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be converted, except we be born of water and the Spirit,” we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Undeceive yourselves then, ye who, while ye never
, seek communion with the Lord upon earth, expect to be happy at death. Either God must lay aside his nature, and change the happiness of heaven, or the temper of your spirits must be changed to render you blessed. Except then you abandon your hopes of heaven, seek his regenerating grace.
3. What gratitude do we not owe to that God who has provided such a felicity for his children! We are sinners; we deserve hell; and not only do the accents of pardon sound in our ears, but a state of inconceivable glory is offered to us. Shame to the cold and insensible heart that can be unaffected by this consideration; that can be unmoved by this rich provision of our Father for worms, for rebels! Cry then with the Psalmist, “ Who are we, O Lord God, and what is our house, that thou hast brought us hitherto! But this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God! for thou hast also spoken of the prosperity of thy servants for a great while to come,” even throughout the ages of eternity. 6 Blessed then be thy holy name for ever and ever.” « Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” “ Blessed also be our risen Saviour, who loved us, and gave himself for us."
4. What a source of consolation under the afflictions of life! These afflictions must be endured by all the children of men; and while we pass through this world, its griefs and disappointinents must be
felt. But how light do they all appear when we live in the faith of eternal joys ? Then sickness and poverty, pain and reproach, are borne without a murmur or a sigh : since we know they will so speedily terminate, and lead us to a world whence calamity will for ever be excluded. Then we can part with our pious friends, knowing that they have gone before us to behold God, and that we shall soon be engaged in the same rapturous employment with them. Then, instead of recoiling with horror from
. the tomb, we can view death as the gate of heaven, as the path which conducts to immortality. Instead of having the soul reluctantly torn from the body, it will
go forth with its own consent, allured by these high delights. It will go, as the redeemed of the Lord, with everlasting joy upon its head; knowing whither it goes, to a state worthy its desires and choice, and where it is best for it to be. It will joyfully surrender and resign itself, rather putting off this earthly tabernacle, than having it rent or torn away.
15. Finally, this subject calls us to mourn for the folly of the children of men. For what toys and vanities do they barter away glory, honour, 'and immortality! What is the whole world, what are ten thousand such worlds, in comparison with perfect and full felicity throughout eternity! Oh! then, thoughtless mortals, at last awake. Act not so inconsistently with the character of rational, immortal beings. Every thing that can excite hope or fear, calls you prepare for eternity. If you
lose these joys, if you are found unqualified for this felicity, you shall also see God; but God terrible in his indignation to the finally impenitent. God, who might have been yours in covenant, but who then will reject you,
and bid you depart from his blissful presence. In the horrors of eternal darkness thou shalt meditate on what thou mightest have been, and wilt weep that thy heart cannot break and thy being for ever end, when thou rememberest what thou art.
DEGREES OF GLORY IN HEAVEN,
1 Cor. xv, 41, 42.
One star differeth from another star in glory. So also, is
the resurrection of the dead.
How pleasant and animating is it to the Christian, to turn his thoughts occasionally from the sins and follies, the misery and anguish, which are found in this world, and fix them upon that blessed state reserved for the pious, into which guilt or wo shall never enter! How cheering, to meditate on the high occupations and sublime joys of those who, “ having washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” now shout hallelujahs to his praise!
And are all these redeemed sinners perfectly equal in splendour and felicity ? Are there no different degrees of glory in heaven? This is the single question which we propose to examine in the ensuing discourse, and to which we are naturally led by
the words of the text. 66 One star differeth from another star in glory; so also is the resurrection of the dead."
That there will be different degrees of glory among the redeemed, is a truth which is established alike by scripture and reason, and which, far from being a merely speculative point, must, when firmly believed, have a strong influence on our practice. Let us,
I. Explain and prove it.
II. Answer the objections which have been made against it, and,
III. Apply it for the regulation of our affections, and the conduet of our lives.
I. When we maintain that our future glory will disfer in degree, according to our holiness in this world, we are far from embracing the proud opinion of the papists, that this felicity, and these degrees of glory, are at all merited by our works. Even an innocent creature, much less a sinner, can merit nothing from the holy God. Our salvation must be entirely of grace. But we say, that as the Lord has displayed his abounding mercy and his love to holiness, by rewarding a short and imperfect obedience by an eternal and inconceivable glory, so it is accordant with these perfections, to confer higher degrees of this glory on those whose obedience has been more constant, and whose piety more ardent. We that while every temporal as well as celestial blessing flows from sovereign grace, through the blood of the cross, God has been pleased in his wisdom, to establish a certain chain and order in the distribution and the degree of his gifts; so that those who are most zealously engaged in his cause, and who do most for the Redeemer, shall wear a brighter crown, and be elevated to a higher glory than those who,
though sincere, are more cold in their love, less engaged in his service.
While we maintain that there will be different degrees of glory, we allow that all will nevertheless be perfectly happy, and receive that degree of felicity which is commensurate with their faculties, and
power of enjoyment; so that there shall be no grief, no envyings, no uneasy and distressing desires, in any who shall surround the throne of God, and of the Lamb.
While we maintain that there will be different de grees of glory, we also maintain that in many things their felicity will be common.
It will be common in its object, the blessed God and adorable Redeemer; in its subject, all the powers of the glorified body and soul; in its duration, which will be eternal; in its security, since all the blest are sustained by the divine promise and faithfulness; in the full satisfaction of soul which all will
possess. After this explanation of the doctrine, let us confirm it. It is proved,
1. By all those passages of scripture which lay down, in general terms, the great rule of God's proceedings with the children of men. Thus says
the apostle Paul, (2 Cor. v. 10.) “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (Rom. ii. 6.) God“ will render to every one according to his works.” In 2 Cor. ix. 6. in speaking of benevolence to poor Christians, he lays down a general maxim: “ He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth liberally, shall
reap also liberally.” That he here refers to the rewards of the future world, is evident from the man