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That this life ought to be so spent by us, as to be only a journey or pilgrimage towards heaven.
Here I would observe,
1. That we ought not to rest in the world and its enjoyments, but should desire heaven. We should “seek first the kingdom of God.” 236236 Matt. vi. 33. We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness; to be with God; and dwell with Jesus Christ. Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbours, and are generally beloved where known; yet we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion. We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy, and use them, with no other view but readily to quit them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven.
A traveller is not wont to rest in what he meets with, however comfortable and pleasing, on the road. If he passes through pleasant places, flowery meadows, or shady groves; he does not take up his content in these things, but only takes a transient view of them as he goes along. He is not enticed by fine appearances to put off the thought of proceeding. No, but his journey’s end is in his mind. If he meets with comfortable accommodations at an inn, he entertains no thoughts of settling there. He considers that these things are not his own, that he is but a stranger, and when he has refreshed himself, or tarried for a night, he is for going forward. And it is pleasant to him to think that so much of the way is gone.
So should we desire heaven more than the comforts and enjoyments of this life. The apostle mentions it as an encouraging, comfortable consideration to Christians, that they draw nearer their happiness. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 237237 Romans 13:11 ”—Our hearts ought to be loose to these things, as that of a man on a journey; that we may as cheerfully part with them, whenever God calls. “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away.” 238238 1 Cor. vii. 29, 30. —These things are only lent to us for a little while, to serve a present turn; but we should set our hearts on heaven, as our inheritance for ever.
2. We ought to seek heaven, by travelling in the way that leads thither. This is a way of holiness. We should choose and desire to travel thither in this way and in no other; and part with all those carnal appetites which, as weights, will tend to hinder us.“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us.” 239239 Heb. xii. 1 However pleasant the gratification of any appetite may be, we must lay it aside, if it be a hinderance, or a stumbling-block in the way to heaven.
We should travel on in the way of obedience to all God’s commands, even the difficult as well as the easy; denying all our sinful inclinations and interests. The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel up hill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh. We should follow Christ; the path he travelled, was the right way to heaven. We should take up our cross and follow him, in meekness and lowliness of heart, obedience and charity, diligence to do good, and patience under afflictions. The way to heaven is a heavenly life; an imitation of those who are in heaven, in their holy enjoyments, loving, adoring, serving, and praising God and the Lamb. Even if we could go to heaven with the gratification of our lusts, we should prefer a way of holiness and conformity to the spiritual self-denying rules of the gospel.
3. We should travel on in this way in a laborious manner.—Long journeys are attended with toil and fatigue; especially if through a wilderness. Persons in such a case244 expect no other than to suffer hardships and weariness.—So we should travel in this way of holiness, improving our time and strength, to surmount the difficulties and obstacles that are in the way. The land we have to travel through, is a wilderness; there are many mountains, rocks, and rough places that we must go over, and therefore there is a necessity that we should lay out our strength.
4. Our whole lives ought to be spent in travelling this road.—We ought to begin early. This should be the first concern, when persons become capable of acting. When they first set out in the world, they should set out on this journey.—And we ought to travel on with assiduity. It ought “to be the work of every day., We should often think of our journey’s end; and make it our daily work to travel on in the way that leads to it.—He who is on a journey, is often thinking of the destined place; and it is his daily care and business to get along; and to improve his time to get towards his journey’s end. Thus should heaven be continually in our thoughts; and the immediate entrance or passage to it, viz. death, should be present with us.—We ought to persevere in this way as long as we live.
“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” 240240 Heb. xii. 1. Though the road be difficult and toilsome, we must hold out with patience, and be content to endure hardships. Though the journey be long, yet we must not stop short; but hold on till we arrive at the place we seek. Nor should we be discouraged with the length and difficulties of the way, as the children of Israel were, and be for turning back again. All our thought and design should be to press forward till we arrive.
5. We ought to be continually growing in holiness; and in that respect coming nearer and nearer to heaven—We should be endeavouring to come nearer to heaven, in being more heavenly; becoming more and more like the inhabitants of heaven, in respect of holiness and conformity to God; the knowledge of God and Christ; in clear views of the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, and the excellency of divine things, as we come nearer to the beatific vision.—We should labour to be continually growing in divine love—that this may be an increasing flame in our hearts, till they ascend wholly in this flame—in obedience and a heavenly conversation; that we may do the will of God on earth as the angels do in heaven; in comfort and spiritual joy; in sensible communion with God and Jesus Christ. Our path should be as “the shining light, that shines more and more to the perfect day.” 241241 Prov. iv. 18. We ought to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness; after an increase in righteousness. “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.” 242242 1 Pet. li. 2. The perfection of heaven should be our mark. “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 243243 Phil. iii. 13, 14
6. All other concerns of life ought to be entirely subordinate to this.—When a man is on a journey, all the steps he takes are subordinated to the aim of getting to his journey’s end. And if he carries money or provisions with him, it is to supply him in his journey. So we ought wholly to subordinate all our other business, and all our temporal enjoyments, to this affair of travelling to heaven. When any thing we have becomes a clog and hinderance to us, we should quit it immediately. The use of our worldly enjoyments and possessions, should be with such a view, and in such a manner, as to further us in our way heavenward. Thus we should eat, and drink, and clothe ourselves, and improve the conversation and enjoyment of friends. And whatever business we are setting about, whatever design we are engaging in, we should inquire with ourselves, whether this business or undertaking will forward us in our way to heaven? And if not, we should quit our design.
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