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glory in which Christ is enthroned, and now receiving homage from all ranks of creatures, attended with innumerable angels; it is Christ in this glorious state, to whom the saints are to be gathered.
2. The reason thereof, which consists in the relations between Christ and his saints, all which carry abundance of delight and sweetness in them. For, it is not as strangers or enemies that love him not, nor yet as malefactors brought to the bar, that dread him as judge: but they are gathered to Christ under these important relations :
(1.) As sheep connected with their shepherd, whose voice they “know here, and whom they follow,” John x. 3,4; yea, they own him with a more than ordinary endearedness, because he laid down his life for the sheep, verse 15, and carries the “poor lambs in his arms,”* and leads them to quiet resting places, where
they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.”+
(2:) As soldiers gathered to their captain, not to fight, but to take the spoil; the Captain of our "salvation is made perfect through sufferings,” he is now “crowned with glory and honour, and brings many.sons unto glory,” Heb. ii. 9, 10. He marks out a crown for every soldier, and sets the victorious champion with him on his own throne, Rev. iii. 21.
(3.) As scholars to their master, who sets them not in a low form, as under graduates, but they commence the highest degree of perfection in the university of glory, to know as much as creatures are capable of knowing, “they shall know as they are known,” 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Now the believer is a vessel unto honour, meet for his master's use, set on the shelf of glory. I
(4.) As subjects to their prince, to be introduced * Isa. xl. 11. + Ezek. xxxiv. 28. # 2 Tim. ii. 21.
into the king's presence chamber. Not any longer to be banished into a foreign country; no, nor yet to be retainers, hanging about the court at a distance, but approaching into the king's presence. Jesus Christ is in the immediate presence of God, saints shall be with him;* in “whose presence is fulness of joy, at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore,” Ps. xvi. 11.
(5.) As friends to a feast. Our Lord called and accounted all his saints friends in this world, and he deals familiarly with them, providing for them a feast of fat things; but there will come a day when he will “drink new wine with them in his father's kingdom.” O blessed feast! O happy society! When he will say,
eat, О friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.”+
(6.) As children are gathered to their father, not only to receive a blessing, but to take full possession of their inheritance, “knowing that of the Lord, ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.” All God's sons are heirs, and then it will be manifest who are sons; that is a blessed word, “ He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” I
(7.) As members are united, Eph. v. 30, "for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Now alas, the members are oft disjointed from each other, and too much distant from the head, but there will come a day when they shall be joined all in one; there will then be no discrepancy betwixt head and members, they being grown“ up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ,” Eph. iv. 15, 16.
Thus much for the relation they have to Christ, which is the reason of this gathering together to him. * Heb. ix. 24. + John xv. 14, 15. Matt. xxvi. 29. Cant. v. I.
Col. iii. 24. Rom. viii. 17. 1 John iii. 2. Rev. xxi. 7.
3. The frame and disposition of the subject. There is in every child of God, a kind of natural propensity, which inclines them in a peculiar manner towards Christ, as the needle towards the loadstone, by which they move and bend heaven-wards; “ Return unto thy rest, O my soul, saith David,” Psal. cxvi. 7. As all creatures move to their centre, so doth the sincere soul God-wards; and can never be at rest, till it be closely joined and adhere to him, and that God who hath fixed these innate principles in the soul, will promote and perfect them. Now this frame and disposition of a child of God, proceeds first, from the convictions of conscience, and deficiency he finds in other things : secondly, from a sensible experience that the soul hath of satisfaction in Christ.
(1.) The consciences of God's children are fully satisfied, that all the world cannot give the least solid satisfaction to their souls. This made Solomon cry out, “ vanity of vanities, all is vanity;"* the Christian cries out, away with these toys, worldly enjoyments are not commensurate to the desires of an immortal soul, Matt. xvi. 26. The judgment is convinced that the "world passeth away, and the lust thereof,” 1 John ii. 17; all the splendor of the world fades, there is a vanity and emptiness in all sublunary things. That is the Christian's motto: “I wish not for, I am not content with worldly perishable things ;"7 I must look beyond the moon to heaven for felicity ; I have sucked the juice of every flower in this garden of the world, yet my soul is empty.
(2.) Tue Christian hath tasted that the Lord is gracious, and this sets him a longing and hungering for more grace and incomes from above, 1 Pet. ii. 2, 3. The Gauls having tasted the delicious wine of the grapes that grew in Italy, were never at rest till they * Eccl. i. 2.
+ Non est mortale quod opto.
had conquered the country. So it is with the pious soul, sense brings the clearest evidence, especially spiritual senses, for some natural senses may be deceived, “this I pray,” saith the apostle, “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment,” Phil. i. 9; s námy a Sugel, in all sense, for the soul hath its senses as well as the body, and being sanctified and duly exercised, they discern between good and evil ; * and indeed this is the proper genius of the new creature, to press forwards and aspire upwards, Rom. viii. 23, “we which have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” There are heaven-born principles implanted in believing souls, that make them soar aloft after the enjoyment of God.
4. The gathering to Christ, includes the sight, vision and fruition of Christ, the full enjoyment of him; beholding God is properly fruitive vision of him; “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," Matt. v. 8. This is not in the way of mere speculation, but fruition; if “we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him,” Rom. vi. 8. This is by the sight of him, and appearing with him in glory,” Col. iii. 4. This blissful sight of Christ, is that which makes heaven, for where the king is, there is the court; this glory consists in conformity to him, and communion with him. This is to be gathered to Christ, that is, to have Christ fully revealed to us, an approach to him under the dearest relations, the soul disposed and duly qualified to enjoy him, and full vision and fruition of him. If any of these be wanting, we cannot in a scripture sense be gathered to Christ.
Another consideration is, why our Lord will thus gather his saints at the last day.
* Heb. v. 14.
Though I have touched on some things already, that might be improved as reasons, yet I shall add,
1. Because this is the good pleasure of God. “And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day;" how careful is God of his jewels, he will gather them and make them up carefully; to be sure he will neither keep them out, nor cast them out. $The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth, and will own them that are his," 2 Tim. ii. 19; “ the election must obtain salvation;"* it runs invisible, much under ground, but will appear at last in the mansions above.
2. Because this is the fruit of Christ's purchase; “For Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God;" he is the ladder of Jacob, upon whom believers ascend to glory. This was the end of his reconciling us by his blood, to
present us holy, unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight;" our Lord will not lose the fruits of his purchase : yea, he follows it with his prayer, “ Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am;"# God always hears him.
3. Because of the sanctifying and sealing work of the Spirit. “God,” saith the apostle, “ hath chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth ;" observe it, sanctification and salvation, have an inseparable connexion. Saints in the old testament and in the new have the “same spirit of faith,” this animates all the members of Christ, running through the veins of his mystical body; and this is the “seal and earnest of our future inheritance ;”
* John vi. 39. Mal. iii. 17. John vi. 37. Rom. xi. 7.