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grace, love, kindness, and power of God in Christ, the revelation of the eternal counsels of his will, and the ways of their accomplishment unto the eternal salvation of the church in and by him; with the glorious exaltation of Christ himself? Wherefore, in the full satisfactory representation of these things unto our souls, received by sight or a direct immediate intuition of them, doth the glory of heaven principally consist. We behold them now darkly as in a glass; that is, the utmost which by faith we can attain unto; in heaven they shall be openly and fully displayed. The infinite incomprehensible excellencies of the divine nature are not proposed in Scripture as the immediate object of our faith, nor shall they be so unto sight in heaven. The manifestation of them in Christ is the immediate object of our faith here, and shall be of our sight hereafter. Only through this manifestation of them we are led even by faith ultimately to acquiesce in them; as we shall in heaven be led by love perfectly to adhere unto them with delight ineffable. This is our immediate objective glory in heaven; we hope for no other. And this, if God will, I shall shortly more fully explain.
Whoever lives in the exercise of faith, and hath any experience of the life, power, and sweetness of these heavenly things, unto whom they are a spring of grace and consolation, they are able to meditate on the glory of them in their full enjoyment. Think much of heaven, as that which will give you a perfect view and comprehension of the wisdom, and love, and grace of God in Christ, with those other things which shall be immediately declared.
Some perhaps will be ready to say, that if this be heaven, they can see no great glory in it, no such beauty as for which it should be desired. It
be for some have no instrument to take a view of invisible things but carnal imaginations. Some have no light, no principle, no disposition of mind or soul, whereunto these things are either acceptable or suitable. Some will go no further in the consideration of the divine excellencies of God, and the faculties and actings of our souls, than reason will guide them, which may
But we look for no other heaven, we desire none, but what we are led unto and prepared for by the light of the gospel; that which shall perfect all the beginnings of
be of use.
God's grace in us; not what shall be quite of another nature and destructive of them. We value not that heaven which is equally suited unto the desires and inclinations of the worst of men as well as of the best; for we know that they who like not grace here, neither do nor can like that which is glory hereafter. No man who is not acquainted experimentally in some measure, with the life, power, and evidence of faith here, hath any other heaven in his aim, but what is erected in his own imagination. The glory of heaven which the gospel prepares us for, which faith leads and conducts us unto, which the souls of believers long after, as that which will give full ręst, satisfaction, and complacency, is the full, open, perfect manifestation of the glory of the wisdom, goodness, and love of God in Christ, in his person and mediation, with the revelation of all his counsels concerning them, and the communication of their effects unto us. He that likes it not, unto whom it is not desirable, may betake himself. unto Mahomet's paradise, or the philosopher's speculations, in the gospel heaven he hath no interest. These are the things which we see now darkly as in a glass, by faith; in the view of them are our souls gradually changed into the likeness of God; and the comprehension of them is that which shall give us our utmost conformity and likeness unto him whereof our natures are capable. In a sense and experience of their reality and goodness given us by the Holy Ghost, do all our spiritual consolations and joys consist. The effects produced by them in our souls are the first fruits of glory. Our light, sense, experience, and enjoyment of these things, however weak and frequently interrupted, our apprehensions of them, however dark and obscure, are the only means whereby we are 'made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.'
To have the eternal glory of God in Christ, with all the fruits of his wisdom and love, whilst we are ourselves under the full participation of the effects of them, immediately, directly, revealed, proposed, made known unto us, in a divine and glorious light, our souls being furnished with a capacity to behold and perfectly comprehend them, this is the heaven which according unto God's promise we look for. But as was said, these things shall be elsewhere more fully treated of.
It is true, that there are sundry other things in particular that belong unto this state of glory, But what we have mentioned is the fountain and spring of them all. We can never have an immediate enjoyment of God in the immensity of his nature, nor can any created understanding conceive any such things. God's communications of himself unto us, and our enjoyment of him, shall be in and by the manifestation of his glory in Christ. He who can see no glory, who is sensible of no blessedness in these things, is a stranger unto that heaven which the Scripture reveals, and which faith leads unto.
It may be inquired, what is the subjective glory, or what change is to be wrought in ourselves that we may enjoy this glory? Now that consists principally as unto our souls in the perfection of all grace, which is initially wrought and subjectively resides in us in this world. The grace which we have here, shall not be done away as unto its essence and nature, though somewhat of it shall cease as unto the manner of its operation. What soul could think with joy of going to heaven, if thereby he must lose all his present light, faith, and love of God, though he be told that he should receive that in lieu of them, which is more excellent, whereof he, hath no experience, nor can understand of what nature it is. When the saints enter into rest, their good works do follow them; and how can they do so, if their grace do not accompany them, from whence they proceed? The perfection of our present graces, which are here weak and interrupted in their operations, is a principal eminency of the state of glory. Faith shall be heightened into vision, as was proved before, which doth not destroy its nature, but cause it to cease as unto its manner of operation towards things invisible. If a man have a weak small faith in this life, with little evidence, and no assurance, so that he doubts of all things, questions all things, and hath no comfort from what he doth believe; if afterward, through supplies of grace, he hath a mighty prevailing evidence of the things believed, is filled with comfort and assurance; this is not by a faith or grace of another kind than what he had before ; but by the same faith raised unto a higher degree of perfection. When our Saviour cured the blind man, and gave him his sight, Mark viii. at first he saw all things obscurely and imperfectly, he saw 'men as trees walking ;' ver. 24. but on another application of virtue unto him, he saw all things clearly, ver. 25. It was not a sight of another kind which he then received, than what he had at first; only its imperfection whereby he saw men like trees walking,' was taken away. Nor will our perfect vision of things above, be a grace absolutely of another kind from the light of faith which we here enjoy ; only what is imperfsct in it will be done away, and it will be made meet for the present enjoyment of things here at a distance and invisible. Love shall have its perfection also, and the least alteration in its manner of operation of any grace whatever. And there is nothing that should more excite us to labour after a growth in love to God in Christ, than this, that it shall to all eternity be the same in its nature and in all its operations, only both the one and the other shall be made absolutely perfect. The soul will by it be enabled to cleave unto God unchangeably, with eternal delight, satisfaction, and complacency. Hope shall be perfect in enjoyment, which is all the perfection it is capable of. So shall it be as unto other
graces. This subjective perfection of our nature, especially in all the faculties, powers, and affections of our souls, and all their operations, belongs unto our blassedness, nor can we be blessed without it. All the objective glory in heaven would not in our beholding and enjoyment of it (if it were possible) make us blessed and happy, if our own natures were not made perfect, freed from all disorder, irregular motions, and weak imperfect operations. What is it then that must give our nature this subjective perfection? It is that grace alone whose beginnings we are here made partakers of. For therein consists the renovation of the image of God in us. And the perfect communication of that image unto us, is the absolute perfection of our natures; the utmost which their capacity is suited unto. And this gives us the last thing to be inquired into, namely, by what means in ourselves we shall eternally abide in that state. And this is by the unalterable adherence of our whole souls unto God, in perfect love and delight. This is that whereby alone the soul reacheth unto the essence of God, and the infinite incomprehensible perfections of his nature. For the perfect nature hereof, divine revelation hath left it under a veil, and so must we do also. Nor do I designedly handle these things in this place
but only in the way of a direetion how to exercise our thoughts about them.
.. This is the notion of heaven which those who are spiritually minded ought to be conversant withal. And the true stating of it by faith, is a discriminating character of believers. This is no heaven unto any others. Those who have not an experience of the excellency of these things in their initial state in this world, and their incomparable transcendency unto all other things, cannot conceive how heavenly glory and blessedness should consist in them. Unskilful men may cast away rough unwrought diamonds as'useless stones; they know not what polishing will bring them unto. Nor do 'men unskilful in the mysteries of godliness, judge there can be any glory in rough unwrought grace; they know not what lustre and beauty the polishing of the heavenly hand will give unto it.
It is generally supposed that however men differ in and about religion here, yet they agree well enough about heaven; they would all go to the same heaven. : But it is a great mistake, they differ in nothing more; they would not all go to the same heaven. How few are they who value that heavenly state which we have treated of; or do understand how any blessedness can consist in the enjoyment of it? But this and no other heaven would we go unto. Other notions there may be, there are, of it, which being but fruits and effects of men's own imaginations, the more they dwell in the contemplation of them, the more carnal they may grow, at best the more superstitious. But spiritual thoughts of this heaven, consisting principally in freedom from all sin, in the perfection of all grace in the vision of the glory of God in Christ, and all the excellencies of the divine nature .as manifested in him, are an effectual means for the improvement of spiritual life, and the increase of all
graces For they cannot but effect an assimilation in the mind and heart unto the things contemplated on, where the principles and seeds of them are already inlaid and begun. This is our first direction.
2. Having fixed right notions and apprehensions of heavenly things in our minds, it is our duty to think and contemplate greatly on them, and our own concernment in them. Without this all our speculations concerning the