« AnteriorContinuar »
the dragon and the roaring lion who hath innumerable squadrons under him, legions of rebellious spirits that are always warring against us. They are for their craft set forth under the title of the old serpent: for their strength they are called principalities and powers; and spiritual wickednesses in opposition to flesh, which is an expression of our frailty and weakness: and they are in combination with innumerable lusts in our own hearts, and with this world, and they use the allurements and discouragements of it to overcome us, and make us lose our heavenly prize. Now do but consider what we are to oppose so terrible, and such numberless enemies. The scripture speaking concerning the state of man, in opposition to satan, calleth us babes—“Out of the mouths of babes, and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.” Psal. S. 2. This does first respect our blessed Saviour, who sprung from so mean an original, as being a babe and a suckling; and under that name all his members, the whole church of God in all ages are comprehended; they are but in a state of human weakness and infirmity, so that we are in unspeakable danger of being overcome by these enemies. Where the enemy is potent and cruel, and the strength that overcomes it so small, how doth it enhance the sweetness of victory! I will give you one instance of it. The children of Israel were pursued by Pharaoh and all his chariots of Egypt; there was no passage visible for them; there was the red sea before them, and a cruel enemy behind them. Now when God made a passage for them through the red sea, and when he destroyed all their enemies in their passage, do but read what was the joyful effect of that victory: “Then sung Moses and the children of Israel, this song unto the Lord, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation, &c. who is like unto thee O Lord among the gods, who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders ?” Exod. 15. 1–11. The memory of the eminent danger that threatened them, made them break forth into the high praises of God, and filled them with the most cordial and sensible joy, to see that they should be saved from the enemy that was ready to devour them in such a manner. So in 114 Psal. —“When Israel went out of Egypt the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, the sea saw it and fled, Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. What ailed thee, O sea, that thou fleddest ? Thou Jordan that thou wast driven back 2" These figurative expressions triumphantly set forth the praises of God for delivering them from their present danger, when they had the sea before them, and the Egyptian army behind them. When we come to heaven, and shall consider how dangerous an enemy we had to encounter with, how tedious conflicts he had with us, and how it might be said of us as David said of himself, “There was but a step between me and death.” And God saved us from an enemy without us, and spiritual enemies within us; then we shall sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. So we read of the church when it had rest from antichristian enemies; “And they sing the song of Moses and the Lamb, saying great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty” &c. Rev. 15. 3. When we shall overcome this spiritual Pharaoh, the devil and all his hosts, O this will fill us with strange surprising joy, and will make us magnify the saving mercy of God, and admire his wonderful power, which saveth us from such enemies. That is one of the considerations that shows how the rest of heaven will be the joy of victory, in overcoming dangerous and cruel enemies. (2.) The second thing is, this joyful rest is also enhanced, if you consider what that prize is which you have secured and preserved from these enemies by this victory. Suppose there was a contention about things of no great value, yet victory is pleasant about trifles; but much more a cause of joy when it is about things of greatest moment. When angry and proud kings contend about a province or a kingdom, it is no great matter, for the whole world is but a miserable scene of vanity; and if one man had it all, he would be always unsatisfied. But now consider you are to encounter with spiritual enemies for your all. The scripture tells us they war against the soul. 1 Pet. 2. 1 1. The soul is our most excellent and eternal part; they war against your souls and would rob you of your innocence, of your purity and peace; the prize here is invaluable: these enemies would rob you of the love of God, which is better than life, for this is that which they contend for. The apostle speaks concerning our spiritual enemies. Rom. 8. 35. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” And that is the prize they would fain rob as of, the love of Christ, which is the fountain of all felicity; and the love of God, which is better than life. These enemies would robus of his favour, and expose us to his displeasure. Therefore the prize is so great, our victory over our enemies must be very sweet. “Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” It is a crown of life, a crown of righteousness, an immortal inheritance, that fadeth not away, the kingdom of heaven. The apostle calls it the “prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Now where there is such a perfection of blessedness, and where it is the soul that is contended for, how sweet will the victory be, when all our enemies shall be overthrown, and we secured from their assaults. (3.) Another thing that makes this victory joyful, is this, it shall be entire, absolute, and final, over all these enemies. As Moses said to the Israelites, “Stand still and see the salvation of God, which he will show unto you to-day; for the Egyptians whom you have seen to-day, you shall see them again no more for ever.” Then after their deliverance, they brake out into a triumphant song. While we are in this world, we are always in a state of warfare. Now consider what pleasure there is in victory; a holy soul finds more joy in conquering one passion, than in gratifying all his passions. There is more pleasure in motifying one carnal affection, than in satisfying all our carnal affections. This victory will end in everlasting songs of triumph. In this world the enemy will return upon us after we have conquered him: if you resist him one hour and foil him, he will assault you the next. It is said, the tempter departed from Christ for a season. Luke 4. 13. But he was so bold and insolent as to return again upon him. So it is with every believer in this world: our victory is but single, and the enemy is not quite broken; therefore we should be always upon our guard and have our graces in a vigorous exercise, and our armour in readiness. But in heaven the enemies are totally routed and subdued, and our conflicts and dangers are at an end, for we shall be molested no more. O how joyful shall this be to us! We are not able to conceive what greater joy we can receive, than in getting a final and entire victory over all our spiritual enemies. There is one scripture very applicable to this purpose, Rev. 3. 21. “To him that overcometh will I grant, to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” It is by persevering in the way of holiness, notwithstanding all the VOL. III, c
disturbance and opposition that we meet with, that we overcome, What now doth sitting on the throne signify P. It signifies two things, rest and triumph. To sit down on the throne after victory it signifies rest and freedom from all the assaults of our enemies and that triumphant joy, that glory the soul shall then be in: for heaven is a state of glorious joy, that ariseth from the ruin of our spiritual enemies. God hath made a poor weak believer to be victorious over all the opposition that earth and hell could make against him. Therefore saith the apostle, “We are more than conquerors.” All the conflicts and oppositions that we meet with shall contribute to our rest and triumph. O consider these things and seriously believe and meditate on them, that so the soul may be enlarged and strengthened with constancy and vigour to go through our spiritual warfare, till we come to that joyful rest in heaven. There is nothing will make us more zealous for God and cheerful in resisting temptations, than the consideration of this everlasting rest. There is a triumphant felicity shall be bestowed upon all those that persevere in holiness to the end of their lives. Thus I have done with the consideration of this joyful rest, with respect to the cessation and freedom it gives us from all our labours, and from all the afflictive evils, and a full and complete victory over all our spiritual enemies.
There is a conjunction of all the saints in this rest. Whose society is highly pleasant, because they are free from all blemishes, and united in the most joyful work ; and exceedingly love each other.
I Shall now proceed to the positive part of substantial happiness. And the first 1 shall instance in, is the lowest part of heaven, yet it is that which will make it very sweet to our apprehensions, viz. The conjunction of all the saints of God in that blessed rest, and their communion in that heavenly glory. The communion of saints is one part of their happiness in this life; and it is a part of our happiness in the next: you shall find therefore the apostle, when he speaks of the gospel-state, which comprehends both the militant and triumphant church, Heb. 12. 22. says, “But you are come to Mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven.” We have not a more proper conception of happiness, than for persons to converse with those whom they love. Do but consider in this present life, how sweet and pleasant is the conversation of a wise and holy person, and one in whom there is sweetness of affability; how charming is the conversation of such a person; how strangely doth it ravish our hearts' So that when a man meets with such a one, he is like an angel sent from paradise to him. Now do but imagine with yourselves what joy must be, when you shall meet with the universal assembly of all the glorified spirits: when the blessed angels of God, of all orders, shall be every one your friend: when you shall see all the members of the Old and New Jerusalem, the church under the Old Testament and under the New, and shall have the most sweet and intimate converse with them. There are two things considerable, to show you how much your joyful converse in heaven will be above what you can have with the saints here, in the present state: the holiest person on earth hath his blemishes and imperfections, so that we cannot have such a clear converse with him, but it may be, sometime or other, something will be a little irksome, and this may take off from their amiableness. And we can choose none to be a friend among men, but we must make an allowance for human frailties and infirmities. But now in heaven, the image of God hath received his last hand; all the celestial colours are added to it, to give it beauty, life, and vivacity: their grace is changed into glory, and every saint is a complete copy of the original perfection of God himself: so the saints in heaven are all exceedingly lovely, and God loveth them. Therefore there is reason we should believe that the spirits of just men made perfect, will add to the loveliness and universal joy of that place; for heaven is a world of love, the law of love reigns there : faith and hope shall cease,