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Nature, Usefulness, and Neceffity of it, in order to a Serious Life.
The Nature of our Souls. The Eternal State they are, defign'd for. The Means God hath made use of, to fit Men for everlasting Blifs. All thefe Means in effectual without Confideration.
HAT we are defign'd for Nobler Employments, than Eating and Drinking, and Sleeping, and Playing, and following our Trades and Bufineffes in this World, (an Happinefs, which Beasts arrive to as well as we) the great Souls we carry in our Breafts, do evidently demonftrate. Thefe being capable of knowing God, of delighting in him, and converfing with him for ever, we may rationally fuppofe, That thofe, who fuffer the Profits and Pleasures of this prefent World, to engross their Affections, go aftray and err from the great end of their Creation.
While the Atheift laughs at the Immortality of his Soul, and the Prophane fells his better part to the Devil, the Religious, who will prove the only wife Man in the end, and who hath none of thofe clouds and mifts, the other are troubled with, before his eyes, fees clearly what a Treafure the bountifull hand of Heaven hath bestow'd on him, in fhedding abroad fo Excellent, fo Angelical a Being in his Body, a foul that can build her Neft among the Stars of Heaven, walk through yonder Manfions, and tafte of the Rivers which make glad the City of God; a Soul which can wing her above the Clouds, and furvey the Crowns and Scepters laid up for those that dare defpife the World, and have their converfation in Heaven; a Soul which can live in paradife, while the Body is in trouble, and rejoyce in him who is All in All, while the fierce Winds are whistling about her ears.
The vast reach of thefe Souls, we have, for they can comprehend whole Worlds, and dive into the Causes, Ends, and Defigns of Things, and in a moment flie from one end of the Earth unto the other, their fitnefs to receive Divine Illumination their ftrong defires after Immortality, their fecret actings without the help of a Body, their hopes of Heaven, their fears of Hell, their capacity of feeing Things to come, their ability to live above, their fublime Nature, their acting like Angels, their reflex Acts, their Immateriality, the Addreffes God makes to them, the threatnings and promifes of the Gospel, the Devil's bufie endeavours to undermine,them the prefages they have, the joys they
feel, the torments of Confcience they endure fome. times, all proclaim the certainty of an Eternal, State or Condition they are intended for.
This Eternal State imprinted on our Natures, discovered to the Gentiles, proclaim'd by the Son of God, Preach'd by Angels, confirm'd by Apoftles, reveal'd to Christians, believed in the World, as it relates either to Blifs or Mifery, to joy or Torment, to Honour or Dishonour; fo how to enjoy the one and avoid the other, muft, in all probability, be the great object which God defign'd Men's Souls fhould be chiefly employ'd about.
For as there cannot be a thing of greater moment than Eternity; fo he must be a Sot or a Beast, that can imagine, that God who ever intends the noblest Creatures for the nobleft Ends, will give Men leave to bufie themselves about picking of ftraws, and pleafing a few fenfual Lufts, when he hath given them Souls capable, not only of labouring and feeking after, but obtaining a Kingdom which fades not away; and when we fweat, and toil and labour to make provision for 20, 30, 40, years, what do we do, but proclaim our obligation to be infinitely more concerned, how to provide for that State which must never have an end?
And as it was the Goodnefs and Wisdom of God, to make us capable of everlasting duration; fo we should be injurious to both, if we did not fuppofe, that God hath order'd and appointed means, whereby it's poffible to fave our felves from the wrath to come.
He that takes a view of God's Proceedings
and Dealings with Men, ever fince the Creation of the World, cannot but ftand amazed at the coft, and labour, and pains, and means, and mo tives, and arguments, God hath used to make Men fenfible of their everlasting Intereft, and to engage them to a ferious preparation for that World they must live for ever in.
This ferious Preparation must neceffarily be a holy, blameless, spotlefs Life; for the Means must ever be futable and agreeable to the nature of the end. And Heaven being a Holy Place, perfect Holiness reigning there, it's not to be imagined, how perfection of Holiness can be entred upon, without a confiderable progress in Holiness here, no Man reaching the highest step of a Ladder without the lowermoft; and one might as well flatter himself, that his Trade by fuch a time will bring him in Ten thousand Pounds, when he is fo far from minding his Trade, that he contrives only how to run with others into excess of Riot.
Who ever hoped for a crop of Corn without fowing any? Or who ever expected Tulips fhould grow in his Garden without planting fuch Roots as must produce them? the Innocence which is above, is to compleat what is begun here; and what purity there is in thefe everlasting Mansions, is to crown that Sanity, the Soul arrived to here; and the Light that fhines there, is only to mingle with that which did illuminate the Soul in this lower World; fo that if there be no light in our Spirits here, there can no light mingle with it hereafter, for God is Light, and his Heaven is nothing else but Light, and as Light cannot
mingle with Darkness, nor Fire with Snow; fo Holiness hereafter can mingle with no Soul, but what comes attended with the light of Holiness.
And indeed to plant this Holiness in Men, the means have been fo various, fo numerous, fo potent before the Law, under the Law, and under the Gospel, that one may juftly admire the whole World doth not ftand Candidate for Heaven, and all the Inhabitants of the Earth do not take the Kingdom of God by Violence.
Before the Law, the continual pleadings of the long-liv'd Patriarchs with finful Men, to improve the Light of Nature, that Primar of Divinity, the many Visions, Revelations, Dreams, Signs, Wonders, Voices from Heaven, the Ministery of Angels, God's Patience, Forbearance, Long-fuffering, and fometimes exemplary Justice, the Examples of Holy Men, God's Love to those that honoured him, and the fignal Bleffings he bestow'd on thofe that made him their highest and chiefest good; what were all thefe but fo many Calls and Entreaties, that Men would by Holiness, prepare for a future Happiness?
No fooner did the World drop into Luxury and contempt of the Supream Law-giver, but God raised and fent forth Preachers of Righteousness, to give them notice of his Will, and their Duty; and when all flesh had corrupted its ways, Noah and his Sons, in all likelihood became Preachers itinerant, who, in thofe 120 Years, which God allotted the Rebels for Repentance, travelled about the habitable World, and forewarned every Man, and bid them by Prayer, and serious turning