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felicity. There is no satiety of the present, no solicitude for the future. Were there a possibility, or the least suspicion of losing that happy state, it would cast an aspersion of bitterness upon all their delights; it would disturb their peaceful fruition, and joyful tranquillity: as hope in misery allays sorrow, so fear in happiness dashes joy: and the more excellent the happiness is, the more stinging would be the fear of losing it. “ But the inheritance reserved in heaven, is immortal, undefiled, and fades not away." And the tenure of their possession is infinitely firm, by the promise of God, who is truly imnutable, and immutably true, and by the divine power, the support of their everlasting duration. Our Saviour assures his disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also: and he lives for evermore.” This blessed privilege the saints have by Jesus Christ (who obtained eternal redemption for them) above the grace given to angels and men in the first creation. The angels were upon trial of their obedience, not in a determined state of felicity. The first declination of love and subjection, was fatal to them. Woful change! how unlike to themselves in their original purity and glory! an unparalleled example of the frailty of the creature, and the divine severity. Man did stand in paradise for a little while, and had a ruinous fall with all his progeny. “ But the glorified saints sit with Christ in heavenly places,” and enjoy an unchangeable happiness, as permanent as the everlasting author of it, and the everlasting soul the subject of it. “With God is the fountain of life.” Who can pluck them out of the bands and bosom of a gracious God? He will never withdraw his love, and they shall never forfeit it: for sin is from the perverseness of the will and the disorder of the affections, joined with some error of the mind, But in the light of glory, and full enjoyment of God, the understanding is so perfectly illuminated, the will and affections so exceedingly satisfied, that it is impossible they should apprehend erroneously, or desire irregularly. God is love, and will kindle in the saints a pure affection that eternity shall not lessen. In the present state, our love is imperfect; and as fire out of its sphere dies away by our neglect to feed it by proper materials, enamouring considerations of God. But in heaven the uncreated sun attracts every eye with the light of his beauty, and inframes every heart with the heat of his love. The glorious presence of God is in different respects the cause and effect of our
love to him ; for the sight of God is the most powerful attractive to love him, and love fixes the mind upon him. And the persevering love of God assures the constant fruition of him : for by love the supreme good is possessed and enjoyed. The apostle
“ charity never fails,” and therefore the happiness of heaven never fails. They enjoy a better immortality, than the tree of life could have preserved in Adam. The revolutions of the heavens, and ages, are under their feet, and cannot in the least alter or determine their happiness. After the passing of millions of years, still an entire eternity remains of their enjoying God. O most desirable state! where blessedness and eternity are inseparably united. O joyful harmony! when the full chorus of heaven shall sing, “ this God is our God for ever and ever.” This adds an inhnite weight to their glory. This redoubles their joys with infinite sweetness and security: for the direct pleasure of enjoying God, is attended with the pleasant reflection it shall continue for ever. They repose themselves in the complete fruition of their happiness. God reigns in the saints, and they live in him for ever. Eternity crowns and consummates their felicity.
From what has been discoursed we should,
1. Consider the woful folly of men in refusing such a happiness, that by the admirable favour of God is offered to their choice. Can there be an expectation, or desire, or capacity in man of enjoying a happiness beyond what is infinite and eternal ? O blind and wretched world! so careless of everlasting felicity. Who can behold without compassion and indignation, men vainly seeking for happiness where it is not to be found, and after innumerable disappointments flying at an impossibility, and neglect their sovereign and final blessedness? An error in the first inquiry might have some colour of an excuse ; but having been so often deceived with painted grapes for the fruits of paradise, that men should still seek for substantial blessedness to fill the soul, in vain shows that can only feed the eye, is beyond all degrees of folly. Astonishing madness! that God and heaven should be despised in comparison of painted trifles. This adds the greatest contumely to their impiety. What powerful charm obstructs their true judging of things ? What spirit of 'error possesses them? Alas, “ eternal things are unseen!” not of conspicuous moment, and therefore in the carnal balance are esteemed light, against temporal things present to the sense. “ It does not appear what we shall be:” the veil of the visible heavens covers the sanctuary, where JESUS our high-priest is entered, and stops the inquiring eye.
But have we not assurance by the most infallible principles of faith, that the Son of God came down from heaven to live with us, and die for us, and that he rose again to confirm our belief in his “ exceeding great and precious promises" concerning this happiness in the future state? And do not the most evident principles of reason and universal experience prove, that this world cannot afford true happiness to us? How wretchedly do we forfeit the prerogative of the reasonable nature, by neglecting our last and blessed end? If the mind be darkened, that it does not see the amiable excellencies of God, and the will be depraved, that it does not feel their ravishing power ;
the man ceases to be a man, and becomes like the beasts that perish. As a blind eye is no longer an eye, being absolutely useless to that end for which it was made. And though in this present state, men are stupid and unconcerned, yet hereafter their misery will awaken them, to discover what is that supreme good wherein their perfection and felicity consists. When their folly shall be exposed before God, angels, and saints, in what extreme confusion will they appear before that glorious and iminense theatre? Our Saviour told the unbelieving Jews, “ There shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves turned out.” They shall be tortured with the desire of happiness without possible satisfaction. It is most just that those who err without excuse, should repent without remedy.
Let us be seriously excited to apply ourselves with inflamed desires, and our utmost diligence to obtain this unchangeable happiness. In order to this, we shall consider the causes of it, and the means whereby it is obtained.
The original moving caụse is the pure rich mercy of God that
prepared it for his people, and prepares them for it. The procuring cause is the meritorious efficacy of Christ's obedience and sufferings. This is expressly declared by the apostle ; " the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
i. The designing, the preparation, and actual bestowing of the heavenly glory, is from the mercy of God. This will appear by considering,
1. That it is absolutely impossible that a mere creature, though perfect, should deserve any thing from God: for enjoying its being and powers of working from his goodness, the product of all is entirely due to him; and the payment of a debt acquires no title to a reward : he is the proprietary and Lord of all by creation. Hence it is clear, that in the order of distributive justice nothing can be challenged from him.
2. Besides, such is the infinite perfection of God in himself, that no benefit can redound to him by the service of the creature. “When you have done all, say you are unprofitable servants, for we have done but what we ought to do.” The neglect of our duty justly exposes to punishment; but the performance of it deserves no reward, because no advantage accrues to God by it. “ Who hath first given unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” He challenges all creatures, even of the highest order. To speak strictly therefore, when. God crowns the angels with glory, he gives what is merely his own, and does not render what is theirs. If he should leave them in their pure nature, or deprive them of their being, he were no loser, nor injurious to them. For what law binds him to enrich them with immortal glory, who are no ways profitable to him, or to preserve that being they had from his unexcited goodness ? No creature can give to him, therefore none can receive from him, by way of valuable consideration.
3. There is no proportion between the best works of men, and the excellency of the reward, much less an equivalence. It was the just and humble acknowledgment of Jacob to God, “ I am less than the least of all thy mercies,” those that common providence dispenses for the support and refreshment of this temporal life. But how much less than the glorious excellencies of the supernatural divine life, wherein the saints reign with God forever? The most costly, the most difficult and hazardous
services, are equally nothing in point of merit, with the giving but “ a cup of cold water to a disciple of Christ,” there being no
a correspondence in value between them and the kingdom of heaven. The apostle tells us, “I count the sufferings of this present life are not to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us:" and suffering is more than doing. God rewards his faithful servants, not according to the dignity of their works, but his own liberality and munificence. As Alexander having ordered fifty talents of gold to be given to a gentleman in poverty to supply his want : and he surprised with that immense bounty, modestly said, ten were enough; he replied, if fifty are too much for you to receive, ten are too little for me to give; therefore do you receive as poor, I will give as a king.” Thus God in the dispensing his favours does not respect the meanness of our persons or services, but gives to us as a God. And the clearest notion of the Deity is, that he is a being infinite in all perfections, therefore all-sufficient and most willing to make his creatures completely happy.
4. If a creature perfectly holy, that never sinned, is incapable to merit any thing from God, much less can those who are born in a sinful state, and guilty of innumerable actual transgressions, pretend to deserve any reward for their works. This were presumption inspired by prodigious vanity. For,
(1.) By his most free grace they are restored in conversion to that spiritual power by which they serve him. The chaos was not a deader lump before the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, than the best of men were before the vital influences of the Spirit wrought upon them. And for this they are so deeply obliged to God, that if a thousand times more for his glory were performed, yet they cannot discharge what they
(2.) The continuance and increase of the powerful supplies of grace to the saints, who even since their holy calling by many lapses have justly deserved that God should withdraw his grieved Spirit, are new obligations to thankfulness : and the more grace, the less merit.
(3.) The best works of men are imperfect, allayed with the mixtures of infirmities, and not of full weight in the divine balance. If God should strictly examine our righteousness, it will be found neither pure nor perfect in his eyes, and without favour