« PreviousContinue »
rest consists in the full and glorious enjoyment of God; and he that makes not God his chief good, and ultimate end, is in heart an idolater, and does not take the Lord for his God.
Let me, then, ask thee, Dost thou truly in judgment and affection, account it thy chief happiness to enjoy the Lord in glory, or dost thou not?
Canst thou say with David, “ The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup?" And again, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee?" If thou be an heir of heavenly rest, it is thus with thee. Though the flesh will be pleading for its own delights, and the world will be creeping into thine affections, and thou canst not be quite freed from the love of it; yet in thy ordinary, settled, prevailing judgment and affections, thou wilt prefer God before all things in the world.
1. Thou makest him the end of thy desires and endeavours. The reason why thou hearest and prayest, why thou desirest to live and breathe on earth is chiefly this, that thou mayest seek the Lord, and make sure of thy everlasting rest. Thou « seekest first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Though thou dost not seek it so earnestly and zealously as thou shouldst, yet is it the chief object of thy desires and endeavours; and nothing else is desired or preferred before it, " for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
2. Thou wilt think no labour or suffering too great to obtain it; and, though the flesh may sometime shrink or draw back, yet
art thou resolved and content to go through all; Matt. vii. 13; Luke xiv. 26, 27.
3. If thou be an heir of everlasting rest, thy valuation of it will be so high, and thy affection to it so great, that thou wouldst not exchange thy title to it, and thy hopes of it, for any worldly good whatsoever. Indeed, when the soul is in doubts of enjoying it, perhaps it may rather desire the continuance of an earthly happiness, than to depart out of the body with fears of going to hell. But if he were sure that heaven
would be his own, he would « desire to depart and to be with Christ," as being “far better.”
But if thou be yet unconverted and unsanctified, then is it quite the contrary with thee in all these respects; then dost thou in thy heart prefer thy worldly happiness and thy fleshly delights before God; and though thy tongue may say, that God is the chief good, yet thy heart does not so esteem him. For,
(1.) The world is the chief object of thy desires and endeavours. Thy very heart is set upon it; thy greatest care and labour is to maintain thy estate, or credit, or fleshly delights. But the life to come has little of thy care or labour. Thou didst never perceive so much excellency in the unseen glory of another world, as to draw thy heart after it,
set thee to labour assiduously for it. God has but the world's leavings; he has merely that time and labour which thou canst spare from the world, or those few cold and careless thoughts which follow thy constant, earnest, delightful thoughts of earthly things. (2.) Therefore it is that thou thinkest the way
of God too strict, and wilt not be persuaded to the constant labour of conscientiously walking according to the gospel rule ; and when it comes to this, that thou must forsake Christ or thy worldly happiness, thou wilt risk heaven rather than earth.
(3.) If God would but give thee leave to live in health and wealth for ever on earth, thou wouldst think it a better state than this everlasting rest.
II. The second mark which I shall give thee to try whether thou be an heir of everlasting rest, is this, As thou takest God for thy chief good, so “ thou dost heartily accept of Christ for thy only Saviour and Lord to bring thee to this rest.” The former mark is the sum of the first and great command of the law, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” or above all. This latter mark is the sum of the first and great command of the gospel, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And the performance of these two is the whole sum or essence of godliness and Christianity. Observe, therefore, the several parts of this mark.
1. Dost thou feel that thou art a lost condemned creature, in consequence of sin ? And dost thou believe that Jesus Christ has made a sufficient satisfaction to the law ? Dost thou heartily consent that he shall be thy Saviour, renounce all trust in thy works and duties, as a ground of thy acceptance, and build thy hopes of salvation on the righteousness of Christ Jesus, and on it alone ?
2. Art thou content to take him for thy only Lord and King, to govern and guide thee by his laws and Spirit, and to obey him even when he commands the hardest duties, and those which cross most the desires of the flesh? And though the world and the flesh do sometimes entice and overreach thee, yet is it thy ordinary desire and resolution to obey him, so that thou wouldst not change thy Lord and Master for all the world ? Thus it is with every true Christian.
But if thou be a hypocrite, it is far otherwise with thee. Thou mayest call Christ thy Saviour and thy Lord, but thou never foundest thyself so lost without him, as to drive thee to seek him, and trust him, and lay thy salvation on him alone. Or, at least, thou didst never heartily consent that he should govern thee as thy Lord; nor resign up thy soul to be ruled by him ; nor take his word for the law of thy thoughts and actions. It is likely thou art content to be saved from hell by Christ when thou diest : but in the meantime he shall command thee no further than will consist with thy worldly estate, or honour, or pleasure. And if he would give thee leave, thou wouldst far rather live after the world and the flesh, than after the word and the Spirit.
But especially I would have you observe, that in all this it is the consent of your hearts or wills, which you are to inquire after ; for that is the most essential act of justifying faith. I do not therefore ask, whether thou be assured of salvation ; or whether thou believest that thy sins are pardoned, and that thou art beloved of God in Christ. These are no parts of jus
tifying faith ; but excellent fruits of it, and they tha: receive, are comforted by them; but perhaps thou mayest never receive them while thou livest, and yet be a true heir of everlasting rest. Do not say, then, “ I cannot believe that my sins are pardoned, or that
God's favour, and therefore I am not a true believer." This is a most mistaken conclusion. The question is, whether thou dost heartily accept of Christ, that thou mayest be pardoned, reconciled to God, and so saved ? Dost thou heartily consent that he who bought thee shall be thy Lord, and take his own course to bring thee to heaven? This is justifying saving faith ; and this is the mark thou must try thyself by.
Thus I have laid down these two marks, which I am sure are such as every Christian has, and none but sincere Christians. O that the Lord would now persuade thee to the close performance of this self-trying task,—that thou mayest not tremble with horror of soul when the Judge of all the world shall try thee; but have thy evidence and assurance so ready at hand, that the approach of death and judgment may revive thy spirits, and fill thee with joy, and not appal thee, and fill thee with amazement !
Use Fourth.—The present doctrine teaches us why the people of God suffer so much affliction in this life. They are not yet come to their resting place. It is still in reserve. We would all fain have continual prosperity, because it is easy and pleasing to the flesh; but we consider not the unreasonableness of such desires. We are like children, who if they see any thing their appetite desires, cry for it; and if you tell them that it is unwholesome, or hurtful for them, they are never the more quieted ; or if you go about to heal any sore they have, they cannot bear you should pain them, though you tell them you cannot otherwise cure them. Their sense is too strong for their reason; and therefore reason little persuades them. Even so it is with us, when God afflicts us. He gives us reasons why we should bear them; so that our reason is convinced, and yet we cry and complain as much as ever. It is not reason, but ease that we must have. What cares the flesh for argument, if it still suffer and smart? But methinks Christians should have another palate than that of the flesh, to try and relish providences by. God has purposely given them the Spirit to subdue and over-rule the flesh. And therefore I shall here give them some reasons of God's dealings in their present sufferings, whereby the equity and mercy thereof may appear.
I. Consider that labour and trouble are the ordinary way to rest, both in the course of nature and of
grace. The day for labour goes first, and then the night for rest follows. Why should we desire the course of grace to be perverted, any more than the course of nature, seeing the one is as perfect and regular as the other? It is the established decree, “That through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom;" and what are we that God's statutes should be reversed for our pleasure ?
II. Consider that afflictions are exceedingly useful to us, to keep us from mistaking our resting place. The most dangerous mistake that our souls are capable of, is to take the creature for God, and earth for heaven. And yet, alas, how common is this! and in how great a degree are the best guilty of it! Though we are ashamed to speak só with our tongues, yet how oft do we say in our hearts, “ It is good to be here !” Alas, how apt are we, like foolish children, when we are busy at our sports and worldly employments, to forget both our Father and our home! Hence it is a hard thing for a rich man to enter into heaven, because it is hard for him to value it more