Page images

still on him, if not taken off from him by justification. Who can think the prince will promote him to honour who is under an attainder for treason? He must be cleared of that charge, or he is fitter for execution than promotion; pardon must precede preferment. You must be first in Christ Jesus, and then "there is no condemnation to you," Rom. viii. 1. You must be received into favour before you be promoted to honour. The sinner must be justified before he can be glorified, Rom. viii. 30. Never think of ascending to heavenly glory under a load of guilt; that guilt will shut heaven's gates against thee. The guilt of one sin will bear down a soul, yea, millions of souls to hell; for "the wages of sin is death;" O therefore, what need is there of justification as an introduction to salvation? "You must be justified by his grace, if ever you be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Never think your sins will be blotted out in the day of refreshing, except you repent here and be converted; you must be "justified by faith that you may have peace with God here, and so rejoice in hope of the glory of God."* You cannot think to leap from the bar to the throne; but you must be cleared by order of justice, through Christ's satisfaction in the court of God. This, this is absolutely necessary to a meetness for this heavenly inheritance.

(2.) Adoption. This is another relative change. Alas, by nature we have quite lost our relationship, and so forfeited our filial right to the heavenly inheritance. We are exules a regno, banished out of paradise, and there are placed cherubim," and a flaming sword, which turns every way to keep the way of the tree of life," Gen. iii. 24. Yea, we are voluntarily gone into a far country, have wasted our substance, disowned

* Rom. vi. 23. Tit. iii. 7. Acts iii. 19. Rom. v. 1, 2.

our father's house, are feeding swinish appetites, and feeding ourselves with the poor husks of worldly things; and till we be adopted and admitted again into our father's house, we are not fit to eat the children's bread, or heir the child's inheritance. But God himself hath contrived a way how to settle the best inheritance on such as he finds strangers; Jer. iii. 19, "I said, how shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? then I said thou shalt call me, My father, and shalt not turn away from me." O blessed contrivance! and will any think to cross God's plan? Shall men's folly challenge infinite wisdom? is not the heavenly inheritance God's own to give? and doth not our Lord, say, "such honour shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father?" Matt. xx. 23. Can you think to wrest heaven out of God's hands whether he will or not? and must he falsify his word to gratify you? Will he set the crown on a rebel's head? or give this inheritance of saints to the devil's slaves? No, doubtless you must be adopted sons, or no lawful heirs. Bastards heir no land. Jephthah's brethren thrust him out, saying, “Thou shalt not inherit in our father's house, for thou art the son of a strange woman, Judg. xi. 2. And what bold intruder art thou, who darest expect to claim such an inheritance as heaven without the relation of a son? Adam it is true, was God's son by creation; but alas, he and we in him have quite lost that sweet relation; and we must either be restored in Christ, God's well beloved Son, or we are like to be banished for ever. "God sent his own Son, that through him we might receive the adoption of sons;" and have you the Spirit of his Son in your hearts, to cry, Abba Father? which elsewhere is called "the spirit. of adoption." Tell me not that all

are the sons of God; so were the devils. God will make you know that this is a peculiar privilege, known to very few, enjoyed by fewer; it is the fruit of special love, and is attended with this unparalleled advantage of seeing God as he is; and a day is coming when these sons and heirs in disguise shall then be like their Father; then atheists that will not believe that there is any such difference among men, and bold intruders, that dreamed of a right, without pretending or proving their adoption, shall be utterly confounded.

2. But besides this relative change, there is also a real change upon those souls that God makes meet for heaven, and this consists in conversion to God, and covenanting with him.

(1.) Conversion to God. This is expressed in the words immediately following my text, ver. 13, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." This is a description of conversion, and a preparation for glory; compare this with Acts xxvi. 18; see there the privilege annexed. Observe it, conversion makes saints, and only saints are partakers of this inheritance. If all the men on earth, and angels in heaven, should join their energies together, they could not save one unconverted soul; truth itself hath asserted it with a solemn asseveration, Matt. xviii. 3, " Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." The like doth the same infallible speaker assert with a fourfold asseveration, John iii. 3, 5. I wonder often how careless sinners who are conscious to themselves that never any such work has passed on them, can eat and drink, or sleep quietly, and never so much as ask this question, am I converted or am I not? if I be, when or


* Gal. iv. 5, 6. Rom. viii. 15. 1 John iii. 1, 2.

how did my soul pass through the change of a new birth? What tears and apprehensions, what groans and agonies hath it cost me? What fruits hath it brought forth in me? Where is this new creature, the divine nature, the image and seed of God rising heaven-wards? What stamp, what sheep-mark can I shew, as evidence of God's being at work on my soul, and as an earnest of a glorious inheritance? But if there be no such change, (as I doubt there is not) how can I be at rest? Sure my pillow is soft, or my heart hard, and my conscience seared, when I can quietly hear or read my own doom in such a scripture, from the mouth of the Judge himself, standing at heaven's gates and shutting me out, as if he named me, saying, Be gone, thou unconverted sinner, I know thee not; converting grace never changed thy heart or life; though I often summoned thee, and knocked at thy door, yet thou hadst no heart or desire to turn from thy sinful ways, nor so much as fall down on thy knees, and ask this grace of conversion of me, or use the means for it, or so much as examine whether thou hadst it or not, but wentest on in a golden dream, and now I must tell thee roundly to thy cost, depart, be gone from my presence, thou poor, wretched, undone sinner; this state, this place is for none but sincere converts.

(2.) Covenanting with God. When the glorious day of our Lord's appearing shall arrive, he calls forth his covenanted people, to crown his gracious promises with complete performance, Psal. 1. 5, "Gather my saints together, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice;" as if he had said, I take little notice of common or outside worshippers, they shall be set on my left hand; but there are amongst you some serious souls that look beyond the ordinance; I have observed them, they have solemnly devoted themselves

to me, and accepted me in a covenant way. These, these are the persons, and these only, that I have taken for the lot of my inheritance, and for whom I have laid up a safe and satisfying portion: but to the uncovenanted soul, or hypocritical pretender to a covenant engagement, God will say, "What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?" Psal. 1. 16. What ground hast thou to own me; or to claim any thing from me for this world or another? Man as a creature can have no intercourse with God, but in a covenant way; much less can a sinner expect any good from God, but by virtue of a covenant. But what canst thou say about this promised inheritance, who hast nothing to do with the promises? "For all the promises of God, in Christ are yea and amen," 2 Cor. i. 20. But thou hast never spent one hour solemnly to review and renew thy baptismal covenant, and engage thy soul to God; and since thou art an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenant of promise, by consequence thou art without Christ, and without God in this world, and therefore without hope of a better state in the other world, Eph. ii. 12. But strangers and foreigners, along with the saints, become fellow-citizens of the new Jerusalem, ver. 19. How is that? Doubtless by taking the sacred oath of fealty and allegiance to the king of heaven. By covenant you have a title to all the good things of earth and heaven. Sinner think of this, thou that lovest to be loose, and scornest the fetters of this holy league; thou dost in effect say, I will have none of God, Christ, pardon, or heaven: if I must have them on no other terms than under such bonds and obligations, let them take this heavenly inheritance for


And dost thou think this golden chain of honour

« PreviousContinue »