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to him. Though this perseverance be certain to true believers, yet it is made a condition of their final salvation. And eternally blessed be that hand of love which has drawn the free promise, and subscribed and sealed that which ascertains to us, both the grace which is the condition, and the kingdom which on that condition is pledged to us.
Thus, I have given you a brief enumeration of the essential characteristics of the people of God, not a full portraiture of them in all their excellencies, nor all the marks whereby they may be discerned. And though it will be part of the following application to put you upon trial, yet because the description is now before your eyes, and is fresh in your memory, it will not be unseasonable, nor unprofitable for you, to take an account of your state, and to view yourselves in this glass before you pass on any further. I beseech thee, therefore, as thou hast the hope of a Christian, and the reason of a man, to search carefully, and judge thyself as one that must shortly be judged by the righteous God, and faithfully to answer these few questions which I shall here propound to thee.
I will not inquire, whether thou rememberest the time or the order of the workings of the Spirit on thy soul. There may be much uncertainty and mistake in that. But I desire thee to look into thy heart, and see whether thou find such works wrought within thee, and then, if thou be sure they are there, it is not so material though thou know not when or how thou camest by them.
Hast thou, then, been convinced of the universal depravation of thy soul, and of the universal wickedness of thy life? Hast thou seen how vile a thing sin is, and that, by the tenor of the law which thou hast transgressed, the least sin deserves eternal death? Hast thou perceived thyself sentenced by it to this death, and been convinced of thy natural undone condition ? Hast thou seen the utter insufficiency of every creature, either to be itself thy happiness, or the means of curing thy misery, and making thee happy again in God? Hast thou been convinced that thy happiness is only in God as the end, and only in Christ as the way to him, and that thou must be brought to God by Christ, or perish eternally ? Hast thou seen the full sufficiency that is in Christ to do for thee whatsoever thy case requires, by reason of the dignity of his person, the greatness of his power, the fulness of his satisfaction, and the freeness of his promises ? Hast thou discovered the excellency of this pearl to be worth thy selling all to buy it? Has all this been joined with some sensibility of heart, like the convictions of a man that thirsts, of the worth of drink, and not merely a change of opinion produced by reading or education, as a bare notion of the understanding ? Has it proceeded to an abhorring of sin, I mean in the bent and prevailing inclination of thy will, though the flesh do attempt to reconcile thee to it? Have both thy sin and misery been a burden to thy soul? And if thou couldst not weep, yet couldst thou heartily groan under the insupportable weight of them ? Hast thou renounced all thine own righteousness? Hast thou turned thy idols out of thy heart so that the creature has no more the sovereignty, but is now a servant to God and to Christ ? Dost thou accept of Christ as thy only Saviour, and expect thy justification, sanctification, and glorification from him only? Dost thou take him also for thy Lord and King ? Are his laws the most powerful commanders of thy life and soul, and do they ordinarily prevail against the commands of the flesh, of Satan, and of the world, and against the greatest interest of thy credit, profit, pleasure, or life? Has Christ the highest room in thy heart and affections, so that, though thou dost not love him as thou wouldst, yet thou lovest nothing else so much as him? Hast thou made a hearty covenant to this end with him, and delivered thyself up to him, and taken thyself for his, and not thine own? Is it thy utmost care and watchful endeavour, that thou mayest be found faithful in this covenant; and though thou fall into sin, yet wouldst thou not renounce thy bargain, nor change thy Lord, nor give up thyself to any other government for all the world? If this be truly thy case, thou art one of these people of God, of whom my text speaks; and as surely as the promise of God is true, this blessed rest remains for thee. Only see thou abide in Christ, and persevere to the end; for it is they only who endure to the end that shall be saved; but “if any draw back, his soul will have no pleasure in them.'
But if no such work has been wrought within thee, if thy soul be still a stranger to all this, and thy conscience tell thee it is none of thy case, the Lord have mercy on thy soul, and open thy eyes, and change thy heart; for in the case thou art in, there is no hope Whatever thy deceived heart may think, or how strong soever thy hopes be, yet wilt thou shortly find to thy cost, except thy conversion prevent it, that thou art none of the people of God, and that the rest of the saints belongs not to thee. Thy dying hour draws near, and so does that great day of separation, when God will make an everlasting difference between his people and his enemies. Then woe, forever woe to thee, if thou be found in the state which thou now art in ! Thy own tongue shall then proclaim thy woe, with a thousand times more agony and vehemence than mine can possibly do it now. O that thou wert wise, that thou wouldst consider this, that thou wouldst remember thy latter end, that yet while thy soul is in thy body, and a price in thy hand, and opportunity and hope before thee, thy ears may be open to instruc tion, and thy heart may yield to the persuasions of God; and thou mayest bend all the powers of thy soul about this great work; that so thou mayest test among his people, and enjoy the inheritance of the saints in light!
REASONS WHY THE HEAVENLY REST REMAINS, AND
IS NOT HERE ENJOYED.
I shall now proceed to show you, why it is said this rest remains, and is not to be enjoyed till we come to another world.
· I. The chief reason is, it is not the will of God that we should have our rest on earth. Who should dispose of the creatures, but he that made them; and order the times and changes respecting them, but their absolute Lord, who alone has wisdom to order them for the best, and power to see his will accomplished ? You may, therefore, as well ask, Why have we not the spring and harvest without winter? Or why is not all the world a sun, that it may be more glorious? as ask, Why have we not rest on earth ?
II. It is not the natural order of things that we should have our rest on earth. All things must come to perfection by degrees. Nothing is perfect in its beginning, where the fall brought an imperfection. The strongest man must be first a child ; the greatest scholar must be first a school-boy; the most skilful artificer was first an ignorant learner; the tallest oak was once an acorn.
This is the constant course of nature in the production of sublunary things. Now, this life is our infancy; and would we have God overturn the course of nature for us ?
III. It would deprive God of much honour if we had our rest on earth. If our rest were here, most of God's providences would be useless, and his great designs would be frustrated. Should God lose the glory of all the deliverances of his church, of the fall of his enemies, of the wonders wrought to this end, merely that men may have their happiness on earth? If man had kept his first rest in paradise, God would not have had an opportunity to manifest his far greater love to the world in the gift of his Son. If man had not fallen into the depth of misery, Christ would not have come down from the height of glory, nor died, nor risen, nor been believed on in the world.
And as God would not have had opportunity for the exercise of all his grace, so he would not have had corresponding returns from us. We would never so fear offending him, nor depend on him so closely, nor call on him so earnestly, if we wanted nothing. Do we not even now feel how ready our prayers are to become lifeless, if we be but in health, and prosperous, though we are still far from contentment and rest? How little then would he hear from us, if we had what we would have ? God delights in the soul that is humble and contrite, and trembles at his word; but there would be little of this in us, if we had here our fui, desires. Have not thy own highest joys and praises to God, o Christian, been occasioned by thy dangers, or sorrows, or miseries? We think we could praise God best if we wanted nothing; but experience tells us the contrary.
IV. It would be no small injury to ourselves, if we had our rest on earth. Oh the sweet comforts which the saints have had in returns to their
prayers, when they have been long in sorrow, and God has lifted them up, and spoken peace to their souls, and granted their desires, and said, as Christ to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee; arise from thy bed of sickness, and walk, and live !" How should we know what a tender hearted Father we have, and how gladly he would come forth to meet us, and take us in his arms, if we had not, as the prodigal, been denied the husks of earthly pleasure and profit, upon which the wordling feeds! We should never have felt Christ's tender hand, binding up our wounds, and wiping the tears from our eyes, if we had not been involved in sorrows.
And it would be our loss for the future, as well as for the present. It is a delight to a soldier or a traveller to look back upon his adventures and escapes when they are over; and for a saint in heaven to look