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The Miseries of the present Life. WELL may I seek for some relief from these contemplations of a future state, since this in which I now am yields me no diversion, no satisfaction at all; but is a painful and wearisome journey; a wretched, decaying, and uncertain life; a life of labour, and, which is worse, a life of sin, and pride, and folly ; full of miseries and errors, and rather death than life, since in it we die daily, by the constant decays and alterations of our bodies, and the sundry kinds of death, to which we stand every moment exposed.
And can we in any propriety of speech call this living? Does that empty thing deserve the name of life, which is blotted with tumours, macerated with pains, burnt up with fevers, blasted by an infected air, fattened with eating, brought down with fasting; enervated with mirth, consumed with melancholy, shortened with care, stupified with security; blown up with riches, dejected by poverty; made gay by youth, bowed down with age, broken with infirmities, and destroyed with griefs ? Nay, as if all these evils were too little, the conclusion of them all is the tyranny of death, which puts a speedy period to what we falsely call the joys of life, and abolishes them and wears out all the footsteps and remembrances of them so utterly, that it is from thenceforth, as if they had never been at all.
And yet it is prodigious to consider how this
strange mixture, for which we know not well how to find a name, this living death, or dying life, though in every part embittered by these and infinite other miseries; how it imposes, I say, upon the generality of mankind, and cheats them with lying promises of imaginary happiness. Nay, though the cheat be so gross, that the blindest of its admirers cannot but discover it; and the potion so pauseous, that the most stupid cannot but loath and be sick of it; yet still unnumbered are the fools that drink large draughts of its cup and are intoxicated with the bewitching liquor. But happy are those few, those very few, who by grace from above, keep their distance, and will not trust themselves in its treacherous embraces; who despise its vain superficial joys, and will have nothing to do with its flattering allurements, for fear at last it prove their fate to have the deceiver and the deceived perish together.
The Happiness of the Life prepared for them that
But, oh! that life which God hath laid up in store for them that love him! that happy, secure, serene, and most desirable, that pure and holy life: that life which fears no death, which feels no sor. row, which knows no sin, which languishes under no pain, is distracted with no care, is ruffled with no passion, lies at the mercy of no accidents: that incorruptible, that unchangeable life, which hath every thing that can attract our affections, and command our esteem. There will be no enemies to assault us, no envy to undermine us, no temptation to seduce us, no fears to confound us, but perfect love and harmony of souls; a day that never declines, a light that never goes out: there we shall see God face to face, and when we awake up after his likeness, our souls shall be satisfied with it.
O let me indulge this delightful thought, and run over all the beauties and blisses with an unwearied desire! For the more I consider, the more passionately fond l grow of thee, and feel no pleasure comparable to the sweet reflections upon, and impatient thirstings after thee. Here will I dwell, for Ì have unspeakable delight therein. Upon this let me fix my eyes, my heart, my studies; to this let me direct all my desires, and conform all my dispositions. This subject let me hear of continually, let it be my theme to write on, my entertainment in conversation. I will spend my private hours in reading of its bliss and glories; I will meditate frequently upon what I have read of it; that thus at least I may find some refreshment, some loose from the miseries, and toils, and incumbrances, of a troublesome perishing life; and at last recline my weary head, and lay me down to sleep with joy, when I know that sleep shall be shaken off again, and the blessedness of this life, truly so called, immediately commence upon my waking.
This makes me walk with such delight in the pleasant gardens of the holy Scripture; here I am diligent to gather the sweet flowers of God's word and promises: I devour them by reading; I meditate upon them by frequent recollection ; I lay them up in my memory as a most valuable treasure; and, by tasting and feeding upon these delicious descriptions of another world, I take off great part of the bitter and nauseousness of the present.
O happy state! 0 truly glorious kingdom; without succession, without confusion! Where time is no longer measured by the revolutions of days and nights, summers and winters; but eternity is continued through one endless day, one ever-blooming spring. Where they, who have been victorious in their spiritual warfare, join in concert with the blessed angels, and sing the songs of Sion without ceasing. There a never-fading crown adorns every head, and exquisite joy overflows every heart. O that my sins were blotted out, my pardon sealed! O when will it please God to give me leave to lay down this load and lumber of flesh, and admit me without spot or corruption into the true rest, the transporting delights of that blissful place! that I may walk about the beauteous walls of the city of God, view all her palaces, and receive a crown at the hand of my merciful Judge; when shall I make one in that holy choir, and behold the majestic presence of my Maker, with the spirits of just men made perfect? When shall I see my dear Redeemer face to face, and approach that unspeakably bright, and as yet inaccessible light, which flows from the Sun of Righteousness? When, O when, shall I be freed from the bondage of the fear of death, and possess the uninterrupted joy of an endless incorruptible state, conferred upon me by the bounty of my God?
Happy the soul, which refined from this dross of earth, and got loose from its incumbrance of a body, soars up to heaven, and takes its dwelling there, secure from'any future assaults, and triumphant over death. Then does it feast upon the beauteous face of that dear Lord, whom it served, and loved, and longed to enjoy, in that glory and glad immortality to which it is at last arrived. A glory and gladness which no length of time will wear out, no envious adversary can take away. This redeemed soul is the spouse which the daughters saw and blessed her; the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved ? Who is she that goeth up as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? With what eager joy does she fly to the arms of her Lord, when with joyful astonishment she hears the voice of his most affectionate call, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away? For lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is