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THE STATE OF MAN.
Of the Greatness of Things Eternal. ALTHOUGH all temporal things are in themselves little and base, yet unto him, who shall consider the greatness and majesty of the Eternal, they will appear much less, and contemptible.
The greatness of the glory eternal consists not only in the eternity of its duration, but in its intension also, as being supreme, and without limits in its excellency; and therefore we ought not to think much of the sufferings of a thousand years' torments, or to remain in hell itself for some long time, so we might behold Christ in his glory, and enjoy the company of saints, and be partakers of so great a happiness, but for one day.
Such is the beauty of righteousness, such the joy of that eternal light, of that immutable truth and wisdom, that although we were not to continue in it above one day, yet for so short a time, a thousand years in this life, replenished with delights, and abundance of all goods temporal, were justly to be despised: "One day in thy courts is better than a thousand." And if those joys of heaven were short, and those of earth eternal, yet we ought to forsake these for those. What shall it be to possess them for an eternity, when the joy of each day shall be equivalent to many years ? If the beauties of all creatures, heavens, earth, flowers, pearls, and all other things that could give any light, were all comprised in one thing; if every one of the stars yielded as much
light as the sun, and the sun shone as bright as all they together all this so united, would be, in respect of the beauty of God Almighty, as a dark night in respect of the clearest day. As Ahasuerus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia over one hundred and seventy provinces, made a great feast for all his princes, which lasted one hundred and eighty-one days; so shall this King of heaven and earth make his great supper of glory, which shall last for all eternity, for the setting forth of his majesty, and for the honour and entertainment of his servants; where the joys shall be such, as neither the eye hath seen, nor the ear hath heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man to conceive: "Come, eat and drink, and be filled, my beloved," shall the King of heaven say; "this feast of mine shall never be ended, there shall come no sorrow after it." O life of lives, surpassing all life! O everlasting life! O life, blessed for evermore, where there is joy without sorrow! O the inanity and emptiness of temporal goods, what proportion do they hold with this greatness, since they are so poor, that even time, from whence they have their being, makes them tedious, and not to be endured? Who could continue a whole month without any diversion, in hearing the choicest music? Nay, who could pass a day free from weariness, without some thought of pleasures? But such is the greatness of those joys which God hath prepared for them who love and fear him, as we shall still desire them afresh, and they will not cloy us in a whole eternity.
Eternal glory is great, both in respect of its purity, being free from all ill; and in respect of its perfection, being highly and excellently good: it doth as far exceed all the grandeur of this world, as the heavens are distant from the earth; and how far that is, we shall form some conception of it, as much as our weakness is able to express.
The most famous mathematician, Christopher Clavius, says, that from the sphere of the moon, which is the lowest heaven, unto the earth, are one hundred and twenty thousand six hundred and thirty miles: from the heaven of the sun, four millions thirty thousand nine hundred and twenty-three miles and from the firmament, or eighth heaven, one hundred sixty-one millions eight hundred fourscore and four thousand nine hundred and forty-three miles. Here Plato
wills the mathematicians to cease their inquiries; for from hence there is no rule of measuring further: but, without all doubt, it is much further from thence to the imperial heaven; for the only thickness of the starry sphere is said to contain as much as the whole space betwixt that and the earth: insomuch as if a millstone were thrown from the highest of the firmament, and should every hour fall two hundred miles, it would be ninety years before it arrived at the earth. The mathematicians also, and some learned interpreters of the holy Scripture, affirm, that the distance from the earth unto the highest of the firmament, is less than that from thence to the lowest of the imperial heaven; and therefore conclude, if one should live two thousand years, and every day should travel a hundred miles, he should not in all that time reach the lowest of the firmament; and if, after that, he should also travel other two thousand years, he should not reach the highest of it; and from thence four thousand years before he arrived at the lowest of the imperial heaven. O blessed Jesu, which makes us in a moment dispatch so great a journey, and in one little instant brings the souls of the just thither; so short is the way which brings us to heaven, that in an instant the righteous shall mount above the sun and moon, tread the stars under their feet, and enter into the heaven of the blessed.
Proportionable unto this distance of place, is the advantage which the greatness of heaven hath above that of earth, and the same holds in their blessings: let us mount, then, with this consideration, thither, and from that height let us despise all the vanities of this world. All the kingdoms of the earth are but as a point, yea, but as a point of a point : he is higher than the world, who cares not for the world: but of heaven, Baruch could say, "How great is the house of God, how large is the place of his possession!" It is great, and hath no end; high, and unmeasurable. If one, who had ever been bred in an obscure dungeon, were told, that above the earth there was a sun, which enlightened the whole world, and cast his beams far above a hundred thousand leagues in circumference, all the discourses which could be made unto such a one, would hardly make him conceive
a Bar. c. iii.
the brightness and beauty of the sun: much less can the glory of those things of the other world be made to appear unto us, though set forth with the greatest beauty the world affords.
O what fools then are they, who, for one point of earth, lose so many leagues of heaven! who, for one short pleasure, lose things so immense and durable! O the greatness of the omnipotency and goodness of God, who hath prepared such celestial mansions and glorious things for the humble and little ones who serve him!" My soul, O Lord my God, thirsteth after thee; I will behold thy face in righteousness; for in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Whatsoever I can wish for, is present with thee, whatsoever can be desired, is in thee in abundance; thou shalt make me drink of the river of thy pleasures; for with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light I shall see light. How happy shall I be, when I shall see thee in thyself, and thee in me, and myself in thee, living in everlasting felicity, and enjoying the beatifical vision of thee for evermore! I will therefore trust in thee, my Lord God, for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting happiness, and joys without end"."
The Greatness of the Eternal Honour of the Just.
THE greatness of those goods of the other life, are honours, riches, pleasures, and all the blessings both of body and soul of each whereof we shall say something apart; and will begin with that of honour.
The nature of honour is to be a reward of virtue; and by how much greater the reward is, by so much the greater is the honour which is conferred: what honour shall it then be, when God shall give unto those who served him, not only to tread upon the stars, to inhabit the palaces of heaven,
to be lords of the world, but, transcending all that is created, and finding nothing amongst his riches sufficient to reward them, shall give them his own infinite essence, to enjoy, as a recompense of their holiness, not for a day, but to all eternity!
The highest honour which the Romans bestowed upon their greatest captains, was to grant them a day of triumph, and, in that, permission to wear a crown of grass or leaves, which withered the day following: but the triumph of the just shall be eternal; and their never-fading crown is God himself. O most happy diadem! O most precious garland of the saints, which is of as great worth and value as is God himself! Sapores, king of the Persians, was most ambitious of honour, and would therefore be called the brother of the sun and moon, and friend to the planets. This vain prince erected a most glorious throne, which he placed on high, and thereon sat in great majesty, having under his feet a globe of glass, whereon were artificially represented the motions of the sun, the moon, and stars; and to sit crowned above this fantastical heaven, he esteemed as a great honour. What shall be, then, the honour of the just, who shall truly and really sit above the sun, the moon, and firmament, crowned by the hand of God himself; and that with a crown of gold, graven with the seal of holiness and the glory of honour? And this honour arrives at that height, that Christ himself tells us, "He who shall overcome, I will give him to sit with me in my throne; even as I have overcome, and have sitten with the Father in his throne." O happy labour of the victorious, and glorious combat of the just, against the vices and temptations of the world, whose victory deserves so inestimable a crown!
How great shall be that glory, when a just soul shall, in the presence of an infinite number of angels, sit in the same throne with Christ; and shall, by the just sentence of God, be praised for a conqueror over the world, and the invisible powers of hell! What can it desire more, than to be partaker of all those Divine goods, and even to accompany Christ in the same throne? O how cheerfully do they bear all afflictions for Christ, who, with a lively faith and certain hope, apprehend so sublime honours!
a Apoc. iii.