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hand, think of the sting of conscience, the company of devils and damned spirits, the loss of God, Christ, heaven, and your precious souls, the burning lake, the bottomless pit, the scorching flames, and this for ever and ever--an endless duration! O sirs, if you would but look down into that stupendous gulf, what a change would it work in your hearts! You would banish your vain company, lay aside your worldly business, abandon your sensual pleasures, and mind nothing else till your souls be safe for eternity. This would be as the cry at midnight, “Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him, Matt. xxv. 6. As sleepy as they were, this startled them; so it would you, as if you heard a voice out of the clouds saying ; sinner, thou art now summoned to appear before the dread tribunal of the all-seeing Judge, to receive thy final sentence, and to be sent to an everlasting state of weal or woe; stay not one moment in thy state of unregeneracy; haste, haste, make all haste out of it; fall to the work of faith and repentance as for thy life; defer not one day; now or never.
You will say, can I make myself meet for heaven? What can I do? The work is God's. I answer, God is the efficient, but he will make you instruments in this work. God's grace and man's duty are very consistent. Study Phil. ii. 12, 13. Up and be doing, and God will be with you. Though God must turn, yet you should endeavour to turn yourselves, Ezek. xviii. 30, 31. Though God make you a new heart, yet he will have you make yourselves a new heart.
O sirs, without delay commence the work, examine, prove, try your state by the rule of the word ; attend the most
1 piercing, powerful ministry ; search 'out all your ini- . quities, and confess them before the Lord with grief, hatred, and shame; beg converting grace as for your
lives; plead with God for pardon through the blood of Christ; solemnly renew your baptismal covenant in taking God for your God, and giving up yourselves to him, and then read, meditate, watch and pray, mortify your beloved lusts, obey the commands of God, and do these things speedily, seriously, and constantly, and see what the effect will be. If you will fall to it, well and good, if not, you are guilty of self-destruction; and remember you are this day warned.
2. I turn myself to truly gracious souls that are in a safe state for the main, as to habitual meetness, but I fear are far short of that actual meetness which is requisite, as to a lively exercise of suitable graces; a clear evidence of being in a spiritual state; despatching work off their hands, being mortified to time, and longing for heaven. Alas, the wise virgins slumbered and slept. I fear few of us are in that state of readiness in which we ought to be, or might have been, or to which others have attained; nay, it is well if now our souls be in that frame in which sometimes we have been. What decays of love, zeal, and tenderness of conscience ? what backslidings, deadness, hardness, worldliness, and formality do God's children fall into? What staggerings in our faith of the reality of unseen things? How uncertain about our title to an inheritance above? Doth not our slavish fear of death shew this? Our instability and variable course in religion ; our distractions in holy duties; our frequent closing with temptations, and too oft stepping aside into sin; our intermitting duties of God's worship, and estrangement growing between God and our souls; our unreadiness in our accounts; our unwillingness to go to God: all these too sadly demonstrate our unmeetness for heaven. Alas, friends, are we not yet meet? Let us be ashamed of our slackness; what have we been doing all this time, with these helps and privileges we have hąd? Have not many young people and others that set out after us out-stript us, and are got to heaven? Are we not ashamed of our loitering and lagging behind ? What has become of the many warnings we have had in different ways ? Have we any greater matters to mind? Do we not bring dishonour to God and discredit to our religion, by our backwardness? And can we have that comfort and confidence in meeting the bridegroom of our souls as is fit? Alas, our Lord will be less welcome if he surprise us unawares, as I have told you. Ah, sirs, you little know how near death is, and therefore should be always ready to meet our Lord. It is matter of great lamentation that so few of God's children are meet for their home; and like wayward children are loth to go to bed, though God hath taken a course to weary us out of the world. The Lord help us to lament and lay to heart our great unmeetness for heaven. When sin, security, or insensibility steals in upon thy spirit, search it out, mourn for it, confess it, beg pardon for it, and recover thyself quickly out of it; rest not satisfied with any distance from God; recover thy wonted familiarity with thy best friend, and mend thy pace towards heaven, as a man in his journey that hath been hindered, hies the faster, to recover what he has lost by his stay; breathe after more likeness to God and fitness for every dispensation, and long to be with God in heaven. Alas, sirs, you little know how near you are to eternity. You see the sands that are run to the lower end of the glass, but the upper part, as one saith, is covered with a mantle, you know not how few sands are yet to run.
God forbid that you should have your evidences to procure when you should have them to produce. If you be not sure of heaven, you are sure of nothing, all worldly things must leave you, or you must leave them. Despatch all but this off your hands, and be as the bird on the wing to her nest, or the traveller, whose mind is still on home, nothing will please him but home. Say with Calvin, usquequo Domine? “How long, Lord, shall my soul be at a distance from thee? Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
MEETNESS FOR HEAVEN IS A BLESSING WHICII
MERITS GRATITUDE TO GOD.
. I PROCEED briefly to explain the second thing contained in the text; which is,
That it is a transcendent mercy worth thanking God for, to be made meet for the heavenly inheritance.
If we must thank God for daily bread, for houses, health, estates, worldly comforts and accommodations for our bodies, how much more should we thank God for heaven, and a meetness for heaven ? without which we shall never come there.
The truth of this I shall demonstrate in these seven particulars :
1. Spiritual mercies are of most worth, and deserve from us most thanks to God. But this is a spiritual mercy, Eph. i. 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;" it is εν τοις επουρανίοις and s0 may signify spiritual things as well as places, that is, graces, privileges, comforts, or whatever hath a tendency to the good of the soul, or eternal salvation in heaven: these indeed are a Benjamin's portion, a goodly heritage, the quintessence and marrow of all blessings. If God should give you the whole world, and put you off therewith, you are accursed and wretched ; if he give you grace and glory, you are happy, if you had nothing else. Our Lord thought that a plenary benediction, with which he begins his first sermon, Matt. v. 3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” There is the mercy promised, and the qualification for it, both choice blessings.
2. That which is the purchase of Christ is worth our grateful acknowledgements; but this is the fruit of Christ's purchase ; it is not only a purchased inheritance, nor did Christ only purchase us to be heirs of this inheritance, but he hath purchased a meetness in believers for that inheritance; Tit. ii. 14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” How thankfully do men celebrate Christ's nativity! But that mercy of Christ's being born into the world, though transcendently great, will never advantage you, unless “Christ be in you, the hope of glory,” Col. i. 27; his dwelling hearts by faith, Eph. iii. 17, entitles you to the inheritance he hath purchased. Look within thee, man, as well without thee, and above thee, for the fruits of Christ's purchase, and occasions of thankfulness to God.
3. The operations and fruits of the Spirit are surely worth thanking God for; but this is one of the most glorious fruits of the Spirit, to fit souls for heaven. Our Lord promiseth to send the Holy Ghost to supply the want of his bodily presence, and it is the richest gift that ever proceeded from Father and Son ; such