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Nor is it a mere promise of eternal life in general to those who shall overcome; but of a reward according to the deeds done in the body. This subject will appear with the fullest evidence, if we consider the na
ture of that enjoyment of which the heavenly state will · consist.
,First: Heavenly bliss will greatly consist in our be. ing approved of God. There is a day approaching, when God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God. That which Enoch had on earth, all God's faithful servants shall have in heaven, a testimony that they have pleased God: and a heaven it will be of itself! But it is impossible that all good men should partake of this satisfaction in an equal degree, unless they had all acted in this world exactly alike.
Secondly : Heavenly bliss vill consist in the exer.. fise of love, supreme love to God: And if so, the more we have done for him, the more our hearts will be fil. led with joy on the remembrance of it. The same principle that makes us rejoice in his service here, will hereafter make us rejoice that we have served him ; and as love here makes us glory even in tribulation, if God may but be honoured, so there it will make us rejoice that we were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name's sake. It is thus our present light affictions work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory ; and thus, by labouring and suffering in his cause, we lay up treasure in heaven. All this supposes that, unless we had equally laboured and suffered for God in this world, we cannot equally enjoy. him in the next.
Thirdly: Heavenly bliss will consist in ascribing glory to God and the Lamb: But this can be performe, ed only in proportion as we have glory to ascribe. He that has done much for God has obtained more crowns, if I may so speak, than others; and the more he has obtained, the more he will have to cast at the Redeemer's feet. When we hear a THORNTON, a HOWARD, or a Paul, acknowledge, By the grace of God I am what I am, there is a thousand times more meaning in the expressions, and a thousand times more glory redounds to God, than in the uttering of the same words by some men, even though they be men of real piety. The apostle of the gentiles speaks of those to whom he had been made useful, as such who would be his joy and crown another day. But if : there were not different degrees of glory in a future state, every one that enters the kingdom of heaven, . yea, every infant caught thither from the womb or breast, must possess the same joyful recollection of its labours, and the same crown as the apostle Paul. The stating of such a supposition is sufficient to refute it.
Fourthly: Heavenly bliss will consist in exploring the wonders of the love of God. Spiritual knowledge expands the soul, so as to render it capable of containing more than it would otherwise do. Every vessel will be filled, as some have expressed it; but every vessel will not be of equal dimensions. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are represented as conspicuous characters in the kingdom of heaven, with whom it will be a blessedness to sit down in communion. Peter, Paul, and other such eminent characters, are prepared for a greater degree of enjoyment, than christians in common.
Some have' objected against this doctrine, That we ..... are all loved with the same love, purchased by the same blood, called by the same calling, and heirs of
the same inheritance ; and therefore it may be supposed that we shall all possess it in the same degree. But if this reasoning would prove any thing, it would prove too much; viz. That we should all be upon an equality in the present world, as well as in that which is to come : for we are now as much the objects of the same love, purchased by the same blood, called by the same calling, and heirs of the same inheritance, as we shall be hereafter. And if these things be consistent with the greatest diversity in this life, there is no conclusion to be drawn from thence, but that it may be equally so in that which is to come.
What remains is, That we prove the consistency of this doctrine with that of salvation by grace alone.--If the doctrine of rewards implied the notion of merit, or desert, the inconsistency of the one with the other would be manifest. Man, even in his purest state, could merit nothing at the hand of his Creator, since the utmost of what he did, or could do, was his duty: . much less is it possible for fallen, guilty creatures, to merit any thing at the hand of an offended God, except it be shame and confusion of face. But no such idea is included in the doctrine of rewards ; which is only designed to encourage us in every good word and work, and to express Jehovah's regard to righteo , ousness, as well as his love to the righteous.
In the first place : Rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace; because those very works which it pleaseth God to honour, are the effects of his own operation. He rewards the works of which he is the author, and proper cause. He who ordains peace for us, hath wrought all our works in us..
Secondly: All rewards to a guilty creature have resa pect to the mediation of Christ -Through the intimate union that subsists between Christ and believers, they
are not only accepted in him, but what they do is accepted, and rewarded for his sake. The Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offering ; and we are said to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. As there is no sin so heinous, but God, for Christ's sake, will forgive it, no blessing so rich but he will bestow it; so there is no service so small but he will reward it. A cup of cold water given to a disciple for Christ's sake, will ensure a disciple's reward.
Thirdly : God's graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people serves to show, not only his love to Christ, and to them, but his regard to righteousness.--His love to us induces him to bless us ; and his love to righteousness induces him to bless us. in this particular mode. An affectionate parent de. signs to confer a number of favours on his child, and in the end to bequeath him a rich inheritance. He de. signs also to have his mind suitably prepared for the proper enjoyment of these benefits; and therefore, in the course of his education, he studiously confers his favours by way of encouragement, as rewards to acts of filial duty. He gives him a new garment for this, and a watch for that: for his attention to the flocks and herds, he shall have a sheep or a cow, which he shall call his own; and for his assiduity in tilling the soil, he shall have the product of a particular field. It is easy to perceive in this case, that the father does not consider these things as properly the child's due, upon a footing of equity ; but to manifest his approbation of filial obedience. Thus our heavenly Father gives grace and glory. Thus it is, that finding is connected with seeking, and crowns of glory with overcoming. It is thus, as well as by the atonement of Christ, that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life. Those who at the last day shall be saved, will be suff.
ciently conviced that it is all of grace, and that they have no room for glorying, but in the Lord; while on the other hand, the moral government of God will be honoured, the equity of his proceedings manifested, and the mouths of ungodly sinners stopped; even when the judge declares in the face of the universe, concerning the righteous, These shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. ''
I. ON THE UNPARDONABLE SIN.
I HE forgiveness of sin, is doubtless one of the most interesting subjects to a sinful creature ; and if there be one sin upon which the divine Being has thought fit to set a mark of peculiar displeasure, by declaring it unpardonable, it is worthy of the most serious inquiry, to determine what it is. Perhaps, the most likely method of coming at the truth, will be by first taking a view of those passages of scripture where it is either fully expressed or implied, and then ma- king a few remarks upon them.
There is no express mention of the sin against the holy Ghost under the former dispensation. It seems, however, that there was a period in the lives of Cain and Saul, and perhaps of some others, when they were. given up of God to inevitable destruction. The first, or rather the only express mention that we have of it, is in the evangelists, where it is applied to the phari. sees, on occasion of their blasphemously asserting, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils*. Dr. Whitby thinks these pas.
* Matt. xü. 31, 32. Mark iü. 28-30. Luke xü. 10.