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This prospect is so well secured to us, that our hopes may now begin to take possession of our inheritance. And this is the encouragement given us by the Apostle, to set our affection on things above. He has another reason, which is indeed but a member of the same argument.
For if we are risen with Christ in our baptism to a new life; it is equally true, that in the same baptism we are dead with him to the things of this life. And thence he argues, if ye be dead with Christ, why, as though living in the world are ye subject to such things as are to perish with the using? This subjection to perishable things, is the great mistake of mortal man; separating him from the knowledge and love of God; and consequently, from all the great objects of the world to come.
It is not possible to know the things of God, while our hearts are set upon the world. Ignorance of God will cherish earthly affections; and earthly affections will end in a separation from God. One of these cases was exemplified in the heathens; the other in the Jews. The heathens did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and so were given up to vile affections: the Jews had set their affections on the world, and so lost the knowledge of God. It signifies not which end we begin at: for the issue is the same
Upon the whole then, it is the proper business of man in this world, to set his affections on things above: in this is our wisdom, our wealth, our hope, and our happiness : therefore it should be an affront to the understandings of rational men, to desire them to follow what is so desirable in itself. Let me then take it for granted, that they who hear me, wish to attain to this heavenly practice, and only want to know how it is to be done. To this the answer is
short : consider what your hope is as Christians, and learn what this world is, and then your affections cannot make any mistake, without doing it wilfully. To know that you have an inheritance in a better world, purchased by the death of Christ, and sealed to you by his Resurrection; I say, to know this, and not to desire it is impossible. And on the other hand, to see that the Things of this world are vain, deceitful and perishable; and yet to admire and seek them, is equally impossible. How then does it happen, that we see so few aspiring to the things above, and such multitudes swallowed up by the things on the earth ? What can be said, but that men are blind to the deceitfulness of the world, and to the glories of heaven; and so like the blind are wandering out of
That any should be found so senseless as to prefer earth to heaven, and sensuality to immortality, is a certain proof, that there is some radical error in our nature, derived to us from the mistake of our first parents, and never to be corrected but by the power of divine Grace, and the diligent study of the word of God. Every man is born with that clay upon
which must be washed away by him, who was sent from heaven for that purpose; and then he may see all things clearly, Then he may shake off that folly of preferring dust and ashes to the riches of eternity; when things eternal, and things temporal are compared, it seems the easiest thing in the world to chuse between them; and yet it is the hardest; because it is impossible to love the things of heaven, without that principle of faith, which gives us a sight of them. In this is the great difference between the Christian and the man of the world; that the one walks by sense, and the other by faith. The Christian ascends through faith and hope
to the love of God; and when he has attained to that, his affections are placed where they ought to be.
If you would plainly understand the difference between these two sorts of men, view them upon their death-beds. When death approaches, the Christian finds himself drawing nearer to the objects he has desired: but the man of the world is hasting toward those terrors of the Lord, which he has vainly endeavoured to forget. The one parts with what he never valued, and in exchange looks for that which never can decay: the other is torn away against his will from all he has delighted in, never more to be delighted with any thing. The one leaves his friends, with a certainty of meeting such of them, as are worth finding, in a better world: the other leaves all good men, without the hope of conversing with them any more.
The one is at length conveyed by Angels to the bosom of Abraham; the other goes, where he went, who had received the good things in this life.
Who can make this comparison without saying, in the words of Balaam, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! Let us then remember, my friends, and let us never forget it, that the righteous dies this death, because in his life-time, he set his affection on things above. Which that we may all do in like manner, God of his great mercy grant, and assist us therein daily, for the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD LAY.
MATTH. xxviij. 6.
IN these words, the Angel which descended from heaven at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, invited those holy women, who came to seek for him, to look into his sepulchre, and see how the present state of things demonstrated to their senses, that he, who had been laid there three days before, was risen from the dead. On this day, the same words call upon us, and all Christians, to go along with them to the sepulchre of Christ; there to meditate on the certainty, and the wonderful manner, and the glorious power of his Resurrection. This is the use I mean to make of the words : I shall suppose, that you and I on this blessed day are going together to that garden of Joseph of Arimathea, where was a new tomb hewed in a rock, with a stone rolled to the mouth of it; the body of Jesus being buried within it, and a guard of Roman soldiers keeping watch without it : and that when we come there, we find such things as those devout women did, who came early in the morning to visit the place. With those things before us, we shall be affected nearly as they were; and consequently we shall be delighted and edified. There is not one circumstance attending the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which doth not carry instruction with it; and therefore I shall consider them nearly in the same order in which they happened,
and shew you the meaning and the reasons of these wonderful things. In all such events as relate to our Salvation, the Providence of God disposes the circumstances in such a manner, that they give us light and learning; and they were undoubtedly recorded for our instruction and edification.
The first circumstance attending the Resurrection of Christ may serve as a specimen, to teach what we may expect from the rest.
In the first verse of the 28th chapter of St. Matthew, we are told, that the Resurrection happened as it dawneil toward the first day of the week. St. Mark says, more expressly, that it was at the rising of the sun.
Here then you see, as on many other occasions, the natural works of God bearing testimony to his spiritual works for the salvation of man. At the crucifixion of Christ the sun was darkened; and from the duration of the darkness for the space of three hours, we may infer that this darkness happened from an eclipse of the sun : the natural sun failing in its light, so long as the Sun of Righteousness, who is the true light of man, was suffering upon the cross. So at his resurrection, the Sun of Grace and the sun of nature rise together. From whence this inference is necessary, that he is, as he said of himself, the true light; and, that he is the author of a new life to the world, as the sun begins a new day. We learn that as nature rises with the sun, so doth the world rise with Jesus Christ, and receive life and immortality from his resurrection: and it is not improbable, but that where he is said to have brought to light, that is, (as the word signifies) to have illuminated, life and immortality, his resurrection at the rising of the sun may be referred to : for certainly his resurrection did diffuse life, as truly as the sun did then bring on the day. There