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"from above, that is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated:"* you must agree in the end, now affectionately agree; for reproof to the world, for the credit of religion, for your own comfort live peaceably; cut not asunder the veins and sinews of the mystical body of Christ; study 1 Cor. i. 10, Phil. ii. 1, 2.
(4.) Travail over sinners for their conversion. Do your utmost, endeavour to bring in souls to God, that there may be more at that great day to be gathered together to Christ. This is your present duty, this will be your future joy; this is ministers' proper work, and every Christian's concern. I have heard of a private Christian that used to follow persons to their shops, ploughs, and discourse with them about soul-affairs, and thereby was an instrument to convert forty souls to Christ. O what an honour would this be! doubtless, private Christians if wise, serious, and zealous, might do much good this way, and yet keep their places, Jude, 22, 23, "Of some have compassion, making a difference, others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." Alas, sirs, how can you find in your hearts to see relations or any miserable sinners dropping into the fire of hell, and not speak one word to stop them? O dreadful cruelty! are you not some way accessary to that man's death who is going to cut his own throat, when you neglect to lay hands on him? Consider this, and be not merciless to souls; advise, admonish, rebuke, entreat them for Christ's sake, for their own sakes to pity themselves, and not leap into the pit of destruction; who knows what good you may do? if you be but instrumental in converting one poor sinner "from the error of his way, you save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins," James v. 20, * James iii. 17.
And O what joy on both sides will there be at your next meeting before the throne!
(5.) Moderately lament and profitably improve the death of christian friends. They are gathered to Christ and the rest of their brethren; they are safely removed out of danger, they would be loth to be back again in this sinful, sorrowful world. You may lawfully mourn your loss, but envy not your friends' gain; Sorrow not even as others who have no hope," 1 Thess. iv. 13; as if they were lost, or as if you should never meet again, for the dead in Christ and survivors shall be ever with the Lord, ver. 15, 17; it is but a short absence, there shall be a joyful meeting; a little recess shall be followed with everlasting converse. David would not mourn for his dead child, for, saith he, "I shall go to him but he shall not return to me;" but he lamented sore for Absalom, whom he was afraid he was never to see again with comfort. Those that die in the Lord are not lost but reserved; their bodies sleep in Jesus, and their souls rest in the bosom of their dear Lord; they are with him in paradise, and say, "weep not for us but weep for yourselves;"† imitate our example, worship the same God that we do, live as citizens of heaven, let your affections be with ours, hold communion with us; this I have treated of, in my book on "Heavenly Converse."
(6.) Make ready to follow those crowned saints. They are gone above, we are below; they pray for the filling up of their number, let us pray that we may be "made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light," Col.i.12. The language of Jesus Christ and all the saints is, "be ye therefore ready also ;"+ be dressing yourselves for that marriage day; "Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and have put on their fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteous* 2 Sam. xii. 23. xviii. 33. + Luke xxiii. 28. Luke xii. 40.
ness of saints, Rev. xix, 7-9; Sukauμara, righteousnesses both inherent and imputed. Both are necessary for their several ends and uses: whether this refer to the day of Antichrist's fall, or to the resurrection, it is true in both. There are great and good things "which God hath prepared for them that love him,”* freedom from sin and sorrows, perfection of peace and joy, immediate communion with God, fulness of grace and eternal happiness. Wherefore, "beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless,” 2 Pet. iii. 14; watching, warring, wrestling, working, well doing, waiting till your change come, with your loins girt, your lamps lighted, burning and shining with splendour, and you "yourselves like unto men that wait for your Lord."+
(7.) Be longing for that blessed day, when your souls shall be gathered among them, with our blessed Lord. Paul saith, "he desired to depart and be with Christ, which is far better." It is good to be with saints here, but it is far better, infinitely better to be with them in heaven, where the king makes the court, and the courtiers are all crowned kings. Is there not great reason the saints should cry out with Monica, Austin's mother, What do I here? or with Calvin, How long, Lord?|| O when shall my poor imprisoned soul be set at liberty from this body of death? When shall I mount up above the stars, into those celestial regions? O the groanings of my soul under this body of death and distance from God; yea, "I groan earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with a house which is from heaven."§ When will my dear Lord break down these clay-walls, demolish this cage, and let this soul fly up into the heavens, where it shall be + Phil. i. 23. § 2 Cor. v. 1-3.
* 1 Cor. ii. 9.
+ Luke xii. 35, 36. Usque quo, Domine?
perfected? How "long shall I dwell in Meshech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar."* I am weary of sin, and distance from my dear Lord, most of my godly friends are gone, when shall I follow after? "Why is his chariot so long in coming, why tarry the wheels of his chariot? make haste my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices." Why doth my soul thus linger and lag behind my old companions? Such, and such are gone with whom I took sweet counsel in familiar conference about the things of God, and our heavenly country; many with whom I have prayed, and praised God, with whom I have sat down at the Lord's table, now they are drinking wine new in my Father's kingdom, and why am I left thus far behind, worshipping afar off? Lord, come thou down to me, or take me up to thee, reach out thy hand, pluck me out of this low dungeon, and set me, where thou hast promised such as have followed thee in the regeneration, upon thrones, yea thou hast promised "that such as overcome shall sit with thee in thy throne." The preferment is too high for such a worthless worm, such a polluted sinner as I am, but thy promise is sure to be performed; I depend upon it, I long for such a day; some, yea thousands have taken possession; I am one of thy redeemed ones, thou hast given me the earnest of thy Spirit, and some foretastes and prelibations of glory. O for a full harvest! I reach out my arms towards thee, and hope at last to enjoy thy immediate presence; "The Spirit and the bride say, come; and let him that heareth say, come; he which testifieth these things saith, surely, I come quickly; my soul echoes, Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus.”||
*Psal. cxx. 5.
Matt. ix. 25. Rev. iii. 21.
+ Judg. v. 28. Cant. viii. 14.
|| Rev. xxii. 17, 20.
ENCOURAGEMENT TO GOD'S CHILDREN IN VARIOUS CASES, DERIVED FROM THIS SUBJECT.
THE last use is intended to convey consolation, or encouragement to the people of God, because there shall be such a blessed gathering together.
1. Because the saints of God, that have lived in all ages, shall then meet and know and enjoy each other with mutual content. It is worth observing, that Plato brings in Socrates comforting himself with the hopes that upon his removal hence, he should be with Orpheus and Musæus, with Hesiod and Homer; that he should even be greatly pleased with the society of Palamedes and Ajax: but O how much more satisfaction shall translated saints find in the society of those celestial inhabitants, of whom they have so often read, and heard with delight; when they shall say, there stands holy Enoch, that walked with God, and was translated body and soul to heaven; there stands Noah, that just and perfect man, the father and founder of a new world; there stands Abraham, the father of the faithful, and friend of God; there stands just Lot; wrestling Jacob; the beloved Joseph, more glorious now than in Pharaoh's court; there stands meek Moses, the Jews' lawgiver, once king in Jeshurun, that conversed with God face to face; there stands Aaron, the saint of God, far more glorious now than in his priestly garments in the holy of holies; there appears pious Samuel, patient Job, zealous Josiah, David, the man after God's own heart. Behold a troop comes up of old and new testament saints, all the prophets, apostles, ministers, martyrs, confessors, and saints in all ages;