« AnteriorContinuar »
according to their personal character, according to strict distributive justice, without being viewed in . their relation to Christ, they would be immediately thrust down to hell. When we hold up, or when the scriptures hold up, a reward for the righteous, no idea of personal merit is included. All is of grace, because every holy exercise of the righteous is the gift of God. And though in proportion as these holy exercises increase here, and lead to diligence and activity, their crown will be brightened, and their happiness increased in heaven, yet this is not on account of these holy personal exercies, as the meritorious ground ; but solely out of respect to an imputed righteousness.
1. The reward of the righteous is a reward of grace, because the very works, or holy exercises, which it pleaseth God to honor, are the effect of his operation. He rewards the works, of which he is the author, by the influence of his Holy Spirit. According to Isaiah xxvi. 12. “He who ordains peace for us, hath also wrought all our works in us.”
2. The reward, which God bestows upon any of our fallen race, is solely out of respect to the atonement and mediation of Christ. Through the intimate and wonderful union between Christ and believers, they are not only accepted in him, but what they do is accepted and rewarded for his sake. We offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, only by Jesus Christ. There is no blessing so great, but for Christ’s sake, God will bestow it. Neither is there. any service so small, in those who are united to Christ, but for his sake, he will reward it. A cup of cold water, given to a disciple for Christ’s sake, will ensure a disciple’s reward. Thus the reward of the saints is, in every sense, a reward of grace. Their works are wrought in them by the Spirit of God ; and the blessings connected with them, are solely out
of respect to the merits of Christ, and to his offering, as we are said to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ. Again; God's graciously connecting blessings with the obedience and fidelity of his people, serves to show, not only his love to Christ and them, but his regard to righteousness. His love to us, for Christ’s sake, induces him to bless us ; but his love to righteousness, induces him to bless us in this particular way; away which, at the same time that it displays free grace, shall encourage holy activity. This may be illustrated by an example. An affectionate parent designs to confer a number of favors upon his child, and when he has arrived at mature age, to give him a large estate. He wishes also, to leave the mind of his child so prepared, by habits of industry and duty, that he may properly, prize and enjoy the blessing. Therefore, in the course of his education, he holds up his favors, as rewards, or encouragements, to filial duty ; and declares, that his patrimony shall be enlarged, and his favors increased, according to his diligence and activity in the discharge of all filial duty. Now it is evident, that the father, in such a case, does not consider such great favors as properly the child's due, upon the footing of equity. He may require his obedience, without offering any peculiar favor or reward. But being disposed to give, his wisdom disposes him to give in such amanner, as shall encourage diligence and filial duty. It is somewhat in this sense, that God rewards his children, that finding is connected with seeking, justification, with believing, and crowns of glory, with overcoming. It is thus, as well as by the atonement of Christ, that “grace reigns in a way of righteousness, unto eternal life.” The righteous, while they look at the recompense of reward, are fully convinced, that it will be all of free grace, that boasting is excluded, and that they have no room for glorying, but in the Lord. Of this they will be still more convinced,
at the great day of righteous retribution. Then also, the cavils of ungodly sinners will be silenced, the moral government of God honored, and his justice and grace both displayed, while the Judge declares before the assembled universe, concerning the saints, “These shall walk with me in white for they are worthy.” We shall close with a few inferences and reflections.
1. How useful, important, and necessary is a true, genuine faith in Christ? Without that faith, which implies a persuasion that God is, and that he is, through Christ, the gracious rewarder of those that seek him, it is impossible for us to please him. It is faith which looks forward to the blessed recompense of reward, and in view of it, enables us to choose afflictions and trials, when appointed by our heavenly Father, rather than all the riches and treasures of this transitory world.
2. We learn, that to have respect to the recomipense of reward, is perfectly consistent with that disinterested, or holy love, which is implied in true faith, and is the essence of all true, acceptable obedience. Some have supposed, that to be excited to activity in duty, from a view of proposed rewards, implies such a selfishness, as is inconsistent with reak religion. But from what has been said upon the nature of the reward held up to the righteous, we see it is otherwise. We have shown that it consists in being made holy, and permitted to join the heavenly host of saints and angels, in praising and serving God. In a word, that it consists in seeing, loving, and cojoying a holy God. But surely to have respect to this—to be delighted and animated in the prospect of such a reward, implies true religion, or love to God for-his own loveliness. But not to have respect to it—not to be delighted in the prospect of being permitted to see the good of others, and the glory
of God advanced—not to be influenced and engaget by such a prospect, implies criminal indifference to the character of God, and the general good, and such an unholy, corrupt taste, as is inconsistent with true religion. Considering, therefore, the nature of the
reward, we see that it is such, as is impossible to please
and influence men, any further than they are possessed of holy love, or conformity to God. Hence,
3. We infer, that none but true Christians, or saints,
have any real respect to the recompense of reward. They may have a respect, in all their exertions and ||
strivings, to deliverance from future punishment, or natural evil ; but, as to the real reward of the right
eous, the positive happiness of heaven, that which the righteous have their eye directly upon, a happiness | which consists in seeing others happy, in seeing and enjoying God, and spending an eternity in praising
him ; to such a reward, they have no real, or direct respect. It has no influence upon them. We have shown, that to be influenced to exertion, in view of the reward, as Moses was, implies a full belief and persuasion, that there is a reward for the righteous, and that the nature of it is seen and loved. But where true faith is wanting, both these are wanting. None see, love, and desire the reward of the righteous, unless they have faith—unless they are the children of God; for it is a holy reward : and if it were possible to be bestowed upon a sinner, while such, it would give him no happiness. The righteous are induced to give up houses, lands, &c. for the reward, which they shall receive in this life, which is an hundred fold. But how are they to receive it Truly, by having a temper of mind, which delights in the happiness of others. But this is no motive to sinners, or those who are wholly selfish; nor will it have any influence upon them, to give up their selfish pursuits. Thus it is with the reward of the righteous, in the future world. None are pleased
with it—hone have respect to it, and are ready to give up all for it, but those who prefer the glory of God, and the general good, to private, selfish inter£StS. -
Some, in examining themselves, have entertained doubts, fearing they had too much respect to the recompense of reward, and that therefore, their religion was selfish. They indeed, may have respect to deliverance from future punishment, considered as natural evil ; but if this be all, their religion is indeed, selfish. But let them look to the real nature of the reward of the righteous, the enjoyment of a Holy God, and serving and praising him for ever. Let them examine, whether those things are really desirable, and do influence them to diligence and holy activity as they did Moses ; for in this sense, they cannot have too great respect to the recompense of reward. To be uninfluenced by it, is inconsistent with Christianity.
Finally. Let Christians be animated to diligence and holy activity, in view of the glorious reward of the saints ; and be ever ready to suffer affliction, or persecution, in the cause of Christ. “ Fear none of those things,” saith Christ, “which thou shalt suffer; but be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Remember that the greater are your exertions for Christ, the brighter will be your crown. What though you have crosses and affictions? The light affliction is but for a moment, and worketh for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory : while you look, or have respect, not to the things which are seen and temporal ; but to the things which are unseen and eternal. For the sufferings of the present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed. The righteous shall be made perfectly holy—they shall have the approbation of their Judge—they shall See the Redeemer as he is, and be made like him.