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scriptures I adduce to show you, with what vigour, and diligence, and zeal, you should labour for an eternal rest.
Now in the management of this,
I. I shall lay down some general rules how you should prepare for an eternal rest.
II. Then some special rules for the government and conduct of yourselves for the obtaining of it.
1. The first general rule is this in order to your preparation for this eternal rest : let it be your constant care to purify yourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. 7. 1. saith the apostle, “Having therefore these promises ; dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” What is that promise ? It is this in the 18th verse of the last chapter, “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” O cleanse yourselves from all pollution of flesh and spirit. Under the law no person was permitted to enter into the tabernacle but those that were legally cleansed. He that should go to sacrifice with his legal uncleanness died for it. O consider what is that legal uncleanness to the uncleanness of sin ? What is the touching of a dead body?. What is
It hath no guilt in itself, no moral turpitude in it. God for wise reasons enjoined it, and expected obedience to it, that a man that was thus typically unclean should not enter into the tabernacle. But O consider, one that hath the uncleanness of sin shall not enter into the temple above, he must be purified. Thus saith the psalmist, “I will wash my hands in innocency, and compass thine altar, O Lord.” He speaks of the material altar; how much more should we be pure, holy, and undefiled, if we enter into the tabernacle above ? We read in the book of Esther, 2 chap. 12. “Of the virgins that were prepared twelve months for king Ahasuerus.” The time that we are in this world is but as it were the months of our purification for the eleansing us from sin, that we may be fit for heaven. Let it be your constant serious work to be cleansing yourselves, and purifying your hearts, Jam. 4. 8. saith the apostle, “ Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you : cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” If you would have God draw near to you, and if you would draw near to God, you must cleanse your hands, and purify your hearts; you must not
only be free from sins of a crimson guilt, that natural conscience will take fire at; but you must be cleansed from all inward affection to sin, if you will appear before God here; much more if you will appear before him above: 1 John 3. 3. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.” There cannot be a rational hope of heaven without purification : because the promise that doth secure heaven to the saints, hath always this condition with it, only those that are holy shall see God. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no'man shall see the Lord.” “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." There cannot be a well-grounded hope of heaven without purification. And because every day we are so apt to contract defilement, let us purify and cleanse ourselves every day by the application of the blood of Christ, and watch over ourselves, that not so much as a vain thought, or an irregular action be allowed by us. We must be always cleansing ourselves, John 13. 4. it is said, “Our Saviour arose from supper and laid aside his garment, and took a towel and girded himself. After that he poured water into a bason, and began to wash his disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter, and Peter said unto him, thou shalt never wash my feet ; Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head : Jesus saith unto him, he that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” These words are an allusion to the fashion of the country where they walked in sandals, and their feet were apt to contract soil; and when they came to any house this was part of their entertainment to wash their feet. The moral is this, he that is sanctified by the Spirit of God and purified, needs not such a change as one that is unconverted, but every day he contracts defilement, and therefore needs to wash himself every day with the blood of Christ. We should use a strict care and regard to ourselves, for we contract defilement every day while we are in this world : that part of holiness called mortification is to be carried on continually, lest sins and lusts cleave to us. We should never cease carrying on this blessed work till it come to perfection, because it is a necessary preparation to our living with God above. There is no unclean thing shall ever enter into the New Jerusalem. We must therefore so labour to live, that when we come to die, “ We may be found of God in peace, without spot, and blameless," without the least rebellious affection against him. This is that which will make death comfortable, and will cause us to triumph over it with the blessed apostle, 1 Cor. 15. 55. “O death where is thy sting ? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If sin be pardoned and mortified, death hath lost its sting. Therefore I beseech you, let this be your constant work, to be purifying yourselves from all hypocrisy and all carnality, and all kinds and degrees of sin, and to attain to an unspotted holiness here.
2. To cleansing from sin, and the positive duty of perfecting holiness in the fear of God : every day be aspiring after a complete conformity to God, and obedienee to him, and to his holy will. This is always in conjunction with the former. The crucifying of the body of sin, and the quickening and vigour of the new man are inseparable. For sin is crucified by the power of grace, and by the vigorous actings of it. So that we must labour that every grace (so far as is possible for us) may receive its consummate degree here ; not only that it be in us in truth, but in a degree of eminency, and to exercise those graces for the glory of God. The holy apostle doth make this inference that I am now speaking of, when he had been speaking of the glory of the resurrection, 1 Cor. 15. ult. “ Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” This abounding in the work of the Lord is according to the sphere and compass wherein we are placed. We must always be diligent, active and zealous in the service of God; we must neither abuse our talents, nor neglect them, but be always improving them for the glory of God, and the good of our own souls, and the souls of others; and this, that we may be the more prepared for the eternal rest. And I would have you consider, that there is not the meanest christian, that is of the lowest rank, and of the smallest account in the world, but may abound in the work of the Lord according to these circumstances, and that place wherein he is, and may glorify God eminently. I remember it is the exhortation of the apostle, and it is worthy your notice, speaking concerning servants, 2 Tim. 9. 10. “ Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things, not answering them again, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” Servants then were slaves, in the lowest degree of bondage, comparatively to what our servants are ; yet they might by their good fidelity adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; they might glorify God eminently in their low estate, and so prepare themselves for this heavenly rest. I may illustrate this by an instance or two. Suppose a statuary, one that is an excellent sculptor, be employed to carve a statue, whatsoever the materials be, he may use as much skill in carving upon an ordinary stone as upon the finest marble. So whatsoever thy condition is in the world, thou mayest glorify God in it, and bring praise to his name, and show as excellent graces as he that sits on the throne. For our glorifying of God hath respect to that place wherein we are set, it is with respect to those circumstances wherein we are. As our Saviour speaks concerning the poor widow that cast her “two mites” into the treasury, she gave more than those that threw in their costly gifts, yea, though they had cast in a talent; for she threw in and gave all that she had. It was esteemed more because of her zealous affection. Thus we may glorify God in a low estate. . To give you another illustration. There are fruit trees of several kinds, and some fruits are more valuable than others; that tree that brings forth abundance of fruit according to its kind, is a valuable tree. As that which is laden with apples, though there be other trees which bring a more excellent fruit, yet this is an excellent tree in its kind. So a christian that doth adorn that place wherein God hath set him, brings honour to God by diligence in his place, and prepares himself for the heavenly glory. There are two things that are proper for us to consider with respect to excelling in grace. 1. Hereby we shall make our title to heaven more clear, have a more joyful assurance of it. For let me tell you, a great light discovers itself to a weak eye. Where grace is in its radiancy and lustre, it discovers itself to the soul. Whereas many holy saints of God, who have the truth of grace, yet because it is in them so strong and powerful, have not the comfort of it. If
abound in grace, you shall have an abundant entrance into God's heavenly kingdom. One that hath true grace, his title to heaven is safe and certain, but not so. comfortable as one that hath higher degrees of grace. Let me apply one expression of scripture to this purpose, Ephes. 1. 12. “ That we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ; in whom also that after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Suppose a man contract a bargain with you, and give a small earnest, except you be assured of his fidelity, you will be apt to fear he may leave it and lose his earnest, but if he give you a great earnest, he is kept from breaking his covenant and agreement with you. If God give you his Spirit, it is an inviolable earnest that you shall come to glory; for God will not lose the earnest of his sanctifying Spirit in the least degree. But the more the Spirit appears in its holy operations in the soul, we have a richer earnest, and a more blessed confirmation that we shall come to heaven. Therefore this labouring to excel in holiness, and aspiring and endeavouring to be eminent according to our places, gives us the most comfortable hope that we shall be for ever with God in heaven.
Let me give you one instance of this, and compare it with an instance in the Old Testament : we read of the apostle Paul, who always had a triumphing evidence of his being saved, he challenges heaven and earth, Rom. 8. 38. “ For I am persuaded, that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord;" and in another place he tells us, “I know whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day;" and when he comes to be sacrificed, he saith, 2 Tim. 4. 7, 8. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Do you think this was the exclusive privilege of Paul as an apostle ? No, for he takes in all believers as sharing with him in this privilege. The Spirit of God to a believer, doth witness with his spirit that he is a child of God; and this he doth by an illustration of those graces, which constitute him to be a son of God. We read that the apostle had a triumphant joy