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Mr. Byles's SERMON, ON The Glorious Rest of HEAVEN.

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THE Glorious Rest OF HEAVEN.

A SERMON At the Thursday-Lecture in BOSTON, Jan. 3. 1744, 5.

By Mr. BYLES.

Publish'd at the Request of many of the Hearers.

Matth. xvii. 4.

They said — It is good for us to be here.—

BOSTON: Printed by B. GREEN and Comp. for D. GOOKIN, over against the Old South Meeting-House. 1745.

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THE Glorious Rest OF HEAVEN.

ISAIAH XI. x.

—His Rest shall be glorious.

THE Prophecy of Isaiah, is one of the most sublime and noble Pieces of the Old Testament, whether we consider the Force of Thought, the Magnificence of the Descriptions, or the Majesty and Importance of the Subjects with which they abound. Among the latter of these, viz. the Subjects, there are none that show with a diviner Brightness, or cast a more radiant Lustre thro' the Book, than those which concern the Advent of the Messiah, and the illustrious Transactions that should attend it. [Page 6] This is a Theme that the Prophet delights to dwell upon, and introduces throughout the whole of his lofty Predic­tions.

The Chapter before us is of this Kind, in which the inspired Man gives us the Character of the Messiah, and describes his powerful and happy Kingdom. This is done with an Eloquence and Beauty peculiar to himself. At the 10th Verse, our Saviour is described as lifted up as an Ensign, and the Gentiles seeking to him, while he thus purchases a Rest for them. And in that Day there shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall stand for an Ensign of the People; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his Rest shall be glorious. That is, the Messiah, who is the Root of Jesse, shall by his being lifted up on his Cross, obtain a blessed Rest for his chosen People; among whom shall be the Gentiles, who shall seek to him for it. The Dispensation he brings is a Rest compared with the Yoke of Jewish Ceremonies. It brings with it a Rest of Mind, an Heart fixed trusting in the Lord. There is also a glorious Rest for the Church upon Earth in the latter Day: The new Earth, wherein shall dwell Righteousness. And there is beyond and above all, the Rest that remains for the Peo­ple of God, in the heavenly World.

The Text that is under our Consideration, includes in it, all the Rests that the blessed Jesus bestows on true Be­lievers, whether in this World, or the World to come; for Time, or for Eternity; to the Soul, or to the Body. However, we will, if you please, confine it to the Rest after this Life, in the heavenly World. That Rest will be glorious without dispute; and the Words contain a very just Description of it. It is call'd a Rest, which is a ne­gative Description; and excludes all manner of Uneasiness or Disturbance. It is called a glorious Rest; which is a positive Description, and implies all possible and real Bles­sedness. [Page 7] And it is called His Rest, that is, Christ's Rest, inasmuch as he is the Owner of it: For the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath. The Doctrine that the Words present us with, is this,

DOCTRINE. The Rest of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he has laid up in the heavenly World for his People, will be a glorious Rest.

There are three Propositions contained in the Doctrine.

  • I. There is a Rest laid up for the People of God, in the heavenly World.
  • II. This Rest will be a glorious Rest.
  • III. That it is the Rest of our Lord Jesus Christ; he is the Owner of it.

I. There is a Rest laid up for the People of God, in the heavenly World.

In speaking to this Head, I shall show, what the Rest is not, what it is, and endeavour at a Scripture Proof of it, as I go along.

It may here be premised then, That by this Rest, We are not to understand an idle Cessation from all Employment. The holy Souls in the heavenly World, do not spend their E­ternity in a drowsy Indolence. They are not wasting those golden Ages in a supine Negligence and Idleness. No, in this Sense, they are never unactive, but we read of them, Rev. iv. 8. They rest not Day nor Night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. That is, they are never idle, but always diligent in glorifying and admiring the Perfections of God. Not one Hour of their happy Duration rolls unuseful [Page 8] away; not one Moment is lost to them in that endless Succession of Ages.

But as a positive Answer, we shall say, that the Inhabi­tants of the Paradise above, rest from all painful Labours. Tho' they do not cease from acting, yet their Industry is not labourious and difficult to them. It is true, they are constantly taken up with the Business of Heaven, but it is no longer arduous and uneasy. They perform the most exalted Services, with the closest Application, and without Intermission; and at the same Time enjoy the serenest Tranquility, and Composure of Mind. The Works of former Years, when they lived upon our Earth, are now no longer able to perplex and molest them. No longer will they strive to enter in at the strait Gate, when they are already possessed of the Happiness of the Kingdom. No more will they give Diligence to make their Calling and Election sure; when their Faith is turned into Vision, and their Hope concluded in Enjoyment. Never will they again weary and tire themselves in the Exercises of Religion, or the Duties of their secular Employments; but will inhabit a Quietness and Peace, without the least Molestation or Disturbance. Heb. iv. 10. He that is entred into his Rest, hath ceased from his own Works, as God did from his. Nay, they are gone to the Reward of their past Actions, and have their Labours crowned with an ample Retribution and Recompence. Rev. xiv. 13. I heard a Voice from Heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the Dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their Labours, and their Works do follow them.

Again, the blessed Spirits of the Just in Heaven, rest from all Sorrow and Affliction. In this World, all Men meet with Griefs and Woes, and every Child of Adam is born to Trouble as the Sparks fly upward.

[Page 9]And as all Men in general are subject to the unhappy Incidents of humane Life; so the pious Man in particu­lar is peculiarly obnoxious to many supernumerary Tryals, which a Stranger to true Piety intermeddles not with. Per­secutions and Abuses from a degenerate World, are no small Part of the Pains that encompass him. He has an Awe of that Eternity upon his Mind, which the secure Sinner never suffers to give him an uneasy Reflection. He is grieved at the Withdraw of God from him, and when his Saviour hides his Face he is troubled; while the unregenerate Wretch goes quietly on, and glides smoothly to the End of his Journey, unruffled with such Cares, and entirely ignorant of every Fear and Concern of such a Nature. In a Word, the good Man thro' much Tribula­tion enters into the Kingdom of God, besides the Sorrows common to all Men in this present evil World.

This is the Condition of the Children of God here, but in the heavenly World, they are removed at an infinite Distance from every uneasy Thought; and they leave all the Anguish of their temporal Life behind them, when they enter that Place of Rest. And not only do good Men when they die, go to a World where there is no more Affliction, but they receive a Reward for the former Anxieties that they have met with, and have born with a decent Resignation and Patience. That Beatitude is fully accomplished unto them, Psal. xciv. 12, 13. Blessed is the Man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy Law: That thou mayest give him Rest from the Days of Adversity. And agreeable to this is that magnificent Description of the Paradise of God, in Rev. vii. from the 9th Verse, where the Apostle John gives us an Account of a glorious Vision he had of it. And he tells us expresly, that the happy Inhabitants of it came out of great Tribulation, Verse 14. And he concludes the [Page 10] sublime Narration, Rev. vii. 16, 17. They shall Hunger no more, neither Thirst any more, neither shall the Sun light on them, nor any Heat.—And God shall wipe away all Tears from their Eyes. And in the same beautiful Manner, is the new Jerusalem represented, Rev. xxi. 4. And God shall wipe away all Tears from their Eyes; and there shall be no more Death, neither Sorrow, nor Crying, neither shall there be any more Pain; for the former Things are passed away. Thus do the blessed Spirits in Heaven, rest from all Sorrow, and every afflictive Evil.

Again, The Spirits of just Men made perfect, rest from Sin, and are entirely freed from the Guilt and Power of that Worst of all Evils.

In this World, the best of Men are full of Imperfection and Sin; and have Cause to go Mourning all the Day, because of the Oppression of that great Enemy. The holy Paul himself, under a sad Conviction of it, cries out, Rom. vii. 24. O wretched Man that I am, who shall deliver me from the Body of this Death. Thus that blessed Apostle complains of the Tyranny of original Sin. And even in the most sincere and devout Frames of his Mind, when he was engaging in the solemnest Exercises of Religion, he laments it, that he was still infested by his innate Corrup­tions, verse 11. When I would do Good, Evil is present with me. And thus it is with every good Man, while he lives in this World of Sin and Misery.

But in the heavenly World, there is no more Sin. Rev. xxi. 17. There shall in no wise enter into it any Thing that defileth, or worketh Abomination. There is no Guilt in those pure and deathless Regions, to blast the Beauty of the Place, or cast a Gloom over the immortal Day that crowns it. Not one Action performed in that Mountain of Holiness, has the least Mixture of Sin to stain or sully it: Not one idle Word intrudes it self into [Page 11] the ravishing Hallelujahs that incessantly echo there: Nay, not so much as one vain Thought pollutes or discomposes the Minds of the Saints in those spotless Realms of Feli­city.

We might add here, That the Spirits in Paradise, are not only entirely free from Sin, but they are also at Rest from every Temptation to Sin. They have no Lusts with­in to sollicit them; no ensnaring Trifles from without to allure and seduce them. The Devil, their grand Adver­sary, cannot come at them, to use his Fraud and Subtilty, when once they are removed to that sinless Kingdom: Nor can his fiery Darts reach to those glorious Heights that they are advanced to, in those lofty Abodes. Tho' the pious Soul, while it is linked to the Body, is hurried and buffeted with a numberless Variety of Suggestions from Satan; yet, no sooner has it enter'd into those e­verlasting Doors, but it has an eternal Deliverance from them; it shall never be distracted with one of them more. The dying Believer may say to Sin, and Satan, and all his Temptations, as our Saviour said to the Jews, John vii. 33, 34. Yet a little while and I am with you, and then I go to him that sent me,—and whither I go, ye cannot come. In this Manner may the pious Man sing in the last Mo­ments of his Life: His failing Pulse, and decreasing Breath, may inspire a new Delight into his Soul; and he may kindle with a heavenly Transport, at the Approaches of his own Mortality.

Thus we have seen what that Rest is, that the Children of God have prepared for them, beyond the Confines of the Grave. We have shewn that they have a Dismission from all painful Labour, from all afflictive Evil, from all Sin, and from every Temptation. We come now to the second Thing in the Doctrine.

[Page 12]II. The Rest that is laid up for gracious Souls in another World, will be a glorious Rest. This will appear if we consider the following Particulars.

1. The Place of Heaven is a glorious Place. Where this glorious and divine Place is, perhaps may not absolutely be determined; nor will it be safe and decent for us to assign any determinate Space in the Fields of Immensity, as the Spot where the Souls of good Men are made happy, when they leave this World. Whether we suppose that these dazling Courts of Immortality lie within the Limits of the blew Sky, that eludes the Penetration of our Sight; and to be disposed somewhere in that Firmament of Lu­minaries; or whether we imagine that happy City to spread it self beyond the Circumference of our Creation; yet be it where it will, it is a Place of inconceivable Splen­dor and Majesty.

The very Heathen had a Notion of the Glory and Beau­ty of those Regions to which good Men were carried af­ter their Death; and they used to be very gay and orna­mental in their Descriptions of it. They speak of it in their Writings as having all the Charms of Art and Nature to furnish and set it off. They tell us the Fields are in perpetual Verdure; the Hills are forever crown'd with Flowers; and the Trees at one Time blossom and bear Fruit: While the Meads are refreshed with an innumerable Variety of cool and flowing Springs. Thus the heathen World used to dress their Paradise, and paint it with all the Luxuriance of a lively Imagination. But how vastly short are these Representations to those which we find made use of in the holy Writings, that give us a Prospect of the heavenly World?

If we consider what the sacred Scriptures relate concern­ing the Receptacle of the departed Spirits of the Saints, we shall find sufficient to convince us of the Truth of this. [Page 13] It is called a House of many Mansions. John xiv. 2. A Building of God, an House not made with Hands, eternal in the Heavens, 2 Cor. v. i. A City which hath Foundations, whose Builder and whose Maker is God, Heb. xi. 10. But the most su­blime and finish'd Description of it, we have in the xxi st. Chapter of the Revelations, in which the holy City blazes in its greatest Strength and Perfection. It is there built up after a most exquisite Manner, and sparkles with Gold and Jewels. The Apostle speaks of it, as shining without the Aid of the Sun; as adorned with every Glory and Splendor: And indeed the Pomp and Riches of that City, is carried as far as our Imaginations can reach, in the Word of God; and the Rest is glorious, because the Place of it is glorious.

2. The Company of Heaven is glorious Company. Heb. xii. 22, 23, 24. But ye are come to Mount Sion, 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. There is something very beautiful and natural in this divine Rapture of the Apostle, that expresses more of the noble Transport he was in, than one would at first imagine. He is so taken up with the Theme, that he quite forgets the little Nice­ties of Method and Order, and produces the Images as they come to his Mind, without a strict Regularity of A­rangement. He is ravish'd with the Thoughts of his Sub­ject, and is born away with the Current of Joy and De­light, that pours down upon him in his Contemplations. He begins his Description with the innumerable Company of Angels: Then he takes the whole Host of Heaven toge­ther, and calls them, the general Assembly and Church of the First-born: Next he rises to the great God himself, and [Page 14] adores him as Judge of all: Then descends and tells of the Spirits of just Men made perfect: Lastly, he again soars a­way, and sings of Jesus the Mediator. Thus the blessed Apostle is so full of the Matter, that he is hurried along with a holy Violence; and gives a more strong and su­blime Account of that glorious Company, by an artless and rapid Run of Thoughts, than if he had observed the most scrupulous and exact Order of Disposition.

And surely the Rest that is fill'd with such divine Com­pany, must be a glorious Rest; and it is certainly no little Satisfaction that they afford one to another. What big Delight will it be, to go to that World, where we shall see all the truly great and good Men that ever have lived up­on Earth! When Peter, and James, and John, saw Moses and Elias, at the Transfiguration of our Lord, how were they overpowered with the Extacy of the Vision? Mark ix. 5. And Peter said, Master, it is good for us to be here: And let us make three Tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. If the Sight of one or two glo­rified Saints upon Earth, could cause the Hearts of the A­postles to beat with such a solemn Delight, what will be the Satisfaction to go to the numerous Assembly of Heaven, and see that dazling Company all glitter together.

But then, if the Sight of the holy Souls, will administer such Joy, surely the beholding such a radiant innumerable Company of Angels, must fill us with a proportionable Glad­ness and Felicity. In the heavenly World, we shall have a View of those very Angels that we read of in the Scriptures, as descending on the Earth, with Messages from God, and for the Service of his Children. There we shall behold the Angel, that swift as Lightning, slew Senacharib's Ar­my in one Night. There we shall see those Convoys that roll'd the Prophet Elijah up the Skies in a fiery Chariot. Gabriel, who clap'd his Wings, and shot away like a [Page 15] Ray of Light with the News of our Saviours Birth, will there attend upon the Throne of the blessed Jesus: While Michael, who drove down the rebel Angels thunder-struck from the Battlements of Heaven, into the deep Abyss of Damnation, will there move along thro' the Ranks of Seraphim, with the Port and Aspect of the Warriour Arch-angel. The Sight of such glorious Company as this, will be a blessed and ravishing Sight indeed.

But O where shall we find Words to express the Bea­tifick Vision of Christ? How ravishing, and glorious, and unutterable will that blessed Lord appear, who is the Brightness of his Father's Glory, and the express Image of his Person; and in whom dwelleth the Fullness of the God-head bodily! When the Apostle Paul look'd upon Death in this Light, as only the Messenger that would call him to his dear Lord Jesus, how does he even pant, with an holy Impatience, for the pale Monarch to come on. No more is he afraid of that King of Terrors; no more does he shrink back at his Approaches. He looks upon the Face of his Christ, and forgets the Horrors of Death: His Sting is blunted, his Darts broken; and that grim Tyrant of the Grave wears the Aspect of an Angel. 2 Cor. v. 6, 8. Wherefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at Home in the Body, we are absent from the Lord. — We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the Body, and to be present with the Lord. Phil. i. 23. —Having a Desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is by far better. Now if the Faith of going to Jesus, can inspire such a Courage and Joy into the Mind of the good Man, and ba­nish the Shades from the Vale of Death; surely the im­mediate Sight of that Glory will be transporting beyond Conception.

And indeed 'tis no little Part of the Happiness of Hea­ven, that there we shall behold the Lord Jesus Christ, [Page 16] unveil'd, in the full Bloom of heavenly Glory. This adds a Force and a Rapture to John's Description of it, in the xxist and xxiid Chapters of the Revelations, And I saw no Temple therein: For the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the Temple of it. And the City had no need of the Sun, neither of the Moon to shine in it: For the Glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof. — And there shall be no more Curse, but the Throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his Servants shall serve him. And they shall see his Face, and his Name shall be in their Foreheads. And there shall be no Night there, and they need no Candle, neither Light of the Sun, for the Lord God giveth them Light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. Thus divinely glo­rious is the Company of Heaven: Holy Souls departed; Holy Angels, and God reveal'd in the Face of the holy Jesus, all conspire to adorn the Kingdom, and spread a Felicity over the whole Place.

3. The Employment of Heaven is glorious Employment. As the Company is so excellent and illustrious, so no less is the Conversation with which they gratify and entertain one another, in those delightful Habitations. Doubtless those happy Spirits will discourse together, on the Actions of their past Lives; the Blessings they were favour'd with, the Miseries they are escaped from; and Glory that they now possess. Those that knew one another upon Earth, will be much better acquainted there; and where any have been instrumental in forwarding and helping on one another in their Way to Heaven, they will be mutual Joys to one another when they meet there. How blessed and pleasing an Intercourse must it be, for Friends to con­gratulate the Arrival of Friends, to that holy World; to talk over the Prayers they have perhaps formerly made to­gether; the pious Conversation they have carried on upon Earth; and the serious Religion they promoted in each o­ther's [Page 17] Minds, by their Word, and their Examples. It will certainly be no little Satisfaction, for them there to renew to one another, the Thoughts and Discourses they once entertained concerning the Glory and Happiness of the Kingdom where they will then reign. They will say one to another, How dark and obscure were our Concep­tions of this Felicity! How low and mean the Talk we formerly had about it! How inadequate and trifling the most exalted Strokes of our mortal Discourses to these sublime Enjoyments!

And as the Conversation we shall have with those which we were familiar with on Earth, will be so plea­sant and happy, so no less will that delight us, which we shall have with those who have gone to Heaven before us. To mix in the divine and sinless Companies there, to hear the improving Expressions of their Tongues, and attend to the soft Perswasion that sits upon their Lips, this will be a very noble Entertainment. How glad shall we be, to hear Paul give us an Account of his Conversion with his own Mouth; or Noah himself be the Relator of the Flood which bore him up in his Ark, over the Tops of the Mountains! To hear Moses, in an improved Sublimity of Style, tell of the Wonders of the Creation, and relate the Pomp and Terror of Mount Sinai, when its Summit blaz'd with Fire unto the midst of Heaven; and the black Smoke arose like the Smoke of a Furnace, and roll'd a­way thro' the Air; while the Voice of the Trumpet echo'd louder and louder, and the whole Mountain shook to its Foundations. And will not JESUS himself tell us of his own Love, and Sufferings for us, in Words which it is not lawful or possible for a Man to utter. These noble Themes will without Doubt, employ much of the Conver­sation of Heaven; and gratify and enlarge the Minds of the glorified Saints.

[Page 18]They will there also consider the several Works of God, and admire the surprizing Displays of the Godhead in them. The Creation throughout its vast Extent, will be a Field on which they will expatiate, and ascribe due Praises to the infinite Contriver and Author of so astonish­ing a Piece of Workmanship. Rev. iv. 10, 11. The four and twenty Elders fall down before him that sat on the Throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their Crowns before the Throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive Glory, Honour, and Power, for thou hast created all Things, and for thy Pleasure they are, and were created. To trace the Mazes of Providence, with exalted Strains of Rapture and Devotion, will be another Exer­cise of the heavenly World. The supream Lord who ma­nages the Wheels full of Eyes, will be adored as his won­drous Works to the Children of Men, come to have the Clouds taken off, and appear in all their Harmony and Beauty.

In some Descriptions that the holy Writings give us of Heaven, we find the glorified Spirits celebrating the Praises of God, for his Judgments on Earth. Thus the Destruction of Antichrist tunes their Harps, Rev. xix. 1,— 6. And after these Things I heard a great Voice of much Peo­ple in Heaven, saying, Alleluia, Salvation, and Glory, and Honour, and Power unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his Judgments, for he hath judged the great Whore, which did corrupt the Air with her Fornication, and hath avenged the Blood of his Servants at her Hand. And a­gain they said Alleluia, and her Smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty Elders, and the four Beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the Throne, saying, Amen, Alleluia. And a Voice came out of the Throne: say­ing, Praise our God all ye his Servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the Voice of a [Page 19] great Multitude, and as the Voice of many Waters, and as the Voice of mighty Thundrings; saying, Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. To be sure in the heavenly World, the Wonders of our Redemption, will be the Subject of the highest Delight and Praise. We shall there be swallow'd up with the Contemplation of that mysterious and un­searchable Production. Rev. v. 8, 9. The four living Creatures, and four and twenty Elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them Harps, and golden Vials full of Odours, which are the Prayers of Saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the Seals thereof: For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy Blood, out of every Kindred, and Tongue, and People, and Nation.

The last Thing we shall take Notice of under this Head, shall be, That one principal Part of the heavenly Blessedness will consist in the beholding of GOD. This will be no small Article of the Employment and Felicity of the Saints in Glory; but will improve and brighten every other Delight. Not that we are to suppose it possible to have a Sight of the divine Essence it self; but such a Consciousness of his Presence, and such Communications from him, as may in some Sense be esteemed Sight; and this is what is called the beatifick Vision. It is in this Sense that those Texts of the holy Scriptures are to be understood, that speak of beholding the Face of God, and seeing him as he is. The Eye of the Understanding, has a View of the glorious God, and grasps in as much of the glorious Pros­pect, as it can possibly wish. Thus divine and happy are the Exercises of the heavenly World.

5. The Progression and Increase of that celestial Blessed­ness, will add perpetually to its transcendant Glory. The Saints do not immediately upon their Entrance into Para­dise, shoot up to the highest Point of Felicity and Bles­sedness, [Page 20] but go on continually making new Aquisitions in Knowledge, and enlarging their Capacities for Happi­ness. This may be proved by plain and evident Argu­ments; and particularly from the Make and Constitution of the humane Soul. The Mind of Man is like a Fire, which spreads and encreases as it finds Materials to feed and supply it. So that tho' the Spirit of a Believer, as soon as it arrives to those Realms of Tranquility, re­ceives as much Joy and Blessedness as it is then capable of, yet it is not happy in so great a Degree, as it will be afterwards, because it will then be able to support, and bear up under, a larger Proportion of Glory. When the Soul of a good Man has enjoy'd the Felicity of Heaven for some long Period of Duration, every Faculty will be widen'd, and many additional Advantages will necessarily arise, as the Soul spreads it self into more ample Capa­cities. Tho' the Spirit of the Believer is made perfect in Holiness and Glory, as soon as it leaves the Body, yet it does not arrive to those greater Degrees of Perfection, that it will still go on to acquire, as it sinks further into the Depths of Eternity. The Memory will then be an inexhaustible Magazine of Delight, as they pass onward thro' the vast Variety of Satisfactions that they meet with in the heavenly World: And they will be able to look back, and reflect with renewed Joy upon that wonder­ful Train of Pleasures, which has extended it self in such a beautiful Order, and to so immense a Distance. And to think over such a mighty Round of Years, and renew in our Minds all the pleasing Scenes of Felicity, which pass'd in a gay Succession before us, in so great a Space of Duration, must needs be an Happiness which will be un­speakably great; and impossible to be enjoy'd at our first Entrance into Glory.

[Page 21]But to dismiss a Speculation so abstracted, we may here take Notice of two Steps of Progression, which every one will allow at first Sight, that the Souls of good Men take in their glorious Happiness.

First, At their Death. They no sooner leave their dy­ing Bodies, but they are borne upon the Wings of holy Angels to the Paradise of God. A Flight of those shining Spirits attend the Death-Bed of the Saints, and imme­diately upon the last Gasp, receive the departing Soul, and convoy it to the World of Glory. If our Minds could but follow them as they fly along, what a wonder­ful Scene of Delight would open to us? How does a Soul just freed from a Body of Sin and Death, exult as it tow'rs away, in the Midst of such bright Attendants? How do the resplendent Angel-Guards sing round it, as they bear it thro' the Regions of the Air, and the Ether, to the Habitations of unfading Bliss and Triumph! And when it enters the orient Gates of that City, what are the Acclamations and Hallelujahs that congratulate its safe Arrival! Here it joins its Brethren of the Skies, in their immortal Anthems of Rapture and Praise, in a joyful Hope and Expectation of the Resurrection of the Dead at the last Day.

And this is a second Step of the Believer's Progression in Glory, which is acknowledged by all, without Hesita­tion or Pause. When our Lord Jesus Christ makes his second Appearing, the Dead in Christ shall arise, and those Souls who have been many Ages happy in the Paradise of God, shall now attain to a more compleat and exten­sive Felicity at the Resurrection of their respective Bodies; which will be glorified and adorn'd for the Habitation of so sinless Spirits. It will without Dispute, be a most glo­rious Advancement in Blessedness, for the raised Bodies of the Saints, to be again united to the Soul, and become [Page 22] more intimate and inseparable Companions than ever they were before. How will the ravish'd Soul of the good Man triumph, when he hears the Voice of the Son of God, Arise ye Dead! How will his quickning Body re­joice, at the new Entry of the Spirit into it! The whole Man will be swallowed up in an unknown Delight: His Heart will leap with Transport in his Bosom, and beat Time to the sounding Echo's of the last Trumpet. Thus when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come, to be glorified in his Saints, and admired of all them that believe, the Language of the holy Soul, as it flies down to the Grave that con­tains its Dust, will be, Arise, O my Body, arise and shine, for thy Light is come, and the Glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

I might add to these two Steps in the Throne of Glory, a Third, viz. that after the final Judgment, the deathless Bodies and Souls of the Children of God, will in an in­dissoluble Union, ascend to the heavenly World, with new Additions of Splendor, and Pomp, and Happiness. But, alas! What Words can bear up under this Weight of Glory. What Conceptions are equal to this dazling Solemnity, and Magnificence. When the Judge of the World, rises from his last Sentence on the Righteous and the Wicked, and returns to his Throne in the Heavens, who can tell the Joys of the glorified Saints, and the Songs of Thanksgiving that hang on their Lips? They will shout round his Chariot Wheels, as they roll along, and all Heaven will resound with their Acclamations. Thus will they enter the Place of their holy and glorious A­bodes, and receive a higher Degree of Blessedness, than ever they were before capable of imagining.

Thus we see there is a Progression of Blessedness en­joy'd by the Saints in Glory. At Death they are made perfect in Happiness; At the Resurrection they arrive at [Page 23] an additional Felicity, by a Re-union to their glorified Bodies; At their Ascension to the Mansions of Delights, after the Conclusion of the great Day, they arrive at still higher and nobler Degrees of Perfection; and they then go on adding Joy to Joy, and one Degree of Glory to another to interminable Ages.

5. The Duration of the Rest remaining for the People of God in the heavenly World, will be an inconceivable Addition to the Glory of it. And what is this Duration but even Eter­nity it self? Had it been but a few Years, that the glo­rified Saints were to enjoy the Blessedness of Heaven, yet even then it would beyond Expression have surpass'd all the Pleasures of this Earth. But what an infinite Addi­tion of Happiness is given to the transported Souls there, by the Constancy and Lastingness of the Glory! What strange Delight does that Reflection strike into the Mind of these Blessed? Eternity! How does it employ their Thoughts, how does it even overwhelm and swallow up all their Contemplations, in Delight and Wonder! It not only continues the Felicity without Cessation, but it en­creases it every Moment. For when the Soul assures it self, that the Happiness it enjoys shall endure forever, that very Thought doubles every Delight which tolls in upon it; and gives a new and an unknown Blessedness to every Pleasure of Heaven. Were the happy Spirits in Paradise to know that their Joys were in some Period of Duration to be finished; and that the they must leave their Glory, how would it damp their Felicity, and cast a Veil and a Cloud upon all their Raptures? How distant soever the End might be, it would methinks still be present to their Minds; and, like a Man possess'd of an invaluable Trea­sure, the very Fear of loosing it, would in a great Mea­sure obstruct the present Comfort it might otherwise af­ford. In a Word, Did the blessed Saints know that the [Page 24] Time would arrive, in which he must part with all his Hap­piness, the very Thought would blunt the fine Edge of his Delight; and would spread a Gloom, never before con­fess'd in those Realms of immortal Day. Our Lord Jesus himself cried out at his Father's Withdraw from him. And in like Manner, on the other Hand, the Me­ditation of the Eternity of the Enjoyments of the hea­venly World, infuses new Satisfaction in every Moment that rolls thro' those golden Ages. It doubles every Plea­sure they taste; and gives an additional Splendor to every Gem in the Crown of Glory. Dan. xii. 3. They that be wise, shall shine as the Brightness of the Firmament, and they that turn many to Righteousness, as the Stars forever and ever.

Thus we have consider'd the heavenly Rest, and shown, in some Measure, how it was glorious. That every Thing we could say of it, was to its Advantage and its Honour. That the Place, the Company, the Employment, the Progression, and the Duration, all unite their Beauties together, and conspire to set it off with the utmost Pomp and Magnificence. But alas, how little a Portion is known of it. To speak of the Glories of Heaven fully, who is sufficient for these Things! What the Perfection of it will be, we know not now, we shall know here­after. Fitter are these Themes for the Hallelujahs of a Seraph, than the faultring Tongue of a Mortal; better to be admired than described; to dwell forever in an holy Meditation upon our Hearts, to influence every Action we perform, and at last, to make our very Deaths the most delightful and ravishing Moment of our Lives. Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard; neither hath the Heart of Man ascended to conceive the Glory which God hath prepared for them who love him.

[Page 25]III. The third Thing was to have evinced, That the Rest of Heaven is Christ's Rest: He is the Lord of that Sabbath. This we might have proved in several Par­ticulars, as, That he made it; That he is the Heir of it, and it is the Gift of his Father to him: That he has bought it, and paid his own Blood the Price for it: That he has ascended and taken Possession of it: That he has promised it; and must surely therefore be its Owner. And finally, that he has actually bestowed it upon many of his Saints already. But these Things I must at present omit. I hasten to the Application.

And First, Is there a Rest to come, let us Labour Now. Our Text speaks of something future, His Rest SHALL BE glorious: And what more forcible Motive can there be for present Labour, than a succeeding Rest. Do we not see People about us spending their Time, their Strength, and their Lives in the Labours and Fatigues of this World, and all in Hopes to have their old Age easy, and in their declining Years to set down and rest? And shall these earthly and procrastinating Souls, be thus assiduous in scraping their Dirt together, in the vain and empty Expectation of an idle Old Age: And shall the Christian do no more to prepare himself for the Happiness of Hea­ven, the Rest that remains for the People of God? What a Shame is it, that so trifling and transient a Rest in this World, should have stronger Allurements than the eter­nal Tranquility of Paradise? Can the Christian bear the Thoughts of This: To be thus out-done in Labour, upon so slender a Foundation, so trifling a Reward?

Let every Soul of us then receive the Exhortation of the Apostle, Heb. iv. 11. Let us Labour therefore to enter into that Rest. And let every pious Soul in particular, [Page 26] labour more earnestly, and assiduously, and give Diligence to make our Calling and Election sure, and do with our Might what our Hands find to do, as knowing that our Labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

Inf. II. Is this Rest a glorious Rest, let us rejoice in the Hope of the Glory of God. What is there that can rational­ly obstruct or diminish the Believer's Joy, when he knows that this glorious Rest is laid up for him! Why do we not long to be possess'd of that everlasting Glory? Why are we not impatient for our Translation to that better that diviner World of Bliss? Whence is it, that the good Man can even content himself till Death invites him to his Inheritance! But Oh! whence, that instead of Con­tent he is so supinely Indolent, and has such small and glimmering Notions of the Glory of that State! Instead of the holy Flames of Desire, there is the heavy Smoke of Unbelief; and while he should be aspiring on eager Wings up to that World, he is link'd to Earth; and grovels in the low and contemptible Enjoyments of Time and Sense! The Exhortation to you is that in Micah ii. 10. Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your Rest. Happy would it be, could we all look up to the heavenly Glory, and see the glittering Preparations made for us there; and happy, could we hear the Blessed there pronounce to us, 2 Thes. i. 6, 7. God shall render Tribulation to them which trouble you. And to you who are troubled rest with us. If we could look on this World, as full of Labour and Sorrow; and turn our Eyes upon the World where God is, and where our blessed Jesus invites us to be, and wish, and break out, O that I had Wings like a Dove! then would I fly away, and be at Rest.

Inf. III. Does this Rest remain for the People of God, what will become of those who are not his People? If the [Page 27] Righteous scarcely be saved, where will the Ungodly and the Sinner appear? The Wicked are like the troubled Sea, when it cannot Rest; whose Waters cast up Mire and Dirt. There is no Peace, no Rest, saith my God, to the Wicked, Isai. lvii. 20, 21. This is their State both in this World and the World to come. In this World, they are still pursuing imaginary Fantoms of Happiness, with constant Pains and Application; till at last Death seizes them in the Midst of their eager Pursuits, and consigns them over to the World of Fire and Torment.

Tis in this miserable Place, that Sleep flies their aching Eye-lids; and Rest and Ease are utter Strangers. Alas! What Hope of a peaceful Lodging in a Bed of Flames? What Expectation of a quiet Abode in those dismal Re­gions of Sorrow! If they cast their Eyes towards Heaven, they do but Curse God and look upwards. They see the beauteous Realms of Hallelujah, and the Doors of the holy City closed against them with everlasting Bars. They feel the kindling Torment inflame their impious Tongues; and plead in vain for a Drop of Water. They hear the Sentence thundred from the Mouth of the great God himself, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. He that is filthy, let him be filthy still. Their unsufferable Condition has a very awful Description, Rev. xiv. 10, 11. They shall drink of the Wine of the Wrath of God, which is poured out without Mixture, into the Cup of his Indignation, and they shall be tormented with Fire and Brimstone, in the Presence of the holy Angels, and in the Presence of the Lamb: And the Smoke of their Torment ascendeth up forever and ever: And they have NO REST Day nor Night. Darkness is indeed a Season for Rest; But tho' they are banished in­to utter Darkness; into Blackness of Darkness forever; yet are they ignorant of any Rest; they know no Cessa­tion [Page 28] to their Despair and Anguish. As their Flames give them no Light, their eternal Night affords them no Sleep. They spend the gloomy Ages that roll over them in Lamentation and Woe: They rore, loud as the Fires that wave about them; and are unquiet and restless as they.

There is a dreadful Disparity between the Punishments of Damnation, and the Glories of Heaven, and this will serve to show the Wretchedness of the Wicked there. Is the Place of Heaven so blessed and divine, Hell is com­pared to a Prison, to a bottomless Pit, to a Place of Tor­ment, to a horrible Furnace, and to a burning Oven. Isai. xxx. 33. The Lord hath prepared Tophet of old,—He hath made it deep and large: The Pile thereof is Fire and much Wood, the Breath of the Lord, like a Stream of Brim­stone, doth kindle it.

In like Manner, the Company of Hell also, what a hideous and infernal Company! Nothing to converse with, but Devils and the Damned. Their Fellow-Sinners upon the Earth, will be their Fellow-Sufferers in Hell; and those who formerly were Partners in Guilt, will now become Sharers in Torment. Satan who once tempted them, and their Companions who harden'd them in Sin, will add to their future Misery, and blow up the Flames to a grea­ter Vigour upon them. The Sentence that will break upon them from the Mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that will sweep them down to Perdition, will be that, Matth. xxv. 41. Depart from me ye Cursed, into everlasting Fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels. Miserable Souls! to be consumed from the Presence of the Lord, and the Glory of his Power. To be banished from the blessed Company of Heaven, and of Jesus the Glory of Heaven; while a Portion is assigned unto them with Hypocrites and [Page 29] Unbelievers, where is Weeping, and Wailing, and gnashing of Teeth, without Remedy, without Measure, and without End. The unhappy Company is described, Rev. xxi. 8. But the Fearful, and Unbelieving, and the Abominable, and Murderers, and Whoremongers, and Sorcerers, and Idolators, and all Liars, shall have their Part in the Lake which burneth with Fire and Brimstone, which is the second Death.

Again, The Employment of Hell, what is it, but the keen Reflections of their past Lives, and a future Eter­nity? What but bitter Out-cries and Execrations, while they curse one another, and blaspheme God? Instead of the Anthems of Heaven, they pour out Groans, and Shrieks, and Ejulations. They gnaw their Tongues for Pain; and howling supplies the Place of Hallelujah.

Again, The Pains of Hell have a horrible Progression: and as a Fire kindles by Degrees, and at last Blazes with the largest Expansion, and the intensest Heat; so it will be with the Flames of Hell. We see great Pains, the longer they last, become the more intollerable. Where then will be the Sinner's Patience, after Millions of Ages spent in those tremendous Agonies! How will his Memo­ry, Faithful Tormentor! look back into the past Periods of Despair, and renew all the dreadful Lashes of that vast Duration. How will he essay to measure the never-end­ing Succession to come, as the Line of preceeding Mise­ries lengthens out further and further. His Understanding will be a wider Affliction, as he comes by the dire Experiment better to know the Power of almighty Anger. His Affections, particularly that of Fear, will be a more stinging Anxiety, after he has felt in some Sort, what he will hereafter ex­pect to be more violent and insupportable. His Will will grow more desperate and hardened, as he still uses himself to unpardonable Blasphemies. Finally, His Imagination [Page 30] will grow more unhappily capacious & artfull, to represent his Condition of past, present, & to come, in the most lively and amazing Colours. But to draw on to a Conclusion, in the last Place the Duration of the Torments of Hell, is, All Eter­nity. What a boundless and overpowering Conception is here! The Miseries of the Damned will last for ever. Never will those undone Souls be able to break Prison; never will their Agonies cease, or the Wrath of God give over raging against them. The Day of the Fierceness of almighty Anger being come, it will remain, and the In­dignation of God will rush down resistless and incessant upon the guilty Rebels, and beat upon them in an eternal Tempest. Eternity! it adds Weight to every Chain, Heat to every Coal, and Gloom to every Cloud in that doleful Vault. It not only continues their Anguish with­out End, but encreases it every Moment. When they look forward into its unsearchable Mazes, and loose them­selves in the strange Extension, O the Lamentation! O the Despair! it is impossible for us to form any equal Con­ception of it.

Inf. IV. And I have done, Is this Rest Christ's Rest, as I have hinted, O let us all go to him for it. If we refuse to do this, we shall be miserable forever. For there is no other Name given under Heaven, whereby we can be saved. He is the mighty Saviour. But how shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation. All Things else will fail us. We may wander among the Creatures, like Noah's Dove along the Surface of the Flood, but like her shall find no REST to the Sole of our Foot, till we return to this Ark. Gen. viii. 9. But if we repair to him by an humble Faith, we shall there have Rest in the Day of Trouble. The greatest Sinner of us all is Welcome here; and no­thing but our Unbelief can hinder our Acceptance with [Page 31] him. Our eternal Rest or Torment depends then upon this one Thing, whether we are willing to give our selves to Christ or no. If we believe on his Name, we shall have such Dispositions infused into our own Souls, as will be a Heaven begun; and an Earnest of the Rest to follow. If not, we shall not be qualified for it; nor can we enjoy it. For without Holiness no Man shall see the Lord, nor en­ter into the Rest of his People. How foolish are those miserable Souls, who after so many Invitations to accept of the Rest of Heaven, go away unresolved whether to strive for it or no; refuse it, and despise it? Who can say but if you now think to put it off, and delay your Endea­vours after it, an angry God may for ever banish you from it. Are you sure you shall ever have another Opportunity to sue for Mercy? Nay, Death may strip you of all be­fore To-morrow. What is the Language of the holy God upon such Procrastination? Heb. iii. 7, 8, 10, 11. Wherefore saith the holy Ghost, To day, if ye will hear his Voice harden not your Hearts.— They do always err in their Hearts, and they have not known my Ways. So I sware in my Wrath, they shall not enter into my Rest. But to those who with penitent Eyes, and awakened Souls enquire, What shall I do to be saved; to be delivered from this Wrath to come, and obtain this glorious Rest? To those I answer (yet not I, but the Lord JESUS CHRIST himself) in that most divine and affecting Language, Matth. xi. 28, 29. Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you Rest. Take my Yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in Heart, and ye shall find Rest unto your Souls. And will you not echo to the dear Voice, Re­turn unto thy Rest, O my Soul.

FINIS.

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