« AnteriorContinuar »
and suffered for his sake in the present world. Blessed are they which are persecuted for rigteousness' sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In the addresses to the seven Asiatic churches, eternal life, under various forms of expression, is promised as the reward of those who shall overcome the temptations and persecutions of the present state. Nor is it a mere promise of eternal life in general, to those wvbo shall overcome ; but of a reward according to the deeds done in the body. This subject will appear with the fullest evidence, if we consider the nature of that enjoyment of which the heavenly state will consist.
First: Heavenly bliss will greatly consist in our being approved of God. There is a day approaching, when God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart ; and then shall every man have praise of God. That which Enoch bad on earth, all God's faithful servants shall have in beaven, a testimony that they have pleased God; and a heaven it will be of itself! But it is impossible that all good men should partake of tbis satisfaction in an equal degree, unless they had all acted in this world exactly alike.
Secondly: Heavenly bliss will consist in the exercise of love, supreme love to God: and if so, the more we bave done for him, the more our hearts will be filled with joy on the remembrance of it. The same principle that makes us rejoice in his service here, will hereafter make us rejoice that we have served him; and as love bere makes us glory even in tribulation, if God may but be honoured, so there it will make us rejoice that we were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name's sake. It is thus that our present light afflictions work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; and thus that by labouring and suffering in his cause, we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. All this sup. poses that unless we have equally laboured and suffered for God in this world, we cannot equally enjoy him in the next. .
Thirdly : Heavenly bliss will consist in ascribing glory to God and the Lamb: buy this can be performed only in proportion as we have glory to ascribe. He that has done much for God, has obtained more crowns, if I may so speak, than others ; and the more he bas obtained, the niore will he have to cast at the Redeemer's
feet. When we hear a THORNTON, a HOWARD, or a Paul acknowledge, By the grace of God I am what I am, there is a thousand times more meaning in the expression, and a thousand times more glory redounds to God, than in the uttering of the same words by some men, even though they be men of real piety. The apostle of the Gentiles speaks of those to whom he had been made useful, as such as would be his joy and crown anotber day. But if there were not different degrees of glory in a future state, every one that enters the kingdom of heaven, yea, every infant caught tbither from the womb or the breast, must possess the same joyful recollection of its labours, and the same crown, as the apostle Paul. The stating of such a supposition is sufficient to refute it.
Fourthly : Heavenly bliss will consist in exploring the wonders of the love of God. Spiritual knowledge expands the soul, so as to render it capable of containing more than it would otherwise do. Every vessel will be filled, as some have expressed it; but every vessel will not be of equal dimensions. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are represented as conspicuous characters in the kingdom of heaven, with whom it will be a blessedness to sit down in communion. Peter and Paul, and other such eminent characters, are prepared for a greater degree of enjoyment than Christians in cominon.
Some have objected against this doctrine, that we are all loved with the same love, purchased by the same blood, called by the same calling, and heirs of the same inheritance; and therefore it may be supposed that we shall all possess it in the same degree.' But if this reasoning would prove any thing, it would prove too much ; painely, that we should all be upon an equality in the present world, as well as in that which is to come : for we are now as much the objects of the same love, purchased by the same blood, called by the same calling, and heirs of the same inberitance, as we shall all be bereafter; and if these things be consistent with the greatest diversity in this life, there is no conclusion to be drawn from thence, but that it may be equally so in that wbich is to come.
What remains ie, that we prove the consistency of this doctrine with that of salvation by grace alone. If the doctrine of rewards implied the notion of merit, or desert, the inconsistency of the one with the other would be manifest. Man, even in his purest state, could merit nothing at the hand of his Creator ; since the utmost of what he did, or could do, was his duty : much less is it possible for fallen, guilty creatures to merit any thing at the hand of an offended God, except it be shame and confusion of face. But no such idea is included in the doctrine of rewards; which is only designed to encourage us in every good word and work, and to express Jehovah's regard to righteousness, as well as his love to the righteous.
In the first place : Rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace ; because those very works which it pleased God to honour, are the effects of his own operation. He rewards the works of which he is the anthor, and proper cause. He who ordains peuce for us, hath wrought all our works in us.
Secondly: All rewards to a guilty creature have respect to the mediation of Christ. Through the intimate union that subsists between Cbrist and believers, they are not only accepted in him, but what they do is accepted and rewarded for his sake. The Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offering ; and we are said to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. As there is no sin so heinous, but God, for Christ's sake, will forgive it; no blessing so rich, but he will bestow it ; so there is no service so small but he will reward it. A cup of cold water given to a disciple for Christ's sake, will ensure a disciple's reward..
Thirdly: God's graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people, serves to show, not only his love to Christ, and to them, but his regard to righteousness. His love to us induces him to bless us ; and his love to righteousness induces him to bless us in this particular mode. An affectionate parent designs to confer a number of favours on his child, and in the end to bequeath him a rich inheritance. He designs also to have his mind suitably prepared for the proper enjoyment of these benefits ; and therefore, in the course of his education, he studiously confers his favours by way of encouragement, as rewards to acts of filial duty. He gives him a new garment for ihis, and a watch for that: for his attention to the flocks and herds, he shall have a sheep, or a cow, which he shall call his own; and for his assiduity in tilling the soil, he shall have the product of a particular field It is easy to perceive in this case, that the father does not consider these things as properly the child's due, upon a footing of equity; but to manifest his approbation of filial obedience. Thus our heavenly Father gives grace and glory. Thus it is, that finding is connected with seeking, and crowns of glory with overcoming. It is thus, as well as by the atonement of Christ, that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life. Those who at the last day shall be saved, will be sufficiently convinced that it is all of grace, and that they have no room for glorying but in the Lord; while on the other hand, the moral government of God will be honoured, the equity of bis proceedings manifested, and the mouths of ungodly sinners stopped; even when the Judge declares in the face of the universe, concerning the righteous, These shall walk with me in while, for they are worthy.
ANSWER TO STEPHANUS, RESPECTING THE DIFFERÈNCE
IN THE FRAME OF HIS MIND WHEN ENGAGED IN SOCIAL AND SECRET PRAYER.
1 Take it for granted that Stephanus means to say, that at the same time when it was common for him to find great liberty and zeal in public prayer, it was usual for him to be lifeless, barren, and uncomfortable in prijate; otherwise there would be no diffi
culty in the case. That such a state of mind should excite a jealousy of himself is not surprising. Stephanus inquires after its cause and cure.
As to the first, permit me to ask, Are you not more influenced by the presence of creatures than by His presence who fills heaven and-earth? Is there not a spice of vanity that prompts you to wish to appear to advantage when in company with your fellowmen ; an emulation that stimulates invention, and which by a kind of intellectual friction, like that of the wheels of a machine, warms your faculties, and works up your powers to an earnestness that is in danger of being mistaken for religious zeal ? Such has not unfrequently been the case among professors of religion.
Let me further ask, Have you not indulged in some beset. ting sin, to which God and your conscience only have been witness ? Private prayer is the season for such things to come to remembrance, rather than in the exercise of more public duties. Hence it may be that your face shall be covered with shame, and your soul be struck as by the darts of deat}, when in private ; while in your more public exercises, not considering yourself as called upon to confess private sins, you may think but little about them. Let me suppose Stephanus to be a young man, and to have offended his father. Should he be admitted into public company with his father, he will not feel so great a difficulty in addressing him there, as if he was introduced into a private apartment, and was obliged to converse with him alone. In the former case, his private feelings, as being unknown to the company, will not be noticed; in the latter, the conversation can turn upon nothing else. I do not presume to determine that this is the case with Stephanus : but this I say, such causes are adequate to such effects, and it becomes Stephanus to inquire if they have no influence in his case.
As to the cure, that is certainly a very improper step which he proposes—declining to engage in public prayer. Let him rather betake himself to private prayer, attended with close examination and humiliation before God : this will render public prayer more easy. If Stephanus had offended his father, as supposed above, and if, after a little free conversation with him in public VOL. VIII.