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catastrophe, and are doomed to undergo a more signal overthrow. Nor can any argument be deduced against the certain accomplishment of the divine declaration, from the seeming length of the time during which their execution is delayed : since “one day is with God as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day.” In attempting to improve these words, we shall,
I. Endeavour to illustrate their import, and establish the truth of the proposition which they contain.
II. Shew to what particular uses the truth which they exhibit may be applied.
I. Let us attempt to illustrate the assertion, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
It is necessary, in order to enter into the sense and meaning of the apostle in these words, to consider on what occasion they are introduced.
They are designed as an answer to the objections which irreligious scoffers advance against the certainty of the accomplishment of the divine declarations, founded on its long delay. Impatient and short-sighted mortals are apt to suppose that what is delayed long will never take place; that an event, placed at the distance of many ages, will never arrive; that an evil which has been long apprehended, but through a series of ages has never actually taken place, need be dreaded no more, but may be safely classed among the phantoms of a vain terror.
In reply to this, the apostle states that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years;" and that long and short, when applied to a part of duration, are not the same in his apprehension as ours : that what appears a long time to us, does not appear so to him, whose estimate is so different, and whose views are so much more extended. A thousand years seem to us a very long period, but in his eyes appear extremely short; they are but as a day.
This idea of the different apprehension which God has of time from what we possess, is exhibited in several passages of scripture : “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. To the same purpose spake the royal Psalmist, in the 39th Psalm: “ Make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee." +
1. Every portion of duration is something real, and has a true and proper existence; but the epithets great and small, when applied to this, (as well as to any thing else,) are merely comparative. They necessarily imply a comparison of one quantity with another, without which they can never be applied with justice; for what is great compared with one quantity, becomes, at the same moment, little when compared with another, and vice versa. * Psalm xc. 4.
† Psalm xxxix. 4,-5.
Thus fourscore years are, at present, considered as a great age ; but would not have been called so before the (general deluge]. That age is now styled great with propriety, because it is so, compared with the usual term of life, which is considerably less; and, for an opposite reason, it would, before the Flood, have been styled small, because it would have been so compared with the average term of human life at that period, which was much greater. We should consider fifty years as forming a very large portion of human life; but the same number of years in the history of an empire would be justly considered small. Thus is the same quantity either great or small, as you place it by the side of something much inferior to it in magnitude, or much superior.
2. Hence it results that absolute greatness belongs only to what is infinite; for whatever falls short of this, however great it may appear, its supposed greatness is entirely owing to the incidental absence of another object that is greater. It may be, it will be, infallibly reduced to insignificance, the moment it comes into comparison with that which is so prodigiously superior to it.
3. In duration, absolute greatness belongs only to eternity. The epithet great, or whatever other is most expressive of the profoundest astonishment, is, with the utmost propriety, applied to that unfathomable abyss. Incapable of being placed in any light, or brought, even by imagination, into any comparison which should reduce it to insignificance, it asserts its preeminence, and vindicates its majesty, in all places and [times], in all the possible varieties of being, or combinations of thought.
4. We must then conceive that He who has subsisted throughout eternal ages; who knows no “ beginning of days, nor end of years ;” who possesses eternity; to whom all its parts (if we may be allowed so to speak) are continually open, both past and future ; must have a very different apprehension of that inconsiderable portion of it we call time, from creatures who are acquainted with no other. His apprehension, we may easily conceive, will be, in this respect, very different; and that what to us appears a large portion, will, in his eyes, appear very inconsiderable.
Nor let any one here object, and say, it must appear as it is, and, therefore, there is no reason to suppose
appears to him different from what it does to us. No doubt it appears to him exactly as it is. His apprehensions are, unquestionably, agreeable to the nature of things; but it does not follow from thence that it must appear in the same light as it does to us: and if there may be a difference, it is surely the highest presumption to make ourselves the standard.
That each portion of duration appears to him real, we admit: we are not contending for its being annihilated in his view. Something it is, and something it appears, unquestionably, in his eyes, who views things as they are; but this is
far from proving that a limited portion of duration must appear to him of the same precise magnitude as it does in our eyes.
We know, by experience, how susceptible we are of a diversity of apprehension in this respect; and that at some periods, and in some situations, the same portion of time appears much longer than at others. In circumstances of extreme misery, the moments seem to linger, and the lapse of time is slow. How long would a few minutes appear, passed in excruciating torment ! season of anxious expectation, which has a portion of misery in it, the same effect is experienced in a lower degree. On the contrary, in a state of enjoyment the hours seem to take wings, and we are but little sensible of the progress of time.
When the mind is fully engaged on a delightful subject, when the attention is deeply absorbed in a pleasing train of reflection, we become scarcely conscious that any space of time has elapsed. We must infer from hence that perfect happiness diminishes inconceivably the impression of time; as, on the contrary, intense misery increases it.
Among all the conceptions we form of the Supreme Being, there is none the propriety of which we can less doubt than of his perfect happiness; nor have any who have believed on him failed to ascribe to him this perfection in the highest possible degree. He is styled, in scripture, “ the blessed and only Potentate,” the happy God: and, as he is the fountain of all happiness to