« AnteriorContinuar »
end. The disease is turned into his constitution. He is dead to the spiritual life, to the actions and enjoyments that are proper to it: nay, there is in him a surviving principle of enmity to that life; not only a mortal coldness to God, but a stiff aversation from him, a perpetual resistance and impatience of the divine presence, that would disturb his voluptuous enjoyments. The exercises of heaven would be as the torments of hell to him, while in the midst of those pure joys his inward inclinations vehemently run into the lowest lees of sensuality. And therefore till this contrariety, so deep and predominant in an unholy person, be removed, it is utterly impossible he should enjoy God with satisfaction. As it was necessary that God should become like man on earth, to purchase that felicity for him, so man must be like God in heaven before he can possess it. Holiness alone prepares men for celestial happiness; that is against the corruption, and above the perfection of mere nature.
I shall now proceed to consider more particularly what is requisite in order to our obtaining of heaven.
Faith in the Redeemer is indispensably required of all that will partake of salvation. Heaven must be chosen as our supreme happiness, and sought as our last end. The choice of heaven must be sincere, early, firm and constant. The sincerity of the choice discovered by the zealous use of means to obtain it. The sincerity of the choice will regulate our judgments and affections, with respect to temporal things that are so far good or evil to us, as they conduct or divert us from heaven. The sincere choice of heaven will make us aspire to the highest degrees of holiness we are capable of in the present state, The vanity of the hopes of the lukewarm iş religion discovered,
1. FAITH in the Redeemer is absolutely required of all that will partake of the salvation purchased by him. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life, John 3. 16. This is the spirit and substance of the gospel, therefore I will briefly unfold it. The Son of God having assumed the human nature, and performed what was necessary for the expiation of sin, Phil. 2. 8, 9. the Father was so pleased with his obedience, that from his lowest state he raised him to divine glory, and gave him supreme authority, and all-sufficient power to communicate that glory to others. Thus our Saviour declares; "thou hast given him (i. e. the Son) power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him," John 17. 2. And he exhorts the people, " labor for that meat that endures unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed." John 6. Now this glorious life is not given to all, but only to those who are united to him. As Adam, the principle of the carnal corrupt nature, derives guilt and death to all his progeny: so Jesus Christ (who is opposed to him) the head and prince of the renewed state, communicates life and glory to his people. The apostle expresses it, "as in Adam all die" (his natural descendants are involved in his condemnation)" even so in Christ shall all be made alive," 1 Cor.
15. 22. that is, all that are spiritually united to him, shall partake of his glorious resurrection. And St. John tells us, "he that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son, hath not life, 1 John 5. 12. The having the Son, upon which our right to eternal life depends, is believing in him. Faith has a principal efficiency in receiving Christ; therefore it is expressed by that act," but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God," John 1. 12. (and consequently heirs of glory) to as many "as believed on his name." And Christ is said " to dwell in our hearts by faith," Ephes. 3. 17. This is not a mere assent to the doctrines of the gospel concerning the dignity of his person, that he is in so high and glorious a relation of being the eternal Son of God, and the infinite value of his merits, whereby he is able to save all that come unto God by him, and his merciful compassionate nature to embrace returning sinners, and the excellency of the benefits purchased by him, but such a belief as sways the will and affections to receive him upon God's terms for our salvation. Faith is seated in the whole soul, in the mind and heart, and accepts of Christ entirely as Prophet, Priest, and King. The parts of the Mediator's office are inseparably connected, and all the effects of them are communicated to the same persons. "Jesus Christ is made of God to believers, wisdom," to cure their ignorance and folly; " righteousness," to abolish their guilt; "sanctification," to renew their natures; and " redemption," to free them at last from the grave, and bring them to glory, 1 Cor. 1. From hence it is clear, that the faith which is justifying and saving, includes in its nature, a dependance and trust in Christ as a powerful and merciful Mediator, that is able and willing to reconcile us to God, and make us for ever happy in his favour; so a sincere resolution of obedience and subjection to all his holy commands, even to the plucking out of the right eye, and the cutting off the right hand, the parting with the most pleasing or profitable sins. For the promises of God that are the rule of faith, make an offer of Christ upon these conditions to us: "him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins, Acts 5. 31. And only "the justified shall be glorified. Rom. 8. Those therefore who desire a partial interest in him as a Saviour, necessity to escape hell, and will not out of love
out of absolute submit to him
as their prince, have not "that faith that is unfeigned,” and gives a title to eternal life by the promises of the gospel.
2. We must choose heaven as our supreme happiness, and regard it as the main end of our lives. Man fell from his duty and felicity by preferring sensual pleasure before the favour of God, and became guilty of the greatest disobedience and dishonour to his Maker, and is restored by the holy change of his will, the setting his affections on a pure spiritual blessedness. This subliming the will, and turning its love and choice from the creatures to God, is the effect of divine grace, and wrought in a rational way. For man is not moved as artificial engines by force, nor as brutes from necessity, their faculties being determined by the outward application of objects: he is not drawn up to heaven by such a natural impression, as steel by the loadstone, nor forced by a violent motion as a stone ascends, but as an understanding free agent, by the direction of the enlightened mind, and the consent of the will, an elective unconstrained faculty, And herein the wisdom, goodness and equity of God's transactions with man appear. His wisdom, in that as he has ordered in the whole sphere of nature, that the active powers of every creature be drawn forth into exercise for their preservation, and accordingly he is pleased to work in and by them; so the understanding and will, the principles of operation in man, are to defiberate and choose in order to his happiness: otherwise the rational faculties would be in vain. His goodness and equity, in that he sets before them eternal life as the reward of obedience. God will be glorified by him as a law-giver and a benefactor, and has ordained in the gospel that all who choose and diligently seek the kingdom of heaven, shall infallibly obtain it, and none be deprived of it but for their neglect. The decree of a final state of misery, though not in time, yet is consequent in the order of causes to the obstiuate reluctancy of sinners against restoring grace, and the wilful forsaking their own mercies. Therefore God vindicates the equity of his proceedings with men by their own principles, and with tender pity expostulates, "why will ye die?" The corrupt will, declining from God, and adhering to the creature as its happiness, is the true cause of man's ruin. This will infinitely clear the wisdom and justice, the purity and goodness of God from all imputation.
The choice of heaven for our felicity is primarily to be deter
mined, for it is from the prospect of it that all holy counsels derive their life and vigour. As in drawing the picture of a man, the first work is to delineate the head, not only as the part that in dignity and eminence is above the rest, but as it regulates the drawing of the other parts, and gives a just proportion and correspondence between them, without which the whole figure beThus in the moral consideracomes disordered and monstrous.
tion of man, that which is primarily to be considered is the soul, and its final felicity, as incomparably more excellent than the body and its pleasures: for this will have a powerful influence upon the whole life, directing to avoid what is inconsistent and impertinent, and to do what is conducive to it.
Now this being a matter of unspeakable importance, I will, i. Show what the regular choice of heaven includes, as to its qualities and effects.
ii. Direct how to make this choice.
iii. Present some powerful motives to excite us to it.
i. The qualities of this choice are three.
1. It must be sincere and cordial.
2. Early, in our first and best days.
3. Firm and constant.
1. It must be sincere and cordial. The most essential and active desire in human nature is to happiness; but there being two kinds of good things presented to the will that solicit the affections, the pleasures of sense, and spiritual joys, from hence it is that that which makes men happy is the object of election. And although there is nothing more uniform and inviolable than the natural inclination to happinesss, yet the great distinction of mankind arises from this source, the regular or perverse use of this inclination, the wise or mistaken choice of happiness. Now the sincerity of our choice is discovered, when it is clear and entire, arising from a transcendent esteem of the favour and enjoyment of God as our chief good, and absolutely requisite for us. And from hence it is evident that the choice of true happiness, necessarily includes the despising and rejecting of the false happiness that stands in competition with it. There cannot be two reigning principles in the soul: for it cannot vigorously apply itself to two objects at the same time. Our Saviour has decided it, no man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or hold to the one and despise the other: