Page images
PDF
EPUB

Blessed God! who would imagine, that in a world peopled with immortal spirits, that must live for ever in unconceivable happiness or misery, the greatest number of us should be such utter strangers to the thoughts and concerns of another world! that we, who are so industrious in our teniporal affairs, as not to slip any opportunity of gain, but are so ready to court every occasion that tends to advance these our momentary pleasures, profits, and honours, should be regardless of those celestial joys, which if we fall short of, we are undone for ever; and which if we arrive to, we shall be as happy as all the beatitudes of an immortal heaven can make us! O inconsiderate beings that we are! where is the reason that constitutes us men, that we should choose thus crossly to the nature of things, when there is so vast a disproportion between the objects of our choice, between heaven and earth, between moments and eternity, between the hungry and withering joys of this world, and the eternally ravishing pleasures of the world to come! Methinks if we had any dram of reason left in us, the consideration that we are born to an immortal crown, which nothing but our own folly can disseize us of, were enough to inspire us with a noble disdain of all these bewitching vanities about us; and to make us look upon them as things beneath us, toys and trifles, not worthy our scrambling for. When we consider, that there is an heaven of endless joys prepared for us, which, if we will, we may make aš sure of as we can of our own beings, methinks so vast an hope should raise our grovelling thoughts so high above this world, that when we look down upon it, it should disappear, or look like a thin blue landscape, next to nothing; and all the hurries and scramblings of silly mortals for little parcels of earth should seem as trifling and inconsiderable to us, as the toils and labours of a little world of ants about a molehill. For how is it possible almost, that such little impertinencies should take up our thoughts, who have an eternity of weal and woe before us! And when we have all that an everlasting heaven means, to busy our thoughts and employ our cares about, how can we engage with so much zeal and vigour in the petty affairs of this world ! Foolish and unwise that we are, thus to neglect our most important interests for every impertinent trifle, to sell our souls for a little money, and give immortal hallelujahs for a song! And when we are born to such infinite hopes, to choose Nebuchadnezzar's fate, and leave crowns and sceptres, to live among the savage herds of the wilderness.

2. From hence we may learn, how vigorous and industrious we ought to be in discharging the duties of our religion. For how can we think any pains too much, when an everlasting heaven is the reward of our labour ! What a poor thing is it, that we should grudge to spend a few moments here in the severest exercises of holiness and virtue, when within this little, little while, in consideration of our short pains, we shall have nothing else to do throughout a long and blessed eternity, but to enjoy a heaven of pure pleasures, and bathe our faculties for ever in fresh delights; to converse with the fountain of all love and goodness, and warble eternally praises to him; and in the vision of his beauty and goodness to live in everlasting raptures of joy and love ! O my soul ! what though thou toilest and labourest now to climb the everlasting hills ! yet be of good heart, for it will

not be long before thou art at the top, where thou wilt find such pleasant gales and glorious prospects as will make thee infinite amends for all : yea, though the toil thou undergoest were abundantly more than it is, though, instead of the labour of mortifying thy lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly, thy task were to row in the galleys or dig in the minies for a thousand years together; yet methinks the consideration that heaven will be at last thy reward should be enough to sweeten and endear it. 0 would we but often represent to our minds the glorious things of another world, what holy fervours would such charming thoughts kindle within us ! and with how much spirit and vigour would they carry us through the weary stages of our duty ! What lust is there so dear to us, that we should not willingly sacrifice to the hopes of immortality! What duty so difficult, that we should not cheerfully undergo, while the crown of glory is in our eye! Surely did we but look more frequently to the recompense of reward, we should be all life, and spirit, and wing; our sluggish souls would be inspired with an angelical vigour and activity; and we should run with alacrity, as well as patience, the race that is set before us. But, alas! we look upon our reward as a thing a great way off: 'and it is, I confess, reserved for us within that invisible world whereinto our dull sense is not able to penetrate; which is the reason that we are not so vigorously affected with it. Wherefore, to make amends for this disadvantage, let us often revive the considerations of eternity upon our minds, and inculcate the reality and certainty of our future weal or woe, together with the great weight and importance of them: let us thus reason with

ourselves; “O my soul! if it be so certain as it is, “ that there are such unspeakable joys reserved for

good men, and such intolerable miseries for the “ wicked; why should not these things be to me as “ if they were already present? Why should I not “ be as much afraid to sin, as if the gates of hell “ stood open before me, and I saw the astonishing “ miseries of those damned ghosts that are weltering “ in the flames of it? And why should I not as

cheerfully comply with my duty, as if I had now a “ full prospect of the regions of happiness, and I saw “ the great Jesus at the right hand of God with dia“ dems of glory in his hand, to crown those pure and “ blessed spirits, who have been his faithful servants " to the death?” And doubtless would we but inure our minds a little to such thoughts as these, they would wonderfully actuate all the powers of our souls, and be continually inspiring us with new vigour in the ways of holiness and virtue : for what difficulties are there that can daunt our good resolutions, while they are animated with this persuasion, that if we have our fruit unto holiness, our end shall be everlasting life ? Rom. vi. 22.

3. From hence we may perceive how upright and sincere we ought to be in all our professions and actions: for if there be such an happiness reserved for us in heaven, then doubtless, if we intend to partake of it, we must be sincerely good; because he that is the donor of this glorious reward is a God that searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, and is a curious observer of our secret thoughts and most retired actions; and consequently will reward us, not according to what we seem to be, but to what we really are. We may possibly cheat men into a

fair opinion of us, by disguising ourselves in a form of godliness, and facing our conversation with specious pretences of piety; but that God with whom we have to do sees through all the daubings and fucuses of hypocrisy, and can easily discern a rotten core through the most beautiful rind that can be distended over it. So that we can never hope to obtain his blessing, as Jacob did his blind father's, by a counterfeit voice, or exterior disguise of religion: for all the fair vizards of hypocrisy are so far from hiding our blemishes from God, that they lay them more open to his all-seeing eye, and make them appear more monstrous and deformed. Wherefore, unless we are really good, we were better not to seem to be so; for mere pretences of piety will be so far from procuring salvation for us, that they will but enhance and aggravate our condemnation, and sink and plunge us deeper into hell, instead of obtaining any entrance for us into the kingdom of heaven. Since therefore there is such an immortal reward prepared for us in the world to come, if we love ourselves, or have any regard for our most important interest, we cannot but be in good earnest for heaven; and if we are so, we shall be sincere and upright in all our actions, and the great design of our lives will be to approve ourselves to God and our own consciences. If by giving alms we hope to increase our stock in that great bank of bliss above, we shall not care so much to blow a trumpet when we do it, that so the world may take notice of, and praise our bounty; but our rejoicing will be this, that we have approved ourselves to God, from whom we expect the reward of our obedience. If we abstain from sin with respect to the future re

« PreviousContinue »