« PreviousContinue »
he came into this world, that he has since gone to heaven, and that he will return to this world once more at the last day, yet some may still ask, how does it appear that he will, after the day of judgment, go back to heaven and there reside for ever? I answer, this clearly appears from what Christ and the apostles have said upon the subject. Christ assured his disciples, that "in my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." We know that his Father's house is in heaven. There he says he will prepare a place for his followers, and there they shall be with him. Heaven, therefore, is the only place where Christ and his friends will for ever reside. He intimated the same thing in his representation of the process at the last day, as well as in the parable of the tares. In that parable the wicked are represented as destroyed, but the righteous as shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. And in respect to the last day it is said: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." This is the kingdom of the Father, where Christ says there are many mansions prepared and preparing for the everlasting abode of his friends. We have as much reason to believe that Christ is now in heaven, and always will be there, as that he ever came down from heaven and returned thither. Let us consider,
II. When Christ desires to have the heirs of salvation with him where he is. Here it must be premised, that he does not desire the heirs of salvation to be with him before they exist. There is ground to believe, that much the largest number of those who shall be heirs of salvation have not yet come into existence. These cannot be where Christ is, in his Father's kingdom. Nor does Christ desire that any of the heirs of salvation should be with him, who are yet in their native state of total depravity. Nor does he desire that any of his chosen ones, who are now on the stage of life, fulfilling his commands, and promoting his glory, should be with him, until they have finished their course, and done all which he has for them to do before they leave the world. But he does desire that every subject of grace and heir of glory should be with him as soon 62
as he closes his eyes in death. This he has given all his followers sufficient reason to believe, for their consolation and support in their dying hour. He has brought life and immortality to light. He declared that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were in the full enjoyment of God. He taught his disciples not to fear them that kill the body, because their souls would survive their body in a state of activity and felicity. He taught that all who believed in him should never die, or cease to exist and be happy beyond the grave. He assured the dying, penitent, believing malefactor, "This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." He made all his sincere followers believe that they should, at death, immediately pass into glory. Accordingly Stephen in his last moments professed this belief, and told his persecutors, while steadfastly looking into heaven, "I see the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." It is added, "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit." His prayer was undoubtedly heard, and his precious and immortal spirit was immediately admitted into one of those mansions in heaven, which Christ had gone before to prepare for him. Paul repeatedly expressed his belief and hope, that death would translate real christians from earth to heaven. Once he said in respect to himself, that he was in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to live, and a desire to depart and be with Christ, which was far better. Once he says, in the name of christians in general, "We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." He exhorts christians "to be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises, and compose the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven." Christ has been, and still is receiving the heirs of salvation into his kingdom of glory, as soon as they have left these clayey tabernacles, and have been made meet to be partakers of their heavenly inheritThis leads me to consider,
III. Why Christ desires that all those should be with him, whom he has redeemed from among men, and made heirs of salvation. Here I would observe,
1. Christ desires this for his own sake. His redeemed ones will promote both his glory and felicity. They will be the most excellent and amiable characters among all the intelligent creation. Being washed and purified from all moral pollution, they will shine in all the beauties of holiness. To the principalities above they will appear astonishing monuments of the redeeming love of Christ. They had seen them in this world, in all their wretchedness, deformity and guilt, hateful and hating one another, destitute of every amiable quality, and full
of every vile affection, which rendered them deserving of the severest marks of the divine displeasure. But now their hearts are changed, and their condition reversed. They are no longer enemies, but friends of God. They are no longer children of wrath, but heirs of glory. And all this is owing to the grace and condescension of Christ, who suffered and died, that they might live. What a glorious appearance will millions and millions of our fallen race exhibit in heaven, when they shall all come out of great tribulation, and wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb! What glory and honor will they reflect upon Christ, who loved them, and died for them, and made them kings and priests to God! But they will glorify Christ actively as well as passively. They will feel and express their gratitude and praise to Christ for all he has done and suffered for them, in a new song, which none of the rest of the heavenly world can ever learn. "And I looked," says John in vision, "and lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps. And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts and the elders: and no man could learn that song, but the hundred forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth." And they said with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessings; for thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Thus Christ will be for ever glorified in and by his saints, and admired by all that believe. For his own glory, therefore, he desires that all whom his Father has given him should be with him where he is, and be employed in celebrating the riches of his grace to all eternity. For by thus promoting his glory, they will equally promote his perfect felicity. He will for ever delight in the sincere homage and praise of his redeemed ones, whom he will for ever love infinitely more than they can love him. It is said, "When Jesus knew that his hour was come, that he should depart out of the world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." Those whom he has redeemed, sanctified and glorified, will have a deeper interest in his affections than any other of his intelligent creatures. They were the joy set before him from eternity; they always lay nearest to his heart; and, while he sees them prostrating themselves before his throne, and with one voice paying him the everlasting debt of grati
tude which they owe him, it must afford him the purest pleas ure, satisfaction and enjoyment. So that it is easy to see one reason why he desires to have all the heirs of salvation with him where he is, to augment his own everlasting blessedness. But,
2. He desires that they should be with him for their sake, as well as for his own. He always placed his good in their good, and suffered and died for their good. He must, therefore, desire to raise their happiness as high as their natures will admit. He knows what will raise their felicity to the highest degree, and he designs to use all means necessary to effect this purpose. He knows that they cannot be so happy any where else, as in his kingdom and presence; of course, his love to them inspires him with an ardent desire to bring them to be with him where he is. Accordingly he told his beloved disciples, just as he was parting with them, that he would not long leave them comfortless, but come again and receive them to himself, and bring them into the everlasting mansions which he was going to prepare for them. This assurance in their mournful situation was directly suited to soothe their minds, and alleviate their sorrow, and afford consolation to all the heirs of salvation, both in life and death.
For to be where he is, is to be in the happiest place in the universe. The inspired writers have employed the grandest images in nature to display the glory of heaven. It is the most beautiful and magnificent place that infinite power, wisdom and goodness could form. There is every thing there to gratify holy, rational and immortal creatures. It is free from all natural and moral evil. Every thing is banished from it, that could offend the eye, or ear, or heart of a holy and intelligent creature; while, on the other hand, there is every thing there that can please every power and faculty of every pure and enlightened mind. So that merely being where Christ is must be a permanent source of real felicity.
But there is something far better implied in the promise of Christ to the heirs of salvation, that they shall be where he is; it implies that they shall be with him in the nearest and happiest union and communion. He is represented as the head, and they the members. He is represented as the vine, and they the branches. He is represented as dwelling in their hearts, and they as dwelling in his, or that they shall be one in affection and enjoyment. These figures denote the nearest union and communion possible between Christ, and those whom he has redeemed by his blood, when they arrive in heaven. They will see his face, hear his voice, and undoubtedly hold a free and intimate intercourse with him. For he has told them that
what they know not now, they shall know hereafter. This seems to intimate that he will be their future and eternal teacher. And if the hearts of his disciples burned within them, while he taught them on earth, how much higher will their joy and admiration rise, when they shall be far better prepared and disposed to hear and understand his instructions in the heavenly world. With what vast attention and avidity will they hear him converse with Adam and Enoch, Moses and Elias, the prophets and the apostles, about the works of creation, providence, and redemption. Will they not be ready to say with Peter, James and John, on the mount of transfiguration, "It is good for us to be here?" The presence and intercourse of Christ with his redeemed will perpetually fill their hearts with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Farthermore, their being all collected together from every age and nation of the world, and perfectly united in loving, praising and serving their gracious and glorious Redeemer, Sanctifier and Creator, will give a peculiar sweetness and zest to all their other enjoyments. Their holiness and happiness will be social and mutual. They will astonish one another with their felicity, which will exceed all that their eyes had seen, or their ears heard, or their hearts conceived. Their numbers will be immense and innumerable. Their characters will be as various as they are beautiful and numerous. And when they come to learn, as they will learn, why they were chosen, and sanctified, and glorified, rather than thousands whom they see are separated from God, and from all good, their gratitude and admiration of the sovereign grace of the ever blessed Trinity will swell beyond all present description or conception. All this Christ knows, and therefore desires that all the heirs of salvation should be with him in his Father's house.
1. It appears from what has been said in this discourse, that the place of future happiness beyond the grave is more clearly revealed under the gospel, than it was under the law. There is no other subject, perhaps, upon which mankind have entertained such various, inconsistent and absurd notions, as that of the soul, and what becomes of it after death. Nor is it strange that the whole heathen world, who are destitute of divine revelation, should be involved in great darkness and ignorance upon this subject. While they judge of the nature and effects of death by its mere visible appearance, it is natural for them to conclude that it puts a final period to the activity, sensibil