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world in pursuing those of another; his loss must be valued according to the worth of the thing lost. Now the things of this world being very uncertain possessions, their loss cannot be set very high : ill-success and disappointments often render all our labor in pursuing them abortive; and few attain to the end of their desires. This being the case, he that pursues the glories of another world to the neglect of this, may perhaps lose just nothing at all: this point enlarged on. We may learn then, from the nature of worldly possessions and our own experience, what chance a man has of being satisfied with the enjoyments of life, even if he takes the utmost pains for them: possibly he may never get them; for there are many pretenders who are ever jostling one another out: possibly too, if he does get them, they may leave him before he has half done with them, or he may even not relish them; for many things are proved by possession to be but empty and vain allurements. Now this chance for worldly happiness is all that a man quits for religion : this point enlarged on. On the other side, if religion reaches no farther than this life, still it makes men easy under its disappointments ; so that whatever the loss of the world may be to a worldly man, yet to a truly religious one it is inconsiderable, as he is comforted and confirmed against such losses by the hopes of more solid enjoyments. Add this therefore to the account, and religion will appear to be the surest step, if not to happiness, yet to ease and contentment: this topic enlarged on, showing that, as things go, it is well if the pain and uneasiness of losing the world be not all we get by pursuing it; whilst religion teaches us that not to enjoy its pleasures is no great mischief : so that, there be no other world but this, we are sure by religion to get the second best thing that can be had, that is, contentment. Admit that the principal thing is to have and enjoy the things we want; the next best is to be easy without them : the first the world rarely grants; the next
religion never denies. And thus far we may argue from the nature of worldly things, without making any comparison between them and those of another life ; for this comparison will even make it reasonable to choose the sorrows of life for the sake of future glory; since the things which are not seen are eternal. Of the nature of future happiness we know but little : the descriptions of it in Scripture are figurative, and lead not to the true knowlege of its glories : possibly this world affords no notions proper to express the happiness of Heaven, which therefore can be described only by figures taken from our present sense of pleasure; from hence we only argue that the happiness is very great : but we have a clear notion of duration; here therefore the Scripture speaks plain, and tells us that this happiness is for evermore. Whosoever, says our Saviour, believeth in me shall live, though he die; and whosoever believeth on me shall not die eternally. This is the natural happiness of man, since this alone can answer his natural desire of eternal life; and nothing can be more evident to sense than this is to reason, that something has been from all eternity, and shall continue to all eternity; so that our desires of eternity are not loose ill-grounded desires, but have objects in nature fitted to them. This being the case, is it not agreeable to the very instinct of our nature to seek those things which can alone make for our happiness, if by any means we may attain to them ? To lead us to them is the work of religion : to be employed in it therefore, is to be employed in the work of nature, which is to seek its own happiness and perfection. If religion be attended with difficulties, yet the glories we attain thereby are worth the purchase : this point enlarged on. It is wise to retire from the pleasures of the world, if it were only to guard against this certain evil consequence, that if we follow things present to the neglect of future happiness, the time will come when our present enjoyments will be past, when things future will be growing into things present: then this evil thought alone will haunt us, that for the time past we have been comforted, but must be for the time to come tormented. Shortlived as men are, they often outlast the world, that is, its enjoyments : this point enlarged on. Concluding reflexions.
II CORINTHIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 18.
For the things which are seen are temporal ; but the things which
are not seen are eternal.
The motives to obedience in all religions are thus far the same, that they depend on the belief of another invisible world, and the different state and condition of good and bad men in it: for though it has been maintained, with some show of reason, that virtue is its own reward, and that man's chief happiness would consist in the practice of it, though there were no other rewards annexed to it, yet this, supposing it to be true, is by much too narrow a foundation to build religion on; for this could influence only men of abstracted thought and reason, who are in comparison a very inconsiderable part of mankind. The generality of the world live by sense, and take their measures of happiness not from the remote conclusions of reason, but from their present feeling, from the impressions which are made on them by the things which they deal and converse with
every day; and the rewards and punishments of religion are calculated to this sense and feeling, excepting only that they are distant, and not capable of being made the present objects of sense : for the punishments denounced in the gospel against the unrighteousness of men, are such as nature recoils at; such as, according to the sense the world has of misery and pain, are insupportable evils; and the only reason why they operate so weakly on the minds and affections of men is this, “that they are not seen. The same may be said of the rewards of the gospel : they contain the very happiness that nature thirsts after,
which is life and pleasure for evermore: but neither can our eyes see these rewards; and therefore they fall short of raising men to that degree of virtue and holiness which in reason they ought to do.
The advantage which the things of this world have in this respect is not to be dissembled : they play and sport before the senses : the man of thought and reflexion cannot but see them; and the man of no thought sees nothing else. This advantage the Apostle seems to acknowlege, by styling the things of this world “the things which are seen, and the rewards of the gospel - the things which are not seen.' In this lies all the force and strength of worldly temptations and pleasures ; for were the enjoyments of this world and the next equally remote, there could be no competition between them. This most men would find to be true, would they but observe a little what passes
in themselves and others. There are few but would be well content that that part of their life which is past and gone had been spent in virtue and sobriety : they find no comfort in recollecting the lewd frolics and extravagant vices of their youth ; yet still they cannot resist the present temptations of pleasure, but go on adding to the account of their folly and sin. And is not this a decision of the question ? Does not reason determine against the world and the enjoyments of it? And is it not mere sense that turns the scale of the world's side ? If it be true now, that you do wisely in preferring the pleasures of life to the hopes and expectations of futurity, it will then be true fifty years hence, that you did wisely in choosing this world, and renouncing the pretences to heaven; for truth is always the same : and yet, if
live to see that time, it is great odds but that you judge otherwise, and condemn yourself of folly and indiscretion for all your past vices and sinful pleasures. This is a judgment which we see men make every day : they pursue the things that are present; but no sooner are they gone, but they condemn themselves, wishing they could recal the time, that they might apply it to better purposes. And whence arises this difference but from hence ; that in one case reason is excluded by sense and the prevailing power of present objects, but in the other case is free and unrestrained, and judges from the truth and nature of things ?