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servation on this passage, and, for ought I know, a just one, that their works are not said to go before them, as a ground of justification; but to follow them, as witnesses in their favour. I apprehend, however, they will not only follow them as witnesses, but will have place among the intermediate causes of their felicity. It is true, they will constitute no part of our title to eternal life; that is the free gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; but, a title to admission being thus conferred, they will contribute to augment our bliss. The scriptures every where teach us, that the services and sufferings of the faithful shall meet with a divine reward; which, though not of debt, but of grace, is, nevertheless, a reward; which it could not be, if what was enjoyed in the life to come, had no relation to what was done in the present life.
God will reward his servants, at the last day, with his public approbation before an assembled world. The king shall say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gove me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in : naked, and ye cloth ed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Nor shall their works stop here; but shall follow them into the heavenly state itself, and furnish matter of joyful recollection for ever; affording a kind of measure according to which their reward in heaven will be conferred. The whole current of scripture appears, to me, to teach us, that there will be degrees of happiness, as well as of misery, in the future state; and that those who have served the Lord with the greatest fidelity and zeal in this world, will enjoy the greatest portion of mental bliss in the world to come. If the labours which we here endure have a tendency to meeten us for the heavenly rest; if present bitters will render future sweet the sweeter; and, if it is thus that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, WORKETH FOR US a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; it must, then, follow, that there will be some proportion between our present labours and our future enjoyments. I mean, it cannot be supposed, that those who have laboured but little for God will enjoy an equal por. tion of felicity with those who have laboured much.
Upon no other principle, that I can see, can we understand those passages of scripture which exhort us to lay up treasure in heaven; to lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come; which encourage us under reproaches and persecutions for the name of Christ, saying, great is your reward in heaven; and which warn us, saying, Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.-He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; but he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. We see here, that laying out ourselves for God is laying up treasure in heaven, and that everlasting life is a harvest that will grow out of the seed sown to the Spirit.
Some serious people have demurred upon this subject, lest it should effect the doctrine of salvation by grace, and encourage boasting. Indeed, if those works which follow us into the heavenly state were to be ascribed to us as their first cause, and were considered as the proper meritorious ground of our reward, there would be weight in the objection; but if it be the Lord who has wrought all our works in us, and if the reward with which he is pleased to crown them be a matter of grace, and not of debt, where then is boasting? It is only God's graciously rewarding his own work. If ten thousand crowns were placed upon the Christian's head, he would cast them immediately at his Redeemer's feet, saying, Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy name give glory.
It is through the intimate union between Christ and believers, that they are not only accepted in him, but what they do for Christ is accepted also, and rewarded for his sake. The Lord had respect unto Abel, AND TO HIS OFFERING. We are not only accepted in the beloved, but our sacrifices become acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. As there is no sin so great, but God, for Christ's sake, can forgive it ; no blessing so great, but he can bestow it; so there is no service so small, if done from love to him, but he
will reward it. A cup of cold water, given to a disciple, because he belongs to him, will insure a disciple's reward.
God's graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people, serves to show, not only his love to his Son, and to them, but also his love to holiness and righteousness. A father may design to give an inheritance to his child, and various other accommodations ; he may design also to fit him, as much as may be, for the enjoyment of what he has to bestow upon him. On this principle, he will connect almost every gift, or favour that he confers, with some act of filial duty. It is easy to see, in this case, that the father does not consider these things as the child's due upon the footing of merit; for all that he did was simply his duty but love to his child induced him to give; and love to diligence, obedience, and good order, induced him to give it in such a manner. It is thus that God gives grace and glory. It is thus that, in this life, finding is connected with seeking, forgiveness with confession, and salvation with believing; and, in the life to come, eternal glory with suffering, warring, and overcoming. It is thus that God displays, at the same time, the freeness of his grace, and his love of righteousness and good order. Grace reigns in a way of righteousness through the whole system of salvation. Those that are saved shall be sufficiently convinced that it is all of grace; while, on the other hand, all shall see the equity and fitness of the divine proceedings, in judging every man according to his works.
But I proceed to consider.
II. THE USES THAT THIS TWO-FOLD IDEA OF THE HEAVENLY STATE IS ADAPTED TO PROMOTE. All divine truth has a tendency to do us good, and the sentiments taught us in this passage are adapted to our present situation.
1. A rest for those who die in the Lord, may reconcile us to the loss of our dearest Christian friends, seeing they are gone to the possession of it, and are from henceforth blessed. When our Lord Jesus was about to leave the world, and his disciples we overmuch dejected at the thought of his going, he told them, If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said I go to the Father, for my Father is greater than I; which is as if he had said, The glory and happiness which my Father possesses, and which I go to possess with
him, is greater than any thing I can here enjoy; if, therefore, ye loved me in a proper manner, instead of weeping at my departure, surely ye would rejoice at it. If the love that we bear to our Christian friends were but properly directed, if our minds were but capacious enough to take all things into consideration, we should mingle joy with all our mourning, on their account.
2. A rest before us, may reconcile us who are left behind, to all the labours and pains and weariness of life. We need not tire, or want to sit down here; there will be time enough to rest us by and by. Nor need we be discouraged with all the trials of the present state. What, though it were in weariness and painfulness, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, that we had to pass the remainder of our days? What, though bonds and afflictions should abide us? The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. The rest that remains will make us, like Joseph, forget all our toil, and all our father's house; so forget it, however, as never to think of it any more, but with joy and thankfulness.
3. The glorious reward before us, may stimulate us to work for God, with all our might, while life continues. It is affecting to consider what we are doing in this life as the seeds of an eternal harvest. Let us keep this thought habitually in view. There is a way of turning the ills of life into good, yea, an everlasting good. Every temptation to evil that accosts us is a price put into our hands; it affords us an opportunity of proving our love to God, by denying ourselves, in that instance, for his sake. The same may be said of afflictions; they afford us an opportunity for the exercise of patience, and acquiescence in the will of God; and what a harvest of joy such things may issue in, is beyond our capacity to conceive. Perhaps, it was under some such views as these, that the primitive Christians were used to rejoice in tribulation, and were exhorted to count it all joy, when they fell into divers temptations.
4. If our works will follow us, we have reason to tremble, as well as rejoice. The works of those who die out of Christ, as well as the others, will follow them. Their life is a seed-time, and they also will receive a harvest. All men have their opportunities, their temptations, and their afflictions; and they will work in
some way, either as a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death; either as an eternal weight of glory, or of infamy and misery.
But what shall I say in immediate reference to the present melancholy occasion? I wish I could say something that might have a tendency to comfort those that mourn. We have all sustained a heavy loss. The town has lost one that sought its welfare; the poor have lost a benefactor; the church of which he was a member and an officer, has lost one the study of whose life it was to promote its prosperity; those who had the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with him have lost a steady, faithful, and judicious friend; and you, my friend, the partner of his life, you have sustained a heavier loss than any of us. But let us try and consider, the loss is not so great, but that it might have been greater. We have not to sorrow as those that have no hope. Our grief is confined to ourselves. We have no cause to weep on his account. This is a thought which, though frequently mentioned on such occasions as these, yet can never be sufficiently realized. To bury a Christian friend, is nothing in comparison of burying those relations of whose piety we have no well-grounded satisfaction. Add to this, the mercy of God in not taking him away in the prime of life and health and usefulness. He had been removed ten or twelve, or even five or six years ago, the stroke had been much more felt, by all his connexions, than it is now.
I have often admired the wisdom and mercy of God, in these things. We see the threatening hand of God laid upon one of our dearest friends or relatives; at first, we think we can never endure the loss; but the affliction continues; meanwhile, the weight which he sustained in society is gradually removed, and falls, by degrees, upon his friends about him; life becomes a burden to himself; at length, the very same principle that made it appear impossible for us to endure a separation, renders us incapable of praying or even wishing for his continuance; and thus the burden that we should scarcely have known how to bear, becomes tolerable, by being gradually let down, as it were, upon our shoulders.
Our dear friend has left many relations behind him; most of whom, I suppose may at this time, be present. My dear friends,