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been feasted together at the Lord's table! What sweet fellowship have we had with the saints in the lower world! Many a heart-melting fast, many a soul-refreshing thanksgiving, many an edifying, heartwarming conference; I could then say, "it was good for me to draw nigh to God."* Those duties led us to this glory. God helped us to improve ordinances, and now we are got quite above ordinances.
6. The difficulties of their pilgrimage. While the saints stand on the shore of eternity, and look back on the stormy tempestuous sea they have passed, the pirates, rocks, and sands they have escaped, by the conduct of the great Pilot, it fills them with admiration and astonishment. How many raging devils, and furious onsets of men, what temptations and persecutions they have passed through? What hard duties they have performed, what corruptions they have mortified, what burdens they have borne? all these exalt their joy to a high pitch.
7. Ministers and their hearers will communicate their former experiences. O, will the convert say, it was a blessed day that ever I saw such a minister's face, or heard his voice; I remember the text, the doctrine, the particular, that first touched my heart; "I sat under the shadow with great delight, the fruit was sweet to my soul,"† God healed me by the same hand that wounded me; possibly the minister never knew till now all the souls he hath been an instrument to convert. Now they have a reciprocal joy, when "sower and reaper rejoice together," John iv. 36.
8. Pious relations will mutually reflect on days that are past, though now not as husband and wife, yet as formerly in that relation. They " were heirs together of the grace of life," prayed, wept, suffered, and + 1 Pet. iii. 7.
Psal. lxxiii. 28.
+ Cant. ii. 3.
sweetly conversed together, the father wept over the miscarrying child and prevailed with God, his miscarriages cost him dear, but his conversion was as life from the dead, that was a costly child. How the child makes his reflections, recounts the pious father's and mother's prayers and tears, counsels and admonitions.
9. The distinction grace has made betwixt them and others. Such a one was as well born, bred, educated as we, was sometimes under convictions, and sat under the same means of grace, was of fine parts, made a profession, and was once as likely for heaven as I, but fell into gross sin, or kept on in a course of formality, and he is now consigned to eternal torments, why am not I in his case? "Who made us to differ?"* It was nothing but free grace that gave me a repenting heart: I was as likely to perish as he, and as unable to help myself as he.
10. Christians will discourse on the various providences of God in this world. I was sick, and the Lord raised me up; had I died then, I had been undone, for I was in a graceless state. God" in faithfulness afflicted me," I had perished, if I had not perished; I was wandering, and God brought me home by the painful cross; I had not been thus happy, if I had not been miserable; all things did work for my good. The Lord supplied my wants, supported me in troubles, vouchsafed many mercies in my pilgrimage, whereby he rendered my condition comfortable: many a particular dispensation of providence will be then laid open to others.
11. The seasons of special enlargement. They will then declare what God hath done for their souls. Many things that passed betwixt God and their souls, that were not fit to be divulged in this world, will then 1 Cor. iv. 7. + Psal. cxix. 75.
be laid open to the glory of God, and their own and others' joy and abundant content, as those two disciples said, Luke xxiv. 32, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way?" O, what sweet intercourse with God had my soul in such a chamber, closet; there did he give me his heart, and I gave him mine:* it was a little corner of heaven. Such an ordinance or opportunity, was as one of the days of heaven; I could have been content there.
12. Lastly, They will discourse on the felicity to which they are now advanced, and the perpetuity of it. This state is beyond "what eye hath seen, ear heard, or could enter into the heart of man ;"† little, ah little did I then know of what I now enjoy; one hour in this blissful state, compensates for all my days of service or suffering. O that I had done more for God! I am, saith Luther, ashamed that God should so abundantly reward so little work: but God acts like himself, I did but little for God, but God doth much for me. Who would not serve such a master? My sufferings were but light and momentary, but this is a far more "exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”‡ O what a bountiful master have we served. Nor is this for a short season, to have an end, but it is lasting, everlasting; it would damp our joy, if we were in danger of losing this felicity; but let us take courage, we shall never be expelled out of this our paradise as Adam was out of his. This happiness shall run parallel with the life of God, and line of eternity.
You will say, how do you know that this shall be their discourse, have you been there to hear it, or who told you?
I answer, no; but we may rationally infer so much, partly from some general hints in scripture, and partly + 2 Cor. iv. 17.
*Cant. vii. 12.
+1 Cor. ii. 9.
from their profitable and comfortable discourse on earth, which will then be heightened; and, indeed, because they shall speak and do such things as most tend to the glory of God, and their own greater joy and felicity.
IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES THE SAINTS SHALL BE GATHERED TOGETHER UNTO CHRIST, AND REASONS WHY THEY MUST BE GATHERED TOGETHER.
IV. OUR attention may now be directed to the circumstances in which the saints are gathered together unto Christ, and the reasons of their assembling.
I must confess, interpreters greatly differ about the meaning of these words, « ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπ ̓ αυτόν, which some interpret of meetings of Christians together in assemblies, Heb. x. 25. And so render iπ' avròv, propter ipsum, as James ii. 7, "that worthy name,” rò ¿шkλn0èv ¿p' úμãs, “which is called upon you.' So they will have this to refer to the free liberty of Christians, in uninterrupted meetings in countries and cities, after the scattering of the Jewish nation who censured Christians as a wicked sect; but in the days of Vespasian and Titus, and especially in Constantine's time, they enjoyed liberty of meeting together for celebrating God's public worship. So indeed, ovveρxed, and avváyav, convenire, congregare, in a public edict signify: but most take it for that general or rather universal meeting at Christ's second coming in the air at the last day, 1 Thess. iv. 14, 17, when all the people
of God shall be gathered to Christ. Now this gathering of saints to Christ doth comprehend these four things:The state and qualification of the object-The reason or relation betwixt them-The frame and disposition of the subject—The sight, vision, or fruition of Christ. I shall very briefly consider these.
1. The state and qualification of the object, that is, Christ, under a double notion: namely, as God and man; and, as advanced to the right hand of God.
(1.) They shall be gathered to him as God and man, which is a state of the highest perfection. Completely perfect man, as glorious a creature as Adam in innocence, and yet much more endeared to his saints, by their reflecting on what he hath done and suffered for them and the fruits thereof; this is he of whom it is said, when he "bringeth in his first begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him," Heb. i. 6. How admirable is his person, constituted of two natures, divine and human! never did created or uncreated existence present such a person, in whom all perfections meet, in whom all excellences are united.
(2.) As exalted to the right hand of God. They are not now to be gathered to Christ, as he was in his state of humiliation, when multitudes flocked to his preaching, when he was but in the form of a servant, or going to suffer on the cross, no, nor yet in his state of transfiguration, which was glorious, yet temporary: but now he "is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high," Heb. i. 3. God hath now given him "a name above every name, far above all principalities and powers, and hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be the head over all things to the church,"* Eph. i. 20-22. It is this state of * Phil. ii. 9, 10.