I am persuaded that there are many things done by the best of saints, which then they will gladly disown and be ashamed of; yea, they have and do still do this with great devotion. In many things now, we offend all; and then we shall see the many offences we have committed, and shall ourselves judge them as they are.
But yet take notice, that in this day when the saints are thus accounting for their evil before their Saviour and Judge, they shall not then, as now at the remembrance and confession of sin, be filled with that guilt, confusion, and shame, that now, through the weakness of faith, attend their souls: neither shall they in the least be grieved or offended that God has, before the angels and the rest of their holy brethren, laid open to a tittle their infirmities from the least and first to the biggest and last.
For the God to whom they confess all, they will now more perfectly than ever see he doth love them and free them from all, even when and before they confess and acknowledge them to him; and they shall have their soul so full of the ravishing raptures of the life and glory that now they are in, that they shall be of it swallowed up in that measure and manner that neither fear, nor guilt, nor confusion can come near them or touch them. Their Judge is their Saviour, their husband, and head; who, though he will bring every one of them for all things to judgment, yet will keep them for ever out of condemnation. Perfect love casteth out fear, even while we are here; much more then when we are with the Saviour, our Jesus, being passed from death to life.
SAINTS REWARDED AT THE JUDGMENT.
Now the saved having accounted for all their evil, and confessed to God's glory how they fell short and did not the truth in this or that particular, and having received their eternal acquittance from the Lord and Judge, in the sight of both angels and saints, forthwith the Lord Jesus will make inquiry into all the good and holy actions they do in the world. Now here shall all things be reckoned up, from the very first good thing that was done by Adam or Abel, to the last that will fall out to be done in the world—the good of all the holy prophets, of all apostles, pastors, teachers, and helps in the church—here also will be brought forth to light all the good deeds of masters of families, of parents, of children, of servants, of neighbors, or whatever good things any man doeth.
1. Here will be a recompense for all that have labored sincerely in the word and doctrine. Now shall Paul the planter, and Apollos the waterer, with every one of their companions, receive the reward that is according to their works.
Now all the preaching, praying, watching, and labor thou hast been at, in thy endeavoring to catch men from Satan to God, shall be rewarded with spangling glory. Not a soul thou hast converted to the Lord Jesus, not a soul thou hast comforted, strengthened, or helped by thy wholesome counsel, admonition, and comfortable speech, but it shall stick as a pearl in that crown which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give thee at that day; that is, if thou doest it willingly, delighting to lift up the name of God among men; if thou doest it with love, and longing after the salvation of sinners: otherwise thou wilt have only thy labor for thy pains, and no more. If I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed to my charge.
But if thou do it graciously, then a reward followeth; "for what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye," says Paul, "in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy."
Let him therefore that Christ has put into his harvest, take comfort in the midst of all his sorrows; and know that God acknowledges that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, doth even save that soul from death, and covereth a multitude of sins. Wherefore, labor to convert, labor to water, labor to build up and to feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
2. And as the ministers of Christ's gospel shall at this day be recompensed, so shall also those more private saints be with tender affections and love looked on and rewarded for all their work and labor of love which they have showed to the name of Christ, in ministering to his saints and suffering for his sake. "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free."
Ah, little do the people of God think how largely and thoroughly God will at that day own and recompense all the good and holy acts of his people. Every bit, every drop, every rag, and every night's harbor though but in a wisp of straw, shall be rewarded in that day before men and angels: "Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you," saith Christ, "he shall in no wise lose his reward." "Therefore, when thou makest a feast," saith he, "call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
If there be any repentance among the godly at that day, it will be because the Lord Jesus, in his person, members, and word, was no more owned, honored, entertained, and provided for by them, when they were in this world; for it will be ravishing to all to see what notice the Lord Jesus will then take of every widow's mite. He will call to mind even all those acts of mercy and kindness which thou hast showed to him when thou wast among men. He will remember, cry up, and proclaim before angels and saints those very acts of thine which thou hast either forgotten or through bashfulness wilt not at that day count worth the owning. He will reckon them up so fast and so fully that thou wilt cry, "Lord, when did I do this, and when did I do the other? When saw we thee hungry and fed thee. or athirst and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick or in a prison, and came unto thee?" And the King shall answer and say unto them, "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me. The good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. Whatever thou hast done to one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me. I felt the nourishment of thy food and the warmth of thy fleece; I remember thy loving and holy visits, when my poor members were sick and in prison and the like. When they were strangers and wanderers in the world, thou tookest them in. Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
3. Here also will be a reward for all that hardness and Christian enduring of affliction that thou hast met with for thy Lord, while thou wast in the world. Here now will Christ begin from the greatest suffering even unto the least, and bestow a reward on them all, from the blood of the suffering saint to the loss of a hair.
4. There is also a reward at this day for all the more, secret and more retired works of Christianity. 1. There is not now one act of faith in thy soul, either upon Christ or against the devil and antichrist, but it shall in this day be found out, and praised, honored, and glorified in the face of heaven. 2. There is not one groan to God in secret against thy own lusts, and for more grace, light, Spirit, sanctification, and strength to go through this world like a Christian, but it shall even at the coming of Christ he rewarded openly. 3. There has not one tear dropped from thy tender eye against thy lusts, the love of the world, or for more communion with Jesus Christ, but as it is now in the bottle of God, so then it shall bring forth such plenty of reward, that it shall return upon thee with abundance of increase. "Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh." "Thou tellest my wanderings and puttest my tears in thy bottle; are they not in thy book?" "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
If thou indeed and in truth close in with Jesus, thou shalt be lovingly received and tenderly embraced of Christ at that day, when he hath thousands of noble saints, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, with all the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, attending on him; and many thousands of glittering angels ministering before him. When the ungodly shall appear there, with their pale faces, with their guilty consciences and trembling souls—who would then give thousands of worlds, if they had so many, if they could enjoy but one loving look from Christ—then shalt thou have the hand of Christ reached to receive thee, saying, Come, thou blessed, step up hither; thou wast willing to leave all for me, and now I will give all to thee. Here is a throne, a crown, a kingdom; take them. Thou wast not ashamed of me when thou wast in the world among my enemies, and now will not I be ashamed of thee before thine enemies, but will, in the view of all these devils and damned reprobates, promote thee to honor and dignity. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Thou shalt see that those who have served me in truth shall lose nothing, but they shall be as pillars in my temple and inheritors of my glory, and shall have place to walk in among my saints and angels. Oh, who would not be in this condition? who would not be in this glory?
At the day of judgment, Israel will be sufficiently weary of this world; they will even as it were inexpressibly groan to be taken up from hence: wherefore the Lord will come, as making use of the weariness and groaning of his people, and will take them up into his chambers of rest, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes.
That we are justified in the sight of the divine Majesty by free grace, through that one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, I bless God I believe it; and that we shall be brought to glory by the same grace, through the same most blessed Jesus, I thank God I believe that also Again, that the glory to which we shall be brought by free grace through the only merits of Jesus, is unspeakably glorious and complete, I question no more than I question the blessed truths but now confessed.
But notwithstanding all this, there is a reward for the righteous, a reward for their works of faith and love, whether in a doing or in a suffering way, and that not principally to be enjoyed here, but hereafter: "Great is your reward in heaven."
Paul was as great a maintainer of the doctrine of God's free grace, and of justification from sin by the righteousness of Christ imputed by grace, as any one that ever lived in Christ's service from the world's beginning till now; and yet he was for this doctrine: he expected himself, and encouraged others also to look for such a reward for doing and suffering for Christ, which he calls "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Surely, as Christ says in a case not distant from this in hand, "If it were not so, he would have told us."
Wherefore a reward I find, and that laid up in heaven; but what it is I know not, neither is it possible for any here to know it any further than by certain general words of God, such as these: "Praise, honor, glory, a crown of righteousness, a crown of glory, thrones, judging of angels, a kingdom, with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Wherefore, though in the day of judgment thou shouldst there slight all thou didst on earth for thy Lord, saying, "When, Lord, when did we do it?" he will answer, "Then, even then when ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."
"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." For as the just go before the unjust in name and dignity and honor, so they shall, in the last day, go before them in the resurrection.
Now then, when the saints have risen out of their graves, given up their accounts, received their glory, and are set upon their thrones—when they are all of them in their royal apparel, with crowns of glory, every one presenting the person of a king, then come the unjust out of their graves, to receive their judgment for what they have done in the body. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one," both saints and sinners, "may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
"And the windows," or floodgates, "of heaven were opened." This opening of the floodgates of heaven was a type of the way that shall be made for the justice of God upon ungodly men, when Christ has laid aside his mediatorship; for he indeed is the sluice that stops this justice of God from its dealing according to its infinite power and severity with men. He stands like Moses, and as it were holdeth the hands of God. Oh, but when he shall be taken away, when he shall have finished his mediatorial work, then will the floodgates of heaven be opened, and then will the justice and holiness of God deal with men without stint or diminution, even till it has filled the vessels of wrath with vengeance till they run over. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,"
The Judge is the almighty and eternal God: the law broken is the holy and perfect rule of God, in itself a consuming fire: sin is so odious, and a thing so abominable, that it is enough to make all the angels blush to hear it but so much as once mentioned in so holy a place as that is, where the great God doth sit to judge. This sin now hangs about the neck of him that has committed it, yea, it covers him as doth a mantle.
Doubtless before the flood had carried off the ark, others besides would with gladness have had there a lodgingroom though no better than a dog-kennel; but now it was too late, "The Lord had shut the door."
As the just shall rise in power, so the wicked and unjust in weakness and astonishment. Sin and guilt bring weakness and faintness in this life; how much more when both, with all their force and power, like a giant fasten on them? As God saith, "Can thy hands be strong, and can thy heart endure in the day that I shall deal with thee?" Now will the ghastly jaws of despair gape upon thee, and now will condemnings of conscience, like thunderclaps, continually batter against thy weary spirit. It is the godly that have boldness in the day of judgment; but the wicked will be like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Now when the wicked are thus raised out of their graves,'they shall, together with all the angels of darkness, their fellow-prisoners, be brought up, being shackled in their sins, to the place of judgment; where there shall sit upon them Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Chief-judge of things in heaven, and earth, and things under the earth. On whose right hand and left shall sit all the princes and heavenly nobles, the saints and prophets, the apostles and witnesses of Jesus; every one in his kingly attire upon the throne of his glory. Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, "But those my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me."
When every one is thus set in his proper place, the Judge on his throne with his attendants, and the prisoners coming up to judgment, forthwith there shall issue forth a mighty fire and tempest from before the throne, which shall compass it round about. Which fire shall be as bars and bounds to the wicked, to keep them at a certain distance from the heavenly Majesty. "Our God will come and not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." "His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels like burning fire. A fiery stream issued, and came forth from before him."
This preparation being made—to wit, the Judge with his attendants on the throne, the bar for the prisoners, and the rebels all standing with ghastly faces to look for what comes after—presently the books are brought forth, the books both of death and life, and every one of them opened before the sinners now to be judged and condemned; for after that he had said, "A fiery stream issued, and came forth from before him," he adds, "Thousands, thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The judgment was set, and the book was opened." And again, "I saw a great white throne and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no more place for them', and I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged out of the things that were written in the books, according to their works."
"For many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." They will put on all the confidence they can; they will trick and trim up their profession, and adorn it with what bravery they can. Thus the foolish virgins sought to enter in; they did trim up their lamps, and made themselves as fine as they could. They made shift to make their lamps to shine a while; but the Son of God discovering himself, their confidence failed, their lamps went out, the door was shut upon them, and they were kept out.
They will make a stop at this gate, this beautiful gate of heaven; they will begin to stand without at the gate, as being loath to go any further. Never did malefactor so unwillingly turn off the ladder when the rope was about his neck, as these will turn away in that day from the gates of heaven to hell.
It may be that when thou hearest that the dust of the street, that cleaveth to a minister of the gospel while thou rejectest his word of salvation, shall be a witness against thee at the day of judgment, thou wilt be apt to laugh, and say, The dust a witness! witnesses will be scarce when dust is forced to come in to plead against a man.
Well, sinner, mock not; God doth use to confound the great and mighty by things that are not, and that are despised.
When once the master of the house is risen up, that is, when Christ hath laid aside his mediation for sinners, and hath taken upon him only to judge and condemn, then will the wicked begin to stand without, and to knock and contend for a portion among them that are blessed. Ah, how will their hearts twitter while they look upon the kingdom of glory! And how will they ache and throb at every view of hell, their proper place; still crying, O that we might inherit life, and O that we might escape eternal death!
Thus you see how loath the sinner is now to take a hay of life everlasting. He that once would not be persuaded to close with the Lord Jesus, though one should have persuaded him with tears of blood, behold how fast he now hangs about the Lord: what arguments he frames with mournful groans; how with shifts and words he seeks to gain time, and to defer the execution. "Lord, open unto us! Lord, Lord, open unto us! Lord, thou hast taught in our streets, and we have both taught in thy name, and in thy name have we cast out devils. We have eat and drank in thy presence. And when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?" O, poor hearts; how loath, how unwillingly do they turn away from Christ; how loath are they to partake of their ungodly doings! Christ must say, "Depart," once, and "Depart," twice, before they will depart. When he hath shut the door upon them, yet they knock, and cry, "Lord, open unto us:" when he hath given them their answer, that he knows them not, yet they plead and mourn. Wherefore, he is fain to answer again, "I tell you, I know you not whence you are; depart."
O this word, depart, how dreadful is it; with what weight will it fall on the head of every condemned sinner! For you must note, that while the ungodly stand thus before the Judge, they cannot choose but have a most distinct view both of the kingdom of heaven, and of the damned spirits in hell. Now they see the God of glory, the King of glory, the saints of glory, and the angels of glory; and the kingdom in which they have their eternal abode. Now they also begin to see the worth of Christ and what it is to be smiled upon by him, from all which they must depart; and as I say they shall have the view of this, so they will most clearly behold the pit, the bottomless pit, the fire, the brimstone, and the flaming beds that justice hath prepared for them of old.
At the day of judgment, will be tried whether thou art within that part of the book of life wherein all the elect are recorded; for all the elect are written here, as Christ saith, "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Now then, if thy name be not found either among the prophets or apostles or the rest of saints, thou must be put by as one that is cast away, as one polluted, and as an abominable branch. Thy name is wanting in the genealogies and rolls of heaven; thou art not marked for everlasting life; therefore thou must not be delivered from that soul-amazing misery: for there are no souls can, though they would give a thousand worlds, be delivered at the day of God, but such that are found written in this book. Every one of those that are written, though never a one of those that are not written, shall in that day be delivered from the wrath to come.
But O methinks, with what careful hearts will the damned now begin to look for their names in this book. Those that, when once the long-suffering of God waited on them, made light of all admonition, and slighted the counsel of making their calling and election sure, would now give thousands of treasures, that they could but spy their names, though last and least among the sons of God. But, I say, how will they fail; how will they faint; how will they die and languish in their souls, when they shall still, as they look, see their names wanting! What a pinch will it be to Cain, to see his brother there recorded, and he himself left out. Absalom will now swoon and be as one that giveth up the ghost, when he shall see David his father, and Solomon his brother written here, while he withal is written in the earth, among the damned. Thus, I say, will sadness be added to sadness in the soul of the perishing world, when they fail of finding their names in this part of the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
SINNERS WITHOUT EXCUSE AT THE JUDGMENT.
Observe, that among all the objections and cavils that are made and will be made by the ungodly in the day of the Lord Jesus, they have not one about election, and reprobation: they murmur not at all that they were not predestinated to eternal life; and the reason is, because then they shall see, though now they are blind, that God could in his prerogative royal, without prejudice to them that are damned, choose and refuse at pleasure; and besides, they at this day shall be convinced that there was so much reality, and downright willingness in God, in every tender of grace and mercy to the worst of men, and also so much goodness, justness, and reasonableness in every command of the gospel of grace, which they were so often entreated and beseeched to embrace, that they will be drowned in the conviction of this, that they did refuse love, grace, and reason—love, I say, for hatred, grace for sin, and things reasonable for things unreasonable and vain. Now they shall see they left glory for shame, God for the devil, heaven for hell, light for darkness. Now they shall see, that though they made themselves beasts, yet God made them reasonable creatures; and that he did with reason expect that they should have adhered to, and have delighted in, things that are good and according to God. Yea, now they shall see and be convinced, that though God did not determine to bring them to heaven against their hearts and wills, and the love that they had to their sins, yet that God was far from infusing any thing into their souls, that should in the least hinder, weaken, obstruct, or let them in seeking the welfare of their souls. Now, men will tattle and prattle at a mad rate about election and reprobation, and conclude that because all are not elected, therefore God is to blame that any are damned. But then they will see that they are not damned because they were not elected, but because they sinned; and also, that they sinned, not because God put any weakness into their souls, but because they gave way, and that wilfully, knowingly, and desperately, to Satan and his suggestions; and so turned away from the holy commandment delivered unto them. Yea, then they will see, that though God at some times did fasten his cords about their heads and heels and hands, both by godly education and smarting convictions, yet they rushed away with violence from all, saying, "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us." God will be justified in his sayings, and clear when he judgeth; though men's proud ignorance thinks to have and to multjply cavils against him.
Now shall be brought before thee and all men, how many strugglings God had with thy heart, on the sick-bed, to do thee good; yea, and at such times, how many vows, promises, engagements, and resolutions thou madest before God to turn, if he would release thee from thy affliction and turn off his rod from thy back; and yet how thou didst, like the man possessed, break and snap in twain all these chains of iron with which thou hadst bound thy soul; and that for a very lust or sin. Here also will be opened before thee how often thou hast sinned against thy light and knowledge; how often thou hast laid violent hands on thy own conscience; how often thou hast labored to put out that light that hath stood in thy way to hinder thee from sinning against thy soul. Ah, Lord, what a condition will the Christless soul be in at that day; how will every one of these things afflict the damned soul they will pierce like arrows, and bite like serpents, and sting like an adder. With what shame will that man stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, who must have all things he hath done against God to provoke the eyes of his glory to jealousy, laid open before the whole host of the heavenly train. It would make a man blush to have his pockets searched for things that are stolen, in the midst of a market, especially if he stand upon his reputation and honor. But thou must have thy heart searched, the bottom of thy heart searched; and that, I say, before thy neighbor whom thou hast wronged, and before the devils whom thou hast served; yea, before God whom thou hast despised, and before the angels, those holy and delicate creatures, whose holy and chaste faces will scarce forbear blushing.
"IGNORANCE" CONDEMNED AT THE JUDGMENT.
While I was gazing at all these things, I turned my head to look back, and saw Ignorance come up to the riverside; but he soon got over, and that without half the difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place one Vain-hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over. So he, as the others I saw, did ascend the hill to come up to the gate; only he came alone, neither did meet with any the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, "Whence come you? and what would you have?" He answered, "I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets." Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King. So he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, "Have you none?" But the man answered never a word. So they told the king; but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two shining ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the city of Destruction.
HAPPINESS AND GLORY OF HEAVEN.
HEAVEN! It is called the paradise of God—a paradise, to show how quiet, harmless, sweet, and beautiful heaven shall be to them that possess it.
"The street of the city was pure gold." All the visions were rich, but this the richest, that the floor of the house should be covered with gold. The floor and street are walking-places, and how rich will our steps be then! Alas, here we sometimes step into the mire, and then again stumble upon blocks and stones. Here we sometimes fall into the holes, and have our heel often catched in a snare; but there will be none of these. Gold! gold! all will be gold, and golden perfections, when we come into the holy place.
If a sight of sin and the love of God will make such work in that soul where yet there is unbelief, blindness, mistrust, and forgetfulness; what will a sight of sin do in that soul which is swallowed up of love, which is sinless and temptationless, which hath all faculties of soul and body strained by love and grace to the highest pin of perfection that is possible to be in glory enjoyed and possessed?
O the wisdom and goodness of God, that he at the day of judgment should so cast about the worst of our things, even those that naturally tend to sink us and damn us, for our great advantage. All things shall work together for good, indeed, to them that love God. Those sins that brought a curse upon the whole world, that spilt the heart-blood of our dearest Saviour, and that laid his tender soul under the flaming wrath of God, shall, by his wisdom and love, tend to the exaltation of his grace, and the inflaming of our affections to him for ever and ever.
These visions, that the saved in heaven shall have of the love of Christ, will far transcend our utmost knowledge here; even as far as the light of the sun at noon goes beyond the light of a blinking candle at midnight.
As there are great saints and small ones in the church on earth, so there are angels of divers degrees in heaven; some greater than some; but the smallest saint, when he gets to heaven, shall have an angel's dignity, an angel's place.
What goodly mansions He for them provides, Though here they meet rough winds and swelling tides; How brave a calm they will enjoy at last, Who to the Lord and to his ways hold fast.
EMPLOYMENTS OF HEAVEN.
This love of Christ, if I may so say, will keep the saints in an employ, even when they are in heaven; though not an employ, that is laborsome, tiresome, burdensome, yet an employ that is dutiful, delightful, and profitable; for although the work and worship of saints in heaven is not particularly revealed as yet, and so it doth not yet appear what we shall be, yet in the general we may say, there will be that for them to do that has not yet by them been done; and by that work which they shall do there, their delight will be unto them. Nor will this at all derogate from their glory. The angels now wait upon God, and serve him; the Son of God is now a minister, and waiteth upon his service in heaven. Some saints have been employed about service for God after they have been in heaven; and why we should be idle spectators when we come thither, I see not reason to believe. It may be said, They there rest from their labors. True, but not from their delights. All things then that once were burdensome, whether in suffering or service, shall be done away, and that which is delightful and pleasurable shall remain.
Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold, the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold, and in them walked many men with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings; and they answered one another without intermission, saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord." And after that they shut up the gates; which when I had seen, I wished myself among them.
"Strive to enter in." "Enter in"—into heaven, that is the meaning, where the saved are and shall be—into heaven, that place, that glorious place where God and Christ and angels are, and the souls of just men made perfect. "Enter in:" that thing included though not expressed in the words, is called in another place the "mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven." And therefore the words signify unto us that there is a state most glorious, and that when this world is ended; and that this place and state is likewise to be enjoyed by a generation of men forever. Besides, this word "enter in" signifies that salvation to the full is to be enjoyed only there, and that there only is eternal safety; all other places and conditions are hazardous, full of snares, imperfections, temptations, and afflictions. But there all is well; there is no devil to tempt, no desperately wicked heart to deliver us up, no deceitful lust to entangle, nor any enchanting world to bewitch us; there all shall be well to all eternity. Further, all the parts of and circumstances that attend salvation, are only there to be enjoyed: there only is immortality and eternal life; there is the glory and fulness of joy and the everlasting pleasures; there is God and Christ to be enjoyed by open vision; and more, there are the angels and the saints; there is no death nor sickness, no sorrow nor sighing for ever; there is no pain, nor persecution, nor darkness to eclipse our glory. O this mount Zion! O this heavenly Jerusalem!
SOUL AND BODY GLORIFIED IN HEAVEN.
"When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass that saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."
So when this comes to pass, then we shall be saved, then will salvation in all the parts of it meet together in our glory, then we shall be every way saved: saved in God's decree, saved in Christ's undertakings, saved by faith, saved in perseverance, saved in soul, and in body and soul together, in the heavens; saved perfectly, everlastingly, gloriously.
I would discourse a little of the state of our body and soul in heaven, when we shall enjoy this blessed state of salvation.
1. Of the soul. It will then be filled in all the faculties of it with as much his and glory as ever it can hold.
The understanding will then be perfect in knowledge. "Now we know in part"—we know God, Chrit, heaven, and glory, but in part; "butswhen that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Then shall we have perfect and everlasting visions of God, and that blessed One his Son Jesus Christ; a good thought of whom doth sometimes so fill us, while in this world, that it causeth joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Then shall our will and affections be ever in a burning flame of love to God and his Son Jesus Christ. Our love here hath ups and downs; but there it shall be always perfect with that perfection which is not possible in this world to be enjoyed.
Then will, our conscience have that peace and joy, that neither tongue or pen of men or angels can express.
Then will our memory be so enlarged as to retain all things that happened to us in this world; so that with unspeakable aptness we shall call to mind all God's providences, all Satan's malice, all our weaknesses, all the rage of men, and how God made all work together for his glory and our good, to the everlasting ravishing of our hearts.
2. For our body, it shall be raised in power, in incorruption, a spiritual body and glorious.
It is compared to the brightness of the firmament, and to the shining of the stars for ever and ever. It is compared to the shining of the sun. It is said that then our vile body shall be like the glorious body of Jesus Christ. Their state is then to be equally glorious with angels.
And now when body and soul are thus united, who can imagine what glory they both possess? They will now be both in capacity without jarring to serve the Lord; with shouting, thanksgivings, and with a crown of everlasting joy upon their head.
In this world there cannot he the harmony and oneness of body and soul that there will he in heaven. Here the body sometimes sins against the soul, and the soul again vexes and perplexes the body with dreadful apprehensions of the wrath and judgment of God. While we are in this world, the body oft hangs this way, and the soul quite the contrary; but there in heaven they shall have such perfect union as never to jar more. The glory of the body shall so suit with the glory of the soul, and both so perfectly suit with the heavenly state, that it passeth words and thoughts.
Oh sinner, what sayest thou? How dost thou like being saved? Doth not thy mouth water? Doth not thy heart twitter at being saved? Why, come then. "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 water of life freely."
CHRIST THE GLORY OF HEAVEN.
"For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." Mark, though now there shall be no need of temple, sun, or moon, yet Christ the Lamb, or the man who was offered in sacrifice for our redemption, shall be of use and benefit; "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." Wherefore, all that we who are the saved shall enjoy of glory and sweetness in another world, though we shall not enjoy it from God through Christ by and in the ordinances, yet we shall enjoy it through Christ the Lamb without them; for "the Lamb is the light of it."
By this word Lamb he would have us understand, that when we are in glory, the blood, death, and bloody conquest that the man Christ did get over our infernal enemies, will be of eternal use to us; because that benefit of Christ shall not only for ever be the foundation of our eternal felicity, but the burden of our song of glory in all our raptures among the angels. It will he the blood, the blood, the redeeming blood of the Lamb. "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever." It is he in whom will be found the seven eyes, the seven Spirits of God; in whose light we shall see the heights and depths of those springs and everlasting fountains and depths of glory for ever. And indeed the conceit of the contrary is foolish. Is not Christ the head, and we the members? And do not the members receive their whole light, guidance, and wisdom from it? Is not he also the price, the ground, and bottom of our happiness, both in this world and that which is to come? And is it possible it should be forgotten, or that by it our joy, light, and heaven should not be made the sweeter to all eternity? Our soul is now bound up in him as in a bundle of life; and when we come thither he is still the Christ, our life; and it is by our being where he is that we shall behold his glory and our glory, because he is glorified: "For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." As he said, "Ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you."
THE GLORY OF SALVATION.
What a surprise will it be to them that now have come to God by Christ, to see themselves in heaven indeed, saved indeed, and possessed of everlasting life indeed. For alas, what is faith to possession?—faith that is mixed with many tears, that is opposed with many assaults, and that seems sometimes to be quite extinguished—I say, what is that to a seeing myself in heaven? Hence it is said that "he shall then come to be admired in them that now believe;" then they shall admire that it was their lot to believe when they were in the world. They shall also admire to think, to see, and behold what believing has brought them to; while the rest, for refusing to come to God by Christ, drink their tears mixed with burning brimstone.
What a joy will it be to the truly godly to think now that they are come to God by Christ. It was their mercy to begin to come; it was their happiness that they continued coming; but it is their glory that they are come, that they are come to God by Christ.
To God! why, he is all in all; all that is good, essentially good, and eternally good. To God, the infinite ocean of good. Oh that I could imagine, Oh that I could think, that I might write more effectually to thee of the happy estate of them that come to God by Christ.
What gladness shall possess our heart, When we shall see these things; What light and life in every part Rise like eternal springs! O, blessed face; O, holy grace, When shall we see this day? Lord, fetch us to this goodly place, We humbly to thee pray.
Thus when in heavenly harmony These blessed saints appear, Adorned with grace and majesty, What gladness will be there! Thus shall we see, thus shall we be, O, would the day were come: Lord Jesus, take us up to thee, To this desired home.
Angels we also shall behold, When we on high ascend, Each shining like to men of gold, And on the Lord attend. These goodly creatures, full of grace, Shall stand about the throne, Each one with lightning in his face, And shall to us be known.
There cherubim, with one accord, Continually do cry, "Ah, holy, holy, holy Lord, And heavenly majesty!" These will us in their arms embrace, And welcome us to rest, And joy to see us clad with grace And of the heavens possest.
HELL is a place and state utterly unknown to any in this visible world, excepting the souls of men; nor shall any for ever be capable of understanding the miseries thereof, save souls and fallen angels.
Now I think as the joys of heaven stand not only in speculation or in beholding of glory, but in a sensible enjoyment and unspeakable pleasure which these glories will yield to the soul; so the torments of hell will not stand in the present lashes and strokes which by the flames of eternal fire God will scourge the ungodly with; but the torments of hell stand much, if not in the greatest part of them, in those deep thoughts and apprehensions which souls in the next world will have of the nature and occasion of sin, of God, and of separation from him—of the eternity of those miseries, and of the utter impossibility of their help, ease, or deliverance for ever. Oh, damned souls will have thoughts that will clash with glory, clash with justice, clash with law, clash with themselves, clash with hell, and with the everlastingness of misery.
Miseries as well as mercies sharpen and make quick the apprehensions of the soul. Behold Spira in his book, Cain in his guilt, and Saul with the witch of Endor, and you shall see men ripened, men enlarged and greatened in their fancies, imaginations, and apprehensions, though not about God and heaven and glory, yet about their loss, their misery, their woe, and their hell.
A man may endure to touch the fire with a short touch, and away; but to dwell with everlasting burnings, that is fearful. Oh then, what is dwelling with them and in them for ever and ever? We use to say, "Light burdens carried far are heavy:" what then will it be to bear that burden, that guilt, that the law and the justice and the wrath of God will lay upon the lost soul for ever? Now tell the stars, now tell the drops of the sea, and now tell the blades of grass that are spread upon the face of all the earth, if thou canst; and yet sooner mayest thou do this than count the thousands of millions of thousands of years that a damned soul shall lie in hell! Suppose every star that is now in the firmament was to burn by himself one by one, a thousand years apiece, would it not be a long while before the last of them was burnt out? and yet sooner might that be done than the damned soul be at the end of punishment.
He that has lost his soul has lost himself. He is, as I may say, now out of his own hands; he has lost himself, his soul self, his own self, his whole self, by sin and wrath; and hell hath found him. He is now no more at his own dispose, but at the dispose of justice, of wrath and hell. He is committed to prison, to hell prison, there to abide, not at pleasure, not as long and as little time as he will, but the term appointed by his Judge; nor may he there choose his own affliction, neither for manner, measure, or continuance. It is God that will spread the fire and brimstone under him, and it is God himself that will blow the fire. Isa. 30:33.
There will be no such grace as patience in hell with him who has lost himself: here will also be wanting a bottom for patience, to wit, the providence of God; for a providence of God, though never so dismal, is a bottom for patience to the afflicted; but men go not to hell by providence, but by sin.
"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." This curse is the chief and highest of all kinds of curses. It lieth in a deprivation of all good, and in a being swallowed up of all the most fearful miseries, that a holy and just and eternal God can righteously inflict, or lay upon the soul of a sinful man.
Now let reason here come in and exercise itself in the most exquisite manner, yea, let it now count up all and all manner of curses and torments that a reasonable and immortal soul is or can be made capable of, and able to suffer under; and when it has done, it shall come infinitely short of this great anathema, this master-curse, which God has reserved amongst his treasures, and intends to bring out in that day of battle and war which he purposeth to make upon damned souls in that day.
"The sting of death is sin." Sin in the general of it is the sting of hell, for there would be no such thing as torment even there, were it not that sin is there with sinners; for the fire of hell, the indignation and wrath of God can fasten and kindle upon nothing but for or because of sin. Sin then, as sin, is the sting and the hell of hells, of the lowest and upmost hells—sin, I say, in the nature of it, simply as it is concluded both by God and the damned to be a breach of his holy law, so it is the sting of the second death, which is the worm of hell.
But then, as sin is such a sting in itself, so it is heightened, sharpened, made more keen and sharp, by those circumstances that attend it in every act; for there is not a sin at any time committed by man, but there is some circumstance or other attends it that makes it, when charged home by God's law, bigger and sharper and more venomous and poisonous to the soul, than if it could be committed without them; and this is the sting of the hornet, the great sting. I sinned without a cause, to please a base lust, to gratify the devil: here is the sting. Again, I preferred sin before holiness, death before life, hell before heaven, the devil before God, and damnation before a Saviour: here is the sting. Again, I preferred moments before everlastings, temporals before eternals, to be racked and always slaying before the life that is blessed and endless: here is the sting. Also, this I did against light, against convictions, against conscience, against persuasions of friends and ministers, and the godly lives which I beheld in others: here is the sting. Also, this I did against warnings; yea, though I saw others fall before my face by the mighty hand of God for committing the same: here is the sting.
Sinners, would I could persuade you to hear me out: a man cannot commit a sin, but by the commission of it he doth by some circumstance or other sharpen the sting of hell, and that to pierce himself through and through and through with many sorrows.
Also, the sting of hell to some will be, that the damnation of others stands upon their score; for that by imitating them, by being deluded by them, persuaded by them, drawn in by them, others perish in hell for ever.
Ah, this will be the sting of those that are principal, chief, and as I may call them, the captain and ringleading sinners. Vipers will come out of other men's fire and flames, and settle upon, seize upon, and for ever abide upon their consciences; and this will be the sting of hell, the great sting of hell to them.
I will yet add to this, how will the fairness of some for heaven, even the thoughts of that, sting them when they come to hell. It will not be so much their fall into the pit, as from whence they fell into it, that will be to them the buzzing noise and sharpened sting of the great and terrible hornet. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer!"—there is the sting. Thou that art exalted up to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell; though thou hast made thy nest among the stars, from thence will I fetch thee down: there is a sting. To be pulled, for and through love to some vain lust, from the everlasting gates of glory, and caused to be swallowed up for it in the belly of hell, and made to lodge for ever in the darksome chambers of death: there is the piercing sting.
But again, as there is the sting of hell, so there is the strength of that sting; for a sting, though never so sharp or venomous, yet if it wanteth strength to force it to the designed execution, it doth but little hurt. But this sting hath strength to cause it to pierce into the soul: "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." I Cor. 15:56; Rom. 7:8; 4:15.
Here then is the strength of the sting of hell: it is the law in the perfect penalty of it; for without the law, sin is dead; yea, where no law is, there is no transgression. The law then followeth, in the executive part of it, the soul into hell; and there strengthened sin, that sting in hell, to pierce the soul for ever and ever by its unutterable charging of sin on the conscience. Nor can the soul justly murmur or repine at God or his law; for that then the sharply apprehensive soul will well discern the justness, righteousness, reasonableness, and goodness of the law, and that nothing is done by the law unto it, but that which is just and equal.
This, therefore, will put great strength and force into sin to sting the soul, and to strike it with the lashes of a scorpion.
And besides these, the abiding life of God, the Judge and God of this law, will never die. When princes die, the law may be altered by which at present transgressors are bound in chains; but Oh, here is also that which will make this sting so sharp and keen: the God that executes it will never die. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Heb. 10: 30, 31.
"This shall they have of my hand, they shall lie down in sorrow;" they shall lie down in it, they shall make their bed there, there they shall lie. And this is the bitter pill that they must swallow down at last; for after all their tears, their sorrows, their repentings, their wishings and wouldings, and all their inventings and desires to change their state for a better, they must lie down in sorrow.
The poor condemned man that is upon the ladder or scaffold, has, if one knew them, many a long wish and long desire that he might come down again alive, or that his condition was as one of the spectators, that are not condemned and brought thither to be executed as he. How carefully also does he look with his failing eyes, to see if some one comes not from the king with a pardon for him, all the while endeavoring to fumble away, as well as he can, and to prolong the minute of his execution. But at last, when he has looked, when he has wished, when he has desired and done whatever he can, the blow with the axe, or the turn with the ladder, is his lot: so he goes off the scaffold; so he goes from among men.
And thus will it be with those we have under consideration: when all comes to all, and they have said and wished and done what they could, the judgment must not be reversed; they must lie down in sorrow.
THIS day is called the Lord's day, the day in which he rose from the dead. The Lord's day: every day, say some, is the Lord's day. Indeed this, for discourse' sake, may he granted; but strictly, no day can so properly be called the Lord's day, as this first day of the week; for that no day of the week, or of the year, has those hadges of the Lord's glory upon it, nor such divine grace put upon it, as his first day of the week.
There is nothing, as I know of, that bears this title but the Lord's supper, and this day. And since Christians count it an abuse to allegorize the first, let them also be ashamed to fantasticalize the last.
The Lord's day is doubtless the day in which he rose from the dead. To be sure, it is not the old seventh day; for from the day that he arose, to the end of the Bible, we find not that he did hang so much as one twist of glory upon that; but this day is beautified with glory upon glory, and that both by the Father and the Son, by the prophets, and those that were raised from the dead thereon: therefore this day must be more than the rest.
As for the seventh day, that is gone to its grave with the signs and shadows of the Old Testament. Yea, and has such a dash left upon it by apostolical authority, that is is enough to make a Christian fly from it for ever. 2 Cor. 3.
God the Father leaves such a stamp of divine note and honor upon this day, as he never before did leave upon any, where he saith to our Lord, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" still having respect to the first day of the week, for that and no other is the day here intended by the apostle: THIS DAY, saith God, is the day. "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he saith on this wise, I will give thee the sure mercies of David;" wherefore he saith in another psalm, "Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption."
Now shall not Christians, when they read that God saith, THIS DAY, and that too with reference to a work done on it by him so full of delight to him, and so full of life and heaven to them, set also a mark upon it? "This was the day of God's pleasure," for that his Son did rise thereon; "and shall it not be the day of my delight in him?"
Shall kings and princes and great men set a mark upon the day of their birth and coronation, and expect that both subjects and servants should do them high honor on that day; and shall the day in which Christ was both begotten and born be a day contemned by Christians?
If God remembers it, well may I. If God says, and that with all gladness of heart, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;" may not, ought not I also to set this day apart to sing the songs of my redemption in?
This day my redemption was finished.
This day my dear Jesus revived.
This day he was declared to be the Son of God with power.
Yea, this is the day in which the Lord Jesus finished a greater work than ever yet was done in the world; yea, a work in which the Father himself was more delighted than he was in making heaven and earth; and shall darkness and the shadow of death stain this day? Or shall a cloud dwell on this day? Shall God regard this day from above, and shall not his light shine upon this day? What shall be done to them that curse this day, and would not that the stars should give their light thereon? THIS DAY! after this day was come, God never, that we read of, made mention with delight of the old seventh-day Sabbath more.
"The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree." Gen. 3. The woman was given for a help, not a hinderance; but Satan often maketh that to become our snare which God hath given us as a blessing.
"And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?" Gen. 3. What is this? God seems to speak as if he were astonished at the inundation of evil which the woman by her sin had overflowed the world withal. What is this that thou hast done? Thou hast undone thyself, thou hast undone thy husband, thou hast undone all the world; yea, thou hast brought a curse upon the whole creation, with an overplus of evils, plagues, and distresses.
What is this that thou hast done? Thou hast defiled thy body and soul, thou hast disabled the whole world from serving God; yea, moreover, thou hast let in the devil at the door of thy heart, and hast also made him the prince of the world. What is this that thou hast done? Ah, little, little do sinners know what they have done, when they have transgressed the law of the Lord.
As death and the curse came into the world by a woman, so also did life and health: "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." Yea, to show how much those that came after did abhor the act of the mother, this sex, in the Old Testament, coveted children, if happily this or that woman might be the mother of the Saviour of the world. I will say again, that when the Saviour was come, woman rejoiced in him, before either man or angel. I read not that ever man did give unto Christ so much as one groat; but the women followed him and ministered unto him of their substance. It was a woman that washed his feet with tears, and a woman that anointed his body to the burial. They were women that wept when he was going to the cross; and women that followed him from the cross, and that sat by his sepulchre when he was buried. They were women that were first with him at his resurrection-morn, and women that brought tidings first to the disciples that he was risen from the dead. Women therefore are highly favored, and show by these things that they are sharers with us in the grace of life.
All the glory of this world, had not Adam had a wife, could not have completed this man's blessedness. He would yet have been wanting.
A master of a family and a mistress of the same are those that are entrusted of God with those under their tuition and care to be brought up for him, be they children or servants.
Look to it and consider with thyself whether thou hast done such duty and service for God in this matter, that, setting common facilities aside, thou canst with good conscience lift up thy face unto God; the which to be sure thou canst by no means do, if iniquity to the utmost be not banished out of thy house.
And will it not be a sad complaint that thy servant shall take up against thee before the Judge, at the last day, that he learnt the way to destruction in thy house, who art a professor? Servants, though themselves be carnal, expect, when they come into the house of professors, that there they shall see religion in spangling colors; but behold, when he enters thy door, he finds sin and wickedness there. There is pride instead of humility, and height of raillery instead of meekness and holiness of mind. He looked for a house full of virtue, and behold nothing but spider-webs; fair and plausible abroad, but like the sow in the mire at home.
"Bless me," saith such a servant, "are these the religious people? are these the servants of God, where iniquity is made so much of and is so highly entertained?"
And now is his heart filled with prejudice against all religion, or else he turns hypocrite like his master and mistress, wearing, as they, a cloak of religion to cover all abroad, while all is naked and shameful at home.
But perhaps thy heart is so hard and thy mind so united to the pleasing of thy vile affections, that thou wilt say, "What care I for my servant? I took him to do my work, not to train him up in religion." Well, suppose the soul of thy servant be thus little worth in thine eyes; yet what wilt thou say for thy children, who behold all thy ways, and are as capable of drinking up the poison of thy footsteps, as the swine is of drinking up swill: I say, what wilt thou do for them? Children will learn to be wicked of parents—of professing parents soonest of all; they will be tempted to think all that they do is right. I say, what wilt thou say to this? Or art thou like the ostrich whom God hath deprived of wisdom, and hath hardened her heart against her young? Will it please thee, when thou shalt see that thou hast brought forth children to the murderer? or when thou shalt hear them cry, I learnt to go on in the paths of sin by the carriage of professing parents? If it was counted of old a sad thing for a man to bring forth children to the sword, as Ephraim did; what will it be for a man to bring up children for hell? Hos. 9:13.
"And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters." He lived therefore to see the fruit of his good rule and government in the church, even to see his teachable and dedicated son caught up to God and to his throne.
A good encouragement to all rulers in the house of God, and also to all godly parents, to teach and rule in the fear of God; for that is the way to part with church-members and children with comfort; yea, that is the way, if we shall outlive them, to send them to heaven and to God before us.
If parents carry it lovingly towards their children, mixing their mercies with loving rebukes, and their loving rebukes with fatherly and motherly compassions, they are more likely to save their children than by being churlish and severe towards them. But if they do not save them, if their mercy do them no good, yet it will greatly ease them at the day of death to consider, I have done by love as much as I could to save and deliver my child from hell.
Let them that name the name of Christ depart from family-iniquity. There is a house-iniquity—an iniquity that loves not to walk abroad, but to harbor within doors. This the holy man David was aware of; therefore he said that he would behave himself wisely, in a perfect way; yea, saith he, "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."
Many that show like saints abroad, yet act the part of devils when they are at home by giving way to this house-iniquity. This iniquity meeteth the man and his wife at the very threshold of the door, and will not suffer them to enter, no, not with one foot into the house, in peace: but how far this is from walking together as heirs of the grace of life, is easy to be determined. Men should carry it in love to their wives, as Christ doth to his church; and wives should carry it to their husbands, as the church ought to carry it to her Saviour, Eph. 5: 21-28; 1 Pet. 3: 7; and until each relation be managed with respect to these things, this house-iniquity will be cherished there. Oh, God sees within doors as well as without, and will judge too for the iniquity of the house as well as for that more open.
A man's house and his conduct there do more bespeak the nature and temper of his mind than all public profession. If I were to judge of a man for my life, I would not judge of him by his open profession, but by his domestic behaviors.
Open profession is like a man's best cloak, which is worn by him when he walks abroad, and with many is made but little use of at home. But now what a man is at home, that he is indeed. There is abroad, my house, my closet, my heart; and my house, my closet, show most what I am: though not to the world, yet to my family and to angels.
To make religion and the power of godliness the chief of my designs at home, before those among whom God by a special hand has placed me, is that which is pleasing to God, and which obtaineth a good report of him. Genesis 18:17-19.
CHARACTER OF TALKATIVE. He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of repentance for sin; yea, the brute in his kind serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him: it can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people, that know him, "A saint abroad and a devil at home." His poor family find it so: he is such a churl, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him.
Domestic iniquity stands also in the disorders of children and servants. Children's unlawful carriage to their parents is a great house-iniquity, yea, and a common one too. 2 Tim. 3:2, 3.
Disobedience to parents is one of the sins of the last days. O it is horrible to behold how irreverently, how saucily, and malpertly, children, yea, professing children, at this day carry it to their parents; snapping and checking, curbing and rebuking them, as if they had never received their being by them, or had never been beholden to them for bringing them up; yea, as if the relation was lost, or as if they had received a dispensation from God to dishonor and disobey parents.
I will add, that this sin reigns in little and great; for not only the small and young, but men are disobedient to their parents; and indeed this is the sin with a shame, that men shall be "disobedient to parents." Where nowadays shall we see children that are come to men and women's estate, carry it as by the word they are bound, to their aged and worn-out parents? I say, where is the honor they should put upon them? Who speak to their aged parents with that due regard to that relation, to their age, to their worn-out condition, that becomes them? Is it not common nowadays for parents to be brought into bondage and servitude by their children; for parents to be under, and children above; for parents to be debased, and children to lord it over them?
This sin is, I fear, grown to such a height in some, as to make them weary of their parents, and of doing their duty to them. Yea, I wish that some be not murderers of fathers and mothers by their thoughts, while they secretly long after and desire their death, that the inheritance may be theirs, and that they may be delivered from obedience to their parents. 1 Tim. 1:9. This is a sin in the house, in the family; a sin that is kept close; but God sees it, and has declared his dislike against it, by an implicit threatening to cut them off that are guilty of it. Eph. 5:1-3.
Many that have had very hopeful beginnings for heaven, have, by virtue of the mischiefs that have attended unlawful marriages, Deut. 7:4,5; 2 Cor. 6:14, miserably and fearfully miscarried. Soon after such marriages, conviction, the first step towards heaven, hath ceased; prayers, the next step towards heaven, have ceased; hungerings and thirstings after salvation, another step towards the kingdom of heaven, have ceased. In a word, such marriages have estranged them from the word, from their godly and faithful friends, and have brought them again into carnal company, among carnal friends, and also into carnal delights; where and with whom they have, in conclusion, both sinfully abode and miserably perished.
Servants are goers as well as comers: take heed that thou give them no occasion to scandal the gospel when they are gone, for what they observed thee unrighteously to do when they were with thee.
Though thy parents be never so low, and thou thyself never so high, yet he is thy father, and she thy mother, and they must be in thine eyes in great esteem.
BUNYAN'S DOMESTIC CHARACTER.
But notwithstanding these helps from God, I found myself a man encompassed with infirmities; the parting with my wife and poor children,[Footnote: Bunyan had four children, all by his first marriage. About 1658, some three years after his baptism, he married his second wife, the heroic Elizabeth. In 1660 he was first imprisoned.] hath often been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from the bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them; especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all beside. Oh, the thoughts of the hardships which my poor blind one might undergo, would seem to break my heart in pieces. Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! thou must he beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow upon thee. But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. Oh, I saw in this condition I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the heads of his wife and children; yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it: and now I thought on those two milch kine that were to carry the ark of God into another country, and to leave their calves behind them. 1 Sam 6:10.
What if, as you suggest, the sober Dr. Owen, though he told me and others, at first, he would write an epistle to my book, ("Peaceable Principles and True,") yet waved it afterwards; this was also to my advantage; because it was the earnest solicitations of several of you that at that time stopped his hand: and perhaps it was more for the glory of God that truth should, go naked into the world, than as seconded by so mighty an armor-bearer as he.
The truth is of that nature, that the more it is opposed, the more glory it appears in; and the more the adversary objects against it, the more it will clear itself.
There belongs to every true notion of truth, a power; the notion is the shell, the power the kernel and life.
It is impossible that a carnal heart should conceive of the weight that truth lays upon the conscience of a believer. They see nothing, alas, nothing at all but a truth; and, say they, Are you such fools as to stand groaning to bear up that, or what is contained therein? They see not the weight, the glory, the weight of glory, that is in a truth of God; and therefore they laugh at them that will count it worth the while to endure so much to support it from falling to the ground.
Truths are often delivered to us, like wheat in full ears, to the end we should rub them out before we eat them, and take pains about them, before we have the comfort of them.
I could, were I so pleased, use higher-strains, And for applause on tenters stretch my brains; But what needs that? The arrow out of sight Does not the sleeper nor the watchman fright: To shoot too high doth make but children gaze, 'Tis that which hits the man doth him amaze.
Should all be forced their brains to lay aside, That cannot regulate the flowing tide By this or that man's fancy, we should have The wise unto the fool become a slave.
Words easy to be understood do often hit the mark, when high and learned ones do only pierce the air. He also that speaks to the weakest, may make the learned understand him; when he that striveth to be high, is not only for the most part understood but of a sort, but also many times is neither understood by them nor by himself.
THE OLD AND NEW DISPENSATIONS.
There is as great a difference between their dispensation and ours for comfort, as there is between the making of a bond with a promise to seal it, and the actual sealing. It was made indeed in their time, but it was not sealed until the blood was shed on Calvary.
THE PILGRIM IN NEW ENGLAND.
My Pilgrim's book has travelled sea and land; Yet could I never come to understand That it was slighted, or turned out of door By any kingdom, were they rich or poor. In France, and Flanders, where men kill each other My Pilgrim is esteemed a friend, a brother. In Holland too, 'tis said, as I am told, My Pilgrim is with some worth more than gold; Highlanders and wild Irish can agree My Pilgrim should familiar with them be. 'Tis in New England under such advance, Receives there so much loving countenance, As to be trimmed, new clothed, and decked with gems, That it may show its features and its limbs. Yet more, so public doth my Pilgrim walk, That of him thousands daily sing and talk.
NOTICES OF BUNYAN.
THIS wonderful book, [the Pilgrim's Progress,] while it obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those who are too simple to admire it. Dr. Johnson, all whose studies were desultory, and who hated, as he said, to read books through, made an exception in favor of the Pilgrim's Progress. That work, he said, was one of the two or three which he wished longer. In every nursery the Pilgrim's Progress is a greater favorite than Jack the Giant-killer. Every reader knows the strait and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius—that things which are not should be as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say, that though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost, the other the PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as a study to every person who wishes to obtain a wide command over the English language. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people. There is not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of theology, which would puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed several pages which do not contain a single word of more than two syllables. Yet no writer has said more exactly what he meant to say. For magnificence, for pathos, for vehement exhortation, for subtle disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working-men, was sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we could so readily stake the fame of the old unpolluted English language—no book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed. T. B. Macaulay—Essays.
To the names of Baxter and Howe must be added the name of a man far below them in station and in acquired knowledge, but in virtue their equal, and in genius their superior, John Bunyan. Bunyan had been bred a tinker, and had served as a private soldier in the parliamentary army. Early in his life he had been fearfully tortured by remorse for his youthful sins, the worst of which seem, however, to have been such as the world thinks venial. His keen sensibility and his powerful imagination made his internal conflicts singularly terrible. He fancied that he was under sentence of reprobation, that he had committed blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, that he had sold Christ, that he was actually possessed by a demon. Sometimes loud voices from heaven cried out to warn him. Sometimes fiends whispered impious suggestions in his ear. He saw visions of distant mountain-tops, on which the sun shone brightly, but from which he was separated by a waste of snow. He felt the devil behind him pulling his clothes. He thought, that the brand of Cain had been set upon him. He feared that he was about to burst asunder like Judas. His mental agony disordered his health. One day he shook like a man in the palsy. On another day he felt a fire within his breast. It is difficult to understand how he survived sufferings so intense and so long-continued. At length the clouds broke. From the depths of despair the penitent passed to a state of serene felicity. An irresistible impulse now urged him to impart to others the blessing of which he was himself possessed. He joined the Baptists, and became a preacher and writer. His education had been that of a mechanic. He knew no language but the English, as it was spoken by the common people. He had studied no great model of composition, with the exception—an important exception undoubtedly—of our noble translation of the Bible. His spelling was bad. He frequently transgressed the rules of grammar. Yet his native force of genius, and his experimental knowledge of all the religious passions, from despair to ecstasy, amply supplied in him the want of learning. His rude oratory roused and melted hearers who listened without interest to the labored discourses of great logicians and Hebraists. His works were widely circulated among the humbler classes. One of them, the Pilgrim's Progress, was in his own lifetime translated into several foreign languages. It was, however, scarcely known to the learned and polite, and had been during nearly a century the delight of pious cottagers and artisans before it was publicly commended by any man of high literary eminence. At length critics condescended to inquire where the secret of so wide and so durable a popularity lay. They were compelled to own that the ignorant multitude had judged more correctly than the learned, and that the despised little book was really a masterpiece. Bunyan is indeed as decidedly the first of allegorists as Demosthenes is the first of orators, or Shakspeare the first of dramatists. Other allegorists have shown equal ingenuity, but no other allegorist has ever been able to touch the heart, and to make abstractions objects of terror, of pity, and of love.
It may be doubted whether any English dissenter had suffered more severely under the penal laws than John Bunyan. Of the twenty-seven years which had elapsed since the Restoration, he had passed twelve in confinement. He still persisted in preaching; but that he might preach, he was under the necessity of disguising himself like a carter. He was often introduced into meetings through back doors with a smockfrock on his back, and a whip in his hand. If he had thought only of his own ease and safety, he would have hailed the indulgence with delight. He was now at length free to pray and exhort in open day. His congregation rapidly increased; thousands hung upon his words; and at Bedford, where he ordinarily resided, money was plentifully contributed to build a meeting-house for him. His influence among the common people was such that the government would willingly have bestowed on him some municipal office; but his vigorous understanding and his stout English heart were proof against all delusion and all temptation. He felt assured that the proffered toleration was merely a bait intended to lure the Puritan party to destruction; nor would he, by accepting a place for which he was not legally qualified, recognize the validity of the dispensing power. One of the last acts of his virtuous life was to decline an interview to which he was invited by an agent Of the government. T. B. Macaulay—History of England.
The demeanor of Sir Matthew Hale in the case of John Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, shows him paying respect both to the rules of law and to the dictates of humanity. This wonderful man—who, though bred a tinker, showed a genius little inferior to that of Dante—having been illegally convicted by the court of Quarter-sessions, was lying in prison under his sentence in the jail of Bedford. Soon after the restoration of Charles II., the young enthusiast had been arrested while he was preaching at a meeting in a private house; and, refusing to enter into an engagement that he would preach no more, had been indicted as "a person who devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service, and a common upholder of unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this realm."
Little do we know what is for our permanent good. Had Bunyan then been discharged and allowed to enjoy liberty, he no doubt would have returned to his trade, filling up his intervals of leisure with field-preaching; his name would not have survived his own generation, and he could have done little for the religious improvement of mankind. The prison-doors were shut upon him for twelve years. Being cut off from the external world, he communed with his own soul; and inspired by Him who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire, he composed the noblest of allegories, the merit of which was first discovered by the lowly, but which is now lauded by the most refined critics, and which has done more to awaken piety and to enforce the precepts of Christian morality, than all the sermons that have been published by all the prelates of the Anglican church. Lord Campbell.
The Pilgrim's Progress is a book which makes its way through the fancy to the understanding and the heart. The child peruses it with wonder and delight; in youth we discover the genius which it displays; its worth is apprehended as we advance in years; and we perceive its merits feelingly in declining age. If it is not a well of English undefiled, to which the poet as well as the philologist must repair if they would drink of the living waters, it is a clear stream of current English, the vernacular of his age—sometimes indeed in its rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plainness and its strength. Robert Southey.
No man of common-sense and common integrity can deny that Bunyan, the tinker of Elstow, was a practical atheist, a worthless contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate. Now be astonished, O heaven, to eternity; and wonder, O earth and hell, while time endures. Behold this very man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness, holiness, truth, and love. See his polluted soul cleansed and adorned by divine grace, his guilt pardoned, the divine law inscribed upon his heart, the divine image, or the resemblance of God's moral perfections impressed upon his soul. Mr. Ryland.
It has been the lot of John Bunyan, an unlettered artisan, to do more than one in a hundred millions of human beings, even in civilized society, is usually able to do. He has produced a work of imagination of such decided originality as not only to have commanded profound admiration on its first appearance, but amidst all changes of time and style and modes of thinking, to have maintained its place in the popular literature of every succeeding age, with the probability that, so long as the language in which it is written endures, it will not cease to be read by a great number of the youth of all future generations at that period of life when their minds, their imaginations, and their hearts are most impressible with moral excellence, splendid picture, and religious sentiment. It would be difficult to name another work of any kind in our native tongue, of which so many editions have been printed, of which so many readers have lived and died, the character of whose lives and deaths must have been more or less affected by its lessons and examples, its fictions and realities. James Montgomery.
I know of no book, the Bible excepted as above all comparison, which I, according to my judgment and experience, could so safely recommend as teaching and enforcing the whole saving truth, according to the mind that was in Christ Jesus, as the Pilgrim's Progress. It is in my conviction the best Summa Theologiae Evangelicae ever produced by a writer not miraculously inspired. Coleridge's Remains.
So great was Bunyan's popularity as a preacher, that an eyewitness says, when he preached in London, "If there were but one day's notice given, there would be more people come together to hear him preach than the meeting-house would hold. I have seen, to hear him preach, about twelve hundred at a morning lecture, by seven o'clock on a working-day, in the dark winter time." Charles Doe.
I hold John Bunyan to have been a man of incomparably greater genius than any of them, [the old English divines,] and to have given a far truer and more edifying picture of Christianity. His Pilgrim's Progress seems to be a complete reflection of Scripture, with none of the rubbish of the theologians mixed up with it. Thomas Arnold, D. D
O thou whom, borne on fancy's eager wing Back to the season of life's happy spring, I pleased remember, and while memory yet Holds fast her office here, can ne'er forget; Ingenious Dreamer! in whose weil-told tale, Sweet fiction and sweet truth alike prevail; Whose humorous vein, strong sense, and simple style, May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile; Witty, and well-employed, and like thy Lord, Speaking in parables his slighted word; I name thee not, lest so despised a name Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame; Yet e'en in transitory life's late day, That mingles all my brown with sober gray, Revere the man, whose Pilgrim marks the road And guides the Progress of the soul to God. Cowper