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The advantage gained by those who are received into heaven, in regard to the state of society, is an important circumstance connected with their condition. While David was here he had occasion to cry out, Wo is me that I sojourn in Mesech; that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! Whether David did actually ever sojourn among the wild and savage Arabs or not, he lived in a world lying in wickedness, and was much molested by wicked men. In the description which we have of the New Jerusalem, or heaven, in the Revelation of St. John, it is said, And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. John the Baptist inculcated the same sentiment, when speaking of Christ whose forerunner he himself was, he said among other things, Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. We are every where taught to expect a separation between the righteous and the wicked, which will be complete, and final, as the gold and dross which have been united in one mass, are separated by the powerful operation of the heat of the furnace. It is a glorious rest which the weary will enjoy in that world, where the wicked cease from troubling: How totally unutterable must be the blissful feelings of those to whom the following apostolic address is applicable in its most extensive and literal sense, Bnt ye are come unto Mount Zion; and unto the city of the living God; the heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly, and church of the first born which are written in heaven; and to God the Judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the New covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
In a world of such consummate holiness as heaven, we might conclude, had we no information upon the subject, that holiness must constitute the whole employment, for nothing else would comport with the propensities of those beings who make up the society. God, who is love, sheds abroad his love, as the sun does his beams. Angels, those
ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, are filled with love to God, and to the godly; and the spirits of just men made perfect, being altogether freed from the curse of the apostacy, and having no longer any occasion to eat their bread in the sweat of their face, have nothing to do but to serve God, directly, with faculties adapted in the best manner to the purpose. Accordingly, they rest not, day and night; but keeping in view the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with the mystery of their distinction, and of their union, they cry, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which, was, and is, and is to come; and their new, and glad, and gladdening song, is, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and hath made us kings, and priests, unto God, and the Father; to him be glory, and dominion, forever, and ever, Amen! Heavenly happiness is salvation finished; if that
be said to be finished, which is always increasing. Since however salvation is begun in the present world, we ought not to overlook those joys which they have in the present world, who are the subjects of it.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life. Faith is the substance of things hoped for; and the evidence of things not seen. The enjoyment which prophets and apostles had, and which ever attends the people of God, when they put their trust in him, no earthly consideration can balance.
Where there is submission of mind, the indulgences of providence are received with gratitude; and the frowns of providence serve to excite sober, and comfortable considerations; so that though there is a difference in conditions, no one is complained of, for each one brings its own good with it. But one thing is needful. Possessed of this, we might sit quietly in the stocks, and sing a song of praise at midnight; and destitute of this, we might find ourselves uneasy on a throne, and be as dissatisfied with a crown, and a scepter, as we should be with the rattles of a child. Alterations might be made in our outward circumstances, as often as fashion would make them in our clothes, without
any beneficial result; while an alteration in the views of the mind, and in the feelings of the heart, such as is by grace effected, when the rebel is turned into a
good subject, is a never failing foundation of contentment and rejoicing.
If we reject the counsel of God therefore we reject it against ourselves a'together, gaining nothing, even now, but losing every thing; for though we read of the pleasures of sin which are for a season, these are rather nominal than real, as all could testify for whom this question was intended, What profit had ye then, in those things whereof ye are now ashamed; for the end of those things is death.
This salvation is great because it is free, and offered to all who think it of consequence enough to receive it. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
If it is worthy of all acceptation, all might accept of it.
Good things of a common kind, might be proposed to the needy, and yet not in sufficient quantity to supply the necessities of all. No store house which can be exhausted, however ample, and well filled, not even Joseph's granaries which supported the people through a long and extensive famine, can represent the abundance of salvation. God by his prophet Isaiah proclaims, Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money; come ye; yea come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price! Again, as the same prophet records his words, he says, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else! The beloved disciple John, in the last chapter of his book of Revelations presents the same subject to us in the same encouraging
And the Spirit, and the bride say, come; and let him that heareth say, come; and let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, let him take the waters of life freely.
To show the greatness of this salvation, let it suffice for the present, to add this consideration, that the benefits of it will be realized by a multitude too great to be numbered. Notwithstanding the prevalence of sin through all the ages of time hitherto, and notwithstanding its dreadful and wide spread existence even now, God has never been without a seed to serve him, and in future, nations shall be born in a day and holiness to the Lord shall be inscribed upon the bells of the horses, throughout the whole earth. It is said
in the account which we have of God's promise to Abraham. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them; and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. The spiritual seed of Abraham will probably, far out number his natural posterity; and to his spiritual seed we may look for the accomplishment of this promise. The influence which the salvation of sinners, in this world, will have upon the inhabitants of other worlds, to unfold to them the manifold wisdom of God, is spoken of in the scriptures, and ought to be noticed by us.
We have now taken an imperfect view of this great salvation; and it comes next in order to consider what it is to neglect it.
All the knowledge which we can have respecting salvation we must derive from the sacred scriptures. These are a fund of information which God has graciously granted us, and a fund abundantly sufficient to answer every valuable purpose. If we neglect the scriptures, we certainly neglect the salvation which they contain. Other things are interesting, only in a subordinate degree; and yet we are naturally disposed to give to other things the largest share of attention. Those who have the Bible in their houses, in many instances have so little of it in their minds, that when they undertake to make quotations from it, they expose
ignorance, and quote what is no where to be found.
No less do they neglect this great salvation who spend much time in turning over the pages of the bible, having nothing better in view than to supply themselves with objections against it, by making one part contradict another, Instead of comparing spiritual things with spiritual, to get the meaning of the whole, by making out a real agreement where there is some apparent discordance, such persons take a course directly the reverse, for The, way of the wicked is as darkness, they know not at what they stumble, If we read the bible with a disposition hostile to its truth, it will be easy for us to conclude, that we discover very different things in relation to the same subject, and of course that the whole must be inconsistency and falsehood.
Two apostles, St. Paul, and St. James, have brought into view the case of Abraham; and with respect to his justification, have maintained, one, that it was by faith, and the other, that it was by works. Here is an opportunity favorable to a caviller, to find fault, though nothing can be clearer than, that the faith of Abraham, would have been a vain thing without his works; and his works equally vain without his faith. Another case which presents a seeming disagreement, but which is really and beautifully, harmonious in its parts, is furnished by the words of our Savior himself. Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him. For our ability to come to Christ, we are undoubtedly indebted to God, whose work it is to renew the heart; but we are still altogether without excuse since the only reason that we do not come is, that we will not. It is easy to be seen, that salvation is not the thing sought after by those, who instead of endeavoring to reconcile one passage of scripture with another, lay hold of every circumstance to establish a disagreement.
There are others who make the Bible their study, and are much conversant with the letter of it, prompted by the ambition of a proud heart, to possess, that they may display an uncommon stock of knowledge. Among the Jews in ancient times, this was generally, the manner in which the Bible was studied. Upon their broad phylacteries they made copious inscriptions, and were as industrious in committing scripture passages to memory, as the most forward children are now, in a Sabbath school. But what did they know of salvation, or what did they appear to care about it? Those who sat in Moses' seat, to expound the law, expounded away the meaning of it, and made the traditions of men of higher authority than the commandments of God. All their sacrifices were typical of a Savior; and their prophecies pointed directly to Christ, and in him had an exact fulfilment. But how blinded were the people at large, especially those who called themselves the wisest among them, and how far were they from recognising the Messiah when he appeared, because their expectations were directed to a mere temporal deliverer, and the