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II. What is the nature of that reward promised in our text to all such good and faithful servants ?
And, as it is here described, it implies, principally, the four following things :
1. The acceptance of their persons with God. This is. implied in the character here given them, and represented in the parable, as given them by their Lord, when he calls them to give an account of their stewardship, good and faithful servants. And you will please farther to observe, they are not only acknowledged as good and faithful, but received with a “ Well done, ye good and faithful servants.” This, indeed, chiefly imports an approbation of their conduct : but it is no less expressive of the acceptance of their persons.
But to estimate this blessing in a proper manner, it is necessary to recollect, that as finners, we had forfeited all right to this acceptance with God, and justly merited his levere displeasure. That we deserve nothing but indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguilh, from him, throughout an immortality of woe. Yea, that such is the nature of the forfeiture we have made of the Divine favor; and such the justice of the sentence that binds us down to suffer his displeasure, that it appears not to have been compatable with the honor of God, to reverse the sentence and restore the finner to favor, without an adequate satisfaction. And the price paid for this blessing, the precious blood of the Son of God, greatly contributes to enhance its value. But how rich the mercy, for an heir of Hell to become, in this way, “an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ Jesus!"
2. It implies the approbation and acceptance of their services for God, and his cause in the world. Every in. dividual among them shall be received with a “ Well done,a thon good and faithful servant, thou hast been faith. ful over a few things.” Language cannot express the approbation of the great Judge of quick and dead, in stronger terms. But did our time admit of considering the many
a The original word Er, herc res.dered “ well done," has a force that cannot be fully capresied in our language.
imperfections that attend the very best services performed by the holiest of our Lord's servants, for him, how deeply stained they are with guilt, it would serve, not a little, to illustrate the riches of that reward conferred upon them, in this acceptance of their services for him. And this farther suggests, what it is of importance to attend to, that this acceptance of our persons and services, when we come to stand before unblemished purity, is not of merit, but of grace, through the atonement and intercellion of the Divine Mediator. “ It is to the praise of the glory of his grace, that he makes us accepted in the beloved.”'a But it is not the less certain, for its being of grace.
This acceptance of our persons and services, is of itself a high reward, for all we have ever done, or can do, for God, while in this life, where there none other : but this is not all-for,
3. This reward implies actual and superadded bonors, conferred upon the faithful servants of Christ, in the great day of God. This is the import of“ Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” What the nature of these honors shall be, we are not so clearly taught. Two things, however, seem to be plain respecting them, in the sacred oracles, namely, That they shall bear fome proportion to our faithfulness
and diligence in our Lord's service here—and that they · shall be great.
They shall bear some proportion to our diligence and faithfulness in our Lord's service in this life. We read, " There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars : for one star dillereth from another in glory-So also is the resurrection of the dead.”b These words plainly point us to a difference in the degrees of that glory which Ihall be conferred on the several servants of Christ, in the day when he shall finish the mediatorial fysiem, by raising the dead, and judging the world in righteousness. They shall differ as the sun differs from the moon, and the moon from the stars, and the stars one from another. But the ground of this disser.
a Ephelians i. 6. b i Cor. xv. 41, 42,
ence will be, the zeal, the diligence, and the faithfulness with which his servants have served him in this life. I may not say their success will have no influence on this difference of reward : for we read, “ That they who turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars, forever and ever.”a But when we consider that it is an act of mere sovereignty in God, whether he will succeed the faithful labors of his servants, yea, or not, it is not so consonant to our ideas of equity, to make it an equal ground of distin. guished honors, with those things that are voluntary in us, as our faithfulness and diligence, in a great measure are. Besides, this would be to weaken, if not to destroy, the en. couragement to diligence and faithfulness, arising from those promises of reward to them, so frequent in the ora. cles of truth; especially as the most diligent and faithful fervants of Christ, are not always the most successful. And it farther deserves our notice that the reward conferred, in our text, on the good servant, is founded, not on his success but on his faithfulness; “ Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”
I shall only add, under this particular, that the parable of the ten pounds, entrusted by their Lord to the ten fervants, which you have in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel by Luke, sufficiently demonstrates, that the rewards that shall be conferred on the servants of Christ at last, will not only differ in their degrees of honor, but that this honor shall bear a proportion to their diligence and faithfulness for him in this life. They each one received one pound a piece, as you may perceive by reading the parable. Of these, one, by his diligence and faithfulness, had gained ten pounds and he is made ruler over ten cities. -Another by his diligence, had gained five pounds, and he is made ruler over five cities.
You will please to observe, the sums entrusted to these fervants were the same ; but the improvement is reprefented as different, and that the difference in the reward is proportioned to the difference in the improvement.
a Daniel xii. 3.
The lowest degree, however, of this reward shall be very great to those who receive it. This appears, from the images used in Scripture, to illustrate its nature. It is compared to, it is illustrated by, all the glories of royalty. Hence we read of " a crown of righteousness,”a and of “ a crown of glory, that fadeth not away,"b that shall be conferred upon all the sincere disciples of Christ. Of a throne, and their sitting upon that throne; “ To him that overcometh, will I grant to fit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am fet down with my Father in his throne.”c We also read of a kingdom, and their entering on the posseffion of that kingdom: Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”d Agreeably to this, the good and faithful servants of Christ are said to be made kings and priests unto God.e But a throne, a crown, and a kingdom, are the summit of earthly grandeur, the utmost reach of human achievement. And yet these, all these, fall infinitely short of the blessedness and honors in sure reserve for those whose character I have described : for it is written, “ Eye hath not feen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."f
4. The reward in our text includesthe most consummate happiness, in the immediate presence and fruition of a God in Christ. This is imported in that phrase, “ Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” These are literally, " Joys unspeakable, and full of glory.” They include all that happiness that is derived to the spirits of just men made perfect, from the cleareit knowledge of a God in Christ; from the most perfect conformity to him, and the fullest enjoyment of him. By the clearest knowledge of a God in Christ, I do not mean a perfect knowledge of him ; for “ Who, by searching, can find out God, or know the Almighty to perfection ?"g But I mean the fullest knowledge of him, that the then enlarged and daily enlarging capacity can possibly receive ; and which, when
a 2 Tim. iv. 8. b 1 Pet. V. 4. c Rev. iii. 21. d Mat, zxv. 34;.
e Rev. i. 6. f 1 Cor. ii. 9. & Job xi. 7.
compared with our present knowledge, will be in a sense perfect. The clearness, precision, extent, and satisfactory nature of this knowledge, are expressed, in Scripture, by “ seeing no more darkly through a glass, but face to face; and knowing even as also we are known.”a And by the st: ong expressive phrase of " seeing God's face.”b
This knowledge of God, especially as shining in the face of Crift, is one principal source of that consummate liappiness, enjoyed by glorified spirits. They know him as their God and portion, and as such their delightful esperience recognizes and realizes him. That is an inftructive and emphatical phrase, as it lies in the original, Rev. xxi. 3. last clause-which literally rendered, runs thus, “ And God himself shall be with them, their God;" that is, exhibiting and manifesting himself to them, as their God, in all the ways that their souls, now arrived at the maturity of their existence both in a natural and moral view, can possibly admit. Every power of the matured mind shall be an avenue, through which blessedness shall flow into it, from God, the fountain of blessedness, throughout an unwafting immortality,
I may not, I dare not undertake to describe the nature of this happiness. I shall only observe respecting it, that our text stiles it “ the joy of our Lord”-“ Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”--This, no doubt, means the joy of our Lord Christ.
It is the joy of our Lord, because it has been purchased by him. This reflects a peculiar glory upon it, in the estimation of the spirits of just men made perfect; it in. fuses a divine and exquisite relish into it-to this accords their song to him, “ Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast sain, and halt redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”c.
Again-It is the joy of our Lord, because Christ, our Lord, has taken possession of it in the name of his people -Some of his last words to his disciples were, “I go to prepare a place for you.”d lle rose from the dead and
Croxiii. 12. b Rev. xxii. 6. c Rev. v. 3. d Joho xiv. 2.