Page images
PDF
EPUB

order, therefore, to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, it is necessary that we should be trained

up

in the knowledge and love of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. The angels and spirits of just men made perfect are represented as adoring God for his attributes, and Christ for his work of redemption;-subjects with which they appear to be well acquainted, and to contemplate with supreme delight. The holiness of God is celebrated, in a more especial manner, by them; but this is an attribute on which he who is not himself holy, would choose least to dwell. And the redemption of Christ is the grand subject of praise for all the redeemed: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain; for he hath redeemed us, and hath made us kings and priests to God.” But how much would he be at a loss to join in the notes of heaven, to whose mind such subjects were strange; whose thoughts had moved in another channel; whose affections had been fixed upon other things; who had no taste for contemplating the glory of God; no eye for beholding him in his works; no delight in meditating upon his attributes! How ill would he be qualified to join in the song to the Lamb, who never had considered the state of man by nature, and sought for redemption in Christ; who had flattered himself with the idea of his sufficient virtue, and therefore neither had known any need of a Saviour, nor felt any obligation to him! How ill would such an one be prepared to fall at the feet of Jesus, and adore him with rapturous expressions of gratitude, love, and joy! No: it is the man who has loved, though he has not yet seen him; who “though he has seen him not, yet, believing in him, bas rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory:" it is he who has been “constrained by the love of Christ;" who, even upon earth, has sought "with all saints, to comprehend the length and breadth, the depth and height” of that love, and has found it "to surpass his knowledge:” it is he who has made it his chief study “to grow in grace, and in the knowledge and love of his

Lord and Saviour;" he it is, who is made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

Let us attend, also, to the society of heaven, to those who inhabit that region of happiness.—“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.” To what company then, O thou that art unholy, wouldst thou join thyself if thou wert admitted into heaven? Search the whole extent thereof from one end to the other; try every individual of those countless hosts. Whom wouldst thou discover, to listen to the effusions of thy polluted mind? With whom wouldst thou concert plans of iniquity? To whom couldst thou make boast of thy intemperance, or tell thy wanton tales, or detail the exploits of thy licentious mirth? How solitary to thee must be that crowded place?—The prophets would turn indignant from thee. The Apostles would behold thee with terror. The pure angels and archangels, who never knew what sin was, would flee from thy presence with consternation. Wouldst thou accost those who had been thy companions in sin upon earth, but who afterwards repented and were converted? Ah! what lively emotions would thy presence excite in them, of gratitude to God who had pitied and redeemed them when in thy state, and of self-reproach and humiliation to think they were once like thee! These who, when on earth, dissolved the ties of friendship, to be separated from thy company, would they now welcome thy conversation? Or, indeed, couldst thou endure theirs? How tedious did the time appear, how dull and stupid the conversation, if thou wast compelled to be, for a season, with the pious upon earth! What constraint didst thou not feel! What desire to quit their society! What liberty the moment thou couldst rejoin those friends whose taste and conversation were as carnal as thy own! And couldst thou bear to dwell for ever with Apostles and Prophets; with them whose every sentiment and expression was pure and holy;—in exact unison with those pious writings which thou couldst not read without weariness and dislike?

But heaven is also the residence of God; there his glory is seen, there he calls his favoured servants to the highest enjoyment, in permitting the nearest approaches to himself

. In his presence is fulness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore. Now to make a person meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, for the presence of God, what purity of heart must necessarily be required! What fear, and awe, and reverence and gratitude, and love? The unholy shall not stand in his sight, nor the workers of iniquity, How then shall they be meet for his

presence whose hearts are swayed by lust, pride, or vanity, or any other corruption of our nature? How will they stand before him, to whom the very thought of his inspection was painful while upon earth? How shall they find happiness with him who disliked to converse or even to think of him; and who had no conception of the holiness for which he is adored? How can they make it their employment to do his will, who during life have disregarded it; and preferred their own pleasure, and treated it with contempt when pressed upon their notice? How can that holiness be now their study and delight, which hitherto has been no object of their desire or pleasure; nay, perhaps, has been their aversion and scorn?

Flatter not then yourselves, ye that are unsanctified and unrenewed, flatter not yourselves that heaven would be a place of enjoyment and happiness to you, even if you were admitted there. It would by no means suit your disposition; and either its nature must be changed for you, or you must be changed for it. Its society you would dislike; its employments would be burthensome; its pleasures painful to you. many such as you there, confusion and misery would reign as on earth, and the happiness of heaven would

be destroyed. If few, there would be dissent and sepration, and its harmony would, at least, be interrupted. -But you will probably say, “It is true, that with my present dispositions and inclinations, I should not have a sufficient relish for the purity of heaven; but I consider that God prepares his creatures for every state in which he places them: in this world, my faculties are suited to worldly objects; and when I am removed into another state, I trust that God will prepare me for it, by giving me suitable dispositions.” You expect, then, that at the time of death, some great change will take place, which will fit you for heaven, and give you all those holy dispositions which you are conscious you now, neither possess nor love? But you forget that heaven and hell are states of reward and punishment; and that, therefore, the righteous only can be admitted into heaven. Our state of probation is on earth; the time for this change of nature is the present. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” Here is the intermixture of the righteous and the wicked; here men are to profit by good examples; here instruction is given, the means of grace provided, and a Saviour offered to redeem and intercede for sinners. Doubtless, God could make the necessary changes even after death. But is this to be expected? Why should he work a miracle to effect that which may be done by the ordinary and appointed means of grace? Why, when you have been living by choice, in sin, and, after all present advantages, shall remain unfit for heaven, should he destroy, as it were, your personal identity (for such a change would amount to that) and make you at once a new creature, annihilate the dispositions and habits of

your mind, give you higher powers and purer affections, and transform you into his own image? Is this his usual course of proceeding? He changes the heart, it is true; but it is before the hour of death. When the soul quits this mortal tabernacle, its state is irrecoverably fixed; the man remains the same, though the scene of his residence be changed. All beyond is but a continuation of former habits of mind, a progress either in holiness or in sin. The character is then determined for ever; and things are left to their natural course. AU that now stops the sinner in his iniquities, or that disturbs the righteous in his advances toward perfection; the restraint of law, the checks of reproof, the benefit of example on one side; and the body of sin, the existence of temptation, the society of the wicked, the

separation from God and good spirits, on the other;will be then no more. Each disposition shall have free scope, and proceed, without impediment, in its career of good or evil.

The temper, therefore, which is fit for heaven, must be formed below: the seeds of grace must be implanted and begin to grow in this life. The qualifications for the enjoyment of heaven must be acquired on earth. As the tender infant whose pleasures and pains are, at present, only those of inferior creatures, has yet faculties beyond theirs, and is trained, by a well-directed education, to pursuits and enjoyments of a much higher kind; so the Christian, though, in the feeble infancy of his divine life, he may seem but little different from the world around him. has yet a new nature, with high desires and holy affections, which, under the discipline of Christ's Gospel, and the guidance of his Spirit, is formed even in this present state, for the occupations and the joys of angels.

But how, it will be asked, can such a disposition either be formed or cherished in a world like this? I answer;-A world constituted like the present seems improper school for the formation of it. How fit a place is it to teach us the evil of sin, under which we daily smart, and the effects of which we daily be hold! How well does it discover to us the necessity of God's government, and the equity and excellence of his law! Where should we learn the indispensable obligation of full submission to his will; but in a world in which misery, and discord, and confusion, arise from the opposition of human wills and their perpetual struggles

no

« PreviousContinue »