« PreviousContinue »
but to satisfy for ever them that were both; this sure exceeds all the wonted measures of love. Much love is shewn in the forgiveness of sin in the supply of necessities; but herein (as the apostle speaks in another case) is the love of God perfected as to its exercise : it hath now perfectly attained its end, when it hath not left so much as a craving desire, not a wish unsatisfied; the soul cannot say, “I wish it were better; 0 that I had but this one thing more to complete my happiness.” It hath neither pretence nor inclination to think such a thought. Divine love is now at rest. It was travailing big with gracious designs before ; it hath now delivered itself. It would rather create new heavens every moment, than not satisfy : but it hath now done it to the full; the utmost capacity of the soul is filled up; it can be no happier than it is. This is love's triumph over all the miseries, wants, and desires of a languishing soul: the appropriate, peculiar glory of divine love. If all the excellencies of the whole creation besides, were contracted into one glorious creature, it would never be capable of this boast, I have satisfied one soul. The love of God leaves none unsatisfied, but the proud despisers of it. Now is the eternal sabbath of love. Now it enters into rest, having finished all its works; it views them over now with delight, for lo! they are all good ; its works of pardon, of justification and adoption; its works of regeneration, of conversion, and sanctification; its establishing, quickening, comforting works; they are all good, good in themselves, and in this their end, the satisfaction and repose of blessed souls. Now divine love puts on the crown, ascends the throne, and the many myriads of glorified spirits fall down about it, and adore : all profess to owe to it the satisfying pleasures they all enjoy. Who can consider the unspeakable satisfaction of those blessed spirits, and not also reflect upon this exalted greatness of divine love!
(2.) It is again great love, if we consider wherewith they shall be satisfied. The sight and participation of the divine glory, his face, his likeness, his represented and impressed glory. There may be great love that never undertakes, nor studies to satisfy all the desires of the persons we cast our love upon, especially where nothing will satisfy but high and great matters. The love of God knows no difficulties; nor can be overset. The greater the performance or vouchsafement, the more suitable to divine love. It hath resolved to give the soul a plenary satisfaction, perfectly to content all its desires; and since nothing else can do it, but an eternal beholding of the glorious face of the divine majesty, and a transformation into his own likeness, that shall not be withheld. Yea, it hath created, refined, enlarged its capacity on purpose, that it might be satisfied with nothing less. Great love may sometimes be signified by a glance; the offered view of a willing face. Thus our Lord Jesus invites his church to discover her own love, and answer his, Let me see thy
face, &c. Cant. 2. 14. Love is not more becomingly expressed or gratified, than by mutual looks, ubi amor, ibi oculus. How great is that love that purposely lays aside the vail, that never turns away its own, nor permits the aversion of the beholder's eye throughout eternity. Now we see in a glass; then face to face as if never weary of beholding on either part; but on that part the condescension lies, is the transcendent admirable love. That a generous beneficent, the other (till it be satisfied here) a craving, indigent love. And how inexpressible a condescension is this ? Poor wretches ! many of whom, possibly, were once so low, that a strutting grandee would have thought himself affronted by their look, and have met with threatening rebukes by their over-daring venturous eye; lo now they are permitted (to stand before princes; that is a mean thing) to feed their eyes with divine glory, to view the face of God. He sets them before his face for ever. And that eternal vision begets in them an eternal likeness; they behold not a glorious God with deformed souls; that would render them a perpetual abomination and torment to themselves. Love cannot permit that heaven should be their aflliction; that they should have cause to loath and be weary of themselves in that presence. It satisfies them, by clothing and filling them with glory; by making them partake of the divine likeness, as well as behold it. It is reckoned a great expression of a complying love, but to give a picture; when the parties loved only permit themselves to view in a mute representation a vica. rious face. This is much more a vital image (as before) God's own living-likeness propagated in the soul; the inchoation of it is called the divine love, the seed of God. What amazing love is this, of the great God to a worm! not to give over till he have assimilated it to his own glory; till it appear as a ray of light begotten of the Father of lights! Every one, saith the apostle, that doth righteousness is born of him ; 1 John. 2. 29. and then it follows, behold, what manner of love—3. 1. to be the sons of God; to be like him, to see him as he is, &c. How great a word is that (spoken in reference to our present state)—to make us partakers of his holiness. Heb. 12. 10. And (as well it might) it is instanced as an effect and argument of love, (for sure chastening itself, abstracted from that end of it, doth not import love) whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth--and then by and by, in the same series and line of discourse is added—to make us partakers of his holiness. Love always either supposes similitude, or intends it; and is sufficiently argued by it either way. And sure, the love of God cannot be more directly expressed, than in his first intending to make a pour soul like him, while he loves it with compassion; and then imprinting and perfecting that likeness, that he may love it with eternal delight. Love is here the first and the last, the beginning and end in all this business.
7. Inference. That since this blessedness is limited to a qualified subject “I
in righteousness,” the unrighteous are necessarily left excluded. 8. Inference. That righteousness is no vain thing, in as much as it hath so happy an issue, and ends so well.
7. Considering this blessedness is not common but limited to a qualified subject “ I in righteousness," a person clothed in righteousness : it evidently follows, the unrighteous are necessarily excluded and shut out, can have no part nor portion in this blessedness. The same thing that the apostle tells us, without an inference; Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, &c. (1 Cor. 6. 9.) intimating that to be a most confessed known thing: know ye not ? is it possible ye can be ignorant of this ! The natural necessity of what hath been here inferred, hath been argued already from the consideration of the nature of this blessedness. The legal necessity of it, arising from the divine will and law, is that I mainly intend at present. By such a necessity also, they are excluded, who by God's rule (according to which the supreme judgment must be managed) shall be found unrighteous: those that come not up to the terms of the gospel-covenant; never accepted the offers, nor submitted to the commands of it'; and that hence consequently are unrelated to Christ, and ununited to him ; no way capable of advantage by his most perfect and all-sufficient righteousness, that alone fully answers all the exactions and demands of the covenant of works : and so, who are at last found unrighteous by the old law and the new, the law both of the Creator and Redeemer too. There is the same necessity these should be excluded, as that God should be just and true. The word is gone forth of his mouth in righteousness, and cannot return. He did not dally with sinners, when he settled those constitutions, whence this necessity results. He is not a man, that he should lie; nor the son of man, that he should repent. A heathen understood so much of the nature of God.
I have thought sometimes, with much wonder, of the stupid folly of unsanctified hearts; triey are even confounded in their own wishes; and would have (in order to their security) they know not what. Were the question faithfully put to the very heart of such a one, what wouldst thou have done in order to thy eternal safety from divine wrath and vengeance ? would not the
answer be, O that God would recall those severe constitutions he hath made; and not insist so strictly on what he hath required in the gospel, in order to the salvation of sinners. But foolish wretch! dost thou know what thou sayest! wouldst thou have God repeal the gospel, that thou mayest be the more secure ? in what a case art thou then? Hast thou no hope if the gospel stand in force ? what hope wilt thou have if it do not ? Must the hopes of all the world be ruined to establish thine ? and yet leave them involved in the common ruin too? What, but the gospel gives the least hope to apostate sinners? There is now hope for thee in the gospel-promise, if thou return to God. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon. Isa. 55. 7. But take away the gospel, and where art thou? Were it possible for thee to repent, and become a new man; what settles the connexion between repentance and salvation, but the gospel promise ? Will the violated law of works accept thy repentance instead of obedience? Doth it not expressly preclade any such expectation? Doth it give any ground to look for any thing but death after sin ? Thou must therefore fly to the gospel, or yield thyself lost. And know, it contains none but faithful and true sayings, that have more stability in them than the foundations of heaven and earth : therefore expect nothing to be altered for thy sake. The gospel constitution was settled long before thou wast born : thou comest too late with thy exceptions (if thou hadst any) against it. Remember therefore this is one of the unalterable determinations of this gospel, without holiness thou shalt never see God, or (which amounts to the same) thou canst not behold his face but in righteousness. There is no word in all the Bible of more certain truth than this. In this also how apt are sinners foolishly to entangle themselves! The gospel is true, and to be believed, till they meet with something that crosses them, and goes against the hair, and then they hope it is not so. But vain man! if once thou shake the truth of God, what wilt thou stay thyself upon ? Is God true when he promises ? and is he not as true when he threatens ? If that be a true saying, “Say to the righteous, it shall be well with him,”-is not that as much to be regarded,' “Woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him ? The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Are not these of equal authority? If thon hadst any reason to hope thou mayest be happy though thou never be righteous; is there not as much reason to fear thou mightest be miserable though thou be; since the one is as much against the flat express word of God as the other? Let not thy love to sin betray thee out of all religion and thy, wits together. Wherein wilt thou believe one upon the bare value of his word, that will
lie to thee in any thing? Yea, and as it is the same authority that is affronted in every command, whence disobedience to one is a breach of all; so is the same veracity denied in every truth, and the disbelief of one belies all; and wilt thou believe him in any thing, thou hast proclaimed a liar in every thing ? Therefore, 80 little hast thou gained by disbelieving the divine revelation in this thing, that thou hast brought thyself to this miserable dilemma; If the word of God be false, thou hast no foundation of any faith left thee, if it be true, it dooms thee to eternal banishment from his blessed face, while thou remainest in thy unrighteousness. It will not be thy advantage then to disbelieve this gospel-record, but to consider it, and take it to heart; it will prove never the less true at last, for that thou wilt not believe it, Shall thy unbelief make the truth of God of none effect ? And if thou wouldst but reasonably consider the case, methinks thou shouldst soon be convinced. Since thou acknowledgest (as I suppose thee to do) that there are two states of men in the other world, a state of blessedness, and a state of misery; and two sorts of men in this world, the righteous, and the unrighteous : let thy reason and conscience now judge who shall be allotted to the one state and who to the other. Sure, if thou acknowledge a righteous Judge of all the world, thou canst not think he will turn men promiscuously into heaven or hell at random, without distinction : much less canst thou be so absurd and mad, as to think all the unrighteous shall be saved, and the righteous perish. And then what is left thee to judge but that which I am now urging upon thee, that when the righteous shall be admitted to the vision of God's blessed face, the unrighteous shall be driven forth into outer darkness.
It may be some here will be ready to say, “But to what purpose is all this, they were of the same mind before, and cannot think that any one would ever say the contrary." Nor do I think so either; but it is one thing not to believe a conclusion to be true, and another to profess a contrary belief: and one thing to believe a conclusion, another to think we believe it. Men often know not their own minds. In practical matters, it is best seen what a man's belief is by practice : for when any profess to believe this or that practical truth, relating to their salvation, if they believe it not practically, that is, with such a belief as will command their suitable practice, it matters not what belief they are of, or whether they were of that judgment or no: yea, it will prove in the issue better for them they had been of another, when their own professed belief shall be urged against them. But let us consider a little, how in practical matters of less concernment we would estimate a man's belief. You meet a traveller upon the way, who tells you, the bridge over such an unpassable river is broken down, and that if you venture you perish; if you believe him, you return; if you hold on, he reasonably concludes you believe