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SERMON X X X VII.
VIEW OF ETERNITY.
OCTOBER 19, 1823.
WHILI 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 CORINTHIANS, iv. 18.
The gospel has brought life and immortality to light. It has opened the invisible scenes of the invisible world to the eye of faith. Those who believe the gospel, and live by faith on the Son of God, live in the view of eternity. The apostle says in the thirteenth verse of the context, that he believed the gospel which he preached. “We also believe, and therefore speak.” And as he lived in the belief of the gospel, so he lived in the view of eternity, which enabled him to form some just views of his present sufferings and future enjoyments, and of all other present and future objects. Such views he supposes were not peculiar to himself, but common to christians in general. " Knowing,” says he, “ that he who raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through_the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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.” These last words, in their proper connection, plainly teach us,
That christians live under the habitual view and influence of eternity.
I shall first consider the view which christians have of eternity; and then the influence which that view has
them. İ. I am to show that christians live under the habitual view of eternity. This will appear, if we consider,
1. That they have had that clear and lively view of eternity which is commonly impressed on the conscience previously to a saving change. The first step which God usually takes, in forming the vessels of mercy, is to open their eyes, and make them look into eternity. This alarms their fears, and awakens their consciences, and throws them into deep distress. In this situation he holds them for days, or weeks, or months, or a longer space of time. Under such awakenings and convictions, he impresses on their minds a deep and lasting sense of eternity, which they never forget. For though the change of heart, which they afterwards experience, causes their painful views of eternity to subside, yet it produces a joyful view of the invisible world, which lays a foundation for their habitually keeping eternity in view, or having their conversation in heaven.
2. Christians, who understand and believe the gospel, consider all things as intimately connected with eternity; which leads them to live in the habitual view of it. Not only sickness, and sorrow, and death, and all other gloomy objects, lead christians to view eternity, but time, and all the objects of time, appear to them as bearing a serious and important relation to eternity. Eternity therefore is in all their thoughts. The same scenes and objects which hide eternity from the view of other men, bring eternity into their view ; because they habitually realize the inseparable connection between things seen and unseen, things present and things future, and things temporal and things eternal. As they trace all secondary causes up to the supreme First Cause, so the supreme First Cause leads their thoughts into that vast eternity which he inhabits, and in which he has fixed the throne of his glory.
3. Christians live habitually in the view of eternity, because the objects of their supreme affections are there. Our Saviour says, where a man's ireasure is, there will his heart be also. The treasure of christians lies in heaven; and therefore their views, their desires, and their affections centre there. There is God, and Christ, and the spirits of just men made perfect, who hold the supreme place in their hearts. Those who have risen with Christ, set their affections on things above, and not on things on the earth ; and seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. They habituVOL. III.
ally carry their thoughts into eternity, because they habitually live in the love of the great and glorious objects of the eternal world. They love to live by faith, as well as other men do by sight. They love to contemplate upon their future and eternal inheritance, as well as other men do upon their present temporal possessions. They therefore habitually live in the view of eternity, because they habitually love to live so.
4. The scripture represents good men as living habitually in the view of the invisible world. We are told that Enoch walked with God; which implies that he lived habitually in view of him who inhabits eternity. Moses lived as seeing him who is invisible, and having an habitual respect to the recompense of reward. Job saw his Redeemer by the eye of faith, and lived in the habitual expectation of seeing him face to face. David assures us that he habitually lived in the view of God, and of a blessed eternity. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope; for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." If we now turn to the eleventh of Hebrews, we shall find that all the ancient patriarchs lived habitually in that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. “ These," says the apostle, "all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly. Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God : for he hath prepared for them a city.” According to this representation of the ancient saints, they not only now and then had a faint view of eternity, but they lived habitually under a realizing sense of future and eternal realities. The apostles and primitive christians also lived in the same manner. The apostle Paul, speaking in their name, says, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. This looks like their living in the habitual view of eternity; and what he says in the next chapter, and in the next words after our text, more fully expresses the same idea. “ For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,
we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house, which is from heaven." “Now he that hath wrought us for this self-same thing is God, who also hath given us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight." In another place he says, “ Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” And agreeably to this the apostle says to christians in general, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Thus it appears that true christians look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen; that they have their conversation in heaven; and that they habitually live in the view of eternity. I now proceed, as proposed,
II. To consider the habitual influence which the habitual view of eternity has upon christians. Eternity is the greatest idea that ever entered the mind of man, that ever entered the mind of Gabriel, or that ever existed in the mind of God. God can number all the stars of heaven. God can number all the drops in the ocean. God can number all the sands on the sea shore. God can number all the particles in the whole material system. God can number every creature and every object in the whole circle of creation. But to speak with reverence, God cannot number the days, or years, or ages of eternity. This is absolute infinity, which never has been and never can be comprehended. After ages and ages have rolled away; yea, after millions and millions of ages are gone, our idea of eternity may be enlarged, but its duration will still remain unlimited and incomprehensible. Immense duration gives immense importance to every being and object with which it is inseparably connected. Éternal existence gives immense importance to the Deity, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect, to the holiness and happiness of heaven, to the sin and misery of hell, and in a word, to all the invisible world. Accordingly, when we would represent the invisible world in the most solemn and important light, we call it eternity itself; and by going into another world, we always mean going into a boundless eternity. Now, since eternity gives such immense importance to every being and object with which it is inseparably connected, it must have a very impressive influence on the minds of christians, who live habitually under a realizing view of it. This leads me to say, in the first place,
1. That the habitual view of eternity must give christians an habitual sense of the shortness of time. Eternity sinks time to a moment. Those who habitually realize eternity, habitually realize the shortness of time. Jacob said, “ few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.” David, and Job, and the prophets, and the apostles, viewed time as a moment or a vapor. Such must be the appearance of time to those who live habitually in the view of the invisible and eternal world.
2. The habitual view of eternity impresses on the minds of christians a deep and solemn sense of their own frailty and mortality. Death and eternity are so nearly connected, that the one spontaneously brings the other into view. The habitual view of eternity made Paul die daily; and it has the same effect upon all christians. They realize that their lives are constantly shortening, and that they are daily drawing nearer and nearer to their long home. The christian does not feel and say with the worldling, I shall live for ever, and never see corruption; but he feels and says with Joshua, I am this day going the way of all the earth, and there may be but a step between me and eternity.
3. The habitual view of eternity gives christians not only a realizing sense of their frailty and mortality, but also a realizing sense of the vanity of all temporal enjoyments. The greatest and best things that the world contains appear like mere trifles and vanities to christians, when they carry their thoughts into eternity. They then view the world and all its enjoyments very much as sinners do when they are dying and going out of it. So Paul felt, when he said to christians, " We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." Peter tells christians, “ You took joyfully the spoiling of your goods; knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Though Solomon was once carried away by the riches, honors and enjoyments of the world, yet when he drew near the closing scenes of life and had a more realizing sense of death, judgment and eternity, he