« ForrigeFortsæt »
the death of Christ, we shall easily venture into this last combat, and obtain an everlasting victory. Blessed be God for the grave as a refuge from smarting pains! Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus, who enables us to triumph over the last pain of nature and to say, O death! where is thy sting? And, O grave! where is thy victory? 1 Cor. xv. 55.
In the fifth and last place, by the pains that we suffer in this body, "we are taught to breathe after the blessedness of the heavenly state, wherein there shall be no pain." When the soul is dismissed from the bonds of flesh, and presented before God in the world of spirits without spot or blemish by Jesus, our great forerunner, it is then appointed to dwell among the spirits of the just made perfect, who were all released in their several seasons from the body of flesh and sin. Maladies and infirmities of every kind are buried in the grave, and cease for ever; and if we survey the properties of the new-raised body in the great resurrection day, as described, 1 Cor. xv. 42-44. we shall find no room for pain there, no avenue or residence for smart or anguish. It will not be such a body of flesh and blood which can be a source of maladies, or subject to outward injuries; but by its own principles of innate vigour and immortality, as well as by the power and mercy of God, it shall be for ever secured from those uneasy sensations which made our flesh on earth painful and burdensome, and which tended toward dissolution and death. It is such a body as our Lord Jesus wore at his ascent to heaven in a bright cloud, for ever incorruptible; for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption, verses 49, 50. As we have borne the image of the earthly Adam in the frailties and sufferings that belong to it, so shall we also bear the image of the heavenly, even the Lord Jesus, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his own glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself; Phil. iii. 21. We shall hunger no more, we shall thirst no more, nor shall the sun light on us, with its parching beams, nor shall we be annoyed with fire or frost, with heat or cold, in those temperate and happy regions. The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed his people for ever there with the fruits of the tree of life, and with unknown entertainments suited to a glorified state. He shall lead them to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; Rev. vii. 16, 17.
Thus have I set before you the practical lessons which pain is designed to teach us in our present state and we find that a body subject to maladies and pains, is a well-appointed school, wherein our great Master gives us these divine instructions, and trains us up by degrees for the heavenly world. It is rough discipline indeed for the flesh, but it is wholesome for the soul:
And there is many a christian here on earth that have been made to confess, they had never learned the practice of some of these virtues, if they had not been taught by such sort of discipline. Pain, which was brought into human nature by sin, is happily suited by the providence of God to such a state of probation, wherein creatures born in the midst of sins and sorrows are by degrees recovered to the love of God and holiness, and fitted for the world of peace and joy.
But when we have done with this world, and departed from the tribes of mortal men, and from all the scenes of allurement and temptation, there is no more need that such lessons should be taught us in heaven, nor any painful scourge made use of by the Father of spirits, to carry on, or to maintain the divine work of holiness and grace within us. Let us survey this matter according to the foregoing particulars.
Is it possible that while the blessed above are surrounded with endless satisfactions flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, they should forget their benefactor, and neglect his praises? Is it possible they should dwell in immortal health and ease without interruption, under the constant vital influences of the King of glory, and yet want gratitude to the spring of all their blessings?
Nor is there any need for the inhabitants of a world, where no pains nor sorrows are found, "to learn compassion and sympathy to those who suffer," for there are no sufferers there: But love and joy, intense and intimate love, and a harmony of joy runs through all that blessed company, and unites them in an universal sympathy, if I may so express it, or blissful sensation of each other's happiness. And I might add also, could there be such a thing as sorrow and misery in those regions, this divine principle of love would work sweetly and powerfully toward such objects in all necessary compassion.
What if pain was once made a spur to our duties in this frail state of flesh and blood? What if pain were designed as a guard against temptation, and a means to awaken our watch against new transgression and guilt? But in a climate where all is holiness, and all is peace, in the full enjoyment of the great God, and secured by that everlasting covenant which was sealed by the blood of the Lamb, there is no more danger of sinning. The soul is moulded into the more complete likeness of God, by live ing for ever under the light of his countenance, and the warmest beams of his love. What if we had need of the stings of pain and anguish in time past, to wean us by degrees from this body, and from all sensible things, and to make us willing to part with them all at the call of God? Yet when we arrive at the hea venly world, we shall have no more need of being weaned from earth, we shall never look back upon that state of pain and frailty
with a wishful eye, being for ever satisfied in the affluence of present joys.
O glorious and happy state! where millions of creatures who have dwelt in bodies of sin and pain, and have been guilty of innumerable follies and offences against their Maker, yet they are all forgiven, their robes are washed, and made white in the blood of Jesus, their iniquities are cancelled for ever, and there shall not be one stroke more from the hand of God to chasten them, nor one more sensation of pain to punish them. Divine and illustrious privilege indeed, and a glorious world, where complete sanctification of all the powers of nature shall for ever secure us from new sins, and where the springs and causes of pain shall for ever cease, both within us and without us! Our glorified body shall have no avenue for pain to enter; the gates of heaven shall adinit no enemy to afflict or hurt us: God is our everlasting friend, and our souls shall be satisfied with the rivers of pleasure which flow for ever at the right-hand of God; Ps. xvi. 11.
wo-wola neft le bons DISCOURSE X. 50
yo nah w6| 1
The First Fruits of the Spirit; or the Foretaste of Heaven; famjend 14 Rom. viii. 23. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits, of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body.
IT is by a beautiful figure of speech the apostle had been describing in the foregoing verses, the unnatural abuse which the creatures suffer through the sins of men, when they are employed to sinful purposes and the dishonour of God their Creator. Permit me to read the words and represent the sense of them in a short paraphrase; Verse 22. We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. The earth itself may be represented as groaning to bear such loads of iniquity, such a multitude of wicked men who abuse'' the creatures of God to the dishonour of him that made them The air may be said to groan to give breath to those vile wretches * who abuse it in filthiness and foolish talking, to the dishonour of God, and to the scandal of their neighbours; it groans to furnish" men with breath that is abused in idolatry by the false worship of the true God, or the worship of creatures which is abominable in his sight: The sun itself may be said to groan to give light to those sinners who abuse both day-light and darkness in riot- il ing and wantonness, in doing mischief among men and commitm ting fresh iniquities against their Maker: The moon and stars are abused by adulterers and thieves, and other midnight sinners, when they any way afford light enough to them to guide them in their pursuit of wicked ways and practices. The beasts of t burden may be said also to groan and be abused, when they bear the wicked sons and daughters of Adam to the accomplish ment of their iniquities: And even all the parts of the brutal world, as well as of the inanimate creation, are some way or other made to serve the destable and wicked purposes of the sin ful children of men, and may be figuratively said to groan on/ this account. And if we have tasted of the fruits of the spirit of grace, we cannot but in some measure groan with the rest of the creation in expectation of the blessed day, when the creatures shall be delivered from this bondage of corruption, to which the providence of God has suffered them to be subjected in this degenerate state of things.
We hope there is a time coming, when the creatures them selves shall be used according to the original appointment of their Maker, agreeable to their own first design, and for the
good of their fellow-creatures, and supremely for the honour of their God, in that day when holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the bells of the horses, and every pot in Jerusalem shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts; Zech. xiv. 20. Why should we not join then with the whole creation in groaning and longing after this promised time, when all the works of God shall be restored to their rightful use, and the glory of the Maker shall some way or other be made to shine in every one of them?
The apostle then adds, in the words of my text, and not these creatures only, but ourselves also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we who are filled with the gifts and graces of the holy Spirit, and eminently the first fruits hereof appear in our taste and relish of the divine provisions that God has given us here in this world to prepare for a better; and even bestows upon some of his christian servants these first fruits of the tree of paradise, these blessings and these foretastes which are near a-kin to those of the upper world, when the saints shall be raised from the dead, when their adoption shall be clearly manifested, and they shall look like the children of God, and their bodies and all their natural powers shall be redeemed from those disorders, whether of sin or sorrow, and from all the springs and seeds of them, which they are more or less liable to feel in the pre
Here let it be observed, that the first fruits of any field, or plant or tree, are of the same kind with the full product of the harvest: Therefore it is plain, that the first fruits of the spirit in this place cannot chiefly signify the gifts of the spirit, such as the gifts of tongues, or of healing, or of miracles, nor the gifts of prophecy, preaching, or praying, because these are not the employments nor the enjoyments of heaven. The first fruits of the spirit must rather refer therefore to the knowledge and holiness, the graces and the joys which are more perfect and glorious in the heavenly state, than they were ever designed to be here upon earth. Now these first fruits of graces and joys are sometimes bestowed upon christians in this world, in such a degree as brings them near to the heavenly stateAnd that is the chief observation I design to draw from these words, viz.
"That God has been pleased to give some of his children. here on earth several of the foretastes of the heavenly blessedness, the graces and the joys of the upper world;" as they are the first fruits of that paradise to which we are travelling: And these privileges have brought some of the saints within the confines and borders of the celestial country. What these are I shall shew immediately; but before I represent them I desire to lay down these few cautions :
I. "These sensible foretastes of heaven do not belong to all