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PRACTICAL INFERENCES FROM THIS DOCTRINE.
Four things may be inferred :
1. That there is undoubtedly such a future state of blessedness for God's children after this life: “ There remaineth a rest to the people of God,” Heb. iv. 9. I need not go about to prove this, it is sufficiently and abundantly confirmed by abler hands; not only from scripture, but nature, reason, divine providence in the world, and the grace of God in the hearts of his people. Enough.is said to silence infidelity in our hearts, and to stop the mouths of all deists on earth. Can any rationally imagine that God would endow man with such a noble soul, and furnish that soul with such noble faculties of mind, will, conscience, and affections, capable of knowing, loving, and enjoying God, with fears and hopes of a future state, and all this in vain ? Can we think the holy, just, good, wise, and righteous God will always make the wicked prosper and afflict believers, and not right these things in the next world? Hath Christ come into the world to no purpose? What would become of his birth, life, doctrine, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and appearance at the day of judgment, if there were no life of future retribution? What would become of the precepts, promises, threatenings, motives, means and helps to a holy life here, and to attain eternal life hereafter, if there were no such thing? Can we imagine that the great God governs the world by a falsehood? Are heaven and hell bugbears, or mere imaginations of brain-sick fools? Is there not a reality in Satan's temptations, to draw
there no devils or spirits, and so by consequence no God? Away with these wild conceits, contrary to the sentiments of all mankind.
2. Then it follows that assurance is attainable; not only objective assurance, that there is a glorious inheritance, and that God will give it to some; but subjective also, that this is mine, that it is for me. I have a title to it; else how could persons thank God for making them meet for this inheritance? This assurance ariseth from acting of faith, and produceth “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God,” Rom. v. 2. The gospel is a gospel of peace, not of fears and doubts. Assurance may be had, not only by divine revelation, but in the use of ordinary means. “I know in whom I have believed,” 2 Tim. i. 12; read on, and you will find not only his assurance of his present happy state, but his perseverance and future felicity; and it was not his peculiar privilege, but is common to other believers, 2 Cor. v. 1. It is true, God is a free agent, and may bestow it on whom, and when he pleaseth. Some have it most clearly at first conversion : as Bernard for a time after his conversion, remained as it were, deprived of his senses, by the superabundant consolations he had from God. Cyprian saith, “ He thought before his conversion, it was impossible to find such raptures and transports as now he found in a christian course.” Many a close walking Christian can set his seal to this truth; only it ordinarily comes in after hard conflicts with temptation, wrestlings with God, much experience, and regular walking with God; there is salvation and there are the joys of God's salvation, Psal. li. 12, “ These,” saith Mr. Latimer, “are the sweet-meats of the feast of a good conscience.” There are many other grateful portions at the feast, but this is the banquet; this is better felt than ex
or drive us from God and future happiness? or are pressed, and must be endeavoured after, and prayed for; “Ask,” saith our Lord, “and ye shall receive that your joy may be full,” John xvi. 24.
3. That the exercise of thankfulness is a Christian's important duty. This, this is the proper character and employment of a Christian: God commands it, privileges call for it, gracious souls have been much engaged in it; it is comprehensive of man's whole duty. Ursin entitles the practical part of his catechism, de Gratitudine, on Gratitude. O that Christians were more in it! Praise is comely for the upright. This is the epitome of religion, the emblem of heaven, the proper air in which a Christian breathes; it is most acceptable to God, creditable to religion, and profitable to the Christian. Mr. Fox tells us, the state of Zurich engraved the year of their deliverance from popery upon pillars, in letters of gold, for a lasting memorial ; and have not Christians cause to thank God for grace and glory? The heathens could say, “ Call a man ungrateful, and you cannot call him worse.” Hezekiah brought wrath on himself, Judah, and Jerusalem, for not rendering to the Lord according to benefits done to him, 2 Chron. xxxii. 25. O sirs, you little know what an evil ingratitude is; you fill your souls with guilt; you too much resemble wicked men whose character is unthankful, 2 Tim. iii. 2. This sin makes hard times, yea, it makes you like the worst of heathen, for which sin God gave them up to unbridled sensuality, Rom. i. 21, 24: you act disingenuously, as those that have served themselves of God, and then disown him. How can you apply to God in the next strait, when you are so much in arrears? will not your mouth be stopped, and conscience fly in your face ? do you not daily depend on God for new
mercies ? and is not thankfulness a natural duty ? is not gratitude for spiritual mercies, a great evidence of your interest in them ? and is not every mercy sweetened by thankfulness ? nay, is not this a means to continue them? The more thankful any have been, the more eminent they have been; their graces have shone and glistered like pearls and diamonds. Yea, once more, the more thankful you are, and the more cause of thankfulness you will both have and see. Thankfulness for what you are sure you have, will produce a fúller evidence of that of which you are doubtful. The Lord humble us for our base ingratitude ; which is, as one saith, a monster in nature, a solecism in manners, a paradox in divinity, and a parching wind to dry up the fountain of divine fa
You will say, 0 sir, I could be thankful with all my heart, if I knew I were fit for heaven, and that my soul shall at death enter into peace; but alas, as long as I am doubtful and at uncertainties, how can I be thankful ? Conscience would check and condemn me; and indeed I have more cause to be humbled and ashamed for my unmeetness, than thankful for any meetness I find in me for heaven.
Answ. (1.) There may be grounds both of humiliation and thankfulness in the same soul and subject. Let the best saints do the best they can, and attain to the highest pitch imaginable, they will have cause of humiliation for their defects.
(2.) Holy jealousy, fears, and solicitude, do well in God's children to keep them humble; and indeed, as grace increaseth, sight of imperfections increaseth, and sense of short coming: the more discoveries of God's holiness, the viler will the Christian be in his own eyes, as Job and Isaiah ; and the humbler the soul is
the more acceptable with God.* Thank God for that humility.
(3.) You may and should be thankful for the mercies which you have, and which you cannot deny that God hath vouchsafed. You have your lives for a prey; you are out of hell, which is more than you deserve; you have abundant outward mercies, do not these deserve thankfulness? Christ hath also purchased grace and glory for sinners, nay, further, he hath put thousands into possession of this inheritance, and should not this make you thankful? Besides, heaven is offered to you, and you are under the means of grace, and have a possibility of obtaining this happiness, which is not the case with devils and lost souls; and is not this ground of thankfulness?
(4.) Be sure you keep in mind the distinction of habitual and actual meetness for heaven. If you have not the former, either relative or real, if you be not adopted or justified, and are neither converted, nor have entered into a covenant engagement with God, I say, the Lord have mercy on you, your case is doleful; you have great cause of lamentation. O man, “Be afflicted and mourn, let your laughter be turned into mourning, your joy to heaviness," James iv. 9; you, graceless “rich men, weep and howl, for your miseries that shall come upon you," James v. 1. I have not a word of comfort from the Lord to you. Your earthly inheritance shall be taken from you, and you shall be thrust into the dungeon of hell. You may for a while kindle a fire, and warm yourselves at the sparks you have kindled, but, saith God, “this shall you have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow,” Isa. 1. 11. Stand you by while the saints take comfort in their portion. Read Isa. lxv. 13-15.
* Job xlii. 5, 6. Isaiah vi. 5. lvii. 15. lxvi. 2.