts, sufficiencies, such invitations to draw you home to me, what will you answer? Nay, there is not only a little time between you and judgment, but a little time between you and execution ; nothing but the slender thread of a frail life, which is soon fretted asunder; and will you, can you, sleep in sin so near eternity, and laugh and dance over the brink of Hell? You cannot soon enough flee from wrath to come.
5. Consider, what poor deluded wretches, who are in that everlasting estate, would give, if they might be trusted with a little time again, that they might provide for eternity. How happy would they think themselves, if God would but try them once more! If careless creatures would but anticipate the thoughts of another world, how soon would they discern their mistake! How miserably will you bewail yourselves, when you have lost eternity for poor, temporal trifles! What comfort will it be to you, that you have been merry here, lived in pomp and ease, when you must endure the wrath of God for evermore, and wish for any allay of your torments ? “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke xvi. 24). It is better to believe, than try; provide against it, than try.
6. If you be Christians indeed, you have not the spirit of this world. Christianity, as it is acted by us, is but the exercise of faith, hope, and love. Now, the eternal fruition of God, is the matter that all these graces are conversant about. Faith believeth that there is an eternal Being, and that our happiness lieth in the fruition of him (Heb. xi, 6). Love is that which levelleth and directeth all our actions to this blessed end, that we may see God, and enjoy him as our portion and felicity : " Whom have I in Heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee" (Psalm lxxiii. 25). Our desires are after him, our delights in him ; it is our work to please him, our happiness to enjoy him. The truth of his eternal being is the object of our faith ; so the apprehension of him as our chief good and felicity, is the object of our love, so as he is capable of being enjoyed; and our participated eternity is the object of our faith; this is the end of all our desires and labours, and the expectation of this fortifieth us against all the difficulties of our pilgrimage, and so directeth us what to mind, be, and do: “ Therefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him” (2 Cor. v. 9).
Directions. What shall we do?
DIRECTION I.- Meditate often and seriously of eternity. There is a great deal of profit gotten by this meditation; nothing doth more promote the great ends of the Gospel, than this meditation.
1. For Christ; nothing makes Christ precious, but serious thoughts of eternity, he being the only means to deliver us from wrath to come, which is the great evil of the other state; and procure for us the eternal enjoyment of God, which is the good of that estate: the Lord God is “ a sun and shield, &c., no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm lxxxiv. 11). You can make a shift without Christ in this
world, you are by ordinary means well provided against the evils of this life, and well fortified with the good things thereof; but, in death, Christ will be to thee gain and advantage.
2. It would promote the great change. What will make a proud man humble, a vain man serious, a covetous worldling heavenly, a wicked man a good man? let him think of eternity, where only the humble, the heavenly, are favoured and accepted (2 Cor. iii. 11).
3. What would check temptations, either from the pleasures, riches, or honours of the world? These are not eternal riches, nor eternal pleasures, nor eternal honours; transitory things are not our business, nor our scope (Heb. xi. 25).
4. What would quicken diligence, and put life into our endeavours, but the meditation of eternity ? Everything should be laboured for, that hath an everlastingness in it; the travail of your souls should be laid out upon those things : “Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not ?” (Isa. lv. 2.) So, “ Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life" (John vi. 27). Surely serious diligence is necessary: “Shall I tritle away that time, which I am to improve for
DIRECTION II.-Let the enjoyment of an eternal God be your end and scope: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. iv. 18). When you have set eternal things before you, then make your choice: on the one side, there are eternal joys; on the other, eternal torments. Now, vain pleasures lead to the one, solid godliness to the other. By the neglect of God, you run the hazard of a miserable eternity; by the choice of God for your Lord and portion, you get an interest in a blessed eternity. Only let me warn you,
1. To choose end and means together: “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat : because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. vii. 13, 14). They must be coupled: both quicken each other; the intention of the end quickens to a diligent pursuit and an earnest use of means; and the use of means will sooner give you to understand what your condi. tion will be, than a bare reflection upon the end.
2. Do not confound principal and subordinate means, so as one should justle out the other. The primary means of going to the Father is Christ: * Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John xiv. 6). The secondary means is holiness : “ Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. xi. 24).
DIRECTION III.-Be resolvedly true to your end, which is the enjoyment of God; and that will quicken you the more, and direct you; for the end is both our measure and our motive. In short, do all things from eternal principles, to eternal ends: the eternal principle is the grace of the Spirit; the eternal end is the pleasing, glorifying, and enjoying of God: “ Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil. i. 11). Actions carried on from eternal principles, according to an eternal rule, for an eternal end, cannot miscarry.
SERMON XCIV. VERSE 89.— Thy word is settled in Heaven. This will bear two senses: 1. Relating to God's decree, made in Heaven. 2. That of an emblem of its constancy, is in Heaven.
1. It may be referred to God's decree, “ Thy word is settled in Heaven,” in thy mind and will. The words of temporal kings are on earth; and therefore their laws and edicts are subject to many changes, and are often revoked and altered, either by themselves or by their successors; but the word of God is above all changes and alterations, as being decreed in Heaven. It is preached on earth, believed on earth, fulfilled on earth; but decreed in Heaven, fixed and settled there by God's unalterable purpose and will.
2. That in Heaven there is an emblem of it. It is usual in Scripture to set forth the stability and constancy of God's word by this similitude : as, “ Mercy shall be built up for ever; thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens” (Psalm lxxxix. 2). So, when it is compared with the covenant of day and night: “ Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their seasons; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant" (Jer. xxxii. 20, 21). So Jer. xxxi. 35–37. This sense I incline to, because, in the next verse, it is compared with the stability of the earth. Well then, his word is settled in Heaven; partly, because the heavens stand fast by the same word by which they were first made: “ And God said, let there be light, and there was light" (Gen. i. 3); “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters" (verse 6): so midrash tillim. And partly, because the being and order of Heaven showeth the settledness of God's word, as the heavens were created, and settled in a course which they constantly observe in their motions; and this duration and equability in the motion is so exact, that men can foresee eclipses long before they happen; therefore the Psalmist saith, “The sun knoweth his going down” (Psalm civ. 19); that is, keepeth so to the just points of his compass, as if he were an intelligent agent, and knew the exact time when to set and rise. Now, when we lift up our eyes to Heaven, and see how punctually and exactly the order is observed, which is once settled by God's will, even from the beginning of the world to this day no remarkable change hath been observed, the heavenly bodies keep their tenour and course, and by their constant motions distribute their light and influence to the world, and this from their first creation, and all because he hath said, “It shall be so ;' in the strength of his word, they abide : this continuance of the heavens, showeth the permanency of his word.
DOCTRINE.—That God's word is of an eternal truth and immutable constancy.
By his word is principally meant the Gospel covenant. It is said by the Prophet Isaiah, “ The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth : but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (xl. 8); and the Apostle Peter, quoting and improving the same place, saith, “ The word which by the Ġospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter i. 25). And more especially the promise of eternal life; for that is opposite to the fading glory of the pre