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bestowed upon it, there result the noblest, and purest, and most exalted operations of the soul; and herein they consist : in the contemplation of God, and his glorious excellencies, and wonderful works, and in the continual love and praises of God, the admiring of him, and the esteeming of his excellencies and works, and in the continual enjoying of him. Thus the heavenly state is often set forth by the seeing of God; Matt. 5. 8. “ blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God :" Heb. 12. " and without holiness no man shall see the Lord." And it is set forth by the praising of God; Isa. 6.3. “ and the seraphims cried one to another, and said, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” And so you shall find, Rev. 5. 13. “ every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever, and ever.” This is the work of heaven: and indeed we cannot entertain any proper conception of heaven otherwise : for observe, the glorifying the creature is not for itself, but in order to the glory of God. God doth not take the soul and transport it to heaven, that the soul should be merely happy in the enjoyment of God, but that God might be glorified in glorifying the creature. So that you cannot otherwise conceive of this rest, this divine and heavenly rest. Now here God acts like a wise and holy God, all his actions terminate in his own glory. This one consideration of heaven, that it is a holy rest, is that which makes it vnamiable, and undesirable to carnal
It is true, such may desire it as a refuge from hell : but they desire it not as a state wherein they are to be always conversant in the love of God, and in the praises of God, and the everlasting enjoyment of him. Carnal men cannot taste it, they have not a proper palate for it : it can only draw forth the heart of the saints : and yet, let me tell you, this is the substantial blessedness of heaven.
There is a question among philosophers, whether happiness consists in our action, or merely in our enjoyment ? And we must determine it doth consist in both. It is not our mere passive reception of the glory of God that is our happiness, without our active returns to him, our glorifying him, the Author and Fountain of all,
It is a joyful rest. This set forth by the joy of holy men in this life, in pare
don, grace, and hope of heaven. The grounds of this joyful rest; viz. freedom from all toil in the service of God, from afflictions of all sorts. Compared to the joy of harvest; and of a victory. Which must be great, because of the dangerous enemies that are overcome, and the prize that hereby is secured; and it is an entire, absolute, final victory.
ii. THE second excellency of our rest in heaven, is this, it is
, not only a holy rest, but it is a joyful rest. And for the opening of this, there are many things which I shall propound to you.
1. Consider the kingdom of heaven hath several degrees. There is a lower degree of it that is possessed here. You shall find in one scripture our Saviour tells his hearers, that “ the kingdom of God is within them.” And if you compare that scripture with what the apostle saith, Rom. 14. 17. “ the kingdom of God is not in meats and drinks, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” You will find that in this life we have the first degrees of the heavenly kingdom. We have the first degrees of it as to the righteousness and holiness of it, and as to the peace and joy of it while we are here. And therefore we read of the firstfruits of the Spirit, and of the earnest of the Spirit: that is, the operations of the Holy Ghost, whether the graces or comforts of the saints here, are the firstfruits and earnests of the heavenly state. Now this I lay as a foundation, that so I may raise your thoughts to consider what the joy of the heavenly life is. Consider, in this life there are three things that are matter of spiritual joy to the saints, which afford so rich, so replenishing and satisfying a joy to them, that all the pleasures of the world are dilute and tasteless to them, and they bear with magnanimity all the troubles of this world. Let us a little consider them, that so we may thereby exalt and raise our thoughts to conceive of the glory of heaven. There are three things that are matter of our joy here.
(1.) Reconciliation with God in Christ, the pardon of sin. This the apostle particularly instanceth in; Rom. 5. 1. “ being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The peace and joy that arises from hence, the apostle tells, Phil. 4. 7. “ passeth all understanding,” not only with respect to the causes of it, it being purchased by the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God; but the sense of it while we are here, exceeds all possible expression ; our understandings cannot find out words large enough to declare the joyful sense we have of it. For the soul that hath felt what an intolerable burthen sin is, to have the pardoning mercy of God upon solid grounds declared to it, it brings down heaven into the soul, it is a very paradise here. O my brethren, he that enjoys the pardoning mercy of God by the light of faith, hath a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
(2.) Another thing that is matter of our spiritual joy is, when the work of grace is carried on prosperously in the soul. When religion in its radiancy and vigour governs in our hearts. There is nothing more joyful to a holy person than this; and accordingly as sin is subdued, and temptations effectually resisted, and grace doth obtain more degrees of power within us, proportionably according to the righteousness and holiness of this kingdom, is always the joy and peace of it, unless it be in particular temptations. I speak of the usual course with God's people ; this makes the soul willing to suffer the loss of outward things, if its inward graces thrive and flourish.
(3.) As the favour of God, and the image of God, are the causes of this joy, so the hope of eternal glory. This the scripture often mentioneth : Rom, 5. 2. “ rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.” And it is said in another place,“ rejoicing in hope;" and Rom. 15. 10. “ rejoice ye Gentiles with his people. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” We have not only joy of present reconciliation, but of believing that we shall come to the consummating joy above. I lay this down for raising your thoughts by this consideration : if that joy that is in the breast of a saint is so great, that the strength, and virtue, and efficacy of it will make him despise all that the carnal world so much esteemeth, and endure all that the carnal world so much fears; then ascend in your thoughts, and consider what is the joy of heaven; if the
earnest and firstfruits of it will make a christian rejoice, and “ glory in tribulation !” Rom. 5. 3. I remember it is the observation of Tertullian in the primitive times, that when the christian church was under the most terrible persecution, the very heathen were induced to consider what the religion was, that fortified men to endure the greatest miseries with that serenity of soul, with that joy, with that triumph. He observes that several heathens were induced to consider the excellency of religion, and to say, certainly this religion is divine, it is the offspring of heaven, that can make poor 'creatures endure such troubles with joy. Now (my brethren) there is as much difference between what the saints attain and enjoy in this world, and the joys of heaven, as there is between sipping at a cistern, and entering into the ocean of joy. Here the joy of heaven enters into the saints, but hereafter they shall enter into that joy. “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Matt. 25. 31. Heaven is the element of joy, the immense ocean of joy, where the souls of the people of God are always filled to the utmost capacities. O consider how joyful that state must be, which so infinitely transcends and exceeds the joy that the saints have here! And yet the apostle Paul, who was a man of sorrows, 1 Cor. 6. 5. “ in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;" saith he, “ we are as sorrow
, , ful, yet always rejoicing.” He speaks of his troubles with a diminution, as sorrowful; as if they only touched his skin, and did not pierce his flesh ; but he had his heart full of joy. But now this fulness of joy, the perfection of it is above. Consider this joy of heaven, this heavenly rest;
2. There is in it a freedom from all toil which we endure in the service of God. While we are here below, our bodies are the instruinents of our souls; and though “ the spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak:” therefore it is requisite there should be an intermission of the most serious, intent, and most immediate service of God, because our sensitive faculties would otherwise be wasted, and sink under the burthen. He that plays upon a lute is fain to relax the strings, lest by a constant stretching of them the strings should break. But we shall cease in heaven from all that labour that is wearisome to our sensitive parts : for although the bodies of the saints shall for ever be joined with their souls in the service of God, yet their bodies there shall be
spiritual bodies ; “ it is sown a natural body, but raised a spiritual body.” 2. Cor. 15. 44. Spiritual, not with respect to the substance of the body, for it is impossible that flesh should be converted into spirit; but it is a spiritual body, as it is fitted for those spiritual exercises in heaven, and as it hath spiritual endowments that qualify it for that state. So that in heaven there shall be no weariness and no occasion of relaxing us from the service of God, for the refreshing and recruiting our strength. But on earth no saint can continue with constancy and invariableness in the discharge of his duty, but he will waste his strength and spirits, and want refreshment. Indeed our Saviour did do the will of his heavenly Father without intermission; but every saint while he is living in the flesh, needs some relaxation, in order to a more vigorous service of God: but in heaven, in that eternal rest, we shall be freed from all that is toilsome and wearying in the serving and glorifying God.
3. There shall be a rest from all those afflicting evils which we are liable to upon a double account. Either, Ist. Those afflictions that are attendant upon our mortal state: those afflictions which though they are not the immediate punishments of sin, yet are the consequences of sin. It is said, that “ man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward:” you know sparks do naturally ascend; so man in this mortal state is naturally liable to trouble, and many times the most excellent servants of God are under painful and languishing diseases, so that they can neither live nor die; how many times are they exposed to those calamities which swiftly range through the world, which strike first upon one, and then upon another ? Though yet they are overruled by a superior providence. In heaven they shall be freed from all that is afflicting, that will any way discompose or distress their rest. 2dly, Besides these common calamities, there are special afflictions that the people of God are obnoxious to; while there is any in this world that hate the image of God, and oppose the glory of God, his people are liable in a special and peculiar manner to their rage and fury: for there was no age as yet, but there have been enemies to the saints as saints: as the apostle saith, “he that loveth him that begat, will love him also that is begotten of him.” So on the contrary, one who hates him that begat, will hate him also that is begotten of him. We read, John 12. they had a design to murder Lazarus, because