Indifference to the Things of this Present Life
—Urged from Life's Shortness and Vanity
Adapted from a funeral sermon by Samuel Davies (1724–1761)
“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, (30) and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, (31) and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away." 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
A person walking every moment on the slippery edge of the grave, and ready every moment to jump into eternity, and launch away to some unknown place ought to be always standing in an attitude of serious expectation; ought every day to be in his own mind departing this world, breaking off the connections of his heart from it, and preparing for his last transition into that world in which he must reside, not for a few months or years as in this world but through a boundless everlasting eternity. A situation such as this really demands daily, constant thoughtfulness, withdrawal from the world, and serious preparation for death and eternity.
And at times when we are called to attend the funeral of a relative or friends or neighbour who has departed into eternity a little before us; when the solemnity and horrors of death strike our senses then certainly it befits us to be unusually thoughtful and serious. Dying beds, the last struggles and groans of dissolving nature, pale, cold, ghastly corpses: the coffin, the shovel and the grave. The deep damp vault, the darkness and the worm. These are very alarming warnings of our own mortality: these out-preach the loudest preacher; and they must be very hard of heart who do not hear and feel their voice!
Among the numberless ways God brings good out of evil, this is one, that past generations have sickened and died to warn those who come after. One here and there also is singled out of our neighbourhood or families, and made an example to us who survive, to rouse us out of our dazed sleep, to give us the warning-signal of the approach of the last enemy, DEATH; to constrain us to let go our eager grasp of this vain world, and provoke us to start looking out and preparing for another world. This I hope you will determine to do today.
One great reason why people are so attached to life in this world, and for their sad neglect of the things of eternity, is their having too high an estimate of the affairs of time in comparison with those of eternity. While the important realities of the eternal world are out of view, un-thought of, and disregarded, as they sadly generally are by the most of mankind, how greatly they esteem, the relations, the joys and sorrows, the possessions and bereavements, the acquisitions and pursuits of this life! What airs of importance do they put on in their esteem! How do they engross their anxious thoughts and cares, and exhaust their strength and spirits!
To be happy, to be rich, to be great and honourable, to enjoy your fill of pleasure in this world, is not this a great matter, the main interest of some of you? Is this not the object of your ambition, your eager desire and earnest pursuit? But to waste away your life in sickness and pain, in poverty and disgrace, in failed schemes and disappointed pursuits, what a serious calamity, what a huge affliction is this in your esteem?
What is it that you are most afraid of and carefully avoiding? Whether large profits or losses in trade are not a mightier matter ask the busy, anxious merchant. Whether poverty is not a most miserable state ask the poor that feel it, and the rich that fear it. Whether riches are not a very important happiness ask those who have them; or rather ask the restless pursuers of them, who expect still greater happiness from them than those who by experience know better. Whether the pleasures of the being married are not great and desirable, consult the few happy pairs here and there who enjoy them. Whether the loss of an affectionate husband and a tender father is not a most afflicting loss, a torturing separation of heart from heart, or rather a tearing of one’s heart in pieces ask the mourning, weeping widow, and fatherless children, when hovering round his dying-bed, or accompanying his dear remains to the cold grave.
In short, it is evident from a thousand instances that the enjoyments, pursuits, and sorrows of this life are mighty matters! Indeed, are 'all in all' in the esteem of most of mankind. These are the things they most deeply feel, the things about which they are chiefly concerned, and which are the objects of their strongest passions.
But is this an accurate representation of things? Are the affairs of this world then indeed so crucial and all-important? Yes…if eternity is only a dream, and heaven and hell but majestic fantasies, or fairy lands; if we were always to live in this world, and had no concern with anything beyond it; if the joys of earth were the highest we could hope for, or its miseries the most terrible we could fear, then indeed we should take this present world for our all, and regard its affairs as the most important that our nature is capable of.
"This is what I mean, brothers," (and I pronounce it as the echo of an inspired apostle's voice), this is what I mean, "the appointed time has grown very short"; the time of life in which we have anything to do with these affairs is a short, thin slice of time. Therefore "from now on", that is, this is what we should conclude from the shortness of time, "those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it;" "For the present form of this world", these tender relations, this mourning and rejoicing, this buying, possessing, and using this world "is passing away".
The ghost will soon vanish, the shadow will soon fly off; and those who have wives or husbands in this transitory life, will in reality be as though they had none; and those who weep now, as though they wept not; and those who now rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and those who now buy, possess and use this world, as though they never had the least property in it. This is the solemn, sobering doctrine I am now to impress upon you in the further illustration of the several parts of our text; a doctrine justly alarming to the lovers of this world, and the neglecters of that life which is to come!
When Paul pronounces anything with an unusual formula we do well to give it the most serious attention. He introduces the sentiments in our text in this way. "This is what I mean, brothers!"; this I solemnly pronounce as the mouth of God and urge you to endeavour to understand aright. I demand your serious attention to what I am going to say!”
And what is it he is introducing with this attention grabbing formula? Why, it is an ancient, plain, familiar truth universally known and confessed, namely, that the time of our sojourn in this world is short! But why so much formality in introducing such a common, plain truth as this? Because, however generally it may be known and confessed, it is very rarely given serious attention; and it requires more than even the most direct instruction of an apostle, to turn the attention of a thoughtless world to it!
How many of you here are convinced against your wills of this sad truth, and yet turn every way to avoid the sobering thought, are always uneasy when it forces itself upon your minds, and do not allow it to have a proper influence upon your outlook and ways but live as if you believed the time of your earthly life were long, and even everlasting!
When will the happy hour come when you will think and act like those who believe that common, incontrovertible truth, that the time of life is short? Then you would no longer think of delays, nor invent excuses to put off the work of your salvation; then you could not bear the thought of such negligent, or lazy, feeble endeavours in a work that must be done and that in so short a time.
"This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short.!" The time of life is absolutely short: a span, an inch, a hair's breadth. How short is the time between the cradle and the grave! How short the journey from infancy to old age, through all the intermediate stages!
Older people often look back on their tiresome pilgrimage through life, and if you ask them, they will tell you it is as though they began to live but yesterday. Older people can hardly find contemporaries; a new generation has started up, and the aged have become almost strangers in their own neighbourhoods.
And how strongly does the shortness of this life prove the certainty of another life? Would it be worthwhile, should it be consistent with the wisdom and goodness God, to send so many millions rational beings into this world only to live the base life of a vegetable or an animal for a few moments, or days, or years if there were no other world for these young immortals to transfer to, in which their powers might open, enlarge, and ripen? Certainly men are not such insects of a day! Certainly this present world is not the last stage of human nature! Certainly there is an eternity! There is a heaven and a hell otherwise we might complain with our Maker, as David once did on that supposition, "For what vanity you have created all the children of man!" (Psalm 89:47).
In that solemn eternity we must all be in a short time! I is very probable that, in less than eighty or ninety years, the most, if not all of this assembly, must be somewhere in that strange untried world. The merry, unthinking, irreligious multitude in that miserable prison which I must mention, grating as the sound is to their ears, that is hell! And the pious, penitent, believing few in the blissful glory of heaven! There we shall dwell a long, long time indeed or rather through a long, endless eternity!
Which leads me to add,
That as the time of life is short just in itself, so especially it is short comparatively; that is, in comparison with eternity. In this comparison, even the long life of those who lived before the flood shrink into a mere point, a nothing! Indeed no duration of time, however long can compare to eternity! Millions of millions of years! As many years as the sands on the sea-shore! In truth, any measure of time, however long, when it comes to an end, is entirely and irrecoverably past! But eternity (consider the solemn, tremendous sound!) Eternity will never, never, come to an end! Eternity will never, never, never be past!
And does this eternity, this solemn, all-important eternity, have anything to do with US? With us, the product of the dust? With us whose thoughts and cares, and pursuits are so confined to time and earth, as if we had nothing to do with anything beyond? Is this immense inheritance inevitably ours? Yes it certainly is! Reason and revelation prove it beyond all doubt. Eternity is our inheritance, whether we want it or not; whether we have been concerned with it or not!
To cause ourselves to completely cease to exist is as much above our power as to bring ourselves into being. Sin may make our souls miserable but it cannot make them mortal. Sin may cause us to loose a happy eternity, and make our immortality a curse; so that it would be better for us if we never had been born; but sin cannot put an end to our being, as it can to our happiness.
And is a little time, a few months or years, a great matter to us? To us who are heirs of an eternal duration? How insignificant is one moment in seventy or eighty years! But how much more insignificant is even the longest life upon earth when compared with eternity! How trivial are all the concerns of time to those of immortality! What is it to us who are to live forever whether we now live happy or miserably for an hour? Whether we have wives, or whether we have none; whether we rejoice, or whether we weep; whether we buy, possess, and use this world; or whether we consume away our life in hunger, and nakedness and in need of all things? It will be all the same in a little, little time! Eternity will level everything; and eternity is at the door!
And how will we spend this eternal duration which is soon upon us? Will we sleep it away in a dull insensibility, or in a state of indifference, neither happy nor miserable? No, no! We must spend it in the height of happiness or in the depth of misery! The happiness and misery of the world to come will not consist in such childish toys as those that give us pleasure and pain in this earthly phase of our existence but in the things that are suited to an immortal spirit.
As the apostle illustrates it, in 1 Cor 13, we are now children, and we speak like children, we reason like children; but then we will become men, and put away childish things. Then we will be beyond receiving pleasure or pain, from such trivial things as excite us in this present childish state.
This present world is not the place of rewards or punishments, and therefore the purposes of God do not lead to the final distribution of either; but eternity is reserved for that very purpose, and therefore that is when He will distribute rewards and punishments worthy of Himself, which will proclaim Him as the omnipotent God in acts of grace and vengeance, just as He has appeared in all His other works. Then He will "show His wrath", and "make known his power” having “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” And He will "make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory." (Romans 9:22-23).
In this way, both heaven and hell will proclaim God's attributes. They both will show Him to be the Author of their respective joys and pains, by their agreeable or terrible magnificence and greatness. Consider eternity! What majestic wonders are we to behold, where the Lord God acts with His own immediate hand, and displays Himself God-like and unrivalled, in His actions both of vengeance and of grace!
In this present world, our good and evil are blended. Our happiness has some bitter ingredients, and our miseries have some pleasant relief. But in the eternal world, good and evil will be entirely and forever separated! All will be pure, unmingled happiness or pure, unmingled misery! As we read in Matthew 25, "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:46)
In the present life on earth even the holiest saints do not have uninterrupted peace within; Their conscience often has cause to make them uneasy; some mote or other falls into its tender eye, and sets it a-weeping! And in the present state the most wicked also have their arts to keep conscience sometimes easy, and silence its clamours. But in eternity conscience will have its full sway. It will never again condemn the righteous, and it will never again be a friend, or even an inactive enemy to the wicked for so much as one moment! And think what a perpetual fountain of bliss or pain will conscience then be!
The people we socialize with contributes much to our happiness or misery. But what misery can be felt or feared in the immediate presence and fellowship of the blessed God and Jesus (the friend of man); of angels and saints, and all the glorious inhabitants of heaven!
But, on the other hand, what happiness can be enjoyed or hoped for; and what misery can be escaped in the horrid society of lost, abandoned devils and damned men, all dreadfully mighty and malignant, and rejoicing only in each other's misery; mutual enemies, and mutual tormentors, bound together inseparably in everlasting chains of darkness! What a truly horrible thought!
The most terrible images which even the pencil of divine inspiration can draw, such as a lake of fire and brimstone, utter darkness, the blackness of darkness, the never-dying worm, unquenchable everlasting fire, and all the most dreadful figures that can be drawn from all parts of the universe are not sufficient to represent the punishments of the eternal world!
And, on the other hand, in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9) The enjoyments of time fall as much short of those of eternity as time itself falls short of eternity itself.
But what makes these joys and sorrows so infinitely important is that they are enjoyed or suffered in the eternal world, and they are themselves eternal. Eternal joys! Eternal pains! Joys and pains that will last as long as the eternal and immortal King will live to distribute them! As long as our immortal spirits will live to feel them! What joys and pains are these!
And these eternal joys or pains, dear friends are awaiting every one of us! These pleasures, or these pains are felt this moment by all our friends and acquaintances who have died before us! And in a little, little while, you and I must feel them!
Consider! What then have we to do with time and earth? Are the pleasures and pains of this world worthy to be compared with eternal pleasures and pains? "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" (Ecc 1:2) The enjoyments and sufferings, the labours and pursuits, the laughter and tears of the present state are all nothing in comparison. What is the loss of an estate, or of a dear relative compared to the loss of a blissful immortality?
And if our heavenly inheritance is secure what does it matter, even if we should be reduced to Job's pitiful situation? What does it matter, even if we are poor, sickly, racked with pains, and involved in every human misery? Heaven will more than make up for everything!
But if we have no evidences of a right to heaven, the sense of these fleeting distresses may be swallowed up in the fear of the horrible miseries of eternity!
What good is it that we play away a few years in fun and amusements, in opulence and pleasure if when these few years fly away, we lift up our eyes in hell, tormented in eternal flames! What are all these fleeting things to a citizen of eternity! An heir of everlasting happiness or everlasting misery!
It is from such a convicting context, that Paul draws his inferences or conclusions in our text: "what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, (30) and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, (31) and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
We will look at them in three parts:
1. Conclusions with respect to our relations in this life,
2. Conclusions with respect to the sorrows of this life
3. Conclusions with respect to the joys and sorrows of this life.
1. The first branch of the inference refers to the dear and tender relations that we sustain in this life.
"What I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none." And by a symmetry of reason those who have husbands, parents, children, or friends as dear as their own souls be as though they had none.
Paul is far from recommending a stoic neglect of these dear relations. That he tenderly felt the sensations, and warmly recommended the mutual duties of such relations, appears in the strongest light in other parts of his writings, where he is addressing himself to husbands and wives, parents and children. But his aim here is to show the insignificance even of these dear relations, considering how short and vanishing they are and comparing them with the infinite concerns of eternity.
These dear relations we will be able to call our own for so short a time that it is hardly worthwhile to esteem them ours now. The concerns of eternity are of so much greater significance, that it matters very little whether we enjoy these comforts now or not. In a few years at most it will be all the same! The dear ties that now unite the hearts of husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend will be broken forever. In that world where we must all be in a little, little time “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:30) And of how small importance is all of this to beings that are to exist forever in the most perfect happiness or misery; and who so soon must break off all their tender connections with the dear creatures that were united to their hearts in the present transient state!
Of how small importance is it to such, whether they spend a few years of their existence in all the delights of marriage and the social life or are bereaved, destitute, widowed, childless, fatherless, friendless! The grave and eternity will level all these little inequalities! The dust of Job has no more sense of his past calamities, than that of Solomon who felt so few; and their immortal souls are equally happy in heaven if they were equally holy on earth.
And how unimportant is it to Judas now, after he has been more than two thousand years in “his own place” (Acts 1:25) whether he died single or married, a parent or childless? These relations make no difference in heaven or hell apart from, as relations increase, the duties belonging to them are multiplied, and the responsibilities become the heavier; the faithful discharge of which meets with a more glorious reward in heaven; and the neglect of which suffers a severer punishment in hell.
Farther, the apostle, in saying that those who have wives should be as though they had none, intends that we should not excessively set our hearts upon any of our dearest relatives so as to tempt us to neglect the greater concerns of the world to come or draw off our affections from God. We should always remember who it was that said, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37).
"The married man," says Paul, in the context, "is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife." (I Corinthians 7:33) But we should be careful lest this care should become excessive, and make us careless of the interests of our souls, and the concerns of immortality. To moderate excessive care and anxiety about the things of this world is the aim the apostle has immediately in view in my text; for having taught that "those who have wives live as though they had none," and such, he immediately adds, "I want you to be free from anxieties"; and this is the reason why I would have you form such a view of all the conditions of life, and count them as on a level.
Those who have the agreeable responsibilities of these relations, ought no more to abandon themselves to the over-eager pursuit of this world, or place their happiness in it; they ought no more to neglect the matters of religion and eternity, than if they did not have these relations.
The busy head of a large family should be as much concerned to secure his everlasting salvation, as a single man. Whatever becomes of him and his belongings in this vanishing world; he must by no means neglect to provide for his existence in the eternal world; and nothing in this world can at all excuse that neglect.
This thought ought to deeply affect the hearts of all of us who are engaged in such relations! And may they inspire us with a proper insensibility and indifference towards them—when compared with the affairs of religion and eternity! May this consideration moderate sorrows when loved ones depart; and teach us to esteem the gain or loss of a wonderful eternity—as that which should swallow up every other concern!
2. The second branch of the inference or conclusion refers to the sorrows of life.
"This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on let… those who mourn (be) as though they were not mourning." Whatever afflictions may fall upon us here on earth, they will not last long—but will soon be swallowed up in the greater joys—or sorrows -- of the eternal world! The tears will not always flow; sighs will not always betray our sorrow. We can only sigh as long the vital breath fills our lungs! We can weep no longer—than until death stops the source of our tears—and that will be in a very little time!
And when we enter into the eternal world, if we have been the dutiful children of God here on earth—His own gentle hand will wipe away every tear from our faces, and He will comfort His mourning people. Then all the sorrows of life will cease forever, and no more painful memory of them will remain—than of the pains and sickness we suffered as babies!
But if all the discipline of our heavenly Father fails to bring us to do our duty, if we still continue rebellious and incorrigible under His discipline, and so the miseries of this life make way for eternal miseries—then the smaller miseries will be swallowed up and lost in the greater—as a drop is swallowed up and lost in the ocean!
Some desperate sinners have hardened themselves in sin with this cold comfort, "That since they must be miserable after they die, they will at least take their fill of pleasure here—and take a cheerful journey to hell." But alas! What a sorry consolation will this be! How entirely will all this life of pleasure—be forgotten at the first touch of infernal anguish! What poor relief to a soul lost forever—to reflect that this eternity of pain followed, and was purchased by—a few months or years of foul, guilty, pleasure!
Was that a relief or an aggravation which Abraham mentions to the rich glutton, when he reminds him, "remember that during your life you received your good things"? (Luke 16:25). You had then—all the share of good which you will ever enjoy; you had your portion in that world where you chose to have it—and therefore are left to the consequences of your own choice, and look for no other portion. Who can bear to be so reminded and upbraided—in the midst of hopeless misery!
As a rule, whatever afflictions or bereavements we suffer in this world—let us moderate our sorrows and keep them within proper bounds. Let them not work up and ferment into murmurings and complainings against God—who gives and takes away, as He desires. Let them not sink us into despising the mercies still left in our possession. How unreasonable and ungrateful, that God's retaking one of His mercies—should tempt us to despise all the rest! Consider the rich inventory of blessings still remaining, and you will find them much more numerous and important than those you have lost!
And it is not that we are expected to be utterly insensible under the calamities of life. It is natural to have moderate tears—but let them not rise to floods of inconsolable sorrow! We are allowed to feel our afflictions like men and Christians—but then we must bear them like men and Christians too. May God grant that we may all be examples of this attitude when we are put to the trial.
3. The third branch of the inference refers to the joys and pleasures of life.
"the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let . . . those who rejoice (live) as though they were not rejoicing." That is, the joys of this life, from whatever earthly cause they come—are so short and transitory, that they are as of no account to a being who is to exist forever; to exist forever in joys or pains of an infinitely higher and more important kind! To such a being it is not important whether he laughs or weeps, whether he is joyful or sad—for only a few fleeting moments. These vanishing, uncertain joys should not engross our hearts as our chief happiness; nor cause us to neglect and loose the divine and everlasting joys above the skies.
The pleasure we receive from any created enjoyment, should not ensnare us to make it our idol. We must not forget—that we must part with it; or to fret, and murmur, and complain, when the parting hour comes! When we are rejoicing in the abundance of earthly blessings—we should be as careful and hard working in securing the favour of God and everlasting happiness—as if we not rejoicing . If our eternal All is secure—it is enough! Heaven will not at all be heightened or diminished by the reflection that we lived a joyful or a sad life in our earthly pilgrimage.
But if we spend our immortality in eternal misery—what sorry comfort will it be that we laughed, and played, and frolicked away our few years on earth! Years that were given to us for a serious purpose—as a space for repentance and preparation for eternity! Therefore, "let those who rejoice live as though they were not rejoicing"; that is, be nobly indifferent to all the little amusements and pleasures of so short an earthly life.
4. And, next, let "those who buy (live) as though they had no goods."
This is the fourth particular in the inference, or conclusions we should reach, from the shortness of time, and it refers to the trade and business of life. It refers not only to the busy merchant, whose life is one of constant buying and selling—but also to the farmer, the tradesman, and indeed to every person among us; for we are all carrying on a commerce, more or less, for the purposes of this life. You all buy, and sell, and exchange, in some form or other; and the things of this world are perpetually passing from hand to hand. Sometimes you have good bargains, and make large purchases. But do not set your hearts on them; but in the midst of all your possessions, live as if they were not yours to keep.
Consider of what small account are all the things you call your own upon earth—to you who are to stay here so short a time; to you who must so soon bid an eternal farewell to them all, and go as naked out of the world as you came into it; to you who must spend an everlasting duration far beyond the reach of all these enjoyments! It is not worth your while to even call them your own—since you must so soon leave them to other hands.
The example of friends and relatives who have died may convince you, that success in business, and a plentiful financial state, procured and kept by honest work and good management, is neither a security against death, nor a comfort in it!
What service can these houses and lands, and bank accounts do for the lifeless body in the grave or for the immortal spirit that is gone, we know not where? Therefore buy everything—realizing that you can buy nothing that will remain yours forever. You can buy nothing today—that you can certainly call 'yours' tomorrow. Buy, but do not sell your hearts for the earthly trinkets you buy! Do not let them tempt you to act as if this world were your final home, or to neglect to lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; treasures which you can call your own when this world comes to an end, and which you can enjoy and live upon, in the eternal heavenly state.
5. Finally, let "those who use the world, (live) as though they did not make full use of it." As most translations render this verse.
This is the fifth branch of the inference from the shortness of time; and it seems to apply to those who have been so successful in their pursuit of the world, that they have now retired from business, and have come to the point where they have nothing to do but enjoy the world, for which they have worked so long.
Or it may refer to those who have inherited a large fortune, and therefore are not concerned to acquire the world—but to use and enjoy it.
To such the inspired Apostle says, "Use the things of the world—as if not engrossed in them!" That is, use it, enjoy it, take reasonable pleasure in it—but do not abuse it by applying it to sinful purposes, making “provision for the flesh to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14), indulging yourselves in immorality and extravagance, placing your confidence in it!
Do not be like the rich fool, who said to himself, "You have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’" (Luke 12:19-20).
Do not use this world to excess (as the word may be translated), by placing your hearts excessively upon it as your favourite portion and principal happiness, and by allowing it to draw off your thoughts and affections from the superior blessedness of the world to come.
Use the world—but let it not tempt you to excess in eating, drinking, dressing, housing, or in any article of the parade of riches. True religion by no means commands a poor, stingy, coarse manner of living; it allows you to enjoy the blessings of life—but then it forbids all excess, and requires you to keep within the bounds of moderation in your enjoyments. Thus, "Use the things of the world—as if not engrossed in them!"
The apostle's inference is not only drawn from strong premises—but also enforced with a very weighty reason: "For the present form of this world is passing away." The whole scheme and system of worldly affairs—all this marrying and rejoicing, and weeping, and buying, and enjoying—is passing away! It is passing away this very moment! It not only WILL pass away—but even now, it IS passing away!
And shall we give excessive attention to things that are perpetually flying away from us, and in a little time will be no more our property than the riches of the world before the flood? O, how long will you follow after vanity! "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2).
"For the present form of this world is passing away!" Some say that this sentence contains a striking allusion to the stage of a theatre, and that it might be rendered, "the 'scene' of this world is passing away." In this scene some are kings, some are servants, some are rich and some are poor, some play the genius and some play the simple minded. But when the play ends, the costumes all come off, the pretend riches and power all vanish and the actors appear for who they really are. And so death, closes the scene and brings everyone to the same level to give an account of themselves before the judge of all the earth.
So then let us live and act as earnest seekers of the eternal world, and as having nothing to do with this passing world—but only as a school, a state of discipline, to educate and prepare us for eternity!
It would be good if this exhortation was firmly impressed upon all your hearts! It is my hope that this message might persuade you all this day to break off your over-fond attachment to this fleeting earth—and to prepare yourselves for immortality! "Prepare! Prepare for eternity!"
And if the souls that you once knew, while alive on this earth, should stand here now in my place, would this not be their united voice, "Prepare, prepare for eternity, you frail short-lived mortals! You close neighbours of death and eternity! You borderers upon heaven and hell—make ready, loosen your hearts from earth, and all that it contains! Weigh anchor, and prepare to launch away into the boundless ocean of eternity—which is now within your sight, and roars within your hearing!"
For this I say with great confidence, "The time is short! From now on, those who have wives—should live as if they had none; those who mourn—as if they did not; those who rejoice—as though they did not rejoice; those who buy something—as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world—as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form," in all its schemes of affairs, in all its vain parade, all the futile play of life, "is passing away!" And away let it pass—if we may at last obtain a better country; that is, a heavenly one!
Which may God grant, for Jesus' sake! Amen.