« AnteriorContinuar »
Let us not, however, depend on an external attendance as full evidence in the case. Negligence is evidence against us ; but bare attendance is not conclusive evidence for us. We must enquire for what end, and in what manner, we observe Divine institutions. Do we approach them with a desire to learn God's will —to be quickened in our obedience--to gain the knowledge of ourselves, and to correct the errors of our hearts and lives ? And do we feel a love to them and delight in them? Can we say with the saints of old, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord God of hosts : our soul longeth, yea even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord ?" “ A day in thine house is better than a thousand.” “Our soul thirsteth for thee, our flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where is no water, to see thy power and glory, so as we have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving kindness is better than life, our lips shall praise thee. Our soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead and guide us. Let them bring us into thy tabernacles. Then will we go unto the altar of God; unto God our exceeding joy."
If we have the same end in approaching God's ordinances, as he had in instituting them, even our spiritual edification; and if we feel our hearts corresponding to them and delighted in them; then we have communion with God, and receive fresh evidence that we shall be admitted into the presence of his glory.
4. Do we renounce and abhor every thing which is inconsistent with the nature of this inheritance ?
Into heaven nothing can enter that defiles, or works abomination. The fearful and unbelieving and abominable are cast out, and will have their part in a far different place—in a place more congenial to their character.
“Know ye not,”
ye not,” says the apostle, " that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
There is a kingdom prepared; but none can inherit it who are habitually unrighteous, for it is a kingdom of righteousness; and
God will cast out of it all things which offend, and them who do iniquity.
The apostle tells us, that not only such as practise all unrighteousness, but they who practise any unrighteousness, shall be excluded from it. If then there be any knowo wickedness which we love and indulge, whether it be impurity, intemperance, covetousness, injustice, deceit, extortion, envy, or malice, or whatever kind of wickedness it be, we cannot inherit the kingdom, until we are washed, justified and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.
5. To know whether we shall inherit the heavenly Canaan, we must enquire, whether we have a temper conformed to it-whether we are made meet to be partakers of it. It is a holy land ; and without holiness none can enter into it. The inhabitants of it are employed in holy services; and without holiness we cannot take part in those services. The Psalmist makes this important enquiry, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill ?” And he answers under Divine direction, “ He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that doth no evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against him. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but they who fear the Lord are honored.” The qualifications for the heavenly inheritance, our Saviour has more particularly described. The blessedness of this inheritance, he tells us, belongs to those, who are poor and humble in spiritwho mourn under a sense of their sins, and seek comfort in God's mercy by repentance-who are meek and gentle in their temper, and kind and beneficent in their deportment toward mankind; yea, even toward their enemies, as well as their friends-who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and are never satisfied with the scanty measure which they have, but reach after more full supplies—who are merciful to the afflicted, and forward to relieve them in their distress, and to comfort them in their sorrow-who are pure in heart, free from evil passions and vile affections, and conformed to the Divine character in holiness and goodness—who are of a peaceable disposition in themselves, and who study the things which make for peace among others, and who are stedfast
in the practice of righteousness, even though they should be reviled and persecuted for righteousness' sake. Such are the men who shall inherit the land of promise.
The religion which qualifies men for heaven, is not merely an abstinence from vice and wickedness in its grossest forms. It is positive purity and goodness. To constitute this religion, there must be a real love of God's character-an esteem and approbation of his commands—a submission to his government, as well as a forbearance of what the world calls evil.
That we might not have too partial and limited ideas of religion, the apostle describes it both negatively and positively. He tells us, what it is not, and what it is—what it excludes, and what it contains. “Ye have been taught, as the truth is in Jesus, that ye put off concerning your former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore put away lying, and speak every man truth with his neighbor. Let him that stole, steal no more; but rather let him work with his hands the thing which is good, that he may give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying. Let all bitterness and wrath and clamor be put away from you, and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another. Be ye followers of God, and walk in love. Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the acceptable will of God.”
The state of heaven is not merely the absence of misery, but the enjoyment of happiness. The qualification must be not merely the denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts, but the love of godliness, sobriety and righteousness. If there be positive happiness in heaven, there must, in order to our enjoying it, be a temper of positive holiness formed in us.
You think, that you shall enter into heaven, because you shun many of the vices which others practise. But possibly you would shun these vices, even though you thought there was no
such place as heaven. It may be, your constitution, your interest, your worldly circumstances, your social connections forbid them. Do you love and practise the opposite virtues ? Do you practise them, even when the world would tempt you to renounce them? You must not only abhor that which is evil, but cleave to that which is good.
6. That you may know whether you shall inherit the heavenly country, enquire, whether you have been sealed by the Spirit, and whether you have the earnest of the Spirit in your hearts. This is an evidence in the case, on which the scripture lays great weight and to which you ought carefully to attend.
The apostle says to the Ephesians, “ Ye have obtained an inheritance in Christ, in whom, after ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” He says to the Corinthians, “ All the promises of God in Christ are yea, and amen. He who hath anointed us in God, hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” And to the Romans he also says, “ Ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God ; and if children, then heirs ; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."
A seal leaves its image on the substance, on which it is impressed. This kind of sealing, in common usage, is designed for evidence of a person's right to some privilege, or property conveyed to him by another. In allusion to this usage, the apostle speaks of the sealing of the Spirit as an evidence of our title to the heavenly inheritance. As the seal leaves its image on the wax, so the Spirit, in the work of sanctification, forms the Divine image in the soul. What are the marks and characters of this Divine seal the apostle particularly instructs us. They are “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;" or as he elsewhere expresses them more summarily, they are “all goodness and righteousness and truth.”
Now if we have these virtues and graces wrought in our souls, we have the seal of the Spirit. And the existence of these graces in us is called the earnest of the Spirit; and the first fruits of the
Spirit. They are a pledge and earnest of our inheritance, as they are a preparation for it, and an anticipation of it. They are not only a qualification for heaven, but they are heaven already begun. The comfort and pleasure resulting from a holy temper wrought in the soul are foretastes of heaven. They are the first fruits of the promised land. Thus the Spirit witnesses with our spirit, that we are heirs of God. The work of sanctification in the soul is an evidence of our heirship. As this is a work of the Divine Spirit on our spirit, so in this work he bears witness with our spirit. And this testimony is complete, when, by quickening our graces into sensible exercise, he enables us to discern their truth and reality.
In enquiring, therefore, after the earnest, seal and testimony of the Spirit, we are not to look for any extraordinary discovery in a way of immediate communication, or revelation ; but to examine the habitual state and temper of our minds. If we find in ourselves those graces which the gospel requires, and which constitute the christian character, such as love to God, charity to mankind, affection for good men, meekness, humility, patience, contentment and sobriety; then we have the sealing of the Spirit ; and hereby we may know, that we shall inherit the purchased possession.
" God hath anointed and sealed us." And what Paul calls the sealing, St. John calls the anointing of the Spirit. “ This,” says he, " is the promise, which God hath promised, even eternal life.” The promise is sure, but how shall we know whether it belongs to us? The apostle adds, “ The anointing," that is, the sanctification, “which ye have received of him abideth in you.” There is a permanently holy change formed in you. “And ye need not that any man teach you”--that is, instruct you whether the promise of eternal life belongs to you; “ But as the same anointing teacheth you of all things” relative to this question," and is truth, and as it hath taught you, so abide in it." Let this work of sanctification continue, and increase, and you will have a continual evidence of your interest in the promise. “And now abide in Christ," that is, in the faith of Christ's gospel, “ that when he shall appear, ye may have confi