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ordinances before God on earth? and by a comparison of these two, may the Spirit of God awaken our faith, our hope, our love, and our joy, and all join to promote our sanctification! The differences then between our standing before God in worship now, and our worshipping before God in heaven, are such as these :
1. Now the true christian appears in a mixed assembly of saints and sinners: there the assembly is all holy, and not one sinner amongst them. Here sincere souls and hypocrites meet together in in worship; there the hypocrite is for ever banished. In the houses of God on earth, the wiched Canaanites will mingle with the children of Israel; but in his temple in heaven, every one is an Israelite indeed; There shall no more be found a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts; Zech. xiv. 21.
The children of God here, are under a veil of infirm and sinful flesh, and in the likeness of sinners; there they are unveiled and acknowledged to be the sons and daughters of the Almighty; 1 John iii. 1, 2. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! But the world knows us not; nay, we are not at many times known to ourselves; but when he comes whom we have trusted, then we shall be known and distinguished from the world, as God's only begotten Son; and we shall be known and distinguished as the children of God, all related and a-kin to him :-When he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; 1 John iii. 2. and shall sufficiently be distinguished from all who belong not to Christ.
Here a child of God, in the sanctuary, is deeply humbled at the mention of the name of God; but his humility is not seen. Here his zeal kindles at the proposal of a duty, but it burn swith a hidden flame: Here his love is at work, his hope is arising, his joy is getting up to heaven, when he is engaged in the meditation of a comfortable promise, or some of the blessed privileges of the children of God; while those who are around him, even his next neighbour who sits close to him, knows nothing of the holy workings of his heart, and the breathings of his soul towards God: But there the whole assembly shall worship with one heart, and one soul, and not one wandering worshipper, or one wandering thought in worship.
We are ready to complain here, that we ourselves know not whether we shall be accepted or no; through the weakness of faith, want of holiness, decay of zeal in our spirits, and that degeneracy we sometimes find and feel in ourselves, we are often ready to doubt, and almost upon the borders of despair. This is the case of many a poor, trembling christian; but there every
one shall worship with strength of joy, liveliest delight, and warmest zeal and affections: and be assured his graces are all true, for he shall see them all in the light of glory.
This suspicion or jealousy of ourselves, flattens our devotion many a time here, and takes away the pleasurable sensations of religion, because we ourselves know not whether God accepts us or no: There a full assurance of our being beloved of God, and being for ever accepted of him, shall make every exercise of devotion a most agreeable and perfect pleasure. O my soul, how should it quicken thy race, and exalt thy joy, to think how fast thou art removing from this world of sinners, and from all thy own doubts and fears, to a glorious assembly of holy souls, where not one doubt, or fear shall remain in their consciences, nor in thine!
2. In this world the saint appears among a few to worship his God, but then among millions. Now many times we have worshipped in a secret corner, for fear of men; but then it is all in public glory: for there all the worship that is paid, is the established worship of the whole country; and honours, and kingdoms, and wealth, are all on that side: All the inhabitants are made rich for ever, with the riches of heaven; and all the children of God are the sons and daughters of a king, and all heirs and possessors of glory, and reign together with the Lord Jesus: 'Rom. viii. 17. 2 Tim. ii. 12. Here many times the children of God are forced to be separatists from their neighbours and fellowcitizens, they are divided from the multitudes and crouds of mankind, they are but a little flock; but there they shall shine in the midst of the general assembly of the first-born, and a great multitude which no man can number; Rev. vii. 9. that with victories and songs are for ever addressing the throne of God and the Lamb. O when shall I hear the voice from heaven say, Come up hither?
3. Now we worship in a way of preparation; there for enjoyment and full delight. Ordinances here are but slight shadows, and very faint and imperfect resemblances of what the worship in heaven shall be. Now the word of God is spoken by a man, and it loses much of the divinity and power, by the means of conveyance; there it will be spoken by God himself to our spirits, or by our Lord Jesus Christ, to the ears of our bodies, raised, sanctified, and immortal; and our souls shall receive as much of the express ideas, as God designs to convey by all his conversation with that sanctified number: nor shall they miss of any of the beauty, or spirit, or perfection, of those thoughts which God himself would impress upon us.
Now in the letters of the bible we read the good-will and mercy of God to sinners; but there, in a far brighter manner of
conveyance, in thy light shall we see light; Ps. xxxvi. 9. Here we seek the Father and the Son; the one as our happiness, the other as the way to the enjoyment of that happiness, as they are usually represented in the word of God: There we shall say, We have found him whom our souls desire and love, and shall be for ever happy in his presence. Our business now in this world is to get a right temper and frame: there to practise and indulge the joy. Happy souls, who are thus prepared in the outer courts to draw nigh and worship within the veil!
Now we appear with imperfect services, and poor improvements, there with glorious and complete worship: For here we see God but as in a glass darkly; there face to face; 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Now we can have his glory, or his grace represented to us but in part, in a small measure, and according to our poor capacities of receiving; there we shall see him as he is, and know as we are known.
What are our prayers, what are our praises here? our praises when offered up in a song, or in plainer language, in comparison with those that are paid to God above? Now we speak of him whom we have not seen, therefore we speak in so imperfect a manner: There we shall hear and speak of him whom we see or know more intimately: Now we appear before God, and bring too much of the world with us; there we leave the world and go to the Father, God and Christ are too much forgotten, or they are too often thrust out of our minds by vain thoughts, even when we ourselves are never so desirous to spend an hour or two with God; what interruptions do we find? What long blanks divide the several petitions of our prayer, and break off the meditation while we stand before God to worship him? We have many enemies within and without, who stand ready to seize away our souls from God, and to rob him of our devotion: Vain fancies call us aside, and our senses turn off our minds from heaven. There shall be everlasting worship above, without one impertinence interposing; no trifles there to divert us, and separate one part of our worship from the other there all the powers and faculties of nature shall perpetually be engaged in the business and blessedness of that state. Glorious worship, and blessed worshippers! fit for the presence of the Majesty of heaven.
5. I might say, We come with very little comfort, and many discouragements, to appear before God on earth; but there with everlasting consolation. We come now to the word, and we go away again, hardly hearing the voice of God in his word or seeing his countenance, but there we shall be for ever near him; no wall of flesh, or of sin to divide us.
Now we are defiled with guilt, and ashamed to lift up our
faces towards heaven, and blush even when our hearts are never so sincere ; but there we shall come near to God, even to God in glory, and not be afraid of him; there we shall see a God undefiled, ourselves also being undefiled; a God of spotless purity, and ourselves without blemish before the throne; our garments washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and never, never to be defiled again; that is the glory and pleasure of a christian. Then we shall appear without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; without guile in our mouths, or vanity in our hearts; without fault before God, and therefore without pain; without sorrow, and without fear for ever, even though we stand before God in all his majesty; for we are assured of his mercy. Now we worship with prayers and tears, because of many and heavy burdens, sorrows and sins; but then with everlasting songs and joy on our heads; Is. xxxv. 10. If we had a painful and living sense of these things, of the wanderings, temptations, burdens, and defilements, that mingle with our worship here, we should cry aloud, and say, How long, O Lord, how long?
6. Lastly, Now we appear and depart again, but then we shall abide with God for ever. Now we go down from the mount of converse with God, into the world of temptation, and sin, and business, and care: We appear upon mount Horeb, or Pisgah, and we take a little view of the promised land but we go down again as the children of Israel did, to fight with the Canaanites, the giants that are in the valley, our mighty sins, our strong cor-. ruptions. In this valley of tears we must have a conflict before we get to the promised land; there every worshipper has in his hand a palm of complete victory; Rev. vii. 9. and he is for ever discharged from fighting: Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out; Rev. iii. 12. So necessary is the presence of the saints in heaven, that our Lord Jesus Christ has represented them as pillars of that building. God dwelling in the midst of his saints, counts himself dwelling in one of his glorious heavens and every saint there is, as it were, a pillar, and a support of it: We are lively stones in that building in which God will for ever inhabit. Now we come to the house of God as visitants; but there as inhabitants, as the children of God, who abide for ever in the house: There every saint obtains what holy David wished for, and that in the literal perfection of it, that he might dwell in the house of the Lord for ever; Ps. xxvii. 4. and xxiii. 6.
Use. The only reflection I shall make on the second part of my discourse, is this, that we should raise our hope, our consolation, and our joy, by a meditation of such future worship in heaven as this is, when we lie under many weaknesses, restraints, and defilements, in our best worship on earth. O! how would
this hope rejoice our hearts, if we could but live upon it! What secret comfort would it be to a poor humble soul, who is hindered from drawing near to God in worship now, because his affections are perpetually ready to wander, to think that he shall come and appear before God hereafter, and see him without ceasing, and his thoughts shall never wander from his God. When he complains under the temptations of Satan, and absence of God from his ordinances, what a pleasure to think he is going above to worship at the general assembly, where Satan never enters, and where God never conceals himself; but appears universally gracious, and without a frown; where the God of glory and mercy appears unchangeably, and for ever the same.
Those of us who have been long restrained from all the pleasure and profit of public ordinances, what a blessed release will it be to our souls, when we shall be dismissed from the bonds of flesh, into that great and holy society of spirits, and shall feel no more restraints for ever? We who have been detained from the house of God, by the uncharitable laws of men, or the painful providence of God, with what a divine relish shall we embrace our liberty in that day, and be eternally free from all forbidding laws, and all imprisoning providences?
O how heartily should it engage our affections to one ano ther, and increase the pleasure of our worship, when we come to wait on God together here below, to think that we shall worship God together in the upper world? How should it unite the hearts of our congregations one to another in divine love and make christians for ever forbear wrath and anger here, since they must be everlasting fellow-worshippers above?
What a glorious joy will it be to you who are the heads and rulers of this family, who have so often joined in sweet devotion here on earth, when you shall meet each other there, and worship together before the throne in heaven? What a mutual endearment, and mutual delight does such a prospect raise between the nearest relations? How doth it exalt the sweetest passion, heighten and refine the warmest love? What a blessed transport will it be to the parents, to find their children there engaged in the same work? And what a joyful meeting will it be to you, the children, the hopeful offspring of this house, to find each other in that company, and to see your pious parents with you With what a glorious and unspeakable joy shall parents render up their accounts to God in this language, "Lord here am I, and the children that thou hast given me;" imitating the words of the Lord Jesus, giving up his account to his Father; Heb. ii. 13.
How will our gladness increase, and our souls enlarge themselves in holy joy, to behold our christian friends, and our dear