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though it be of great importance for every Christian ; surely heaven is worth minding, and methinks Abraham's query
in another case should be ours, Gen. xv. 8, “O Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?"
4. I have observed a commendable practice of some Christians, which is, to order some books to be distributed at their funerals ; the first that I knew of that nature, was Mr. R. A's Vindiciæ Pietatis, and some other practical pieces, which by God's blessing have done much good. Such a memorandum would I bequeath as my last legacy to you, my dear people, amongst whom I have laboured above thirty-nine years in public and private, serving the Lord in some measure of integrity and humility, with many tears and temptations, through a variety of dispensations, excommunications, banishments, confiscations and imprisonments ; but out of all these the Lord hath delivered me, and set my feet in a large place, and God that searcheth the heart knows what hath been my design in studying, preaching, praying, and preparing for you a place to meet in, to worship God; and what are the agonies and jealousies of my spirit to this day, lest I leave any of you unconverted, and so cashiered from God's presence at the great day ; and now at last I solemnly charge you before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you rest not in a graceless state another day, lest that be the last day, and you be found unready. And I solemnly require of you who have a principle of grace, gird up your loins, trim your lamps, and observe these few rules, and the dispositions mentioned in this small Treatise. I only hint further : be much in the love of God, daily exercise faith on Christ, walk in the Spirit, be solicitous for God's glory, intermit not holy duties, be not content therein without communion with God, mingle religion with civil acts, increase every grace, redeem time, profitably converse with God's children, aim at perfection, maintain tender consciences, keep strict accounts, study the life of heaven, be still doing or getting good, set God before your eyes, trample on worldly things, live in daily view of death, be nothing in your own eyes, be much in heavenly praises ; say, “O Lord, who am I, and what is my father's house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? What is man? what am I ? the least and worst of the children of men, that the heart of God should be working for me, and towards me, in the infinite tenderness af eternal love ; that the Lord Jesus should shed his heart-blood for me! that the Holy Spirit should take possession of me! that God should provide such an inheritance for me! Assure me of it by precious promises, seal it to me in the holy supper! What am I, that God should ever give me a heart to fear him, heal so many backslidings, prevent total apostacy, pardon all my iniquities, vouchsafe me such valuable privileges, supply my wants, hear my prayers, help me over so many dangerous places in my journey, bring me to the borders of Canaan, give me so many foretastes of the promised land, and tell me the Jordan of death shall be driven back, and that I shall have a safe passage to heaven; O blessed, blessed be God, all this is from sovereign grace; God doth what he pleaseth, I would not exchange this hope for the world's possessions; eternity will be little enough to be taken up in the praises of rich grace.” Thus the gracious soul may quickly lose itself in these divine praises and contemplations, as that zealous German martyr, Giles Tirleman, who in his prayers was so ardent, kneeling by himself in some secret place, that he seemed to forget himself; when called many times to meat, he neither heard nor saw them that stood by him, till he was lifted up by the arms, and then gently he would speak to them as one waked out of a deep sleep. O that there were such a spirit in God's children ! that our hearts were so intent on things above, as to pass through the world as if unconcerned in it. Then would you be content to leave all, and go to Christ; then would you not be afraid of the king of terrors, though armed with halberts, racks, fires and gibbets ; then should you have a brighter crown, and higher degrees of glory, and should shine as the brightness of the firmament; having had the largest capacities on earth, you should have the fullest joys in heaven. I will conclude with the blessed apostle's prayer, 1 Thess. iii. 12, 13, “ The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you ; to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." Amen and amen. Thus prayeth,
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to
be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
EXPOSITION OF THE TEXT, AND PRELIMINARY
PRAYER and praise are the two wings on which a devout soul mounts heaven-wards. Prayer fetcheth down occasions of praise. These two form a medium like post-offices, to maintain intercourse between God and his children. Paul was a great man in both; for, after the inscription, subscription, and benediction this epistle, he begins to praise, ver. 3, then proceeds to prayer, ver. 9, and in the text he again introduces praise and thanksgiving: wherein observe
The duty, praise ; and for what mercy.
In the former, observe the act, giving thanks, and the object, the Father.
The act, 'EvxapioTOŪVTES ; it signifies a being of a good temper, having a very grateful disposition, and expressing it in words and actions. Col. iii. 15, “ ye thankful,” or be ye agreeable one to another, or grateful, both in conferring and receiving benefits : but here it refers to God.
A few introductory observations may be made on
Obs. 1. That thankfulness is the duty and characteristic of a Christian.
A thankful return for mercies is the study and inquiry of gracious souls, Psalm cxvi. 12. Prayer and thanks are like the double motion of the lungs; the air of mercy that is drawn in by prayer, is breathed out again by the exercise of praise. O happy Christian that can and must “ in every thing give thanks!" 1 Thess. v. 18. This, saith Jerome, * is a practice proper for Christians, to be heartily thankful even for crosses, as Job was, chap. i. 21.
Here is also the object of this thankfulness, that is, God, under the notion and relation of a Father: God expresses glory and majesty ; Father implies mercy, love, and clemency.
Obs. 2. That it becomes Christians to approach to God as an indulgent Father.
O how much sweetness and endearedness is in this word Father! therefore Christ teacheth us to begin our prayers with Our Father. This relation quickens our faith, and engages God's love, his care, and his power, and all for his children, Matt. vi. 32. There is comfort in a father, much more in a heavenly Father : evil men may be good fathers, Matt. vii. 11. how much more will a good God be a good Father? None can be so good, and so much a father as he. †
The matter and ground of thankfulness refer to God the Father's care and kindness to all his children. This is twofold:
* Christianorum propria virtus.
Providing for them an inheritance, and preparing them for it.
First, Providing for all his children an inheritance; wherein are four things to be considered :
The nature of heaven, an inheritance ;—the quality of it, in light ;-the inhabitants, saints ;-their right to it, partakers. A word on each of these.
Obs. 3. That God as a Father gives heaven as an inheritance to his children.
Here is the nature of this celestial glory; it is an inheritance, partly alluding to Israel's possessing the land of Canaan ; partly to signify that it is not given us for our merit, but of his free grace and mercy, therefore called the "reward of the inheritance," Col. iii. 24, because it is conveyed as by a father to his child, of bounty, and not earned as wages by a servant, due from his master.
All God's children are “ heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” Rom. viii. 17. O happy souls that are heirs to such an inheritance !
Obs. 4. That heaven is a place and state of inexpressible light.
The property or quality of this inheritance is, that it is in light: which is meant to describe the light of truth or faith, or that gospel light whereby God's children are savingly enlightened ; or else the light of glory, where there is a perfection of illumination and delight, joy and felicity, for God dwelleth in inaccessible light, 1 Tim. vi. 16. “ The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof," Rev. xxi. 23.
Obs. 5. That only saints, or sanctified souls, are heirs of heaven.
Here are the proprietors, the owners of this glorious VOL. V.