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delight in the society of the saints; hence the apostle mentions the Philippians' “ fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now,”* mark it, it was early and permanent. Good men know not how to go to heaven alone; they must go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and are like a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariot :t so amiable, profitable, and pleasant is Christian society.
4. Do you lay to heart the scatterings of Christians? Zeph. iii. 18, “I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.” This scattering is either by persecution or dissension. First, if enemies prevail and break up the saints' solemn meetings, God's poor children lay it deeply to heart; hence such lamentable complaints and expostulations from them, Psal. lxxiv. 3, “Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations, even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary,” Isa. lxiv. 9—12. This was one ingredient of Judah’s lamentation, that the ways of Zion mourn, and God's people did mourn with her, Lam. i. 4—7. Such sympathy indicates the spirit of religion, and moves God's heart, and possibly in this world they may be gathered, at any rate in the other, Isa. Ixvi. 10, “ Rejoice ye with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all ye that love her, rejoice for joy with her all ye that mourn for her;" Sion's friends shall partake of Sion's comforts. Secondly, Such as grieve for the divisions of the church within herself, Judg. v. 15, 16, “ For the divisions of Reuben, there were great thoughts of heart, great searchings of heart.” Oh, the sad contentions and animosities that have risen up in the church in all ages, with which the pious and peaceable members thereof have been grievously afflicted ! sometimes per• Phil. i. 5.
+ Song. i. 8, 9.
sonal, sometimes doctrinal differences have rent the bowels thereof, and rent the hearts of public, uniting spirits, and they have almost despaired of seeing an end of them in this world, till they arrive in the place where Luther and Calvin are made perfect friends, and all the saints shall be of one mind. Mourners for these breaches shall be perfectly cured and comforted, Isa. li. 11, “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their head, they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.'
5. Do you follow the army of martyrs in bearing your cross, and preparedness to suffer for Christ? This way have all the saints gone to heaven, this is the established, enacted law of Christ. * · If
any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me,” Matt xvi. 24.
“ We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”+ Heaven is taken by storm, and the gracious soul is resolved to go through storms; for persecution is the common, constant lot of all the saints; “ All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” | But the Christian is not appalled with, nor ashamed of, the cross of Christ; nay, “he takes pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake,” 2 Cor. xii. 10; he even glories in the cross, and in the marks of the Lord Jesus, || as much as an old soldier in his wounds received in the wars; as the poor woman in the book of martyrs thought it a piece of honour and happiness, that her foot was put in the same hole of the stocks wherein Mr. Philpot's had been before. So Christians * Hâc itur ad astra. + Acts xiv. 22. # 2 Tim. iii. 12. Gal. vi. 14, 17.
rejoice to follow that blessed army of martyrs to heaven, not merely by an apish imitation from a good conceit they have of them, but “ having the same spirit of faith,”* they endure opposition; whatever it may cost the believer, onwards he will proceed, though he die in the conflict; he sees a crown awaiting him, and so gathers strength by every effort; yea, by every foil, as it was said of Rome,t that every battle, even every slaughter of men made her more courageous.
So it is with the conflicting soul, none of these things that startle others, move him, but animate him with more courage in his christian warfare, and voyage through this boisterous sea to the haven of rest.f Is it thus
with you ?
6. Do you daily make proficiency in grace ? Are you marching on in your christian course, adding daily some cubits to your spiritual stature ? There is no standing still in heaven's road, not to go forward, is to go backward. Paul saith, “ I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Nothing would satisfy him on this side perfection: he longs after that degree of grace at which he shall attain in the resurrection. The sincere Christian grows brighter and better, as the shining light, “ that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Where there is truth, there will be growth. Grace is like a grain of mustard-seed ; the Christian never thinks he hath grown enough, he is still “ perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” getting ground daily on the body of death. This is their duty, this is their property, this is what the apostle earnestly prays for, 1 Thess. iii. 12, 13, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men,” &c. I would, saith the saint, be holier than the * 2 Cor. iv. 13. + Roma cladibus animosior. Acts xx. 24. holiest saint on earth, but judge myself less than the least of all saints. * O that I were perfectly free from sin! O that my blossoms of grace were ripe fruit! 0 that I could increase with the increase of God! Let my
faith grow exceedingly to full assurance;t let my love rise to delight in God, my repentance be more evangelical, my hope more fixed, my fear more filial, my obedience more unreserved, and all my graces more lively, and my whole man more conformable to Christ, the perfect pattern of holiness. O that I could “go from strength to strength, till in Zion I appear before God," Psal. lxxxiv. 7.
7. What blessed instinct inclines you heaven-wards? Heavy things move downwards, light things upwards; every thing moves towards its centre. The church is compared “to pillars of smoke,” still mounting towards its proper element. So the Chrtstian is âvwlev Yeyevouévos, “ born from above,” and naturally inclines to things above. f Grace resembles God, it expands the soul's faculties, and makes it altogether unsatisfied with sublunary things. Even a heathen Seneca could say, “I am born to higher things than to these trifles; || my thoughts are carried quite above visible objects, mortal things cannot fill an immortal soul, especially touched with a coal from the altar, which raiseth sparks upwards to the fountain of light and love. Our Lord gives this as a certain, to tekuńplov, or token of a soul that is either prepared for this or for another world; Matt. vi. 21, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The workings of the heart are an infallible demonstration of a Christian's state, Is the rational, habitual motion, and tendency of your
* Phil. iii. 11, 14. Prov. iv. 18. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Eph. iii. 8, + Col. ii. 19. 2 Thess. i. 3. Cant. iii. 6. John iii. 3. || Major sum et ad majora natus.
hearts God-wards, heaven-wards? Have you a stroug, impetuous movement and bent of soul towards things above? Are you best pleased when your hearts are in a frame for devotion? Do you take it ill, and resent with some regret and indignation that which obstructs your soul's progress? Have you a strong impulse heaven-wards, by the restless tendency of desire, and by the acquiescing affection of delight? Are you never so well as when you are conversant about heavenly objects ? It is the blessed apostle's character of a saint, Col. iii. 1, “ If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” There, there is a Christian's life, his love, and delight; thither he is mounting as on eagles' wings, and is never satisfied till he be swallowed up in the divine embraces.* He is glad of communion with saints below, more glad of communion with God in his ordinances, but still most restless till he be wrapt up in the full enjoyment of God above; for our Lord hath said, Luke xvii. 37, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” The saints are united to Christ by faith, as members to the head, and have an innate tendency towards him, and cannot be satisfied without a full enjoyment of him, and that will never be, till the soul get above this drossy, reeling earth into the regions above. Is this
ur frame? are these your aims? are your movements heavenwards, though, alas, too often interrupted, to the grief of your hearts? Your souls are now espoused to Christ your husband, and you earnestly long for the completion of the nuptials, "that you may be presented to your heavenly husband as chaste virgins.”+ * Isaiah xl. 31.
+ 2 Cor. xi. 2.