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would this inspirit and animate us to generous attempts even of heroic virtue, which in this degenerate age are derided, as vain romantic enterprises ! How often at least would this thought call us from our idle solitude or unprofitable society, to our prayers and devotions! How many precious hours of our time would it rescue and redeem, from being misspent and lost in vanity and folly! How readily should we embrace, yea, how studiously should we seek after the opportunities of doing good! for indeed every such opportunity is an advantage offered us by the good providence of God, farther to enrich our souls, and to add to our heavenly store and treasure, the only true treasure, that shall never fail or be taken from us.
In a word, therefore, let us in the first place (as I said in the beginning of this discourse) take care to secure our being in a state of grace; for "it is a folly for him, that is not yet sure of life, to " contend for honour h." And having done this, let us not rest here, but advance more and more in that blessed state, and go on to perfection.
I conclude with the words of St. Peter in the close of this Epistle, Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and for ever. Amen.
h Incertis de salute, de gloria minime certandum.
EVERLASTING LIFE HOPED FOR BY GOOD MEN UNDER THE OLD TESTAMENT; AND THAT THE CONSIDERATION OF THE VANITY OF THE PRESENT LIFE IS AN EFFECTUAL MEANS TO MAKE US FIX OUR MINDS UPON THINGS ETERNAL.
PSALM ciii. 15, 16, 17.
As for man, his days are as grass: as the flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him.
THIS Psalm (confessed by all to be a Psalm of David) is eucharistical throughout: it begins and ends with the most devout and affectionate praises and thanksgivings to Almighty God. For thus the sweet singer of Israel begins the Psalm, ver. 1, 2. Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. And thus he ends the Psalm, ver. 20, 21, 22. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.
The matter of this praise and thanksgiving, contained in the body of the Psalm, is of a very large
and wide compass, extending itself to all the benefits bestowed by God upon man. But the divine Psalmist more particularly takes notice of two principal blessings of God, belonging to the faithful, (which are indeed the matter of two great articles of our Christian faith,) the forgiveness of sin," and "the "life everlasting." The mercy of the forgiveness of sin he celebrates verse 3. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases. And again, in the eighth and following verses, The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. The blessing of everlasting life, after this present vain life, he sets forth in the verses which I have chosen for my text.
In which the royal Psalmist suggests to us a twofold meditation. 1. Of the vanity and shortness of this present life, and all the enjoyments thereof: As for man, his days are as grass: as the flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof knoweth it no more. 2. Of the everlasting mercy of God to the faithful in the other life: But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him. For the everlasting
mercy of God here spoken of, being opposed to the short transitory enjoyments of this present life, must necessarily signify the mercy and goodness of God to the faithful in the other life, which indeed is the only everlasting mercy. Hence Aben Ezra, and other of the Hebrew doctors, saw and acknowledged that this text speaks of the everlasting happiness of the righteous in the life to come. And the Chaldee paraphrast thus renders the latter part of my text: "But the mercy of the Lord is in this world, and " even in the world to come, upon them that fear "him a "
The text thus briefly explained, yields us these two observations, which shall be the subject of my discourse at this time. 1. That good men, even under the Law, or Old Testament, looked beyond this present, vain, transitory life, and believed and hoped for an everlasting happiness in the life to come. 2. That a serious consideration of the vanity and shortness of this present life, and all the enjoyments thereof, is an effectual means to bring us to God, and to make us fix our hopes on him and things eternal.
1. That good men, even under the Law, or Old Testament, looked beyond this present, vain, transitory life, and believed and hoped for an everlasting happiness in the life to come. For such a faith and hope, you see, David plainly expresseth in this text, and the same he often otherwhere declares in this divine Book of Psalms. Indeed in all those places, wherein he shews the vanity and shortness of this life, and that there is no solid, substantial, and stable
happiness to be found here below; and yet, with the same breath, sets forth the great happiness of the faithful, in their trust and dependence on God's goodness and mercy; I say, in all those places he evidently points his finger towards heaven, and directs our thoughts to the bliss and happiness of a future state. You may especially find it in Psalm xxxix. 5, 6, 7. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Surely every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
To the same purpose are those Psalms of David, wherein he amply describes the prosperous and flourishing estate of many wicked men; and on the other side, the calamitous and afflicted condition of many good and virtuous in this world; and yet in the close pronounceth these to be most happy men, and the other to be most miserable; which cannot be true, but on supposition of a future state and resurrection. Of this sort are the forty-ninth and seventy-third Psalms throughout,
But what need we search far into the Book of Psalms? The very first Psalm affords us a clear proof of this truth. For therein David first shews the blessedness of the godly man in the first and following verses: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night, &c.