Thomas Doolittle, 1630-1707
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
Eternal! What a sound does this word "eternal" make in my ears! what workings does it cause within my heart! what casting about of thoughts! What word is next to be added to it? Is it, "eternal world!" Where? for this is temporal. O! that eternal world is now by us unseen, and as to us is yet to come. But yet my trembling heart is still solicitous to what other word this word "eternal" might be prefixed as to myself, or those that hear me this day, when they and I, who, through the long-sufferance of God are yet in this present and temporal, shall be in that eternal world. Shall it be "eternal damnation" in that eternal world? How? after so many knockings of Christ, strivings of the Spirit, tenders of mercy, wooings of grace, calls of ministers, warnings of conscience, admonitions of men, waitings of patience—all which put us into a fair probability of escaping eternal damnation. O dreadful words! Can more terror be contained, can more misery be comprehended, in any two words, than in "eternal damnation?" But we in time are praying, hearing, repenting, believing, conflicting with devils, mortifying sin, weaning our hearts from this world—that, when we shall go out of time, we might find "life" or "salvation" added to "eternal." Eternal salvation! these are words as comfortable as the other were terrible, as sweet as they were bitter.
What, then? This word "eternal" is the horror of devils, the amazement of damned souls, which causes desperation in all that hellish crew; for it wounds like a dart, continually sticking in them, that they most certainly know that they are damned to all eternity. Eternal! it is the joy of angels, the delight of saints, that while they are made happy in the beatific vision, are filled with perfect love and joy, they sit and sing, "All this will he eternal." Eternal! this word—it is a loud alarm to all that be in time; a serious caution to make this our grand concern—that when we must go out of time, our "eternal" souls might not be doomed down to "eternal" damnation, but might obtain salvation that shall be "eternal;" of which we have hope and expectation, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Not only the experience of present spiritual good in the inward—by the pressing afflictions on the outward man, in weakening of sin, in purging away our dross, in weaning us from the world, in humbling us for our miscarriages, in reducing us from wandering, in emptying us of self-conceit, in trying our faith, in exercising our patience, in confirming our hope, in awakening of conscience, in bringing us to examine our ways, in renewing our repentance, in proving our love, in quickening us to prayer—but also the clear and certain prospect of glory after affliction, of a "weight of glory" after "light affliction," of eternal glory after short affliction, of a weight of glory "far more exceeding" all our present sorrows, burdens, calamities, than tongue can express, or pen describe, or the mind of man conceive; being more than "eye has seen, or ear has heard, or have entered into the heart of man," (1 Cor. 2:9,)—must needs be an alleviation of our sorrows, a lightening of our burdens, comfort in our grief, joy in our groans, strength in our weakness.
Though "we are troubled on every side, yet are we not distressed ; though perplexed, yet not in despair ;" (2 Cor. 4:8;) though under afflictions both felt and seen, yet "we faint not," while we keep our eye fixed upon the glorious things in the other world that are unseen and eternal too.