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“Am I building for eternity?” This is the question that arises after reading a chapter titled “The First Aim of Life” in Ezra Hall Gillett’s eminently practical volume, Life Lessons in the School of Christian Duty (1864). Based on Matthew 6:33 (“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"), this particular lesson is a reminder that we should remember our chief end - that is, to live a religious life to the glory of God.
Some of the gravest mistakes of human life grow out of one fundamental error putting first something that should be put second, or putting second what should be first. There can properly be only one thing put first, and that is, religion the fear of God. It is the foundation of character, and effort, and happiness. Nothing else will endure and sustain the superstructure of a true life.
No one can build, no one has a right to build, till he can build on the Rock of Ages. We are all building, whether we know it or not, for eternity. We may put up wigwams or hospitals, tents or temples, but our aims and deeds, whatever they are, are the soul's palace, under the shelter or shadow of which it will dwell forever.
How important it is to build well, and to build on the right foundation. Many would agree, as Gillett notes, but many do not live as if they do. Too often, we live in the moment, seeking “trifles,” not thinking of consequences, or the great prize of faithfulness. If only men would seek God early, and aim to live life with the eternal in view.
Begin life aright then. If you would not have weeds for your harvest or bricks for your toil, give God your heart, and think of the life that never ends. Put yourself in thought far away beyond these shifting, cheating scenes; soar aloft above this fire-doomed earth, and its shows and pomps; see the great globe with all its cities and palaces shrinking to an atom; leave time behind you; take your place among the angel choir that sweep their golden harps before the throne; and ask yourself then what this life should be, fitting for an angel's childhood, for the service which the redeemed shall be glad to render forevermore.
If that sphere is ever to be yours, you should begin to live for it now. You should be robing yourself every day for that great Assembly that are draped in the spotless white of heaven's purity. You should put off sin and put on righteousness. You should learn the lesson of prayer and praise. You should seek to know Him whom to know aright is life eternal, and with whom you hope to dwell forever. You should allow no toys of sense to allure your eye, or divert your purpose. You should say, "with one life only to live on earth, I will not squander it on trifles; I will not turn it into an episode of folly; I will not crowd it with bitter memories of sin; I will not build any immortal hope on shadows ; but I will so live that my farewell of earth shall be my welcome to heaven."
Make your present life then the title page of your immortality. Let there be no word or letter in it which shall belie the contents of a volume that shall record an angel's career. The soul's identity demands, if you aspire to heavenly blessedness, that you shall not burden memory with the everlasting incongruities of a life of sin on earth. If there is anything which in the light of the throne you would not like to recall, shun it now. If there is anything which can fit you for the high sphere of angelic service, now is the time for preparation. If existence has any sphere in which wisdom can be called into service, in which your highest interests demand a thoughtful anticipation of future destiny, that sphere is the one in which you are moving now. In view of a final judgment, by the light of a blazing world, under the eye of the great Judge, face to face with eternity, the soul must yet sit in judgment on itself. Why not act to-day with reference to what you know will be its final sentence?
Consider this counsel from Ezra H. Gillett. How often do we need to be reminded of first principles. Let us, therefore, as he says, build for a blessed eternity with our God, and our King.