On Eternity and the Limitations of This Life
THE DISCIPLE. O ever blessed palaces of the heavenly City!(Rev. 21:2) O glorious day of eternity, on which night never throws its shadows and whose perpetual light is the Sovereign Truth! O day of unending gladness and of everlasting and unchanging security! How greatly I long for the dawning of this day and the end of all worldly things. On the Saints this day already shines, resplendent with everlasting glory: but to us who are pilgrims on earth (Heb.11:13;ICor.13:12) it appears but dim and distant. The citizens of Heaven now taste the joys of this day; but we, exiled children of Eve, mourn our bitterness and weariness, for the days of this life are short and evil, full of grief and pain. (Job 7:6) Here man is defiled by many sins, ensnared by many passions, a prey to countless fears. Racked by many cares and distracted by many strange things, he is entangled in many vanities. He is hedged in by many errors, worn out by many labors, burdened by temptations, enervated by pleasures, tormented by want.
Oh, when will all these evils come to an end? When shall I be set free from the unhappy slavery of sin? When, O Lord, shall my mind be fixed on You alone?(Ps. 71:16) When shall the fullness of your joy be mine? When shall I enjoy true freedom, untrammelled and untroubled in mind or body? When shall true peace be established-peace untroubled and secure, peace both inward and outward, peace in every way assured?
Good Jesus, when shall I stand in Your presence? When shall I see the glory of Your Kingdom? When will You be All in all to me? (ICor.15:28; Col. 3:11) When shall I dwell with You in Your Kingdom, which You have prepared from eternity for those whom You love? (Matt. 25:34)
I am left exiled and destitute in the land of my enemies, where there are daily wars and awful calamities. Give me comfort in my banishment and ease my grief, for my whole desire and longing is for You alone. Everything that this world offers me as comfort is utterly distasteful; I long for close communion with You, but cannot attain to it. I wish to hold fast to heavenly things, but worldly affairs and desires that I cannot master hold me down. I wish my mind to rise freely above all these things, but my body holds me its unwilling captive. Thus I struggle unhappily with myself: I am a burden to myself, for while my spirit longs to mount heavenwards, my body desires to remain below.
Oh, how deep is my pain! For whenever I try to contemplate heavenly things, a flood of worldly thoughts at once pours in upon me as I pray. My God, do not desert me! Do not abandon me in Your anger .(Ps.25:16 ; 71:12) Strike with Your lightning, and scatter them : loose Your arrows (Ps. 144:6) at the enemy, and utterly defeat all his wiles. Recall all my senses to Yourself, and cause me to forget all worldly things : help me to reject with scorn all the promptings of vice.
O Everlasting Truth, come to my aid, and let not vanity move me. Come, 0 delight of Heaven, and put to flight every impure thing! Grant me pardon, and in Your mercy deal kindly with me whenever I think of anything but Yourself at prayer; for I freely confess that I am usually beset by many distractions. Often, indeed, I do not really remain in my body at all, but am carried away by my thoughts. Where my thoughts come to rest, there am I, and my thoughts are most frequently with the things I love. For whatever is either delightful of itself, or has become pleasant through custom comes readily to the mind.
It is for this reason that You, who are the Truth, have plainly said, `Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also(Matt.6:21) If I love Heaven, I think readily of heavenly things. If I love the world, I take pleasure in the delights of the world, and grieve in its troubles. If I love my body, my imagination dwells often on the things of the body. If I love the spirit, I love to think on the things of the spirit. For whatever things I love, it is of these that I am eager to speak and hear, and I have these interests always at heart.
Blessed is the man who for Your sake, Lord, bids farewell to every creature, and, forcibly overcoming his natural inclinations, crucifies the desires of the flesh by the very fervour of his spirit,(Gal. 5:24) in order that he may offer You pure prayer with a quiet conscience. Having excluded all worldly things from his heart and life, he will be worthy to take his place in the choir of Angels.
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