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O sirs, if you knew the misery of a mere opinionist, you would sure be persuaded now to practise these Directions, that may raise you higher. An opinionist is a deceiver of himself, and oft of others: a troubler of the church, if he have any zeal for opinions, and hit (as usually he doth) on the wrong; and when his religion is right, he is wrong himself, being out of the way, even when he is in the right way, because he is not right in that way; for he doth but sit down in it, when he should travel in it. A runner shall not win the prize by being in the right way only, unless he make haste. The knowledge of the opinionist doth but serve to aggravate his sin, and cause him to be beaten with many stripes; but is not of force to sanctify his heart and life, and to save him, James ii. fully shews. Stick not therefore in an opinionative religiousness.
Direct. IX. My next Direction that your conversion may prove sound, is this, 'Acquaint your souls by faith with the glory of the everlasting kingdom, and see that you make it your portion and your end, and from thence let the rest of your endeavours be animated.'
No man can be a sound Christian, that knoweth not the ends and portion of a Christian. There is a great deal of difference between the desires of heaven in a sanctified man, and an unsanctified. The believer prizeth it above earth, and had rather be with God than here; (though death that stands in the way, may possibly have harder thoughts from him.) But to the ungodly, there is nothing seemeth more desirable than this world; and therefore he only chooseth heaven before hell, but not before earth; and therefore shall not have it upon such a choice. We hear of gold and silver mines in the Indies : if you offer a golden mountain there, to an Englishman that hath an estate and family here that are dear unto him, perhaps he will say, ' I am uncertain whether their golden mountains be not mere fictions to deceive men; and if it be true, that there are such things, yet it is a great way thither, and the seas are perilous; and I am well enough already where I am, and therefore let who will go thither for me, I will stay at home as long as I can.' But if this man must needs be banished out of England, and had his choice whether he would go to the golden islands, or to dig in a coalpit, or live in a wilderness, he would rather choose the better than the worse. So it is with an ungodly
man's desires, in respect to this world, and that to come. If he could stay here, in fleshly pleasure for ever, he would; because he looks at heaven as uncertain, and a great way off, and the passage seemeth to him more troublesome and dangerous than it is, and he is where he would be already but when he sees that there is no staying here for ever, but death will have him away; he had rather go to heaven, than to hell, and therefore will be religious, as far as the flesh and the world will give him leave, lest he should be cast into hell, when he is taken from the earth.
But take an Englishman that is in poverty and reproach, and hath neither house nor land, nor friend to comfort him, and let him have the offer of a golden island, and a person of unquestionable skilfulness and fidelity, that will promise in short time to bring him safe thither; if he believe this person, and can put his trust in him, doubtless he will be gone and follow him over sea and land; and though the passage may somewhat daunt him, yet the promised possession will carry him through all. So is it with the true Christian, he is dead to this world, and sees nothing here in which he can be happy; he is burdened and wearied with sin and suffering; he is firmly persuaded of the truth of the Gospel; and seeth by faith the world that is to flesh invisible; and believeth in Jesus Christ, who hath promised to convey him safely thither, and therefore he would go away; and though he love not death, the stormy passage, yet he will submit to it, having so sure a pilot, because he loves the life which through death he must pass into, and had rather be there than here.
Such as a man's principal end is, such is the man, and such is the course of his life. He that takes this world for his portion, and makes the felicity of it his end, is a carnal, worldly, unsanctified man, whatever good and godly actions may come in upon the bye. It is he, and only he, that is a sanctified believer, who looks on heaven as his only portion, and his sailing through the troublesome seas of this world, of purpose to come to that desired harbour; not loving these seas better than the land of rest, which he is sailing to; but patiently and painfully passing through them, because there is no other way to glory. As it is the desire of the land to which he is sailing, that moveth the mariner or passenger to do all that he doth in his voyage; and the de
sire of his home or journey's end, that moveth the traveller all the way; and the desire of seeing a perfect building that moveth the builder in every stroke of his work; so it must be the love of God, and the desire of everlasting blessedness, that must be the very engine to move the rest of the affections and endeavours of the saints, and must make men resolve on the necessary labour and patience of believers. Take off this weight, and all the motions of Christianity will cease. No man will be at labour and sufferings for nothing, if he can avoid them. It is a life of labour, though sweet to the spirit, yet tedious to the flesh, which Christianity doth engage us in; and there is much suffering to be undergone; and this to the very last, and to the denial of ourselves; and if God require it, to the loss of all the comforts of the world for no less than forsaking all that we have, will serve to make us Christ's disciples. And will any man do this for he knows not what? Will any man forsake all that he hath, unless it be for something better, which may be as sure to him as that he had, and may make him more happy? Look to it therefore, that you have right and believing thoughts of heaven, and that unfeignedly you take it for your home and happiness, and look not for any other portion. Till you see so much of the certainty and excellency of everlasting glory, as shall prevail with you to lay out your faithful labour for it, and to be at a point with all this world, as having laid up-your treasure and hopes in the world to come, you have no ground to conclude that you are true Christian converts.
Seeing therefore, that it is heaven that is the very reason, the end, the life of all your religion, it follows, that you must necessarily understand somewhat of its excellency, and believe its certainty, and accordingly set your hearts upon it, and make the attainment of it your daily work and business in the world: this is to be a convert indeed.
Remember therefore first, what I told you before, wherein the nature of this blessedness doth consist. I will only name the essentials of it, that your apprehensions may be right, and forbear to say much, as being done already.
1. The first thing considerable in our everlasting blessedness, will be our personal perfection of the whole man; this is in order to the perfection of our everlasting operations and enjoyments. Our bodies shall be no more flesh and
blood, nor corruptible, or mortal, or subject to hunger, or pain, or weariness, nor to passions that rebel against the reasonable soul; but they shall be spiritual bodies, and immortal, and incorruptible, and undefiled. Our souls will be perfected in their natural perfections, and in their moral. They shall be of more advanced understanding, and comprehensive wisdom than now. Our wills shall attain to perfect rectitude in a perfect conformity to the will of God, and every affection shall be brought to its perfect order and elevation: all sin shall be done away, whether it were in the understanding, will, affections, or the actions. The executive power will be answerable to the rest of the perfections, and to the blessed work which it hath to do: and thus we shall be like the angels of God.
2. The next thing considerable in our blessedness, is, our approximation or approach to God: we shall be admitted into the holiest, and brought as near him as our natures are capable of, and we are fit for.
3. Moreover, we shall be members of the New Jerusalem, and receive our glory in communion with that blessed society, and so as members contribute to her glory.
4. And we shall behold the glorified person of our Redeemer, and he will be glorified on us as the fruits of his victory.
5. And we shall behold the face of the blessed God, and see his wisdom, and power, and glory, and know as we are known. Though we cannot now fully know the manner, yet in that sense as our angels are said to behold the face of God, (Matt. xviii. 10.) we also shall behold it.
6. We shall also enjoy him in the nearest relation, and by the most raised, vigorous affections of our soul. We shall be filled with his love as full as we can hold, and we shall abound with perfect love to him again: and the joy that is in his presence, which this intuition, and everlasting love will afford us, is such as no heart is here able to conceive.
7. Being thus furnished, we shall be employed in his perfect praises, in singing and rejoicing to him with the heavenly host, and magnifying his heart and holy name.
8. And in all this will the glory of God shine forth, and he will be admired in his saints; 2 Thess. i. 10, 11. In us
it shall appear how abundant he is in power, and wisdom, and goodness, in holiness, faithfulness, and righteousness.
9. And God himself will be well pleased with us, and with the new Jerusalem, and his glorified Son, and will take complacency in this manifestation and communication of his glory and of himself unto his creatures. And this is his ultimate end, and should be the highest point of ours. The revolution hath now brought all to that centre, which is both the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. His will is the fountain or efficient source of all, and it is the ultimate end and perfection of all.
There is no more to add, as to the matter, but that as to the duration, first, we may take it as that which leaves no room for any addition, that all this will be everlasting, leaving not any doubts or fears of a cessation. Abundance of glorious adjuncts of this felicity might be mentioned; but pass them all by, and do but name these few which are the essential constitutive parts of our happiness, because I have touched them before, and more fully spoken of them in the "Saints' Rest." Thus much I thought meet to mention here, that you may have somewhat of that in your eye, that I am persuading you to intend and seek; and the rather, because I perceive that many of the godly have not such distinct apprehensions of the constitutive parts of this felicity, as they should have; but much wrong their souls, and God himself, and the glory of their profession, by looking but at some of the parts.
Believe God, sirs, that this is the life that you shall live, if you will take it for your portion, and set your hearts upon it, and follow the conduct of Christ for the obtaining it. Can you be content with heaven alone? Is it enough for you, though you be despised and persecuted in the world? Do you account this for certainty and excellency to be worth all? Yea, that all is dross and dung to this? Thus must you do if you will be true converts. For all such are heavenly in their minds and hearts, and in the drift of all their lives and conversations.
Direct. X. My next advice that you may prove sound converts, is this, Rest not, and count not yourselves truly converted, till God and his holy ways have your very love, and desire, and delight; and take not that for a saving