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safely rejoice in the victory you have obtained through my name over the powers of hell, yet you ought to take care that it be not a vain, selfish, carnal joy, a joy springing from the gratification of your own ambition. And take care also, that it does not run into excess : for I will shew you a much greater cause of joy than even this ; and that is, that your names are written in heav. en. It is possible, that while you are casting the devil out of the bodies of others, your own souls may be under his power, and you may be his miserable slaves forever. But since your names are written in heaven, you are safe ; and that is cause of joy indeed. Rejoice in this above all other things.”
How should we rejoice, and perhaps boast, if the mighty powers of hell were subject unto us, and we could make them fly at a word ! But the meanest christian is more happy than this, and has cause of greater joy.
For the farther explication of the text, it is only necessary to inquire, what is meant by their names being written in heaven
Heaven is here compared to a city or corporation, in which a list or record is kept of all the citizens or freemen who are entis tled to its privileges and immunities. And therefore, to have our names written in heaven, signifies to be citizens, or freemen of the heavenly city; that is, to have a right to an inheritance there, and to all its privileges and enjoyments.
This naturally suggests a very important inquiry, the decision of which may hold us all in an anxious suspense : “ How may I know (may each of us ask) whether my unworthy name be writtep in heaven ? who can open and read the records of heaven, and shew me whether my name is registered there ?"
I answer, This is a secret that may be discovered ; for all that have their names written in heaven, may be distinguished by their characters, their temper, and practice, while upon earth. And their characters are such as these :
1. They are deeply sensible of the vanity of all earthly things, and that heaven alone is a sufficient portion and happiness. All that are registered as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, have a superlative esteem of that privilege, and count all things but loss in comparison of it. Matt. vii 24–26. and xiii. 45, 46. And is this your character ? Are your hearts in heaven ? or are your highest affections confined to the earth?
2. All that have their names written in heaven have a heaven. ly nature ; a nature very different from that of the men of this. world, and like that of the citizens of heaven. And is this your temper? or is it earthly and sensual ?
3. All that have their names written in heaven have a peculiar love for all their fellow citizens, who are heirs of heaven. They love them as members of the same corporation with them. selves. 1 John iii. 14.
4. If your names are written in heaven it is the chief business and concern of your life to obtain an interest in heaven. This is not the object of languid, lazy wishes, or of lukewarm, spiritless prayers ; but of your vigorous, anxious, persevering desires. And do you thus seek the kingdom of heaven ? Matt. x. 12. Luke xvi. 16.
These marks must suffice at present to assist you in self-examination ; and I beg you would bring them to your hearts, and see if they will stand this test.
If your names are written in heaven, then my text authorises me to tell you, this is the greatest cause of joy you can possibly have ; a joy that may swallow up every other joy. But on the other hand,
If your names are not written in heaven, there is nothing in the world that can happen to you, that can be a cause of rational lasting joy to you.
I. If your names are written in heaven, this is the greatest cause of joy you can possibly have ; a joy that may swallow up every other joy. This' will appear by an induction of particulars.
Are you rich in this world? Has God blessed your industry and frugality, so that you are in easy,
afluent circumstances ? This is cause of joy and gratitude to God, as it furnishes you with the materials of earthly happiness, frees you from many anxieties and painful wants, and puts it in your power to enjoy the generous pleasure of doing good with your substance. But what is this, when compared with the blessing of the sanctified use of riches, and the assurance that God has given you, that all things shall work together for your good ? what is this to the unsearchable riches of Christ and that fulness of grace and glory, in which you have an interest ? Rejoice more in this than in thousands of gold and silver.
Or if you are not in affluent circumstances, are you above ex. treme want, and able by your labour and industry to provide yourselves and your dependents with the necessaries of life?
God is your
This is the happiness of most, even of the poor in our country; and this is cause of joy. But what is this to the happiness of having provision made for your subsistence through everlasting ages ? Is it not superior cause of joy, that when you are stript of all the enjoyments of the present life, you shall also be delivered from all its wants and labours, and shall not only have a bare sufficiency, but a rich overflowing abundance of happiness, equal to the capacities of your souls in their highest enlargements ? In this you may warrantably rejoice, and you cannot run into excess.
Do you enjoy health of body? In this rejoice : but how trifing a cause of joy is this to that of your souls being in health and prospering, and bearing the symptoms of immortal life and vigour !
Are your bodies free from diabolical possession ? Rejoice not so much in this, but rather rejoice that the devil is cast out of your souls, and that you are not under his spiritual tyranny.
Are you happy in your friends and relations, and every domestic blessing? Rejoice not so much in this as that you have the most honourable relations and friends in heaven. father; Christ is your Saviour, your elder brother, your friend ; the Holy Ghost is your sanctifier : the angels and all the saints are your fellow-servants, your brethren of the same household of God.
Do you rejoice in the salvation of your country, and that you are delivered from the hands of your savage and perfidious enemies on earth ? Rather rejoice that you are delivered from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and from the condemnation of the divine law.
Do you rejoice that our forces have been victorious over our enemies? Rather rejoice in the victory which the Captain of your salvation has gained for you over your spiritual enemies. Rather rejoice in the victory you are enabled to gain over sin, Satan and the world, through the blood of the Lamb. Rather rejoice to see your lusts slain, or at least mortally wounded, and dying in your hearts.
Do you rejoice that you have the prospect of living in safety and peace in your country ? Rather rejoice that you have peace of conscience, and peace with God, through Jesus Christ ; and that you shall enter into everlasting peace whenever you leave this restless world.
Do you rejoice that your earthly possessions, your property and liberty are safe ? Rather rejoice that your heavenly inheritance is safe ; and that whatever becomes of the kingdoms of the earth, you have a kingdom that cannot be shaken, eternal in the heavens.
Do you rejoice that you live under the government of a good king ? and that you enjoy the blessings of our happy constitution ? This is a peculiar happiness indeed ; but rejoice not so much in this, as that you are the subjects of the King of kings, and under a dispensation of grace, and the government of a Mediator. Lord reigneth : let the earth rejoice. Psalm xcvii. 1. Rejoice, above all, in this, that you and all your affairs are under the direction of a divine hand, that will manage all for your good. Rejoice that ere long you shall be admitted to the court of the heavenly King, and see him in all his glory.
Do you rejoice that your life is prolonged, while so many are dropping into the grave around you ? Rather rejoice that you are not to live always in this most wretched world. Rejoice that death itself, your last enemy, will not be able to do you any lasting injury, but only convey you home to your Father's house, and the full possession of your heavenly inheritance.
Do you rejoice that you enjoy the gospel and the means of sale vation, and that these invaluable blessings are not likely to be torn from you by the hands of Indian savages and Popish idolaters ? This indeed is cause of rejoicing ; but how much more ought you to rejoice that the gospel and the means of salvation are made effectual by divine grace for your conversion and sanctification ! Many enjoy them as well as you, to whom they are of no service, but an oceasion of more aggravated guilt and ruin.
Let me therefore persuade you to rejoice, not only as a privilege, but as a duty. God enjoins it upon you by the same authority by which he requires you to pray, or to love himself or your neighbour. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, ye righteous ; and shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart. Psalm xxxii. 11. Rejoice evermore : rejoice in the Lord always ; and again, I say, rejoice. 1 Thess. v. 16. It is decent and congruous that you should now rejoice in that, in which you shall rejoice forever. And, on the other hand, it is highly unbecoming that you should walk towards heaven melancholy and dejected, as if you were go. ing to the place of execution. Let sinners be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, who stand every moment on the slippery brink of eternal misery. Sorrow and lamentation become their circumstances. But will you always mourn and droop, who stand every moment on the threshold of heaven, and know not but you may be there before another sun shall rise ? how indecent is this! Therefore rejoice with all your hearts, that your worthless names are written in heaven. This is greater cause of joy than if they were registered in the annals of fame, or among princes of the blood royal.
And do not excuse yourselves from this agreeable duty, by saying, “ I would rejoice, if I were sure my name is written in heaven : but, alas ! I am not.” For is not this uncertainty your own fault! the effect of your own negligence ? Besides have you not some cheerful hope's and probabilities, and even some transient assurance ? and is not this cause of joy to creatures that deserve to be left under the pangs of everlasting despair ?
Let me advance a step farther, and tell you, that you should rejoice that your names are written in heaven, not only more than in all other causes of joy, but also in opposition to all causes of sorrow.
What though you are poor in this world, when the heavenly inheritance is yours? That you are despised among men, when you bave the honour of being the sons of God? That you are weak, or sick and pained in body, when your souls are recovering from the deadly disease of sin ? That you are the slaves of men, when you are free of the heavenly city, members of the same corporation with the armies of heaven, and sharers in the liberty of the sons of God? That your enemies should prove victorious over you upon earth, when you shall certainly overcome at last ? That your mortal relations and friends dic, when your heavenly Father and all your spiritual kindred live, and you cannot be bereaved of them? In short, what though you endure all the afflictions that can crowd upon one man in the present life, when they are all short and transitory, and work out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and when you will soon arrive in the land of rest, beyond the reach of every misery ? In spite of all these calamities, rejoice ; rejoice and be exceeding glad, since your names are written in heaven.
But I must proceed to address another class of hearers ; and to them I must say, VOL. II.