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From whence also we look for our Saviour and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.—Phil. iii. 20.
HERE is the reason and encouragement of the heavenly conversation. Why do believers behave themselves as belonging to that city? Because from thence we look for a Saviour.
Doct. That the earnest expectation of Christ’s second coming doth both bind and encourage the saints to have their conversations in heaven.158
I shall handle the point in this method—
1. Touch upon the truths contained in the words of the text.
2. How all these do draw up the thoughts and affections of believers to God and heavenly things.
I. The truths contained and implied in the text are these—
First point. That Christ is corporeally and locally in heaven, and not upon earth. Here is his spiritual presence: Mat. xxviii. 20, ‘And lo, I am with you to the end of the world;’ but there is his bodily presence: Acts iii. 21, ‘Whom the heavens must receive until the restitution of all things.’ He is there, because he hath business to do there—(1.) To intercede with God; (2.) Powerfully to administer the mediatorial kingdom for the comfort of the elect, and destruction of his adversaries.
1. To intercede with God: Heb. ix. 24, ‘He is gone into the holy place not made with hands, there to appear before God for us;’ that is, before the throne of the supreme judge, that, by representing his blood shed, he may procure remission of sins for penitent believers. As the high priest under the law, when the sacrifice of atonement for the whole congregation was slain and burnt without the camp; the high priest was to present himself before the mercy-seat with blood and a sweet perfume; so the Lord Jesus having offered up himself a sacrifice of atonement, is gone into the holy place: ‘Not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us,’ Heb. ix. 12. There is some little difference among interpreters about the time of his entrance, whether at his solemn ascension, forty days after his resurrection, when he was taken up into heaven, or else immediately upon his death, when he had given up the ghost, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst from the top to the bottom, and his soul, separated from the body, and commended into his Father’s hands, entered into paradise; then it seemeth our great high priest did enter into heaven, for it may more properly be said that he entered into heaven with his blood, when his soul was separated, than when his body was risen and made immortal, and both body and soul jointly ascended. The sacrifice of atonement was not complete till the blood was presented before the throne of God in the inner sacrary; so then Christ did present himself as slain in heaven before the supreme judge, as having suffered death, and satisfied justice for the sin of man. Now whether the first or second way of entrance, certain it is he is now in heaven interceding for us.
2. Powerfully to administer the mediatorial kingdom.
[1.] For the comfort of the elect, and to gee the fruits of his purchase accomplished to them: Eph. iv. 10, ‘The same also that ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things;’ that is, supply his people with a large and plentiful measure of the gifts and graces of his Spirit. His presence there is far more beneficial to us than if he were here upon earth; yea, not only beneficial, but necessary, as being the means to apply his merits, and confer the mercies purchased by his sacrifice.
[2.] For the destruction of his enemies: Ps. ex. 1, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool;’ Heb. x. 12, 13, ‘But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down at the right hand of God; from henceforth 159expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.’ His person is in heaven above molestation and abuse; his reign and government is opposed in the world, but by degrees it gets ground upon opposition.
Second point. That at the end of time Christ will come from heaven and judge the world. Reason saith he may come; faith, that he shall come. Reason saith he may come; these principles are evident, that man is God’s creature, and therefore his subject; that man hath failed in his subjection to his creator and lord; that, having failed, the holy God may justly call him to an account. Of this man is sorely afraid: Rom. i. 32, ‘Who knowing the judgment of God, that they that do such things are worthy of death,’ &c.; for reason telleth us that God, who is our creator, is also our governor; and if our governor, then he is our judge; and as such man feareth him. Now this judgment is put into the hands of Christ, who is our lawgiver, who gave us this healing law for the reparation of mankind, and to set them in joint again that they may live unto God. And the lawgiver is the judge; and that he hath a right to be lawgiver and judge. God hath justified his call, in that he raised him from the dead: Acts xvii. 31, ‘Because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he raised him from the dead.’ Faith saith that he will come. What shall I say? Angels foretold it: Acts i. 10, 11, ‘And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus that is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.’ The devils tremble at it: Mat. viii. 29, ‘And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?’ The saints departed long for it: ‘How long, Lord, holy and true?’ Rev. vi. 10. The prophets proclaimed it; from Enoch downward it hath ever been kept up in the church: Jude 14, 15, ‘And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ And the apostles inculcated it everywhere; yea, above all, our Lord hath assured us of it: John xiv. 2, 3, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you: and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ And he hath instituted the Lord’s supper to keep up the remembrance and expectation of it: 1 Cor. xi. 26, ‘For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death till he come.’
But doth the apostle refer to so long a while, and not rather speak of our coming up to him, which is nearer at hand, than his coming down to us, which is so far off?
1. Not to infringe the doctrine of the saints’ happiness as soon as they die, for we presently receive the salvation of the soul, but lest any should doubt of it, on this occasion let us clear that. The soul returneth 160to God: Eccles. xii. 7, ‘The spirit shall return to God that gave it.’ It is with Christ: Phil. i. 23, ‘I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better;’ ‘To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise,’ Luke xxiii. 43; as the wicked are in hell: 1 Peter iii. 19, ‘The spirits in prison.’ So the ‘spirits of just men are made perfect,’ Heb. xii. 24. As soon as ‘we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord,’ 2 Cor. v. 8. The ‘beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom,’ Luke xvi. 22; Luke xx. 37, 38, ‘Now, that the dead are raised, Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto God.’ All things, both in heaven and in earth, are said to be reconciled to God by Christ, Col. i. 20, the universality of the elect, whether already glorified or yet upon earth. It cannot be meant of angels; they were never reconciled, because never any breach between God and them.
2. The apostle mentioneth this time, because till then our own salvation is not perfect nor complete for body and soul. The whole church is not perfected and brought together. Then we shall have many privileges that we had not before.
[1.] It is a day of manifestation: Rom. viii. 19, ‘For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.’ All is now hid; Christ is hid, and the saints are hid. Their life is hid: Col. iii. 2, ‘Our life is hid with Christ in God.’ Their glory is hid: 1 John iii. 2, ‘Now we are the sons of God, but it cloth not appear what we shall be.’ But then all shall appear, the persons, their relation to Christ, the glory he will put upon them: ‘We shall appear with him in glory;’ as Moses told the rebels, Num. vi. 16, ‘To-morrow the Lord will show who are his.’ Jesus Christ will appear in all his royalty and glory, as the great God and Saviour of the world: we shall put on our best robes. In winter the tree appeareth not what it is; the sap and life is hidden in the root; but when summer cometh, all is discovered.
[2.] It is a day of perfection. Everything tendeth to its perfect state, so do the saints. They cannot be contented to be still as they are; therefore this day is the great motive to them. Then they shall have perfect holiness, perfect freedom from sin, and all the fruits and effects of it. Christ is then a perfect Saviour. He saveth us now in part, but then he saveth us to the utmost. Body and soul are then united and perfectly glorified, and fitted to praise God in heaven. Our Saviour cometh to make an end of what he hath begun. Our souls are made perfect before, but then our bodies are freed from corruption. All christian privileges are then perfect: Eph. iv. 30, ‘Ye are sealed to the day of redemption;’ Eph. i. 14 ‘Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession;’ Luke xxi. 28, ‘Then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth near.’ Regeneration is then perfect: Mat. xix. 28, ‘Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ Adoption: Rom. viii. 23, ‘We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the 161redemption of our body.’ Justification: Acts iii. 19, ‘Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshment shall come from the presence of the Lord.’ Our judge on his tribunal shall absolve us as with his own mouth, and as it were crown us with his own hands.
[3.] It is a day of congregation or gathering together. The saints are now scattered; they live in diverse ages, countries, towns, and houses, and have little comfort and knowledge one of another. Then all meet in one assembly or congregation: Ps. i. 5, ‘The congregation of the righteous.’ There is the great rendezvous. Now God’s children are scattered up and down where they may be most useful; as stars do not shine in a cluster, but are dispersed up and down the heavens. Then all the four winds shall give up their dead; then the wicked shall be herded together, as straws and sticks are bound in a bundle to set one another a-fire; adulterers together, drunkards together, bound in bundles: Mat. xiii. 41, 42, ‘The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ So the godly shall meet in a congregation, and never separate more. We cannot enjoy one another’s fellowship in this life, because God hath service for us in diverse countries; therefore the saints are groaning for that happy day. In a wreck, those that are got ashore are longing and looking for their companions. In short, here the tares are mingled with the wheat. Jacob’s cattle and Laban’s cattle are together; but then they shall be separated, and for ever live apart.
[4.] It is a day of glorification: Mat. xxiv. 30, ‘They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;’ when Christ shall get himself a glorious name in the final destruction of all his enemies. He got himself a glorious name when he drowned Pharaoh in the sea; what will he do when he casteth all the wicked into hell? Christ showeth his majesty every day, but we have not eyes to see it; our eyes are dazzled with worldly splendour, but then all mists shall vanish. The time shall come when God shall be dishonoured no more, and sin shall have an end. Here God hath not his perfect glory from us nor in us, as passive objects or active instruments. Objectively: Eph. i. 12, ‘That we should be to the praise of his glory.’ If man say nothing or do nothing, the work will speak for itself. As active instruments: Mat. v. 16, ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’ Now both ways will God be more glorified by us actively, as we shall laud him and praise him for evermore without weariness or distraction. Objectively: 2 Thes. i. 10, ‘When he shall be glorified in his saints, and be admired in all them that do believe.’ Passively, as more of God is seen in them at that day than ever could be thought of.
Third point. That to true christians he will come in the quality of a saviour; not as a rigorous judge to condemn us, but as a saviour to free us from all misery.
1. It showeth the way of our getting to heaven. It is in a way of salvation, which is the recovery of a thing or person lost; so Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost; as a physician saveth another that cureth him of a disease which otherwise would be mortal. The 162shepherd saveth the sheep that snatcheth it out of the lion’s mouth. A prince that rescueth the captive subjects saveth them out of the enemy’s hands. There are none brought to heaven but by a saviour who recovereth us out of our lost estate, saves us from sin, and all the consequences of sin, that maketh us everlastingly blessed. Thus he saveth us satisfactione, merito, et efficacia—by satisfaction, merit, and power.
[1.] By satisfaction he saveth us from the guilt of sin, the curse of the law, and the wrath of God, which is our great encouragement to wait for his coming: 1 Thes. i. 10, ‘To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who hath delivered us from wrath to come.’ We could never have heart nor hope to think of his coming beneficial to us without this.
[2.] By his merit he procureth the favour of God, and all those blessings which are bestowed upon the people of God. Having expiated sin, he obtained the grant of pardon and life in the new covenant. He hath purchased for us the image and favour of God and eternal happiness: 1 Thes. iv. 9, 10, ‘For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.’
[3.] By way of efficacy and power, inasmuch as by his Spirit he doth effect and work in us all those things which belong to salvation; so it is said, Titus iii. 5, ‘He hath saved us by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;’ 2 Tim. i. 9, ‘He hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling;’ Heb. v. 9, ‘He is the author of salvation.’ There are many adjunct causes, but he is the principal: ‘We are saved by his life,’ Rom. v. 10. The merit of his humiliation, the power of his exaltation.
2. I shall show what is the work of his second coming. It is to perfect our salvation. Then he shows himself a saviour indeed when he giveth us eternal life and our full happiness. The high priest, after he had been within the veil, was to come out again and bless the people; so Christ shall appear the second time: Heb. ix. 28, ‘To them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation.’ If we continue waiting and looking, and do rest upon his undertaking, and in the meantime be performing the duties required of us, he will come as a saviour.
3. This coming is certainly and earnestly looked for by the godly. It is good to observe how differently this coming of Christ is entertained. It is questioned by the atheists; it is dreaded by the wicked and impenitent; but it is lovingly expected by the godly. For the first, see 2 Peter iii. 3, 4, ‘There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, saying, Where is the promise of his coming?’ They would eternally enjoy the pleasures of the present world, and therefore labour to banish out of their hearts all thoughts of this great day, and take up all obvious prejudices, to smother the belief of it. They would be glad in their hearts to hear such news, that Christ would never come. Now their wishes easily commence into their opinions. Christ’s second coming is their horror and torment, which they would willingly get rid of. For the second, it is dreaded by the wicked and impenitent: Acts xxiv. 25, ‘Felix trembled’ when Paul ‘reasoned of judgment to come.’ There is reason for it; for 163Christ cometh to them as a terrible judge: 2 Thes. i. 8, ‘In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ That coming is described as light and as fire. To the third, to the godly, it is not matter of terror, but joy and delight; not like the handwriting on the wall to Belshazzar, but like comfortable tidings to the waiting soul. They look for it, Titus ii. 13, they long for it, 2 Tim. iv. 8. He cometh to them as a saviour, to put an end to all their miseries.
But more particularly let us explain this looking. It implieth faith, hope, and patience. Faith addeth certainty to hope, hope earnestness to faith, and holy love strength to patience. For because we believe and hope, we patiently wait for the coming of Christ; or rather take in love also, and make patience an act of hope.
[1.] Faith is the ground of this looking; because we believe the promise, therefore we determine that ‘he that shall come will come, and will not tarry,’ Heb. x. 37. Faith seeth the certainty of Christ’s day afar off, for it is ‘the evidence of things not seen;’ as Rebecca espied Isaac at a great distance. It looketh upon Christ as if he were on his way, and maketh the believer stand ready to meet him and welcome him. In the eye of faith it is sure and near, and as so apprehended worketh on the soul.
[2.] Love. The saints love Christ though they never saw him. They have heard much of him, felt much of him, tasted much of him, and therefore love his appearing, long for his coming: Cant. viii. 14, ‘Make haste, my beloved, and be like the young hart or roe upon the mountains of spices.’ Christ is not slack, but the church’s affections are strong. They have a love to Christ himself, who at his appearing is to be glorified. They have a love to the church in general, which is that day to be adorned as a bride for her husband, and fully to be freed from all sins and troubles; love to themselves and their own happiness, which is that day fully to be perfected: Rev. xxii. 20, Christ saith, ‘I come;’ and the church, like a quick echo, saith, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ It taketh the word out of Christ’s mouth. Christ’s voice and the church’s voice are unisons. Christ speaketh in a way proper to him, in a way of promise; and the church speaketh. in a way proper to her, in a way of prayer. This is her last suit, ‘Even so, come.’ You will say, This is the desire of the church in general; but doth every believer so desire it?
Ans. The part followeth the reason of the whole, and the same spirit is in all the faithful. ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come.’ The Holy Ghost breedeth this desire. The meanest and weakest, that tremble at their unpreparedness, have some inclination that way. Can a man desire that Christ should come into his heart, and not come to judgment? There may be a drowsiness and indisposition, but no total extinction of the desire of meeting with Christ.
[3.] Hope. Because we believe it and we desire it, therefore we expect it. Only in the looking of hope you may discern contrary affections; as first, there is both rejoicing and groaning. Rejoicing: Rom. v. 3, ‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Groaning: 2 Cor. v. 2, ‘In this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven;’ ver. 4, ‘We that are in this tabernacle 164groan, being burdened.’ They rejoice, being under hope, groan because they have not yet attained. We rejoice because the estate to come is so excellent, and we groan because the estate present is so miserable. We rejoice because certain; we groan because we are yet conflicting with difficulties, and are but making out of our claim and title. Once more, there is a desiring and yet a waiting, and hope is described by both. By desiring, which showeth our esteem of the benefit, and earnestness to enjoy it; by waiting or tarrying the Lord’s leisure: both are consistent: ‘Waiting for and hasting to the coming of the Lord,’ 2 Peter iii. 12; προσδοκῶντες καὶ σπεύδοντες, contrary words, but coming from the same grace. We render it, ‘hastening unto the coming,’ but it is only σπέυδοντας τὴν παρουσίαν, ‘hastening the coming.’ Hope would fain enjoy, yet there is a time for labours, difficulties, and troubles. The hope exciteth both the longing expectation and the patient waiting: 1 Thes. i. 3, ‘Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope;’ Rom. viii. 25, ‘If we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.’ The time seemeth long, but the reward is sure, therefore we must wait God’s leisure. In short, there are desires which quicken us to use all means to attain it; there is patience to wait God’s leisure while we are exercised with difficulties; therefore the saints are described to be such ‘as wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus,’ 1 Cor. i. 7; 1 Thes. i. 10. It is made the end of our conversation; we desire, yet wait our time to enjoy the glorious blessings which God hath promised.
II. Why this should draw up the believer’s thoughts to heaven and heavenly things.
1. Because Christ is in heaven, and therefore we must be heavenly. He is our adamant or loadstone: Col. iii. 12, ‘If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.’ Members must not be severed from their head. The love which christians bear to Christ should be such, that their affections should be set on the place where he is, and the things which are in it, and flow from it and tend to it All this should be dear to a christian; and so it enforceth a heavenly conversation. Love is an affection of union: it desireth to be with the party loved; therefore love to Christ is not satisfied with the present estate, it would be with Christ, and in that state and place where it may have most union with him.
2. Because he cometh from thence to bring us thither. His business at his second coming is to translate us into that heavenly city: John xiv. 3, ‘I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.’ Therefore now we should behave ourselves as candidates of eternity. His whole design is to bring us to that place where he is. Mortification is thence interred: Col. iii. 1, 5, ‘If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Mortify your members which are upon earth.’ All holiness and godliness of conversation: 2 Peter iii. 11, 12, ‘Seeing all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of God;’ Titus ii. 12, 13, 165‘Teaching us, that, denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’
3. That he cometh as a saviour; as one—
[1.] That hath done enough to save us from sin and misery, and the flames of hell. Despair crippleth our endeavours. If we could not comfortably hope for heaven, we should never labour for it. But now, ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto everlasting life,’ Jude 21. Though we be sinners that need a great deal of mercy, we may expect it, and so be encouraged to labour for it. We are engaged by our relation to him.
[2.] He cometh then as a saviour to us; we are his people. There are two relations with respect to the day of judgment—master and husband.
(1.) Master. Good servants wait for their master’s coming: Mat. xxiv. 46, ‘Blessed is that servant whom, when his lord cometh, he shall find so doing.’ Here we have our vales, but then our wages: ‘Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.’ Christ doth not come empty-handed to his faithful servants. Well, then, the servant that doth expect his master’s coming, will ply his work: 2 Tim. iv. 1, ‘I charge thee before God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his coming and kingdom.’
(2.) As our husband; that is a sweeter relation: ‘The bride saith, Come,’ Rev. xxii. 17. We are contracted to Christ now, but then is the day of espousals. A wife that looketh for her husband’s coming puts all things in readiness.
4. The looking inferreth a heavenly conversation.
[1.] There is faith in it. Faith, resting upon the promises of God, is assured and fully persuaded of the fruition of glory in God’s time. If it be so, whither should our thoughts, words, and actions tend, but to this blessed estate? otherwise our practice will be a manifest contra diction to our faith. You believe there is a God and a life to come, and thereupon promise to renounce the devil, world, and the flesh; but you live as if you were in league with the devil, world, and the flesh, and at defiance with God and heaven; and so have ‘a form of godliness,’ 2 Tim. iii. 5? Do ye believe in Christ to bring you to God and everlasting glory, when your heart is another way, and you live as strangers to the heavenly mind, and have truly an unheavenly conversation. Either you must renounce the faith or your carnal conversation. If you take on the profession of the one to countenance the other, you wrong God and your own souls, and double your sin.
[2.] As there is love in it. If you love Christ, and do not desire to be with him, you go about to reconcile contradictions. As she said to Sampson, Judges xvi. 15, ‘How canst thou say, I love thee, when thy heart is not with me?’ That is a strange love to be content to be still away from the party loved, and to sit down satisfied with the present happiness.
[3.] Hope. We do place our blessedness in heaven, and yet fly from it as a misery; long and look for that which we have no mind to enjoy. Surely hope withdraweth our minds from, and moderateth our 166fears and cares about them. Looking, as it noteth a desire or a patient expectation, deadeneth our hearts to the world.
(1.) As a desirous expectation. These vehement desires and groans after an estate of happiness breed sincerity, and endeavours to make it our main scope that we may be approved and accepted of Christ at his coming.
(2.) Patient expectation. This engageth to perseverance, or bringeth forth ‘fruit with patience,’ Luke viii. 15. The reward is yet to come, in the meantime we are pressed with a multitude of temptations, persecutions, remainders of sin. There will a time come when we shall be freed from sin and sorrow for ever. We have God’s word to assure us of it; therefore we must content ourselves in God’s will. It is his will and pleasure we shall stay a little while longer and suffer more. He might require a far longer time of trial to give us so great a reward, but it is but a short time between our regeneration and full possession.
Use 1. To press you to look for Christ from heaven as a saviour.
To this end—
1. Seek reconciliation, and be at peace with God: 2 Peter iii. 14, ‘Wherefore, seeing we look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace.’ Others tremble at the mention of his coming; the guilt of sin maketh this day terrible to us. When you have gotten, an interest in Christ, and some sure and comfortable hope of absolution, you will cheerfully expect his coming; then he cometh as a saviour: Job xix. 25, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.’ He cometh as a saviour, not as a severe judge. If you have made your peace with him, there will be a happy meeting at the last day.
2. Be not only reconciled, but renewed and sanctified, as well as justified; for ‘The Spirit and the bride saith, Come,’ Rev. xxii. 17. The Holy Ghost, by residing in the hearts of the faithful, breedeth this desire. Nature saith not, Come; this is a disposition above nature. Carnal nature saith, Stay away still. If it might go by voices, whether Christ should come or no, would carnal men give their voice this way? ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ The voice of corrupt nature is, ‘Depart,’ Job xxii. 14. They are of the mind of the devil: ‘Jesus, thou Son of God, art thou come to torment us before the time?’ If thieves and malefactors might have the liberty to choose whether there should be an assizes, do you think they would look for, and long for the time of its approach? Till we are renewed we have no inclination to or desire of these things.
3. Labour for some measure of consolation as well as sanctification: Rom. viii. 23, ‘Ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.’ The first-fruits are the beginnings of heaven. These being but a little, bear a like proportion with eternal glory, as the first-fruits with the harvest, and do assure us as an earnest of full possession. Well, then, as Daniel looked towards Jerusalem in his prayers, Dan. vi. 10, so let us often look to heaven, and remember we have a saviour there, who will one day come from heaven.
Use 2. Prepare for it, make all things ready. There must be strict 167and heavenly walking, that we may ‘have boldness in that day, and may not be ashamed at his coming,’ 1 John ii. 28. Causes of shame are either nakedness: 2 Cor. v. 3, ‘That we may not be found naked,’ that is, destitute of all grace. Folly, or perverse or unadvised choice, when we are blinded by the delusions of the flesh; or when we make a worldly choice, this will appear to be folly and shame: Luke xii. 20, ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; and then whose shall these things be which thou hast provided?’ Or hypocrisy, when our cheating and fair pretences shall be discovered: Mat. xxii. 12, ‘Friend, how earnest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? and the man was speechless.’ Or unfaithfulness, when we have not discharged our trust: Luke xix. 22, ‘Out of thy own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.’ Or unthankfulness for great benefits, such as we have received by Christ: Rom. ii. 4, ‘Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and long-suffering?’ Despising not only the mercies of common providence, but the blessings of the covenant: Heb. ii. 3, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?’
But who will have boldness at that day? Such as are united to Christ: Rom. viii. 1, ‘There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ.’ Such as are by that union assimilated and made like Christ: 1 John iv. 17, ‘That we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in the world.’ If we continue in that blessed and gracious estate faithfully, without defection and apostasy: 1 John ii. 28, ‘And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.’ That are not ashamed of Christ’s despised ways, but while we are in the world do faithfully promote his kingdom: Luke ix. 26, with xxi. 16, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he shall come in his glory.’ Who persevere in the conflict: 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.’
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