|« Prev||Sermon XXV. Preached October 18, 1691.||Next »|
We are saved by hope.
THE order of discourse upon this subject hath brought me now at length to say somewhat, by way of direction, to those, who, being regenerate, and turned to God, are on their way towards him. That the principle of hope, which doth more especially belong to their regenerate state, may be improved by them, to their cheerful and more comfortable progress through the whole of their course and way to their end. We having spoken by way of direction to a former sort, and to a former case, to wit, to direct how hope may be improved, in order to conversion and regeneration itself: nor am I solicitous, that the course I nave taken upon this subject hath obliged me to be long upon it; for I both consider the great importance of the subject, which I cannot but know as you, any of you may, and must, when you seriously bethink yourselves of it. And also, I know not, that any have purposely and designedly treated 339upon this subject; that is, to shew the necessary influence of hope upon the whole business of a Christian’s life, from first and last, from the beginning of it, till it end in eternal life.
I shall repeat nothing of what hath been said by way of direction, in reference to the former case, to wit, to persons yet unregenerate, what improvement is to be made of hope in order to their regeneration, and their being born of God; to which nothing is more plain, than that it would never be, but as even then they begin to have hope God-ward. But my present and remaining business is to shew the continual influence that hope may be improved unto for a Christian’s progress, to help on those that are regenerate, and born to God, in their way to him. That so, upon the whole matter, you may see the new creature, it is from first to last a creature (as it were) made up of hope; its very make and constitution are suited to the state which it is successively made for. In this present state, while its great supports do lie in unseen and expected good things, there cannot but be a continual exercise of hope necessary from first to last; but in the other state, hope naturally turns into joy; when the things that were before matter of expectation, are now come to be the matter of actual fruition. In the meantime, its make and frame suit it to the present state of its case. That whereas, such as were before strangers and aliens to God, in a state of apostacy from him, they begin to be prompted and stirred up to look after God; as soon as any such instinct is put into them, it is put into them in a way of hope.
God hath a design in hand to restore and recover apostate creatures; saith the soul, I own myself to be such an one; I am miserable, and lost for ever, if I do not return to God, and if God accept me not. I have hope I shall: I have hope he will. And so the soul is (as it were) begotten to God, even by the power of hope; and being reconciled, the great remaining expectation is, of being saved, of being brought to a safe and happy state at last. Hope runs through the course of such a converted, regenerate soul, even to the attainment of its end, which is actual salvation.
And whereas the gospel is the great and stated means by which souls are, both begotten unto God, and enabled to adhere and cleave to him, even to the end; where that gospel hath long been, there is great reason to think that God had much such work to do; many such blessed effects to 340bring about upon souls; and that much such work is done: that with us, God hath touched many souls, turned many hearts, implanted that new and divine principle in many, that will certainly end at last in eternal life. It is not to be thought (or at least one would be very loth to think or imagine such a thing) that a bright, and blissful heaven should have been opened among us, so long, so continually, by the gospel, whose design it is to bring life and immortality to light, that we, amidst all the impurities, and darkness, and wretchedness, of this our present state, should have such a glorious prospect given us, and set before our eyes; heaven opened in all the glories of it, (as in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ it is;) and that we, after all this, should agree in it as our common sense, and sentiment, that it is better always to dwell in this dungeon, so as to have no aspirings, no hope, directed upward, towards that glorious state of things; one would-be loth (I say) to admit such an apprehension as this; that this should be our common sentiment; that it is better to dwell in a dungeon always, than amidst all that divine light and glory above, whither we are called, and whereupon the hope of our calling doth finally terminate; yea, and though, we know that the dungeon is to fall upon us ere it be long, and that they who have effected that dwelling, must certainly be overwhelmed with its ruin. It is meet for us to judge that there are sundry, whose souls God hath, by the power of his gospel animated by his Spirit, possessed with another sense.
And if there be many such, or any such, that are looking higher, that have their expectations and hopes placed upon some other sorts of things, things of an higher excellency and value than this lower creation can afford; the greatest care imaginable then must be had, that their hope be kept alive in strength and vigour; if it fail, if it should languish, if it were possible it should, and it were ever so certain, that it should never expire and fail; yet means must be used, that it may not; but (I say) if it should fail, (and the dread ought to be upon our spirits, that it may not fail, that it may never fail;) then are such poor creatures ingulphed again, sunk in, and swallowed up by the spirit of this world; and so exposed, and left to be involved with it in its fearful ruin. That it may not be so, and because it hall not be so with those that do peculiarly belong to God, and are the children of the kingdom, begotten to the eternal heavenly inheritance; all endeavours must be used that 341hope may be preserved and kept alive in them. And in order to it, pray take these following directions.
Direction 1. See that your spirits be deeply and seriously engaged, and taken up in the meditation of that glorious state of things which you profess finally to hope for, and which you expect should be your eternal state. See (I say) that your spirits be deeply exercised in meditation of that glorious state of things. The way to keep hope alive, is to keep its glorious, blessed object in view. The hope of the greatest things imaginable can never live, or be influential in any of us, if we do not preserve the remembrance, and have not the actual thoughts of them. If there be such a thing as the habit of hope yet left, it will be a languishing thing, and afford us no support; it will be as dead within us, if we have not frequent views of the glorious object of it; if we do not look towards that object, take it in its comprehension, and compass even the whole state of things, that we expect and hope for as our final and eternal state.
I pray, let us labour, not only to realize, but familiarize to ourselves the unseen world. It is a shame that we should be called Christians, and that our thoughts should be taken up chiefly, and principally, about things that are seen. Christian hope lies beyond and. above those things: we forfeit our names while we confine our thoughts so much to that which is present and sensible. If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, as Christians, we make ourselves the most miserable of creatures; we are made up of contradictions, we are in a continual war with ourselves, we do not act and carry it so consistently with ourselves as other men do, who do not pretend to Christianity; we are more miserable than they.
And, that I may the more fruitfully enlarge upon this, as, that without which our hope is a languid and insignificant thing, and in a direct way to be reduced to nothing; let me desire you to give compass and scope to your thoughts about the invisible world, and the expected state of things, which is to be the great and final object of your hope. The context, which hath so immediate reference thereunto, would afford you very great help for the managing and directing your thoughts in the contemplation of the invisible state. You see it is spoken of a little before the text, under the notion of glory; a glorious state, a state of glory. “I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be 342revealed in us,” verse 18. And that glory is spoken of under the notion of an inheritance. They that are the regenerate sons of God, and now actually under the government of the Divine Spirit which begot them unto God; they that are so children, are also heirs, “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” verse 17. “That after having suffered awhile with him, they may be also glorified together with him.” As to the invisible world, (that happy part of it, where “the heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” have their eternal concernments lying,) that happy part of it is to be looked upon as a region of glory, all. glory. And that you may give latitude and scope to your thoughts about this, which is the very hope of your calling, the final hope of it, I pray consider such things as these more particularly concerning it. Considerations to enforce this first direction.
1. Contemplate the vast amplitude of that glorious region, where you (if you be regenerate, and born of God, and heirs of the celestial kingdom) are to have your ever lasting abode. Think (I say) seriously and often of the vast amplitude of it, that you may give scope and room to your thoughts; it is mean to be confined in our apprehensions of things to this little spot of our earth, wherein we breathe; think if you were ascending from it, if you were ascended but a little way, into how vastly larger, and more spacious, and roomy a region do you come but by a little ascent; but if you were ascended as high as our vortex, as the utmost confines of this vortex of ours, to which this earth, and the sun, and moon, and other planets do be long; how inconsiderable a point is all this earth, in comparison of that vortex to which all these do belong? But if you were beyond that, beyond that circuit and those confines within which all this planetary region is limited; then how vastly spacious are all the supernal heavens above the regions in which the sun, and moon, and other planets, do move? So as we are even lost in the thoughts whither we should then go; and it is pleasant to be so lost.
And to consider how despicable a nothing this earth of ours is in comparison; so as it may be lost, it may be consumed, and burnt up, and that it is an insignificant thing to the universe; no more than the burning of one single little cottage would be in a vast empire, containing two hundred and twenty-seven provinces as Ahasuerus’s did; one that is an heir of heaven, and of the inheritance of the saints in light, when he thinks of the burning of this world, may say 343what is it to me? my concernments lie not here, it is a despicable, inconsiderable trifle; it is no more loss to the creation, and no more loss to me, than the dropping of an hair, one single hair. Labour to aggrandize to yourselves so much as this comes to, of the object of your hope; to wit, to consider the vast amplitude of the region of glory: we must think with ourselves, that as to what doth more subside in this creation is baser and meaner, fitter for baser and meaner inhabitants; it is but a very little inconsiderable part, in comparison of the ample and spacious regions of the encircling heavens above, that seem all appropriated to the heirs of the eternal kingdom. And then,
2. When you are laying before your eyes the object of your hope, that that may be lively and strong in you; consider too the numerous multitude of the inhabitants of those glorious regions, or, to speak collectively, of that region of glory. It is true, in this little inconsiderable world of ours, we find the inhabitants are generally very numerous, (as there will be more occasion to speak bye and bye;) but, alas, what is this little perishable thing, (this world of ours,) to the universe? And it is a very unreasonable foolish thought to think the nobler parts of the creation of God to be less destitute of inhabitants than our earth is. Do but turn up a clod of earth, and you see every little clod inhabited with somewhat or other that hath life in it, little insects and animacula that have life in them. It is a foolish thought, to think that the nobler parts of the creation of God should be less full of inhabitants, though still meaner the nearer this earth; but if you ascend higher, you are to suppose all filled with living inhabitants; and (as we have reason to apprehend) with creatures innocent and up right with God, angel-like creatures.
It is true many angels fell, many, if you consider them abstractedly; but take them comparatively, and we have no reason to think but that they were a very small part of the host of heaven, in comparison with them that stood, and retained their integrity; and if the upper regions be replenished with innocent creatures, full of the love of God, and of the knowledge of God, and who stand in absolute devotedness to him; then you must consider the blessed society, the society of the blessed, to be a most numerous thing. The innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of men made perfect; so that the angels that have fallen, and the apostate sons of men that shall not be recovered, and that finally persist in enmity against all the 344methods of reconciliation, though they will be numerous., yet a little inconsiderable number they must be, in comparison of all those glorious creatures that inhabit the more noble parts of God’s creation: and it would make a man’s hope revive, and spring, and flourish mightily in him, to think of being ere long one of that vast and numerous assembly, that blessed glorious assembly, the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. And,
3. Consider, again, the high and admirable perfection of these blessed creatures, of whom you are to be one; their bodily perfections, (which are not nothing,) and their mental spiritual perfections, which are incomparably more, are to be considered. As to the former, the words immediately foregoing the text, do directly cast back our thoughts upon them, upon those perfections that are more properly corporeal, and that belong to the body: not only they, (that is the rest of the creation,) but ourselves also, which have received the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting (which carries hope in it as you do well know) for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies; for we are saved by hope. We that now dwell in these bodies so cumbersome, so tiresome, that are such an annoyance to us, and so great a depression to us; we are hoping, hoping for a time and state of things when these bodies are to have an entire, complete redemption from every thing which is gravanimous and burthensome to them, and by which they are gravanimous to our spirits, to ourselves; and it is by the hope of this, that we are saved. Here we are depressed and sunk very low; these bodies are prisons and dungeons to us; they are so, but we are saved by that hope of the day of our redemption; the redemption of our bodies, which is also the day of our adoption, or solemn adoption.
I have told you upon this occasion formerly, of a double adoption among the Romans, private and public. It is the public adoption that is here referred to. In the private, every good soul is adopted when it is regenerate; but the public adoption, or the manifestation of the sons of God, (as it is afterwards called,) it is referred unto that day when all are to be visibly invested with their glorious bodies, conformed to the glorious body of our Lord Jesus Christ. To have such an agility of body as that, it shall never be a clog; such refined spirits that will never cloud our thoughts, that will never obstruct the notions of the goal. 345And that shall be, with respect of aptitude, to speedy motion so little cumbersome, that, as Austin’s celebrated expression is, ubi voluerit animus, ibi protinus erit corpus; wheresoever the mind wills or wishes to be, there the body shall be in a moment. Its motions, and (for ought we know,) its texture, (as that of the sun beams,) gliding as quick as a thought, this way, or that; and (for ought we know) as fine; it being very easy to make the grossest earth as fine as the purest ether, to him that made all things out of nothing; and since chemistry performs a great deal this way by human art, much more may divine.
So as that these bodies that we are afterwards to inhabit, are said to be from heaven, the terrestrial to be all gone; for in this we groan, “earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house that is from heaven.” 2 Cor. v. 2. All of apiece with heaven, contempered unto heaven, the earthly house of this tabernacle, changed into such an one.
2. And it is very material, and seems to be glanced at in that which is said by our Saviour; “Therighteous shall shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.” Matt. xiii. 43. The sun in the firmament is (as it were) the resemblance of a glorified body, and how near it may be of the same materials we cannot tell, all our earth being refined into so pure and celestial a matter. And,
3. And then, if you consider again the spiritual and mental perfections (which is incomparably a great thing) of the happy members of this glorious, blessed, numerous society. There you must understand his knowledge in perfection, his holiness in perfection, and his love in perfection. It cannot be expected that in this subject, I could stay to dilate upon every one; but it is a great thing to think of the matter of our own hope in this: I hope to be one of them, I hope to be such a creature, inhabiting such a mind, in such a body, to be one of those Isangeloi, (as they are called,) angels fellows, equal to the angels of God: Oh! that we should have such things as these in view, and obvious to our thoughts, and yet have no thoughts about them, or few thoughts about them! Live with minds (as it were) confined to this earth, and continually grovelling in the dust of it! This is mean, this is dishonourable to our Father, who hath begotten us to a lively hope of a glorious inheritance; and it is most injurious to ourselves. To think that I shall have a mind, a spirit ere it be long, (as mean and abject a thing as I now am,) all (as it were) coin posed, and made 346up of knowledge, and of purity, and of love; what a glorious thing is that? And that I shall have a spirit inhabiting a body, (since I was made to join with a body,) that shall be no hindrance, no burthensome thing to me, no tedious, irksome, companion to all eternity. And again,
4. Consider about this state, the universal harmony that must hereupon be in all this glorious, blessed society, as vastly numerous and extensive as it is through the spacious heavens, those regions of light and bliss: come wherever one will, the same order universally obtaining every where; all animated by one and the same spirit; for they “that sow to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life ever lasting.” Gal. vi. 8. That immense almighty Spirit (as the living creature in the wheels) acting in every mind, be they ever so numerous, and never so vastly extended through the regions of light and bliss; all ever lastingly under the dominion of the same blessed, al mighty, and omnipresent Spirit; so that there is here among them, wheresoever they be, not one dissentient thought; all have the same sentiment, the same mind, the same inclination, and all centre in one and the same design: no jarring, no disagreement, no darkness, no obscurity, no error, much more no animosity, having the least place in any member of that glorious society. And again,
5. Consider the glorious visible residence of our great Redeemer among them, who can render himself every where present, and every where appearing in conspicuous glory. How grateful and entertaining a thought must that be to them, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, that they are to be for ever with the Lord, when that happy season comes, that the Lord descends with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ are first raised and caught up into the clouds, and do meet their Redeemer in the air, men are they ever with the Lord. 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17. never out of his company, though their company be so vastly numerous and great; for he is the head of all principalities and powers, the head of all things to the church; and yet he must be every where present to every one, for they are all to be ever with the Lord. And when so much is plainly enough expressed and declared to us, we need never trouble ourselves to think how it shall be; he that we know to have done so great things already, can easily add to this all the rest; make himself present to those vastly numerous, innumerable 347myriads of glorious creatures, that do every where delight in his presence, and cannot but eternally do so.
And to this also, the context here refers us, still leading us to the final object of our hope; they are to be the heirs of the eternal glory, as their inheritance; they are to be “joint heirs with Christ,” they are to inherit with Christ, “and, after having suffered with him, are to be glorified together with him,” verse 17; after we have suffered awhile; he and we having been suffering together, he and we shall be glorified together. And to the same purpose is that admirable contexture of discourse; 2 Cor. v. from the beginning of the chapter to the 8th verse; but I cannot stay to run it over with you. Take notice, I pray you, what you find there, in that 8th verse; we are confident, (saith he,) and willing rather to be absent from the body, (this terrestrial body,) not any body at all, not altogether to be unclothed, but to be clothed upon; this terrestrial body being reformed, refined, clarified into another thing: for that body we are now in, this terrestrial body, we covet rather to be absent from it, and to be present with the Lord. According to that, Phil. i. 23. I desire rather to be “dissolved and be with Christ, which is far better.” We are to be in his presence, and to have him present among us, as soon as we are loose from this base, mean thing, this vile body that we are now linked, and clogged with. And the expressions are very observable, that are used in the mentioned place, 2 Cor. v. The words used, signify to be peopled with, or unpeopled, or dis-peopled from. The expression of being present with the Lord, doth intimate the Lord our blessed Redeemer to be the head, the president of that dis-peopled sort of people, whose dwelling is not with flesh; they do not inhabit and dwell in such bodies as those are, in which we now dwell; and I long (saith he) to be dis-peopled from this bodily sort of people; and to be taken into the communion of that people that dwell out of such bodies with the Lord; to be peopled with that people, of which he is the immediate, visible, glorious, head; there I long to be. I would fain be absent from this body. I desire it rather, I choose it as a more desirable thing, to be dis-peopled from this bodied sort of people; and to be peopled with them, to make one amongst them, who do people the glorious regions above, which are peopled with another sort of inhabitants, and with them do I covet and hope to dwell, and long to dwell. And then,
6. Consider too the divine presence universally replenishing 348all, for in that everlasting state God is himself to be immediately all in all; and so all to be universally transformed into the image of that bright glory, which shines upon them from his blessed face, and all to inhabit that one and the same divine presence, where there is fulness of joy, and where there are “pleasures for evermore,” Psalm xvi. last verse. Oh! for such mean creatures as we, to have such a thing in hope, to make one in that glorious, celestial community, among whom, the blessed eternal God shall, by immediate communication, be all in all to every one! Every soul as full of God, as it can hold, and be made capable of beholding unspeakably more, than we can now so much as conceive of; for the design is in our present state, (and very much by the influence of hope,) here to have us refining, and be made more capacious and larger vessels of glory. They that are to be vessels of mercy first, are to be vessels of glory afterwards; here they are to be gradually greatened and enlarged, (and very much by the influence of hope,) in order to their being more receptive vessels, that they may hold more, and be capable of larger and fuller communications from that immense fulness, that filleth all in all. And hereupon
7. Consider the nigh satisfaction that every one of those blessed creatures must have in himself, for there is to be a glory revealed in us, (as a little above the text.) The context is full of accounts of the final object of our hopes, and gives us frequent occasion to consider what it imports, and carries with it; “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Every one of these glorious creatures is to be glorious within. As it is said of the king’s daughter, the spouse of Christ, “She is all glorious within.” Psalm xlv. “She will be perfectly so; for he gave himself for his church, to sanctify it, and to cleanse it, and to present it a glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any. such thing.” Ephes. v. 25, 26, 27. And sanctification is implied to be the very beginning of that glory the foundation of it. That glory consists in perfect sanctification. He gave himself for it, to sanctify and make it a glorious church; every one of it is then a glorious creature, and eternally glorious, by glory revealed in the divine image shining in him, in perfect and consummate glory. That image which stands all in knowledge, and holiness, in the greatest amiableness, loveliness, and love that is possible.
How infinitely satisfying must such an one’s own frame, 349and the complexion and temper of his own mind, be to himself, when, through a boundless and immense eternity, one shall never have occasion to reflect upon one. disorderly thought, or say I wish that thought had never been thought; never have occasion to reflect upon one irregular wish! Oh! the holy order and rectitude that will be within, when every faculty and every power shall be under the dominion of that Almighty Spirit of divine light and grace; when it shall be as impossible to be the author of one wrong, or misplaced thought, as it would be to any of us to be the author of another world, of a world that should be excentrical to this! What a satisfaction is this, and must be, when a person shall so everlastingly agree with himself, as to have no war within him, nothing. of reluctation, nothing of contrariety, against what he knows to be equal, and congruous, and fit, and comely; but every thing just as it should be. And then, thereupon,
8. The mighty complacency that such must take in one another; the everlasting complacencies that they must take in one another, when they are all alike, not equal; it is plain enough there will be different orders; but all alike, all of one mind, all of one sentiment, all conspiring in one and the same design. And then consider,
9. The pleasantness of their perpetual work, wherein they are all to be united; to wit, joyful and everlasting adoration; every one pleased with another, upon this account, that he knows him to be pleased with exalting God and the Lamb, for ever, and ever; when every one knows his fellow to have the same pleasure that he hath in prostration, in falling down before the throne, in ascribing all praise, and dominion, and glory, to him that lives for ever, and ever; the eternal Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit. When the comeliness and equity of the thing recommends itself so fully to every mind, and all agree in one sense. “Worthy art thou, O Lord, to receive blessing, and power, and dominion, for ever, and ever,” and all say Amen, all proclaim their joyful Amen. The vast and spacious heavens continually resounding with this sort of melody, all giving their joyful, grateful Amens, to one and the same thing. And this eternity goes on, never wearisome, never grievous; because all this employment, and the exercise is so suitable to the complexion of every one’s mind, none can ever disagree to it, and all things do conspire, and concur to make these associates in bliss, and glory, and adoration, the most grateful company to one another. We experience 350something what pleasure and sweetness there is in conversing with such as are wise, and learned, and good, when these things are in conjunction; but when they are in perfection, in absolute perfection, Oh, the pleasure that will be taken in being associated with such ones! Lastly,
10. The perfect assurances that all have of the perpetuity of their state, and that there shall never be an end of it. “The light afflictions that are but for a moment work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” it can never lose its weight; there will be no detraction, no diminution from it, to eternity. Therefore there is an impossibility, an utter impossibility that ever there should be a cessation.
And that is one direction to this purpose, to keep alive this hope, contemplate much, and as distinctly, and with as clear and formed thoughts as you can, the glorious object of it, the final and eternal state; and be ashamed of having such things in view, and of having so few, so unfrequent, and dull, and sluggish, thoughts about such things.
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