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in the fruit of his admirable holiness and fidelity to God; saith he, “ I know nothing by myself;" he neglected no part of his ministerial work, that he might thereby honour God; and from thence did spring that blessed hope that he should be with God in heaven for ever. Compare this instance of Paul with that of David, who was an inspired prophet, a man after God's own heart, a man of extraordinary revelations; but walking carelessly, he fell into presumptuous sins; 0) what depth of horror and perplexity was he sometimes in?
My sins are more in number than the hairs of my head, and mine iniquities are gone over mine head, as an heavy burthen, they are too heavy for me; I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long." Psal. 38. 4, 6. And how doth he earnestly beg of God to restore the spirit of joy to him, Psal. 51. 11, 12. “ cast me not away from thy presence, take not thy Holy Spirit from me, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” So that a prophet, if he neglect to glorify God, may fall under such unquiet fears as may render his life a kind of death to him. A saint should labour to be always (as the apostle Paul was) aspiring after the perfection of holiness. Phil. 3. 14.
3. Let us glorify God abundantly in our several places; for then we shall have a more ample rich reward, and the greater degree of glory above. There are some thrones in heaven which are higher than others, and brighter crowns, and more excellent degrees of glory; therefore “ he that sows sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he that sows liberally, shall reap liberally.' He that is abundant in the work of the Lord, the blessed rewarder will proportionably reward him in the future state.
II. I shall now proceed to the special rules.
1. Fix your choice upon this eternal rest as your portion. As we read of Moses, when he was to depart from the children of Israel, this was his last and most affectionate counsel to them, Deut. 30. 19. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing ; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed
So I say, choose this eternal rest as your supreme good and happiness, without which you are undone for ever, and without which you had better never have been born, or been in the lower rank of creatures. But you will be ready to think
that there are none but what will choose it. But pray consider what a choice it must be; it must be with all those conditions, and with all those difficulties, that attend this state, and are annexed to it. It is not choosing heaven and happiness abstractly, and only to have a desire to enjoy this blessed state, and to say, I will take this for my happiness ; unless you consider the terms and conditions of it ; now in short the terms are these : you must despise all things in comparison of it: you must suffer all things that are evil in the world, all that flesh and blood calls evil, if God by his providence call you to it, that you may attain it: and for the good things of the world, take life and all the endearments of it, and all the ornaments of life, riches, honours, pleasures, friends, and relations, these must be all hated, comparatively, when eternal life comes in competition with them; for our Saviour tells us, Luke 14. 26. “ if any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” It is true, it is not meant as if God commanded an absolute hatred of them; but there must be such a love and choice of heaven above these things, that whenever'they come in competition, you must reject them as if you hated them : although there is a regular love to them allowed, it is but in subordination to Christ, who is the supreme object of our affections. The stars are in the heavens in the day as well as in the night; but their light is suspended when the sun appears, they have no light as to our perception : so God allows us to have a natural love to our father, mother, &c. yet whenever they come in competition, all these affections must be suspended. You must love Christ and heaven above them all; though you must still retain a love to those comforts and mercies that God hath given unto you; yet you must hate and despise all in comparison of Christ; and as the apostle saith, “ if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.” Whatsoever may be objected to you to divert you from following Christ and pursuing heaven, you must in the resolution and habit of your souls despise it, and prefer Christ and heaven before it. 66 Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Rev. 2. 10. Be faithful in that covenant which God hath made with you in the gospel, whatsoever befal you ; though it be the loss of life itself you must be willing to submit to it, that you may obtain heaven, When there is such a choice of heaven, it will have a blessed command and influence upon our whole lives. Now for your comfort consider these words of Christ, Luke 10. 42. “ but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her.” O if your choice of heaven be sincere, firm, and constant, heaven shall never be taken from you; if all the powers of darkness, and wicked men conspire together, they cannot take from you eternal life; they may take away your temporal life; but this shall bring you to that life that
: is eternal.
2. Exercise your thoughts frequently and seriously upon this eternal rest. The apostle you shall find, 2 Cor. 4. 18. declares what it was that gave him courage ; " while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." While we are here in this lower world, and our souls confined to flesh, we are not able to conceive of heaven, according to its excellency and glory; we are not able to form proper conceptions of it, such as are answerable to its greatness and worth. But God hath been pleased to make such a discovery of heaven to us in the world, and in such fit and effective representations, that we may exercise our thoughts comfortably upon it. When Moses came from conversing with God on the mount, there was such a lustre on his face as dazzled the eyes of the Israelites ; they were not able to see the face of heaven upon the earth, they could not bear it, and though he put on a veil, that they knew it was Moses. So the admiring amazing beauty of heaven we cannot see it unveiled; God hath therefore thrown a veil over it, and he hath through that veil discovered so much of the glory of heaven, that we know it is the most glorious state and the supreme happiness of the soul. Therefore we should entertain our souls with such representatives of heaven, as what the scripture makes, to set forth the joys of it. The scripture saith," it is an eternal feast.” It is said, we shall “ sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.” It is an allusion to the manner of their entertainments. You know a feast is made for love and joy, and friendship. So this is an eternal feast, the souls of the blessed are always delighting themselves in God and one another. And then again, to represent the glory of heaven, the scripture expresseth it to you under the notion of a kingdom, which is the highest degree of earthly glory; and it is called an everlasting kingdom, and a crown of life; and all this to show us that it is the highest dignity that the reasonable nature is capable of. Then to show the riches of this kingdom, it is called the “ incorruptible inheritance” that shall never fade; nay, to comprehend all together, the scripture tells us, “we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” We shall enjoy God in heaven, who is the infinite and indeficient fountain of all good. So that now take into your thoughts, as distinctly as you can, what the joy of heaven is, and what the riches and glory of it are. Then be diligent to serve and glorify God, and prepare for heaven. know all christians are not fit for meditation, that being so exalted a duty, and heaven so sublime a subject. Yet still there may be an ascent of our thoughts towards it, according to the several representations.
By meditation and serious thoughts we taste and see the goodness of God; and we may enter into that rest, while we are here, by our serious and frequent thoughts of it.
3. Keep up in your souls lively and earnest desires after it. It is the character the apostle gives of all christians, 2. Tim. 4. 8. they love Christ's appearing. “ Henceforth (saith the apostle Paul) 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.". But you will say, the bitterness of death is not passed. How shall we come to heaven without dying. Let me tell you, the desires of heaven, in a saint, are superior to all his earthly desires. For this desire of heaven, is an overruling one. When Simeon, by an oracle, was told, that as soon as he should see Christ he should die, Luke 2. 26. he did not delay his going to see Christ. It is said, “ he came by the Spirit into the temple.” His desires were drawn forth to see Christ; and how warmly did his desire beat for heaven, that as soon as he had seen him he might depart and be with God for ever. “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” And the apostle tells us, Rom. 8. 21:9 “ the whole creation groaneth and travaileth until now; and not only they, but we ourselves also which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” They that have received the firstfruits of the Spirit, by experience know what a blessed thing it is to have the favour of God, and they are inwardly breathing and longing after the full enjoyment of him in heaven. Their adoption, that shall be declared with all solemnity and glory at the great day. “ The redemption of their bodies ;” that is, the final accomplishment of their redemption : they that have the firstfruits of the Spirit, they long after it.
4. Always preserve your hopes of heaven lively, and powerful in your souls. Hope is a grace that hath a most admirable inAuence upon the christian life. Faith and hope are twins, they prosper together. They are those two graces that are influential upon all other graces, and they will make a christian do any thing, or suffer any thing for God. It is the hope of heaven that always purifies us, that makes us with joy encounter all the allurements and terrors we meet with in the cause of God. The scripture compares it to armour, and makes it one of the chief parts of the spiritual armour, the breastplate of hope and love. It is that which defends us against all the fiery darts of satan and wicked men. Indeed if we deface the seal of the Spirit, and blur our evidences, it will make us act in the service of God, just as a limb out of joint ; that is, neither with strength nor comeliness. But if we act grace lively, it will give continual vigour to us in God's ways, and make us wait for the salvation of God. As we read of Jacob, when he was blessing his sons, he breaks out into a rapture, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” This hope will make us wait for salvation till God is pleased to give it. If I have hope, as an anchor, it will make me outride all storms, and cheerfully to endure all troubles for the obtaining of salvation.
5. and Lastly, If you would prepare for eternal life, O then be careful to keep the Lord's day holy. For the sabbath here is a short abridgment of our eternal rest : it is, in truth, an anticipation of it. · Heaven, I told you, is a sabbath rest, it is such a rest as implies the most noble, excellent, vital and joyful exercise of the soul in the entire service of God. And that person that accounts the sabbath-day honourable, and esteemeth it his delight, and says as David, “ a day in thy courts is better than a thousand; I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than