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and calls forth their whole souls in the most enraptured and exalted strains of adoration and praise ; and what gives perfection to their joy, is the knowledge that their rest shall be uninterrupted and eternal. The promise of Christ, to those who overcome in the spiritual warfare, is that he will make them “pillars in the temple of God, and they shall go no more out, for ever." And because Christ lives they shall live also, and be ever with the Lord.
Thus, my brethren, I have given you a very brief and imperfect sketch of the character of God's people, and the nature and glory of that rest which remaineth for them. I have indeed but just opened the subject. But it is plain, and may be pursued by you with advantage and delight, in your retirement. I shall now close with a brief
1. And in the first place, let the friends of God receive support and encouragement from this subject, under all their labors and sorrows. It is calculated for this end, and this is an improvement which they ought to make of it. It is true that they have many difficulties to encounter, and are liable to great burdens and pressing sorrows.
But the period approaches when they will cease from all their labors and sorrows, and be at rest. For there remaineth a rest to the people of God. That rest, those who are now his friends shall certainly enjoy. This corisideration may serve to encourage, to support, and to animate them in their course. The thought of arriving at home, and finding a cordial and joyful welcome from a kind family, is anticipated with pleasure, and serves, in a degree, to support us under the burden of a long and tedious journey, and to quicken us in our progress. In like manner, you may be supported, 0 Christian, under all your labors, and in every conflict, by meditating on the rest before you. You may anticipate your cordial welcome
to heaven, and the pleasing congratulations of the benevolent family above. You may anticipate a state of perfect rest and peace, and of a most happy and glorious employment in the service and praise of God, in his immediate presence—may look forward to a time, when all tears shall be wiped from your eyes, and all sorrow shall be at an end. You may meditate much on these things, and find them comforting and useful. It will have a tendency to sup: port you under sorrow, to put a smile on the face of adversity, to render the burden of life easy, and animate you to run the race set before you with patience.
2. This subject is calculated to administer peculiar consolation, to all who mourn the death of pious relations and friends. When such are called away, our loss indeed is great, and the scenes are distressing to nature, yet we may follow them in their ascending flight, and behold them leaving their load of pain, of sorrow, and of sin behind them, and assuming the glorious robes of purity and bliss- entering into the joy of their Lord-beholding him as he is, and being transformed into his glorious likeness. And as at their first repentance, there was joy over them in the presence of the angels of God; so now they are congratulated by the spirits of the just made perfect, and with them they enter upon that rest, that keeping of a sabbath-which remaineth for the people of God. And shall we in this view mourn their departure ? Shall we wish them to return to us, to this sinful state, to this world of tribulations ? Or shall we consider them as lost to us, or to the kingdom of God ? No, we are to consider them as but removed from a lower to a higher sphere of usefulness, to a state of enjoyment, for which they were trained up here, where we may hope to meet them, (if through faith and patience we are followers of them and of the Saviour,) to meet them, and enjoy them, and be enjoyed by them, in a inanner, inconceivably more perfect, satisfying, and conducive to the
glory of God, than could exist in this imperfect state. In whatever äge, or station, or circumstance of life, they are taken from us still we have the same ground for consolation and though we may mourn for ourselves, and be affected at our loss of them, while we remain here, yet, reflecting on the infinite wisdom and goodness of the hand which removes them, and the joy into which they have entered, we have abundant occasion to bless God, and to comfort one another with these words. But of whom may we entertain such hopes ? and whom may we, with humble confidence, consider as thus exalted in perfection and bliss ? Not all-not any except those who, in life and in death, have given evidence of being friends, and followers of Jesus. It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises.
The heavenly rest remaineth only for the peoplo of God. And though we may be inexcusable in not being sufficiently ready to glorify God, in respect to the death of his saints, in eminent instances of the triumph of faith, yet perhaps we are more likely to err in professing strong hopes of them, when they have been no way distinguished for evident fruits of piety. Many are apt to entertain a hope for their deceased friends, and consider them as having entered upon the heavenly rest, upon very slight grounds, and when they have given little or no evidence of being the children of God. But this does dishonor to the gospel, and injures those who would wish the qualifications for heaven to be low, and that it might be sufficient to be the subjects of a little seriousness in death. A little serious conversation on a death bed is often made a ground of very comfortable hopes, concerning persons who have paid no serious attention to religion, in a state of health. But what dependence can be placed on such appearances ? They afford scarcely the color of evidence, that the person has any
vital religion. Where is the person who will not feel the importance of religion on a sick bed?
and who, if he have reason, will not say some serious things? The greatest sinners, in the ne. approach of death, usually feel great anxiety. They feel the importance of religion, talk of it in the most feeling manner, and make the most solemn promises, to change their life and turn to God, if spared. But experience proves, in many instances, this goodness to be as the morning cloud. Many persons of this description, on the return of health, lose all sense of religion, and return with brutal stupidity to the pleasures of sin. There may indeed be some, who are savingly wrought upon, and who become new creatures, on a death bed ; but this is not ordinarily to be expected. The only ground on which we can build aconfident and rational hope, concerning deceased friends, is their life and conversation in a state of health. It is from the tenor of a man's life for months and years that we are to learn his character ; and not from a few serious things he may say, just before death. If he have professed religion and honored his profession ; if he have been uniformly honest and upright ; if he have appeared to pay a strict and conscientious regard to religious duties, and divine institutions ; if, to crown all, he have appeared to rest in the plan of salvation, opened in the gospel, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus, making him all his hope, and all his dependence, and having no confidence in the flesh; if this, according to the general testimony of survivors, was his character, we may exercise a confident hope of him, that he is of those, for whom there remaineth a heavenly rest. Therefore, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, and “ fear, lest a promise being left us, entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it Amen.
ABIDING IN CHRIST.
1 JOHN II. 6.
He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so
to walk, even as he walked.
THE apostle John, in all his epistles, spake much of real and experimental religion. He did not reason like saint Paul, nor dwell so much upon the explication and defence of the more mysterious doctrines of the gospel. Benevolence, love to God, to the brethren, and to mankind, and the distinguishing characteristics of vital religion, were the subjects upon which he delighted to dwell. He spake much also of external religion, was frequent in pointing out marks of sincerity and hypocrisy, and urging the importance that all who profess to be Christians should walk externally, and also in all respects, according to their Christian profession and the example of Christ. These characteristics of the apostle John appear particularly in this epistle, and in this chapter. In the text and verses preceding, he is pointing out the marks of sincerity and hypocrisy in profession, and the importance of walking as Christ walked. “ Hereby" says the apostle “ we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith I