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If we sincerely and frequently praise God, we shall therein be like the heavenly inhabitants, and join with them.
That it is the work of heaven shows it to be the most honourable work. No employment can be
No employment can be a greater honour to a man, than to praise God. It is the peculiar dignity of the na. ture of man, and the very thing wherein his nature is exalted above things without reason, and things without life; that he is made capable of actively glorifying his Creator. Other creatures do glorify God; the sun, moon, and stars, and the earth and waters, and all the trees of the field, and grass and herbs, and fishes and insects, do glorify God. Psa. xix. 1–6. Job xii. 7, 8. But herein is the peculiar dignity of the nature of man, that he is capable of glorifying him as a cause, by counsel, understandingly and voluntarily, which is a beavenly work.
2. This doctrine may give us an idea of the glorious and happy state of the saints in heaven. It shows how joyfully and gloriously they spend their time. Joy is a great ingredient in
. a praise. There is an exultation of spirit in fervent praise. Praise is the most joyful work in the world. And how joysul a society are they that join together, so many thousands and millions of them, with one heart and one soul, to sing a new song before the throne, that fill heaven with their glorious melody! How joyful they are in their work, appears in the text, by their fervency in it, so that their voices resounded as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. What ineffable joy was there in those harpers whom John heard harping with their harps !
This shows how different a state the saints are in in heaven, from what they are in this world. Here much of the work to which the saints are called, consists in labouring, in fighting, in toilsome travelling in a waste howling wilderness, in mourning and suffering, and in offering up strong crying and tears. But there in heaven, their work continually is to lift up their joyful songs of praise.
This world is a valley of tears, a world filled with sighs and groans. One is groaning under some bodily pain, another is mourning and lamenting over a dear departed friend; another is crying out by reason of the arm of the oppressor. But in heaven there is no mixture of such sounds as these: there is nothing to be heard amongst them but the sweet and glorious melody of God's praises. There is an holy cheerfulness to be seen throughout that blessed society. Rev. xxi. 4. “ And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying.” They shall never have any thing more to do with sighing and crying; but their eternal work henceforward shall be praise.
This should make us long for heaven, where they spend their time so joyfully and gloriously. The saints especially have reason to be earnestly breathing after that happy state, where they may in so joyful a manner praise God.
3. This may put natural persons upon reflecting on their own state, that they have no part nor lot in this matter.
You are an alien from the commonwealth of Israel. You are not one of the people of God. You do not belong to their society, that are to spend their eternity after that joyful manner, which you have now heard. You have no right nor portion in heaven. If you hereafter come and offer yourself to be admitted into this blessed society, in your present state; if you come and try to be admitted you will be thrust out; you will be driven away. If you come and knock, and cry to be admitted to the wedding, saying, Lord, Lord open unto us, all will be to no purpose ! You will hear no other word except Depart! You shall be shut out into outer darkness. You shall not be permitted to sing among the children, but shall be driven out, to howl among dogs. Rev. xxii. 14, 15. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city; for without are dogs," &c. You are in danger of spending eternity, not in joyfully singing praises, but in a quite contrary manner; in weeping, in wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and blaspheming God, because of your pains, and because of your plagues. You shall see others coming from the east, and the west, and sitting down, with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God: taking their places among that blessed, happy society, and joining their voices in their heavenly music. But you see your lot; you shall have other work to do. Isa. Ixv. 14. “Behold my servants shall sing for joy of heart; but ye
cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit.”
II. In the way of ExHORTATION.-If it be so that praising God is very much the employment of heaven, hence let all be exhorted to the work and duty of praising God. The following considerations will show why we should be stirred up by this doctrine to this work.
1. Let it be considered that the church on earth is the same society with those saints who are praising God in heaven. There is not one church of Christ in heaven, and another here upon earth. Though the one be sometimes called the church triumphant, and the other the church militant, yet they are not indeed two churches. By the church triumphant, is meant the triumphant part of the church; and by the church militant, the militant part of it: for there is but one universal or Catholic church. 'Cant. vi. 9. “My dove, my undefiled, is but one.”
Christ has not two mystical bodies. 1 Cor. xii. 12. “The body is one, and hath many members.” The glorious assembly and the saints on earth make but one family. Eph. iii. 15. “ Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." Though some are in heaven; and some on earth, in very different circumstances, yet they are all united: for there is but one body, and one spirit, and one Lord Jesus Christ. One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in all. God hath in Christ united the inhabitauts of heaven, and the holy inhabitants of this earth, and hath made them one. Eph. i. 10. “ That in the dispensation of the fulness of time, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.” Heaven is at a great distance from the earth: it is called a far country. Matth. xxv. 14. Yet the distance of place does not separate then so as to make two societies. For though the saints on earth, at present, are at a distace from heaven, yet they belong there ; that is their proper home. The saints that are in this world are strangers here; and therefore the Apostle reproved the Christians in his day, for acting as though they belonged to this world. Col. ii. 20. “Why as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances ?»
Some of a people may be in their own land, and some in a strange land; and yet be but one people. Some of a family may be at home, and some sojourning abroad; and yet be but one family. The saints on earth, though they be not actually in heaven, yet have their inheritance in heaven, and are travelling towards heaven, and will arrive there in a little time. They are nearly related to the saints in heaven; they are their brethren, being children of the same Father, and fellow heirs witḥ Jesus Christ. In Ephes. ii. 19, the saints on earth are said to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. And the Apostle tells the Christian Ilebrews, Heb. xii. 22—24, that they were" come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” But how were they come to this heavenly city, and this glorious assembly, when they were yet here on earth? They were come to them, ere they were brought and united to them in the same family. But this is what I would inculcate by all this, that the church of God on earth ought to be employed in the same work with the saints in heaven, because they are the same society: as they are but one family, have but one Father, one inheritance; so they should have but one work. The church on earth ought
to join with the saints in heaven in their employment, as God hath joined them in one society by his grace.
We profess to be of the visible people of Christ, to be Christians and not heathens, and so to belong to the universal church. We profess therefore to be of the same society, and shall not walk answerably to our profession, unless we employ ourselves in the same work.
2. Let it be considered, that we all of us hope to spend an eternity with the saints in heaven, and in the same work of praising God. There is, it may be, not one of us but who hopes to be a saint in heaven, and there continually to sing praises to God and the Lamb; but how disagreeable will it be, with such a hope, to live in the neglect of praising God now! We ought now to begin that work which we intend shall be the work of another world; for this life is given us on purpose that therein we might prepare for a future life. The present state is a state of probation and preparation : a state of preparation for the enjoyments and employment of another, future, and eternal state ; and no one is ever admitted to those enjoyments and employments, but those who are prepared for them here. If ever we would go to heaven, we must be fitted for heaven in this world; we must here have our souls moulded and fashioned for that work and that happiness. They must be formed for praise, and they must begin their work here. The beginnings of future things are in this world. The seed must be sown here ; the foundation must be laid in this world. Here is laid the foundation of future misery, and of future happiness. If it be not begun here, it never will be begun. If our hearts be not in some measure tuned to praise in this world, we shall never do any thing at the work hereafter. The light must dawn in this world, or the sun will never rise in the next. As we therefore all of us would be, and hope to be, of that blessed company which praise God in heaven, we should now inure ourselves to the work.
3. Those works of God's mercy for which the saints in heaven will chiefly praise him, have been wrought amongst us in this world.
The mercy and grace of God for which the saints in heaven will chiefly praise him, is his mercy exercised in the work of redemption, which work has been wrought out in this world. This love of God is the chief object of their admiration, and what they chiefly contemplate, and that employs their most ardent praises.
The grace of Christ, about which their praises will be principally employed, is that he should so love sinful man as to undertake for him, to take upon him man's nature, and lay down
his life for him. We find that is the subject of their praises, in Rev. v. 8, 9. “And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty elders, fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints; and they sang a new song, “ Thou art worthy, for thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.”
They will chiefly praise God for these fruits of his mercy, because these are the greatest fruits of it that ever have been; far greater than the glorifying of saints. The saints in heaven will praise God for bestowing glory upon them; but the actual bestowment of glory upon them, after it has been purchased by the blood of Christ, is in no measure so great a thing as the purchasing of it by his blood. For Christ, the eternal Son of God, to become man, and to lay down his life, was a far greater thing than the glorifying of all the saints that ever have been, or ever will be glorified, from the beginning of the world to the end of it. The giving Christ to die, comprehends all other mercies : for all other mercies are through this. The giving of Christ is a greater thing than the giving of all things else for the sake of Christ. This evidently appears, from Rom. viii. 32. “He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he 'not with him also freely give us all things ?" So that the work of redemption is that for which the saints in heaven do chiefly praise God. But this work has been wrought here, among us in this world. "The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
The Incarnation of Christ was a thing that was brought to pass in this world, and the sufferings and death of Christ were also accomplished on earth. Shall heaven be filled with praises for what was done on earth, and shall there be no praises on earth where it was done?
4. If you praise God sincerely in this world, it will be a sign that you are really to be one of those that shall praise him in heaven. If any man be found sincerely glorifying God, he will in due time be brought to them, as one who is fit to be of their company. Heaven is the appointed place of all sincere praisers of God; they are all to be gathered together there. And no man can sincerely praise God, unless he be one of those who are redeemed from among men, one that God has separated from the rest of the world, and set apart for himself.
5. If we begin now to exercise ourselves in the work of heaven, it will be the way to have foretastes of the enjoyments of heaven. The business and the happiness go together. This will be the way to have your heart filled with spiritual joy and comfort. If you heartily praise God, you shall rejoice in him, and he will show you more of himself, of his glory and love, that you may still have greater cause of praise.