Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

them to two hundred and eighty-eight sects or conclusions; and Augustine reduceth them to their several heads; but I pass by heathens who are bewildered in the dark, and know no better. Even professing or pretended Christians either do not understand, or will not embrace the way of peace and rest. “ The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They were all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy, there is none that doth good, no, not one," Psal. xiv. 2, 3. All mankind are originally degenerate; and few are regenerated. We set out for hell as soon as we are born; and till converting grace turn us heaven-wards, we go blindfold to the pit. “ The whole world lieth in ignorance and wickedness," 1 John v. 19; but there is no such ignorance as that which is wilful. “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil,” John iii. 19. No man perisheth but by his own will. Men will sin, and love death rather than life. “ You will not come to me, (saith Christ) that you may have life,” John v. 40. He that rejecteth the means, rejecteth the end. “ All they that hate Christ, love death," Prov. viii. 36; they do both, not directly or designedly, but virtually and consequentially. Most men “ observe lying vanities, and so forsake their own mercies,” Jonah ii. 8, as he leaves the east who goes to the west. “My people,” saith God, “ have committed two evils,” observe it, it is but one act, yet there are two evils in it, what are they? they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” Jer. ii. 13. Oh what evil is in the bowels of one sin ! but especially the sin of unbelief. The evil of sin brings on the evil of punishment; miss of heaven, and you arrive at hell. What madman will refuse this gift which is better than gold? what beast will rush down a pit or precipice? But some men make a jest of heaven ; as that bishop, who, when one said, I hope to see you at your diocess erelong, replied, “ I fear I shall be in heaven before that time come;" others, like Martha, “are so encumbered with the world, that they are pinned down to terrene objects; and answer, as he that being asked, if he saw the eclipse, said, No, I have so

much business on earth, that I have no leisure to look up to heaven: this is most men's case. Alas, the world eats out the religion of many, as the sun shining eats out the fire: so that men are as dead to religion, as if heaven were but a dream ; and as active in sin, as if hell had no fire, or were all vanished into smoke. Nay, it is well if some look not on heaven and hell, as if they were but a fable or romance, a scarecrow to frighten weak-headed people, or the mere invention of designing priests to keep men in awe; but they shall know one day to their cost, that there is a heaven by the loss of it, and that there is a hell by its torments; let these ask the rich man in torment, whether there is a hell or not? The Targum saith, the dispute between Cain and Abel was, concerning a world to come ; and indeed this is the controversy between the faithful and unbelievers; though the wicked say the creed, wherein they profess a belief of the resurrection, last judgment, and eternal life ; yet it is but notional, not experimental, or practical; they know nothing of it initially, or by feeling the beginnings of it here, and living accordingly. It is to be feared that the greatest part of mankind will fall to the devil's share. How little are men concerned about a future state ? how many put away from them the evil day? Some have a foolish imagination that heaven is every where ; that there is neither heaven nor hell but in a man's own conscience, and then they can shift well enough; for they can shut the mouth of a bawling conscience, and speak peace to themselves; but how long, will either of these last? When God arms a man against himself, he will be a magor-missabib, a fear round about. Witness Cain and Saul, and Judas too, who thought hell was easier than his own conscience, and therefore desperately leapt into it, to the crushing of his body, and the perdition of his soul. They shall find that there is a heaven and bell after this natural life is ended. It is recorded of Peter Martyr, that he lying upon his deathbed discoursed sweetly on heaven; Bullinger standing by, quoted Phil. iii. 20, “Our conversation is in heaven;" true, said the sick man, it is in heaven, but not in the heaven of Brentius, * which is no where; there is doubtless a cælum empyreum, called a third heaven, or paradise, into which Paul was rapt

. Sed non in cælo Brentii, quod nusquam est.

in his extacy; into which Christ was carried body and soul; the habitation of God's holiness and glory.* It is true, God himself is called heaven, “ the heavens do rule ;” and it is as true, “God fills heaven and earth;" + and it is true, where the king is there is the court ; but yet God manifests himself far differently in all places; he is in hell by the execution of his justice, in heaven by the manifestation of his grace, on earth by displaying both, and his other glorious attributes, according to his infinite wisdom and pleasure.

But let vain men please themselves with their fond conceits ; or desperately leap into the other world, it will be well for you and me duly to weigh the vast difference betwixt graceless and gracious souls in this and in the other world, and though men will not believe, because they see not any such difference, yet a time is coming, “when they shall return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not,” Mal. iii. 18; then all the world must be ranked into two regiments, sheep and goats; the one at Christ's right hand, the other on his left; to the one he will say, “Come ye blessed, to the other, go ye cursed,” Matt. xxv. 32—46. They that love not to hear discriminating truths here, shall meet with discriminating acts at that day: and can we think that there will be such a difference at that day, and none in this world ? no, we cannot, for “though all things come alike to all," as to common providence in this world, Eccl. ix. 2; yet grace makes a difference in persons' dispositions here, and there will be a vast difference in divine dispensations hereafter, much greater than between a man and a brute ; yea, like that which is between an angel and a devil. O that men would study and understand this now! Grace makes the difference now, and glory completes it. 1. In point of assimilation. “God's children are like their

but shall be more like him at the last day," 1 John iii. 2. Our former similitude is from faith, and so imperfect; but the latter is from immediate vision, and thus perfect and complete. 2. In point of satisfaction. In this world the weary soul is

* 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4.

Father now,

Luke xxiv. 51. Isa. Ixiii. 15.
Matt. xxi. 25. Jer. xxiii. 24.

+ Dan. iv. 26.

working towards its rest, and doth by faith enter into this rest; yet there is another remaining. Some satisfaction there is in ordinances; but more on that blessed morning, when God's children awake in his likeness. *

3. In point of participation. For God's children are not tantalized, by beholding that to which they have no right; no, they have heaven by appropriation of faith here, so Eph. ii. 6; and by complete possession in the other world, Rev. xxi. 3.

4. In point of fruition. God's children do enjoy fellowship with him already in this world ; but alas, “it is only through a glass darkly, but then face to face,” or immediately; now it is but rarely, only now and then, but then constantly and perpetually, as the angels that always behold the face of our Father.” Their eye is never off God, even when they are sent on any errands to earth about the saints. It is defective in degree here, but full and complete above. It is often obstructed and obscured here, but above “ this glory shall be revealed in us," + never to be darkened or eclipsed with clouds of interposing guilt.

Oye children of men, prove your Father's will, and yourselves children ; secure this inheritance, make no reckoning of the stuff of this world : for the good of the country above is before you, heaven will pay for all your losses, and counterbalance all your disappointments. No matter how your names are written on earth, in dust or marble, if they be written in hea

Some say this world is but a shadow of that above; look you for the lineaments of that kingdom above, to be pourtrayed on you. Basil asserted one hundred and sixty-five heavens; you must pass by all the fancied heavens of men, “and look for a eity that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” Heb. xi. 10; take this kingdom of heaven by violence, Matt. xi. 12. Get a copy of your title out of scripture records, the court rolls of heaven, that you may be sure of it, “and lay hold on eternal life," 1 Tim. vi. 19. Heaven must be begun here, or never enjoyed hereafter. Holiness of heart and life is like the old testament tabernacle, an example and shadow of heavenly things. Happiness is the enjoyment of good, commensurate to our desires ;, and our desires must be suited to

ven.

• Psal. cxvi. 7.
+ 1 John i. 3.

Heb. iv. 3, 9 Psal. xxxvi. 8. xvii. 15.
1 Cor. xiii. 12. Matt. xviii. 10. Rom. viii. 18.

that happiness. Critics observe, that the word [OWN) which signifies happiness, is plural; not only denoting a confluence of many good things to make one happy, but because there is a happiness in this life, preparing for and anticipating happiness in another. They differ not in kind but degree ; that above is the same state, but more elevated; the same book but in a more correct edition, and a larger character. The saints above differ from us, as a man from a child, as the meridian sun from the morning light; we are in the same house, only they have ascended into the upper room ; at the same feast, only they are at the upper end of the table ; let us make haste after them; they were once as you are, grovelling on this dunghill, but are exalted to a throne; aspire you to the same preferment: it may be had, it must be had or you are undone. Study the way

of God, how this inheritance is made over to the sons of men, and that is by regeneration-by adoption—by donation -by right of redemption ;* and they say, he that hath bought a slave may dispose of him as he please, by his will ; our Lord made his will thus, John xvii. 24, “ Father, I will that where I am, these may be also." Clear this and clear all, then you are safe ; fail in this and you are undone.

But this is not all ; you are not only to get and clear up a title to this inheritance, but to press after a due meetness for it, and this is the design of this small Treatise, which was (for the substance of it) preached and written thirty five-years ago, and now revised and published on these considerations :

1. For my own help and furtherance in preparation for heaven, having within a few days, passed to the sixtieth my life, the date of the life of Paul the aged ; and my Lord only knows how soon my sun may set, though I cannot say, my natural vigour either of body or mind is in the least abated; but I am mortal, and am loth to be surprized unawares.

2. I see a great failure in myself and other Christians who too frequently terminate our studies and endeavours in getting a title, and then think all is well, we need no more ; but surely there is much behind; we have abundance of work upon our hands for obtaining actual meetness, without which we cannot evidence our habitual meetness. 3. I never yet met with any treatise upon this subject,

* Matt. xix. 28. Rom. viii. 17. Luke xii. 32. Eph. i. 14.

year of

« AnteriorContinuar »