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standeth forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations." Who then can bereave us of that rest which God hath designed for us by his eternal purpose?
II. This rest is purchased, as well as purposed, for us. It was for this end that God gave his Son, and the Son gave his life. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." Accordingly, the apostle says, it is by the "blood of Jesus that we enter into the holiest of all;" and in the book of Revelation, the saints are represented as ascribing the glory of their salvation entirely to the death of Christ; "Thou art worthy," they sing, "for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Indeed, either Christ must lose his blood and sufferings, and never "see of the travail of his soul," but all his pains and expectation be forever frustrated, or else "there remaineth a rest to the people of God."
III. This rest is promised to us. Christ himself prays, and what he asks will be granted, "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, may be with me, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." On this subject he tells his disciples to dismiss all their fears, " Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” i. e. fear not all your enemies' rage; fear not all your own unworthiness; doubt not of the certainty of the gift; for it is grounded upon the good pleasure of your Father. And again he says, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me a kingdom; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.' 99 In like manner the apostle James says, "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?"
IV. All the means of grace, all the workings of the
Spirit upon the soul, all the gracious exercises of the saints, are so many proofs, that "there remaineth a rest to the people of God." All these means and motions imply some end to which they tend, and no lower end than this rest can be imagined. God would never have commanded his people to repent and believe, to fast and pray, to knock and seek, to read and study, to confer and meditate, to strive and labour, to run and fight, and all this to no purpose. Nor would the Spirit of God impel them to this, and create in them a supernatural power, and enable them and excite them to a constant performance, were it not for this end to which it leads. Nor could the saints reasonably attempt such employments, nor undergo such heavy sufferings, were it not for this desirable end.
V. The saints have even on earth the beginnings, foretastes, earnests, and seals of this rest; and may not all this assure them of the full possession in heaven? The kingdom of heaven is within them. They have a beginning of that knowledge which Christ has said is eternal life. And do you think that God will give the beginning, where he never intends to give the end? Nay, God often gives his people such foresights and foretastes of this rest, that their spirits are even transported with it, and they could heartily wish they might be present there. Paul was taken up into the third heaven, and saw and heard things that were unutterable. And I doubt not but some poor Christians among us, who have little to boast of outward appearances, have often these foretastes in their souls. And do you think that God will tantalize his people? Will he give them the first fruits, and not the harvest? Will he show them glory to set them longing for it, and then deny them the actual fruition? Will he lift them up so near this rest, and give them such rejoicings in the prospect of it, and yet never bestow it on them? Nay, doth he give them "the carnest of the inheritance," and "seal them with the holy Spirit of promise," and yet will he deny them the full possession? These absurdities may not be charged on an ordinary man, much less on the faithful and righteous God.
Lastly, The Scripture speaks of some who have already entered into this rest, as Enoch, Abraham, Lazarus, the thief who was crucified with Christ, and many others. Now, if there be a rest for these, surely there must be a rest for all believers.
But it is vain to heap up Scripture proofs, seeing it is the very end of the Scripture, to be a guide to us to this blessed state; to discover it to us, persuade us to seek it, and to point out the hindrances that would keep us from it. There is, in fact, no one that doubts the certainty of this promised glory, but those who doubt the truth of the Scripture, or else know not what it contains.
THE PERSONS FOR WHOM THE HEAVENLY REST REMAINETH.
HAVING thus considered some of the evidences of this great truth, I shall now proceed to show you who the people of God are, for whom this blessed rest remaineth.
They are then only a part of lost mankind, whom God hath from eternity predestinated to this rest, for the glory of his mercy; whom Christ hath redeemed with an absolute intent of saving; whom the Holy Spirit renews by the power of his grace, and makes in some sort like himself, stamping his image on them, and making them holy as he is holy, and whom he will at length crown with glory, honour, and immortality in heaven.
I. They are chosen by God.
As it is no more excellent a creature than man that is to have this possession, so is it that man who once was lost. The heirs of this kingdom were taken, even from the tree of execution, and rescued by the
strong hand of love from the power of the prince of darkness, who having caught them in his snares, lea them captive at his will. They were once within a step of hell, who are now to be advanced as high as heaven.
That they are but a part of this lost race is apparent both from Scripture and experience. They are "a little flock to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom." Fewer they are than the world imagines; yet not so few as some drooping spirits suppose, who are fearful that God will cast off them, who would not reject him for all the world; and are suspicious that God is unwilling to be their God, when yet they know themselves willing to be his people.
II. They are redeemed by Christ.
God has given all things to his Son, but not as he has given his chosen to him. The difference is clearly expressed by the apostle: "He hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to his Church." And though Christ is in some sense 66 a ransom for all,” yet not in that special manner as for his people.
III. They are regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
Seeing we are born God's enemies, we must be new born his sons, or else remain his enemies still. O! that the unregenerated world knew and believed this, in whose ears the new birth sounds as a paradox; who, because they never felt any supernatural work upon themselves, believe that there is no such thing, but that it is the conceit and fantasy of idle brains; who make the terms regeneration, sanctification, holiness, matter of reproach and scorn, though they are the words of the Spirit of God; and Christ himself has said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The greatest reformation of life that can be attained to, without this new life wrought in the soul, may procure their further delusion, but never their salvation.
Let us now see by what acts this new life discovers itself. Here there are three things which demand our
attention: conviction, change of will, perseverance in grace.
1. Conviction. This comprehends knowledge and It comprehends the knowledge of what the Scripture speaks against sin and sinners, and that the Scripture which so speaks is the word of God. It comprehends a sincere assent to the verity of Scripture, and some knowledge of ourselves, particularly of our guilt, and its consequences.
This conviction comprehends not only knowledge and assent, but sensibility. God works on the heart as well as on the head. Both were corrupted, and out of order; the principle of new life, therefore, quickens both. The knowledge which is merely theoretical, never suitably moves the affections. The doctrines of religion produce in the understanding of an unrenewed soul, but a superficial apprehension, and therefore, can produce in the heart but small sensibility. As hypocrites may know many things, but nothing with the clear apprehensions of an experienced man; so may they be slightly affected. To view in the map of the Gospel, the precious things of Christ, and his kingdom, may slightly affect us; but to thirst for, and drink of the living waters, and to be heir of that kingdom, must needs work another kind of sensibility. The great things of sin, of grace, and Christ, and eternity, which are of weight one would think to move a rock, shake not the heart of the carnal professor. It is true, some soft and passionate natures may have tears at command, when one that is truly gracious hath none; yet is this Christian with dry eyes, more solidly apprehensive and more deeply affected, than the other is in the midst of his tears; and the weeping hypocrite will be drawn to his sin again by a trifle, which the groaning Christian would not be hired to commit, by crowns and kingdoms.
The following are some of the things of which sinners are convinced by the Spirit of God.
(1.) They are convinced of the evil of sin. The sinner is made to know and feel that sin, which was his delight, is, indeed, a loathsome thing; a breach