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what its pleasures lay ; and, supposing him once there, were there a place of safety out of it, how he would long to be away, and keep his eye on the gate to watch its opening, and escape as from a doleful prison | Such an inheritance were to such a man like the gift of a noble library to a plumed, painted savage. As, ignorant of letters, he stalked from hall to hall amid the wisdom of bygone ages, and rolled his restless eyes over the unappreciated treasures, how he would sigh to be back to his native forests, where he might sit among his tribe at the council-fire, or raise his warwhoop, or hunt down the deerl People talk strangely of going to heaven when they die; but what gratification could it possibly afford a man whose enjoyments are of a sensuous or sensual nature—whose only pleasure lies in the acquisition of worldly objects, or the gratification of brutal appetites? You hope to go to heaven! I hope you will. But, unless your heart is sanctified and renewed, what were heaven to you? an abhorrent vacuum. The day that took you there would end all enjoyment, and throw you, a castaway, upon a solitude more lonely than a desert island. Neither angels nor saints would seek your company, nor would you seek theirs. Unable to join in their hallowed employments, to sympathise with, or even to understand their holy joys, you would feel more desolate in heaven than we have done in the heart of a great city, without one friend, jostled by crowds, but crowds who spoke a language we did not understand, and were aliens alike in dress and manners, in language, blood, and faith. It is the curse of vice, that, where its desires-outlive the power of gratification, or are denied the opportunity of indulgence, they become a punishment and a torment. Denied all opportunity of indulgence, what would a drunkard do in heaven? Or a glutton? Or a voluptuary 7 Or an ambitious man? Or a worldling? one whose soul lies buried in a heap of gold 2 Or she, who, neglecting quite as much the noble purposes of her being, flits, life through, a painted butterfly, from flower to flower of pleasure, and wastes the day of grace in the idolatry and adornment of a form which death shall change into utter loathsomeness, and the grave into a heap of dust? These would hear no sounds of ecstasy, would see no brightness, would smell no perfumes, in paradise. But, weeping and wringing their hands, they would wander up and down the golden streets to bewail their death, crying—“The days have come in which we have no pleasure in them.” On that eternal Sabbath—from which nor fields, nor news, nor business would afford escape—what would they do, who hear no music in church bells, and say of holy services, “When will they be over ?” Oh, the slow, weary march of the hours of never-ending Sabbath devotions ! Oh, the painful glare of a never-setting Sabbath sun' Than go down to hell, than perish in the coming storm, they would turn their prow to heaven; but only as the last refuge of a sinking bark– a safe, it may be, but yet a friendless shore. Unlike the happy swallows which David envied, thy altar, O God, is the very last spot where many would choose to build their nests Such is by nature the disposition of all of us. “The heart is desperately wicked.” “The carnal mind” has an aversion to spiritual duties, and an utter distaste for spiritual enjoyments. Nor is that all the truth. However it may lie concealed, like a worm in the bud, “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Illustrating the familiar adage, “out of sight, out of mind,” this feeling may lie dormant so long as our enemy is unseen. But, let him appear, and his presence opens every old wound afresh, and fans the smoldering enmity into flame. Therefore, the heaven that purifies the saint would but exasperate the hatred of the sinner; and the more God's holiness and glory were revealed, the more would this enmity be developed—just as the thicker the dews fall on decaying timber, the faster the timber rots; and the more full the Sunshine on a noxious plant, the more pestilent its juices grow. It is not in polar regions, where the day is night, and the showers are snow, and the rivers are moving ice, and slanting sunbeams fall faint and feeble, but in the climes where flowers are fairest, and fruits are sweetest, and fullest sunshine warms the air and lights a cloudless sky, that nature prepares her deadliest poisons. There the snake sounds its ominous rattle, and the venemous cobra lifts her hood. Even so sin, could it strike root in heaven, would grow more rankly, more hating and more hateful than on earth, and man would cast on God an eye of deeper and intenser enmity. Hence the need of being made, by a change of heart, new creatures in Jesus Christ. Hence, also, the need, which by reason of indwelling and remaining corruption, even God's people daily feel, of getting, with a title to the heavenly inheritance, a greater meetness for it. In other words, you must be sanctified as well as saved. This work, so necessary, as we have seen, in the very nature of things, has been assigned to the Holy Spirit. It was the office of the Son to purchase heaven for the heirs. And it is the office of the Spirit to prepare the heirs for heaven. Thus renewed, purified, and at length wholly sanctified, we shall carry a holy nature to a holy place, and be presented “faultless, 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 2. 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 2 Who would have worshiped with him in the synagogue 2 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 gol 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 under