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terrible execution, to vindicate the veracity, sincerity and wisdom of the prophets and apostles, and Jesus Christ his Son, the greatest and chiefest of his divine messengers; and then if the blessed God should at any time, in a consistence with his glorious and incomprehensible perfections, release those wretched creatures from their acute pains and long imprisonment in bell, either with a design of the utter destruction of their beings by annihilation, or to put them into some unknown world, upon a new foot of trial, I think I ought chearfully and joyfully to accept this appointment of God, for the good of millions of my fellow-creatures, and add myjoys and praises to all the songs and triumphs of the beavenly world, in the day of such a divine and glorious release of these prisoners.
But I feel myself ander a necessity of confessing, that I am utterly unable to gulve these difficulties according to the discoveries of the New Testament, which must be my constant rule of faith, and hope, and expectation, with regard to myself and others. I have read the strongest and best writers on the other side, yet after all my studies I have not been able to find any way how these difficulties may be removed, and how the divine perfections, and the conduct of God in his word, may be fairly vindicated, without the establishment of this doctrine, as awful and formidable as it is.
The ways indeed of the great God, and “ his thoughts are above our thoughts and our ways, as the heavens are above the earth ; Is. lv. 8, 9. yet I must rest and acquiesce where our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father's chief minister, both of his wrath and his love, has left me in the divine revelations of scripture; and I am constrained therefore to leave these unbappy creatures under the chains of everlasting darkness, into which they have cast themselves by their wilful iniquities, till the blessed God sball see fit to release them.
This would be indeed such a new, such an astonishing and universal jubilee both for devils and wicked men as must fill heaven, earth and hell with ballelujahs and joy: In the mean time it is my ardent wish, that this awful sense of the terrors of the Almighty, and his everlasting anger, which the word of the great God denounces, may awaken some souls timely to bethink themselves of the dreadful danger into which they are running, before these terrors seize them at death, and begio to be executed upon them without release and witbout bope.
A Soul prepared for Heaven. 2 Cor. v. 5.--Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same
thing, is God. WHEN this apostle designs to entertain our hope in the noblest manner, and raise our faith to its highest joys, he generally calls our thoughts far away from all present and visible things, and sends then forward to the great and glorious day of the resurrection : He points our meditations to take a distant prospect of the final and complete happiness of the saints in heaven, when their bodies shall be raised shining and inmortal; whereas it is but seldom, that be takes notice of the heaven of separate souls, or that part of our future happiness which commences at the hour of death. But in this chapter, the boly writer seems to keep both these heavens in his eye, and speaks of that blessedness, which the spirits of the just shall enjoy, in the presence of the Lord, as soon as they are absent from the body, and get leads our souls onwards also to our last and most perfect state of happiness, which is delayed till our corruptible bodies shall be raised from the dust, and mortality shall be swallowed up in life. We know, saith he in the first verse of this chapter, we know that as soon as our mortal tabernacle in which we now dwell, is dissolved, we have a building ready for us in the heavens ; that is, an in vestiture in a glorious state of holiness and immortality, which waits to receive our spirits when we drop this dying flesh: Yet the felicities of this paradise, or first heaven, shall receive an unspeakable addition and advancement, when Christ shall come the second time, with all his saints, to complete our salvation."
But which heaven soever we arrive at, whether it be tbis of the separate state, or that when our bodies shall be restored, still we must be wrought up to a proper fitness for it by God himself; and as the end of this verse tells us, he gives us his own Spirit as an earnest of these future blessings. The observation which shall be the subject of my discourse, is this :“ Those who shall enjoy the heavenly blessedness hereafter, must be prepared for it here in tlis world, by the operation of the blessed God.”
Here we must take notice, in the first place, that since we are sipful and guilty creatures in ourselves, and have forfeited all our pretences to the favour of God and happiness, we must be restored to his favour, we must have our sins forgiven, we spust be justified in bis sighit with an everlasting righteousness, we must be adopted as the children of God, and have a right and title given us to the heavenly inheritance, before we can
enter into it, or possess it; and this blessing is procured for us, by the obedience and death of the Son of God. It is in his blood that we find an atonement for our iniquities, and we must be made heirs of glory, by becoming the adopted children of God, and so we are joint-heirs with his Son Jesus, and shall be glorified with bim ; Rom. viii. 17.
And it is by a true and living faith in the Son of God, that we become partakers of this blessing. God has set forth his Son Jesus, as a propitiation for sinners through faith in his blood ; Rom. iii. 24. We are justified by fuith in his blood, and have hope of eternal life through him; Rom. v. 2. We also receive our adoption, and become the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus ; Gal. iii. 26. and thereby we obtain a title to some mansion in our Father's house in heaven, since Jesus our elder brother, and our forerunner, is admitted into it to take a place there in our name. This is a very considerable part of our necessary preparation for the heavenly world, that we should be believers in the Son of God, and united to him by a living faith, and this faith also is the gift of God; Eph. ii. 8. wrought up to it by his grace.
But as this does not seem to be the chief thing designed in the words of my text, I shall pass it over thus briefly, and apply myself to consider wbat that further fitness or preparation for heaven intends, for which we are said here to be wrought up by God bimself. The former preparation for beaven, may rather be said to be a relative change, which is included in our pardon or justification, and alters our state from the condemnation of hell, to the favour and love of God: But this latter preparation implies a real change of our nature doy sanctifying grace, and gives us a temper of soul suited to the business and blessedness of the beavenly world. This is the preparation which my text speaks of
The great enquiry therefore at present is, “ What are those steps of gradual operations, by which the blessed God works us up to this fitness for heaven?" And here I shall not run over all the parts and lineaments of the new creature, which is formed by regeneration, nor the particular operations of converting grace whereby we are convinced of sin, and led to faith and repentance, and new obedience, though these are all necessary to this ead; but I shall confine myself only to those things which have a more immediate reference to the heavenly blessedness, and they are such as follow :
1. “ God works us up to a preparation for the heavenly felicity, by establishing and confirming our belief, that there is a beaven provided for the saints, and by giving us some clearer acquaintance with the nature, the business, and the blessedness et this heaven." All this is done by the gospel of Christ, and by the sccret operation of the blessed God, teaching us to understand his gospel.
Alas! how ignorant were the heathen sages about any future state for the righteous? How bewildered were the best of them in all their imaginations? How vain were all their reasonings upon this subject, and how little satisfaction could they give to an honest enquirer, whether there was any reward provided for good men beyond this life? The light of nature was their guide; and those in whom this feeble taper burned with the fairest lustre, were still left in great darkness about futurity.As the Gentile, philosophers were left in great uncertainties whether there was any heaven or no, so were their conceptions of heavenly things very absurd and ridiculous ; and their various fancies about the nature and enjoyments of it were all impertinénice.
And how little knowledge had the patriarchs themselves, if we pay judge of their knowledge by the five books of Moses, which give no plain and express promise of future happiness in another world, neither to Abel nor Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or to Moses himself? And were it not for some expressions in the New Testament, and by that xi. chapter to the Hebrews, where we are told, that these good men sought a heavenly country, and hoped for happiness in a future and invisible state, we should sometimes be ready to doubt whether they knew almost any thing of the future resurrection and glory.
That great and excellent man Job, had one or two lucid intervals of peculiar brightness, which shone upon him from beaven, in the midst of his distresses, and raised him above and beyond the common level of the dispensation he lived in ; yet in the main, when he describes the state of the dead, how desolate and dolesoinc is his language, and what heavy darkness hangs upon his hope? See his expressions; Job x. 21, 22. Let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is as darkness. Mark how this good man heaps one darkness upon another, and makes so formidable a gloom, as was bardly to be dispelled by the common notices given to men in that age.
And if we look into the Jewish writings, in and after the days of Moses, we find the men of righteousness, frequently entertained with proinises of corn, and wine, and oil, and other blessings of sense; and few there were amongst them who saw clearly, and firmly believed the heavenly inheritance through the types, and shadows, and figures of Canaan, the promised land, which flowed with milk and honey. It is granted ibere are some hints and discoveries of a blessedness beyoud the grave in the writings of David, Isaiah, Daniel, and some of the prophets; But the brightest of these notices fall far short of what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has set before us. The Son of God, who came down from heaven, where he had lived from before the creation of this world, has revealed to us infinitely more of the invisible state than all that went before him : He tells us of the pure in heart enjoying the sight of God, and conversing with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the ancient saints : He assures us there are many mansiops in bis Father's house and that he went to prepare a place there for his followers. “ I tell you, says he ; John viii. 38. I tell you the things which I have seen with my Father.” And when he came again from the dead, he made it appear to his disciples, that he had brought life and immortality to light by the gospel; 2 Tim. i. 10.
It is only the New Testament that gives us so bright and satisfactory an account what our future heaven is : The righteous shall be with God, shall bebold him, shall dwell with Christ, and see his glory, they shall worship day and night in his temple, and sing the praises of him that sits upon the throne, and of the Lamb that has redeemed them by his blood; there shall be no sin, vo sorrow, no death, nor any more pain ; Rev. xxi. 4. they shall have such satisfactions and employments as are worthy of a rational nature, and a soul refined from sense and sin. St. Paul, one of his disciples, was transported into the third heaven before he died, and there learned unspeakable things ; 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4, and he, together with the other apostles, have published the glories of that future world, which they learned from Jesus, their Lord, and confirmed these things to our faith, by prophecies and miracles without number.
"Now the blessed God himself prepares his own people for this heaven of happiness, by giving them a full conviction and assurance of the truth of all these divine discoveries ; be impresses them upon their beart with power, and makes them attend to those divine impressions. Every true christian has learned to say within himself, “ This celestial blessedness is no dream, is no painted vision, no gay scene of flattering fancy, nor is it a matter of doubtful dispute, or of uncertain opinion. I am assured of it from the words of Christ, the Son of God, and from his blessed followers, whom he authorized to teach me the things of a future world.” He that is taught of God beholds these glories in the light of a divine faith, which is to him, the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not yet seen; Heb. vi. 1.
2. God 'works up the souls of his people to a preparation for the heavenly state, by “ purifying them from every defilement, that might unfit them for the blessedness of heaven.” The removal of the guilt of sin, by his pardoning mercy, I have men