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TIME AND ETERNITY; OR, NEW-YEAR'S DAY.
[From the Mauuscripts of the late Rev. J. Clowes.]
THE Scripture words, Time and Eternity, are words in themselves most significative, and of the weightiest import, insomuch that if they were rightly understood, and did but rightly affect us, we should scarcely want any other words for our instruction and edification. Yet alas ! how are these words in general mistaken, and how little impression do they commonly make on our minds! We utter them, and we hear them uttered, again and again, yet how seldom is their full meaning attended to by us, and how slight and transitory is their ordinary effect upon us! And what shall we say is the reason of this? The words are the same that they always have been, and are meant to convey the same 'weighty ideas. Is it, then, our familiarity with them that makes us less attentive to their signification? Or, is it an habitual carelessness of thought, which indisposes us to be at the pains of looking for the sense which all sounds, and especially divine sounds, are intended to impart ?
I have been led into these reflections from the consideration that we are now entering upon another portion of Time, which is generally called a New Year, and that a former portion of Time, called the Old Year, is passed away and gone. But have we ever reflected what these portions of Time mean, and what they are ? Have we ever been at the pains to consider with ourselves what Time in general means, and what it is? We have often heard speak of Time, and we have often heard speak of Eternity; but the grand question remains,—What is Time, and what is Eternity ?
An answer to these questions may perhaps not be either unseasonable or unprofitable at this time, and therefore I shall endeavour to give
N. S. NO. 73.--VOL. VII.
them such an answer, as, whilst it is agreeable to the truth, may be, at the same time, conducive to our edification.
The common idea which mankind in general entertain concerning Time and Eternity is this, that Time is present, and that Eternity is to come; or, in other words, that Eternity begins when Time ends, and thus that Time and Eternity are totally separated, and at a distance from each other; and agreeable to this idea, it is not uncommon to say, when a man dies, that he is going into eternity.
But, permit me to observe, that this is not only a very gross, but also a very mistaken way of conceiving concerning Time and Eternity. For if we are at the pains to examine the matter attentively in our own minds, we shall see immediately that Time and Eternity are not separated and distant from each other, but that they are most closely united and ever present together, inasmuch as Eternity is ever in Time, and Time is nothing else but the duration of Eternity measured by motion. The case is the same in regard to what we call temporal things, or the things of time, which we behold with our bodily eyes, since these things are not to be conceived as separate from eternal things, but as in the closest union with them, being only the material coverings and outward bodies of things eternal, just as our own bodies are the material coverings and outward manifestations, in this lower world of nature, of our inward and eternal spirits.
If, then, we are desirous of having a clear and just idea concerning Time and Eternity, let us believe that Eternity is ever in Time, and makes one with it, and that eternal things are in temporal, and make one with them, and that we ourselves are in both; or, in other words, that in man both Time and Eternity, things temporal and things eternal, are united, inasmuch as with respect to our bodies we stand and dwell in Time, but with respect to our better part, our immortal spirits, we stand and dwell in Eternity.
We are surprised, perhaps, to hear that Eternity and the things of Eternity are so near us, and that we are so near to them; but if we only reflect seriously a moment in our own minds, our surprise will cease, and will be succeeded by the comfort and brightness of the most instructive and edifying truths.
Let us consider—What is Eternity ? Is not Eternity a peculiar distinguishing property of God and of his kingdom? Is not God, therefore, in the Sacred Scriptures, called emphatically the Father of Eternity, and said to inhabit Eternity ? Eternity, therefore, must of necessity be where the eternal God is, and in every thing which is of the eternal God, and connected with Him; and since God and His eternal kingdom, as the Scriptures testify, are in some degree in every man (for Jesus Christ saith, “ The kingdom of God is within you"), and since every man is thus in some degree of connection with God and his eternal kingdom ; therefore Eternity also must of necessity be, in some degree, in every man, and every man must, of course, be in some connection with Eternity.
And this great truth is not only taught us in the Sacred Scripture, but it is confirmed to us by undeniable experience, so that every one may be immediately convinced of it, who will but be at the trouble to make the experiment.
For if we close our eyes for a moment to the things of Time (which, being in connection with our present bodies, are too apt, on that account, so much to affect us, and to be regarded as the only realities which are near us), and retire within ourselves, into the interior regions of our own minds, and endeavour to raise our thoughts and affections towards the Holy God and his eternal kingdom; what is it that we find there? Do we not find God and his eternal kingdom present to our mind's view, just as, when our bodily eyes are open, we find the things of this world present to our bodily view? Do not we therefore of consequence find Eternity present, and rise into Eternity, so far as we think upon, and are rightly affected towards the eternal God, -just as in opening the eyes of our body, we find Time present, and descend into Time ?
It appears, therefore, most evident that we are as near to Eternity as we are to Time, and that as we have communication with Time and the things of Time, by means of our bodily senses, so we have communication with Eternity and the things of Eternity, by means of our internal senses, the perceptions of our minds. But the misfortune is, notwithstanding the unquestionable certainty of these truths, that we suffer Time and the things of Time, not only to darken in our minds the sober views and convictions of the things of Eternity, but also to persuade us, that Eternity is far off from us, and that its eternal things do not so much concern us. For thus reasons the man who looks only at Time and its temporal things :- I see, says he, the things of Time, and they affect and delight me; I can touch them, therefore they are near me ; I can feel them, therefore they are real; but what evidence like this can I possibly have of the things of Eternity? Alas! mistaken man ! he forgets that his mind can see and feel as well as his body, and that the things which his mind sees and feels are a thousand times nearer to him, and ten thousand times more real, than the objects of his bodily sight and feeling. For his mind can both see
and feel, if he be so disposed, the presence of the great and glorious God, whose name is Jesus Christ, with all the grand realities of His kingdom. His mind, therefore, can both see and feel eternal objects, as much nearer and more real than all the things of Time and Sense, as God and His kingdom are nearer and more real than anything in the world besides.
Now let us endeavour to guard ourselves against the sophistry of such vain and groundless argument, and against all that delusion of worldly wisdom which would at any time attempt to persuade us, either that Time is nearer to us than Eternity, or that the things of Time are more real and more interesting to us than the things of Eternity.
We are now entering upon another and a new portion of Time, and have just passed out of a former and old portion, which is vanished like a dream, insomuch that we know not what has become of it, and it has no longer any place or being amongst the things that exist either in this world or another. And surely this reflection alone must lead every thinking person to consider what he is about, when he calls Time and temporal things real, and the things of Eternity not real. For can that be real which so suddenly vanishes and is gone for ever? Are those joys real which pass away so rapidly, and perish as soon as they are past? Let us but reflect a moment on a point of such infinite con
Let us look back awhile on the days of the year which is departed, and ask ourselves the serious question,—What is become of all those satisfactions therein, which had no higher origin than the things of Time ? Where are now all the mere worldly and bodily delights through which we have so lately passed, and which seemed so near and real during the moments of enjoyment? We are forced to confess that they no longer remain with us, but are gone for ever. Let us ask ourselves further,—What is become of all those satisfactions which had their origin in Eternity, which flowed from the love of God, and were the happy effects of our conversation and connection with Him in good affections, good thoughts, and good actions ? What is become of all our penitent labours in the way of righteousness, of all our holy prayers, of all the graces which they procured for us from above, of all the victories obtained over sin? Our own convictions triumphantly testify, as well as the Word of God, that all these remain with us, and must remain for ever, as a source of happiness to Eternity, provided we continue faithful to their preservation and increase. Our own convictions, therefore, demonstrate, if we would but listen to them, that the things of God and Eternity, and not the things of Time, are the great realities which are both most near and most interesting to us.