« PreviousContinue »
waiting on God, he will leave you to any damnable unbelief, or to an unholy, sensual life,
But because the strengthening of our belief herein is the most needful thing, even to the best, both for their hope, and joy, and duty, and all that understand themselves must earnestly desire, that their belief of the gospel, and the life to come, did reach to a satisfying certainty; I will shortly repeat the proofs that must ascertain us, though I have largely done it in my books: called “The Life of Faith,' and 'The Reasons of the Christian Religion,' and “The Unreasonableness of Infidelity;' I care not how oft (when necessary) I repeat them, and wish that they were more of the daily study of those that now study controversies, or only superstructures.
I. And first, nature giveth us these arguments to prove man's future state.
1, God hath made man with an essential capacity, to think and care, as his greatest concern, what shall become of his soul when he dieth; and God maketh none of his works in vain, much less so noble ą one as man.
2. A bare probability of the life to come, as now revealed, with our certainty of the brevity and vanity of this life, maketh it the interest and certain duty of all men in the world, to be far more careful for their future state, than for the body, and this present life. He liveth against reason that doeth not this,
3. And can a wise man believe that God bindeth all men, by their essential reason, to make the care of a thing that is not, or ever shall be, to be the chief business of their lives, and that deceit and falsehood should be the guide of all our greatest actions, and man should be made to follow a lie, to his everlasting disappointment? Judgė reasonably, whether this be like to be the work of the most great and wise and holy God.
4. History and experience assureth us, that it is the expectation of a life to come, the hope of reward there, and the fear of punishment, which are God's means, for the actual government of mankind. And though many atheists are in the world, and more Sadducees and unbelievers, yet few, if any, are wholly such, but have consciences that keep them in some awe; and laws and professed religion tell you, that it is hopes and fears of another life, which are the ruling principles ; which, as they reign in the best, so few of the worst will directly contradict; and were it not for such fears of punishment hereafter, the lives of no princes or enemies would be safe from destroying malice,
policy, or power. And is it likely that this world is governed by a lie, by that God who wants no power, wisdom, or love, to govern it by truth; and who inaketh the best men the greatest haters of lying, that they may be like him?
5. And how comes the belief of the soul's immortality to be so common a principle in the nature of man, if it be not true?
II. But seeing it is the gospel that must give us the full and satisfying certainty, keep these few evidences of its truth continually printed on your minds.
1. Remember that promises, types, and prophecies foretold Christ's coming long before ; even prophecies sealed with miracles and fulfilled.
2. Remember that Christ's own person and doçtrine did bear that image of God, which is unimitable; and had that power, wisdom, and love, which prove them to be of God. God's image and superscription discernible by holy minds, doth difference the gospel from all the words of fallible men,
3. Remember that it was proved to be of God, by multitudes of open and uncontrolled miracles; and God will not work miracles remedilessly to deceive mankind, especially the great miracle of Christ's resurrection, (long by him foretold,) and his visible.ascending up to heaven.
4. The sending down the promised Spirit on the apostles, and on other believers then, for languages, miracles, prophesyings, &c.; and the long exercise of these tongues and miracles by many, and in many parts of the world, and the gathering of the churches by them,
5. The full and certain historical conveyance of these matters of fact to us, in and by the sacred Scriptures, church ordinances, and tradition, (as the statutes of the land are delivered us,) without any weakening contradiction of the said history or fact.
6. Above all, the continued testimony of God's Spirit in all true believers, that is, the same Spirit which endited the Scripture, writeth it out on all holy souls, or formeth, reneweth, and disposeth them to answerable holiness ; even to the image of God, in holy light, and love, and life, and to a heavenly mind and conversation, and to be sober, just, and loving to all. And God would never bless a lie, to do the greatest work in this world, to make inen good and like himself; and, remember, that the whole frame and tendency of the Spirit's sanctify. ing work on souls, is to prepare them for a life to come, by 66 Lord,
causing them to believe it, desire it, hope for it, and seek it, - and hate sin, and part with any thing to obtain it. All sound believers have this work upon them, and are of such a mind and spirit ; and this spirit or holy nature in them, is Christ's witness and theirs. They have the witness in themselves. (1. John v. 10.)
7. And remember that even the malice of Satan affordeth us much help to confirm our faith. It is notorious that he keepeth up through all the world a war against Christ, and against our hopes of future glory. How he followeth men with inward, importunate temptations against their own interest and reason, and what proof of his malice we have in human wickedness, and in witches, witchcrafts, or operations on bodies, apparitions, &c., I have so often proved to you that I will now forbear the repetition. And doth not all this contain assuring evidence of the truth of Christ, his gospel, and our future hopes?
Use. Come, then, fellow-Christians. Let us pray, increase our faith ;" let us detest all suggestions which tend to unbelief, and so would bring us to the rank of brutes, and to despair ; let us live according to our most holy faith, and show ourselves and others that we heartily believe that the servants of Christ that follow him, shall be with him where he is. Oh, pray for faith! Meditate for faith. Lament your unbelief. O fools that we are, and slow of heart to believe a gospel so revealed and confirmed! Why are we so fearful of dying, O we of little faith! Were but this one text written on our hearts, and turned into faith and hope, yea, did we believe Christ speaking it but as confidently as we believe and trust a parent, or a tried friend, for any thing promised which is in their power, yea, or but as confidently as we can trust their love without a promise, oh, how joyfully should we live and die ! Oh! bend your prayers and best endeavours against the unbelief and doubtings of the gospel, and the unseen world. Were your faith here strong, it would bring you to that holiness which would much end your doubts of your own sincerity and part in Christ.
Had we nothing else to prove the sinful weakness of our faith, but our uncomfortable thoughts of the life to come, and the state of our departing souls, alas ! how sad an evidence is it. Come on then, Christians. Think further what this text containeth, and beg of God that you and I may believe it as we need, and as Christ deserveth to be believed. Think what it is to be with Christ. We shall be with our compassionate, great High Priest; with him that came down in flesh to us; with him that loved us to the death, and redeemed us by his blood to God, and will make us kings and priests for ever. We shall be with him that is gone to prepare a place for us; in his Father's house he hath many mansions. (John xiv. 3.) It was not a mere man; it was not an angel that made us this promise, but the Son of God, who hath confirmed it by four seals, his blood, his miracles and resurrection, his sacraments, and his Spirit.
Are you afraid that your souls shall die with your bodies? Christ is not dead, and we shall be with him. It is his promise, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John xiv. 19.) The article of his descending to Hades, called hell, is to tell us that Christ's soul died not with his body, yea, it went that day to Paradise. Our Head and we shall not be separated. Are you afraid of going to hell Christ is not there. Are
afraid lest God forsake you? He forsaketh not Christ, though, for our sakes, he once in part forsook him that we might not be forsaken.
Can you fear devils, or any enemies? Where Christ is glorified, there come no devils, enemies, or fears. We are here with him as chickens under the wings of the hen. (Matt. xxiii. 37.)
How safely and how joyfully then shall we be lodged in the bosom of eternal love!
But we see not the place, nor what our departed friends enjoy. But Christ seeth it, who is there.
• But we see not Christ. But firm belief will make us love him, and rejoice with unspeakable. glorying joy. (1 Pet. vi. 8, 9.) But we cannot conceive of the state ana opera ions o
a separated soul, nor where it is, nor how God is there enjoyed.
But is it not enough to believe that we shall be with Christ, and fare (in our measure) no worse than he ? If you are afraid lest Christ be deceived, or deceive you, that is a sinful fear indeed. But if you only fear lest you have no part in him, consent to his covenant, do but give up yourselves in obedience and trust, though not in perfection, yet in sincere desire and resolution, and then you have no just cause to sear it.
O sirs, why do not our hearts rejoice, when we think that we shall shortly be with Christ? Here we have ill company too oft; implacable enemies, unsuitable and sinful friends, and worst of all, a foolish and perverted heart, that is in effect our greatest enemy. But where Christ is, none of this is so.: With
him we shall have the company of our holy, departed friends ; even all of them that we conversed with in the flesh, whom we lamented and wept over as if they had been lost. We shall with Christ have the company of innumerable angels, and all the faithful from the days of Adam.
And oh ! how much better will Christ's own glorious presence be, than his presence in humbled flesh was to his followers on earth. Here Christ was a despised, crucified man.
There even his body is more glorious than the sun, and the heaven or holy city needs no sun, because God and the Lamb is the light thereof. Spirits are there in confirmed holiness, and not left to that imperfect liberty of will, which lets in by abuse all sin and misery on the world. They strive not in the dark in ignorant zeal, or mixtures of error and selfish partiality as we do here. There are no silencers of the holy ministers that continually sing Jehovah's praises. There is no malignant calumny or persecutión, no envious reproach of one another, or striving who shall have his will, or be master of the rest. But holy love uniteth, animateth, and delighteth all, for it is God that they love in one another. There is no selfish, foolish fear lest individuation cease, and saints shall be too much one, and all be one common soul. In a word, to be with Christ is to be perfect in holiness and glory, in God, in the heavenly society, in the joys of sight, and love, and praise, delivered from the bondage of corruption, from sin and fear, and from temptation and troubles of all our enemies.
IV. But yet the promise here saith more, “ If any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” The Father's love did give us the Redeemer, and the Father's love shall glorify us with him. What is the honour that is here meant ? Honour sometimes signifieth advancement in general, making one great and happy. (Numb. xxii. 17, 37, and xxiv. 11, and xxvii. 20; 1 Kings iii. 13; 1 Chron. xvi. 27; Psalm viii. 5; 1 Sam. ii. 30.) And sometimes it signifieth the provision and maintenance which is due to deserving superiors, which is half the double honour due to the elders that rule well, especially that labour in the word and doctrine. (I Tim. v. 17.) And sometimes it is taken for a magnified, praised state. God will honour faithful Christians all these ways; he will advance them to the highest dignity they are meet for; he will give them the most bounteous provisions of his household, even more than they can now desire or believe. He will make them kings and priests to God, and