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life and glory which God hath promised to believers; a believer trusts it with God. I have trusted my eternal happiness with God, the crown of life I trust with him. He is gracious and powerful, and can bring me through all the dangers and temptations and troubles of this present world to eternal felicity; although they interpose between me and the divine world, and my body must descend to the grave before I can obtain life, yet I know divine power can raise me from the dead and bring me to eternal life and glory.
It is an interesting inquiry, which next demands our attention; why this rest remains, and shall be given us afterwards. At present it is an unseen rest, it is above our reach, it remains, saith the apostle, we do not possess it yet. Why is God thus pleased to dispense and give us it?
I answer; 1. In general; the infinite wisdom of God appears in the order of giving; observe the expression of Paul, Eph. 1. 8. The apostle in these words hath a respect to the particular foundation of the gospel-covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ. God did in a wise manner order that the honour of his justice might be secured and yet his mercy advanced. The apostle, speaking of the forgiveness of sins in the blood of Christ, herein appears saith he the wisdom of God to honour his justice and holiness, and advance the riches of his grace; the wisdom of God appears in the whole constitution of the gospel, in framing the covenant of grace so, that rest and blessedness shall be dispensed as a future reward, to the people of God, that are obedient to the death : so that as the combat goes before the triumph ; and the race before the crown, so a life of service and obedience always goes before the eternal enjoyment of God above.
2. More particularly. It is that which is most honourable to God; and infinitely comfortable to his people. Honourable to God;
(1.) As he is pleased to honour himself, by the trial of their faith, which is a grace of that precious nature and importance, that the apostle Peter tells us, that the trial of it is much more precious than gold. 1 Pet. 1.7. How honourable is it to the truth and power of God when a believer doth give credit to his relation of the unseen world, firmly believing, that there is another life after this ; another happiness that sense cannot discoyer; as firmly believing this as if he saw it. What an honourable testimony is this to God, when his word shall be such a security, that we can venture our all upon it! Abraham when he had given such an excellent testimony of his faith, believing the promise of God that he should have a son in his old age, though he was dead in nature as to generation, it is said, he believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness : God esteemed that as a noble testimony of his faith, and consequently rewarded him for it. So those who are clothed with flesh, and are conversant only with sensible objects in this lower world, when they can give such credit to the promise of God concerning invisible and eternal things, as to govern themselves entirely in their lives, with respect to them; this is giving God as much glory as we are able while we are in this state.
(2.) For the trial of the truth and strength of our love to God, whether we will prefer the enjoyment of him hereafter before all the pleasure of this fading world. Love is best discovered by comparison and choice: when things are presented to your will, and you despise the allurements of the one, and chose the other, this discovers love. There are in competition with you the vanities of the world gilded over, and very pleasing to sense; but God sets against them an everlasting reward in heaven, the enjoyment of himself as our portion. Now when in the midst of all these tempting vanities, I chose God for my portion (Lam. 3. 24.) though that choice divest me of all that fools admire, and that carnal men choose ; it declares that my love to God is cordial and real, is predominant, and hath a pre-eminence above all other affections. How honourable is it to God, when the creature loveth him above life, and all the comforts of life! God reserves this reward then, for a trial of our love.
(3.) He is honoured by our sincere obedience. Did a present temporal reward always attend holiness, who could tell whether men served God for nought or no? You know the devil cast it as a reproach upon Job, when God had hedged him about, and given him a princely abundance, and he seemed the happiest man in all the east; as if Job's obedience to God, was merely the effect of that temporal happiness he enjoyed. But God is pleased to offer to us an eternal estate, and this estate is a future one, and an estate that hath many incumbrances upon it, that must be removed before it be enjoyed. You must pass through many difficulties on the one hand, and on the other; and you cannot come to it without dying; and whether it be a natural death, or a violent one you cannot tell. Our obedience is from pure love to his majesty ; for the rest that is in heaven, is the enjoyment of the law of God: so it is pure love that can animate a christian to despise all things in comparison of God. Now consider how honourable our superlative love is to him. It is true it would be equally bounty for God to take a person to heaven as soon as he hath formed him; but it is more honourable to God, when we have such a love to him. And hence it is most comfortable to God's people; and who would not choose such a way as doth most clearly and undissemblingly express our love to God ?
Application of the Subject.
How sad is the future state reserved for God's enemies. The false principles
and motives of their present peace: false apprehensions of the mercy of God: future purposes ! Plunging themselves into worldly business and pleasures. A miserable state remains for them. They shall be deprived of this rest; which alone will be very afflictive, because they shall perfectly understand what they lose; that this is owing purely to their owo folly, for the sake of perishing vanities. They shall be in a state of positive misery, directly contrary to the happy state of heaven ; and an eternal
If there be such a rest “ remaining to the people of God;" we may hence infer how sad is that future state that remains for God's enemies in another world. And these contraries being set together will illustrate one another. O the heavy doleful state that remains for those who are rebels against God! It is true, here they may have rest ; they may be quiet and undisturbed in their minds, and sleep securely in the very shadow of death. But the fearful awaking they will have when they come into eternity! . O the strange convulsions of conscience then, and those dreadful disorders and tumults that will be in their souls ! To make this more clear and affecting to you, I will a little touch upon those false principles and motives of peace and rest that wicked men have here, which will shortly all be taken away: and then I will show you what a restless condition they will be in, in the next life; what an incessant remorse will torture them to the days of eternity.
As to the false principles of reason, there are some that are very obvious and very necessary to touch upon. We find that these two attributes of conscience meet together, a bad conscience and a quiet. None more secure, none more undisturbed, than those that are in infinite danger of ruin. And although God tells us, there is no peace to the wicked, there is no solid well-grounded peace; yet the scripture tells us in another place, Deut. 29. 19. “And it comes to pass when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of my heart, to add drunkenness to thirst ; the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man."
1. I will show you a little the vanity of this peace. Now that which lies at the bottom of all is this : they have false apprehensions of the mercy of God. They have a false peace and we cannot rob them of it, but whatsoever is spoken to them against it, they notwithstanding still cherish it. It would be a great charity to rob them of this false peace; but they will flatter themselves, and say, God is infinitely merciful, and they hope, he will not be so severe as preachers declare him to be. Nay though the book of God hath threatening and thundering words against the wicked, yet they are no more afraid of those threatenings, than a company of boys are of their squibs and crackers which are of their own making. God is more gracious than he is re. presented to us, say they; therefore they will put their souls to venture. I shall only tell these deceived wretches, that though they can never enough amplify the mercy of God, for it is infinite ; let them remember, God's mercy is a holy mercy, and a just mercy: and there are other perfections in God besides bis mercy, and that God will glorify his mercy in a way suitable to his own nature. O vain man, never be bold upon this attribute, whilst thou hast the character of one of God's enemies. Observe the Lord Jesus Christ, the meek Lamb of God, who was made of love and mercy; observe what he saith to the pharisees, which is applicable to all wicked persons, Mat. 23. 33. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers how can you escape the damnation of hell ?” With what zealous indignation doth he speak! Perhaps you may think you are not such sinners as the pharisees. Do not deceive yourselves; all that are unregenerate are a generation of vipers, Rom. 1. 29. 30. Read that catalogue of sinners being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, &c. Such as these shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven. You think you may obtain heaven because you are such as these; but see what is written, John 3. 3. “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee; except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Consider, I beseech you, in what a solemn manner our Saviour speaks this to Nicodemus. This Christ himself the purchaser of divine mercy hath assured us of. What a vain thing is it to be at rest with false presumption, that a man shall do well because God is merciful ; while he doth not believe what God declares of his justice and holiness.
2. Another common motive of their rest and quiet is this ; press them to a speedy turning to God, then they will tell you, that they will secure their title to heaven at some future time. They think they have time enough yet: they will escape hell by an act of future repentance. But O dread this and consider the certain shortness and uncertain continuance of life! O remember if it please thy Judge, thy death is as near thee, as thy sin that deserves it! Thou canst not have the least security that thou shalt survive this sermon. Therefore to put off repentance is such folly and stupidity that no man would be guilty of in a temporal respect. Were it not commonly practised, one would think it so absurd a folly, that human nature were incapable of it. We carry our lives in our hands as David speaks. 66 There is but a step between us and death.” If sickness should seize you suddenly, how terrible would it be to have the first death and the second invading you at once!
3. Another motive and false principle is this; they plunge themselves into the business and pleasures of the world. . Into