« ElőzőTovább »
Let us endeavour to show how the hope of heaven and a future glory comes to have such a sovereign influence upon this work of purification. It has so upon a double account, natural and moral.
I. And, first, upon a natural account, this hope purifies as being a special grace, infused into the heart by the Holy Ghost, and, in its nature and operation, directly contrary to sin: as heat is a quality, both in nature and working, contrary to, and destructive of cold. All grace is naturally of a sin-purging virtue; as soon as ever it is infused into the soul, it is not idle, but immediately operative. And its operation is to change and transform the soul into its own nature; for the effecting of which it must work out that principle of corruption, that does intimately possess it. When leaven is cast into the lump, it presently begins to work and to ferment, till, by degrees, it has thoroughly changed the whole mass. In like manner, every grace will be incessantly working, till it has wrought over the heart to its own likeness.
Now hope is one of the principal graces of the Spirit; so that we have it marshalled with faith and charity, and placed immediately after faith, in regard to the method of its operation, which is immediately consequent upon that of faith. For what faith looks upon as present in the promise, that hope looks upon as future in the event. Faith properly views the promise; hope eyes the performance. But the Scripture tells us, that faith purifies the heart,' and casts out the corruption naturally inherent in it; and if these are the effects of faith, they must needs be ascribed also to hope, which is sown in the heart by the same eternal Spirit; and consequently is of the same quality and operation with that. For that it springs not from mere nature, but from a higher principle, is most manifest : since it is the Spirit of God alone that proposes to the soul the grounds of hope, and lays before it the object of hope, and then by an immediate Almighty power, enables the soul fiducially to close with and rest upon that object, upon those grounds. Flesh and blood cannot rise so high; bare reason cannot furnish the heart with such a support. It may indeed cause us to presume, but it can never cause us truly to hope. II. Secondly, the hope of future glory has an influence upon this work of purifying ourselves upon a moral account; that is, by suggesting to the soul such arguments, as have in them a per
suasive force to engage it in this work. Of which sort I shall reckon four.
II. 1. And the first shall be drawn from the necessary relation that this work has to the attainment of heaven, as the use of the means to the acquisition of the end. Our way to happiness does indispensably lie through holiness; and God has so ordered things, that we cannot arrive at one, but through the other. Now, when the purification of our hearts is the proper way and means appointed, and consigned by God's own institution, for our obtaining of everlasting felicity with himself; is it not the highest strain of folly and madness that is imaginable, for a man to pretend that he does earnestly hope for this happiness, and yet, in the mean time, totally neglects that course, by which alone it is attainable? Should we take such a course in worldly things, how cheap, how unreasonable, and ridiculous would our hope appear! For does any one hope to reap, when he never sows? and expect treasure from a far country, with which he holds no traffic or commerce? Certainly, notwithstanding all words and protestations, we should conclude that such persons did not really hope for the things they pretended; or, if they did hope for them, that they were incurably mad and besotted, and past all hope, at least as to the recovery of their reason. The Apostle most rationally warns men [Gal. vi. 7, 8.] not to think that they can mock God,' because they can deceive themselves: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.' For as it is absurd to hope to reap, and yet not to sow, so it is equally unreasonable to sow one kind of grain, and to expect a crop of another; to sow tares, and yet hope to reap wheat. There is no reaping of life everlasting,' as the Apostle's phrase is, but by sowing to the Spirit;' this is the only proper way to attain it. For this is an eternal truth, that the works of the Spirit have a necessary subordination to the rewards of the Spirit.
II. 2. The second argument by which the hope of future glory persuades the soul to purify itself, shall be taken from this consideration: that it is purity alone that can fit and qualify the soul for so holy a place. He that is clothed in filth and rags, is not a fit person to converse and live in a court; nor is there any one who designs the course of his life in such
a place, but will adorn and dress himself accordingly. David proposes and resolves the question, in Psalm xxiv. 34. Who shall ascend into thy holy hill? Even he that hath clean hands and a pure heart.' And again, in Psalm xciii. 5. Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.' And therefore, as God said to Moses, Pull off thy shoes, for the place on which thou standest, is holy ground;' so may we say to every one that hopes for heaven, Take away that enormity and corruption that cleave to thy life; for the place whither thou art going, is holy; and therefore requires and admits of none but holy inhabitants.' In Rev. xxi. 27 it is said, that nothing shall enter into the New Jerusalem that is polluted, or that maketh a lie.' It is with the New Jerusalem, as it was heretofore with the Old, where all the offscourings were carried to a place without, and there burnt. And we all know, that there is a deep and dismal place without the New Jerusalem, where every noisome, wicked, and polluted thing shall be cast and burnt with everlasting flames.
Nay further, purity and holiness does not only fit us for heaven, so that without it we can have no entrance or admittance there; but it also so fits us, that if it were possible for us to enter into heaven void of it, heaven would be no place of happiness to us in that condition; but a place of trouble, torment, and vexation. As, for instance, it is impossible for a beggar in his rags to be admitted to the society of princes and noblemen but put the case that he were, yet his beggarly condition would never suffer him to enjoy himself in that company, in which he could be nothing but a mock and a derision. In like manner, heaven bears no suitableness to an impure, unsanctified person: for a sinful heart must have sinful delights, and sinful company; and where it meets not with such, in the very midst of comforts and company, it finds a solitude and a dissatisfaction. The business we shall be put to in heaven, is for ever to praise and admire the great God for the infinite beauty of his holiness, and the glorious perfections of his nature but this surely is an employment no ways either fit for, or desirable to, a sinner. It is, indeed, a blessed thing 'to see God; but it is so only to the pure in heart:' for to the wicked and impure, the vision of God himself could not be beatifical. Those that live in any country, must conform to the habit of the country. Those that are citizens of
the New Jerusalem, must have the clothing and the garb of such citizens; even the long white robes' of a pure, unspotted righteousness. In a word, no hope can give us a title to heaven, but such an one as also gives us a fitness for it.
II. 3. The third argument, by which the hope of heaven persuades the soul to purify itself, shall be drawn from the obligation of gratitude. For surely if I expect so great a gift at God's hands as eternal happiness, even reason cannot but constrain me to pay him at least a temporary, short obedience. For shall I hope to be saved by him, whom I defy? Or can I expect that he should own me in another world, when I reject, despise, and trample upon his commands in this?
God gives us righteous precepts, and endears them to us by glorious promises and now can it stand with the principles, not of piety only, but of common gratitude, to evade the duty, and yet to snatch at the reward? To expect the highest favours from God's mercy, and to offer the greatest indignities to his holiness? When Christ had promised paradise to the thief upon the cross, would it not have been a prodigious in gratitude for him to have joined with his fellow-thief in cursing and reviling him, by whose favour he expected presently to exchange his cross for a crown?
God promises to us a kingdom, and makes the condition of our passage to it, only the cleansing ourselves from all filthi ness of flesh and spirit ;'-a work that is our privilege, as well as our duty: and shall we not obey him in this one command ? A command so reasonable for him to enjoin, and so advantageous for us to perform? For shall he be willing to make us glorious, and we grudge to make ourselves pure? Shall he hold forth such vast wages, and we not find in our hearts to set about the work? These things are absurd and disingenuous; and such as the world would detest in common converse. And therefore let no man think, that the disposition can commend him to God, which would justly make him abhorred by men.
II. 4. The fourth and last argument, by which the hope of heaven persuades the soul to purify itself, shall be taken from this consideration, that purity is the only thing that can evidence to us our right and interest in those glorious
things that we profess ourselves to hope for. presumptuous for a man to hope to inherit
It is infinitely
which he can show no title. The reasonableness of our hopes of heaven, depends upon the sure right and claim that we have to it; and prove this we cannot, but only by the obedience and purity of our lives, and their strict conformity to the excellent precepts of the gospel. No man can ascertain himself to be an heir of glory, unless he can prove himself to be a son; and he shall never be able to find that he is a son, till holiness makes him like his heavenly Father: for where there is this relation, there will be also some resemblance.
And now, from what has been discoursed upon this subject, every one may gather a certain criterion, by which to judge of his hopes and pretences as to the happiness of his future estate. It is grace only that ends in glory; and he that hopes for heaven in earnest, will be as active in his repentance, as he is serious in his hopes. Who almost is there that does not own himself a candidate, and an expectant of future glory, nay, even amongst those whose present glory is only in their shame! But if such persons did not wretchedly prevaricate with themselves, how could there be so much of heaven in their hopes, and yet so little of it in their conversation? How comes their heart to be in one place, and their treasure in another?
It is evident, that the very hope and religion of every profane and vicious liver is but mockery and pretence: for can any one of common sense really expect to be saved in the constant practice of those enormities, for which the God of truth himself assures him he shall be condemned? It is infinitely vain for a man to talk of heaven, while he trades for hell; or to look upwards, while he lives downwards: yet thousands do so, and it is the common practice of the deluded world, which shows how much men trifle in the grand business of their eternal condition. They profess a hope of that, of which they have scarce a thought; and expect to enjoy God hereafter, though they live wholly without him here. But the issue will be accordingly; neither they nor their hopes can ever stand before the pure eyes of him, with whom live only the spirits of just men made perfect.'