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i. By THINGS SEEN, may be well understood, all sublunary occurrences, whether prosperous or adverse, good or evil. And these, not taken so restrainedly, as to be limited to our bodily sight, as if things seen should only be those objected to our eyes ; but, inore largely, whatsoever is any way sensible or present to us, that may be here reckoned among things seen. For, because it is necessary to our corporeal sight, that objects be present; therefore, the Apostle expresseth things present by the notion of being seen. And, indeed, it bears the same latitude with that common expression of the Wise Man, All things under the sun : all things under the sun being, as it were, illustrated by his light, may be said to be things iseen. But here, accommodating this expression to the drift of the Apostle in the context, we must take these things seen, for the more severe occurrences of our lives; for the miseries, afflictions, and troubles we are exposed unto; for the dark and gloomy side of those objects, that are presented unto us : Our bight affliction.....worketh for us un exceeding.....weight of glory, while we look not at things seen : they conduce to our happiness, while we look not on the grim and direful aspect of our sufferings, so as to be frighted by them from our duty and obedience.
ii. Though THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN, may be of several sorts; as things distant, things future, things spiritual, may all of them be unseen, and each of them may have several kinds under it: yet, here, according to the symmetry of the Apostle's diseourse, are meant those future things, which constitute our final and everlasting estate; and they may be referred either to heaven or hell, to our glory or condemnation. These are the things not seen, which a true Christian looks at.
We look not at the visible enjoyments, the honours, profits, pleasures of this world; no, nor yet at the loss of all these : but at those things, which are of infinite and everlasting consequence; at the insufferable pains and torments of hell, with care how we may escape that condemnation; and at the infinite and endless joys of heaven, with earnest desires and suitable endeavours to obtain them.
ii. TO LOOK AT these, denotes not here any act of the sense ; but, as often elsewhere in Scripture, of the understanding and affections. There is an eye of the soul, as well as of the body; and that is the understanding. Now, because, when we consider and ponder any object presented to our bodily eyes, we usually look intently upon it; therefore, also, when the understanding seriously regards those objects which are not visible by our bodily eyes, we may be said to look upon them.
So that the sense is : We regard not, we mind not the things which are seen; the world, nor any of its frowns or favours : our thoughts are pitched upon other objects; and fly a strain above, and beyond this world; we regard that endless state that is to come, more than all those vain and empty things that lie before us. And, while we do so, we find a great deal of reason to account all our afflictions light and momentary, which shortsighted men, who pore only upon what is present, groan under, as long and burdensome. And it is, indeed, but reason, that we should thus overlook what is present, and fix our regard upon what is future. For present things are but temporal: once they were not: and, if they be good things, when God hath turned over a few more days and years, either they shall not be, or we shall not be here to enjoy them; or, if they be evil things, either they must shortly perish, or we must perish from under them: or, as Antoninus, the emperor, speaks well, To Mev αΦορητον εξαγει, το δε χρονιζον Φορητον : « Whatsoever befals us in this life, if it be intolerable, it cannot be lasting, and we shall soon fail under it; or, if it be lasting, it cannot be intolerable, but we may endure it.” But, the things, which are future and not seen, are eternal : to that state we are all hasting, that is of perpetual duration ; where woe and torments, or joy and bliss, shall have no end for ever. And, therefore, it is but reasonable, rather to consider, how we shall be entertained there, than how we are used here.
And thus I have, as briefly as well I could, given the scope and meaning of the words.
II. From them, we may COLLECT Two Propositions.
i. That THE SERIOUS CONSIDERATION OF OUR FUTURE ETERNAL STATE WILL MAKE US OVERLOOK, AND, WITH A HOLY GENEROUSNESS, DESPISE ALL THE PRESENT TROUBLES AND AFFLICTIONS, THAT WE MEET WITH IN THIS LIFE.
To despise them, I say, not indeed as they are the chastenings of the Lord, for so we are forbidden it, Proy. iii. 11. but as they accidentally prove to be temptations to us, to desert tbe service
of God, which exposeth us to the scorn and opposition of the world, to embrace the more profitable or creditable service of sin and the Devil: to despise them so, as not to make any great reckoning, whether we be afflicted or no. And, thus to despise them, is the right means not to faint, when we are corrected. We see how this wrought upon the Apostle: Rom. viii. 18. I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. As the earth, if we consider it alone, in its own proper dimensions, appears to be of a vast circumference and magnitude; but, compare it to the larger circuit of the heavens, and then, in respect of their unmeasurable expansion, this whole globe is but a small speck and indivisible point: so the Apostle institutes the comparison between temporal afflictions and eternal glory, Afflictions, indeed, to those, who look no farther than upon their present sufferings, may appear great, and heavy, and endless; but, when we compare earth with heaven, the afflictions here with the glory hereafter, they are light, inconsiderable nothings. It is but as if a man should be troubled that he is hungry, when he is just sitting down to a feast; or, as if he should think much of it, that he must kneel to have an honour conferred upon him... Yea, our Apostle so, compares present sufferings with future glory, that he plainly tells us, there is no comparison between them : they are not worthy to be compared. But, I shall wave this, at present,
ii. The second observable, that I collect from the text, is this, that THERE IS NOTHING WORTH THE REGARD OF A CHRISTIAN, BUT HIS ETERNAL STATE. We look not at things present,
fox they are but temporal; but at things future, for they are eternal.
In prosecuting this, I shall, first, lay down some Demonstrations of the proposition; and, then, reflect upon the wretched Temper of most men, who regard every thing but their souls and their eternal state.
The Demonstrations are briefly these :
1. This is the End of our Lives, to provide for our Eternal State.
There is a Twofold great end of man: one, in respect of God; and that is, the promoting of his glory: the other, in respect of ourselves; and that is, the promoting of our own happiness. Upon these very designs hath God sent us into the world, that we might glorify him, and save our own souls: and he hath been graciously pleased so to entwist these two-together, that, in glorifying him, we do but glorify ourselves, and, in working for him, we do but work for our own interests and advantage. Yea, indeed, no man can glorify God, but he, who is careful and industrious to promote his own salvation and happiness : and, therefore, saith our Saviour, John xv. 8. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit : but, to whom is this fruit beneficial ? not to God, but to ourselves : it is such fruit, as the Apostle speaks of, Phil. iv. 17. Fruit, that may abound to their account. This is that, which differenceth the great end of man, from that of beasts : they were all.created, that they might, in their several kinds, honour and glorify God, as well as man; but they have no immortal part, as man hath, for whose everlasting happiness they should be obliged to provide. Self-preservation is the utmost natural end of all creatures ; and such as their self is, such will be their endeavours to preserve it: brute creatures, whose self is only temporal, seek only their temporal preservation, as best accommodated to their natures and principles; but, in man, the self is immortal, eternal : and, therefore, unless our care be laid out about our eternal concerns, we fall far short of our end; and, in seeking the things of this world, we seek only a temporal preservation ;; that is, we infinitely degrade ourselves, and act only upon the principles and for the ends of brute beasts.
2. We ought chiefly to regard our eternal state, our everlasting happiness and welfare, because this is the only thing, which our care can secure to us in this world.
Nothing else can here be made sure, but our future inheritance of life and glory. We are not certain of any worldly comforts, which we enjoy in possession : much less are we certain of any in reversion. Change and vicissitude are written in capital letters upon, all things under the sun. There is no stability in any condition, here on earth. He, who stands highest, stands but upon ice: his footing is but uncertain, and his fall will be but the more desperate. But things eternal are sure in themselves; and they may be made sure to us: they are sure in themselves; and, therefore, called by the Apostle, Heb. x. 34. a better and an enduring substance : and they may be made sure to us; as certain as the word of God is true, and the seal of his Spirit inviolable. A Christian is a man wholly made up of paradoxes : he is poor, and yet maketh many rich: he bath nothing, and yet possesseth all things : he is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing : things not seen, are the things that he looks at: and, contrary to the guise of other men, he is surest of the things, which he doth not see; and those, which he hath in his hands and in his sight, he accounts the most uncertain and deceitful. Again,
3. As nothing else can be made sure to us, besides our eternal state; so, 'indeed, there is nothing else worth making sure, but only that : and, therefore, a Christian's care about things eternal, is most rational and becoming.
If I could lay an arrest upon the mutability of affairs, and drive such a pin into the wheel of Providence as should keep it from turning; if I could give laws to fate, and prescribe to myself the measures of mine own prosperity : yet, alas! what great matter were all this, since, when we give in a true account of all these temporal things, which we call by so many names and set down so many items for, it amounts, in the sam, to no more but this, meat for the belly, and clothes for the back ! hunger and nakedness are the only necessities of life: and, certainly, he, who takes care for more than will just supply these, than will serve to satisfy hunger and cover nakedness, he doth but take care for diseases or burdens. To what purpose is it, therefore, O Worldling! that thoú amassest together such heaps of riches ? for things that are necessary, so much needs not; and, for things unnecessary, thou needest not them. I have read of a philosopher, who, passing through a well-stored market and casting his eyes upon the plenty and abundance of all sorts of provision that were there brought to be sold, blessed himself with this reflection : "Oh!" saith he,“ how many things are there here, that I do not want !" Yea, those few things, which are barely necessary to life, yet are not worth our anxious and solicitous care: so our Saviour assures us, Mat. vi. 25. I say unto you, Take no care for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on : food and raiment themselves ought not to be carked for; these necessaries of life, whether we have them or no, yet we shall not long want them : if they be denied to us, we shall, in a very short time, be in a condition, wherein we shall no more need such poor supplies; where our life shall not be so feeble, as to need support from the staff of bread; and where a coverlet of dust and worms will be as well as a royal robe. Of what worth are those things, over which death hath the dominion? What will it be to any of us, one age hence, that we have been rich, or