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LUKE XX. 35, 36.
But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
IT may justly excite our wonder and our grief, that believers who are professed candidates for another world, should have their hearts so little set upon their heavenly home. The glory that shall be revealed, and which faith humbly expects, is so exceedingly great, that one should suppose the children of God would scarcely be able to think or speak of any thing else. But, alas! it is not so. Our souls cleave unto the dust,' and we have abundant cause to pray, 'Quicken thou us according to thy word.' May the Lord for this purpose bless our meditations on this passage of Scripture, in which Jesus Christ replies to the objections of the Sadducees against the doctrine of the resurrection ! The Sadducees were the disciples of Sadoc, and composed one of the four sects of the Jews; their leading notion was, that 'there is no resurrection' (v. 27); they also denied the existence of angels, the immortality of the soul, and a future state. The Sadducees thought to perplex the doctrine of the resurrection, by proposing the case of a woman who had been married to seven different men. In the resurrection,' said they, whose wife of them is she?' Our Lord mildly answered this impertinent question, by shewing that there is a vast
difference between the state of men on earth, and that of the children of God in Heaven; a great difference between this world and that world. The whole passage is full of instruction, which we shall endeavour to obtain, by making several observations upon it.
Observe, I. That there is another world.
Our Lord calls it that world. It is evidently opposed to this world' (ver. 34): the children of this world.' We know a little of this world. O that we knew it aright! O that we saw it with the eyes of faith! We should then confess it to be a vain world; 'for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.' Solomon, who made a full trial of the world, with advantages for making it above all other men, solemnly pronounces the whole to be vanity of vanities; vanity of vanities, and vexation of spirit.' How emphatically is it expressed! as if his heart was full of the idea; as if he longea to impress it upon others; as if he could not find sufficient words to do it. And remember who it was that declared this. Not a hermit who never saw the world: not a pauper, who has got nothing in the world: not a spendthrift, who has lost all he had in the world: but the king of Jerusalem,' who abounded in wealth and honour, and who had tried the whole round of worldly pleasures. If he pronounces all to be vanity, we need not make the fruitless experiment; for what shall the man do who cometh after the king?'
This world is as wicked as it is vain. This present evil world,' St. Paul calls it;The world that lieth in the wicked one,' saith St. John. It was good, when God first made it, very good;' but sin has made it evil; filled it with snares and sorrows! insomuch that it is a part of Christ's redemption to deliver us from this persent evil world;' and from Satan, the prince of this world; who makes use of its pleasures as baits, to destroy the souls of men. And yet, such is the evil heart of man, that he dotes upon this evil world: he seeks his good things in this world;'- his portion is in this life; he is a man of the world; or, as Christ says, ver. 34, a child of this world.'
But there is another world. Solemn truth! generally admitted, but little regarded, O think of it, you who trifle away your precious time. There is another world; and though you forget it, you are hastening towards it every moment. Yes! there is another world. Jesus Christ, who came from it, and who is gone to it again; Jesus Christ assures us of it. He has brought life and immortality to light; he has made a plain revelation of it in the gospel, which shews us the certainty of it; the sublime, excellent, and spiritual nature of it, as in our text; together with the true and only way of obtaining eternal life, which is by Jesus Christ. Our Lord, in his public discourses, often spoke of another world, of Heaven, and of hell, very plainly, very familiarly, very solemnly; urging his hearers, by arguments drawn from eternity, to regard the things which belonged to their peace.
The world of which we speak is a world of light, and purity, and joy. There is no night there.' Hell is eternal darkness; Heaven eternal light. No ignorance, no errors, no mistakes; but the knowledge of God in Christ begun on earth is there completed; for
we shall know even as we are known.' The heavenly world is all purity and holiness. Nothing retaining the defilement of sin can have admission there; only
the pure in heart shall see God.' And their joy, which also commenced on earth in the possession of 'spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus,' shall be full, uninterrupted, and everlasting. 'God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed, away.'
Such is that world which our Lord here speaks of; and it is the grand object of faith. Believers in all ages have kept it in view. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob lived and died in the faith of it; they desired heavenly country,' and in the hope of it, were dead to this world; confessing themselves strangers and pilgrims on earth.' The apostles, having the same-spirit of faith,' looked intently (like archers who fix their eyes on the mark), but not at the things which are seen; their object was nothing visible and sensible;
but they looked at the things unseen; they seriously regarded, and carefully aimed at heavenly things, as the grand mark, the noble prize of their high calling in Christ Jesus.
And is this the character of real Christians? Stop a moment, and ask, Is it yours? Amidst the unavoidable labours and the lawful pleasures of this world, is Heaven the principal object; or do you wholly forget it? It has scarcely ever a place in your thoughts; and can you suppose you shall ever enjoy glory without seeking it? Be not deceived, for,
Observe, II. It will be a great matter to obtain that world.
Notice our Saviour's words, they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world. O it will be a great matter to obtain that world! Surely men do not believe there is such a world; for faith, of any sort, will work. What is it sets the world of men in motion; what makes them so busy from morning to night? Is it not the belief that they shall obtain something worth their pains? Why then are no pains taken to obtain Heaven? Infidelity lies at the bottom of their sloth, or people would seek Heaven as diligently as they seek this present world. 'So run,' saith St. Paul, 6 that ye may obtain.' 'Know ye not,' saith he, 'that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain. 1 Cor. ix. 24. The Christian life is a race, and Heaven is the prize; and a race implies motion, vehement motion, and continued motion. O let us be in good earnest for Heaven. Lazy wishes and formal religion will not do. Christ represents it as a great thing to obtain that world,
It will be a matter of amazing grace and favour. Labour we must;-yet, after all, it is a matter of pure mercy, for the gift of God is eternal life! Every glorified saint will be filled with surprise, and be ready to say, Lord is it I ?
'How can it be, thou heav'nly King,
And O, what a matter of infinite joy will it be ! If angels rejoice at the conversion of a sinner, it is because they foresee its final result; the foundation is laid, and they rejoice to think they shall witness the top-stone laid also, and shall shout, Grace! Grace! unto it.' Yea, the blessed Redeemer himself shall rejoice, when he sees the travail of his soul;' he will reckon all his pains and sorrows and sufferings amply recompensed, when he beholds the millions of his elect safely brought to glory.
O then, let the obtaining of that world be our first business in this. So Christ directs, Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; let care for Heaven precede all other cares; seek it first; seek it early in life, and seek it early every morning. Seek it earnestly as the chief thing, for what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' Heaven is all; and heaven will make amends for all.
Observe, 111. Some kind of worthiness is necessary to the obtaining of that world;- they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world.'
This worthiness includes merit and meetness; or, a title to glory, and a fitness for it. Both these are necessary. But where shall we look for merit? Not in man. Man is a sinner, and a sinner merits only Hell, for the wages of sin is death,'—' All men have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' The best man in the world can lay no claim to heaven; if he could, there would be room for boasting: but boasting is excluded.' No flesh shall glory in his presence.' any man glory, it must be in the Lord. It is the merit, or more properly speaking, the righteousness of Christ, which is the believer's title to Heaven. This, like the wedding garment in the parable, is the only dress in which a sinner can appear before God, or sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
But there is a meetness or fitness for that world, which is equally necessary. St. Paul gives thanks to God, Col. i. 12, Who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.' Observe, Heaven is for saints, that is, sanctified persons; and they who are not saints on earth, will never be