THE SAINTS' EVERLASTING REST
"There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God." -- Hebrews, 4:9.
HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATION EXEMPLIFIED, AND THE WHOLE WORK CONCLUDED.
The reader's attention excited to the following example of meditation. 1. The excellencies of heavenly rest; 2. its nearness; 3. dreadful to sinners; 4. and joyful to saints; 5. its dear purchase; 6. its difference from earth. 7. The heart pleaded with; 8. unbelief banished; 9. a careless world pitied. 10. Heavenly rest the object of love; 11. and joy. 12. The heart's backwardness to heavenly joy lamented. 13. Heavenly rest the object of desire.
And now, reader, according to the above directions, make conscience of daily exercising thy graces in meditation as well as prayer. Retire into some secret place, at a time the most convenient to thyself, and, laying aside all worldly thoughts, with all possible seriousness and reverence look up towards heaven; remember there is thine everlasting rest; study its excellency and reality; and rise from sense to faith, by comparing heavenly with earthly joys. Then mix ejaculations with thy soliloquies; till, having pleaded the case reverently with God, and seriously with thy own heart, thou hast pleaded thyself from a clod to a flame; from a forgetful sinner, and a lover of the world, to an ardent lover of God; from a fearful coward to a resolved Christian; from an unfruitful sadness to a joyful life; in a word, till thou hast pleaded thy heart from earth to heaven; from conversing below, to walking with God; and till thou canst lay thy heart to rest, as in the bosom of Christ, by some such meditation of thy everlasting rest as is here added for thy assistance.
1. "Rest! How sweet the sound. It is melody to my ears! It lies as a reviving cordial to my heart, and from thence sends forth lively spirits, which beat through all the pulses of my soul! Rest! not as the stone that rests on the earth, nor as this flesh shall rest in the grave, nor such a rest as the carnal world desires. O blessed rest! when we 'rest not day and night, saying Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!" when we shall rest from sin, but not from worship; from suffering and sorrow, but not from joy! O blessed day! when I shall rest with God! when I shall rest in the bosom of my Lord! when I shall rest in knowing, loving, rejoicing and praising! when my perfect soul and body shall together perfectly enjoy the most perfect God! when God, who is love itself, shall perfectly love me, and rest in his love to me, as I shall rest in my love to him; and rejoice over me with joy, and joy over me with singing, as I shall rejoice in him!
2. "How near is that most blessed, joyful day! It comes apace. 'He that shall come will come, and will not tarry! Though my Lord seems to delay his coming, yet a little while and he will be here. What is a few hundred years when they are over? How surely will his sign appear! How suddenly will he seize upon the careless world, even 'as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth unto the west!' He who is gone hence shall so come. Methinks I hear his trumpet sound! Methinks I see him coming in clouds, with his attending angels, in majesty and glory!
3. "O, secure sinners! what now will you do? where will you hide yourselves? what shall cover you? Mountains are gone; the heavens and the earth, which were, are passed away; the devouring fire hath consumed all, except yourselves, who must be the fuel for ever. O that you could consume as soon as the earth, and melt away as did the heavens! Ah, these wishes are now but vain! The Lamb himself would have been your friend; he would have loved you, and ruled you, and now have saved you; but you would not then and now it is too late. Cry not, Lord, Lord; it is too late, too late. Why dost thou look about? can any save thee? Whither dost thou run? can any hide thee? O, wretch, that hast brought thyself to this!
4. "Now, blessed saints, that have believed and obeyed! this is the end of faith and patience. This is it for which you prayed and waited. Do you now repent your sufferings and sorrows, your self-denial and holy walking? Are your tears of repentance now bitter or sweet? See how the Judge smiles upon you: there is love in his looks; the titles of Redeemer, Husband, Head, are written in his amiable, shining face. Hark, he calls you! he bids you stand here on his right hand: fear not, for there he sets his sheep. O joyful sentence! 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' He takes you by the hand, the door is open, the kingdom is his, and therefore yours; there is your place before his throne! The Father receives you as the spouse of his Son, and bids you welcome to the crown of glory. Ever so unworthy, you must be crowned. This was the project of free redeeming grace, the purpose of eternal love. O blessed grace! O blessed love! O how love and joy will rise! But I cannot express it, I cannot conceive it.
5. "This is that joy which was procured by sorrow, that crown which was procured by the cross. My Lord wept, that now my tears might be wiped away; he bled, that I might now rejoice; he was forsaken, that I might not now be forsaken; he then died, that I might now live. O free mercy, that can exalt so vile a wretch! Free to me, though dear to Christ! Free grace, that hath chosen me when thousands were forsaken! When my companions in sin must burn in hell, I must here rejoice in rest! Here must I rejoice in rest! Here must I live with all these saints! O comfortable meeting of my old acquaintance, with whom I prayed, and wept, and suffered, and spoke often of this day and place! I see the grave could not detain you: the same love hath redeemed and saved you also.
6. "This is not like our cottages of clay, our prisons, our earthly dwellings. This voice of joy is not like our old complaints, our impatient groans and sighs; nor this melodious praise like the scoffs and revilings, or the oaths and curses which we heard on earth. This body is not like that we had, nor this soul like the soul we had, nor this life like the life we lived. We have changed our place and state, our clothes and thoughts, our looks, language and company. Before, a saint was weak and despised; so proud and peevish we could often scarce discern his graces; but now, how glorious is a saint! Where is now their body of sin, which wearied themselves and those about them? Where are now our different judgments, reproachful names, divided spirits, exasperated passions, strange looks, uncharitable censures? Now we are all of one judgment, of one name, of one heart, house and glory. O sweet reconciliation! Happy union! Now the Gospel shall no more be dishonored through our folly. No more, my soul, shalt thou lament the sufferings of the saints or the church's ruins; nor mourn thy suffering friends, nor weep over their dying beds or their graves. Thou shalt never suffer thy old temptations from Satan, the world or thy own flesh. Thy pains and sickness are all cured; thy body shall no more burden thee with weakness and weariness; thy aching head and heart, thy hunger and thirst, thy sleep and labor are all gone. O what a mighty change is this! from the dunghill to the throne! from persecuting sinners to praising saints! from a vile body to this which 'shines as the brightness of the firmament!' from a sense of God's displeasure to the perfect enjoyment of him in love! from all my doubts and fears to this possession which puts me out of doubt! from all my fearful thoughts of death to this joyful life! Blessed change! Farewell sin and sorrow for ever; farewell my rocky, proud, unbelieving heart; my worldly, sensual, carnal heart; and welcome now my most holy, heavenly nature. Farewell repentance, faith and hope; and welcome love, and joy, and praise. I shall now have my harvest, without ploughing or sowing; my joy, without a preacher or a promise; even all from the face of God himself. Whatever mixture is in the streams, there is nothing but pure joy in the fountain. Here shall I be encircled with eternity, and ever live, and ever, ever praise the Lord; my face will not wrinkle nor my hair be gray; 'for this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal, immortality, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. O death, where is now thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?' The date of my lease will no more expire, nor shall I trouble myself with thoughts of death, nor lose my joys through fear of losing them. When millions of ages are passed, my glory is but beginning; and when millions more are passed, it is no nearer ending. Every day is all noon, every month is harvest, every year is a jubilee, every day is full manhood, and all this is one eternity. O blessed eternity! the glory of my glory! the perfection of my perfection!
7. "Ah, drowsy, earthly heart! how coldly dost thou think of this reviving day! Hadst thou rather sit down in dirt, than walk in the palace of God? Art thou now remembering thy worldly business, or thinking of thy lusts, earthly delights and merry company? Is it better to be here than above with God? Is the company better? Are the pleasures greater? Come away; make no excuse nor delay; God commands and I command thee; gird up thy loins; ascend the mount; look about thee with faith and seriousness. Look not back upon the way of the wilderness, except it be to compare the kingdom with that howling desert, more sensibly to perceive the wide difference. Yonder is thy Father's glory; yonder, O my soul, must thou remove when thou departest from this body; and when the power of thy Lord hath raised it again and joined thee to it, yonder must thou live with God for ever. There is the glorious New Jerusalem, the gates of pearl, the foundation of pearl, the streets and pavements of transparent gold. That sun, which lighteth all this world, will be useless there; even thyself shall be as bright as yonder shining sun; God will be the sun and Christ the light, and in his light shalt thou have light.
8. "O my soul! dost thou 'stagger at the promises of God through unbelief? I much suspect thee. Didst thou believe indeed, thou wouldst be more affected with it. Is it not under the hand, and seal, and oath of God? Can God lie? Can he that is truth itself be false? What need hath God to flatter or deceive thee? Why should he promise thee more than he will perform? Dare not to charge the wise, almighty, faithful God with this. How many of the promises have been performed to thee in thy conversion! Would God so powerfully concur with a feigned word? O wretched heart of unbelief! Hath God made thee a promise of rest, and wilt thou come short of it? Thine eyes, thine ears and all thy senses may prove delusions sooner than a promise of God can delude thee. Thou mayst be surer of that which is written in the word, than if thou didst see it with thine eyes, or feel it with thine hands. Art thou sure thou art alive, or that this is earth thou standest on, or that thine eyes see the sun? As sure is all this glory to the saints; as sure shall I be higher than yonder stars, and live for ever in the holy city, and joyfully sound forth the praises of my Redeemer, if I be not shut out by this 'evil heart of unbelief,' causing me to 'depart from the living God.'
9. "And is this rest so sweet and so sure? Then what mean the careless world? Know they what they neglect? Did they ever hear of it, or are they yet asleep, or are they dead? Do they certainly know that the crown is before them, while they thus sit still, or follow trifles? Undoubtedly they are beside themselves, to mind so much their provision by the way, when they are hasting so fast to another world, and their eternal happiness lies at stake. Were there left one spark of reason, they would never sell their rest for toil, nor their glory for worldly vanities, nor venture heaven for sinful pleasure. Poor men! O that you would once consider what you hazard, and then you would scorn these tempting baits! Blessed for ever be that love which hath rescued me from this bewitching darkness!
10. "Draw yet nearer, O my soul! with thy most fervent love. Here is matter for it to work upon, something worth thy loving. O see what beauty presents itself! Is not all the beauty in the world united here? Is not all other beauty but deformity? Dost thou now need to be persuaded to love? Here is a feast for thine eyes and all the powers of thy soul: dost thou need entreaties to feed upon it? Canst thou love a little shining earth, a walking piece of clay? and canst thou not love that God, that Christ, that glory, which are so truly and unmeasurably lovely? Thou canst love thy friend, because he loves thee; and is the love of a friend like the love of Christ? Their weeping or bleeding for thee does not ease thee, nor stay the course of thy tears or blood; but the tears and blood that fell from thy Lord have a sovereign, healing virtue. O my soul! if love deserves and should beget love, what incomprehensible love is here before thee! Pour out all the store of thy affections here, and all is too little. O that it were more ! O that it were many thousand times more! Let him have the first-born and strength of thy soul, who parted with strength, and life, and love for thee.
"O my soul! dost thou love for excellency? Yonder is the region of light; this is the land of darkness. Yonder twinkling stars, that shining moon and radiant sun, are all but lanterns, hung out of thy Father's house, to light thee while thou walkest in this dark world. But how little dost thou know the glory and blessedness that are within.
"Dost thou love for suitableness? What person more suitable than Christ? His God-head and humanity, his fullness and freeness, his willingness and constancy, all proclaim him thy most suitable friend. What state more suitable to thy misery than mercy? or to thy sin and pollution, than honor and perfection? What place more suitable to thee than heaven? Does this world agree with thy desires? Hast thou not had a sufficient trial of it, or dost thou love for interest and near relation? Where hast thou better interest than in heaven, or nearer relation than there?
"Dost thou love for acquaintance and familiarity? Though thine eyes have never seen thy Lord, yet thou hast heard his voice, received his benefits, and lived in his bosom. He taught thee to know thyself and him; he opened thee that first window, through which thou sawest into heaven. Hast thou forgotten since thy heart was careless, and he awakened it; hard, and he softened it; stubborn, and he made it yield; at peace, and he troubled it; whole, and he broke it; and broken, till he healed it again? Hast thou forgotten the times when he found thee in tears; when he heard thy secret sighs and groans, and left all to come and comfort thee; when he took thee, as it were, in his arms, and asked thee, 'Poor soul, what ails thee? Dost thou weep, when I have wept so much? Be of good cheer; thy wounds are saving, and not deadly; it is I have made them, who mean thee no hurt; though I let out thy blood, I will not let out thy life.' I remember his voice. How gently did he take me up! How carefully did he dress my wounds! Methinks I hear him still saying to me, 'Poor sinner, though thou hast dealt unkindly with me, and cast me off, yet I will not do so by thee. Though thou hast set light by me and all my mercies, yet they and myself are all thine. What wouldst thou have that I can give thee? And what dost thou want, that I cannot give thee? If any thing I have will give thee pleasure, thou shalt have it. Wouldst thou have pardon? I freely forgive thee all the debt. Wouldst thou have grace and peace? Thou shalt have both. Wouldst thou have myself? Behold I am thine, thy Friend, thy Lord, thy Brother, Husband and Head. Wouldst thou have the Father? I will bring thee to him, and thou shalt have him, in and by me.' These were my Lord's reviving words.
"After all, when I was doubtful of his love, methinks I yet remember his overcoming arguments: 'Have I done so much, sinner, to testify my love, and yet dost thou doubt? Have I offered thee myself and love so long, and yet dost thou question my willingness to be thine? At what dearer rate should I tell thee that I love thee? Wilt thou not believe my bitter passion proceeded from love? Have I made myself in the Gospel a lion to thine enemies and a lamb to thee, and dost thou overlook my lamb-like nature? Had I been willing to let thee perish, what need I have done and suffered so much? What need I follow thee with such patience and importunity? Why dost thou tell me of thy wants; have I not enough for me and thee? or of thy unworthiness; for if thou wast thyself worthy, what shouldst thou do with my worthiness? Did I ever invite or save the worthy and righteous? or is there any such upon earth? Hast thou nothing? art thou lost and miserable, helpless and forlorn? Dost thou believe I am an all-sufficient Savior, and wouldst thou have me? Lo, I am thine: take me; if thou art willing, I am; and neither sin nor Satan shall break the bond.' These, O these, were the blessed words which his Spirit from his Gospel spoke unto me, till he made me cast myself at his feet, and cry out, 'My Savior, and my Lord, thou hast broken, thou hast revived my heart; thou hast overcome, thou hast won my heart; take it, it is thine; if such a heart can please thee, take it; if it cannot, make it such as thou wouldst have it.' Thus, O my soul, mayst thou remember the sweet familiarity thou hast had with Christ; therefore, if acquaintance will cause affection, let out thy heart unto him. It is he that has stood by thy bed of sickness, has eased thy pains, refreshed thy weariness, and removed thy fears. He has been always ready, when thou has earnestly sought him; has met thee in public and private; has been found of thee in the congregation, in thy house, in thy closet, in the field, in thy waking nights, in thy deepest dangers.
"If bounty and compassion be an attractive of love, how unmeasurably, then, am I bound to love him! All the mercies that have filled up my life, all the places that ever I abode in, all the societies and persons I have been conversant with, all my employments and relations, every condition I have been in, and every change I have passed through, all tell me that the fountain is overflowing goodness. Lord, what a sum of love am I indebted to thee! And how does my debt continually increase! How should I love again for so much love? But shall I dare to think of requiting thee, or of recompensing all thy love with mine? Will my mite requite thee for thy golden mines; my faint wishes, for thy constant bounty; mine, which is nothing, or not mine, for thine, which is infinite, and thine own? Shall I dare to contend in love with thee, or set my borrowed, languid spark against the sun of love? Can I love as high, as deep, and broad, as long as Love itself? as much as he that made me, and that made me love, and gave me all that little which I have? As I cannot match thee in the works of power, nor make, nor preserve, nor rule the worlds; no more can I match thee in love. No, Lord, I yield; I am overcome. O blessed conquest! Go on victoriously, and still prevail, and triumph in thy love. The captive of love shall proclaim thy victory; when thou leadest me in triumph from earth to heaven, from death to life, from the tribunal to the throne! myself, and all that see it, shall acknowledge thou has prevailed, and all shall say, "Behold, how he loved him!" Yet let me love in subjection to thy love; as thy redeemed captive, though not thy peer. Shall I not love at all, because I cannot reach thy measure? O that I could feelingly say, 'I love thee,' even as I love my friend and myself! Though I cannot say, as the apostle, 'Thou knowest that I love thee;' yet I can say, Lord, thou knowest that I would love thee. I am angry with my heart, that it doth not love thee; I chide it, yet it doth not mend; I reason with it, and would fain persuade it, yet I do not perceive it stir; I rub and chafe it in the use of ordinances, and yet I feel it not warm within me.
"Unworthy soul! is not thine eye now upon the only lovely object? Art thou not now beholding the ravishing glory of the saints? And dost thou not love? Art thou not a rational soul, and should not reason tell thee that earth is a dungeon to the celestial glory? Art thou not thyself a spirit, and shouldst thou not love God, 'who is a spirit, and the Father of spirits?' Why dost thou love so much thy perishing clay, and love no more the heavenly glory? Shall thou love when thou comest there; when the Lord shall take thy body from the grave, and make thee shine as the sun in glory for ever and ever; shalt thou then love, or shalt thou not? Is not the place a meeting of lovers? Is not the life a state of love? Is not the great marriage-day of the Lamb? Is not the employment there the work of love, where the souls with Christ take their fill? O then, my soul, begin it here! 'Be sick with love' now, that thou mayst be well with love there. 'Keep thyself' now 'in the love of God;' and let 'neither life, nor death, nor any thing, separate thee from it;' and thou shalt be kept in the fulness of love for ever, and nothing shall imbitter or abate thy pleasure; for the Lord hath prepared a city of love, a place for communicating love to his chosen, 'and they that love his name shall dwell therein.'
11. "Awake, then, O my drowsy soul! To sleep under the light of grace is unreasonable, much more in the approach of the light of glory. Come forth, my dull, congealed spirit; thy Lord bids thee 'rejoice, and again rejoice. ' Thou hast lain long enough in thy prison of flesh, where Satan has been thy jailer, cares have been thy irons, fears thy scourges, and thy food the bread and water of affliction; where sorrows have been thy lodgings, and thy sin and foes have made thy bed, and an unbelieving heart has been the gates and bars that have kept thee in: the angel of the covenant now calls thee, and bids thee 'arise and follow him.' Up, O my soul! and cheerfully obey, and thy bolts and bars shall all fly open: follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Shouldst thou fear to follow such a guide? Can the sun lead thee to a state of darkness? Will He lead thee to death, who died to save thee from it? Follow him, and he will show thee the paradise of God; he will give thee a sight of the New Jerusalem, and a taste of the tree of life. Come forth, my drooping soul, and lay aside thy winter dress; let it be seen, by thy 'garments of joy and praise,' that the spring has come; and as thou now seest thy comforts green, thou shalt shortly see them 'white and ripe for harvest,' and then thou shalt be called to reap, and gather and take possession. Should I suspend and delay my joys till then? Should not the joys of the spring go before the joys of harvest? Is title nothing before possession? Is the heir in no better a state than a slave? My Lord has taught me to rejoice in hope of his glory, and how to see it through the bars of a prison; for, when persecuted for righteousness' sake, he commands me to 'rejoice and be exceeding glad,' because 'my reward in heaven is great.'
"I know he would have my joys exceed my sorrows; and as much as he delights in 'the humble and contrite,' he yet more delights in the soul that 'delights in him.' Hath my Lord spread me a table in this wilderness, and furnished it with the promises of everlasting glory, and set before me angels' food? Doth he frequently and importunately invite me to sit down and partake, and spare not? Hath he to that end furnished me with reason, and faith, and a joyful disposition; and is it possible that he should be unwilling to have me rejoice? Is it not his command to 'delight thyself in the Lord;' and his promise, to 'give thee the desires of thine heart?' Art thou not charged to 'rejoice evermore;' yea, to 'sing aloud and shout for joy?' Why should I, then, be discouraged? My God is willing, if I were but willing. He is delighted in my delights. He would have it my constant frame and daily business to be near him in my believing meditations, and to live in the sweetest thoughts of his goodness. O blessed employment, fit for the sons of God! But thy feast, my Lord, is nothing to me without an appetite. Thou hast set the dainties of heaven before me; but alas! I am blind and cannot see them! I am sick and cannot relish them! I am so benumbed that I cannot put forth a hand to take them! I therefore humbly beg this grace, that, as thou hast opened heaven to me in thy word, so thou wouldst open mine eyes to see it, and my heart to delight in it; else heaven will be no heaven to me. O thou Spirit of life! breathe upon thy graces in me; take me by the hand and lift me from the earth, that I may see what glory 'thou hast prepared for them that love thee!'
"Away, then, ye soul-tormenting cares and fears, ye heart-vexing sorrows! At least forbear a little while: stand by; stay here below, till I go up and see my rest. The way is strange to me, but not to Christ. There was the eternal abode of his glorious Deity; and thither hath he also brought his glorified flesh. It was his work to purchase it; it is his to prepare it, and to prepare me for it, and bring me to it. the eternal God of truth hath given me his promise, his seal and oath, that, 'believing in Christ, I shall not perish, but have everlasting life.' Thither shall my soul be speedily removed, and my body very shortly follow. And can my tongue say that I shall shortly and surely live with God, and yet my heart not leap within me? can I say it with faith, and not with joy? Ah, faith, how sensibly do I now perceive thy weakness! But though unbelief darken my light, and dull my life, and suppress my joys, it shall not be able to conquer and destroy me; though it envy all my comforts, yet some, it spite of it, I shall even here receive; and if that did not hinder, what abundance might I have! The light of heaven would shine into my heart, and I might be almost as familiar there as I am on earth. Come away, then, my soul; stop thine ears to the ignorant language of infidelity; thou art able to answer all its arguments; or, if thou art not, yet tread them under thy feet. Come away; stand not looking on that grave, nor turning those bones, nor reading thy lesson now in the dust; those lines will soon be wiped out. But lift up thy head and look to heaven, and see thy name written in golden letters 'in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.'
"What if an angel should tell thee that there is a mansion in heaven prepared for thee, that it shall certainly be thine for ever; would not such a message make thee glad? And dost thou make light of the infallible Word of promise, which was delivered by the Spirit, and even by the Son himself? Suppose thou hadst seen a fiery chariot come for thee, and take thee up to heaven, like Elijah; would not this rejoice thee? But thy Lord assures thee that the soul of a Lazarus hath a convoy of angels to carry it into Abraham's bosom. Shall a drunkard be so merry among his cups, or the glutton in his delicious fare, and shall not I rejoice, who must shortly be in heaven? Can meat and drink delight me when I hunger and thirst? Can I find pleasure in walks, and gardens, and convenient dwellings? Can beautiful objects delight my eyes; or grateful odors my smell; or melody my ears? and shall not the forethought of celestial bliss delight me? Methinks among my books I could employ myself in sweet content, and bid the world farewell, and pity the rich and great that know not this happiness; what then will my happiness in heaven be, where my knowledge will be perfect! If 'the queen of Sheba came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,' and see his glory; how cheerfully should I pass from earth to heaven, to see the glory of the eternal majesty, and attain the height of wisdom, compared with which the most learned on earth are but fools and idiots! What if God had made me commander of the earth; what if I could 'remove mountains, heal diseases with a word or a touch, or cast out devils,' should I not rejoice in such privileges and honors as these, and shall I not much more rejoice that my name is written in heaven? I cannot here enjoy my parents, or my near and beloved friends, without some delight; especially, when I have given my whole heart to my friend, how sweet was that exercise of my love! O what will it then be to live in perpetual love of God! 'For brethren to dwell together in unity here, how good and how pleasant it is!' To see a family live in love; husband and wife, parents, children and servants doing all in love to one another; to see a town live together in love, without any envyings, brawlings, or contentions, law-suits, factions, or divisions, but every man loving his neighbor as himself, thinking they can never do too much for one another, but striving to go beyond each other in love; how happy, how delightful a sight is this! O then, what blessed society will the family of heaven be, and those peaceful inhabitants of the New Jerusalem, where there is no division nor differing judgments, no disaffection nor strangeness, no deceitful friendship, no, not one unkind expression, not an angry look or thought; but all are one in Christ, who is one with the Father, and all live in the love of him who is love itself! The soul is not more where it lives, than where it loves. How near, then, will my soul be united to God, when I shall so heartily, strongly and incessantly love him! Ah, wretched, unbelieving heart, that can think of such a day, and work, and life, as this, with such low and feeble joys! But my future enjoyments will be more lively.
"How delightful is it to me to behold and study those inferior works of creation! What a beautiful fabric do we here dwell in; the floor so dressed with herbs, and flowers, and trees, and watered with springs and rivers; the roof so widely expanded, so admirably adorned! What wonders do sun, moon and stars, seas and winds, contain! And hath God prepared such a house for corruptible flesh, for a soul imprisoned? and doth he bestow so many millions of wonders upon his enemies? O what a dwelling must that be which he prepares for his dearly beloved children! and how will the glory of the New Jerusalem exceed all the present glory of earth! Arise then, O my soul, in thy contemplation, and let thy thoughts of that glory as far exceed in sweetness thy thoughts of the excellencies below! Fear not to go out of this body and this world, when thou must make so happy a change: but say, as one did when he was dying, 'I am glad and even leap for joy, that the time is come, in which that mighty Jehovah, whose majesty in my search of nature I have admired, whose goodness I have adored, whom by faith I have desired and panted after, will now show himself to me face to face.'
"How wonderful, also, are the works of Providence! How delightful to see the greatest God interest himself in the safety and advancement of a few humble, praying, but despised persons; and to review those special mercies with which my own life has been adorned and sweetened! How often have my prayers been heard, my tears regarded, my troubled soul relieved! How often hath my Lord bid me be of good cheer! What a support are these experiences, these clear testimonies of my Father's love, to my fearful, unbelieving heart! O then, what a blessed day will that be when I shall have all mercy, perfection of mercy, and fully enjoy the Lord of mercy; when I shall stand on the shore and look back on the raging seas I have safely passed; when I shall review my pains and sorrows, my fears and tears, and possess the glory which was the end of all! If one drop of lively faith was mixed with these considerations, what a heaven-ravishing heart should I carry within me! Fain would 'I believe; Lord, help my unbelief.'
"How sweet, O my soul, have ordinances been to thee! What delight hast thou had in prayer and thanksgiving, under heavenly sermons and in the society of saints, and to see 'the Lord adding to the church such as should be saved!' How, then, can my heart conceive the joy which I shall have to see the perfected church in heaven, and to be admitted into the celestial temple, and with the heavenly host praise the Lord for ever? Was the word of God sweeter to Job than his necessary food, and to David than honey and the honeycomb, and was it the joy and rejoicing of Jeremiah's heart; how blessed a day will that be when we shall fully enjoy the Lord of this word, and shall no more need these written precepts and promises, nor read any book but the face of the glorious God! If they that heard Christ speak on earth 'were astonished at his wisdom and answers, and wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth,' how shall I, then, be affected to behold him in his majesty!
"Can the prospect of his glory make others welcome the cross and even refuse deliverance; and cannot it make thee cheerful under lesser sufferings? Can it sweeten the flames of martyrdom and not sweeten thy life, or thy sickness, or thy natural death? Is it not the same heaven which they and I must live in? Is not their God, their Christ, their crown and mine the same? And shall I look upon it with an eye so dim, a heart so dull, a countenance so dejected? Some small foretastes of it have I myself had; and how much more delightful have they been than any earthly things ever were! What, then, will the full enjoyment be!
"What a beauty is there here in the imperfect graces of the Spirit! Alas! how small are these to what we shall enjoy in our perfect state! What a happy life should I here live, could I but love God as much as I would; could I be all love and always loving! O my soul, what wouldst thou give for such a life? Had I such apprehensions of God, such knowledge of his word as I desire; could I fully trust him in all my straits; could I be as lively as I would in every duty; could I make God my constant desire and delight; I would not envy the world their honors or pleasures. What a blessed state, O my soul! wilt thou shortly be in, when thou shalt have far more of these than thou canst now desire, and shalt exercise thy perfected graces in the immediate vision of God, and not in the dark, and at a distance, as now!
"Is the sinning, afflicted, persecuted church of Christ so much more excellent than any particular gracious soul? What then will the church be when it is fully gathered and glorified; when it has ascended from the valley of tears to Mount Sion; when it shall sin and suffer no more! The glory of the Old Jerusalem will be darkness and deformity to the glory of the New. What cause shall we have, then, to shout for joy, when we shall see how glorious the heavenly temple is, and remember the meanness of the church on earth!
12. "But, alas! at what a loss am I in the midst of my contemplation! I thought my heart had all the while attended, but I see it hath not. What life is there in empty thoughts and words, without affections? Neither God, nor I, find pleasure in them. Where hast thou been, unworthy heart, while I was opening to thee the everlasting treasures? Art thou not ashamed to complain so much of an uncomfortable life, and to murmur at God for filling thee with sorrows, when he in vain offers thee the delights of angels? Hadst thou now but followed me close, it would have made thee revive and leap for joy, and forget thy pains and sorrows. Did I think my heart had been so backward to rejoice?
13. "Lord, thou hast reserved my perfect joys for heaven; therefore, help me to desire till I may possess, and let me long when I cannot, as I would, rejoice. O my soul, thou knowest, to thy sorrow, that thou art not yet at thy rest. When shall I arrive at that safe and quiet harbor where there are none of these storms, waves, and dangers; when I shall never more have a weary, restless night or day? Then my life will not be such a mixture of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow; nor shall flesh and spirit be combating within me; nor faith and unbelief, humility and pride, maintain a continual conflict. O when shall I be past these soul-tormenting fears, and cares and griefs? when shall I be out of this soul-contradicting, ensnaring, deceitful flesh; this corruptible body, this vain, vexatious world? Alas, that I must stand and see the church and cause of Christ tossed about in contention, and made subservient to private interests or deluded fancies. There is none of this disorder in the heavenly Jerusalem; there I shall find a harmonious concert of perfected spirits, obeying and praising their everlasting King. O how much better to be a door-keeper there, than the commander of this tumultuous world. Why am I no more weary of this weariness? Why do I so forget my resting-place? Up then, O my soul, in thy most raised and fervent desires! Stay not till this flesh can desire with thee; expect not that sense should apprehend thy blessed object, and tell thee when and what to desire.
"Doth not the dulness of thy desires after rest accuse thee of most detestable ingratitude and folly? Must thy Lord procure thee a rest at so dear a rate, and dost thou no more value it? Must he go before to prepare so glorious a mansion for such a wretch, and art thou loth to go and possess it? Shall the Lord of glory be desirous of thy company, and thou not desirous of his? Must earth become a very hell to thee before thou art willing to be with God? Behold the most lovely creature, or the most desirable state, and tell me, where wouldst thou be if not with God? Poverty is a burden; riches a snare; sickness unpleasing; health unsafe; the frowning world bruises thy heel; the smiling world stings thee to the heart; so much as the world is loved and delighted in, it hurts and endangers the lover; and if it may not be loved, why should it be desired? If thou art applauded, it proves the most contagious breath; if thou art vilified, or unkindly used, methinks this should not entice thy love. If thy successful labors and thy godly friends seem better to thee than a life with God, it is time for god to take them from thee. If thy studies have been sweet, have they not also been bitter? And, at best, what are they to the everlasting view of the God of truth? Thy friends here have been thy delight, and have they not also been thy vexation and grief? They are gracious, and are they not also sinful? They are kind, and are they not soon displeased? They are humble, but, alas, how proud also! Their graces are sweet, and their gifts helpful; but are not their corruptions bitter, and their imperfections hurtful? And art thou so loth to go from them to thy God?
"O my soul, look above this world of sorrows! Hast thou so long felt the smarting rod of affliction, and no better understood its meaning? Is not every stroke to drive thee hence? Is not its voice like that to Elijah, 'What doest thou here?' Dost thou forget thy Lord's prediction? 'In the world ye shall have tribulation; in me ye shall have peace!' Ah, my dear Lord, I feel thy meaning; it is written in my flesh, engraved in my bones. My heart thou aimest at; thy rod drives, thy silken cord of love draws; and all to bring it to thyself. Lord, can such a heart be worth thy having? Make it worthy, and then it is thine; take it to thyself, and then take me. This clod hath life to stir, but not to rise. As the feeble child to the tender mother, it looketh up to thee, and stretcheth out the hands, and fain would have thee take it up. Though I cannot say, 'My soul longeth after thee;' yet I can say, I long for such a longing heart. 'The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.' My spirit cries, 'Let thy kingdom come, or let me come to thy kingdom; but the flesh is afraid thou shouldst hear my prayer, and take me at my word. O blessed be thy grace, which makes use of my corruptions to kill themselves; for I fear my fears, and sorrow for my sorrows, and long for greater longings; and thus the painful means of attaining my desires increase my weariness, and that makes me groan to be at rest.
"Indeed, Lord, my soul itself is in a strait, and what to choose I know not; but thou knowest what to give: 'to depart and be with thee, is far better;' but 'to abide in the flesh' seems needful. Thou knowest I am not weary of thy work, but of sorrow and sin; I am willing to stay while thou wilt employ me, and despatch the work thou hast put into my hands; but, I beseech thee, stay no longer when this is done; and while I must be here, let me be still amending and ascending; make me still better, and take me at the best. I dare not be so impatient as to importune thee to cut off my time, and snatch me hence unready; because I know my everlasting state so much depends on the improvement of this life. Nor would I stay when my work is done, and remain here sinning, while my brethren are triumphing. Thy footsteps bruise this worm, while those stars shine in the firmament of glory. Yet I am thy child as well as they. Christ is my Head as well as theirs; why is there, then, so great a distance? But I acknowledge the equity of thy ways; though we are all children, yet I am the prodigal, and therefore more fit, in this remote country, to feed on husks, while they are always with thee, and possess thy glory. They were once themselves in my condition, and I shall shortly be in theirs. They were of the lowest form before they came to the highest; they suffered before they reigned; they 'came out of great tribulation, who are now before thy throne;' and shall I not be content to come to the crown as they did; and to 'drink of their cup, before I sit with them in the kingdom?' Lord, I am content to stay thy time, and go thy way, so thou wilt exalt me also in thy season, and take me into thy barn when thou seest me ripe. In the meantime, I may desire, though I am not to repine; I may believe and wish, though not make any sinful haste; I am willing to wait for thee, but not to lose thee; and when thou seest me too contented with thine absence, then quicken my languid desires, and blow up the dying spark of love; and leave me not until I am able unfeignedly to cry out, 'As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My conversation is in heaven, from whence I look for a Savior. My affections are set on things above, where Christ sitteth, and my life is hid. I walk by faith, and not by sight; willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.'
"What interest hath this empty world in me; and what is there in it that may seem so lovely as to entice my desires from my God, or make me loth to soar away? Methinks, when I look upon it with a deliberate eye, it is a howling wilderness, and too many of its inhabitants are untamed monsters. I can view all its beauty as deformity, and drown all its pleasures in a few penitent tears; or the wind of a sigh will scatter them away. O let not this flesh so seduce my soul as to make it prefer this weary life before the joys that are about thy throne! And though death itself be unwelcome to nature, yet thy grace make thy glory appear to me so desirable that the king of terrors may be the messenger of my joy. Let not my soul be ejected by violence, and dispossessed of its habitation against its will; but draw it to thyself by the secret power of thy love, as the sunshine in the spring draws forth the creatures from their winter cells; meet it half-way, and entice it to thee as the loadstone doth the iron, and as the greater flame attracts the less! Dispel, therefore, the clouds that hide thy love from me, or remove the scales that hinder mine eyes from beholding thee; for the beams that stream from thy face, and the foretastes of thy great salvation, and nothing else, can make a soul unfeignedly say, 'Now let thy servant depart in peace!' But it is not thy ordinary discoveries that will here suffice; as the work is greater, so must thy help be. O turn these fears into strong desires; and this lothness to die into longings after thee! While I must be absent from thee, let my soul as heartily groan as my body doth under its want of health! If I have any more time to spend on earth, let me live as without the world in thee, as I have sometimes lived as without thee in the world! While I have a thought to think, let me not forget thee; or a tongue to move, let me mention thee with delight; or breath to breathe, let it be after thee, and for thee; or a knee to bend, let it daily bow at thy footstool; and when by sickness thou confinest me, do thou 'make my bed, number my pains, and put all my tears into thy bottle!'
"As my flesh desired what my spirit abhorred, so now let my spirit desire that day which my flesh abhorreth; that my friends may not with so much sorrow wait for the departure of my soul, as my soul with joy shall wait for its own departure! Then 'let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his;' even a removal to that glory which shall never end! Then let thy convoy of angels bear my departing soul among the perfected spirits of the just, and let me follow my dear friends who have died in Christ before me; and while my sorrowing friends are weeping over my grave, let my spirit be reposed with thee in rest; and while my body shall lie mouldering in the dust, let my soul have 'the inheritance of the saints in light!' O thou that numberest the very hairs of my head, number all the days that my body lies in the dust; and thou that 'writest all my members in thy book,' keep an account of my scattered bones! O my Savior, hasten the time of thy return; send forth thy angels, and let that dreadful, joyful trumpet sound! Delay not, lest the living give up their hope; delay not, lest earth should grow like hell, and thy church, by division, be all crumbled to dust; delay not lest thy enemies get advantage of thy flock, and lest pride, hypocrisy, sensuality and unbelief prevail against that little remnant, and share among them thy whole inheritance, and when thou comest, thou find not faith on the earth; delay not, lest the grave should boast of victory, and, having learned rebellion of its guest, should refuse to deliver thee up thy due! O hasten that great resurrection day, when thy command shall go forth, and none disobey: when 'the sea and the earth shall yield up their hostages, and all that sleep in the grave shall awake, and the dead in Christ shall rise first;' when the seed which thou sowest corruptible, shall come forth incorruptible; and graves that received rottenness and dust, shall return thee glorious stars and suns! Therefore dare I lay down my body in the dust, intrusting it, not to a grave, but to thee; and therefore my flesh shall rest in hope, till thou shalt raise it to the possession of everlasting rest. 'Return, O Lord, how long? O let thy kingdom come!' Thy desolate 'bride saith, Come' for thy Spirit within her saith, Come; and teacheth her thus to 'pray with groanings which cannot be uttered; yea, the whole creation saith, Come, waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.' Thou thyself has said, 'Surely I come quickly; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'"
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