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life and immortality to light. He has gone before us in the way which leads up to the heavenly world. He has gone thither to prepare a place for his humble followers. He there lives to make intercession for them. When they are dismissed from their present abode, they will ascend to him, and be at home with him. His gracious presence will contribute much to the felicity of the heavenly state. Paul had a desire to depart, that so he might be with Christ. This he knew would be far better than to abide in the flesh.
Communion with Christ in ordinances is a pleasure to the christian now. In heaven there will be a communion more intimate and more delightful.
The present world is rendered more pleasant to the believer by means of the ordinances of Christ. Were he deprived of these, he would lose the better part of his happiness on earth. When the Psalmist referred it to God to choose an inheritance for him, he expressed an ardent desire, that it might be in a place where God was known and his worship enjoyed. This will be an object of attention with every good man, when he changes the place of his habitation.
We have the privilege of divine worship; and some of us are now about to pay our devout acknowledgments to our gracious Redeemer for the heavenly hopes which he has set before us. Let our hearts rise to him in grateful affections for the wonderful things he has done for us, and the glorious prospects he has opened to us. And let us endeavor by means of his ordinances, and of the ordinance now before us, to acquire such a love and conformity to Christ, that we may be able to say—We know that when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
THE PRESENT CONDITION AND FUTURE PROSPECTS OF THE BE
II. CORINTHIANS v. 1.
For we know, &c.
We have considered the affecting representation which the apostle gives us of our present inortal condition. And his animating description of the happiness of the heavenly state.
We shall now, in the third place,
III. Attend to the assurance with which he speaks on this subject.
We know, that if our earthly house be dissolved, we have a building of God.
The apostle may be understood as expressing an assurance of a future state of happiness; and a confidence of his own title to that state.
1. We may understand the apostle as expressing an assurance, that there is a state of happiness in reserve for true christians.
The evidences of such a state he suggests in our context, and in the parallel place in Romans.
He supposes it to be a common sentiment, founded in the reason of mankind, that there is a God—that God exercises a government over men, and will make a difference between the righteous and the wicked—between them who serve him, and them who rebel against him.
But this difference is not made in the present state. Here. good men often have an uncommon share in the calamities of life; and there are cases in which they suffer on account of their righteousness.
This was the case of the apostles. “We are troubled on every side-we are persecuted-we bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus. If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable."
Can it be that that God will subject to peculiar miseries, and leave without reward, his most faithful servants—those who renounce all worldly interests and prospects for promoting his cause among their fellow-men ?
This would contradict all our ideas of the equity of a moral government. There must then be another state in which their services, sufferings and self-denials may be rewarded. “For this cause,” says the apostle, “ we faint not. Though our outward man perish, our inward man is renewed. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
This argument the apostle applies to the case of the patriarchs. God had promised to be their God. But how was this promise made good ? Not in any worldly accommodations; for they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the world. In respect of earthly blessings they fared no better than many wicked men, to whom no such promise was made. The apostle thus an. swers this objection; “ God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city.”
Another argument for a future state, urged by the apostle, is the desire of immortality common to men, and operating with peculiar strength in sincere christians. “We know that we have a building of God; for in this tabernacle we groan earnestly, desiring to be cloathed upon with our house which is from heaven.” How is this desire an evidence of our immortality? The apostle says, “He who hath wrought us to this selfsame thing, is God."
And if God has put this desire into us, he certainly has prepared an object to satisfy it.
But how does it appear, that it is God who has wrought us to this desire ? Because it is universal. " The earnest expectation of the creature, the human race, waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. We know that the whole creation, or every human creature, groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, even the redemption of the body."
As a confirmation of the doctrine of the resurrection and a future life, the apostle refers us to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “ We have the spirit of faith-we believe, and therefore speak, knowing, that he who raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Christ has risen and become the first fruits of them who sleep. Reason makes it credible, that the dead shall rise and live. Christ's resurrection makes it certain. He foretold his own death and resurrection. He has promised also the future existence and happiness of his faithful disciples. What he predicted has been verified in himself. Hence we may conclude, that what he has promised will be accomplished in others.
2. The apostle may be understood in the text as expressing a strong persuasion of his own interest in the happiness of a future life.
Hence we may observe, that a knowledge of our title to heavenly happiness is attainable. The apostle, not only in our text, but in various other places, speaks with great confidence, of the happiness in reserve for him after the close of his present services for Christ. And he desires that every christian give diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end.
This knowledge, or assurance, however, is of the moral kind. It is not like the knowledge which comes by sense. We walk by faith ; not by sight. “We are saved by hope. But hope which is seen, is not hope ; for that which a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for ?"
If Christian assurance were like the evidence of sight, hope would be superseded. We are to pray, that God would give us a good hope through grace, and we are to give diligence, that we may abound in hope.
The apostle in our text says, We know that we have a building of God in heaven. He adds, we are confident, or fully persuaded, that when we are absent from the body, we shall be present with the Lord. St. John says, We know that when Christ shall appear, we shall be like him and shall see him as he is; and every one that hath this hope purifieth himself as he is pure. The full assurance, of which the apostle speaks, is the full assurance of hope, or a hope which gives the mind full satisfaction.'
There is no doubt, but that God, if he so pleases, can give to good men a direct and immediate discovery of their title to heaven, without leaving them to work out their salvation with fear. But we have no reason to expect this, for he has instructed us to seek the assurance of hope by diligence in the duties of religion, and to make our calling and election sure by adding to our faith all the virtues of the christian character. If we do these things, we shall never fall.
Our assurance of future glory depends on the promises which God has made in his word. We hope for eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, has promised. The conditions of these promises, are repentance of sin, faith in God through Christ, and purity of heart in conformity to the image of God. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, and be admitted into his kingdom. “God has given us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them we might become partakers of a divine nature, having escaped the pollutions that are in the world through lust.” “ Having therefore these promises,” says the apostle, “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” Our hope of an interest in these promises must depend on our experience of their influence in purifying our hearts. And our hope may be stronger in proportion to this influence. The more we abound in the fruits of righteousness, the inore we may abound in the hope of eternal life.