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up to my Lord as pillars of smoke ; I love to be near him, and to be acting for him. O how sweet is every intimation of his favour! How delightful are some tokens of love that come from the hand and heart of my beloved! Here is the soul that is meet for heaven.
(4.) Humility and self-denial. Will you believe it? The lower the Christian casts himself down, the nearer heaven; but this is a truth, Matt. v. 3, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God makes his abode with the humble and contrite spirit, Isa. lvii. 15. O, saith the Christian, this grace have I found in me, that duty is performed by me, this cor•ruption have I mortified, that burden have I borne; what do I say? I have done this or that; O no, " by the grace of God, I am what I am–I laboured, yet not I, but the grace of God,” I Cor. xv. 10. I dare not say any thing is my own but sin; and what is performed by me is mixt with imperfection. I tremble for fear, saith Luther, at any thing that is of myself.* I must not depend on mine own righteousness; O that I may be found in Christ ! I am nothing, can do nothing, deserve nothing but death and hell. If ever I be admitted into heaven, it must be on account of Christ, his merits upon the cross, and his intercession in heaven. That is an excellent'text, Rev. xix. 7, 8, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready;" but how is she ready? why, “ to her was granted, that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Indeed it is no other than Christ's righteousness imputed; this is the upper garment that must not only cover our nakedness, but the tattered rags of
• Horreo quicquid de meo est.
our own righteousness. Whether that relate to a glorious state of the church on earth or in heaven, I dispute not; but I am sure it is the finest suit that she can put on, she will look well in that only; and woe to them that appear in their best inherent righteousness. Let the proud self-justiciary say, I will not have heaven gratis,* or for nothing, I will pay a proportionable rate for it; then thou art like to go without it, for it is not saleable ware, Rom. ix. 31. But let a poor self-condemning publican come and beg pardon and heaven for Christ's sake, and God will not deny him: “for he resisteth the proud, but giveth grace and glory to the humble," James iv. 6.
MEETNESS FOR HEAVEN, IN CLEAR EVIDENCES
OF TITLE TO IT.
2. The next particular wherein a meetness for heaven doth consist, is assurance, or unquestionable evidence of our title to the happiness above; for none is ready to go out of this world, but he hath solid grounds of his safety with respect to another; for doubts create fears, and those fears produce unwillingness to go hence: he dares not die who knows not whither he must go, and he is not meet for heaven, who hath not used God's appointed means to obtain assurance; a thousand to one a soul at uncertainties hath been a slothful, negligent soul; as in a usual way, diligence begets assurance : for so saith the apostle, Heb. vi. 11, 12, “ We desire that every
* Cælum gratis non accipiam.
one of you would shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end ; that ye be not slothful.” So 2 Pet. i. 10, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure;” and what then? why then, ver. 11, he adds, “For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” A ship may make a hard shift to get disabled into the harbour, with anchors lost, cables rent, sails torn, masts broken; she gets safe in, but with much difficulty ; whereas, how gallantly, doth another ride in, to the credit of her master, for a good example to others, and comfort and satisfaction to all in the ship; when she arrives with sails spread, streamers flying, trumpets sounding, and well victualled: surely these come in bravely. This is just the difference betweeen an indolent professor that wants assurance, and an active Christian in his voyage to the blessed haven. God requires this assurance; means are appointed for attaining it; serious Christians have gained it, so mayest thou, and so must thou endeavour after it. You will say, how is it obtained ? By what means may a Christian come to the assurance of his title to this heavenly inheritance, that he may be meet or prepared to take possession of it at death?
I answer, in general it must be supposed that you have a title, which is your habitual meetness, or else how can you be assured of it? You that are unregenerate, you have a greater change to pass through before you are capable of obtaining assurance.
But supposing this, the following may be regarded as
(1.) A holy diligence in increasing, and exercising graces, and in the performance of duty. This I hinted before: acts evidence habits; improving grace is God's
way to clear up grace; blowing up sparks will best discover them; a flame is sooner discerned than a spark in the embers; Christians by stirring up the gift of God become sensible of it, 2 Tim. i. 6. Motion is a good evidence of life; activity for God, and tendency heaven-ward will put you out of doubt. All duties tend to assurance, or spring from it; striving, running, and fighting will be crowned with clear evidence; God loves to reward diligence. To him that hath, that is, useth and improveth well what he hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance, that is, more grace and the comfort of it; as the collision of of flint and steel begets light, so the acting of grace produces this fruit, namely, assurance. “For the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever,” Isa. xxxii. 17. Now, now, the Christian is ready for glory, when he is in duty, above duty, with God in the lively actings of grace, which is a part of, and a prologue to glory. He is going from strength to strength, till he appear before God in Zion. O happy soul that is thus upon the wing!
(2.) Reflection upon heart and life, and comparing both with the word of God. This is God's way to gain assurance: have I the conditions of gospel promises, faith and repentance? Do those graces within me answer the characters of such in the scriptures ? Doth my soul feel what corresponds with the experience of saints in the word of God? Can I follow the rules and prescriptions that my Lord hath laid down, “ To deny myself, take up my cross and follow him?” Have I the essential characteristics of a Christian? I dare not believe Satan or my own treacherous heart; I will examine and prove myself, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. I will not spare myself in any thing, I will be impartial, and deal faithfully by a severe trial now, as I would be found in the decisive trial at the last day; it is a matter of life and death ; I will lay judgment to the line ; I will go to the law and to the testimony; the word must judge me at the great day, it shall be my judge now. No matter what the world saith of me, nor must I be determined by the votes of the best Christians, or pious ministers: I must, and will, and do “prove mine own work, and then I shall have rejoicing in myself alone, and not in another,” Gal. vi. 4.
(3.) Appealing and approving the heart to God. Alas, the best Christian is too apt to be partial in his own case, or blind at home; our minds are placed as our eyes, neither of them apt to look inwards; and when we do look, alas, we are apt to look through a false or flattering glass, or our eye is vitiated with bad humours; and therefore must we with Job appeal to God, chap. x. 7, “Thou knowest that I am not wicked.” And chap. xxiii. 10, “He knoweth the way that I take.” And though David “had communed with his own heart, and his spirit had made diligent search,” Psal. lxxvii. 6; yet he requests God to make a further investigation: Psal. xxvi. 2, “ Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins, and my heart.” And again, Psal. cxxxix. 23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts.” Not as though God were ignorant of them till he had searched, but it is spoken after the manner of men; and that God might further acquaint David with the secrets of his heart. Thus the sincere Christian saith, Lord, I set myself before thee as a glass in the sun; look upon me, look through me; thou knowest all things, see how my heart is affected towards thee; discover to me the inmost workings of my soul ; if there be any secret guile wrapping itself up in the