Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

SERMON XV.

MEETNESS FOR HEAVEN, WHEREIN IT CON

SISTS.

Colossians i. 12.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

WE have a very low and imperfect idea of the nature of Christianity, if we consider it only as it stands connected with this life, and our happiness on earth. Doubtless it ministers to our peace and comfort here; it regulates our passions, and directs us to discharge the duties of our several stations with fidelity and diligence; but the same end is proposed, though it may not be so fully attained, by every scheme of philosophy and religion which has been taught in the world. Christianity has a view to far nobler and more extensive objects; it is to be considered as connected with God's glory, as well as man's happiness; with the honour of Christ, as well as man's salvation; and with the boundless ages of eternity, as well as the few years of man's ex

istence upon earth. The plan was formed; the sacrifice of the Lamb of God appointed; and men were destined to inhabit the realms of glory, before the foundations of the world were laid. The ultimate end was to bring them to heaven; the means, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the sanctifying power of his spirit; the subordinate end, the preparation of a corrupt race for that state of glory which they who were made meet for it should inherit.

The consideration of such an end in view, goes far to explain the reasons why such means are used, and why the purity and holiness required are so very great. Imagine the chief object of the Gospel to be that of regulating our unruly passions, so that we may pass our lives in ease and comfort here; and there appears but little reason why the Son of God should be our Redeemer, or why we should need the teaching and sanctification of his Spirit. The light and strength of reason might accomplish this end: or, at least, a much smaller portion of virtue than Christianity requires would be sufficient to attain it. There would be no occasion for that high degree of self-denial; that mortification of sin; that deadness to the world; that knowledge of God and his attributes, and those holy affections which it enjoins. A Deist might be a good neighbour, a useful citizen, a tender father, and a kind friend. But take into consideration a future state, the nature of heaven, the glory of God and of Christ; and we see that a real Christian only is fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light. He alone possesses those dispositions, those sentiments of devotion, those holy affections which are the proper qualifications for such a state. The morality of a Deist would be sufficient, were his soul as mortal as his body; but when we consider man as an immortal spirit, training up for happiness in heaven, we see the absolute need of the Gospel to prepare him for it.

Christianity, then, is intended to make us meet for heaven. By nature we are unfit for that blessed place:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

our desires and pleasures, our habits of acting and modes of thinking, the motives and principles by which our conduct is framed, are all unsuitable. We could contribute nothing to the bliss of its inhabitants, nor could they minister to ours. The very enjoyments of the place would be no enjoyments to us.-But by the influence of the Gospel, where it strikes root in the heart, a new and divine life is begun; in which may be perceived the rudiments of heavenly virtue, the seeds of infinite happiness, and the elements of eternal glory. There may be traced in it the same principles which operate in the glorified spirits themselves; the same end in view, the glory of God; the same renunciation of our own will; the same agency producing peace and holiness, namely the Holy Spirit; the same sentiments of gratitude, and songs of praise, and objects of adoration; the same harmony and love; the same sources of refined and sacred pleasure. The difference in all these respects lies rather in the degree of strength, and purity, and completeness, than in the kind. Every thing below is weak, is imperfect, is defiled; but, as far as there is the spirit of true Christianity at all, it is of the same nature, has the same end, is produced by the same Agent, as the blessedness of heaven.

Consider Christianity in this light, and we shall see why it should require from us a much higher degree of purity and holiness, and other kinds of principles and affections, than would be necessary were its operation confined to the present world. The nature of the education which we give to a child is directed by the station of life which he is intended afterwards to fill. To the heir of a great empire we should endeavour to communicate not merely the principles of honesty, frugality, and common justice; but virtues of a higher and nobler stamp; such as munificence, magnanimity, and comprehension of mind. Now this life is our school for heaven; and, under the tuition of the Gospel, we are trained for the exercises and enjoyments of heaven. Hence a high degree of purity and strictness is de

VOL. II.

5

manded; desires rising above this sordid earth, and stretching into immortality; holy affections and heavenly graces such as will be called into exercise in that better state, and make us meet to enjoy it.

Of the nature of heaven, it is true, we do not know much. The account given of it in the Sacred Writings is very short; and consists chiefly in general descriptions, suited to convince us that it is a happy and glorious place, rather than to inform us in what particulars the happiness and glory of it consist; yet from the kind of happiness described; from the nature of the employments of its inhabitants, and the account given of their tempers and affections, we may form some estimate of what will conduce to make us meet for it: at least we may, in many cases, very certainly conclude what would unfit us for the enjoyment of it.

We know, for instance, that whoever is made fit for heaven, must be made so by a taste for devotion.One principal employment of the saints in light is worship. In almost every glimpse afforded us of the eternal world, we find the angels and spirits of just men made perfect, bowing with adoration before the throne of God. When Isaiah saw the Lord of Hosts on his throne, he was surrounded by the seraphim worshipping him, and crying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."-When St. John was favoured with an heavenly vision, the "living creatures around the throne" (emblematical representatives either of the church or of its ministers) "rested not day and night; saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." And when those living creatures give "glory, and honour, and thanks unto Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever, the four-and-twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure

they are and were created." And again, he "beheld and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands; saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard 1, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."

Now what meetness can he have for such employment who has no taste for worship here; who when he comes to the house of God comes only out of form, with a careless mind, and wandering thoughts, and finds no delight in the exercise? What meetness would he have for the perpetual worship of heaven, who has been unaccustomed to all prayer in secret; and who, if forced upon it by his fears, or by his conscience, does but find the more certainly how much he dislikes it; who is soon weary of all such service, and would esteem it the greatest mortification to be compelled frequently to join in it? Would such a person be meet for heaven? Would it be agreeable to his taste? Would he think it a place of consummate felicity, and rejoice that he had now obtained the completion of his happiness;—all that an immortal spirit could desire; all that God could give? He has obtained-what? An entrance into the temple of true worship. He has gainedwhat? The liberty of serving day and night before God, with high adoration and heart-felt praise.-Alas! how evident is it that, unless he has a taste for such' exercises, he could find no enjoyment in heaven, even if he were admitted there!

But worship in sincerity and truth supposes knowledge and love of the Object of adoration.-Without knowledge, our worship would be an irrational service; without love, it would be tedious and constrained. In

« VorigeDoorgaan »