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BY THE REV. THOMAS DOOLITTLE, A.M.
OF PEMBROKE HALL, CAMBRIDGE.
HOW WE SHOULD EYE ETERNITY, THAT IT MAY HAVE ITS DUE
INFLUENCE UPON US IN ALL WE DO.
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 s but the things which are not seen are eternal.—2 Corinthians iv. 18.
Eternal! What a sound doth this word “eternal” make in my ears ! what workings doth it cause within my heart! what casting about of thoughts! What word is next to be added to it? “eternal world ? ” Where ? for this is temporal. 0! that eternal world is now by us unseen, and as to us is yet to come.
But yet my trembling heart is still solicitous to what other word this word “eternal” might be prefixed as to myself, or those that hear me this day, when they and I, who, through the long-sufferance of God are yet in this present and temporal, shall be in that eternal, world. Shall it be “eternal damnation” in that eternal world ? How ? after so many knockings of Christ, strivings of the Spirit, tenders of mercy, wooings of grace, calls of ministers, warnings of conscience, admonitions of friends, waitings of patience ? all which put us into a fair probability of escaping eternal damnation. O dreadful words ! Can more terror be contained, can more misery be comprehended, in any two words, than in “eternal damnation ?” But we in time are praying, hearing, repenting, believing, conflicting with devils, mortifying sin, weaning our hearts from this world, that, when we shall go out of time, we might find “life” or “salvation” added to “eternal.” Eternal salvation ! these be words as comfortable as the other were terrible, as sweet as they were bitter. What, then? This word
“eternal" is the horror of devils, the amazement of damned souls, which causeth desperation in all that hellish crew ; for it woundeth like a dart, continually sticking in them, that they most certainly know that they are damned to all eternity. Eternal ! it is the joy of angels, the delight of saints, that while they are made happy in the beatifical vision, are filled with perfect love and joy, they sit and sing, “All this will be eternal." Eternal ! this word—it is a loud alarm to all that be in time ; a serious caution to make this our grand concern,—that when we must go out of time, our “ eternal” souls might not be doomed down to “eternal” damnation, but might obtain salvation that shall be “eternal ;” of which we have hope and expectation, “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.”
The consideration of these words may be twofold :
1. Relative : as they are a reason of steadfastness in shaking troubles, as a cordial against fainting under the cross : « 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," &c. (Verses 16—18.) Not only the experience of present spiritual good in the inward-by the pressing afflictions on the outward—man, in weakening of sin, in purging away our dross, in weaning us from the world, in humbling us for our miscarriages, in reducing us from wandering, in emptying us of self-conceit, in trying our faith, in exercising our patience, in confirming our hope, in awakening of conscience, in bringing us to examine our ways, in renewing our repentance, in proving our love, in quickening us to prayer,—but also the clear and certain prospect of glory after affliction, of a “weight of glory" after “light affliction,” of eternal glory after short affliction, of a weight of glory “far more exceeding" all our present sorrows, burdens, calamities, than tongue can express, or pen describe, or the mind of man conceive; being more than 6
eye hath seen, or ear hath heard, or have entered into the heart of man,” (1 Cor. ii. 9,)—must needs be an alleviation of our sorrows, a lightening of our burdens, comfort in our grief, joy in our groans, strength in our weakness. Though “we are troubled on every side, yet [are we] not distressed ; though perplexed, yet not in despair ;” (2 Cor. iv. 8;) though under afflictions both felt and seen, yet “we faint not,” while we keep our eye fixed upon the glorious things in the other world that are unseen and eternal too.
2. Absolute : as they set before us the mark and scope (which] we should have in our eye all the while we are in time; namely, unseen, eternal things. You stand in time ; but you should look into eternity: you stand tottering upon the very brink of time, and, when by death thrust out of time, you must into eternity ; and if in any case the old proverb should prevail, it should not fail in this,—to “look before you leap.” The analysis of the text breaks it into these parts :-
1. The objects that are before us : (1.) Things seen. (2.) Things not seen.
2. The act exerted on these objects.—“Looking," expressed, (1.) Negatively : “Not at the things which are seen.”
The men of the world stand gazing at these, till their eyes are dazzled with them, and their souls damned for them.
(2.) Affirmatively : “But at the things which are not seen.” Men in this world, minding another world, stand looking at these, who have an eye to see those things that are not seen.
There is a mystery in godliness.
3. The persons exerting this act upon these objects.—We that have the Spirit of God; who have our eyes opened ; who consider we are hasting, posting out of time into eternity. These things are set before the men of the world, who have eyes, but they do not see.
4. The property of these objects : (1.) Things seen are temporal, (2.) Things not seen are eternal.
5. The reason moving believers to keep a steadfast eye upon things unseen, and to look off from things seen, is the eternal duration of the one, and the short continuance of the other : “ While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for,” or “ because,” “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” The good things in this world that are seen,-as riches, pleasures, honours,
—are things of time, and only for time; therefore we are not much concerned whether we win or lose them : and the bad things in this life which are seen,-as poverty, imprisonment, persecution,—are at longest but for a short space; and therefore we are not much concerned whether we endure them, or be freed from them. But that which addeth weight to the things in the other world now not seen by the men of this world, and draws our eyes toward them, and keeps them fixed thereon, is the eternity of them.
6. The influence that this looking upon things not seen hath upon the beholders of them, in keeping them from fainting under any afflictions : While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.'
Three words require a little explication :-“ looking,” “temporal," « eternal."
1. “ While we look," OXOTOUVTWY. The verb is used six times in the New Testament, and is variously translated.
(1.) To take heed : “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.” (Luke xi. 35.) “ Have a care; see to it.” In this sense it is as if the apostle had said, “We take not so much heed, nor are we so full of care, about these visible, transitory things, as we are of the eternal joys of heaven, and the unseen happiness of the saints above."
(2.) To consider : Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal. vi. 1.) As if he had said, “We seriously consider and weigh in our minds the vanity, insufficiency, and short continuance of all visible things, both good and bad, whether profit or