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The effects of man's fall from God are felt to consist as much in his being debarred the fulfilment of his desires, as in the positive trials with which the denial of them is accompanied ; consequently, to remove his practical grievances, without supplying an actual and suitable portion to his soul, would be still to leave his happiness incomplete. Nor is the part in which the deficiency would in that case be felt, by any means the least important; because, when suffering and affliction cease, the desire which these have tended to obstruct exerts a greater power than before, and flows forth in an uninterrupted course. This was duly considered in the case of the Israelites; and hence we find that Canaan was made known to them more fully and frequently as a place of positive than negative
The enjoyments which they were taught to expect were in the first instance those of sense. It was a delicious country; "a land flowing with milk and honey;"* " a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills;”f a land where they did eat butter of kine and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat, and they did drink the pure blood of the grape;"I a place whose rich soil produced whatever could fill the cup of joy, or load the board of plenty. But, besides this, the enjoyment was to arise from the free liberty of serving God, and the delightful satisfaction which his uninterrupted presence with them would impart. It was * Lev. xx. 24. + Deut. viii. 7. Deut. xxxii. 14.
here he would fix his worship, and rest in his people.
Herein it prefigured heaven. That will be constituted not only by the absence of every trouble and sorrow, but also by the presence of all that can afford happiness and delight to the renewed soul. In what this will precisely consist is not revealed to us : “ For we walk by faith, not by sight.”* “ Now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”+ It is represented by thrones and crowns, and bearing of palms and emblems of triumph and victory; but all these are figures which, though suited to our state and capacity, must still be considered as very feebly setting forth that happy state. Enough is said of it to satisfy every believing mind. It will consist in being ever with the Lord, I sitting with him in his throne,ß beholding his face in glory; but what is precisely meant by these expressions, and a number of others of similar import with which the Scriptures abound, is still hidden from us. It ought to suffice to know that all which conduces to the greatest possible delight, in an intelligent, rational, accountable soul, will be enjoyed and possessed for ever.
Change and variety being necessary to the felicity of man, there is reason to believe that heaven will consist of an eternal development. God will for ever be making himself known, and disclosing something to the redeemed; while • 2 Cor. v. 7.
+ 1 John iii. 2. I 1 Thess. iv. 17.
Ś Rev. iii. 21.
to the discoveries thus made, their grateful songs will harmoniously respond. Nor will they ever cease or be weary, day or night, in praising him, and showing forth his glory. Canaan was a rest,
3. On account of its perpetuity.
The immortality of man is not only taught in Scripture, but he has the constant impression in his own breast that he will live for ever. Any portion, then, which may be proposed to him, whose continuance is not parallel with his own, can never be worthy of his confidence. This circumstance was properly considered with regard to Canaan. The Israelites had enjoyed seasons of rest and relief.
They had Elim,* and other places. These delights, however, were of short continuance; but with respect to Canaan, they were distinctly told that it should be à perpetual possession. So there is a sense in regard to this world in which he that believeth enters into rest; and many are the instances in which the ordinances of God are as delightful and refreshing to his people, as the places in which the Israelites rested after some great exertion, or protracted seasons of want and difficulty, were to them; yet, alas ! they are but of short continuance, and mixed with many imperfections, which make those who have them sigh for the rest which remaineth to the people of God; but in heaven the saints shall be perfectly happy, and no fear of a termination or alteration ever enters their holy minds. But Canaan was a type of heaven, not only as a rcst, but also,
* Exod. xv. 27.
II. As a promised rest.
The promise by which it was conveyed was first given to Abraham, to whom it was confirmed by an oath, and often renewed to his descendants; but as it was the design of the Almighty to glorify himself both in making that people happy, and also in the display of their graces (especially that of faith) during its reversion, many hundreds of years passed from the time of its first announcement until its complete fulfilment. Hence “ the land of promise," or “the land which the Lord had promised, became a designation as common and as descriptive of the place as that of a rest or an inheritance. This promise, as it was sovereign,
so it was perfectly free in its bestowment. To forget this there was always a disposition in God's ancient people, and therefore they were often addressed by Moses on the subject of the benevolence and mercy which it involved. They were distinctly told that it was not for any merit or goodness in them that this land was appropriated to them, neither because their numbers were such as to make them of importance, or give them any right to the Divine notice,-for, indeed, in this respect they could claim no superiority; but it was for his own sake that God had so distinguished them, and on account of the wickedness of those nations whose possessions they took that he had employed them to drive them out. In like manner the Apostle, in writing to the Galatians, in order to correct the error imbibed by many of his own day with respect to this important
matter, declares that this was the only tenure by which the blessing was held : “ Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ.” And adds, “This I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise' of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise." * In this promise the Israelites wanted faith, and it was their unbelief that excluded them from the blessing to which it has reference. So heaven is a promised inheritance, and a receiving the promise. As in the case of Canaan.
1. The very tenure by which it is to be held is of the nature of a promise.
The law of God is the everlasting, inalienable rule of right and wrong. It contains requirements and prohibitions which are not of an arbitrary nature,--such as the Deity chose to enact, but what, from a regard to himself and his own character, he was bound to enforce. They are such as grew out of the very nature of things. More than it requires equity itself could not demand, and with less than it asks it could not be satisfied. But a promise is a very different thing; it is made in an absolute manner, without any obligation on the part of the Deity to make it, being the result of his own good pleasure, and is framed in such a way, and given at such a season, as is most pleasing to him. In * Gal. iii. 16–18.
Heb. x. 36.