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There is too great a space between us and them : therefore, we are not affected by them. They are as nothing to us : it is just the same to us as if they had no being. For the same reason the mind does not see either the beauties or the terrors of eternity. We are not at all affected by them, because they are so distant from us. On this account it is that they appear to us as nothing : just as if they had no existence. Mean time we are wholly taken up with things present, whether in time or space; and things appear less and less as they are more and more distant from us, either in one respect or the other. And so it must be; such is the constitution of our nature, till nature is changed by almighty grace. But this is no manner of excuse for those who continue in their natural blindness to futurity ; because a remedy for it is provided, which is found by all that seek it. Yea, it is freely given to all that sincerely ask it.
17. This remedy is faith. I do not mean, that which is the faith of a heathen, who believes that there is a God, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; but that which is defined by the Apostle, An evidence, or conviction of things not seen: a divine evidence and conviction of the invisible and eternal world. This alone opens the eyes of the understanding, to see God and the things of God. This, as it were, takes away, or renders transparent, the impenetrable veil,
“Which hangs 'twixt mortal and immortal Being." When,
“Faith lends its realizing light,
The clouds disperse, the shadows fly:
eye.” Accordingly, a believer, in the scriptural sense, lives in eternity, and walks in eternity. His prospect is enlarged. His view is not any longer bounded by present things : no, nor by an earthly hemisphere, though it were, as Milton speaks, “ Tenfold the length of this terrene.” Faith places the unseen, the eternal world, continually before his face. Consequently, he looks not at the things that are seen;'
Wealth, honour, pleasure, or what else,
This short enduring world can give." These are not his aim, the object of his pursuit, his desire or happiness : but he looks at the things that are not seen;" the favour, the image, and the glory of God: as well know, ing, that “the things which are seen are temporal,” a vapour, a shadow, a dream that vanishes away; whereas “ the things that are not seen are eternal,” real, solid, un. changeable:
18. What then can be a fitter employment for a wise man, than to meditate upon these things? Frequently to expand his thoughts “ beyond the bounds of this diurnal sphere,” and to expatiate above even the starry heavens, in the fields of eternity? What a mean might it be, 'ta confirm his contempt of the poor, little things of earth. When a man of huge possessions was boasting to his friend of the Jargeness of his estate, Socrates desired him to bring him a map of the earth, and to point out Attica therein. When this was done, (although not very easily, as it was a small country,) he next desired Alcibiades to point out his own estate therein. When he could not do this, it was easy to observe how trifling the possessions were, in which he so prided himself, in comparison of the whole earth! How applicable is this to the present case. Does any one value himself
on his earthly possessions? Alas, what is the whole globe of earth to the Infinity of space! A mere speck of creation. And what is the life of man, yea the duration of the earth itself, but a speck of time, if it be compared to the length of eternity! Think of this: let it sink into your thought, till you have some conception, however imperfect, of that
16 Boundless, fathomless abyss,
Without a bottom or a shore."
19. But if naked eternity, so to speak, be so yast, so
astonishing an object, as even to overwhelm your thought, how does it still enlarge the idea to behold it clothed with either happiness or misery! Eternal bliss or pain! Ever. lasting happiness, or everlasting misery! One would think it would swallow up every other thought in every reasonable creature. Allow me only this, “ Thou art on the brink of either a happy or miserable eternity :” thy Creator bids thee now stretch out thy hand, either to the one or the other: and one would imagine no rational creature could think on any thing else: One would suppose, that this single point would engross his whole attention. Certainly it ought so to do: certainly if these things are so, there can be but one thing needful. O let you and I, at least, whatever others do, choose that better part which shall never be taken away from us!
20. Before I close this subject, permit me to touch upon two remarkable passages in the Psalms, (one in the 8th, the other in the 144th,) which bear a near relation to it. The former is, “ When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers; the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained : What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Here man is considered as a cypher, a point, compared to Immensity. The latter is, “ Lord, what is man, that thou hast such respect unto him? Man is like a thing of nought; his time passeth away like a shadow!” In the new translation the words are stronger still : “ What is man that thou takest knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that thoù makest account of him ?” Here the Psalmist seems to consider the life of man as a moment, a nothing, compared to eternity. Is not the purport of the former, How can He, that filleth heaven and earth, take knowledge of such an atom as man? How is it that he is not utterly lost in the Immensity of God's works? Is not the purport of the latter, How can he, that inhabiteth eternity, stoop to regard the creature of a day?-One whose life passeth away like a shadow? Is not this a thought which has struck many serious minds, as well as it did David's, and created a kind of fear lest they should be forgotten before Him, who grasps all space and all eternity? But does not this fear arise from a kind of supposition, that God is such an one as ourselves? If we consider boundless space, or boundless duration, we shrink into nothing before it. But God is not a man. A day, and millions of ages are the same with Him. Hence there is the same disproportion between Him and any finite being, as between Him and the creature of a day. Therefore, whenever that thought recurs, whenever you are tempted to fear, lest you should be forgotten before the immense, the eternal God, remember that nothing is little or great, that no duration is long or short before Him. Remember that God“ ita præsidet singulis sicut universis, et universis sicut singulis.” That he presides over every individual as over the universe; and the universe, as over each individual. So that you may
“ Father, how wide thy glories shine,
Lord of the universe and mine!
ON THE TRINITY.
Some days since, I was desired to preach on this text. I
did so yesterday morning. In the afternoon, I was pressed to write down and print my Sermon, if possible, before I left Cork. I have written it this morning : but I must beg the Reader to make allowance for the disadvantages I am under; as I have not here any books to consult, nor indeed any time to consult them.
Cork, May, 8, 1775.
1 JOHN v. 7.
“ There are Three that bear record in Heaven, the FATHER,
the WORD, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One.”
1. WHATSOEVER the generality of people may think, it is certain that opinion is not religion : No, not right opinion, assent to one, or to ten thousand truths. There is a wide difference between them : even right opinion is as distant from religion as the East is from the West. Persons may be quite right in their opinions, and yet have no religion at all. And on the other hand, persons may be truly religious, who hold many wrong opinions. Can any one possibly doubt of this, while there are Romanists in the world? For who can deny, not only that many of them formerly have been truly religious, (as Thomas a Kempis,