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not to be named with one moment's enjoyment of God in heaven. As if one person could feel the poison and stings of all the torments, miseries, and calamities that all men endure in this world, it were nothing compared to the prepared plagues for the wicked in hell. If you have reason and faith to exercise your serious thoughts, nothing deserves your utmost endeavours but heaven. If you will not be guilty of the most stupid folly, then seek the kingdom of God, and the righteousness of it.
The good will of God, and the sufferings of Christ, the supreme canses of
bestowing this rest : yet it is a reward, and in what sense. Merit excluded by God's absolute right to our obedience, and the quality of our good actions; which proceed from spiritual powers, restored by free grace; aod are very imperfect; and no benefit to God; and there is no proportion between them and heaven. The blood of Christ mingled with them does not make thein meritorious.
iv. I shall, in the next place, proceed to prove, that this rest is reserved as a reward to the people of God; in the opening of this, I will show you,
First, What are the supreme causes of this, that so you may not misunderstand the notion of a reward.
Secondly, That this is a reward for the people of God; in what sense you must take it.
Thirdly, I will prove to you by clear irresistible arguments, that there is a rest remaining for the people of God.
First. There are two supreme causes of this rest the scripture speaks of: the first is the eternal pleasure and good will of God to prepare this rest for his people, and to prepare his people for it : so you shall find; “ fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Our Saviour comforts his disciples with this: where you may observe by the way, that it is not only said to be the good pleasure of God to give the saints this heavenly kingdom, but it is attributed to him as our Father : so that our possessing heaven is not by way of purchase, but gift. We are as heirs, as children of God; we are not purchasers, but inheritors of it, as the children of our heavenly Father. To bring' this home to your bosoms, it is God's good pleasure to give this to his children as a Father, he dispenseth it. to his children, and to them alone. There are two things included in the natural relation of a Father.
1. That he communicates being to a child; he is the secondary author of its life.
2. He communicates that life which he possesseth himself, as to the kind and nature of it: these two things are essentially requisite to denominate a man a father. Now that you may know whether you are the objects of this love of God, he gives it, Ist. To those that are born of him, that receive a new nature from bim, John 31. 13. “ which were born not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." 2dly. This new nature is called in scripture the divine nature, 2 Pet. 1. 4. “ whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature.” Now there are two characters in this divine nature, whereby a saint is like to God; that is, the holiness and the immortality of that nature. Ist. The holiness of it; for God is a holy God, and his life is a life of holiness : and so all his children, to whom this heavenly kingdom is designed, are “ holy as God is holy in all manner of conversation.” 2dly. That holy nature hath immortality in it: so the apostle tells us, 1 Pet. 1. 23. “ being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever:” that which is bestowed upon us is an immortal seed, that shall be always springing up till it come to perfection. Bring this home to yourselves; are you under the good pleasure of God? Are you sensible of it, that you are heirs of his kingdom and love? It must arise from hence that you are his children. Consider further, the good pleasure of God is made here the prime cause that appoints this eternal kingdom unto his children; the good pleasure of God is that which dispenseth this glory to them, and at last will put them into the actual possession of it.
It is said to be his good pleasure, his love, his pure and mere mercy, Jude 21. “ keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” It is a mercy which giveth us glory at the last: it is not only mercy that appoints it, but it is pure love that giveth us possession of it. 2dly. The next cause of this eternal rest which the saints have bestowed upon them is, the Lord Jesus Christ : so you shall find, Rom. 6. 23. “ for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord :" where you see still that eternal life is attributed to God as a free gift. The Greek word signifies, most gratuitous, most free, undeserved, and the pure effect of grace. “ The wages of sip is death;" that is, it is a righteous recompence of sin, eternal death : (for you must understand it by the opposition to eternal life ;) eternal death is a righteous recompence of sin. If you consider that God against whom it is committed, so it deserves an eternal punishment; but the gift of God is eternal life.
If you consider the sufferings of Christ, or his obedience in those sufferings, it will appear that to him we owe eternal life: consider what that death was that he suffered for us, Heb. 2. 16. he expiated the guilt of sin, and dissolved that bond whereby we were obliged to eternal punishment, the death of Christ did that. If you could prescind and abstract the sufferings of Christ from his obedience, his sufferings might only free you from hell. But now the obedience of Christ was so perfect in itself, and so glorious to God, his obedience to the death of the cross, whose divine nature had an infinite worth in it, and whose human nature was spotless holmess, he procured for us a right to heaven; not only a freedom from ruin, but a right to a higher glory than was lost in Adam. Therefore we must attribute all to the love of God in Christ, on the account whereof the apostle breaks forth into a most solemn acknowledgment, Rev. 1. 5. “ unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen."
Now with respect to Christ's redeeming us from hell, and bestowing heaven upon us, we owe to him homage, worship, and praise for the heavenly kingdom, and we shall praise him for
ever. So that here are the two supreme causes of this rest, the love of God, and the purchase of Christ.
Notwithstanding this, the scripture tells us, (and we may safely speak the words of scripture) that this rest is reserved as a reward to the people of God; so you shall find that expression, Matt. 5. 11, 12. where our Saviour encourageth the persecuted saints; “ blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.
Now for the understanding of this, you must distinguish; there is a double notion of reward. 1st. A reward strictly taken; and so a reward is a righteous recompence that is given to a person as an allowance for a due service, according to the proportion of its worth. So you shall find Deut. 7. God commandeth that we shall not detain the reward of the hireling, &c. But in this sense heaven cannot challenge any thing from God as a Teward, in a strict sense,
There is a lower sense of a reward, and that is, when there is a recompence given for a service that was due, and mean in itself, but it is given from the bounty and pure liberality and riches of the rewarder. Now in this sense you must understand it, when heaven is said to be a reward of the doing or suffering of the saints, because in the order of giving, it is a reward after our service performed to God: it hath the nature of a reward, because it hath respect to the service of the saints ; but not as a reward strictly due to that service; and that will appear if you do but consider,
Ist. The quality of the person. 2dly. The quality of the service,
Ist. Consider the quality of the person; and here are these things to be considered.
(1.) That God hath an absolute right to all his creatures, so that by their obedience to him, they can merit nothing. All their power of acting, and all their faculties are from him. They can deserve nothing; all is his own, 1 Chron. 29. 14. “Of thine own have we given thee,' saith David: the product of our inward and outward strength; all our talents are from God. That I may illustrate this by a similitude that you all understand; the apostle Paul wrote to Philemon, to prevail with him for a kindness to Onesimus ; and it is an epistle very insinuating, where there is an intermixture of many powerful arguments. verse 8, 9. “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love-sake I rather beseech thee being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ, I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds, which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and me; whom I have sent again ; thou therefore receive him that is mine own bowels.” After the apostle had used all the address of love, he makes use of a strain that which is the most artificial and powerful, verse 18. “ If he hath wronged thee, or oweth ought, put that on my account.” A strange piece of rhetoric with which he concludes his arguments : “ I Paul have written it with my own hand, I will repay it; albeit I do not say to thee, how thou owest to me even thine own self besides.” It was but a small return he desired at his hands, considering how much he owed to Paul; probably he was his spiritual father. Therefore gratitude might oblige Philemon to answer his desire in this. Had Paul such a right in Philemon as that he owed himself to him, being his spiritual father, and an instrument of his conversion in bringing him to the knowledge of Christ; how much more do we owe ourselves to God, owe all to him, and therefore can merit nothing of him?
(2.) Another thing, with respect to the quality of our persons is this, the meanness and vileness of our persons; so that whatsoever comes from us, cannot possibly merit any thing of God. Abraham was a great prince, and a
man that had abundance of treasure; but when he speaks to God he abaseth himself, and says, Gen. 18. 27. “ Behold now I have taken upon me to speak to the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.” And John the baptist, though a person of eminent holiness, yet when he speaks of Christ, John 1. 27. “ He it is who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” And the blessed virgin who had the honour to be the mother of Christ, how doth she break forth into praises of the Lord, with a reflection upon her own meanness, Luke 1. 46. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; for behold from henceforth all generations