« PreviousContinue »
Head and King of their Society, there is from the highest to the loweft a moft exact and regular Subordination of Members, they do every one perform their Parts and Duties towards every one, in all thofe different Stations of Glory they are placed in, and confequently do fubmit and condefcend to each other, according as they are of a fuperiour or inferiour Clafs and Order. So that if when we go from hence into the other world, we carry a long with us a fubmiffive and condefcending Frame of Spirit, we fhall be trained up, and predifpofed to live under the bleffed Hierarchy of Heaven; to yield a chearful Conformity to the Laws and Customs of it; and to render all the Honours to thofe above, and all the Condefcenfions to those beneath us in Glory, which the Statutes of that Heavenly Regiment do require; in doing whereof we shall all of us enjoy a moft unfpeakable Content, and Felicity. For though in the Kingdom of Heaven, as well as the Kingdoms of the Earth, there are numberlefs Degrees of Advancement, and Dignity, and one Star there, as well as here, differeth from another Star in Glory; yet fo freely, and chearfully do they all condefcend and fubmit to each other, in these their respective differences of Rank and Station, that in the wideft Distances of their State, and Degrees of Glory, they all maintain the dearest Intimacies and Familiarities with each other; and neither thofe that are Superiour are either envied for their Height, or contemned for their Familiarity; nor those that are Inferiour despised for their Meannefs, or oppreffed for their Weakness. For in that bleffed State,every one being best pleased with
what best becomes him, it is every ones Joy to behave himself towards every one as beft becomes the Rank and Degree he is placed in; and those that are above, do glory in condefcending to those that are below them, and thofe that are below, do triumph in fubmitting to thofe that are above them; and thus in all thofe Differences of Glory and Dignity between them, they alternately reverence their Superiours, and condefcend to their Inferiours, with the fame unforced Freedom and Alacrity, and fo do eternally converfe with one another (notwithstanding all their Distances) with the greatest Freedom, and most endearing Familiarity.
And thus I have endeavoured to give you an account of the first fort of Means, by which Heaven the great End of a Chriftian is to be obtained; viz. the proximate and immediate ones, which comprehend the Practice of all thofe Virtues, which as Rational Creatures related to God and one another we stand eternally obliged to; and fhewed how they are all of them effential Parts of the Chriftian Life, and how Heaven it felf confists in the Perfection of them.
So that upon the whole, the best Definition I can give of the State of Heaven is this, That it is the everlasting, perfect Exercife of all thofe Humane, Divine and Social Virtues, which as Rational Animals, related to God, and all his Rational Creation, we are indifpenfably and everlastingly obliged to. And therefore fince the only natural way, by which we can acquire and perfect thefe Vertues is fe and Practice, it hence neceffarily follows,that the Practice of them is the only direct
and immediate Means, by which that Heavenly State is to be purchased and obtained.
Wherein for a Conclufion of this Chapter fome Motives and Confiderations are proposed to perfwade men to the Practice of thefe Heavenly Virtues.
It having been largely fhewn in the foregoing Sections, that the Practice of all thofe Virtues which are included in the Heavenly Part of the Chriftian Life tends directly towards the heavenly State, and naturally grows up into it; I fhall now briefly conclude this Argument with fome Motives to perfuade men to the Practice of them. And thefe I thall deduce,
1. From the Suitableneß of them to our present State and Relation.
2. From the Dignity. 3. From the Freedom.
4. From the Pleasure. 5. From the Eafe, and
6. And lastly, from the Neceffity of them. I. Therefore let us confider the Suitableneß of thefe Virtues to our prefent State and Relation. For in our Baptifm, wherein we gave up our Names to Chrift, we become Denizons and Freemen of Heaven, and were received into a Covenant that upon Performance of our Part of it actually intituled us to all its bleffed Priviledges and Immunities. So that in that facred Solemnity of our Initiation into the Christian Covenant, we contracted a strict Alliance with the bleffed Peo
ple of Heaven, and became their Brethren and Fellow-Citizens. For fo the Apostle tells us, Ephef.ii. 19. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreiners, but fellow-citizens with the Saints, and of the houshold of God; and the houshold of God confifts of the whole Congregation of the Saints, whether militant upon Earth, or triumphant in Heaven. For fo, Eph. iii. 15. it is called the whole family of heaven and earth. So that we are Confederates with them in the fame Covenant, even that by which they hold all the Joys and Glories they are poffeffed of; and if we will do as they have done, that is, perform the Conditions of it, we shall be Co-habitants with them in the fame Glory. We are adopted Children of the fame Father with them, Members of the fame Family, Co-heirs of the Promise of the fame Glory, Brethren of the fame Confraternity and Corporation; and all the difference between them and us is only this, that we are abroad, and they at home; we are on this, and they on t'other fide Fordan, we in the Acqueft, and they in the Poffeffion of the heavenly Canaan; to which we are intitled as well as they, and that by the fame Grant from the fupreme Proprietor. So that by calling our felves Chriftians, we do in other words call our felves Brethren, Co-heirs, and Fellow-Citizens with the blessed Inhabitants of Heaven. And what can be more fuitable to fuch a Profeffion, than for us to live as they do, in the continued Practice of all these heavenly Virtues? And what a fhame will it be for us, that are by Profeffion their Brethren, not to copy and imitate their Behaviour; that we who are below Stairs in the fame
House and Family fhould abandon our felves to Senfuality and Devilishneß, whilft our blessed Kindred above are entertaining themselves with those heavenly Pleasures which refult from the perfect Exercife of all heavenly Virtue; that we should be neglecting, provoking, and blafpheming God, whilst they are contemplating and admiring, loving and praifing, imitating and obeying him; that we should by cheating and defrauding, envying and defpifing, maligning and embroiling one another, whilit they are converfing together with the greatest Freedom and Integrity, with the most obliging Respects and Condefcenfions,and in the strictest Unity and dearest Friendship? What a vile Reproach are our wicked lives to the Converfation of these our FellowCitizens above? for while we profefs our felves their Brethren,thofe who understand no better will be prone to fufpect that they live as we do, and how would fuch a Sufpicion tempt an honeft Heathen to renounce Heaven, as the Indian King did, when he was told that the bloudy Spaniards went thither; and rather chufe to go down to the darkest Hell than to a Heaven that is peopled with fuch Diabolical Company? So that by our wicked and un-faint-like Lives,we take an effectual Course to bring Heaven it felf into Difgrace, and to caft fuch a Slander on its bleffed Inhabitants, as may justly expofe them to the Scorn and Hatred of all thofe honeft Minds that know them no otherwise than by us their unworthy and degenerate Fellow-Citizens; and could thofe bleffed Spirits look down from their Thrones of Bliss, and fee what a Company of wretched Chriftians there are that claim Kindred with them,they would doubtless be