« PreviousContinue »
constant and persevering, or it will fall short of rest To begin in the spirit and end in the flesh will not bring the saints to Heaven. The certainty of the saints' perseverance, does not render admonition to constancy useless. Men seemingly as holy as the best of us, ve fallen away. He that knew it to be impossible to deceive the elect, yet saw it necessary to warn us that he only "that endureth to the end, shall be saved." Christ's own disciples must be commanded to continue in his love, and that by keeping his commandments. The promises of Heaven in the epistles to the seven churches of Asia, are, in like manner, all addressed "To him that overcometh."
All these things are implied in a Christian's motion, and so pre-supposed to this rest; and he only that has the pre-requisite qualifications shall have the crown. Here, therefore, should Christians lay out their utmost care and industry. See to your part, and God will certainly see to his part. Look to your hearts and duties, in which God is ready with assisting grace, and he will see that you lose not the reward. The rest is glorious, and God is faithful. Christ's death is sufficient, and the promise is universal, free, and true. You need not fear missing heaven through the deficiency or fault of any of these. But yet for all this, the falseness of your own hearts, if you look not to them, may undo you. If you doubt of this, believe the Holy Ghost: "Having a promise left us of entering into his rest, let us fear lest any of you should seem to come short of it."
THE NATURE OF THE HEAVENLY REST.
WE proceed to consider, first, the nature of this Rest. Let us not remain in the outward court only;
ascend the steps; let us look within the veil. But, alas! how little know I of that whereof I am about to speak! The glimpse which Paul had, revealed that which could not or must not be uttered. But if he had had a tongue to utter it, it would have done no good, unless his hearers had possessed understandings to comprehend it. If he had spoken the things of heaven in the language of heaven, and none had understood that language, what better had we been? The Lord open our eyes and show both you and me his inheritance; not, however, as Balaam, whose eyes were opened to see the goodliness of Jacob's tents, and of Israel's tabernacles, in which he had no portion; nor as Moses, who had only a discovery, but not the possession, and saw the land which he never entered; but as the pearl was revealed to the merchant in the gospel, who rested not till he had sold all he had, and bought it; or as heaven was opened to blessed Stephen, which he was shortly to enter, and the glory shown him which was soon to be his own possession.
I. This rest implies a cessation from motion or action; not, however, of all action, but merely of that which partakes of the nature of a means, and implies the absence of the end. When we enter the haven, we have done sailing; when the workman receives his wages, it implies he has done his work; when we are at our journey's end, we have done with the way. All means cease when we have the end. "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail: whether there be tongues, they shall cease: whether there be knowledge," so far as it had the nature of a means, and was imperfect, "it shall vanish away." In like manner, faith may be said to cease, for the objects of faith shall be in possession. There shall be no more prayer, because no more necessity, but the full enjoyment of what we prayed for. Neither shall we need to fast, and weep, and watch any more, being out of the reach of sin and temptations. Nor will there be further use for instructions and exhortations; preaching is done; sacraments are useless; the ministry of man
ceases; the labourers are called in, because the har vest is gathered, the tares burned, and the work finished; the unregenerate are past hope, and the saints past fear, for ever. Much less shall there be any need of labouring for inferior ends, as here we do, seeing they will all resolve themselves into the ocean of the ultimate end, and the lesser good be wholly swallowed up of the greatest.
II. This rest implies perfect freedom from all the evils that accompanied us in our course on earth, as well as from those eternal flames which the neglecters of Christ will inevitably endure. As God will not know the wicked so as to own them, so neither will heaven know iniquity so as to receive it. For "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie." No such thing as grief and sorrow is known there. Nor is there such a thing as a languid body, helpless infancy, decrepit age, pining sickness, consuming care, harassing fears, nor any thing that deserves the name of evil. We did "weep and lament," when "the world did rejoice;" but our "sorrow is turned into joy, and our joy shall no man take from us."
III. This rest implies the highest degree of perfection, both of soul and body. This will qualify them to enjoy the glory, and to taste the sweetness of it. Here" eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;" for this eye of flesh is not capable of seeing them, nor this ear, of hearing them, nor this heart, of understanding them; but there the eye, the ear, and heart, are made capable of comprehending and enjoying them. The more perfect the sight is, the more delightful the beautiful object; the more pure the appetite, the more delicious the food; the more musical the ear, the more pleasant the melody. In like manner, the more perfect the soul, the more joyous to us are those joys, and the more glorious that glory.
IV. This rest implies the near fruition of God, the chief good. And here, wonder not, O Christian, if I be at a loss in my apprehensions and in my expressions. If to the beloved disciple, who had beheld Christ, and Moses, and Elias, on the mount of Transfiguration, and who leaned on his Master's bosom, it did not "appear what we shall be," but only in general, that when Christ "shall appear we shall be like him," no wonder if I know but little. When I know so little of God, I cannot know much what it is to enjoy him; when I know so little of my own soul while it is here in this tabernacle, how little must I needs know of the infinite Majesty, or of the state of this soul, when it shall be advanced in that enjoyment? What strange conceptions has a man born blind of the sun and its light; or a man born deaf, of the nature of sounds and music? So we yet want that sense by which God can be clearly known.
As all good whatsoever is comprised in God, and every thing in the creature is but a drop of this ocean; so all the glory of the blessed is comprised in the enjoyment of God, and if there be any mediate joys there, they are but drops from this. "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me." Every word is full of life and joy. If the queen of Sheba had cause to say of Solomon's glory, "Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants that stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom," then surely they that stand continually before God, and see his glory, are somewhat more than happy. To them Christ will "give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Yea, "He will make them pillars in the temple of God, and they shall go no more out: and he will write upon them the name of his God, and the name of the city of his God, new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from God." Nay, more, if more can be, "He will grant them to sit with him in his throne, even as he also overcame and has sat down with the Father in his throne. How delight
ful is the following representation: "These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: And he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat: For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." How sublime, how transporting is the following description: "I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, having the glory of God, and his light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper-stone, clear as crystal, and it had a wall great and high, and it had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and the foundations of the wall were garnished with all manner of precious stones; and the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl; and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it; and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them that are saved, shall walk in the light of it; and they shall reign for ever and ever."
What presumption would it have been, ever to have thought or spoken of such things, if God had not spoken them before us! I durst not have thought of the saints' preferment in this life, as the Scriptures set it forth, had it not been declared by God himself. What arrogance would it have been to talk of being sons of God; of having fellowship and communion with him; of dwelling in him and he in us, if this had not been God's own language! How much less durst we have