« PreviousContinue »
Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same
thing, is God.
HEN this apostle designs to entertain our hope
in the noblest manner, and raise our faith to its highest joys, he generally calls our thoughts far away from all present and visible things, and sends them forward to the great and glorious day of the resurrection : 'he points our meditations to take a distant prospect of the final and compleat happiness of the saints in heaven, when their bodies shall be raised shining and immortal ; whereas it is but seldom that he takes notice of the heaven of separate souls, or that part of our future happiness which commences at the hour of death. But in this chapter the holy writer seems to keep both these heavens in his eye, and speaks of that blessedness with which the spirits of the just shall enjoy in the presence of the Lord, as soon as they are absent from the body,
and yet leads our souls onwards also to our last and most perfect state of happiness, which is delayed till our corruptible bodies shall be raised from the dust, and mortality shall be swallowed up in life. We know, saith he, in the first verse of this chapter, we know that as soon as our mortal tabernacle, in which we now dwell, is dissolved, we have a building ready for us in the heavens ; i. e. an investiture in a glorious state of holiness and immortality, which waits to receive our spirits when we drop this dying flesh : yet the felicities of this Paradise, or first heaven, shall receive an unspeakable addition and advancement, when Christ shall come the second time, with all his saints, to complete our salvation,
But which heaven soever we arrive at, whether it be this of the 'separate state, or that when our bodies shall be restored, still we must be wrough up to a proper fitness for it by God himself ; and as the end of this verse tells us, he gives us his own Spirit as an earnest of these future blessings.
The observation which shall be the subject of my discourse, is this: those who shall enjoy the heavenly blessedness hereafter, must be prepared for it here in this world, by the operation of the blessed God.
Here we must take notice in the first place, that since we are siaful and guilty creatures in ourselves, and have forfeited all our pretences to the favour of God and happiness, we must be restored to his favour, we must have our sins forgiver, we must be justified in his sight with an everlasting righteousness, we must be adopted as the children of God, and have a right and title given us to the heavenly inheritance, before we can enter into it, or possess it and this blessing is procured for us by the obedience and death of the Son of God. It is in his blood that we find an atonement for our iniquities, and we must be made heirs of glory, by becoming the adopted children of God and so we are joint-heirs
This is a very
with his Son Jesus, aud shall be glorified with him, Rom. viii. 17. - And it is by a true and living faith in the Son of God, that we become partakers of this blessing God has set forth his Son Jesus as a propitiation for sinners through faith in his blood," Rom. iii. 24. “ We are justified by faith in his blond, and have hope of eternal life through him,” Rom. v. We also receive our adoption, and “become the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” Gal. iii. 26. and thereby we obtain a title to some mansion in our Father's house in heaven, since Jesus on elder brother, and our forerunner, is admitted into it to take a place there in our name. considerable part of cur necessary preparation for the heavenly world, that we should be believers in the Son of God, and united to him by a living faith ; and this faith also is the gift of God, Eph. ii. 8.
We are wrought up to it by his grace. But as this does not seem to be the chief thing designed in the words of my text, I shall pass it over thus briefly, and apply myself to consider what that further fitness er preparation for heaven intends, for which we are said here to be wrought up by God himself. The former preparation to heaven, may rather be said to be a relative change, which is included in our pardon or justification, and alters our state from the coudempation of hell, to the favour and love of God: but this latter preparation implies a real change of our nature by sanctifying grace, and gives us a temper of soul suited to the business and blessedness of the heavenly world. This is the preparation which niy text speaks of.
The great inquiry therefore at present is, what are those steps, or gradual operations, by which the blessed God works up to this fitness for heaven.
And here I shall not run over all the parts and lineaments of the new creature, which is formed by regeneration, nor the particular operations of converting grace, whereby we are convinced of sin, and led to faith and repentance, and new obedience, though these are all necessary to this end ; but I shall confine myself only to those things which have a more immediate reference to the heavenly blessedness, and they are such as follow. ** 1. God works us up to a preparation for the heavenly felicity, by establishing and confirming our belief, that there is a heaven provided for the saints, and by giving us some clearer acquaintance with the nature, the business, and the blessedness of this heaven. All this is done by the gospel of Christ, and by the secret operation of the blessed God, teaching us to understand his gospel.
Alas! how ignorant were the heathen sages about any future state for the righteous ? How bewildered were the best of them in all their imaginations ? How vain were all their reasonings upon this subject, and ho* little satisfaction could they give to an honest - inquirer, whether there was any reward provided for good men beyond this life? The light of nature was their guide; and those in whom this feeble taper burnt with the fairest lustre, were still left in great darkness about futurity. As the Gentile philosophers were left in great uncertainties whether there was any heaven or no, so were their conceptions of heavenly things very absurd and ridiculous ; and their various fancies about the nature and enjoyments of it, were all impertinence.
And how little knowledge had the patriarchs themselves, if we may judge of their knowledge by the five books of Moses, which give no plain and express promise of future happiness in another world, neither to Abel nor Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or to Moses himself? And were it not for some expressions in the New Testament, and by that Xlth chapter to the Hebrews, where we are
told, that these good men “sought a heavenly country,” and hoped for happiness in a future and invisible state, we should sometimes be ready to doubt whether they knew almost any thing of the future resurrection and glory.
That great and excellent man Job, had one or two lucid intervals of peculiar brightness, which shone upon him from heaven, in the midst of his distresses, and raised him above and beyond the common level of the dispensation he lived in ; yet in the main, when he describes the state of the dead, how desolate and dolesome is his language, and what heavy darkness hangs upon his hope! See his expressions, Job x. 21, 22 " Let me alone that I may take comfort a little, before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” Mark how this good man heaps one darkness upon another, and makes so formidable a gloom as was hardly to be dispelled by the common notices given to men
in that age.
And if we look into the Jewish writings in and after the days of Moses, we find the men of righteousness frequently entertained with promises of corn, and wine, and oil, and other blessings of sense ; and few there were amongst them who saw clearly, and firmly believed the heavenly inheritance through the types, and shadows, and figures of Canaan, the promised land, which flowed with milk and honey.
It is granted there are some hints and discoveries of a blessedness beyond the grave in the writings of David, Isaiah, Daniel, and some of the prophets : but the brightest of these notices fall far short of what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has set before us.
The Son of God, who came down from