CHAP.  7.

A second and third consideration for the admonition of those who are careless.


2. That upon the little inch of time in this life depends the length and breadth of all eternity in the world to come. As we behave ourselves here, we shall fare everlastingly hereafter. And therefore how ought we to ply this moment and prize that eternity? To decline all entanglement in those inordinate affections to the possessions and pleasures of the present, which hinder a fruitful improvement of it to the best advantage for the spiritual good of our souls, let us be moved with such reasons as these, which may he collected from the words of a worthy writer, which run thus with very little variation;-1. If we could afford ourselves but so much leisure as to consider that he which bath most in the world, hath in respect of the world nothing in it, and that he which hath the longest time lent him to live in it, bath yet no proportion at all therein; setting it either by that which is past when we were riot, or by that time in which we shall abide for ever; I say, if both our proportion in the world, and our time in the world, differ not much from that which is nothing, it is not out of any excellency of understanding, saith he, but out of depth of folly, say I, that we so much prize the one, which bath in effect no being, and so much neglect the other, which hath no ending; coveting the mortal things of the world as [[27]] if our souls were therein immortal, and neglecting those things which are immortal, as if ourselves after the world were but mortal. 2. Let adversity seem what it will; to happy men ridiculous, who make themselves merry with other men’s miseries, and to those under the cross, grievous; yet this is true, that for all that is past to the very instant the portions remaining are equal to either. For be it that we have lived many years, and, according to Solomon, in them all we have rejoiced; or be it that we have measured the same length of time, and therein have evermore sorrowed; yet looking back from our present being, we find both the one and the other, to wit, the joy and the woe, sailed out of sight, and death, which doth pursue us and hold us in chase from our infancy, bath gathered it. What-soever of our age is past, death holds it: so as whosoever he be to whom prosperity bath been a servant, and the time a friend, let him but take the account of his memory (for we have no other keeper of our pleasures past), and truly examine what it hath reserved either of beauty and youth or foregone delights, what it hath saved that it might last of his dearest affections, or of whatever else the jovial springtime gave his thoughts contentment, then invaluable; and he shall find that all the art, which his elder years have, can draw no other vapour out of these dissolutions than heavy, secret, and sad sighs. He shall find nothing remaining but those sorrows which grow up after our fast-springing youth, overtake it when it is at a stand, and utterly overtop it when it begins to wither; insomuch as looking back from the present time and from our now being, the poor diseased and captive creature hath as little sense of all his former miseries and pains, as he that is most blessed in common opinion hath of his fore-past pleasures and delights; for whatsoever is cast behind us is just nothing. 3. To ponder also profitably upon eternity, that we “may apply our hearts unto wisdom,” and so improve this short moment upon earth that it may go well with us for ever, let us take notice of and lay to heart this one quickening passage, confidently averred by a great writer. “If God,” saith he, “should speak thus to a damned soul, Let the whole world be filled with sand from the earth to the empyrean heaven, and then let an angel come every thousandth year, and fetch only one grain from that mighty sandy mountain; when that immeasurable heap is so spent, and so many thousand years expired, I will deliver thee out of hell and those extremest horrors;’ that most miserable forlorn wretch, notwithstanding that he were to lie through that inconceivable length of time in those intolerable [[28]] torments, yet upon such a promise would infinitely rejoice, and deem himself not to be damned. But, alas! when all those years are gone, there are thousands upon thousands more to be endured, even through all eternity and beyond.” Bow heavy and horrible is the weight of everlastingness in that burning lake, and those tormenting flames, when a damned man would think himself in heaven in the meantime if he might have but hope of coming out of them after so many infinite millions of years in them!

3. That it would not profit a man though he should gain the whole world, if he lose his own soul, and that a man can give nothing in exchange for his soul. Christ himself said so. Suppose thyself crowned with the confluence of all worldly felicity, to have purchased a monopoly of all pleasures, honours, and riches upon the whole earth, to be attended with all the pomp and state thy heart could desire yet what were this momentary golden dream unto a real glorious eternity? How stinging would be the most exquisite delight, curiously extracted out of them all, accompanied with this one thought—the soul is lost everlastingly? All these painted vanities might seem perhaps a gaudy paradise to a spiritual fool, who hath his portion in this life; but what true pleasure can a man in his right wits, but morally enlightened no further than with philosophy, take in them, since, setting other respects aside, they are so fading and he so frail? For the first, God hath purposely put a transitory and mortal nature into all things here below; they spring, and flourish, and die. Even the greatest kingdoms and strongest monarchies that ever were, have had their infancy, youthful strength, man’s state, old age, and at last the grave. See the end of the mightiest states that ever the sun saw shadowed by Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Dan. ii, 35). There was never empire upon earth, were it never so flourishing or great, was ever yet so assured, but that in revolution of time, after the manner of other worldly things, it bath as a sick body been subject to many innovations and changes, and at length come to nothing. Much more, then, the pride and pomp of all other inferior earthly glory bath fallen at last into the dust, and lies now buried in the grave of endless forgetfulness. For the second; imagine there were constancy and eternity in the forenamed earthly Babels, yet what man of sense would in the least prize them, since his life is but a bubble, and the very next hour or day to come he may utterly be cut off from them all for ever “To-day he is set up, and to-morrow he shall not be found; for he is turned into dust and his purpose perisheth.” Take them both together thus.

[[29]] Set upon the head of the worthiest man that the earth bears, yet wanting grace in his soul, all the brightest imperial crowns that ever highest ambition aimed at or attained unto; put upon him all the royal robes that ever enclosed the body of the proudest Lucifer, fill him with all the wisdom and largest comprehensions which fall within the wide compass and capacity of any depths of policy or mysteries of state; furnish him to the full with the exactness and excellency of all natural, moral, and metaphysical learning; put him into the sole possession and command of this and the other golden world; in a word, crown him with the concurrence of all created earthly excellencies to the utmost and highest strain; and lay this man thus qualified and endowed upon the one scale of the balance, and vanity upon the other, and vanity will outweigh him quite. “Men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance they are altogether lighter than vanity” (Psalm lxii. 9). The rich fool in the gospel teacheth us that there is no man so assured of his honour, of his riches, health, or life, but that he may be deprived of either or all the very next night. Besides, by a thousand other causes, means, and ways, he may always be snatched away from the face of the earth in anger, for setting his heart and rest upon such rotten staves of reed, transitory shadows, and indeed that which is nothing. “Wilt thou cast thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches (conceive the same of all other worldly comforts) certainly make themselves wings: they fly away as an eagle toward heaven” (Prov. xxiii, 5). How truly then is that mad and miserable man a son of confusion, who spends the short span of his mortal life in wooing the world, who was never true to those that trusted in her, ever false-hearted to ail her favourites, and at length most certainly undoes spiritually and everlastingly every wretch that is wedded unto her, who passeth through a few and evil days in this vale of tears, in following feathers, pursuing shadows, raising bubbles and balls like those blown up by boys in their pastimes, which ere they be tossed three times burst of themselves; I mean worldly vanities; but in the meantime suffers his immortal soul, more worth than many material worlds, and for which he can give nothing in exchange, to abide all naked, destitute, and empty, utterly unfurnished of that comfortable provision and gracious strength, which should support it in the day of sorrow, and leaves it at last to the tempestuous winter night of death, and all those desperate terrors that attend it like a scorched heath, without so much as any drop of comfort either from heaven or earth!