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impertinency, not a mean to a valuable end. This desire is the life of religion; all duties and exercises of piety are without it, but empty formalities, solemn pieces of pageantry; every service done to God, but the sacrifice of a fool, if not animated by the desire of final blessedness in him, and be not part of our way thither, a means designed to the attainment of it; which nothing can be, that we are not put upon by the virtue of the desired end. Without this, religion is not itself. A continuance in welldoing, is as it were the body of it; and therein a seeking honor, glory, and immortality, the soul and spirit. The desire of a heavenly country must run the whole course of our earthly pilgrimage: it were otherwise a continued error, an uncertain wandering, no steady tending towards our end : so that thou art a mere vagrant, if this desire do not direct thy course towards thy Father's house. And methinks all this should make thee even ashamed of thyself, if thou canst not find this desire to have a settled residence, and a ruling power in thy soul. Then,
(2.) Sense of praise should signify something too, as the apostle, whatsoever things are---pure, lovely, &c. If there be any virtue, any praise, think of these things. And hath not the eternal glory those characters upon it of purity and loveliness beyond all things? Is it not a laudable and praise-worthy thing, to have a mind and heart set upon that? The blessed God puts a note of excellency upon this temper of spirit: but they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, &c. Heb. 11. 16. This renders them a people worthy of him who hath called them to his kingdom and glory; fit for him to own a relation to. 1 Thes. 2. 12. Had they been of low, terrene spirits, he would have accounted it a shame to him, to have gone under the name and cognizance of their God. But inasmuch as they desire the hearenly country, have learned to trample this terrestrial world, cannot be contained within this lower sphere, not satisfy themselves in earthly things; they now discover a certain excellency of spirit, in respect whereof, God is not ashamed to own a relation to them, before all the world to be called their God; to let men see what account he makes of such a spirit. Yea, this is the proper, genuine spirit and temper of a saint, which agrees to him as he is such. He is begotten to the eternal inheritance. A disposition (and therein a desire) to it is in his very nature, (the new nature he hath received,) implanted there from his original.' He is born spirit of Spirit, and by that birth is not entitled only, but adapted and suited also to that pure and spiritual state of blessedness. That grace, by the appearance whereof men are made christians, teachers also, instructs to this very thing, to look for this blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ : that which you know consummates that blessedness. For when Christ, who is their
life, shall appear, then shall they also appear with him in glory; by the participation of the divine nature, their spirits escape and get up above this corrupt, impure world. That new nature is a holy flame that carries their hearts upwards towards heaven.
Further, such desires appear hence to be of divine original, an infusion from the blessed God himself. That nature is from him immediately in which they are implanted. The apostle speaking of his earnest, panting desire, to have mortality swallowed up of life, presently adds, he that wrought us to the self-same thing is God. 2 Cor. 5. 4. They are obedient desires; the soul's present answer to the heavenly call, (Heb. 3. 1.) by which God calls it to his kingdom and glory. This glory is (as hath been formerly noted) the very term of that calling 1 Thes. 2. 12. The God of all grace hath called us unto his eternal glory, by Christ Jesus. 1 Pet. 5. 10. The glorified state is the mark, the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. Phil. 3. 14. It is the matter of the apostle's thanksgiving unto God, on the behalf of the Thessalonians, that they were called by his gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thes. 2. 14. When the soul desires this glory, it obediently answers this call. This is a compliance and subjection of heart to it. How lovely and becoming a thing is this, when God touches the heart with a stamp and impress of glory, and it forthwith turns itself to that very point, and stands directly bent towards the state of glory; is not wayward or perverse, but herein yields itself to God, and complies with the divine pleasure. Such desies have much in them of a child-like ingenuity; to desire the sight of a father's face; when this is the intimate sense of the soul, Shew me the Father and it suffices. To desire the fullest conformity to his nature and will, to be perfect as that heavenly Father is perfect, what doth better become a child ? They are generous desires; they aim at perfection, the highest that created nature is capable of; not contented to have had some glances of divine glory, some strokes and lines of his image, but aspiring to full-eyed visions, a perfect likeness. They are victorious desires; they (as it were) ride in triumph over the world and every sublunary thing; they must be supposed to have conquered sensual inclinations, to have got the mastery over terrene dispositions and affections. With what holy contempt and scorn of every earthly thing doth that lofty soul quit this dirty world and ascend, that is powerfully carried by its own desire towards that blessed state. The desire of such a knowledge of Christ, as might transform into his like
pass the soul through all degrees of conformity to him, till it attain the resurrection of the dead, and become like a risen, glorified Jesus; such a desire I say, if it make all things seem as loss and dung in comparison, (even a formal, spiritless religion itself,) will it not render this world the most despicable
dunghill of all the rest? Try such a soul if you can, tempt it down to enjoy a flattering, kind world, or to please it when angry
and unkind. When desires after this glory are once awakened into an active, lively vigor, when the fire is kindled, and the flame ascends, and this refined spirit is joyfully ascending therein, see if you can draw it back, and make it believe this world a more regardable thing. Why should not all those considerations make thee in love with this blessed frame of spirit, and restless till thou find thyself uncapable of being satisfied with any thing but divine likenes ?
6. That while we cannot as yet attain the mark and end of our desires, we yield not to a comfortless despondency in the way, but maintain in our hearts a lively joy, in the hope that hereafter we shall attain it. We are not all this while persuading to the desire and pursuit of an unattainable good. Spiritual desires are also rational, and do therefore involve hope with them; and that hope ought to infer and cherish joy. Hopeless desire is full of torment, and must needs banish joy from that breast which it hath got the possession of. It is a disconsolate thing, to desire what we must never expect to enjoy, and are utterly unlikely ever to compass. But these desires are part of the new creature, which is not of such a composition, as to have a principle of endless trouble and disquiet in itself. The Father of mercies is not so little merciful to his own child, to lay it under a necessity, from its very natural constitution, of being for ever miserable by the desire of that which it can never have. It had been very unlike the workmanship of God, to make a creature to which it should be necessary to desire, and impossible to enjoy the same thing. No: but as he hath given boly souls, (as to the present case,) great incentives of desire, so doth he afford them proportionable encouragement of hope also; and that hope intervening, can very well reconcile desire and joy, and lodge them together in the same bosom. So that as it is a thing capable of no excuse, to hear of this blessedness and not desire it; so it would be, to desire and not expect it, to expect it, and not rejoice in it, even while we are under that expectation. And it must be a very raised joy that shall answer to the expectation of so great things. If one should give a stranger to Christianity an account of the christian hopes, and tell him what they expect to be and enjoy, before long; he would sure promise himself, to find so many angels dwelling in human flesh, and reckon, when he came among them he should be as amidst the heavenly quire; every one full of joy and praise. He would expect to find us living on earth, as the inhabitants of heaven, as so many pieces of immortal glory lately dropped down from above, and shortly again returning thither. He would look to find, every-where in the Christian world, incarnate glory sparkling through the overshadowing vail; and wonder how this earthly sphere should be
able to contain so many great souls. But when he draws nearer to us, and observes the course and carriage of our lives, when he sees us walk as other men, and considers the strange disagreement of our daily conversation to our so great, avowed hopes, and how little sense of joy and pleasure we discover ourselves to conceive in them ; would he not be ready to say, “Sure some or other (willing only to amuse the world with the noise of strange things) have composed a religion for these men, which they themselves understand nothing of. If they do adopt and own it for theirs, they understand not their own pretences; they are taught to speak some big words, or to give a faint or seeming assent to such as speak them in their names, but it is impossible they should be in good earnest, or believe themselves in what they say and profess." And what reply then should we be able to make? For who can think that any who acknowledge a God, and understand at all what that name imports, should value at so low a rate, as we visibly do, the eternal fruition of his glory, and a present sonship to him, the pledge of so great a hope. He that is born heir to great honors and possessions, though he be upon great uncertainties as to the enjoyment of them, (for how many interveniences may prevent him ?) yet when he comes to understand bis possibilites and expectancies, how big doth he look and speak? what grandeur doth he put on ? His hopes form his spirit and deportment. But is it proportionably so with us? Do our hopes fill our hearts with joy, our mouths with praise, and clothe our faces with a cheerful aspect, and make a holy alacrity appear in all our conversations ?
But let not the design of this discourse be mistaken. It is not a presumptuous confidence I would encourage, nor a vain ostentation, nor a disdainful over-looking of others whom we faney ourselves to excel. Such things hold no proportion with a Christian spirit. His is a modest, humble exultation ; a serious, severe joy, suitable to his solid, stable hope. His spirit is not puffed up and swollen with air, it is not big by an inflation, or a light and windy tumor, but it is really filled with effectual preapprehensions of a weighty glory. His joy accordingly exerts itself with a steady, lively vigor, equally removed from vain lightness and stupidity, from conceitedness, and insensibleness of his blessed state. He forgets not that he is less than the least of God's mercies, but disowns not his title to the greatest of them. He abases himself to the dust, in the sense of his own vileness; but in the admiration of divine grace, he rises as high as heaven. In his humiliation, he affects to equal himself with worms, in his joy and praise, with angels. He is never unwilling to diminish himself, but afraid of detracting any thing from the love of God, or the issues of that love. But most of all he magnifies (as he hath cause this its last and most perfect issue.
And by how much he apprehends his own unworthiness, he is the more wrapt up into a wonderful joy, that such blessedness should be his designed portion. But now, how little do we find in ourselves of this blessed frame of spirit ? How remote are we from it ? Let us but inquire a little into our own souls : are there not too apparent symptoms with us of the little joy we take in the fore-thoughts of future blessedness ? For,
(1.) How few thoughts have we of it? What any delight in, they remember often. It is said of the same person, that his delight is in the law of the Lord, and that in his law he doth meditate day and night. Psal. 1. 2. And when the Psalmist professes his own delight in God's statutes, he adds, I will not forget thy word. Psal. 119. 16. Should we not be as unapt to forget heaven, if our delight were there ? But do not days pass with us, wherein we can allow ourselves no leisure to mind the eternal glory; when yet vanities throng in upon us, without any obstruction or check? And (what is consequent hereupon,) how seldom is this blessed state the subject of our discourse? How often do christians meet, and not a word of heaven? O heavy, carnal hearts! Our home and eternal blessedness in this, appears forgotten among us. How often may a person converse with us, before he understand our relation to the heavenly country? If exiles meet in a foreign land, what pleasant discourse have they of home? They suffer not one another to forget it. Such was their remembrance of Sion, who sat together bemoaning themselves by the rivers of Babylon, a making mention of it, as the phrase is often used. And methinks (even as to this remembrance) it should be our own common resolution too; If we forget thee, O Jerusalem; if we forgot to make mention of thee, o thou city of the living God; let our right hand forget her cunning; our tongue shall sooner cleave to the roof of our mouth; and so it would be, did we prefer that heavenly Jerusalem above our chief joy.
(2.) How little doth it weigh with us? It serves not to outweigh the smallest trouble ; if we have not our carnal desire in every thing gratified, if any thing fall out cross to our inclinations, this glory goes for nothing with us. Our discontents swallow up our hopes and joys; and heaven is reckoned as a thing of nought. If when outward troubles afflict or threaten us, we could have the certain prospect of better days, that would sensibly revive and please us. Yea, can we not please ourselves with very uncertain groundless hopes of this kind, without promise or valuable reason ? But to be told of a recompense at the resurrection of the just, of a day when we shall see the face of God, and be satisfied with his likeness; this is insipid and without savour to us, and affords us but cold comfort. The uncertain things of time, signify more with us, than the certain things of eternity. Can we think it is all this while well with