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“ For one blest hour at thy right hand
I'd give them all away!" If we consider the nature of earthly substance, and the influence it exerts over the character of those who are devoted to its attainment and increase, we shall at once perceive its inferiority and worthlessness. It is gross and undignified ; ; and its value arises only from the arbitrary opinions which men have formed in imperfection, or in depravity. The more you examine it -the more coolly and impartially you think what it is, the more you will discover its vanity, and wonder at your own folly, and the folly of your fellow-mortals, in striving so eagerly for that which is nothing but a phantom and a name. The influence which, in its unsanctified form, it exerts upon the passions and conduct of man, is degrading and distressing indeed. It gives to the mind a prone and an earthly tendency ; it employs the anxieties on objects trivial and unworthy; it encourages a forgetfulness of the purpose for which intelligence and being were given ; it unfits the soul for the occupation of the sphere the Almighty destined it to fill; and it introduces and establishes habits awfully hostile to the character, and signally exposed to the avenging inflictions, of God. « Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also ;' and a degraded treasure will make a degraded heart.
-And shall we here make a contrast with the substance of heaven? Refer to the property reserved for the saints in eternity, which has
briefly been set before you. It is spiritual; it has no connexion with the grossness of matter; it is bestowed by Him who is a Spirit, on spirits made perfect; it is all .conformable to his unsullied and spotless purity, dignified and majestic; it ennobles those who receive it, and causes them, in the fact of participation, to wear the image of Jehovah; it makes them the partakers of the divine nature, and it enshrines them in the divine glory; and man lives enthroned on the summit of finite being, around which there is breathed the infinite grandeur of the Eternal. The contrast, my brethren, is not extravagant or overcharged ; it does not proceed from the sourness of disappointment, not from the presumption of thoughtlessness, not from the madness of fanaticism : it is the work of truth and soberness; and the more of study is exercised, and the more of wisdom is acquired, the more positive and effective will be the conclusion, that heaven is “ the better substance.”
But the vast superiority of the heavenly substance over all earthly good, and its unspeakable preciousness, are exemplified by another consideration, that of its duration : it is an “enduring,” a permanent“ substance.” This phrase is introduced by the apostle on the principle of comparison to which we have adverted; indeed the force of the comparison is here intended principally to rest: it is “better” because it is." enduring.” When the possessions of the
present world are as much ennobled as possibilities will admit, and when their evil influence is beneficially controlled, there is yet about them that which must always preserve them in insignificance;—they are transitory, they must soon be destroyed. We can calculate for certainty on nothing. Do you speak of riches ? do they not flee away
like the eagle, and leave men in poverty? Do you speak of honours ? do they not depart like the mist before the sunbeam, and leave men in meanness? Do you speak of power? does it not, although appearing to stand on foundations immovable as nature, vanish with a touch, and leave men in impotence? What is there but vicissitude and change around the whole circle of creation, in every relationship, every country, every rank ? Have you not felt them yourselves ? and is there not one unbroken uniformity of survey presented by the annals of past history and by the occurrences of present fact ?- And the day will come, when all sublunary things shall be involved in final ruin ; when desolation shall feast itself amid the wreck of worlds; when “ the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up.”—Now, from this evanescence, turn again to the view of the substance which is in heaven—“ an enduring substance.” The possessions of that blessed world cannot change, and cannot be destroyed. There is no enemy to spoil them; there is no storm to dis
turb them; there is no decay to canker them there is no convulsion to crumble them. Age imparts no exhaustion, and time fixes no decline. Years may
roll away; empires may flourish and wither; systems may rise and fall; worlds may be created and dissolved ; and the substance of heaven shall remain unaltered and unalterable, untarnished in its splendour, undiminished in its value, the same yesterday and to-day and for
Hear how Scripture has reiterated the assertions of permanence: “At his right hand are pleasures for evermore:” “ Treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal :" “ Bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not:" “ A building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens :" According to the hope of eternal life:” “ An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Every thing in heaven is for eternity! Are we to be holy? we are to be so for ever. Are we to be free from suffering ? we are to be so for ever. Are we to dwell in the presence of God? we are to do so for ever. Are we to reign as kings and priests unto the Father? we are to do so for ever.
Are we to join in the songs of salvation and praise ? we are to do so for ever.
- And now, surely, we see the force of the comparison ; now, surely, we estimate the worth of
* Psal. xvi. 11. Matt. vi. 20. Luke xii. 33. 2 Cor. v. i.
Tit. iii. 7. 1 Pet. i. 4.
the possession ; now, surely, we are thankful for the glory of the prospect :-“ A better and an enduring substance”—a substance pure in its nature, matchless in its blessings, eternal in its duration! This is ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's!
3. Consider the certainty with which the heavenly possessions are regarded.—The apostle appeals to the believing Hebrews, as persons whose title to those possessions was a matter of positive knowledge :-“ Knowing in yourselves.” The divine word informs us,-and here let the heart rest in joyous.confidence,--that the blessing is prepared for all those who are believers in the Son of God; it is the truth in which we have to glory," that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”* The text was addressed to men who were believers in Christ, and who had satisfactory evidence that they were so. They knew themselves to be trusting on the great sacrifice, by the merit of which the blessings of redemption are obtained; and they knew therefore, from the statements of the divine authority, of which they were persuaded, that they had this “ better and enduring substance.” The operation of the Spirit of God upon their minds enabled them to conclude that they were his children, and to deduce their personal title to future happiness;
* John iii. 16.