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as have it, “out of their belly flow rivers of living water,” John. vii. 38, 39. God is to be admired in all the saving works and actings of the Spirit, the convincing, humbling, sanctifying, supporting, satisfying, sealing, comforting, quickening, enlarging, confirming, witnessing, and reviving operations of it. Alas, we had never looked after God, had not the Holy Spirit knocked at our doors; we had been blind in the things of God, but that the Spirit enlightened us; dead but that the Spirit enlivened us; we had wandered for ever, but that the Holy Spirit restored us; our hearts had been for ever hardened from God's fear, had not God's Spirit softened us; we should have been unlike God, but that the Holy Spirit stamped God's image upon us; whatever hath been done upon our hearts to prepare us for heaven, the Holy Ghost hath been the agent; yea, that Spirit that we have quenched, grieved, resisted, and vexed; what cause then have we to be very thankful? This is the golden oil, that runs through the golden pipes of ordinances into the candlestick of the church, Zech. iv. 11, 12.
4. The gospel dispensation is great matter and ground of thankfulness ; “ It is a mystery which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men,” Eph. iii. 4, 5. But what is the marrow and main design of this gospel revelation ? why, ver. 6, “ That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. O glorious design! O blessed charter! But what are we better unless we be partakers of this privilege ? therefore the apostle saith, “Christians are fellow citizens with the saints.” This is the gospel way of enfranchising and incorporating poor strangers into the immunities of heaven, and surely this is worth thanking God for. The charters of some cities cost
them dear, and the chief captain said to Paul, “ with a great sum obtained I this freedom;" Paul said, and so may believers say in this sense, “ but I was free born," Acts xxii. 28. Though it cost Christ dear, yet it costs us nothing, but reception. This new Jerusalem is built all of free stone, and shall not our shoutings echo, grace, grace to the head stone, Jesus Christ? Zech. iv. 7: especially since our freedom rescues us from infernal tortures, as Paul's did him from scourging; and makes us heirs of heaven.
5. Peculiar advantages not afforded to all, create grounds of thankfulness. Our Lord said, Matt. xi. 25, 26, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Alas, what have any of us, but what we have received? Discriminating kindnesses call for the most lively gratitude. What did God see in any of us, that might procure heaven for us? or within us what preparation for heaven ? You and I are of the same polluted mass of mankind as others; most unlikely to become heirs of such a glorious inheritance as heaven is. What could God see in us to attract his heart to us? Nay, what did he not see in us to produce aversion against us? It was “the kindness and love of God our Saviour; not by works of righteousness which we had done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” Tit. iii. 4, 5. Alas, what loveliness could God see or foresee in us to make us children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ? We may say with honest Judas, John xiv. 22, “How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world ?" It must be answered, “Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” When thousands are left, why art thou taken? How came it to pass that when philosophers and eminent
of the world were so bewildered in the dark about felicity, that God should shew you the right way to true happiness, and lead you into it, and in it ? Surely all
is of free grace.
6. Fittedness for any duty or dispensation is a mercy worth thanking God for. Such is the christian frame that makes meet for heaven; such a person is prepared to do God's will, or suffer God's will; he is . formed for a prosperous and adverse condition ; his foot standeth in an even place; like a watch in a man's pocket, turn it this way or that way, it keeps its motion; so the Christian in all conditions preserves his movements heaven-wards. “The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger,” Job xvii. 9. He is ready for any thing to which God calls him. Like the man of God mentioned, 2 Tim. iii. 17, “who is perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” O what a blessed thing it is to be in a disposition to embrace a suggestion to pray, read, confer, meditate, or receive the Lord's supper upon an invitation from men, or summons from God! The church in Cant. v. 2, found the want of this, when she saith, “I sleep, but my heart waketh;" that is, I have the principle, but want the exercise of grace; and, alas, how unready was she to entertain her beloved, though she had given him a call; and the sad consequences of this unfit frame are obvious, both as to her sin and suffering : but oh, what a mercy it is to have a heart ready pressed for God's service! Give God the glory of it, and it is worth something to be in a readiness for mercy, affliction, death, or judgment, as those are that are meet for heaven. The speech of Basil was noble, when Modestus, the præfect, threatened confiscation, torments, and banishment; he answered, “He need not
fear confiscation that hath nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven only is a country; nor torments, when his body would be crushed with one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty.” Polycarp was ready for beasts, or any kind of death, because he was ready for heaven: for as the Christian is delivered from danger by death, so from the fear of death, Heb. ii. 15. Death itself is the daybreak of eternal brightness to the child of God; and is not this worth thanking God for?
7. God's promise of heaven surely merits gratitude. Could we get a glimpse of that state and place of glory, and the inheritance of saints in light, together with our title to it; O how would it dazzle and transport us! It is said that the temple of Diana was so bright, that the door keeper still cried to such as entered, “Take care of your eyes.” Much more may we say so of the surprising glory of the heaven of heavens ; and therefore our Lord saith, “None can see his face and live.” But death blows dust out of the eyes of glorified saints, and the morning of the resurrection doth so fortify the sight, that it can behold this inaccessible light with admiration; even as all the stars face the sun. “Fear not little flock,” saith our Saviour, Luke xii. 32, “ for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Is not a kingdom worth thanks, and such a kingdom; and to have this freely of gift, not to wade to it through wars and blood, and all this by hereditary right, which is the clearest title? O sirs, do you know what heaven is? It is the immediate enjoyment of God, an immunity from all evils, a possession of all good, the perfection of our natures, the maturity of our graces, the destruction of all sin, the banishment of Satan and his temptations, fulness of joy, and total death of all grief. Indeed it is
such a state as can neither be expressed nor conceived. How vile and contemptible would all things below appear to one that with Paul, is rapt up into this paradise! I have read of one Adrianus a heathen, who was present when some martyrs were examined and tormented, he asked, “What was the reason they suffered such tortures,” it was answered in the words of that passage, 1 Cor. ii. 9, “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him :" the very rehearsal of which words converted this Adrianus, and he became a martyr also. O what a transcendent reward is there in those mansions above! and God doth not grudge us the knowledge of those glorious things. He is not like some rich men that will not let their heirs know, what they will do for them, till they die; no, the apostle saith, ver. 10, “ that God revealeth them to us by his Spirit;" and ver. 12, “ that we may know the things freely given to us of God.” We may know them perceptively, not comprehensively ; by faith, though not by sense. We know but yet in part, but then we shall know as we are known; not as God knoweth us, for our knowledge and God's must not be so compared, but as holy spirits know us both now and for ever, we shall both know and be known by immediate intuition; yet in this world God gives his children, though variously, some glimpses and dark representations, as through a glass, by metaphors or parables, and this discovery is to raise up our hearts in thankfulness, and longing desires to be above with God,