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And if thou art saved at last, it is so as by fire, it is like a brand plucked out of the burning, or as a man escaping naked out of the flames, and passing on the very brink of hell into everlasting life."
The Recollection of the doctrinal part.-" And is life the only space given ine to be reconciled to God, and am I still a stranger and an enemy? Have I wasted away so many years of this golden season of hope, this day of mercy, and have I not yet received this mercy, nor laid hold on this hope set before me: Search, examine, enquire, what is thy state, O my soul? And if thou art yet a child of wrath, and unreconciled to God, make haste and fly for refuge to the grace of the gospel. Cry mightily for repentance and forgiveness in the name and blood of Jesus. Let no more days of thy life pass away in such a dangerous and dreadful state, lest life should come to a speedy period, and then thou art banished from grace and hope for
"But if the character of a sincere penitent, and a holy christian be found with thee, if thou art partaker of the love of God, through the grace of Jesus, then bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me praise his holy name, that he has not cut me off in the days of my enmity to God, unsanctified, and unpardoned; that he has lengthened out my life and the seasons of his mercy, till he has changed my sinful nature, and secured me in the covenant of his grace.
"Is life given me as an opportunity of service to my Lord Jesus? It is he that has redeemed me: it is he that has laid out his valuable life for me, what shall I do, O my Saviour, to make some humble returns of acknowledgment and love? O let my useless and unserviceable years be forgiven, and let the remains of life, whether long or short, be all devoted to the interests and honours of my Redeemer. Were it possible for the saints, after they have dwelt some time in heaven, to come down and dwell on earth again how would they multiply their labours, and lay out their new life in more activity and service for their God and Saviour? When they have found and tasted what a heaven of happiness succeeds the short labours of life, how would they double all their zeal and diligence, and be grieved they could do no more? When they have seen and conversed with their beloved Lord, and beheld him face to face, with how much warmer love would they engage in his service? Surely they would all cry out, that the longest life on earth is much too short to shew their zeal, affection, and gratitude to so divine and glorious a friend. Think of this, O my soul, and remember, if thou ever arrive safe at heaven, thou wilt wish thou hadst done more for thy beloved Lord here on earth.
"Is this mortal life continued to me that I may spread a savour of piety amongst my fellow-creatures, and set a religious example to men? Lord, suffer me to do nothing that may lead sinners astray from thee. Pardon all the evil examples I have ever given, and let my future conduct shine in holiness, as a pattern to those that are round about me. Methinks, I would convince the world that religion has somethnig excellent and divine in it, and encourage them to the practice of strict godliness.
"Is life prolonged that I may be profitable to mankind, and have I lived thus long already to so little purpose? Though my goodness extends not unto thee, O Lord, yet I entreat that my fellow-creatures may be the better for me while I continue amongst them. O may the God of Abraham bestow on me that rich favour which Abraham received in those divine words of promise, I will bless thee, and I will make thee a blessing; Gen. xii. 2. I would fain live useful and beloved, that I may die desired and lamented. What a shameful thing is it when I go out of the world, that my acquaintance should say, "He is gone, but there is no loss of him."
"Have my days been prolonged thus far that my hopes of heaven might be daily increasing, that my evidences of adoption might grow stronger daily, and my soul be more prepared for heaven: Look inward then, O my soul: Hast thou acquired a more divine and heavenly temper than in years past? Art thou wrought up to a greater meetness for the inheritance on high? Are thy desires, thy appetites, and all thy powers more fitted for the business of heaven, and attempered to the blessedness of the upper world? Art thou growing fitter still for the sight of God, for converse with Christ, for the company of saints and holy angels? How are thy days and months, and years run out to waste, if thou art so much nearer death, and yet art not so much riper for heaven?
"And is it possible that a length of life should be so improved, as that my crown of glory, and my portion of happiness may be enlarged hereafter? Let my holy ambition awake at such a hint as this, and let me aspire to a superior rank among the blessed, by employing every part of life to the most noble and excellent purposes for which life is granted. Let me ever abound in the work of the Lord, since I am assured that no part of my labours shall be in vain in the Lord, or want its proper recompence. Though it is the blood of my Redeemer that has purchased all the prizes and crowns in heaven; yet if I am a swift runner in the christian race, and the race itself be long, I am fitted to receive the fairer prize: And if I am an active and victo. rious soldier in the army of Christ, and have served faithfully
through a tedious war, I may have reason to hope for a brighter crown. We may humbly wait for a reward in proportion to the work, according to the encouragements of the bible, while we still acknowledge that it is free and sovereign grace both enables us to hold out working, and bestows the rich reward." Ameu.
The Privilege of the Living above the Dead.
1 COR. iii, 22. -Whether life or death,- -all are yours. WHEN these words were explained, this doctrine was drawn from the first part of them, viz. "When life is given or continued to the saints, it is for their advantage."
The first thing proposed, in our meditations of this truth, was to make it appear by a variety of instances, that life is designed for the benefit of christians. I proceed now to the
Second, viz. to amplify and confirm this doctrine yet further by representing what various graces may be exercised on earth, which can have no place in heaven; and to discover in what respects, a living christian may be said to have some advantage over the saints that are dead.
1. The first grace I shall mention, which belongs only to this life, is, faith of things unseen, whether present or future; for in heaven this sort of faith is ended and lost; it vanishes into sight; 1 Cor. v. 7. Here in this world we walk by faith, and not by sight; but in the world above, we shall live by sight, and not by faith. Blessed are those souls on earth, who have not seen, and yet have believed; John xx. 29.
Hereby the living christian doth much honour to God, and offers him a revenue of such glory, as can never be offered to him among all the saints and angels on high. To believe that there is a God who made all things, among a world of atheists, that deny him that made them; to carry it toward an unseen God with a solemn awe of his majesty, and deep reverence and submission to his will, in the midst of thoughtless sinners who deride religion, and live without God in the world; to believe that the bible is the word of God, notwithstanding all the difficulties contained in it, and all the bold and subtle cavils that infidels have raised against it, to make this word the ground of our religion, the rule of our practice, and the foundation of our hopes, in the midst of an age of deists and heathens, that laugh at our bible and our belief together: These are noble instances of a militant faith in a world of infidelity. To believe that Jesus of Nazareth, who was hanged upon a tree without Jerusalem, and died there,
is the only begotten Son of God, the Maker and the Saviour of the world, to believe that he now lives and governs all things at the right-hand of his Father, and to trust in him who died upon the cross to give us a crown of eternal life; these are such exercises of the grace of faith, as have no place in the world of sight, where every saint beholds him face to face: Such acts as these, are only suited to our present state of absence from the Lord, and yet they are highly honourable to God and our Redeemer, whom having not seen we love, and in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable:-2 Pet. i. 8.
To believe that there is a heaven of glory far above the clouds, where our Lord Jesus Christ has dwelt in his human nature almost two thousand years, and where ten thousands of his blessed saints and angels are for ever enjoying divine consolati ons; to maintain a firm belief that there is a reward for the rightcous laid up on high, while they are here trodden to the dust; to believe there is a hell, an unseen world of misery and torture, where damned spirits are punished for their rebellion against the great God, and shall for ever suffer the weight of his indignation; and to walk through this world with a holy negligence and contempt of it under the influence of these future invisibles, these eternal joys and eternal sorrows: This is a faith that gives much glory to God, while we live, and speak, and act, while we suffer and endure, as seeing him who is invisible, and firmly believing all the joys and terrors of another world, which are hidden from us by the veil of flesh and blood.
This was the faith of the ancient patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; this was the faith of Noah and Moses, and many other heroes, whose names shine with honour in St. Paul's epistle to the Hebrews; and the great and blessed God received daily honours from this their faith. In heaven all these invisibles are seen, all these futurities become present, and they are no longer matters of faith. O that this faith might overspread the earth, as sight is found all over heaven!
II. Hope and expectation of future blessings, either here or hereafter, under all present darknesses and discouragements, is another grace which may be exercised by the living saints; but among the saints that are dead there is no room nor place for it; for in heaven our hope is turned into enjoyment; hope that is seen or enjoyed, is not hope; what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it, Rom. viii. 24. And this patient and chearful expectation under discouraging difficulties, is a glorious homage paid to God, such as the saints in heaven cannot pay him. The living christian knows not what honour he brings to his God, when his hope for promised mercies bears itself up, while