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his. true character: on the one hand he feels.a. holy indifference towards that which is mortal and perishing, and on the other is strongly attached to the things which are eternal and unchangeable, and ardently pursues them : “ Looking not at the , things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This text divides itself into two parts ; what we are not to look at, and what we are; we are not lo look at the things which are seen, because they are temporal; we must look at the the things which are not seen, because they are sternal.
Part I. By the things which are seen, the Apostle means those objects of sense or appetite, which give rise to that threefold desire which reigns in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life : not merely that which strikes the sight, but whatever pleases the imagination, or appears desirable throughout the vast range of terrestrial creatures. We need not long insist on the proposition which the Apostle lays down: viz. that these things are temporal. It is sufficient to observe, that in every respect they are but of short duration. If we consider them in their own nature, their leading feature is instability. Divine Providence has appointed that they should be perpetuated by a continual revolution of rise and fall, production and decay; so that they are ever varying. If we consider them with regard to the change produced in them by the sin of the first man, we shall see, that in consequence of the rebellion of the head of nature against the Sovereign of the universe, the whole creation is doomed to ruin and destruction. In heinous offences vengeance is sometimes inflicted on the families and possessions of the offender; as in the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who for their rebellion against Moses were swallowed. up, together with their servants and possessions, So. the revolt of the first man has not only entailed death on his own posterity, but has also sown the seeds of corruption and death amongst all those inferior creatures which depend on him. Hence originate wars which desolate the earth, the perpetual opposition of elements, and conflict of jarring principles, which tend to dissolve the fabric of nature, and which will finally prove its total overthrow. And hence arise that vanity and changeableness, which the Apostle regards as the natural result of our first parents’ sin : "'The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.
If you consider the things that are seen with regard to particular sins, which pervert them from their proper use, you find them temporal, rendered so by a peculiar curse which withers them and hastens their end. Fruit, naturally corruptible, is
sometimes prematurely destroyed by a secret worm : the human frame, which, according to the common course of nature, might endure a season longer, is sometimes, by an unexpected malady, cut off at a stroke. Just so with the things which are seen; though perishable in themselves, yet they disappear much more quickly, because the vices of men infect them with a destructive leprosy. Thus worldly splendour vanishes almost as soon as it is seen : “ The glory of Ephraim shall fly away like a bird from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.” Riches corrupt whilst the coveteous man accumulates them: “ Go, to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you; your riches are corrupted, your garments are moth-eaten, your gold and silver is cankered." Houses built of the substance of the orphan and widow, shall be overthrown: " And I will smite the winter. house, and the summer. house, and the house of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord.”
If you consider the things which are seen with regard to man's attachment unto them, were these things even durable in themselves, yet they would be but temporary to us. The human heart cannot long le confined to the same enjoyment, we must have variety; one pleasure no sooner appears than it gives place to another; we weary ourselves in pursuit of vanity, and even when we feel ourselves inclined to rest in any object, a superior power separates us from it; in a little time it dies to us, or we die to it. Therefore the Sacred Writings, in describing the short duration of earthly enjoyments, represent them by objects the most fleeting and momentary. They are; say they, fading flowers, withering grass, ebbing torrents, passing shadows, and dreams that vanish; they tell us they are fleeter than the wind, swifter than a post, and more light and unsubstantial than vanity itself: were they weighed in ihe balance together they would be lighter than vanity, Psa. 62. But, as I have already said, this instability is felt and seen, mankind acknowledge it in general terms; but here lies the evil, whilst they acknowledge their instability in general tern:s, they act as if they thought them eternal: this practical illusion we must combat by the conclusion of St. Paul, " Looking not at the things which are seen.”
To look at the things which are seen is, 1. To consider them with too much attention and assiduity. 2. To value them more highly than thcy deserve. 3. To admit them to an improper place in our affections. And, 4. To bound our views and wishes by them, resting in them as our end. And from these four particulars I take four arguments in support of the apostle's proposition.
1. Looking not at the things which are seen so as to consider them'with too much attention and assiduity, because they are
temporal, and we want leisure for this purpose. The fugitive and uncertain state of the things which are seen does not admit of that careful and assiduous investigation which is required to understand them thoroughly. Properly lo comprehend their nature it would be necessary to contemplate them in a fixed state, and to have leisure and opportunity to examine them on every side ; yet, as they are but for a time, they elude our observation, and leave us only their shadow and external image. An ancient philosopher observed, that it is impossible to bring natural science to perfection, because the objects of the sciences should be permanent; but nature is in perpetual fluctuation, like the waters of a flowing stream, which glide away while we gaze upon them. And for this reason he thought it folly to attempt to penetrate the secrets of nature. With a little allowance we may say the same, we cannot contemplate the things of this world in a fixed point of view, because we never find them twice in the same situation, and the perpetual flux which carries them away perplexes and bewilders our ideas. In vain does the curious attempt to find out the secret causes of the different phenomena which the world presents; the labour is long, the task is difficult, the subjects in a state of perpetual mutation, and death takes him off just at the dawn of his discoveries. In vain does the politician wish to form sound maxims from the conduct and opinions of those with whom he converses ; what can he learn from man, who by the levity of his humour, the change of his passions, and diversity of his interests, is incessantly changing, and who disappears before he has time to be acquainted with him. In vain does the man of the world labour to acquire a knowledge of mankind; the world is in perpetual motion, the preceding race has succeeded to the former, and we, who occupy their places, must soon give way to those who follow us; “ One generation passeth away, and another cometh.” Every where we see only visionary phantoms, which glide before us; fleeting and unsubstantial personages, who after having acted their part on the theatre of the world, give place to others as airy and uncertain as themselves. Now I ask, what profit, what solid instruction, can we derive from these things, unless to learn that they are a fading inheritance. And this is what God intends to teach us, by placing us in this unsubstantial world. He designs that we should look at the things which are seen, not so as to penetrate and understand the secrets of their nature, but to feel their nothingness and vanity; he hath shewn us only the surface of his works, that we, seeing their unsubstantial nature, might despise their false splendour, be raised above the power of temptation, and acknowledge that the pleasures which temporal things promise arc flattering and delusive.
2. From whence I proceed to the second proof. Looking not at the things which are seen, that is, not esteeming them to
highly, because they are temporal, and on this account of little value. The shortness of their duration, without any other argument, is sufficient to convince us that they are unworthy of our esteem; for had they possessed real worth, God, who has made every thing by number, weight, and measure, and who justly appreciates his own works, would have given them a duration equal to their value. It is wisdom which has proportioned the continuance of visible things to their worth; and it would have been goodness to us to have lengthened out their existence, had they been truly great and worthy of esteem. Seeing then, that God assigns them a duration so limited, judge of the worth by the rule which Sovereign Wisdom gives ; judge of them, if you please, by your own conduct. Is it not true that we esteem things according to their stability and permanence, and reckon as nothing what is only lent us for a moment ? The most elevated situations are not valued unless we consider them permanent; even a crown loses much of its worth when it is soon to be laid aside. Hence in the kingdom of Sparta, where a new king was elected every year, there existed as great an indifferency towards royalty as there does eagerness after it in other States, where the crown is for life. Sensible people bardly considered sovereign power an elevation, where they were so soon to return to the situation of private individuals. Ah! did we use the same good sense in estimating all terrestrial things, instead of saying, “This fortune shall pass away in a year," we should say, all will totally vanish at farthest in thirty or forty years. We should see that, greater or lesser durations, not altering the nature of these things so as to make the one less changeable than the other, they are in their whole amount but as nothing. Were we to carry our thoughts forward into futurity, and represent to ourselves this body devoured by worms, and these titles obliterated for ever, we should feel ashamed at having valued them so much; our pride would be brought low, our lofty imaginations would vanish, and we should see things in their proper colours, viz. as unworthy of consideration or regard. Moses made use of the following scheme to cure the Israelites of idolatry: he ordered the golden calf to be thrown into the fire and reduced to ashes; he then took the ashes and mixed them with water, with a view that the people might reflect, the making of this idol cost us much; our wives brought their jewels, we offered our gold and our silver, but of all the wealth there remains only ashes, it is therefore for a little dust that we have exhausted our treasures. It was by this, says Philo, that he cured their attachment to idols; “ What,” said they, " three days ago we feasted and sung around the image, rendering it worship and adoration, but all to terminate in dust! and is this the object of our reverence, and the great divinity to VOL. XLII. JANUARY, 1819.
which we consecrated our persons and possessions.” This thought, which filled them with shame and confusion, and eradicated their idolatry. Ah! you who feast around that idol, who make it the object of your worship and adoration, were I permitted to open its tomb, what shame and confusion should I not give you. Is this the creature thou madest thy divinity ? Is it this which thou thoughtest worthy of so much respect and honour? which made thy bad or good fortune? It cannot save itself either from corruption or worms. To expose it, such as it shall one day be, is sufficient to remove the vail which covers you, dissipate your blindness, and convince you that whatever is fading and perishable is but of little worth, “ Looking not at the things which are seen.”
3. Looking not at the things which are seen, through the medium of our affections, with covetous and eager eyes, because they are temporal, and we cannot long either possess or enjoy them. Admitting they were excellent and worthy of esteem, something more would be required to fix our hearts upon them; for whatever excellency any thing may possess, we only value it as related unto us, or connected with us, either by right or actual enjoyment; if it is not our property we cannot turn it to our advantage; and, though considerable in itself, it is nothing with regard to us. Now whatever is but temporal, cannot properly be considered ours, because the enjoyment of it must ever be uncertain, and there is little difference between possessing only for a little space and not possessing at all. What folly must it be to place our affections on that which we can never obtain; or which if obtained, we must soon part with, in deep regret for having loved it too much, and in despair for having lost it for ever? If we love the things which are seen, it ought to be with a love proportioned to their nature; as they are but transitory, so ought our affection for them to be also. In one word, we should look upon them as servants, and use them for our conveniency, and not give them a place in our hearts, or seek our happiness in them. Both the righteous and the wicked are agreed that the things which are seen are temporal; but the conclusion drawn from this principle by the one, is widely different from that which is drawn from it by the other. This is the language of the wicked-Our life is short and insipid, we cannot avoid death, and no one ever returned from the grave; we came into the world by chance, and shortly we shall be as if we had never been; the breath of our nostrils is but smoke, and our spirit is a spark produced by the motion of the heart. Come then, let us rejoice in the present, and hasten to enjoy what we have; let us drink precious wines, anoint ourselves with odoriferous ointments, and suffer not the flowers of the spring to pass away. Let us deck ourselves with garlands of roses before they wither, for this is our portion and