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before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy." But observe, more particularly,
IV. As heaven is the gift of God, our meetness for it is the work of God.
In my text, the apostle calls for thanks unto the Father. For by whatever instruments God executes his work, whether the means he uses to sanctify his people be dead books, or living ministers, be sweet or severe, common or striking providences, the work is not theirs, but his. Owing him, then, no less praise for the Spirit who makes us meet for the inheritance, than for the Son who purchased it, we give thanks to God. The church weaves the three names into one doxology, singing, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost."
Let me illustrate this point by a reference to the case of Lazarus. On the day when he was raised from the dead, Lazarus had two things to thank Christ for. His gratitude was due for what Jesus did without human instrumentality, and also for what he did by it; both for the "Lazarus come forth!" that rent the grave, and for the "Loose him and let him go!" that rent the grave-clothes; not only for life, but for the liberty without which life had been a doubtful blessing. Doubtful blessing! What enjoyment had there been in life so long as the face-cloth was left on his eyes, and his limbs were bound fast in the cerements of the tomb? He emerges from the grave's black mouth a living, yet a startling, hideous object, from whose appalling form the crowd reels back, and terror-stricken sisters might be excused for shrinking. Shrouded like a corpse, smelling of the noisome grave, with the yellow linen muffling eyes and mouth, every door had been shut against him, and the streets of Bethany cleared of flying crowds by such a frightful apparition. Who would have sat beside him at the feast? Who would have worshiped with him in the synagogue? A public terror, shunned by his dearest friends, to him life had been no boon; but a burden—a heavy load from which he had sought relief, where many a weary one has found it, in the deep oblivion of the tomb. Had Christ done no more than bid Lazarus live, I can fancy his unhappy friend imploring him to resume the gift, saying, Take it back; let me return to the quiet grave; the dead will not shun me; and I shall say to corruption, "Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister."
In these circumstances, the conduct of our Lord illustrates that grace which, in whomsoever it begins a good work, will carry it on to the day of the Lord Jesus. Pointing to Lazarus—who was, perhaps, endeavoring at that moment, like a newly-awakened sinner, to fling off his shroud, and be free—he addresses the spectators, saying, " Loose him, and let him go!" And thus God deals with renewed souls. Liberty follows life. To His Holy Spirit, and, in a subordinate sense, to providence in its dealings, to ministers in the pulpit, to parents, teachers, and all other human instruments, he says, Undo the bonds of sin—loose them, and let them go!
Now, to bring the subject home, have we not merely fancied, but have we felt, have we solid scriptural ground for believing, that the same spirit-freeing words have been spoken of us? Have we been freed from habits that were to us as grave-clothes? And, emancipated from passions which once enslaved us, are we now, at least in some measure, doing what David undertook, when he said, "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart?" In growing holiness—in heavenly desires that, flame-like, shoot upward to the skies—in godly resolutions that aim at, if they do not always attain, a lofty mark—" in the lust of the flesh," and the "pride of life," nailed to a cross where, if not yet dead, they are dying daily— in holy sorrows that, like a summer cloud, while they discharge their burden in tears, are spanned by a bow of hope—in longings that aspire after a purer state and a better land—in these things have you at once the pledge of heaven and the meetness for it? If so, "this is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." As delightful as marvelous! What joy, what peace should it impart to the hearts of those who, feeling themselves less than the least of God's mercies, unworthy of a crust of bread or of a cup of water, hail in these the bright tokens of a blood-bought crown—that coming event which casts its shadow before!
But if, without this meetness, you are indulging the hope that, when you die, you will succeed to the inheritance—ah! how shall the event, the dreadful reality, undeceive you! Ponder these words, I pray you, "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord," "Without are dogs," "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Let no man delude himself; or believe that cunning devil, who—unlike the ugly toad that, seated squat by the ear of Eve, filled her troubled mind with horrid dreams—hovers over him in the form of a benignant angel, charming away his fears with "peace, pea^e, when there is no peace." Believe me, that the only proof that God has chosen us is, that we have chosen him. The distinguishing mark of heirs is some degree of meetness for the heirship. In saints, the spirit is willing even when the flesh is weak; the body lags behind the soul; the affections outrun the feet; and the desires of those who are bound for heaven, are often far on the road before themselves. By these signs thou mayest know thyself. Can you stand that touchstone?
Ere autumn has tinted the woodlands, or the cornfields are falling to the reaper's song, or hoary hill-tops, like gray hairs on an aged head, give warning of winter's approach, I have seen the swallow's brood pruning their feathers, and putting their long wings to the proof; and, though they might return to their nests in the window-eaves, or alight again on the house-tops, they darted away in the direction of sunny lands. Thus they showed that they were birds bound for a foreign clime, and that the period of their migration from the scene of their birth was nigh at hand. Grace also has its prognostics. They are infallible as those of nature. So, when the soul, filled with longings to be gone, is often darting away to glory, and, soaring upward, rises on the wings of faith, till this great world, from her sublime elevation, looks a little thing, God's people know that they have the earnest of the Spirit. These are the pledges of heaven—a sure sign that their "redemption draweth nigh." Such devout feelings afford the most blessed evidence that, with Christ by the helm, and "the wind," that "bloweth where it listeth," in our swelling sails, we are drawing nigh to the land that is afar off; even as the reeds, and leaves, and fruits that float upon the briny waves, as the birds of strange and gorgeous plumage that fly round his ship and alight upon its yards, as the sweet-scented odors which the wind wafts out to sea, assure the weary mariner that, ere long, he shall drop his anchor, and end his voyage in the desired haven.