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2dly. Let us examine ourselves carefully, whether our judgment and choice bave been rectified on this impor. tant point. What is it that affects us with the deepest concern and sorrow; the adverse events in providence, or the sins by which we have incurred the loss of the divine favour? When the hand of God lies beavy on us, what do we desire with the greatest earnestness? whether is it to have the trial sanctified, or to have it removed? What is the chief object of your ambition? Is it to grow in grace, and in conformity to the image of God? or is it to become great, and prosperous, and powerful in the world? Were God now to put wisdom or riches in our choice, as he once did to Solomon, would we determine as he did? or would we grasp at the riches, leaving it to age and experience to bring wis. dom along with them in the ordinary supposed course of things? In what character does Christ appear most ami. able to us, as a Saviour from punishment, or as a Saviour from sin? Finally, in what view does heaven appear most worthy of our desires and wishes; as a place of deliverance from suffering, or as a state of perfect freedom from sin and infirmity of every kind, where we shall be enabled to serve God with the entire affections and powers of our whole nature?
By these marks let us try the real state of our characters, that so we may not pass through life with a lie in our right hands; but knowing that we are of the trnth, may assure our hearts before God, looking for his mercy unto eternal life. Amen.
2 CORIN. v. 1.
For we know, that if our earthly house of this taberna
cle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
prospect of a blessed immortality is one of the most powerful supports to the people of God, amidst all the trials of their present state; and therefore hope is compared to an anchor, which being cast within the veil, keeps the soul firm and unmoved, so that nothing from without can disturb its inward peace and tranquillity. This was the true foundation of that courage and constancy with which the apostles and primitive Christians endured and overcame the most grievous sufferings. Faith presented to their view a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; in comparison of which their present afflictions appeared so light and momentary, that they were incapable of giving them much pain or uneasiness, as the Apostle more fully declares in the close of the preceding chapter. And being unwilling to leave such an agreeable subject, he further enlarges upon it in the words of my text: “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." Death itself can do us po real prejudice; on the contrary, we have reason to welcome it as a friend, because, when it beats down these tenements of clay in which we are lodged, or rather impri.
soned upon earth, it only opens a passage for us into a far more commodious and lasting habitation, where we shall possess the greatest riches, the highest bonours, and the most transporting pleasures, without intermission, and without end.
I. He compares the body to an earthly house, yea to a tabernacle or tent, which is still less durable, and more easily taken down; and therefore the dissolution of such a frail thing ought not to be reckoned a very great calamity. To this he opposes, in the
II. place, The glorious object of the Christian hope, which be calls a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.-And,
III. He expresses the firm persuasion which he had, in common with all true believers, of being admitted into that glorious and permanent dwelling-place, as soon as the earthly tabernacle should be dissolved.
Each of these particulars I shall briefly illustrate, and then direct you to the practical improvement of the wbole.
I BEGIN with the first of these heads, which respects our state and condition upon earth. And in the descrip. tion here given us, there are several things that deserve our notice.
1st. The body is called a house ; and it may well get this name, on account of its curious frame and structure, all the parts of it being adjusted with the greatest exactness, insomuch that there is not one inember redundant por superfluous, nor any thing wanting that is necessary either for ornament or use.
But it is principally with relation to the inward inhabitant that the body gets the name of a house in the text. It is a lodging fitted up for the soul to dwell in. It is the residence of an immortal spirit, and from thence it
derives its chief honour and dignity. As God created this earth, before he made any of the creatures which were to inhabit it, and as the world was completely furnished with every thing necessary and desirable, before man, its intended sovereign, was introduced; so like. wise, in the formation of man, God began with the body, and first completed the outward fabric, before he breath. ed into it a living soul. How foolish then are they who spend all their thoughts and cares upon the bodies, and overlook those immortal spirits within, for whose nse and accommodation they were solely intended; especially when it is considered, in the
2d place, That the body was not only made for the service of the soul, but that it is likewise composed of the meanest materials, even of that dust which we tram. ple under foot. Upon this account the Apostle calls it in the text, not merely a house, but an earthly house. Thus we are told, (Genesis ii. 7.) “ that the Lord God formed a man of the dust of the ground.” None of us can claim an higher extraction. We may all say to corruption, Thou art my father, and to the worm, tbou art my mother and my sister. And as the body is an earthly house with respect to its original, so it is constantly supported and repaired by that which grows out of the earth, “ The king himself,” saith Solomon, “is served by the field;" yea, after a little time, we must all be reduced unto earth again. These bodies will shortly mix with the common clay. Dust we are, and unto dust we shall return. This, I confess, is a very humbling representation; but as it is true, it ought not to be slightly regarded by any of us; and young people, in a peculiar manner, may reap much advantage from it. You perhaps are strong and healthy, and, with respect to outward form, either have, or fancy you have, advantages
beyond others. Come hither, then, and view yourselves in the glass of my text. Your bodies, in their highest perfection, are but eartbly houses; and after all the pains you can take upon them, their beauty will shortly con. sume like the moth. If age do not wrinkle it, death will dissolve it. The comeliest body shall ere long be as loathsome as the dirt on the streets, and must be buried several years out of sight too, before it can be borne with as well. Need I tell you then, that the noble inhabitant within is by far most worthy of your care and attention. Here your labour can never be lost; for when the dust shall return to the earth as it was, the spirit shall return to God who gave it; it survives the ruins of this earthly tenement, and, if adorned while here with the beauties of holiness, it shall flourish eternally in the presence of God, in whose presence is fulness of joy, and at wbose right hand are pleasures for evermore. Be persuaded, then, my dear friends, to make the improvement of your souls your principal study. They were made at first after the likeness of God, and herein consisted both their glory and felicity. Let this then be your highest ambi. tion, your constant unwearied endeavour, to get this di. vine image re-instamped upon them, that being purged and refined from all your dross, you may become meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
3d. It deserves our notice, that the Apostle not only calls the body an earthly house, but the earthly house of a tabernacle, to make us still more sensible of its meanness and frailty. A tabernacle or tent, you know, is a very slender habitation—a few slight poles put in the ground, and a piece of canvass, or painted cloth, thrown over them; yet such is the body of a man, a fair but frail tenement, liable to be thrown down, or torn in pieces by every blast of wind. At any rate, we are told, in the