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Christ raised him from the dead; because his divine power and authority was visible in his resurrection : so many hate the saints because God hath quickened them to a divine life, that were dead in sins and trespasses. Do you not see in France at this very time the spirit of persecution and rage raised against the professors of the truth, which except God in mercy extinguish, will end in their ruin? And it is your duty to lay it to heart, and sympathize with them. But in heaven the saints shall be freed from all this : they are not only freed from all calamities, but from all persecutions they are exposed to for the name of Christ. In the next place.
4. They are freed from all sorrowful affections : you shall find the scripture hath expressions more than once about this. It is said, Rev. 21. 4. That “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no suffering, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.” In heaven there is no shadow of sin, no shadow of sorrow, no shadow of death: it is the kingdom of life and joy; all tears are dried up there. Now there are three kinds of tears that flow from our eyes while we are in this world, which shall all be dried up in heaven.
(1.) Our tears of contrition for our offending God, and for fear of the divine displeasure. Othere is no grief more cordial than this! A holy soul that loveth God, is never more deeply serious than when he exercises this affection ; because God is displeased and dishonoured, this is that which pricks their hearts; as we read, Acts 2. 27. “ The Jews were pricked to their hearts,” when they heard that they had crucified the Lord of life. Indeed a hardened stupid wretch, in whom rebellion reigns, he looks upon his sins as a light burden : but a gracious soul is troubled for a vain thought, for an idle word, or an irregular action: the reason is, because a saint hath proper conceptions of the holiness of God, the highest valuations of his favour ; therefore whatsoever is a contradiction to his holy will, whatsoever eclipseth the light of his countenance, he doth most deeply and sensibly lay to heart. In heaven it is matter of their joy, that God hath given them complete victory over all their past sins. Repentance should accompany the soul to the gates of heaven, but it shall never enter there. As we read in the book of Esther, concerning the court of the Persian emperor, it is said that none should come in mourning into his court; so none are to come to heaven in mourning: when once they are admitted into that state, immediately sorrow and sighing fly away. And is not this a joyful rest, when we shall be freed from all sorrow, the most sharp, and wounding, and deepest sorrow, In heaven there is no remembrance of God's displeasure against sin, and therefore no relics of sorrow for it: but the reconciled face and favour of God, is that which fills them with joy. When the prodigal was returned to his father, Luke 15. (that is an instance of a converted person in this life) and confessed his sin penitently and mournfully, the father calls for the robe and ring, kept a festival, and received him into his embraces. O conceive what infinite joy there is in being received into the kingdom of our heavenly Father,
(2.) As in heaven we shall be freed from all tears of contrition, so from all tears of compassion for the sins and miseries of others. They shall be all wiped away in heaven. Good men have the tenderest affections, and are most apt to sympathize with others in their temporal or spiritual troubles. If a saint could live here without sin, or any external trouble as to his own person, yet while he lives among the miserable, and is encompassed with so many spectacles of woe, so many sad sights, he can never be free from sorrow, Our Lord Jesus, when he drew near to Jerusalem, and foresaw the dreadful desolations that were hastening to it, he wept over it. Every saint hath the same mind and affections that Christ hath, and hath melting and tender affections, and a compassionate and sympathizing spirit, with reference to the evils and sufferings of others. Now in heaven all these tears of compassion shall be wiped away. What sense or knowledge the spirits in heaven have of human affairs in this world, is uncertain to us : “It is said Abraham is ignorant of us :" he knows not our afflicted state here, that is, particularly; but the saints above generally know that the saints here are in troubles and conflicts, that the church here is militant. But they that are seated before the throne of God, are incapable of sorrow, and hurtful impressions of it, from all the evils that befal others, as Christ himself is. For they live his life, and they are continually satisfied with his presence : so that it is impossible they should be touched with any sorrowful sense of the evils that befal others. Now is not this a joyful rest, when we shall not only be freed from the sorrow of our own sins, but also from all that sorrow that the spectacles of human misery might draw from us?
(3.) There are those human tears and sorrows that arise from our own personal troubles, that are not for sin, but for the punishment of sin, the troubles that are afflictive to sense. While a man hath a soul here joined to living flesh, the soul will sympathize with all the troubles and afflictions of the body: but in heaven God hath prepared a sanctuary of rest from whatsoever may disturb or afflict us. It is said concerning the church on earth, there shall be no pricking briar, no wounding thorn : but this is eminently true of the church in heaven. So that if you consider the heavenly rest, with respect to the freedom that shall be from all toilsome labour, and all those sorrows that arise from afflictive evils, it may give you some apprehension what the joy of heaven is.
Now this freedom from evil is that which most sensibly discovereth to us the heavenly joy, while we are in this state, and upon this account, because human nature in this life is surrounded with evils, and is more sensibly affected with evil, than it is with that which is good. The life of man, which is a passage through this world, is fitly compared to a voyage through a tempestuous sea; and you may as well reckon the number of waves that impetuously break one upon another, as you can reckon up all the afflictive evils of this life. There is not the life of any single person, but there are so many scenes (if I may so speak) and so many habits and changes in this life, from mourning to joy, and from pleasure to grief and sorrow, that it cannot but be a sensible demonstration how desirable it is to be freed from these things. The truth is, we have here real griefs, but our joys aré empty. Nay, there is nothing that is a temporal comfort, but it hath a hidden sting in it, and may be an occasion of grief and discomfort. So that our present life in this is like a labyrinth of thorns, we walk from one place to another, but still we meet with thorns : but in the heavenly state above, we are free from all these: sorrow and sighing are fled away: the first step we take into the heavenly kingdom, we bid an eternal farewel to grief and sorrow. Doth not this render this heavenly life very desirable, when we shall have nothing at all of impressions of things that are evil; when all the affections shall be in a joyful exercise for ever? This I would have you frequently to consider of, as one affecting notion of heaven. The scripture insists upon it to make it desirable to you. Now before I proceed to speak concerning those things which will be our substantial joys in heaven (for now I am speaking of freedom from misery and trouble) there are two considerations whereby the scriptures represent the joyfulness of this rest, with respect to our labours, sorrows, and conflicts in this life.
Heaven is such a rest from all our sorrows and sufferings, and from all our laborious actions in this life, as we take in the harvest, after all the toil and trouble we have been at in tilling the earth, and preparing it for the harvest. It is compared in scripture to that joy that we receive from taking of the fruit of our labours. The psalmist, when he speaks concerning the afflictions of God's people, hath this very allusion, Psal. 126. 5. “ They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Where you see the afflicted state of godliness in this life is compared to sowing in tears; and the rest and recompence after it, is expressed by bringing their sheaves with joy. Now observe, there is no carnal joy that ariseth from our labours, that is more sensible than this, when we partake of the harvest or of the vintage. It is said there, where the psalmist speaks of carnal joy in its elevation : Psal. 4. 7. “ Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” When our labours that are used towards the earth in ploughing and sowing, harrowing, manuring and watering it, in order to fruitfulness, succeed in a plentiful harvest, this is a time of joy. Now our rest in heaven is a partaking of the harvest and vintage of our labours ; and in this respect it is a great joy. If you will believe a voice from heaven it is so: Rev. 14. 13. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." Their works do follow them; that is, they do enjoy a fruitful harvest of all their works here. They rest from their labours, and have a blessed result from them in heaven. The holy soul enjoys the benefit of all its prayers, of all its tears, of all its sincere services to God, of all its love and charity to men, and of all its earnest endeavours for heaven. The memory then hath a clear and perfect view of all the services that were done God on earth. Now the testimony of conscience in this life is so joyful, that the apostle saith, 2 Cor. 1. 12. “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” When the soul comes to heaven, this testimony of conscience shall be revived and renewed in perfection; so that conscience that was here our comfort, shall be there our eternal crown, and we shall enjoy the fruit of all our own unfeigned endeavours to please and glorify God. Every talent that we have improved for him, shall be infinitely returned to us. And on this account the heavenly rest hath respect to the actions and sufferings of the saints in this life, as the fruit of their labours; so it is a joyful rest.
5. This rest is a joyful rest, as it is represented to us as a rest that is the fruit of victory over all our enemies that we contended with in our way to heaven. When we come to that blessed state, we are then victorious over them, and so that rest is infinitely joyful. Now the scripture makes use of this resemblance. We find Rom. 8. 37. it is said concerning the saints in this life, “ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” Mat. 12. 26. “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.” Judgment, by that is meant grace in the soul ; it is called judgment, because the work of grace is carried on in a rational convincing manner.
The judgment leads the will, and the will commands all the inferior faculties : and “ Judgment shall be brought forth unto victory:" grace shall at last be powerful and victorious over all its enemies. Now there is no joy in the world that is equal to the joy of victory and triumph. And that you may see a little what the joy of heaven will be in this respect, do but consider these things, which make that victory infinitely more sweet and joyful to the soul.
(1.) The danger we are in from the enemies with whom we do contest in our way to heaven. The scripture represents them as formidable because of their enmity, subtilty, strength and great numbers; which shows how infinite our danger is. They are called by the title of their chief and regent,