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SAINT'S EVERLASTING REST.
THERE REMAINETH THEREFORE A REST TO THE PEOPLE
OF GOD.-Heb. iv. 9.
The Introduction to the Work, with some Account of
the Nature of the Saint's Rest.
$ 1. The important design of the apostle in the text, to which the
author earnestly bespeaks the attention of the reader. $ 2. The saint's rest defined, with a general plan of the work. $ 3. What this rest presupposes. § 4. The author's humble sense of his inability fully to shew what this rest contains. $ 5. It contains (1.) A ceasing froni means of grace; § 6. (2.) A perfect freedom from all evils ; § 7. (3.) The highest degree of the saint's personal perfection, both in body and soul; § 8 (4.) The nearest enjoyment of God the chief good; $ 9-14. (5.) A sweet and constant action of all the powers of soul and body in this enjoyment of God; as, for instance, bodily sense, knowledge, memory, love, joy, together with a mutual love and joy. § 15. The author's humble reflection on the deficiency of this account.
1. IT was not only our interest in God, and actual enjoyment of him, which was lost in Adam's fall, but all spiritual knowledge of him, and true disposition towards such a felicity. When the Son of God comes with recovering grace, and discoveries of a spiritual and eternal happiness and glory, he finds not faith in man to believe it. As the poor man that would not believe any one had such a sum as a hundred pounds, it was so far above what himselt possessed; so men will hardly now believe there is such a happiness as once they had, much less as Christ hath now procured. When God would give the Israelites his sabbaths of rest, in a land of rest, he had more ado to make them believe it, than to overcome their enemies, and procure it for them. And when they had it, only as a small intimation and earnest of an incomparibly more glorious rest through Christ, they yet believe no more than they possess, but say, with the glutton at the feast, Sure there is no other heaven but this ! Or, if they expect more by the Messiah, it is only the increase of their earthly felicity. The apostle bestows most of this epistle against this distemper, and clearly and largely proves, that the end of all ceremonies and shadows, is to direct them to Jesus Christ the substance; and that the rest of sabbaths, and Canaan, should teach them to look for a farther rest, which indeed is their happiness. My text is his conclusion after divers arguments; a conclusion which contains the ground of all the believer's comfort, the end of all his duty and sufferings; the life and sum of all gospel promises and Christian privileges. What more welcome to men under personal afflictions, tiring duties, successions of sufferings, than rest? It is not our comfort only, but our stability. Our liveliness in all duties, our enduring tribulation, our honouring of God, the vigour of our love, thankfulness, and all our graces, yea, the very being of our religion and Christianity, depend on the believing serious thoughts of our rest. And now, reader, whatever thou art, young or old, rich or poor, I entreat thee, and charge thee, in the name of thy Lord, who will shortly call thee to a reckoning, and judge thee to thy everlasting unchangeable state, that thou give not these things the reading only, and so dismiss them with a bare approbation; but that thou set upon this work, and take God in Christ for thy only rest, and fix thy heart upon him above all. May the living God, who is the portion and rest of his saints, inake these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives; and that neither I that write, nor you that read, this book, may ever be turned from this path of life; lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, we should come short of it, through our own unbelief or negligence.(a)
§ 2. The saint's rest is, the most happy state of a Christian; or it is, the perfect endless enjoyment of God by the perfected saints, according to the measure of their capacity, to which their souls arrive at death; and both soul and body most fully after the resurrection and final judgment. According to this definition of the saint's rest, a larger account of its nature will be given in this chapter; of its preparatives, chap. ii; its excellencies, chap. iii; and chap. iv. the persons for whom it is designed. Farther to illustrate this subject, some description will be given, chap. v. of their misery who lose this rest; and chap. vi. who also lose the enjoyment of time, and suffer the torments of hell: next will be showed, chap. vii. the necessity of diligently seeking this rest; chap. viii. how our title to it may be discerned; chap. ix. that they who discern their title to it should help those that cannot; and chap. x. that this rest is not to be expected on earth. It will then be proper to consider, chap. xi. the importance of a heavenly life upon earth; chap. xii. how to live an heavenly life upon earth; chap. xji. the nature of heavenly contemplation, with the time, place, and temper, fittest for it; chap. xiv. what use heavenly contemplation makes of consideration, affections, soliloquy, and prayer; and likewise, chap. xv. how heavenly contemplation may be assisted by sensible objects, and guarded against a treacherous heart. Heavenly contemplation will be exemplified, chap xvi and the whole work concluded.
§ 3. There are some things necessarily presupposed in the nature of this rest; as, for instance, that mortal men are the persons seeking it. For angels and glorified spirits have it already, and the devils and damned are past hope.—That they choose God only for their end and happiness. He that takes any thing else for his happiness, is out of the way the first step.-That they are distant from this end. This is
(a) Heb. iv. 1.
the woeful case of all mankind since the fall. When Christ comes with regenerating grace, he finds no man sitting still, but all posting to eternal ruin, and making haste towards hell; till, by conviction, he first brings them to a stand, and then, by conversion, turns their hearts and lives sincerely to himself. This end, and its excellency, is supposed to be known, and seriously intended. An unknown good moves not to desire or endeavour. And not only a distance from this rest, but the true knowledge of this distance, is also supposed. They that never yet knew they were without God, and in the way to hell, did never yet know the way to heaven. Can a man find he hath lost his God, and his soul, and not cry, I am undone? The reason why so few obtain this rest is, they will not be convinced that they are, in point of title, distant from it, and in point of practice, contrary to it. Whoever sought for that which he knew not he had lost? They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.(6) The influence of a superior moving cause is also supposed; else we shall all stand still, and not move toward our rest. If God move us not, we cannot move. It is a most necessary part of our Christian wisdom, to keep our subordination to God, and dependence on him. “We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God."(c) Without me, says Christ, ye can do nothing.(d) It is next supposed, that they who seek this rest, have an inward principle of spiritual life. God does not move men like stones, but he endows them with life, not to enable them to move without him, but in subordination to himself, the first mover. And, farther, this rest supposes such an actual tendency of soul towards it, as is regular and constant, earnest and laborious. He that hides his talents, shall receive the wages of a slothful servant, Christ is the door, the only way to this rest. But strait is the gate, and nurrow is the way ;(e) and we
(6) Matt. ix. 12.
(c) 2 Cor. iii. 5.
must strive if we will enter, for many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able: (1) which implies, that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.(g) Nor will it bring us to the end of the saints, if we begin in the spirit and end in the flesh.(h) He only that endureth to the end shall be saved. (0) And never did a soul obtain rest with God, whose desire was not set upon him above all things else in the world. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.(k) The remainder of our old nature will much weaken and interrupt these desires, but never overcome them. And considering the opposition to our desires, from the contrary principles in our nature, and from the weakness of our graces, together with our continued distance from the end, our tendency to that end must be laborious, and with all our might. All these things are presup. posed, in order to a Christian's obtaining an interest in heavenly rest.
§ 4. Now we have ascended these steps into the outward court, may we look within the vail ? May we show what this rest contains, as well as what it presupposes ?-Alas, how little know I of that glory! The glimpse which Paul had, contained what could not, or must not be uttered. Had he spoke the things of heaven in the language of heaven, and none understood that language, what the better? The Lord reveal to me what I may reveal to you! The Lord open some light, and shew both you and me our inheritance! Not as to Balaam only, whose eyes were open to see the goodliness of Jacob's tents, and Israel's tabernacles, where he had no portion, and from whence must come his own destruction! not as to Moses, who had only a discovery, instead of possession, and saw the land which he never entered! But as the pearl was revealed to the merchant in the Gospel, who rested not till he had sold all he had, and bought it! And as heaven was opened to blessed Stephen, which he was shortly to enter, and the glory
Luke xïi. 24. (g) Matt. xi. 12. (h) Gal. jii. 3. (1) Matt. xxiv. 13. (k) Matt. vi. 21.