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Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you that are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.—2 Thes. i. 6, 7.
DOCT. That the reward of the faithful is represented under the notion of a rest.
1. We shall inquire what a rest this is.
2. Why it is represented under this notion.
I. What is this rest?
1. It is a felicitating rest; not a bare cessation from troubles (as the word ἄνεσις would seem to import), or a freedom from evil, but the enjoyment of all good.
[1.] In this rest there is a freedom from all troublesome evils. In this estate there is neither sin nor misery. Sin grieveth the saints most, Rom. vii. 24. If any had cause to complain of afflictions, Paul much more; he was whipped, imprisoned, stoned; but lusts troubled him more than scourges, and his captivity to the law of sin was the worst bondage. To be sinning here whilst others are glorifying God is grievous to the saints. A beast will forsake the place where he findeth neither meat nor rest. The saints do live with manifold failings, 226but in heaven there is no sin, Eph. v. 27; no spot nor wrinkle upon the face of the glorified saints. Their faces were once as black as ours, but now they are fully cleansed, made fair as the sun, bright as the moon. Christ will present them as such to God, as rejoicing in the fruits of his purchase. Alas! what a trouble is it now to mortify one lust, or to prevent it from breaking out into some scandalous practice! We cannot do anything but sin will mingle with it, or enjoy anything but we grow proud and sensual. A worm may breed in manna, 2 Cor. xii. 7. But then we are most high and most humble and holy. What is it we struggled under and groaned under all our lives but sin? But now there is no sin, and no temptations to sin. In paradise there was a tempter, but not in heaven. Satan was long since cast out thence, and the saints come to fill up the vacant rooms of the apostate angels. The world is a place of snares, a valley of temptations, the devil’s circuit wherein he walketh to and fro; but no serpent can creep into the upper paradise. Here we cry, ‘Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ There our cries are heard to the full; we are neither tempted, nor shall we displease God any more; sin is not only mortified but nullified.
[2.] There is no more misery nor affliction. Whatever is painful and burdensome is a fruit of the fall, a brand and mark of our rebel lion against God; but there affliction is done away as well as sin. Both recompenses are without mixture. In hell there is an evil and only evil, without any temperament of good; and in heaven there is happiness and only happiness, without any allay of evil: ‘God will wipe all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any pain,’ Rev. xxii. 4. No more doubts of God’s love, no sense of his displeasure. Here, when the wounds are healed the scars remain; we have many suspicious thoughts still; we need to be dieted; the honey of God’s love would grow too luscious if we did not taste something of the vinegar and the gall; but there is full and uninterrupted joy. Here the candle of the Lord doth not always shine upon us alike brightly, but there our sun remaineth in an eternal high noon, without clouds or overcasting. If our souls be at ease, yet the body hath its afflictions. We make it too often the instrument of sin, therefore God justly maketh it the subject of diseases. But there are no gouts, and agues and fevers, nor stone, nor cholic, but the body for ever remaineth in an eternal spring of youth. And for violence from without and oppressions, there is no cry of destruction upon destruction, no tumult to discompose that blessed region wherein God will place his faithful ones; no company of the wicked to vex these righteous souls, much less have they any power to molest them, but they are bound hand and foot, and cast into utter darkness, as unruly men that trouble the faithful subjects are put into prison. Again, then we are freed from the inconveniencies of hunger, and nakedness, and want; for these are bodily necessities incident to the present state; but there wholly freed from the necessities of nature, 1 Cor. vi. 12. There is no need of meat, drink, or apparel. The body now is a kind of prison to the soul, but then it is a temple.
[3.] An enjoyment of all good; for God is all in all, whom we know and love. We love what we see, and enjoy what we love. The 227blessedness of the soul is the heaven of heavens. It is called the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. i. 12. It is not for their turn that know no other happiness but to eat, drink, and sleep, and wallow in brutish pleasures. It is an inheritance in light, that consists in the vision and fruition of God; and it is for saints, that are clarified from the dregs of sense, and know how to value and prize these things. To our felicity three things are necessary—(1.) A prepared faculty; (2.) A suitable object; (3.) The conjunction of both these. In the state of glory all these things concur; the faculty is more capacious, the object is more fully represented, and the fruition is more intimate than possibly it can be here. The faculty is more prepared, as we are purged from sin, and freed from the delusions of the flesh. The object is more manifested, for there we see God ‘face to face,’ 1 Cor. xiii. 12. The conjunction is more intimate; for here it is by faith, and that is an imperfect sight, there by vision; here by an imperfect love, there by perfect love. Now he that is joined to the Lord is made one spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 17. But oh, what a conjunction will it be when we shall be joined to the Lord by sight and perfect love! Vision shall succeed to faith, and possession to hope, and the soul adhereth to him without possibility of diversion. It is hard to speak of heaven till the great voice of his providence call upon us to come up and see what God hath provided for us. But, in short, vision maketh way for assimilation, and assimilation for full satisfaction. See 1 John iii. 2, ‘We shall see him as he is, and be like him;’ as iron by lying in the fire seemeth all fire. This for full satisfaction: ‘I shall be satisfied with thy likeness,’ Ps. xvii. 15. The soul is then at rest; it hath enough in God, in seeing God, and loving God, and being made like God.
2. It is an holy and religious rest, a perpetual sabbatising, Heb. iv. 9, σαββάτισμος; a celebrating of an eternal sabbath to God. A sabbath is an holy rest, not a time of idleness, but to be religiously spent and employed; so this rest and sabbatism, which is promised to believers, is not passed over in ease and sloth, but in acts of worship and adoration. It is a rest from toil and labour, but not from work and service. On the sabbath-day the sacrifices were doubled, Num. xxviii. 1. In our everlasting sabbatism we serve God after a more perfect manner, especially delighting and rejoicing in God, and praising his name. The place agreeth with this notion as well as the time. Heaven is represented under the notion of a temple, as the state of glory by a sabbatism. There were three partitions in the temple—the outward court, the holy place, and the holy of holies; as there is an airy heaven, and the starry heaven, and the heaven of heavens, Acts iii. 21; and sometimes the third heaven, 2 Cor. xii. 2. This heaven of heavens is the seat of God and the blessed saints, often called the holiest, with respect to the type of the temple or sanctuary, Heb. ix. 24. The apostle tells you that the earthly or worldly sanctuary was a type of the true holy place, heaven itself, the throne and palace of God, where his people are admitted into a nearer attendance upon God. Well, then, if the state of glory be a sabbath and heaven a temple, we have but one thing to do more, that is, to find out a priest. So christians are; that is their quality and function; for it is said, Rev. i. 6, ‘He hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.’ Now all the difficulty is whether this 228priesthood relateth to our spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise, which we offer upon earth, or to our worship in heaven when we are admitted into the immediate presence of God, and praise him for evermore; whether it concerneth our ministration before the throne of grace, or before the throne of glory. I do not exclude the former; but because the latter is a truth commonly overlooked, I will prove that the priest hood which we have by Christ concerneth our ministration in the heavenly temple. I prove it—
[1.] From our conformity to Christ. If Christ were not consecrated to his everlasting priesthood till he died, the like is to be presumed of a christian. But so it is that this is clear of Christ: Heb. v. 9, τελειωθεὶς, ‘Being made perfect through sufferings,’ &c. At his death the rites of his consecration were over; therefore a christian, who runneth parallel with Christ in all his offices, is fully consecrated and fitted to officiate before God.
[2.] This suiteth with the other privilege; we are made kings as well as priests. Now our kingly office is imperfect till we come to heaven. A poor christian is but a king in a riddle; as he vanquisheth the devil, the world, and the flesh, in some weak manner, he hath a princely spirit. The kingdom of which we partake by Christ is mainly hereafter, Luke xii. 32; 2 Tim. ii. 12, ‘If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.’ So proportionably the other privilege of being made priests must be expounded also. We have our sacrifices now, but this office is not completed till we enter into the holiest, Heb. x. 19; not in spirit only, but in person.
[3.] If our consecration be not consummated till death, our office is not perfect till then. Our consecration to the spiritual priesthood consists in our justification and sanctification, both which are now imperfect: Heb. x. 22, we are bidden to ‘draw nigh to God’ (which is a priestly notion), ‘having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed as with pure water.’ Now we are not perfect as appertaining to the conscience, and can hardly get above our legal fears, nor are we fully cleansed and sanctified; but when our consecration is perfected, then are we fitted to serve God in his heavenly temple.
[4.] Nearness of access to God, and ministration before him, is the privilege of priests. Now we are kept at a distance; all that we can have in this life is to draw nigh to the throne of grace; but we are not admitted to God’s immediate sight and presence. But when we minister before the throne of glory, then we have full communion with our God, and a clear vision of his blessed face; and then we are priests indeed when we come into the heavenly sanctuary.
Well, then, our service is not ended with our lives. As we still stand in the relation of creatures to God, so we must still glorify him and serve him: Rev. vii. 14, 15, ‘And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white with the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them; and they shall hunger no more, and thirst no more,’ &c. Then we shall not serve him by fits and starts, but constantly. We shall not 229be at a distance from God, nor God at a distance from us; but we shall still enjoy his company, lauding and praising his name. Here we are learners, there practisers. We shall then have a clearer sight of his excellencies, and a fuller sense of his benefits, and accordingly offer up to him the continual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
3. It is a rest for the whole person, soul and body both, but in their order. This I note, lest you should interpret this rest of their quiet abode in the grave, as it is sometimes understood; Isa. lvii. 2, ‘They shall rest in their beds;’ when the righteous are taken from the tumults of the world, and the evils that ensue after their death. Death is a sleep and quiet repose. But this is not meant of death, but of glory; the rest of the body in the grave is common to the wicked. Now, as their bodies are laid down to rest in the grave as in a bed, there to sleep quietly until the general resurrection, so their souls pass into a place of rest and bliss. The soul first entereth into rest. When men come first into the world, the body is first framed, and the soul cometh after; for this lower region is properly the place of bodies; therefore reason requireth that the body, which is a citizen of the world, should first be framed, that it may be a fit receptacle for the soul, which is a stranger, and cometh from the region of spirits, which. is above. But when we must remove into those heavenly habitations, then it is quite otherwise; for then the soul, as a native of that place, is presently admitted, but the body, as a stranger, is forced to reside in. the grave till the day of judgment, and then our bodies also are admitted into heaven; this is the law of all private persons. Indeed Christ, who is the head of the church, is not subject to it; his body as well as his human spirit was made a denizen of heaven as soon as ho ascended. He entered not there as a private citizen, but as king and lord of the heavenly Jerusalem, and therefore carried both body and soul along with him. But as to us, the soul goeth first there as to its proper seat, and after the final judgment both soul and body. Therefore the apostle saith, ‘To give you that are troubled rest, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.’ Then shall our reward be full. Bat that you may not think that this rest only implieth the sleep of death, and our quiet abode in the grave till we be awakened at the last day, I shall prove to you—(1.) That the souls of the faithful enter into a blissful estate as soon as they depart out of the body; (2.) What will be the condition of the body in the resurrection.
[1.] That souls as soon as they flit out of the body are at rest with the Lord. There are a sort of men so drowned in sense that they cannot believe things to come. Some question the immortality of the soul; others assert the sleep of it, because they imagine it to be so tied to the body as that it cannot exercise its functions and operations with out it; but that is a groundless error.
(1.) If death cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ, surely the soul, notwithstanding death, is capable of showing love to God, and enjoying the fruits of his love to us: Rom. viii. 38, 39, ‘I am persuaded that neither death nor life, &c., shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Take it for our love to God, or God’s love to us; it is our happiness to love 230God, and be beloved of him. If death cannot vacate this or make it to cease, separate souls may love God, and enjoy the fruits of his love to them.
(2.) If the souls of the saints, as soon as they are loosed from the body, be with God and Christ, then they are in a state of bliss: Phil, i. 23, ‘I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, which is far better.’ How could that be πολλῶ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον, by much far the better, if the soul were deprived of all sense and feeling, and did remain in a dead sleepy state? Is it not better for a gracious man to wake than to sleep? to be hard at work for God than to be idle and sit still? to use our powers and faculties than to lie in a senseless condition? What profit is it to be with the Lord and not enjoy his company? It is better to have our present love, knowledge, service, tastes, and experiences, than to lie in a stupid lethargy without all understanding and spiritual sense. It would be a loss to Paul if his body should lie rotting in the grave, and his soul without all fruition of God. What can be imagined to be that preponderating happiness which should sway his choice? Is it to be eased of present labours and sufferings? But God’s people, who have resigned themselves to God, are wont to value their present service and enjoyment of God, though accompanied with great labours and afflictions. Surely Paul would never be in a strait if he were to be reduced upon his dissolution into a condition of stupid sleep, without any capacity of glorifying or enjoying God. God’s people are wont to prefer the most afflicted condition with God’s presence before the greatest contentments with his absence: ‘If thou go not up with us, carry us not hence,’ Better be with God in the wilderness than in Canaan without him. But so they are: 2 Cor. v. i. ‘We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ Surely if the soul sleep till the resurrection, they should not say, When this house is dissolved; but, When this house is raised, and this tabernacle is restored. When the saints desire to part with the body, it is not for want of love to the body, but out of love to their souls; they would wish mortality were swallowed up of life, that the body might go along with the soul into glory. So i. ver. 8, ‘We are willing to be absent from the body, that we may be present with the Lord;’ implying that as soon as the one is effected and brought about, the other taketh place; otherwise more absent when out of the body.
(3.) If when they are with the Lord they are in a better state than now, surely then they are not only in manu Dei, in the hand of God; but admitted in conspectum Dei, into the presence of God. It were also absurd to long for a dissolution of that estate wherein we feel the love of God and Christ, sometimes with us, unspeakable and glorious, for an estate wherein there is no sight and sense of God and Christ, and celestial and heavenly things. But so it is that they account this more eligible, Phil. i. 23.
(4.) If the wicked and the righteous be in their final estate as soon as they die, surely then the rest of the saints beginneth presently upon their dissolution; for as the trouble of the wicked is, so is the rest of the saints. But this we find in the scriptures, that the spirits of the 231disobedient are now in hell as in a prison, 1 Peter iii. 19. The souls of men and women do not vanish into nothing, are not extinguished in their bodies, nor are detained by the way in some third place; but as soon as they depart out of the body, go to the place and state of torment. On the other side, the spirits of just men are said to be made perfect, Heb. xii. 23. When they are clothed and divested of their bodies, they are perfected in heaven; which cannot be said if they did lie in a dull sleep, without any life, light, joy, or act of love to God.
(5.) What is said to one convert belongeth to all in the same circumstances, and to them in like cases: Luke xxiii. 45, ‘This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ By ‘paradise’ is meant heaven, as Paul calleth the third heaven paradise, 2 Cor. xii. 4, in allusion to Eden, or the garden out of which Adam was driven; not in regard of his body (for that was disposed of as men pleased), but his soul. But when the soul was in paradise, was it deprived of all sense, yea or no? Certainly no, for it was with Christ. And ‘this day;’ this comfort was not adjourned to commence some fifteen hundred or two thousand years afterward; as this is a great comfort to those that are hard at work for God; the time of your ease and refreshing is at hand; if suffering, it will be soon over, and then your joys begin; to the sick, it is but a little longer pain; to the dying, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye you will be with God.
(6.) If those already departed be living with God in heaven, those that follow after may upon the same terms expect it. Now it is so; the patriarchs are already with God, they all live to God: Luke xx. 37, 38, ‘For God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’ Then all the elect that are already departed are glorified: Col. i. 20, ‘By the blood of his cross he hath reconciled all things to God, both in heaven and in earth.’ He meaneth the universality of the elect, whether triumphant or militant. It cannot be meant of the angels; there was never a breach between God and them, and therefore they cannot be said to be reconciled to him. If things in heaven be reconciled, it is meant of the glorified saints.
Two reasons why our reward is represented under the notion of rest.
(1st.) Because it suiteth with the aim of the saints. It is the end of motion. None have it but those that seek after it. We are all travel ling into the other world. Some are posting to eternal torment; they choose a broad way and have much company, and go on pleasantly for the time, but this course endeth sadly; this is the path that leadeth down to the chambers of death. But others are going to life and rest; they enter into it by a strait gate, walk in a narrow way,—the strait gate of repentance, the narrow way of new obedience; but the end is blessed and glorious, Mat. vii. 13, 14. This life is a walk and a journey; we are now in motion and in passage. Adepto fine, cessat motus. When we come to the place we intend, there we take our rest. Every day a christian cometh nearer the shore: Rom. xiii. 11, ‘Your salvation is nearer than it was when you first believed.’ Only it standeth us upon to consider whether we go right. Every journey hath a period, and every motion its end and rest.
(2d.) This term suiteth best with the goodness of God, who delighteth 232to recompense his people for all their pain and weariness; he hath a care of his weary servants now. Many times the pangs of the new birth are sharp and tedious, therefore he giveth some the tongue of the learned, that they may refresh the weary soul, Isa. l. 4. And Christ saith, Mat. xi. 28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, I will give you rest/ It is our rest by the way; so at the end of the journey. A constant course of holiness puts upon many labours, and sorrows, and conflicts. (1.) Labours, The Lord taketh notice of them, Heb. vi. 10, 1 Cor. xv. 28; therefore the Lord telleth the laborious soul of a rest. (2.) Sorrows, through our manifold calamities and afflictions: John xvi. 20, ‘The world shall rejoice, and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.’ They shall have much comfort and refreshing for their sad hours. The world rejoiceth when Christ is removed, and gone out of the world; but the saints rejoice when Christ cometh; then is their complete rest. (3.) Conflicts with the devil, the ‘world, and the flesh. Through many wrestlings we get to heaven, we make our way thither every step by conflict and contest. Now those that fight the good fight of faith, God will crown them, 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
Use 1. To fortify our choice. It is left to us whether we will have our rest and ease here or hereafter. Both we cannot have, for rest is for the weary soul. We cannot reasonably hope to leap from Delilah’s lap into Abraham’s bosom, if we have never laboured in duties public or secret, withheld not ourselves from any joy. Some have their good things here, Luke xvi. 25, Ps. xvii. 14, their whole portion in this world; others choose a life of labour, patience, and self-denial. To whom think you doth God promise rest? If we will not endure the pains and be at the cost, we shall not have the rest. The flesh is importunate to be pleased, but it is better to please God and save the soul.
Two questions we should often put to ourselves—
1. Is there a motion after something better than the world can afford us? A motion after God; you dare not rest on anything below God. The spiritual life is nothing else but a seeking after God: Ps. xxiv. 6, ‘This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O God.’ We seek on earth, we find in heaven. But are we seekers or wanderers?
2. Is this motion carried on with that industry, patience, and self-denial that such a matter of importance requireth?
[1.] Industry: Ps. lxiii. 8, ‘My soul followeth hard after thee.’ God is not to be sought carelessly and by the by; the greatest business of our lives must be for him: ‘First seek the kingdom of God,’ &c. Mat. vi. 33. The soul must press after him, and labour to enjoy him; this is our primary mark.
[2.] Patience under many disappointments and sorrows. The spouse that sought after her beloved was smitten and wounded by the watch men, Cant. v. 7. But your hearts are so set upon God and the life to come, that still you make it your chiefest care and business to seek him, and will not be put out of your way: Ps. xliv. 17, ‘All this is come upon us, yet have we not departed from thee; our heart is not turned back.’233
[3.] Self-denial of our own ease, pleasure, credit, honour in the world, still conflicting with your own lusts, that at length you may attain the blessed God: Phil. iii. 11, ‘If by any means,’ &c., Mat. xi. 12.
Use 2. To shame the people of God, that they are so delicate and tender of the flesh when such a rest is provided for them; that duties are so wearisome; that we begrudge a few sufferings; that we so much give way to coldness and lukewarmness, and that God is over looked and neglected in the general course and drift of our lives; that we are so loath to be at the trouble of contradicting our lusts, and do no more oppose the interest of the flesh. O christians! can we expect the rest if we will not labour and strive against sin, even to weariness?
Secondly, ‘Best with us;’ that is, with us apostles, and other holy ones of God.
Note 1. All christians have the same felicity for substance, though the degrees be different.
Common christians have their rest as well as the apostles. Those that have been together in the labour, in the duty, and the danger, shall be together in the rest and recompense. All the servants entered into the joy of the Lord, though some had an increase of ten talents, some five, Mat. xxv. 1. The grounds of essential happiness are the same to all.
1. The same redeemer and mediator, Exod. xxx. 15. If they had a better Christ, or another mediator to ransom their souls, they might expect another happiness; but all is brought about by the same redeemer, Jesus Christ, theirs and ours, 1 Cor. i. 2; by his mediation, sacrifice, and meritorious righteousness, Rom. iii. 22.
2. The same covenant, which is the common charter of the saints, Acts ii. 39. It is a covenant which offereth the same benefits and requireth the same duties. The same benefits, pardon, life. Pardon: Rom. iv. 23, 24, ‘Neither was it written for his sake alone, but for us also, if we believe.’ Eternal life is the common portion of all the; saints: 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Not for me only, but for all those,’ &c. It requireth the same duties, for all the saints have the same rule to walk by, Gal. vi. 16. The same gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth, Rom. i. 16. Well, then, if all have no other charter from God to show for pardon and life, and all are bound to the same duties, all shall have the same happiness.
Note 2. Though the essential happiness of the saints be the same, yet there are degrees in glory. (1.) From scripture. (2.) The nature of that glory and blessedness which we expect. Sicut se habet simpliciter ad simpliciter, ita magis ad magis. If I am to love a holy man as a holy man, I am to love those most who excel in holiness. So look what relation holiness hath to heaven, so more holiness hath more relation to heaven. (3.) From the remunerative justice of God.
Note 3. ‘Rest with us.’ It is a comfortable adjunct to our felicity in heaven that we shall have such company there. Surely the apostle mentions it for their comfort here. So elsewhere it is propounded: Mat. viii. 11, ‘Ye shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.’ These were mentioned because they were the prime believers, and chief in esteem among the Jews, before whom Christ then spake. So everywhere in scripture it is made a happiness 234to be of this society, Heb. xii. 22, 23; Eph. ii. 19, ‘Fellow-citizens with all the saints;’ Eph. iii. 15, ‘Of whom the whole family is named, whether in heaven or earth.’ If to be of this society now be a privilege, though severed in distinct habitations, then what a comfort is it to be admitted to a greater nearness of converse with the patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, and all the worthies of God. We love their company now; it is sweet to be in the assemblies of the saints on earth, to pray, hear, fast, and communicate together in the Lord’s supper; much more in heaven; the saints are more lovely, other manner of saints than ever we knew them before.
Use. Well, then, let us love the saints of God now, for these are to be our everlasting companions: Ps. cxxxiii. 1, ‘It is comely and pleasant to live together in unity.’ We that look for one home, should we fall out by the way? All agree there; why should we not glorify God with one mind and mouth now? There are different degrees of light, which cause differences of opinion; but there are substantial and common truths enough, wherein we all agree, to bring us to a closer union. Certainly those beautefeus and coal-blowers should be hateful to all christians; the truest zeal and martyrdom will be enough in uniting christians.
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