Master Sermon List
The Best Things Reserved Till Last
by Thomas Brooks
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." I Peter 1:4
BELOVED, I have chosen this text: upon a double ground.
1. To make a diversion of immoderate sorrow and grief from my own spirit and yours, who are most nearly concerned in this sad loss. And,
2. Because it will afford us matter most suitable to the blessed state and condition of this glorified saint, at whose funeral we are here met.
In the inscription, verses 1, 2, you have first a holy salutation, shewing first by whom this epistle was written, viz. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ; secondly, to whom it was written. Now they are described two ways: first, by their outward condition, 'strangers, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.' There are divers opinions about these strangers, but the most common and received opinion among the learned is, that Peter wrote this epistle to the converted Jews, scattered through the provinces in Asia, who met with much opposition and affliction for the gospel's sake. Secondly, they are described by their spiritual and inward condition, which is set forth,
(1.) By the fundamental cause of it, to wit, election of God.
(2.) By the final cause, to wit, sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.
(3.) By the subservient cause, to wit, reconciliation, conferred in obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
In the third verse you have, (1.) A very stately proem, and such as can hardly be matched again, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.' (2.) You have regeneration or effectual calling described, and that:
[1.] First, By the principal efficient cause thereof, which is, 'God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
[2.] By the impulsive cause thereof, the mercy of God, which is described by the quantity of it, 'abundant.'
[3.] By the immediate effect thereof, a 'lively hope,' the singular cause whereof is shewed to be the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 John iii. 2, 3. Now hope is called a lively hope,
[1.] Because it makes a man lively and active for God and goodness.
[2.] Because it cheers, comforts, and revives the soul. It brings, it breeds, it feeds, it preserves spiritual life in the soul. This lively hope is like Myrtilus his shield, which after the use he had of it in the field, having it with him at sea, and suffering shipwreck, it served him for a boat to waff him to shore, and so preserved his life. This lively hope is a shield ashore, and an anchor at sea.
[3.] It is called a lively hope, in opposition to the fading, withering, dying hopes of hypocrites, and profane persons, 'Whose hope is as a spider's web,' 'the crackling of thorns under a pot,' and 'the giving up of the ghost.'
A Christian's hope is not like that of Pandora, which may fly out of the box, and bid the soul farewell; no, it is like the morning light: the least beam of it shall commence into a complete sunshine; it is aurora gaudii, and it shall shine forth brighter and brighter till perfect day; but the hypocrite's hope, the presumptuous sinner's hope is like a cloud, or the morning dew.
Now, in my text you have the object about which this 'lively hope' is exercised; and that is, 'an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away' [What these words import I shall shew you when I open that doctrine which I intend to stand upon at this time], 'reserved in heaven for you.'
There are three heavens: the first is cúlurn aŽrium, the airy heaven, where the fowls of heaven do fly; the second is cúlum astriferum, where the stars of heaven are; the third is cúlum beatorum, the heaven of the blessed, where God appears in eminency, and where Christ shines in glory; and this is the heaven the text speaks of.
The text will afford several points, but I shall only name one, which I intend to stand on at this time, and that is this,
Doct. That God reserves the best and greatest favours and blessings for believers till they come to heaven.
Now, I shall prove this proposition by an induction of particulars; and then give you the reasons of it. I will begin with the inheritance spoken of in the text.
I. Firstly, The best inheritance is reserved for believers till they come to heaven. This is clear and fair in the text, yet I shall make this further out to you thus:
(1.) First, The inheritance reserved for believers till they come to heaven, is a pure, undefiled, and incorruptible inheritance. It is an inheritance that cannot be defiled nor blemished with abuse one way or another. Other inheritances may, and often are, with oaths, cruelty, blood, deceit, The Greek word amiavnto", amiantos, signifies a precious stone, which, though it be never so much soiled, yet it cannot be blemished nor defiled; yea, the oftener you cast it into the fire, and take it out, the more clear, bright, and shining it is. All earthly inheritances are true gardens of Adonis, where we can gather nothing but trivial flowers, surrounded with many briers, thorns, and thistles, Gen. iii. 18, Isa. xxiii. 9. Oh the hands, the hearts, the thoughts, the lives that have been defiled, stained, and polluted with earthly inheritances! Oh the impure love, the carnal conscience, the vain boastings, the sensual joys, that earthly inheritances have filled and defiled poor souls with! All earthly inheritances, they are no better than the cities which Solomon gave to Hiram, which he called Cabul, 1 Kings ix. 13, that is to say, displeasing or dirty. The world doth but dirt and dust us. But,
(2.) Secondly, It is a sure, a secure, inheritance: 'To an inheritance reserved in heaven for you.' See the text. The Greek word that is here rendered 'reserved,' is from threw, tereo which signifies to keep solicitously, to keep as with watch and ward. This inheritance is kept and secured to us by promise, by power, by blood, by oath; and therefore must needs be sure. It is neither sin, nor Satan, nor the world that can put a Christian by his inheritance. Christ hath already taken possession of it in their names and in their rooms; and so it is secure to them. If weakness can overcome strength, impotency omnipotency, then may a Christian be kept out of his inheritance, but not till then. But earthly inheritances they are not sure, they are not secure. How often doth might overcome right, and the weakest go to the wall! How many are kept out, and how many are cast out, of their inheritances, by power, policy, craft, cruelty. It was a complaint of old, our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens, James v. 2.
(3.) Thirdly, It is a permanent, a lasting, inheritance : 'To an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.' The Greek word amaranto", hamarantos, is the proper name of a flower, which is still fresh and green after it bath a long time hung up in the house. It is an inheritance that shall continue as long as God himself continues. Of this inheritance there shall be no end. Though other inheritances may be lasting, yet they are not everlasting; though sometimes it be long before they have an end, yet they have an end. Where is the glory of the Chaldean, Persian, Grecian, and Roman kingdoms? Sic transit gloria munch; but the glory of believers shall never fade nor wither; it shall never grow old nor rusty: 1 Pet. v. 4, 'And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, which fadeth not away.' A believer's inheritance, his glory, his happiness, his blessedness, shall be as fresh and flourishing after he hath been many thousand thousands of years in heaven as it was at his first entrance into it. Earthly inheritances are like tennis-balls, which are bandied up and down from one to another, and in time wore out, 1 Tim. vi. 17. The creature is all shadow and vanity; it is filia noctis, like Jonah's gourd. Man can sit under its shadow but a little, little while; it soon decays and dies; it quickly fades and withers. There is a worm at the root of all earthly inheritances, that will consume them in time. All earthly comforts and contents are but like a fair picture that is drawn upon the ice, which continueth not; or like the morning cloud, that soon passeth away; but a believer's inheritance endureth for ever. When this world shall be no more, when time shall be no more, the inheritance of the saints shall be fresh, flourishing, and continuing. Nescio quid erit, quod ista vita, non erit, ubi luset, quod non capiat locus, ubi sonat, quod non rapit tempus, ubi olet, quod non spargit flatus, ubi sapit, quod non minuit edacitas, ubi húret, quod non divellit úternitas, said Augustine; what will that life be, or rather what will not that life be, since all good either is not at all, or is in such a life? Light, which place cannot comprehend; voices and music, which time cannot ravish away; odours, which are never dissipated; a feast, which is never consumed; a blessing, which eternity bestoweth, but eternity shall never see at an end. So this, all this, is the heritage of all God's Jacobs.
(4.) Fourthly, It is the freest inheritance. It is an inheritance that is free from all vexation and molestation. There shall be no sin to molest the soul, nor no devil to vex the soul. 'There shall be no pricking brier nor grieving thorn unto the house of Israel,' Ezek. xxviii. 24; there shall be no Jebusites to be 'as pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides,' Num. xxxiii. 55. There shall be no crying, Oh my bones! oh my bowels! oh the deceit of this man! oh the oppression of that man! No; they shall have a crown without thorns, a rose without prickles, and an inheritance without the least encumbrance. This inheritance flows from free love, and is freely offered, though the soul hath neither money nor money-worth. There is nothing, there is not the least thing about this inheritance that is purchased or paid for by us, Isa. lv. 1, 2. It is all frank, it is all free, it is all of grace. Here is such an inheritance that no eye ever saw, that no mortal ever possessed; and that for nothing. It is freely offered, and it is freely given: Acts xx. 32, 'And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.' All is mercy, all is of free mercy, that God alone may have the glory. Other inheritances they have their encumbrances. Oh the vexations, the molestations that do attend them! Oh the debates, the disputes, the lawsuits that are about earthly inheritances, such as have made many a man to go with a heavy heart, an empty purse, and a thread-bare coat; which made Themistocles profess, that if two ways were shewed him, one to hell, and the other to the bar, he would decline that which did lead to the bar, and choose that which went to hell.
(5.) Fifthly, It is an inheritance that is universally communicable, to Jews, to Gentiles; to bond, to free; to rich, to poor; to high, to low; to male, to female: Gal. iii. 28, 29, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus;' 'And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise' Rom. viii. 17. Among men, all sons and daughters be not heirs, yet all God's children, be they sons, be they daughters, be they bond or free, , they are all heirs, without exception. Jehoshaphat gave his younger sons 'great gifts of silver and gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities, but the kingdoms gave he to Jehorum, because he. was the first-born,' 2 Chron. xxi. 3. And Abraham gave gifts to the rest of his sons, but Isaac only had the inheritance, Gen. xxv. 5, 6. In some countries all children be not heirs, but sons only; and in other countries not all sons, but the eldest son alone. Usually men divide their earthly inheritances. If all the sons be heirs, some inherit one place, others others; but here the whole inheritance is enjoyed by every child; here every child is an heir to all, and hath right to all. In earthly inheritances, the more you divide, the less is every one's part; but this inheritance is not diminished by the multitude of possessors, nor impaired by the number of co-heirs; it is as much to many as to a few, and as great to one as to all. Not a room, not a mansion, not a walk, not a flower, not a jewel, not a box of myrrh, but what is common to all; not a smile, not a good word, not a sweet look, not a robe, not a dish, not a delicate, not a pleasure, not a delight, but is universally communicable, and universally fit for all the thousands millions of thousands that are heirs of this inheritance. If there be a thousand together, every one sees as much of the sun, hears as much of the sound, smells as much of the sweet, as he should do if there were no more than himself alone; so here.
(6.) Sixthly, and lastly, It is a soul-satisfying inheritance. He that hath it shall sit down and say, I have enough, I have all.' As one master satisfies the servant, and as one father satisfies the child, and as one husband satisfies the wife, so one God, one Christ, one inheritance, satisfies the believing soul: Ps. xvi. 5, 6, 'The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in a pleasant place; yea, I have a goodly heritage.' Will an inheritance of glory satisfy them? Why! this they shall have, 1 John iii. 3, Col. iii. 1. Will an inheritance of power and dominion satisfy them? Why, this they shall have, 1 Cor. iii. 21, 'All things are yours,' Mat. xix. 28, 1 Cor. vi. 2, 3, Will Abraham's bosom satisfy you? Why this you shall have, Luke xvi. 22. The bosom is the place where love lodges all her children; the bosom is the place of delight and satisfaction, and this you shall have; nay, you shall have a better, a choicer, a sweeter bosom to solace your souls in than Abraham's, to wit, the bosom of Jesus Christ, which will be a paradise of pleasure and delight to you. Will Christ's best robe, will his own signet put upon you, satisfy you? Why! this you shall have. Will it satisfy you to be where Christ is, and to fare as Christ fares, and wear as Christ wears, and enjoy as Christ enjoys? Why! this you shall have: John xii. 26, 'Where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.' If all these things will satisfy souls, then surely the inheritance reserved in heaven for them will satisfy them; for that inheritance takes in these things, and many more. The good things that this inheritance is made up of are so many, that they exceed number; so great, that they exceed measure; so precious, that they are above all estimation; and therefore it must needs be a soul-satisfying inheritance.' But now all other inheritances they cannot satisfy the heart of man: Eccles. v. 10, 'He that loveth silver, shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance, with increase: this is also vanity.' If you please, you may read the words nearer the original thus: 'He that loveth silver, shall not be satisfied with silver; and he that loveth it, in the multitude of it, shall not have fruit.' It is the love of silver that is the mischief of it; it is the love of silver that makes men unsatisfied with silver. Such a man will still be adding house to house, land to land, bag to bag, and heap to heap, and yet after all be still unsatisfied. Bernard compareth such a man to one that, being very hungry, gapeth continually for wind, with which he may be puffed, but cannot be filled and satisfied; and so the same author elsewhere saith well, Anima rationalis cúteris omnibus occupari potest, impleri non potest, the reasonable soul may be busied about other things, but it cannot be filled with them; they can no more fill up the soul than a drop of water can fill up the huge ocean; they can no more satisfy the desires of the soul than a few drops of water can the thirst of a man inflamed with a violent fever; nay, as oil increases the flame of the fire, so the more a man hath of the world, the more his heart is inflamed after it. When Alexander had conquered the known part of the world, say some, he sat down and wished for another world to conquer. Charles the Fifth, emperor of Germany, whom of all men the world judged most happy, cried out with detestation to all his honours, pleasures, trophies, riches, Abite hinc, abite longe; get you hence, let me hear no more of you. They could not satisfy him, they could not quiet him. Such things that a fancy, a conceit, an ungrounded fear will rob a man of the comfort of, can never satisfy him; but such are all worldly enjoyments, 2 Kings vii. 6, 7. One man will not live because his Delilah will not love; another with Ahab will be sick, and die because he cannot get his neighbour's inheritance, 1 Kings xxi.; another wishes himself dead because his commodities lie dead on his hands; another with Haman can find no sweetness in all his enjoyments, because Mordecai sits at the king's gate, Esther v. 9-14; as those things which delude a man can never satisfy him. But the world deludes a man, and puts cheats upon him; it promises a man pleasure, and pays him with pain; it promises profit 'all this will I give thee' and pays him with loss; loss of God, of Christ, of peace of conscience, of comfort, of heaven, of happiness, of all; it promises contentment, and fills him with torment; and therefore can never satisfy the soul of man,
But the inheritance reserved in heaven, that will satisfy; it will afford nothing that may offend the soul, it will yield everything that may delight the soul, that may quiet and satisfy the soul; by all which it is most evident, that the best inheritance is reserved for the saints till they come to heaven. But,
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II. Secondly, As the best inheritance, so the best is reserved for believers till they come to heaven. This life is full of trials, full of troubles, and full of changes. Sin within, and Satan and the world without, will keep a Christian from rest, till he comes to rest in the bosom of Christ. The life of a Christian is a race; and what rest have they that are still a-running their race? The life of a Christian is a warfare; and what rest have they that are still engaged in a constant warfare? The life of a Christian is the life of a pilgrim; and what rest hath a pilgrim, who is still a-travelling from place to place?' A pilgrim is like Noah's dove, that could find no rest for the sole of her foot. The fears, the snares, the cares, the changes, , that attends believers in this world, are such that will keep them from taking up their rest here. A Christian hears that word always sounding in his ears, 'Arise, for this is not thy resting-place,' Micah ii 10. A man may as well expect to find heaven in hell, as expect to find rest in this world. It was the complaint of Ambrose, Quid in hac vita non experimur adversi? Quas non procellas tempestatesque perpetimur? Quibus non exagitamur incommodis? Cujus parcitur meritis? What misery do we not undergo in this life? What storms and tempests do we not endure? with what troubles are we not tossed? whose worth is spared? Man's sorrows begin when his days begin, and his sorrows are multiplied as his days are multiplied; his whole life is but one continued grief; labour wears him, care tears him, fears toss him, losses vex him, dangers trouble him, crosses disquiet him, nothing pleases him; in the day he wishes, Would God it were night, and in the night, Would God it were day; before he rises he sighs; before he washes he weeps; before he feeds he fears; under all his abundance he is in wants, and 'in the midst of his sufficiency he is in straits,' Job xx. 22; his heart, as Gregory Nyssene speaks, Non tantuim gaudet in iis quú habet, quantum tristatur ob ea quú desunt, is not so much quieted in those things which it hath, as it is tormented for those things which it hath not. In a word, all the rest we have in this world, is but a very short nap, to that glorious rest that is reserved in heaven for us: Heb. iv. 9, 10, 'There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.' There remains a rest to the people of God, or as the Greek hath it, a sabbatism, a celestial rest, an eternal rest, a Sabbath that shall never have end. When God had made man, we read that the next day he rested; and why is this set down, saith Anselm, Nisi per hoc vellet innuere, quod illum post cujus creationem requievit, ad requiem fecit? but that the Spirit of God would shew unto us, that God made him for rest, after the making of whom God is said to have rested? Rest is a jewel very desirable on earth, but we shall not wear it in our bosoms till we come to heaven. Ambrose well observes, that sex diebus mundus est factus, septimo reqietum est die; ultra mundum ergo est quies, ultra mundum etiam fructus quietis, in six days the world was made, on the seventh day there was rest; it is beyond this world, therefore, that rest is, and it is beyond this world that the fruit of rest is to be had.
I shall shew you, observing brevity, the excellency of that rest that is reserved for believers in heaven. As,
(1.) First, It is a superlative rest; a rest that infinitely exceeds all earthly rest. All other rest is not to be named in the day wherein this rest is spoken of. Some have purchased rest, for a time, with silver and gold, but this is a rest that all the gold and silver in the world can never purchase. Over this rest is written, not the price of gold, but the price of blood, yea, the price of the best and noblest blood that ever run in veins. That rest we have here must needs be a poor, low-priced rest, ubi multa cautela custoditur salus corporis, custodita etiam amittitur, amissa cum gravi labore reparatur, et tamen reparata in dubio semper est, where the health of the body is preserved with much watchfulness, being preserved, is also lost; being lost, is recovered with much labour; and yet being recovered, is always in danger and doubtfulness, what will become of it Our estate in this world is not a fixed estate; what then is our rest? Our very living is but a passing away; our lives are full of troubles, and they fill our souls full of unquietness. After the Trojans had been tossing and wandering in the Mediterranean Sea, as soon as they espied Italy, they cried out with exulting joy, 'Italy! Italy!' and so when saints, after all their tossings and restlessness in this world, shall come to heaven, then, and not till then, they will cry out, Rest, rest, no rest to this rest. But,
(2.) Secondly, The rest reserved in heaven for believers, it is an universal rest, Rev. xiv. 13, a rest from all sin and a rest from all sorrow; a rest from all afflictions and a rest from all temptations; a rest from all oppression and a rest from all vexations; a rest from all labour and pains, from all trouble and travail, from all aches, weaknesses, and diseases. There is no crying out, O my bones! O my back! O my bowels! O my sides! O my head! O my heart! Our rest here is only in part and imperfect; here we have rest in one part and pain in another, quiet in one part and torment in another. Sometimes when the head is well, the heart is sick; and sometimes when there is peace in the conscience, there is pain in the bones. Here many return us hatred for our love, and this binders our rest; here we are apt to create cares and fears to ourselves, rather than we will want them, and this hinders our rest; here we are very apt to give offence, and as apt to take offence, though none be given, and this hinders our rest, 1 Cor. x. 32. Sometimes we have rest abroad and none at home; sometimes rest at home and none abroad, Job vii. 13-16. Our rest here is imperfect and incomplete, but our rest in heaven shall be most perfect and complete; there the inward and the outward man shall be both at rest, But,
(3.) Thirdly, It is an uninterrupted rest; it is a rest that none can interrupt. Here sometimes sin interrupts our rest, sometimes temptations interrupts our rest, sometimes divine withdrawings interrupts our rest, sometimes the sudden changes and alterations that God makes in our conditions interrupts our rest; sometimes the power, and sometimes the policy, and sometimes the cruelty of wicked men interrupts our rest, sometimes the crossness of friends, sometimes the deceitfulness of friends, sometimes the loss of friends, and sometimes the death of friends interrupts our rest; one thing or another is still interrupting our rest.' Oh! but in heaven there shall be no sin, no devil, no sinner, no false Mends; there shall be nothing, there shall not be the least thing that may interrupt a saint's rest; indeed, heaven could not be heaven, did it admit of anything that might interrupt a saint's rest. Heaven is above all winds and weather, storms and tempests, earthquakes and heartquakes. There is only that which is amiable and desirable; there is nothing to cloud a Christian's joy, or to interrupt a Christian's rest. When once a soul is asleep in the bosom of Abraham, none can awake him, none can molest or disturb him. Here is joy without sorrow, blessedness without misery, health without sickness, light without darkness, abundance without want, beauty without deformity, honour without disgrace, ease without labour, and peace without interruption or perturbation. Here shall be eyes without tears, hearts without fears, and souls without sin. Here shall he no evil to molest the soul; here shall be all good to cheer the soul, and all happiness to satisfy the soul; and what then can possibly interrupt the rest of the soul? But,
(4.) Fourthly, As it is an uninterrupted rest, so it is a peculiar rest; it is a rest peculiar to sons, to saints, to heirs, to beloved ones: Ps. cxxvii. 2, 'So he gives his beloved rest,' or as the Hebrew hath it, dearling, or dear beloved, quiet rest, without care or sorrow. The Hebrew word, Shena, is written with "a", a quiet dumb letter, which is not usual, to denote the more quietness and rest. This rest is a crown that God sets only upon the head of saints; it is a gold chain that he only puts about his children's necks; it is a jewel that he only hangs between his beloveds' breasts; it is a Bower that he only sticks in his darlings' bosoms. This rest is a tree of life that is proper and peculiar to the inhabitants of that heavenly country; it is children's bread, and shall never be given to dogs. Here wicked men have their good things; their peace, their rest, their quiet, their heaven, whilst the people of God are troubled and disquieted on every side; but the day is a-coming wherein the saints shall have rest, and sinners shall never have a good day more, never have an hour's rest more; their torments shall be endless and ceaseless. The old world had their resting-time, but at last patience and justice, tired and abused, put a period to their rest, by washing and sweeping them to hell with a flood; and then Noah, and those righteous souls that were with him, had their time of rest and peace; and so shall it be with sinners and saints at last, But,
(5.) Fifthly, The rest reserved for the saints in heaven, as it is a peculiar rest, so it is a rest that is universally communicable to all the sons and daughters of God. 'And to you who are troubled, rest with us,' saith the apostle Paul; 'rest with us,' with us apostles, with us saints, and with all the family of heaven together, 2 Thess. i. 6, 7. Here some saints are at liberty, when others are in prison; here some sit under their own vines and drink the blood of the grape, whilst others have their blood poured out as water upon the ground, ; but in heaven they shall all have rest together, the believing husband and the believing wife shall rest together, and believing parents and believing children shall rest together. Here one relation bath rest, when the other hath not, but there they shall all rest together. There the painful preacher and the diligent hearer shall rest together; there the gracious master and the pious servant shall rest together: Isa. lvii. 2, 'He shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness; they shall rest in their beds,' or as some read it, they shall rest in their bee-hives, expressing the Hebrew by the Latin; cubile signifies a bee-hive, as well as a couch or bed. Look, as the poor wearied bees do rest all together in their bee-hives, in their honey-houses, so all the saints shall rest together in heaven, which is their bee-hive, their honey-house; and oh what a happy rest will that be, when all the saints shall rest together! But,
(6.) Sixthly and lastly, It is a permanent, a constant rest. Of this rest there shall be no end. It is a rest that shall last as long as heaven lasts; yea, as long as God himself shall continue. Time shall be no more, and this world shall be no more, but this rest shall remain for ever, Rev. x. 6, 2 Pet. iii. 10, et seq. The rest of the people of God in this world is transient, it is inconstant. Now they have rest, and anon they have none; now a calm, presently a storm; now all is in quiet, anon all is in an uproar. Their rest in this world is like a morning cloud and the early dew, which is soon dried up by the beams of the sun, Hosea vi. 4. Since God hath cast man out of paradise, out of his first rest, he can find but little rest in this world; sometimes the unfitness of the creature troubles him, sometimes the fickleness of the creature vexes him, sometimes the treachery of the creature enrages him, and sometimes the want of the creature distracts him. When in his heart he saith, Now I shall have rest, now I shall be quiet, then troubles and changes come, so that his whole life is rather a dreaming of rest than an enjoying of rest. Oh! but in heaven the rest of the saints shall have no end; there shall be nothing that can put a period to their rest, there shall be everything that may conduce to the perpetuating of their rest. Heaven would be but a poor low thing, did it not afford a perpetual rest.
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III. Thirdly, As the best rest, so the best sight and knowledge of God is reserved for believers till they come to heaven. I readily grant that even in this world the saints do know the Lord, inwardly, spiritually, powerfully, feelingly, experimentally, transformingly, practically; but yet, notwithstanding all this, the beet knowledge of God is reserved for heaven, which I shall evidence by an induction of particulars, thus:
(1.) First, They shall have the clearest knowledge and revelation of God in heaven. Here our visions of God are not clear; and this makes many a child of light to sit and sigh in darkness, Lam. iii. 44. God veils himself, he covers himself with a cloud. Man, when he is silent concerning God, seemeth to be something, but when he begins to speak of God, it plainly appears that he is nothing.
Simonides being asked by Hiero, the tyrant, what God was, craved a day for to deliberate about an answer; but the more he sought into the nature of God, the more difficult he found it to express; therefore, the next day after being questioned, he asked two days, the third day he craved four, and so from. that time forth doubled the number; and being asked why he did so, he answered, that the more he studied, the less he was able to define what he was, so incomprehensible is his nature.
Our visions of God here are dark and obscure. Augustine, asking the question, what God is? gives in this answer, Certe hic est, de quo et quum dicitur, non potest dici; quum ústimatur, non potest ústimari; quum comparatur, non potest comparari; quum definitur, ipse sua definitione crescit: surely it is he, who when he is spoken of cannot be spoken of, who when he is considered of cannot be considered of, who when he is compared to any thing cannot be compared, and when he is defined, groweth greater by defining of him. It is observable, that it was not the Lord which the prophet Ezekiel saw, it was only a vision, Ezek. i. 28. In the vision it was not the glory of the Lord which he saw, but the likeness of it; nay, it was not the likeness of it, but the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord, that made him to fall on his face, as not being able to behold it. Sin hath so weakened, dazzled, and darkened the eye of our souls, that we cannot bear the sight of the glory of the Lord, nor the likeness of it, no! nor the appearance of the likeness. of it.
In the Psalms the Lord is. said to ride upon a cherub, Ps. xviii. 10; upon which words one saith thus, Cherub quippe plenitudo scientiú dicitur, proinde super plenitudinem scientiú ścendisse perhibetur, quia majestatis ejus plenitudinem scientia nulla comprehendit, a cherub is so called, as being a fulness of knowledge; and therefore is God said to ascend above the fulness of knowledge, because no knowledge comprehendeth the fulness of his majesty.'
But when believers come to heaven, then they shall have a more clear vision and sight of God: I Cor. xiii. 12, 'For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.' Now we see him obscurely, as in a glass, but then we shall see him distinctly, clearly, immediately; we shall then apprehend him clearly, though, even then, we cannot comprehend him fully. Some sense those words, I shall know even as I am known, thus: Look, as God knoweth me after a manner agreeable to his infinite excellency, so shall I know God according to my capacity, not obscurely, but perfectly, as it were, face to face; and this is the greatest height of blessedness and happiness. Now all veils shall be taken off, and we shall have a clear prospect of God's excellency and glory, of his blessedness and fulness, of his loveliness and sweetness. Now all masks, clouds, and curtains, shall be drawn for ever, that saints may clearly see the breadth, length, depth, and height of divine love, and that they may clearly see into the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Christ's incarnation, the mystery of man's redemption, the mystery of providences, the mystery of prophesies; and all those mysteries that relate to the nature, substances, offices, orders, and excellencies of the angels, those princes of glory, who still keep their standings in the court of heaven; and all those mysteries that concern the nature, original, immortality, spirituality, excellency, and activity of our own souls, beside a world of other mysteries that respect the decrees and counsels of God, the creation of the world, the fall of Adam, and the fall of angels. Now the most knowing men in the world are much in the dark about these things; but when we come to heaven, we shall have a close and a clear sight and knowledge of them. Now we shall know, as we are known; now we shall see God face to face. O beatavisio, videre Regem angelorum, sanctum sanctorum, Deum cúli, Rectorem terrú, patrem viventium! Oh blessed sight! to behold the King of angels, the holy of holies, the God of heaven, the Ruler of the earth, the Father of the living!' O beata visio, videre Deum in seipso, videre in nobis, et nos in eo. Oh blessed vision and contemplation, wherein we shall see God in himself, God in us, and ourselves in God! But,
(2.) Secondly, As in heaven they shall have the clearest knowledge of God, so in heaven they shall have the fullest knowledge of God. Here our knowledge of God is weak, as well as dark, but in heaven it shall be full and complete. 'Here we know but in part; but there we shall know as we are known,' 1 Cor. xiii. 12. As the apostle speaks, here we are able to take in but little of God, either sin or Satan, or else fears, doubts, and scruples, or else the pleasures or profits, the comforts or contents of this world doth so defile the soul, and so fill the soul, that it is able to take in but very little of God. 'How little a portion,' saith Job, 'is heard of him!' Job xxvi. 14. It is but a portion, a little portion, that we can conceive of him. The Hebrew is shemets, particulam, a little bit, nay, it is said, shemets dabar, particulam verbi, a little piece of a word, or particulam alicujus, a little piece of something, that we do hear of him. 'I have many things to say unto you,' saith Christ, 'but ye cannot bear them now,' John xvi. 12. Man is a poor, low, weak creature, and is not able to bear any great or full discoveries of God. As weak shoulders cannot bear heavy burdens, nor weak stomachs digest strong meats; no more were they able to bear the revelation of many high, spiritual, precious, and glorious truths, that Christ was willing to discover to them. Those that have weak eyes, or that have a blemish in their eyes, cannot discern things aright. Now we have all weak eyes, we have all one blemish or another in our eye, which hinders us from a full sight and knowledge of God, and of his excellency and glory. Oh! but now in heaven, we shall have a full and perfect knowledge of God; there shall be no sore eyes, no clouds, no mists to hinder us from a full sight of the Sun of righteousness. Here our understandings shall be full of the knowledge of God, our minds full of the wisdom of God, our wills full of the righteousness and holiness of God, and our affections full of the love and delights of God. Here we have but weak and shallow apprehensions of God, but there, as Bernard speaks sweetly, Deus implebit animam rationalem sapientia, concupiscibilem justitia, irascibilem perfecta tranquillitate, God will fill the soul with light of wisdom, the concupiscible faculty with righteousness, the irascible with perfect tranquillity.
If a man did dwell within the body of the sun, surely he would be full of light; if a man did dwell in the midst of a fountain, surely he would be tilled with that fountain; so when the saints come to heaven, they shall dwell as it were in the body of the Sun of righteousness; and therefore they cannot be but full of light; they shall dwell in the midst of the fountain of life; and therefore they shall sure be full of the fountain. But,
(3.) Thirdly, The sight and knowledge that we shall have of God in heaven, will be immediate, 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Here our knowledge of God is mediate; here we see him, but it is either through the glass of his word, or the glass of his works. Sometimes through the glass of his word God shews himself; sometimes through the glass of prayer God gives some representation of himself to his people; sometimes through the glass of the Lord's supper he discovers some rays and beams of his glory. All the sight and knowledge that we have of God in this world is through some glass or other. Now there is a vast difference between seeing an object directly, immediately, and in its own proper colours, and beholding it through a glass. The sight of an object through a glass is very weak and unsatisfying. One direct view of the Lord, one immediate sight of God, will infinitely transcend all those sights and views that we have had in this world, either through the glass of his word, or the glass of his works, either through the glass of ordinances, or the glass of the promises, or the glass of providences, Mat. v. 8. One real direct sight of a friend or relation, doth more cheer, quiet, and satisfy us, than a thousand representations of them in glasses, or by their pictures. In heaven we shall see God face to face, without the interposition of men or means; and this direct and immediate sight of God, is that which makes heaven to be heaven to the saints. All the glory of heaven would be but a poor low thing in the eye of a saint, had he not a direct and immediate sight of God there. In heaven all mediums shall be removed, all glasses shall be broken, and the glorified saint shall behold God with open face; all curtains being for ever withdrawn from between God and the soul. Good souls in heaven are like good angels, who are still beholding the face of God, Mat. xviii. 10. As God is still a-looking upon them as the jewels of his crown, so they are still crying and looking upon God as their heaven, yea, as their great all, and that by a direct and immediate act of their souls. But,
(4.) Fourthly and lastly, The sight and knowledge that they shall have of God in heaven, shall be permanent and constant. Now saints have a happy sight of God, and anon they have lost it; this hour they have a precious sight of God in the mount, and the next hour they have lest this sight 'Behold, he that should comfort my soul stands afar off,' Lam. i. 16; and 'he hath covered himself with a cloud, that our prayers Cannot pass through,' Lam. iii. 44. Our visions of God here are transient and vanishing. The visions, the glimpses of majesty and glory which Moses and Peter saw in the mount, were not permanent but transient; their sun was quickly clouded, and both of them soon after were found walking in the dark; and therefore well saith Augustine, Beatitudo hic parari potest, possideri non potest, happiness may be obtained here, but here we cannot have the plenary and take possession thereof. Oh but in heaven, our sight of God, our knowledge of God shall be permanent, it shall he lasting; there shall be no sin, no cloud, no mist, no curtain, to hinder us from a constant sight and vision of God; there we shall see God clearly, fully, eternally. The spouse's question, 'Did you see him whom my soul loves?' Cant. iii. 3, shall never be heard in heaven, because God shall be always in their eye, and still upon their hearts; nor Job's complaint, 'Behold, I go forward, hut he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him,' Job xxiii. 8, 9. Heaven would not be heaven, were it not always day with the soul; did not the soul live in a constant sight and apprehension of God, all the glory of heaven could not make a heaven to a glorified soul. But,
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IV. Fourthly, As the best sight and knowledge of God is reserved till last, so the best and choicest presence of God and Christ is reserved till last; and this I shall thus make good.
(1.) First, In heaven saints shall have the greatest and the fullest presence of God. No man in this world hath so complete and full a presence of God but he may have a fuller; but in heaven the presence of God shall be so full and complete, as that nothing can be added to it to make it more complete. Sometimes sin, sometimes Satan, sometimes the world, sometimes resting in duties, sometimes the weakness of our graces, hinder us from enjoying a full presence of God here; but in heaven there shall be nothing to interpose between God and us; there shall be nothing to hinder us from enjoying a full and complete presence of God. It is this full presence of God that is the heaven of heaven, the glory of all our glory. An imperfect and incomplete presence of God in heaven would darken all the glory of that state. It is the full and perfect presence of God in heaven that is the most sparkling diamond in the ring of glory; and this you shall have. But,
(2.) Secondly, They shall have a soul-satisfying presence of God in heaven. They shall be so satisfied with the presence of God in heaven, that they shall say, We have enough, we have all, because we enjoy that presence that is virtually all, that is eminently all, that is all light, all life, all love, all heaven, all happiness, all comforts, all contents, Ps. xvii. 15, 'As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.' Though the spiritual and gracious presence of God with the saints in this world doth much cheer and comfort them, yet it doth not satisfy them. They are still crying out, More of this blessed presence! oh more of this presence! Lord, less money will serve, so we may but have more of thy presence! less of the creature will serve, so we may have hut more of thy presence! Ps. xlii. 1, 2; xxxvii. 1-3. As the king of Sodom said unto Abraham, 'Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself,' Gen. xiv. 21, so say gracious souls, Give us more and more of the presence of God, and let the men of the world take the world and divide it amongst them selves. Divine presence is very inflaming; a soul that hath but tasted the sweetness of it cannot but long for more of it; as those that had tasted of the grapes of Canaan longed to be in Canaan, and as the Gauls, who, when they had tasted of the sweet wine that was made of the grapes that grew in Italy, they were very eager after Italy, crying out, 'O Italy! Italy!' so precious souls that have experienced the sweetness of divine presence, they cannot be satisfied with a little of it, but in every prayer this is the language of their souls, Lord! more of thy presence! and in every sermon they hear, Lord! let us have more of thy presence! and in every sacrament they receive, Lord! vouchsafe to us more of thy presence!
Nay, this gracious presence of God that they enjoy here makes them very earnest in their desires and longings after a celestial, a glorious presence of God and Christ in heaven, which presence alone can satisfy their souls. Look, as the espoused maid longs for the marriage day, the apprentice for his freedom, the captive for his ransom, the traveller for his inn, and the mariner for his haven, so do souls that are under the power and sweet of God's gracious presence long for to enjoy his glorious presence in heaven, which alone can fill and satisfy their immortal souls. As Monica, Austin's mother, a precious godly woman, who enjoyed much of the gracious presence of Christ, with her spirit she cried out, Quid hic faciemus? cur non ocyus migramus? cur non hinc avolamus? What do we here? why depart we not swifter? why fly we not hence?
So saith another [Bernard], 'As what I have, if offered to thee, pleaseth not thee without myself, so, O Lord! the good things we have from thee, though they refresh us, yet they satisfy us not without thyself. Lord! I am willing to die, to have a further discovery of thyself.'
And so saith another [Augustine], 'Thou hast made us, O Lord, for thyself, and our hearts are unquiet till they come unto thee.'
And so when Modestus, the emperor's lieutenant, threatened to kill Basil, he answered, 'If that be all, I fear not; yea, your master cannot more pleasure me than in sending me unto my heavenly Father, to whom I now live, and to whom I desire to hasten.'
And saith another [Augustine], 'Let all the devils in hell beset me round, let fasting macerate my body, let sorrows oppress my mind, let pains consume my flesh, let watchings dry me, or heat scorch me, or cold freeze me; let all these, and what can come more, happen unto me, so I may enjoy my Saviour.'
Austin wishing that he might have seen three things, Rome flourishing, Paul preaching, and Christ conversing with men upon the earth, Bede comes after, and correcting this last wish, saith, 'Yea, but let me see the King in his beauty, Christ in his heavenly kingdom; by all which you see that it is not a spiritual presence, but the glorious presence of God and Christ in heaven, that can satisfy the souls of the saints.' It was a great mercy for Christ to be with Paul on earth, but it was a greater mercy, and a more satisfying mercy, for Paul to be with Christ in heaven, Philip. i. 23. They enjoy much who enjoy, the presence of God on earth, but they enjoy more who enjoy the presence of God in heaven; and no presence below this presence can satisfy a believing soul. But,
(3.) Thirdly, As they shall enjoy a satisfying presence of God in heaven, so they shall enjoy a constant, a permanent presence of God in heaven. Here God comes and goes, he is often a removing court, but in heaven the King of glory will be always present: 1 Thess. iv. 17, 18, 'Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be ever with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.' It is the constant presence of God in heaven, that makes a heaven of comfort to blessed souls. Should this sun ever set, should this presence ever fail, heaven would be as dark as hell, yea, heaven would be another hell. Here Jonah complains that he was cast out of God's presence, and the church complains, that he that should comfort her soul, stands afar off. No saint enjoys the gracious presence of God at all times alike. They that enjoy most of this presence may say of it, as Jacob spake of Laban's countenance, I see, said he, your Father's countenance is not towards me as before, Gen. xxxi. 5; so may they say, Oh we see, Oh we feel, that the presence of God is not with us as before! Oh what a warming, what a cheering, what a quickening, what an enlivening, what a comforting, what a melting, what an encouraging, what an assisting presence of God had we once! Oh but it is not so now with us! we that used always to be upon Christ's knee, or in his arms, are now at a distance from him; he that used to lie day and night as a bundle of myrrh betwixt our breasts, hath now covered himself with a cloud, Cant. i. 13. Oh we cannot see his face, we cannot hear his voice, as in the days of old! But now in heaven saints shall enjoy a constant presence of God; there shall not be one moment to all eternity, wherein they shall not enjoy the glorious presence of God; and, indeed, it is this constant presence of God in heaven, that puts a glory upon all the saints' glory. Heaven, without this constant presence of God, would be but as a court without a king, or as the firmament without the sun. And thus you see that the best and choicest presence of God and Christ is reserved for heaven. But,
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V. Fifthly, The perfection of grace is reserved for glory. Though our graces be our best jewels, yet they are imperfect and do not give out their full lustre; they are like the moon, which when it shineth brightest, bath a dark spot: 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 10, 'For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.' Here we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,' Isa. lxiv. 6. Oh the stains, the spots, the blots, the blemishes that attend our choicest graces and services! Our beat personal righteousness is stained with much unrighteousness, perfection of grace and holiness is reserved for heaven, Eph. v. 25-27; Jude 24; Eph. iv. 13. In the work of conversion, God lays the foundation of grace in the souls of his people, but the putting on the top-stone is reserved for heaven. Grace here is but a king in the cradle, but in heaven it will be a king upon its throne.
For the making this truth more fully out, I will only instance in the joy of the saints, and that thus:
[1.] First, The joy of the saints in heaven shall be pure joy. Here our joy is mixed with sorrow, our rejoicing with trembling, Ps. ii. 11; Mat. xxviii. 8, 'The women departed from the sepulchre with fear and great joy.' This composition of two contrary passions is frequently found in the best hearts. Here the best have sorrow with their joy, water with their wine, vinegar with their oil, pain with their ease, winter with their summer, and autumn with their spring, But in heaven, Rev. vii. 17, they shall have joy without sorrow, light without darkness, sweetness without bitterness, summer without winter, health without sickness, honour without disgrace, glory without shame, and life without death: Rev. xxi. 4, 'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.' But,
[2.] Secondly, As they shall have in heaven pure joy, so they shall have in heaven plenitudinem gaudii, fulness of joy. Here all joy is at an ebb, but there is the flood of joy, there is fulness of joy: Ps. xvi. 11, 'In his presence is fulness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore.' Here shall be gaudium super gaudium, joy above joy, joy surmounting all joy. Here shall be such great joys, as no geometrician can measure; so many joys, as no arithmetician can number; and so wonderful, as no rhetorician can utter, had he the tongue of men and angels. Here shall be joy within thee, and joy without thee, and joy above thee, and joy beneath thee, and joy about thee. Joy shall spread itself over all the members of your bodies, and over all the faculties of your souls. In heaven, your knowledge shall be full, your love full, your visions of God full, your communion with God full, your fruition of God full, and your conformity to God full, and from thence will arise fulness of joy. If all the earth were paper, and all the plants of the earth were pens, and all the sea were ink, and if every man, woman, and child, had the pen of a ready writer, yet were they not able to express the thousandth part of those joys that saints shall have in heaven. All the joy we have here in this world, is but pensiveness to that we shall have in heaven; all pleasure here to that but heaviness, all sweetness here to that but bitterness. But,
[3.] Thirdly, The joy of the saints in heaven shall be a lasting joy, an uninterrupted joy. Here their joy is quickly turned into sorrow, their singing into sighing, their dancing into mourning. Our joy here is like the husbandman's joy in harvest, which is soon over, and then we must sow again in tears, before we can reap in joy. David's joy was soon interrupted: 'In my prosperity I said, I should never be removed; but thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled,' Ps. xxx. 6, 7. Now David had the oil of joy and gladness, and by and by the spirit of heaviness and sadness: 'Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,' Ps. li. 12. Jacob had much joy at the return of his sons with corn from Egypt; but this joy was soon interrupted by his parting with his dear Benjamin.
I might shew you this truth in other instances, as in Abraham, Job, and other saints; but surely there is no believer but finds that sometimes sin interrupts his joy, and sometimes Satan disturbs his joy, and sometimes afflictions and sometimes desertions eclipse his joy; sometimes the cares of the world, and sometimes the snares of the world, and sometimes the fears of the world, mars our joy; sometimes great crosses, sometimes near losses, and sometimes unexpected changes, turns a Christian's harping into mourning, and his organ into the voice of them that weep.
Some say of Rhodes, that there is not one day in the year in which the sun shines not clearly on them. Surely there is hardly one day in the year, yea, I had almost said one hour in the day, wherein something or other doth not fall in to interrupt a Christian's joy.
But now in heaven the joy of the saints shall be constant; there shall nothing fall in to disturb or to interrupt their joy: Ps. xvi. 11, 'In thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand is pleasures for ever more.' Mark, for quality, there are pleasures; for quantity, fulness; for dignity, at God's right hand; for eternity, for evermore. And millions of years multiplied by millions, make not up one minute to this eternity of joy that the saints shall have in heaven. In heaven there shall be no sin to take away your joy, nor no devil to take away your joy, nor no man to take away your joy: John xvi. 22, 'Your joy no man taketh from you.' The joy of the saints in heaven is never ebbing, but always flowing to all contentment. The joys of heaven never fade, never wither, never die, nor never are lessened nor interrupted. The joy of the saints in heaven is a constant joy, an everlasting joy, in the root and in the cause, and in the matter of it and in the objects of it. ∆terna erit exultatio, quú bono lútatur úterno, their joy lasts for ever whose objects remains for ever. Isa. xxxv. 10, 'And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joys upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall fly away.' In this world not only the joy of hypocrites and the joy of profane persons, but also the joy of the upright, is oftentimes 'as the crackling of thorns under a pot,' or as the blaze of a brush faggot, now all on a flame, and as suddenly out again; or as the beast ephemeron, that dieth on the day it is born; but the joy of believers in heaven shall be like the fire on the altar, that never went out. When Caesar was sad, he used to say to himself, Cogitate Cśsarem esse, think thou art Cśsar; so when your hearts are sad and sorrowful, oh! then think of these everlasting joys that you shall have in heaven.