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MEETNESS FOR HEAVEN, BY BEING MORTIFIED TO SIN, TIME, AND EARTHLY OBJECTS, AND BEING ELEVATED WITH HEAVENLY CONTEMPLATIONS.
4. THE last thing wherein meetness for heaven doth consist, is a being dead or mortified to all things below, and alive and lively with respect to God and things above. It is true, converting grace deadens the heart to all sublunary objects, and lifts it up to divine things. Yea, sometimes the first convictions take off the sinner's spirit more than is meet, and quite damps the affections in reference to lawful comforts, and makes him think he must do nothing in worldly business, but give himself to reading, praying, and hearing; but God's grace in a little time discovers this to be a temptation. Yet as grace gets the upper hand, and the Christian mellows and ripens for glory, so he is mortified and gradually transformed and advanced.
(1.) By further victory over his corruptions; for as the Christian perfects holiness in the fear of God, so he doth by degrees cleanse himself "from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit," 2 Cor. vii. 1. Sin and grace being like two buckets at one chain, as the one comes up the other goes down; or as the ebbing and flowing of the sea, where it gaineth in one place it loseth in another; the more holiness, the less sin. Now the Christian grows stronger and stronger; "The inward man is renewed day by day," 2 Cor. iv. 16. So the body of sin is weakened, till at last his fleshly lusts are laid at his feet, and spiritual sins pay tribute to the grace of God in his soul. Pride, hardnesss, un
belief and security, keep the Christian humble and watchful, jealous of himself, and maintaining spiritual conflicts against them, so occasionally he is a gainer by his losses, and rises by his falls; however the Christian grows more sensible of the burden of sin; as Paul, he cries out, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. vii. 24. Oh, saith the Christian, what shall I do with this untoward heart? I am weary of these daughters of Heth; fain would I get rid of this indwelling corruption. Sin I hope hath not dominion over me; but O when shall the time come that it shall have no indwelling within me? But this is my grief and I must bear it, I am discontentedly contented with my burden, discontent with sin, content with God's pleasure. There is nothing makes me weary of the world but sin; could I live without sin, I should live without sorrow; the less sin, the more of heaven. Lord, set me at liberty.
(2.) By loosening the affections from all worldly enjoyments. O how sapless and insipid doth the world grow to the soul that is a making meet for heaven! "I am crucified to the world, and this world to me," Gal. vi. 14. In vain doth this harlot think to allure me by her attractions of profit and pleasure. "Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is even as a weaned child," Psal. cxxxi. 2. There is no more relish in these gaudy things to my palate, than in the white of an egg; every thing grows a burden to me, were it not my duty to follow my calling, and be thankful for my enjoyments. Methinks I have my wife, husband, and dearest relations, as if I had none; I weep for outward losses, as if I wept not; rejoice in comforts below as if I rejoiced not, 1 Cor. vii. 29-30; my
thoughts are taken up with other objects. The men of the world slight me, many seem to be weary of me, and I am as weary of them. It is none of these earthly things that my heart is set upon ;* my soul is set on things above, my treasure is in heaven, and I would have my heart there also; I have sent before me all my goods into another country, and am shortly for removing; and when I look about me, I see a bare, empty house, and am ready to say with Monica, what do I here? my father, husband, mother, (Jerusalem above,) my brethren, sisters, best friends are above. Methinks, I grudge the world any portion of my heart, and think not these temporal visible things worth a cast of my eye compared with things invisible and eternal, 2 Cor. iy. 18. I do not only say I do not only say with afflicted Job, chap. vii. 16, "I loath it, I would not live alway;" but even with Solomon on the summit of all earthly felicity, Eccl. ii. 17, 18, "Therefore I hated life, yea I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun," that is, in comparison, or in competition with heavenly enjoyments.
(3.) By spiritualizing worldly things, and using them as steps by which the soul mounts heavenwards. The believer considers that these things were made not for themselves, but for higher ends. All things are as talents to trade with for another world, Matt. xxv. 16; for an account must be given of them; not only ordinances and gospel privileges, but providences both sweet and severe, yea, creature-comforts, and all visible objects. Thus our Lord who had grace in perfection, made notable, spiritual improvement of material water, bread, vines, for holy purposes; and the more heavenly the Christian is, the liker he is to his head, and so meeter for heaven. Whatever this golden hand of * Non est mortale quod opto. + Quid hic facio?
faith toucheth is turned into gold. The Christian fetcheth honey thus out of the hard rock; out of the eater comes meat. O, saith the believing soul, if meat be so sweet to a hungry stomach, how much more excellent is God's loving-kindness? If drink be so refreshing to the thirsty soul, O how sweet are the rivers of pleasures? surely his love is better than wine. If it be so pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun, how lovely is the Sun of righteousness? How sweet is home to the weary traveller; and the haven to the weatherbeaten mariner? but infinitely more sweet and contentful is heaven to the tempted, burdened, tried saint. Methinks all I see, and do, and have, reminds me of my home; and saith, "Arise, depart, this is not thy rest." When I am abroad in a storm, I haste to a shelter. O think I then, that I were with my dear Lord, who is as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land! When I consider my dim eyes, my decrepit feet, my palsied hands, my panting lungs; O think I, when shall this silver cord be loosened, and the bowl broken at the cistern? that my soul may return to God. This is a pitiful, ruinous cottage, when shall I be brought into the king's palace? In this my earthly tabernacle methinks I find now a pin loosened, and á stake taken down, then I say and sigh with the blessed apostle, 2 Cor. v. 4, "We which are in this tabernacle do groan being burdened, not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." Here is the soul taking wing to fly into another world.
(4.) The Christian is made meet for heaven by intimate familiarity with the God of heaven. This indeed is the height of a Christian's perfection on earth. The fitter for, and the freer the intercourse with God, the fitter is that soul for glory. What is heaven but
the enjoyment of God? the nearer God the nearer heaven; for where the king is there is the court. Truly, saith the apostle, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ," 1 John i. 3. Communion with God, and assimilation to God are the life and perfection of our religion; and the former leads on to the latter, 2 Cor. iii. 18, "But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." As grace increaseth, glory increaseth; and the vision of God, though but through a glass, mightily increaseth grace, and fitteth for glory. Now it is said of some great persons, that they have spoken more with God than with man. O, saith the Christian, I could not tell how to spend my time if my soul had not frequently free access to, and intercourse with my best friend above: O that it were oftener and longer; it were a fine resemblance of heaven to have fixed communion with him; but however, I write that day as black and lost wherein God and my soul are not together. I cannot be content in a public ordinance when I miss my beloved; I follow him into my closet, and there usually I find him whom my soul loveth. O then think I, that God would now stop my breath, and translate my soul into his immediate presence! as it is said of Moses that he died in the embraces of God, Deut. xxxiv. 5; (so some read it, or overpowered with divine embraces) would to God it were thus with me! Methinks, I am loth to part with these first-fruits without a full harvest; now let me go over Jordan, and see that goodly mountain and Lebanon. O let me not return down into this tempting world, to be banished again from thee! O come thou down to me, or take me up to thee. It is a pity * Sed rara hora, brevis mora.