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in a most delicious garden, or in a palace of marble and cedar, to set him on a throne of gold under a canopy of purple, to clothe him with robes of velvet and embroidery, regaling him with the most delicious fruits and generous wines, and at the same time soothing his ear with all the harmony of sound, which the most melodious symphony of instruments and voices could afford ? Would all this magnificence and luxury make him insensible of that angnish which was racking his very vitals ? Or would not that inward torture rather render him insensible of this association of pleasurable impressions from without? Yea, would it not incline him to suspect, that you intended all these pompous preparations, only to deride and insult him? As little would your distempered and unholy souls be capable of relishing the entertainments of heaven, while these entertainments, and these souls of yours continue what they are at present.
There must be therefore a change: And will you consider where that change must be made ? If you continue still in your present character and circumstances, there must be a vast change in heaven itself, before you can be happy in it." The whole temper, character, and disposition of every saint and angel there, must be changed from what it now is, before they can be capable of any friendly and complacential conversation with you. Yea, our Lord Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever*, must divest himself of those beauties of holiness, which are infinitely dearer to him than any external grandeur or authority, before he can receive you into his kingdom. Nay, The very Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turningt, must be entirely changed: He must lay aside that holiness, which is essential to his nature, and which is the brightness and glory of it ; he must love that which he now hates, and be indifferent to that which he most affectionately loves, before he can open his arms to you, and smile upon your souls. And can you dare to hope for such an unaccountable, such an inconceivable revolution as this ? No, Sirs, infinitely sooner would God change earth into hell, and bury you, and all of your character, under the ruins of this world, which you inhabit and pollute, than he would thus tarnish the beauties of heaven, and divest himself of the brightest glory of his own divinity. “ God," says Archbishop Tillotson, “ has condescended to take our nature upon him, that he might make us capable of happi
* Heb. xiii. 8.
+ Jam, i, 17.
ness ; but if this will not do, he will not put off his own na. ture to make us happy."
What then do you imagine ? Do you think, that God will prepare some separate apartments of heaven, furnished with a variety of sensual pleasure, for the entertainment of persons of your character ? Some apartments, from whence the tokens of his presence shall be withdrawn, from whence the exercise of his worship shall be banished, from whence saints and angels shall retire to make way for those inhabitants, who, like you, have sinned themselves beyond a capacity of enjoying God, or of being fit companions for any of his most excellent creatures ? This were to suppose the christian religion false, and to contradict the light of natural reason too, which not only shews such a disposition of things to be unworthy the divine sanctity and Majesty, but also shews, that if there be a future state, it must be a state of misery to wicked men, in whose minds those vicious habits prevail, which are even now the beginning of hell; which therefore they must carry along with them wherever they are, in proportion to the degree in which they are predominant.
Upon the whole then, you must evidently see, that it is absolutely necessary, that you, Sinners should be changed, if ever you expect to have any part or lot in the future happiness. And when do you expect that change should be wrought ? Do you expect it, when death has done its dreadful office upon you, and your soul arrives at the invisible world ? Is the air of it, if I may be allowed the expression, so refined, that it will immediately purify, and transform, every polluted sinner that comes into it? You cannot but know, that the whole tenor of scripture forbids that presumptuous destructive hope. It assures us, that There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave*; but that we must be judged, According to what we have done in the body, and not according to what has past in any separate state, whether the actions we have done be good, or whether they be evilt.
If ever therefore you are regenerate at all, it must be while you are here below, in this state of education and trial : And if you continue in your sins till death surprise you, your souls will be for ever sealed up under an irreversible sentence, and by the decree of God, and the constitution of things, will be excluded from bappiness, as by no means either entitled to it, or prepared for it. So evident is the truth of this assertion in
* Eccl, ix, 10.
+ 2 Cor. v. 10,
the text, that Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
And will you then sit down contentedly under such a conclusion as this, “ I shall be excluded from this kingdom, as accursed, and profane?" Alas, Sirs, the conclusion is big with unutterable terror and death ; as I should now proceed to shew you at large, if my time would allow : For I am next to represent the infinite importance of entering into that kingdom, and consequently of that entire change which has been proved to be necessary to that entrance. But I must reserve that to the next opportunity of this kind. In the mean time let me add, that I doubt not, but there are many present, who have heard this description of the heavenly world with delight, and who are saying in their hearts, “ This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it* : This is the felicity, to which my heart aspires with the most ardent breathing.” Such may with the utmost reason regard it as a token for good, and may go on in a cheerful assurance, that the grace that has Made them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in lightt, will at length conduct them to it, in perfect safety, and ever, lasting triumph. Amen.
* Psal. cxxxii, 14.
+ Col. i, 19.
Of the Importance of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.
John iii. 3.
-Except a Man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdon
How impossible it is, that an unregenerate sinner should see, i. e. enjoy the kingdom of God, or that future blessedness to which the gospel is intended to lead its professors, I have shewn you at large. I have appealed to the testimony of God's holy prophets, and apostles, in concurrence with that of his incarnate Son, to prove that persons of such a character are, by the inviolable constitution of that kingdom, excluded from it. And I have farther, in my last discourse, proved that if they were actually admitted to it, they would be incapable of relishing its pleasure; that their vitiated palate would have a distaste to the choicest fruits of the paradise of God; yea, that in these blissful regions thorns and briars would spring up in their paths, and make them wretched in the very seat of happiness.
I doubt not, but you are in your consciences generally convinced, that the truth of these things cannot be contested. You are inwardly persuaded, that it is indeed so; and I fear, many of you have also reason to apprehend, that you are of this unhappy number, who are hitherto strangers to regenerating grace. But how are your minds impressed with this apprehension? Do I wrong you, Sirs, when I suspect, that some of them, are hardly impressed at all? Do I wrong you, when I suspect, there are those of you, who have spent the last week with very little reflection upon what you have heard? The cares and amusements of life have been pursued as before, and you have not taken one bour to enter into the thought with self-application, and seriously to consider, “ I am one of those, concerning whom eternal wisdom and truth has pronounced, that, if they continue such as at present they are, they shall not see the kingdom of God.” You have not paused at all upon the awful thought ; you have not offered one lively petition to God, to beg that you may be recovered from this unhappy state, and brought to a meetness for his kingdom, and a title to it. For your sakes therefore, and for the sakes of others in your state, having already explained, illustrated, and confirmed the proposition in my text, I proceed, III. To represent to you the importance of the argument sug
gested here; or to shew you, how much every unregenerate sinner ought to be alarmed to hear, that while he continues in his present state, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
And oh! that while I endeavour to illustrate this, my Words might enter into your minds as goads, and might fix there as nails fastened in a sure place! The substance of my argument is Given forth by the one great Shepherd *; may the prosecution of it be blessed, as the means of reducing some wandering sheep into his fold;
Now in order to illustrate the force of this argument I beseech you seriously to consider, -what this kingdom is, from which you are in danger of being for ever excluded; and what will be the condition of all those, who shall be finally cut off from any interest in it. [1.] Consider, “what that kingdom is, from which the unre
generate, or those who are not born again, shall be excluded.”
And here you are not to expect a complete representation of it: For that is an attempt, in which the tongues of angels, as well as men, might fail; or how proper soever their language might be in itself, to us it would be unintelligible; for Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him t. And surely these final and most illustrious preparations of his love must, beyond all others, exceed our description and conception. A minister that with the apostle Paul, had been Caught up into the third heaven, if he would attempt to speaķ of the glorious scenes which were there opened to him, must say, they were unutterable things I: And one, that with John, had laid in the bosom of Christ himself, must say, as that apostle did, It does not yet appear what we shall beş. And indeed, when we go about to discourse of it, I doubt not, but the blessed angels pity the weakness of our apprehensions and expressions,
* Eccles. xii, 11. Isa. xxii, 23. t 1 Cor. ü. I. * 2 Cor, xü. 2, 4. $ 1 John iii. 2.