|RPM, Volume 14, Number 43, October 21 to October 27, 2012|
A soul truly devoted to God, joins heartily in this petition, adveniat regnum tuum, 'thy kingdom come.' In these words it is implied that God is a king, for he who has a kingdom, can be no less than a king. 'God is the King of all the earth.' Psa 47: 7. He is a King upon his throne. 'God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.' Psa 47: 8. He has a regal title, high and mighty. 'Thus saith the high and lofty One.' Isa 57: 15. He has the ensigns of royalty. He has his sword. 'If I whet my glittering sword.' Deut 32: 41. He has his sceptre. 'A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.' Heb 1: 8. He has his crown royal. 'On his head were many crowns.' Rev 19: 12. He has his jura regalia, his kingly prerogatives. He has power to make laws, to seal pardons, which are the flowers and jewels belonging to his crown. Thus the Lord is King.
Further, he is a great King. 'A great King above all gods.' Psa 95: 3. He is great in and of himself; and not like other kings, who are made great by their subjects. That he is so great a King appears by the immensity of his being. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.' Jer 23: 24. His centre is everywhere; he is nowhere included, yet nowhere excluded, he is so immensely great, that 'the heaven of heavens cannot contain him'. 1 Kings 8: 27. His greatness appears by the effects of his power. He 'made heaven and earth,' and can unmake it. Psa 124: 8. With a breath he can crumble us to dust; with a word he can unpin the world, and break the axle-tree of it in pieces. 'He poureth contempt upon princes.' Job 12: 21. 'He shall cut off the spirit of princes.' Psa 76: 12. He is Lord paramount, who does whatever he will. Psa 115: 3. He weigheth 'the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.' Psa 40: 12.
God is a glorious King. 'Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.' Psa 24: 10. He has internal glory. 'The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty.' Psa 93: 1. Other kings have royal and sumptuous apparel to make them appear glorious to beholders, but all their magnificence is borrowed; God is clothed with his own majesty; his own glorious essence is instead of royal robes, and 'he has girded himself with strength.' Kings have their guard about them to defend their person, because they are not able to defend themselves; but God needs no guard or assistance from others. 'He has girded himself with strength.' His own power is his lifeguard. 'Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?' Psa 89: 6. He has a pre-eminence above all other kings for majesty. 'He has on his vesture a name written, Rex Regum, KING OF KINGS.' Rev 19: 16. He has the highest throne, the richest crown, the largest dominions, and the longest possession. 'The Lord sitteth King for ever.' Psa 29: 10. Though he has many heirs, yet no successors. He sets up his throne where no other king does; he rules the will and affections; his power binds the conscience. Angels serve him, all the kings of the earth hold their crowns and diadems by immediate tenure from this great King. 'By me kings reign,' Prov 8: 15. To this Lord Jehovah all kings must give account, and from his tribunal there is no appeal.
Use 1. For instruction (1) If God be so great a King, and sits King for ever, it is no disparagement for us to serve him, Deo servire est regnare [to serve God is to reign]; it is an honour to serve a king. If the angels fly swiftly upon the King of heaven's message, then well may we look upon it as a favour to be taken into his royal service. Dan 9: 21. Theodosius thought it a greater honour to be God's servant, than to be an emperor. It is more honour to serve God than to have kings serve us. Every subject of this King is crowned with regal honour. He 'has made us kings.' Rev 1: 6. therefore, as the queen of Sheba, having seen the glory of Solomon's kingdom, said, 'Happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee.' 1 Kings 10: 8. So happy are those saints who stand before the King of heaven, and wait on his throne.
(2) If God be such a glorious King, crowned with wisdom, armed with power, be spangled with riches, it shows us what prudence it is to have this King to be ours; to say, 'My King, and my God.' Psa 5: 2. It is counted great policy to be on the strongest side. If we belong to the King of heaven, we are sure to be on the strongest side. The King of glory can with ease destroy his adversaries; he can pull down their pride, befoul their policy and restrain their malice. That stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which smote the image (Dan 2: 34), was an emblem, says Augustine, of Christ's monarchical power, conquering and triumphing over his enemies. If we are on God's side, we are on the strongest side; he can with a word destroy his enemies. 'Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath.' Psa 2: 5. Nay, with a look he can destroy them. 'Look upon every one that is proud and bring him low.' Job 40: 12. It needs cost God no more to confound those who rise up against him, than a look, a cast of his eye. 'In the morning watch, the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians, through the pillar of fire, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot-wheels.' Exod 14: 24. What wisdom is it then to have this King to be ours! Then we are on the strongest side.
Use 2. For exhortation (1) If God be so glorious a King, full of power and majesty, let us trust in him. 'They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.' Psa 9: 10. Trust him with your soul; you cannot put this jewel in safer hands. And trust him with church and state affairs; he is King. 'The Lord is a man of war.' Exod 15: 3. He can make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations. If means fail, he is never at a loss; there are no impossibilities with him; he can make the dry bones live. Ezek 37: 10. As a King he can command, and as a God he can create salvation. 'I create Jerusalem a rejoicing.' Isa 65: 18. Let us trust all our affairs with this great King. Either God can remove mountains or can leap over them. Cant 2: 8.
(2) If God be so great a King, let us fear him. 'Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?' Jer 5: 22. We have enough of fear of men. Fear makes danger appear greater, and sin less; but let us fear the King of kings, who has power to cast body and soul into hell. Luke 12: 5. As one wedge drives out another, so the fear of God would drive out all base carnal fear. Let us fear that God whose throne is set above all kings; they may be mighty, but he is almighty. Kings have no power, but what God has given them; their power is limited, his is infinite. Let us fear this King, whose eyes are 'as a flame of fire.' Rev 1: 14. 'The mountains quake at him; and the rocks are thrown down by him.' Nahum 1: 5, 6. If he stamps with his foot, all the creatures are presently up in a battalion to fight for him. Oh, tremble and fear before this God. Fear is janitor animae, the doorkeeper of the soul. It keeps sin from entering. 'How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' Gen 39: 9.
(3) If God be so glorious a King, he has jus vitae et necis, he has the power of life and death in his hand. Let all the potentates of the earth take heed how they employ their power against the King of heaven. They employ their power against God, who with their sceptres beat down his truth, which is the most orient pearl of his crown; who crush and persecute his people, who are the apple of his eye (Zech 2: 8); who trample upon his laws, and royal edicts, which he has set forth (Psa 2: 3). What is a king without his laws? Let all that are invested with worldly power and grandeur take heed how they oppose the King of glory. The Lord will be too hard for all that come against him. 'Hast thou an arm like God?' Job 40: 9. Wilt thou measure arms with the Almighty? Shall a little child fight with an archangel? 'Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong in the days that I shall deal with thee?' Ezek 22: 14. Christ will put all his enemies at last under his feet. Psa 110: 1. All the multitude of the wicked, who set themselves against God, shall be but as so many clusters of ripe grapes, to be cast into the winepress of the wrath of God, to be trodden by him till their blood come forth. The King of glory will come off victor at last. Men may set up their standard, but God always sets up his trophies of victory. The Lord has a golden sceptre, and an iron rod. Psa 2: 9. Those who will not bow to the one, shall be broken by the other.
(4) Is God so great a king, having all power in heaven and earth in his hand! let us learn subjection to him. You who have gone on in sin, and by your impieties hung out a flag of defiance against the King of heaven, O come in quickly, and make your peace, submit to God. 'Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.' Psa 2: 12. Kiss Christ with a kiss of love, and a kiss of obedience. Obey the King of heaven, when he speaks to you by his ministers and ambassadors. 2 Cor 5: 20. When God bids you flee from sin, and espouse holiness, obey him: to obey is better than sacrifice. 'To obey God,' says Luther, 'is better than to work miracles.' Obey God willingly. Isa 1: 19. That is the best obedience that is cheerful, as that is the sweetest honey which drops out of the comb. Obey God swiftly. 'Then lifted I up mine eyes, and, behold, two women, and the wind was in their wings.' Zech 5: 9. Wings are swift, but wind in the wings denotes great swiftness; such should our obedience to God be. Obey the King of glory.
Use 3. For consolation. Here is comfort to those who are the subjects of the King of heaven. God will put forth all the royal power for their succour and comfort. (1) The King of heaven will plead their cause. 'I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee.' Jer 51: 36. (2) He will protect his people. He sets an invisible guard about them. 'I will be unto her a wall of fire round about.' Zech 2: 5. A wall, that is defensive; a wall of fire, that is offensive. (3) When it may be for the good of his people, he will raise up deliverance to them. 'The Lord saved them by a great deliverance.' 1 Chron 11: 14. God reigning as a king, can save any way; even by contemptible means, as the blowing of the trumpets, and blazing of lamps. Judges 7: 20. By contrary means; as when he made the sea a wall to Israel, and the waters were a means to keep them from drowning. The fish's belly was a ship in which Jonah sailed safe to shore. God will never want ways of saving his people; rather than fail, their very enemies shall do his work. 2 Chron 20: 23. He sets Ammon and Mount Seir one against another. As God will deliver his people from temporal danger, so from spiritual danger, as from sin, and from hell. 'Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come.' 1 Thess 1: l0.
Use 4. For intimidation. If God be king, he will set his utmost strength against those who are the enemies of his kingdom. 'A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.' Psa 97: 3. (1) He will set himself against his enemies. He will set his attributes against them, his power and justice; and 'who knoweth the power of thine anger?' Psa 90: 2: (2) He will set the creatures against them. 'The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.' Judges 5: 20. Tertullian observes, that when the Persian fought against the Christians, a mighty wind arose, which made the Persian' arrows to fly back in their own faces. Every creature has a quarrel with a sinner; the stone out of the wall, the hail and the frost. Hab 2: 11. 'He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore-trees with frost.' Psa 78: 47. (3) God will set men against themselves. He will set conscience against them. How terrible is this rod when turned into a serpent! Melanchthon calls it Erinnys conscientiae, a hellish fury; it is called vermis conscientiae, the worm of conscience. Mark 9: 44. What a worm did Spira feel in his conscience! He was a terror to himself. The worst civil wars are between a man and his conscience. (4) God will set the diseases of men's bodies against them. 'The Lord smote [Jehoram] in his bowels with an incurable disease.' 2 Chron 21: 18. God can raise an army against a man out of his own bowels; he can set one humour of the body against another; the heat to dry up the moisture, and the moisture to drown the heat. The Lord needs not go far for instruments to punish the sinner; he can make the joints of the same body to smite one against another. Dan 5: 6. (5) God will set men's friends against them. Where they used to have honey, they shall have nothing but aloes and wormwood. 'When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.' Prov 16: 7. When he opposes God, he makes his friends to be his enemies. The wife of Commodes, the emperor, gave him poison in perfumed wine. Sennacherib's two sons were the death of him. 2 Kings 19: 37. (6) God will set Satan against them. 'Let Satan stand at his right hand.' Psa 109: 6. What does Satan at the sinner's elbows? He helps him to contrive sin. He tempts him to commit sin. He terrifies him for sin. He that has Satan standing at his right hand, is sure to be set at God's left hand. Here is the misery of such as oppose God's royal sceptre, that he will set everything in the world against them. If there be either justice in heaven or fire in hell, sinners shall not be unpunished.
Use 5. For encouragement. If God be such an absolute monarch, and crowned with such glory and majesty, let us all engage in his service, and stand up for his truth and worship. Dare to own God in the worst time. He is King of kings, and is able to reward all his servants. We may be losers for him, we shall never be losers by him. We are ready to say, as Amaziah, 'What shall I do for the hundred talents?' 2 Chron 25: 9. If I appear for God, I may lose my estate, my life. I say with the prophet, God is able to give you much more than this; he can give you for the present inward peace, and for the future a crown of glory which fadeth not away.
What kingdom is meant when Christ says, 'Thy kingdom come'?
Let us show first what he does not mean. (1) He does not mean a political or earthly kingdom. The apostles indeed did desire Christ's temporal reign. 'Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom again to Israel?' Acts 1: 6. But Christ said his kingdom was not of this world. John 18: 36. So that, when Christ taught his disciples to pray, 'Thy kingdom come,' he did not mean it of any earthly kingdom, that he should reign here in outward pomp and splendour. (2) It is not meant of God's providential kingdom. 'His kingdom ruleth over all;' that is, the kingdom of his providence. Psa 103: 19. This kingdom we do not pray for when we say, 'Thy kingdom come;' for this kingdom is already come. God exercises the kingdom of his providence in the world. 'He putteth down one and setteth up another.' Psa 75: 7. Nothing stirs in the world but God has a hand in it; he sets every wheel at work; he humbles the proud, and raises the poor out of the dust to set them among princes. 1 Sam 2: 8. The kingdom of God's providence rules over all; kings do nothing but what his providence permits and orders. Acts 4: 27, 28. This kingdom of God's providence we do not pray should come, for it is already come.
What kingdom then is meant when we say, 'Thy kingdom come'? Positively a twofold kingdom is meant. (1) The kingdom of grace, which God exercises in the consciences of his people. This is regnum Dei micron. God's lesser kingdom. When we pray, 'Thy kingdom come,' we pray that the kingdom of grace may be set up in our hearts and increased. (2) We pray also, that the kingdom of glory may hasten, and that we may, in God's good time, be translated into it. These two kingdoms of grace and glory differ not specifically, but gradually; they differ not in nature, but in degree only. The kingdom of grace is nothing but the beginning of the kingdom of glory. The kingdom of grace is glory in the seed, and the kingdom of glory is grace in the flower. The kingdom of grace is glory in the daybreak, and the kingdom of glory is grace in the full meridian. The kingdom of grace is glory militant, and the kingdom of glory is grace triumphant. There is such an inseparable connection between these two kingdoms, grace and glory, that there is no passing into the one but by the other. At Athens there were two temples, a temple of virtue and a temple of honour; and there was no going into the temple of honour, but through the temple of virtue; so the kingdoms of grace and glory are so closely joined together, that we cannot go into the kingdom of glory but through the kingdom of grace. Many people aspire after the kingdom of glory, but never look after grace; but these two, which God has joined together, may not be put asunder. The kingdom of grace leads to the kingdom of glory.
I. The first thing implied in this petition, 'Thy kingdom come,' is that we are in the kingdom of darkness. We pray that we may be brought out of the kingdom of darkness. The state of nature is a kingdom of darkness, where sin is said to reign. Rom 6: 12. It is called, 'the power of darkness. ' Col 1: 13. Man, before the fall, was illuminated with perfect knowledge, but this light is now eclipsed, and he is fallen into the kingdom of darkness.
How many ways is a natural man in the kingdom of darkness?
(1) He is under the darkness of ignorance. 'Having the understanding darkened.' Eph 4: 18. Ignorance is a black veil drawn over the mind. Men by nature may have a deep reach in the things of the world, and yet be ignorant of the things of God. Nahash the Ammonite would make a covenant with Israel to thrust out their right eyes. 1 Sam 11: 2. Since the fall, our left eye remains, a deep insight into worldly matters; but our right eye is thrust out, we have no saving knowledge of God. Something we know by nature, but nothing as we ought to know. 1 Cor 8: 2. Ignorance draws the curtains round about the soul. 1 Cor 2: 14.
(2) A natural man is under the darkness of pollution. Hence sinful actions are called 'works of darkness.' Rom 13: 12. Pride and lust darken the glory of the soul. A sinner's heart is a dark conclave that looks blacker than hell.
(3) A natural man is under the darkness of misery; he is exposed to divine vengeance; and the sadness of this darkness is, that men are not sensible of it. They are blind, yet they think they see. The darkness of Egypt was such thick darkness as 'might be felt.' Exod 10: 21. Men by nature are in thick darkness; but here is the misery, the darkness cannot be felt; they will not believe they are in the dark till they are past recovery.
Use I. See what the state of nature is. It is a 'kingdom of darkness,' and it is a bewitching darkness. 'Men loved darkness rather than light;' as the Athlantes in Ethiopia curse the sun. John 3: 19. Darkness of sin leads to 'chains under darkness.' Jude 6. What comfort can such take in earthly things? The Egyptians might have food, gold, silver; but they could take but little comfort in them, while they were in such darkness as might be felt; so the natural man may have riches and friends to delight in, yet he is in the kingdom of darkness, and how dead are all these comforts! Thou who art in the kingdom of darkness, knowest not whither thou goest. As the ox is driven to the shambles, but knows not whither he goes, so the devil is driving thee before him to hell, but thou knowest not whither thou goest. Shouldest thou die in thy natural estate, while thou art in the kingdom of darkness, blackness of darkness is reserved for thee. 'To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.' Jude 13.
Use 2. Let us pray that God will bring us out of this kingdom of darkness. God's kingdom of grace cannot come into our hearts till we are brought out of the kingdom of darkness. Col 1: 13. Why should not we strive to get out of this kingdom of darkness? Who would desire to stay in a dark dungeon? O fear the chains of darkness. Jude 6. These chains are God's power, binding men as in chains under wrath for ever. O pray that God would deliver you out of the kingdom of darkness! (1) Be sensible of thy dark, damned estate, that thou hast not one spark of fire to give thee light! (2) Go to Christ to enlighten thee! 'Christ shall give thee light;' he will not only bring thy light to thee, but open thine eyes to see it. Eph 5: 14. That is the first thing implied, 'Thy kingdom come;' we pray that we may be brought out of the kingdom of darkness.
II. The second thing implied is 'Thy kingdom come,' is that we pray against the devil's kingdom; that his kingdom may be demolished in the world. His kingdom stands in opposition to Christ's kingdom; and when we pray, 'Thy kingdom come,' we pray against Satan's kingdom. He has a kingdom: he got it by conquest: he conquered mankind in paradise. He has his throne. 'Thou dwellest where Satan's seat is.' Rev 2: 13. His throne is set up in the hearts of men; he does not care for their purses, but their hearts. He is served upon the knee. Eph 2: 2. 'They worshipped the dragon,' that is, the devil. Rev 13: 4. Satan's empire is very large. Most kingdoms in the world pay tribute to him. His kingdom has two qualifications or characters:  It is regnum nequitiae: a kingdom of impiety.  It is regnum servitutis: a kingdom of slavery.
 The kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of impiety. Nothing but sin goes on in his kingdom. Murder and heresy, lust and treachery, oppression and division, are the constant trade driven in his dominions. He is called 'the unclean spirit.' Luke 11: 24. What else is propagated in his kingdom but a mystery of iniquity?
 Satan's kingdom is a kingdom of slavery. He makes all his subjects slaves. Peccati reus dura daemonis tyrannide tenetur [The sinner is held captive under the grim tyranny of the devil]. Satan is a usurper and a tyrant; he is a worse tyrant than any other. (1) Other tyrants do but rule over the body, but Satan's kingdom rules over the soul. He rides some men as we do upon horses. (2) Other tyrants have some pity on their slaves. Though they make them work in the galleys, yet they give them meat, and let them have their hours for rest; but Satan is a merciless tyrant, who gives his slaves poison instead of meat, and hurtful lusts to feed on. 1 Tim 6: 9. Nor will he let his slaves have any rest: he hires them out to do his drudgery. 'They weary themselves to commit iniquity.' Jer 9: 5. When the devil had entered into Judas, he sent him to the high priests, and from thence to the garden, and never let him rest till he had betrayed Christ and hanged himself. Thus he is the worst of tyrants. When men have served him to their utmost strength, he welcomes them to hell with fire and brimstone.
Use. Let us pray that Satan's kingdom, set up in the world, may be overthrown. It is sad to think that, though the devil's kingdom be so bad, yet that it should have so many to support it. He has more to stand up for his kingdom than Christ has for his. What a large harvest of souls has Satan! and God only a few gleanings. The Pope and the Turk give the power to Satan. If in God's visible church the devil has so many loyal subjects that serve him with their lives and souls, how do his subjects swarm in places of idolatry and paganism, where there is none to oppose him, but all vote on the devil's side! Men are willing slaves to Satan; they will fight and die for him; therefore he is not only called 'the prince of this world,' but 'the god of this world' (John 12: 31; 2 Cor 4: 4), to show what power he has over men's souls. O let us pray that God would break the sceptre of the devil's kingdom; that Michael may destroy the dragon; that, by the help of a religious magistracy and ministry, the hellish kingdom of the prince of darkness may be beaten down! Satan's kingdom must be thrown down before Christ's kingdom can flourish in its power and majesty.
When we pray, 'Thy kingdom come,' something is positively intended.
III. We pray that the kingdom of grace may be set up in our hearts.
When we pray, 'Thy kingdom come,' we pray that the kingdom of grace may come into our hearts. This is regnum Dei mikron, God's lesser kingdom. 'The kingdom of God is righteousness.' Rom 14: 17. 'The kingdom of God is within you.' Luke 17: 21.
Why is grace called a kingdom?
Because, when grace comes, there is a kingly government set up in the soul. Grace rules the will and affections, and brings the whole man in subjection to Christ; it kings it in the soul, sways the sceptre, subdues mutinous lusts, and keeps the soul in a spiritual decorum.
Why is there such need to pray that this kingdom of grace may come into our hearts?
(1) Because, till the kingdom of grace come, we have no right to the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace is sweetened with love, bespangled with promises; it is our Magna Charta, by virtue of which God passes himself over to us to be our God. Who are heirs of the covenant of grace? Only such as have the kingdom of grace in their hearts. 'A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.' Ezek 36: 26. Here the kingdom of grace is set up in the soul; it then follows, 'I will be your God', 36: 28. The covenant of grace is to an ungracious person a sealed fountain; it is kept as a paradise with a flaming sword, that the sinner may not touch it. Without grace, you have no more right to it than a farmer to the city-charter.
(2) Unless the kingdom of grace be set up in our hearts, our purest offerings are defiled. They may be good as to the matter, but not as to the manner; they want that which should meliorate and sweeten them. Under the law, if a man who was unclean by a dead body, carried a piece of holy flesh in his skirt, the holy flesh could not cleanse him, but he polluted it. Hag 2: 12. Till the kingdom of grace be in our hearts, ordinances do not purify us, but we pollute them. Even the prayer of an ungracious person becomes sin. Prov 15: 8. In what a sad condition is a man before God's kingdom of grace is set up in his heart! Whether he comes or comes not to the ordinance, he sins. If he does not come to the ordinance, he is a condemner of it; if he does come, he is a polluter of it. A sinner's works are opera mortua, dead works; and those works which are dead, cannot please God. A dead flower has no sweetness. Heb 11: 6.
(3) We had need pray that the kingdom of grace may come, because until this kingdom come into our hearts, we are loathsome in God's eyes. 'My soul loathed them.' Zech 11: 8. Quanta est foeditas vitiosae mentis [How great is the foulness of a corrupt mind]. A heart void of grace looks blacker than hell. Sin transforms man into a devil. 'Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?' John 6: 70. Envy is the devil's eye, hypocrisy is his cloven foot. Thus it is before the kingdom of grace come. So deformed is a graceless person, that when once he sees his own filth and leprosy, the first thing he does is to loathe himself. 'Ye shall loathe yourself in your own sight for all your evils.' Ezek 20: 43. I have read of a woman who always used flattering glasses, and who, by chance, seeing her face in a true glass, in insaniam delapsa est, she ran mad. When once God gives those who now dress themselves by the flattering glass of presumption, a sight of their own filthiness, they will abhor themselves. 'Ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils.'
(4) Before the kingdom of grace comes unto us we are spiritually illegitimate, of the bastard brood of the old serpent. John 8: 44. To be illegitimate is the greatest infamy. 'A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord even to his tenth generation.' Deut 23: 2. He was to be kept out of the holy assemblies of Israel as an infamous creature. A bastard by law cannot inherit. Before the kingdom of grace comes into the heart, a person is to God as illegitimate, and so continuing he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(5) Before the kingdom of grace be set up in men's hearts, the kingdom of Satan is set up in them. They are said to be under 'the power of Satan.' Acts 26: 18. Satan commands the will; though he cannot force the will, by his subtle temptations he can draw it. He is said to take men captive 'at his will.' 2 Tim 2: 26. The Greek word signifies to take them alive as the fowler does the bird in the snare. The sinner's heart is the devil's mansion-house. 'I will return into my house.' Matt 12: 44. It is officina diaboli, Satan's shop, where he works. 'The prince of the air that now worketh in the children of disobedience.' Eph 2: 2. The members of the body are the tools with which Satan works. He possesses men. In Christ's time many had their bodies possessed, but it is far worse to have the souls possessed. One is possessed with an unclean devil, another with a revengeful devil. No wonder the ship goes full sail when the wind blows; no wonder men go full sail in sin when the devil, the prince of the air, blows them. Thus, till the kingdom of grace come, men are under the power of Satan, who, like Draco, writes all his laws in blood.
(6) Till the kingdom of grace comes, a man is exposed to the wrath of God. 'Who knoweth the power of thine anger?' Psa 90: 11. If when but a spark of God's wrath flies into a man's conscience in this life it is so terrible, what will it be when God stirs up all his anger? So inconceivably torturing is God's wrath, that the wicked call to the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from it. Rev 6: 16. The hellish torments are compared to a fiery lake. Rev 20: 15. Other fire is but painted in comparison of this; and this lake of fire burns for ever. Mark 9: 44. God's breath kindles this fire. Isa 30: 33. Where shall we find engines or buckets to quench it? Time will not finish it; tears will not quench it. To this fiery lake are men exposed till the kingdom of grace be set up in them.
(7) Till the kingdom of grace comes, men cannot die with comfort. He only who takes Christ in the arms of his faith can look death in the face with joy. It is sad to have the king of terrors in the body and not the kingdom of grace in the soul. It is a wonder every graceless person does not die distracted. What will a grace- despiser do when death comes to him with a writ of habeas corpus? Hell follows death. 'Behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him.' Rev 6: 8. Thus you see what need we have to pray that the kingdom of grace may come. Of him that dies without Christ I may say, 'It had been good for that man if he had not been born.' Matt 26: 24. Few believe the necessity of having the kingdom of grace set up in their hearts, as appears by this, that they are well content to live without it. Does that man believe the necessity of pardon who is content to be without it? Most people, if they may have trading, and may sit quietly under their vine and fig-trees, are in their kingdom, though they have not the kingdom of God within them. If the candle of prosperity shine upon their head, they care not whether the grace of God shine in their hearts. Do these men believe the necessity of grace? Were they convinced how needful it is to have the kingdom of God within them, they would cry out as the jailor, 'What must I do to be saved?' Acts 16: 30.
How may we know that the kingdom of grace is set up in our hearts?
It concerns us to examine this, for our salvation depends upon it, and we had need be cautious in the search, because there is something that looks like grace, which is not. 'If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.' Gal 6: 3. Many think they have the kingdom of grace come into their heart, and it is only a chimera, a golden dream. Quam multi cum vana spe descendunt ad inferos! [How many with vain hope go down to hell!] Augustine. Zeuxis painted grapes so lively that he deceived the living birds. There are many deceits about grace.
(1) Men think they have the kingdom of grace in their hearts because they have the means of grace. They live where the silver trumpet of the gospel sounds, they are lifted up to heaven with ordinances. 'I have a Levite to my priest,' surely I shall go to heaven. Judges 17: 13. The Jews cried, 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are [we].' Jer 7: 4. We are apt to glory in this, that the oracles of God are committed to us, that we have the word and sacrament. Alas! this is a fallacy; we may have the means of grace, and yet the kingdom of grace may not be set up in our hearts. We may have the kingdom of God come nigh us, but not into us; the sound of the word in our ears, but not the savour of it in our hearts. Luke 11: 20. Many of the Jews, who had Christ for their preacher, were not the better for it. Hot clothes will not put warmth into a dead man. Thou mayest have hot clothes, warn and lively preaching, and yet be spiritually dead. 'The children of the kingdom shall be cast out.' Matt 8: 12.
(2) Men think they have the kingdom of grace set up in their hearts, because they have some common works of the Spirit.
 They have great enlightening of mind, profound knowledge, and almost speak like angels dropped from heaven; but the apostle supposes a case in which, after men have been enlightened, they may fall away. Heb. 6: 4, 5, 6.
But wherein does this illumination come short?
The illumination of hypocrites is not virtual, it does not leave an impression of holiness behind; it is like weak physic that will not work. The mind is enlightened, but the heart is not renewed. A Christian that is all head, but no feet, does not walk in the ways of God.
 Men have had convictions and stirrings of conscience for sin, they have seen the evil of their ways, and now hope the kingdom of grace is come; but though convictions are a step towards grace, they are not grace. Had not Pharaoh and Judas convictions? Exod 10: 16.
What makes convictions prove abortive? Wherein do they fail?
They are not deep enough. A sinner never saw himself lost without Christ. The seed that wanted depth of earth withered. Matt 13: 5. These convictions are like blossoms blown off before they come to maturity. They are also involuntary. The sinner does what he can to stile them; he drowns them in wine and mirth; he labours to get rid of them. As the deer when shot runs and shakes out the arrow, so does he the arrow of conviction; or as the prisoner files off his fetters, and breaks loose, so he breaks loose from convictions. His corruptions are stronger than his convictions.
 Men have had some kind of humiliation, and have shed tears for their sins, and therefore hope the kingdom of grace is come into their hearts. But this is no infallible sign of grace. Saul wept, and Ahab humbled himself.
Why is not humiliation a grace? Wherein does it come short of it?
Tears in the wicked do not spring from love to God, but are forced by affliction, as water that drops from distillation is forced by the fire. Gen 4: 13. The tears of sinners are forced by God's fiery judgements. They are deceitful tears; lacrimae mentiri doctae [tears taught to lie]. Men weep, yet go on in sin; they do not drown their sins in their tears.
 Men have begun some reformation, therefore surely now they think the kingdom of grace is come; but there may be deceit in this. A man may leave his oaths and drunkenness, and still be in love with sin. He may leave his sin, out of fear of hell, or because it brings shame and penury, but still his heart goes after it, 'They set their heart on their iniquity' (Hos 4: 8); as Lot's wife left Sodom, but still her heart was in Sodom. Hypocrites are like the snake which casts her coat, but keeps her poison. They keep the love of sin as one that has been long suitor to another; though his friends break off the match, yet still he has a hankering love to her. It may be a partial reformation. He may leave off one sin and live in another; he may refrain drunkenness and live in covetousness; he may refrain swearing and live in the sin of slandering; one devil may be cast out and another as bad may come in his room. A man may forsake gross sins, but have no reluctance against heart sins; motus primo primi [the very earliest motions of sin] as proud, lustful thoughts. Though he dams up the stream, he lets alone the fountain. Oh, therefore, if there be so many deceits, and men may think the kingdom of heaven is come into their hearts when it is not, how curious and critical had we need be in our search whether we have it really in our hearts! If a man be deceived in the title of his land, it is but the loss of his estate; but if he be deceived about his grace, it is the loss of his soul.
How may we know positively that the kingdom of grace is set up in us?
In general, by having a metamorphosis or change wrought in the soul, which is called the 'new creature.' 2 Cor 5: 17. The faculties are not new, but there is a new nature; as the strings of a lute are the same, but the tune is altered. When the kingdom of grace is set up, there is light in the mind, order in the affections, pliableness in the will, tenderness in the conscience. They who can find no change of heart, are the same as they were; as vain, as earthly, as unclean as ever; there is no sign of God's kingdom of grace in them.
More particularly we may know the kingdom of grace is set up in our hearts. (1) By having unfeigned desires after God, which is the smoking flax that Christ will not quench. A true desire of grace is grace: by the beating of this pulse we conclude there is life. 'O Lord, let thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servants who desire to fear thy name.' Neh 1: 11. But may not a hypocrite have good desires? 'Let me die the death of the righteous.' Num 23: 10. Unfeigned desires evidence the kingdom of God within a man.
How may these unfeigned desires be known?
An unfeigned desire is ingenuous. We desire God propter se, for himself, for his intrinsic excellencies. The savour of the ointment of Christ's graces draws the virgins' desires after him. Cant 1: 3. A true saint desires him not on]y for what he has, but for what he is; not only for his rewards, but for his holiness. No hypocrite can thus desire God; he may desire him for his jewels, but not for his beauty.
An unfeigned desire is insatiable. It cannot be satisfied without God; let the world heap her honours and riches, they will not satisfy. No flowers or music will content him who is thirsty; so nothing will quench the soul's thirst but the blood of Christ. He faints away, his heart breaks with longing for God. Psa 84: 2; Psa 119: 20.
An unfeigned desire is active; it flourishes into endeavour. 'With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early.' Isa 26: 9. A soul that desires aright says, 'I must have Christ; I must have grace; I will have heaven, though I take it by storm.' He who desires water will let down the bucket into the well to draw it up.
An unfeigned desire is supreme. We desire Christ, not only more than the world, but more than heaven. 'whom have I in heaven but thee?' Psa 73: 25. Heaven itself would not satisfy without Christ. He is the diamond in the ring of glory. If God should say to the soul, I will put thee into heaven, but I will hide my face from thee, I will draw a curtain between that thou shalt not behold my glory, the soul would not be satisfied, but say, as Absalom, 'Now therefore let me see the king's face.' 2 Samuel 14: 32.
An unfeigned desire is gradual. It increases as the sun in the horizon. A little of God will not satisfy, but the pious soul desires still more. A drop of water is not enough for the thirsty traveller. Though a Christian is thankful for the least degree of grace, yet he is not satisfied with the greatest; he still thirsts for more of Christ, and his Spirit. Desire is a holy dropsy. A saint would have more knowledge, more sanctity, more of Christ's presence. A glimpse of Christ through the lattice of an ordinance is sweet; and the soul will never leave longing till it sees him face to face. It desires to have grace perfected in glory. Dulcissimo Deo totus immergi cupit et inviscerari [it desires to be wholly plunged and embowelled in the sweetness of God]. We would be swallowed up in God, and be ever bathing ourselves in those perfumed waters of pleasure which run at his right hand for ever. Surely this unfeigned desire after God is a blessed sign that the kingdom of grace is come into our hearts. The beating of this pulse shows life. Est a Deo ut bene velimus [God desires are from God]. Augustine. If iron move upwards contrary to its nature, it is a sign some loadstone has been there drawing it; if the soul move towards God in an unfeigned desire, it is a sign the loadstone of the Spirit has been drawing it.
(2) We may know the kingdom of grace has come into our hearts by having the princely grace of faith. Fides est sanctissima humani pectoris [Faith is the most sacred jewel of the human heart] Gemma. Faith cuts us from the wild olive of nature, and ingrafts us into Christ. It is the vital artery of the soul. 'The just shall live by faith.' Heb 10: 38. Faith makes a holy adventure on Christ's merits. As a princely grace it reigns in the soul, when the kingdom of God is come unto us. The Hebrew word for faith comes from radix which signifies to nourish; faith nourisheth the soul, and is the nurse of all the graces. But, who will not say he is a believer? Simon Magus believed, yet was in the gall of bitterness. Acts 8: 13, 23. The hypocrite can put on faith's mantle, as the devil did Samuel's.
How shall we know therefore that our faith is sound, that it is the faith of the operation of God, and that the kingdom of God is within us?
True faith is wrought by the ministry of the word. 'Faith comes by hearing.' Rom 10: 17. Peter let down the net of his ministry, and at one draught caught three thousand souls. Let us examine how our faith was wrought. Did God in the ministry of the word humble us? Did he break up the fallow ground of our heart, and then cast in the seed of faith? A good sign; but, if you know not how you came by your faith, suspect yourselves; as we suspect men to have stolen goods, when they know not how they came by them.
True faith is at first small, like a grain of mustard-seed; it is full of doubts and fears; it is smoking flax: it smokes with desire, but does not flame with comfort. It is so small that a Christian can hardly discern whether he has faith or not.
True faith is long in working, non fit in instanti [it does not come about in a moment]. It costs many searchings of heart, many prayers and tears; there is a spiritual combat. The soul suffers many sore pangs of humiliation before the child of faith is born. To those whose faith is per saltum [at a leap], who leap out of sin into a confidence that Christ is theirs, we may say, as Isaac concerning his son's venison, 'How is it that thou hast found it so quickly?' Gen 27: 20. How is it that thou camest by thy faith so soon? The seed in the parable which sprung up suddenly withered. Mark 4: 5, 6. Solent praecocia subito flaccescere [Things that are too forward have a way of suddenly wilting].
True faith is joined with sanctity. As a little bezoar is strong in operation, and a little musk sweetens, so a little faith purifies. 'Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.' 1 Tim 3: 9. Though faith does but touch Christ, it fetches a healing virtue from him. Justifying faith does that in a spiritual sense which miraculous faith does; it removes the mountains of sin, and casts them into the sea of Christ's blood.
True faith will trust God without a pawn. Though a Christian be cut short in provisions â€" the fig-tree does not blossom â€" yet he will trust in God. Fides famem non formidat. Faith fears not famine. God has given us his promise as his bond. 'Verily thou shalt be fed.' Psa 37: 3. Faith puts this bond in suit, that God will rather work a miracle than his promise shall fail. He has cause to suspect his faith, who says, he trusts God for the greater, but dares not trust him for the less: he trusts God for salvation, but dares not trust him for a livelihood.
True faith is prolific. It brings forth fruit; it has Rachel's beauty and Leahâ€™s fruitfulness. Fides pinguescit operibus. Luther. Faith is full of good works. It believes as if it did not work, and it works as if it did not believe. It is the spouse-like grace which marries Christ, and good works are the children which it bears. By having such faith we may know the kingdom of God is within us; that grace is certainly in our hearts.
(3) We may know the kingdom of grace is come into our hearts by having the grace of love. Faith and love are the two poles on which all religion turns. â€˜The upright love thee.â€™ Cant 1: 4. True love is to love God out of choice. It turns the son] into a seraphim; it makes it burn in a flame of affection; it is the truest touchstone of sincerity; it is the queen of the graces; it commands the whole soul. 2 Cor 5: 14. If our love to God be genuine, we let him have the supremacy; we set him in the highest room of our soul; we give him the purest of our love. â€˜I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.â€™ Cant 8: 2. If the spouse had anything better than another, a cup more juicy and spiced, Christ should drink of that. We give the creature the milk of our love, but God the cream. In short, if we love God aright, we love his laws; we love his picture drawn in the saints by the pencil of the Holy Ghost; we love his presence in his ordinances. Sleidan says, that the Protestants in France had a church which they call paradise; as if they thought themselves in paradise while they had Godâ€™s presence in his sanctuary. The soul that loves God, loves his appearing. 2 Tim 4: 8. It will be a glorious appearing to the saints when their union with Christ shall be complete; then their joy shall be full. The bride longs for the marriage day. â€˜The Spirit and the bride say, Come: even so, come, Lord Jesus.â€™ Rev 22: 17, 20. By this sacred love we may know the kingdom of God is within us.
(4) We may know the kingdom of grace is come into our hearts by spiritualizing the duties of religion. â€˜Ye are an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices.â€™ 1 Pet 2:5 Spiritualizing duty consists in three things:
 Fixedness of mind. We spiritualize duty when our minds are fixed on God. â€˜That you may attend on the Lord without distraction.â€™ 1 Cor 7: 35 Though impertinent thoughts sometimes come into the heart in duty, they are not allowed. Psa 119: 113. They come as unwelcome guests, which are no sooner spied but they are turned out.
 Fervency of devotion. â€˜Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.â€™ Rom 12: 11. The allusion is to water that seethes and boils over; so the affections boil over, the eyes melt in tears, and the heart flows in holy ejaculations. We not only bring our offering to God, but our hearts.
 Uprightness of aim. A man whose heart is upright has three ends in duty. First, that he may grow more like God. Moses on the mount had some of Godâ€™s glory reflected on him: â€˜his face shined.â€™ Secondly, that he may have more communion with God. â€˜Our fellowship is with the Father.â€™ 1 John 1: 3. Thirdly, that he may bring more glory to God. I Pet 4: 11 â€˜That Christ shall be magnified.â€™ Phil 1: 20. Sincerity aims at God in all things. Though we shoot short, yet we take a right aim, which is a sure evidence of grace. The spirits of wine are best, so is the spiritual part of duty. A little spiritualness in duty is better than all the gildings of the temple, or outward pompous worship which dazzles carnal eyes.
(5) We may know the kingdom of grace is come into us by antipathy and opposition against every known sin. â€˜I hate every false way.â€™ Psa 119: 104. Hatred is against the whole kind; hatred is implacable: anger may be reconciled, hatred cannot. A gracious soul not only forsakes sin (as a man forsakes his country, never to return to it more), but hates sin. As there is an antipathy between the crocodile and the scorpion, so, if the kingdom of God be within us, we not only hate sin for hell, but we hate it as hell, as being contrary to Godâ€™s holiness and happiness.
(6) We may know the kingdom of grace is come into us when we have given up ourselves to God by obedience. As a servant gives up himself to his master, as a wife gives up herself to her husband, so we give up ourselves to God by obedience. This obedience is free, as that is the sweetest honey which drops from the comb; and uniform. We obey God in one thing as well as another. â€˜Then shall I not be ashamed;â€™ or, as it is in the Hebrew, I shall not blush â€˜when I have respect unto all thy commandments.â€™ Psa 119: 6. As a pair of compasses has one foot upon the centre and the other goes round the circle, so a Christian, by faith, stands on God the centre, and by obedience goes round the circle of his commandments. It is a sign the kingdom of grace is not come into the heart, when it does not reign there by universal obedience. Hypocrites would have Christ to be their Saviour, but they pluck the government from his shoulders, and will not have him rule; but he who has the kingdom of God within him, submits cheerfully to every command of God; he will do what God will have him do; he will be what God will have him be; he puts a blank paper into Godâ€™s hand, and says, â€˜Lord, write what thou wilt, I will subscribe.â€™ Blessed is he that can find all these things in his soul. He is â€˜all glorious within.â€™ Psa 45: 13. He carries a kingdom about him, and this kingdom of grace will certainly bring to a kingdom of glory.
I shall now answer some doubts and objections that a Christian may make against himself
I fear the kingdom of grace is not yet come into my heart.
When a Christian is under temptation, or grace lies dormant, he is not fit to be his own judge; but must take the witness of others who have the spirit of discerning. But let us hear a Christianâ€™s objections against himself, why he thinks the kingdom of grace is not yet come into his heart.
I cannot discern grace.
A child of God may have the kingdom of grace in his heart, and yet not know it. The cup was in Benjaminâ€™s sack, though he did not know it was there; so thou mayest have faith in thy heart, the cup may be in thy sack, though thou knowest it not. Old Jacob wept for his son Joseph when Joseph was alive; so thou mayest weep for want of grace, when grace may be alive in thy heart. The seed may be in the ground, when we do not see it spring up; so the seed of God may be sown in thy heart, though thou dost not perceive it springing up. Think not grace is lost because it is hid.
Before the kingdom of grace come into the heart, there must be some preparation for it; the fallow ground must be broken up: I fear the plough of the law has not gone deep enough: I have not been humbled enough: therefore I have no grace.
God does not prescribe an exact proportion of sorrow and humiliation; Scripture mentions the truth of sorrow, but not the measure. Some are more flagitous sinners than others, and must have a greater degree of humiliation. A knotty piece of timber requires more wedges to be driven into it. Some stomachs are fouler than others, therefore need stronger physic. But wouldest thou know when thou hast been humbled enough for sin? When thou art willing to let go thy sins. The gold has lain long enough in the furnace when the dross is purged out; so, when the love of sin is purged out, a soul is humbled enough for divine acceptation, though not for divine satisfaction. Now, if thou art humbled enough, what needs more? If a needle will let out the imposthume, what needs a lance? Be not more cruel to thyself than God would have thee.
If the kingdom of God were within me, it would be a kingdom of power; it would enable me to serve God with vigour of soul. But I have a spirit of in infirmity upon me, I am weak and impotent, and untuned to every holy action.
There is a great difference between the weakness of grace and the want of grace. A man may have life, though he be sick and weak. Weak grace is not to be despised, but cherished. Christ will not break the bruised reed. Do not argue from the weakness of grace to the nullity. (1) Weak grace will give us a title to Christ as well as strong. A weak hand of faith will receive the alms of Christâ€™s merits. (2) Weak faith is capable of growth. The scud springs up by degrees, first the blade, and then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. The faith that is strongest was once in its infancy. Grace is like the waters of the sanctuary, which rose higher and higher. Be not discouraged at thy weak faith; though it be but blossoming, it will by degrees come to more maturity. (3) The weakest grace shall persevere as well as the strongest. A child was as safe in the ark as Noah. An infant believer that is but newly laid to the breast of the promise, is as safe in Christ as the most eminent heroic saint.
I fear the kingdom of grace is not yet come, because I find the kingdom of sin so strong in me. Had I faith, it would purify my heart; but I find much pride, worldliness, and passion.
The best of saints have remainders of corruption. â€˜They had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season.â€™ Dan 7: 12. So in the regenerate, though the dominion of sin be taken away, yet the life of it is prolonged for a season. What pride was there in Christâ€™s own disciples, when they strove which should be greatest! The issue of sin will not be quite stopped till death. The Lord is pleased to let the in-being of sin continue, to humble his people, and make them prize Christ more. Because you find corruptions stirring, do not therefore presently unsaint yourselves, and deny the kingdom of grace to be come into your souls. That you feel sin is an evidence of spiritual life; that you mourn for it is a fruit of love to God; that you have a combat with sin, argues antipathy against it. Those sins which you once wore as a crown on your head, are now as fetters on the leg. Is not all this from the Spirit of grace in you? Sin is in you, as poison in the body, which you are sick of, and use all Scripture antidotes to expel. Should we condemn all those who have indwelling sin, nay, who have had sin sometimes prevailing, we should blot some of the best saints out of the Bible.
Where the kingdom of grace comes, it softens the heart; but I find my heart frozen and congealed into hardness; I can hardly squeeze out one tear. Do flowers grow on a rock? Can there be any grace in such a rocky heart?
There may be grief where there are no tears. The best sorrow is rational. In your judgement you esteem sin the most hyperbolical evil, you have a disgust against it which is a rational sorrow, and such as God will accept. A Christian may have some hardness in his heart, and yet not have a hard heart. A field may have tares in it, and we call it a field of wheat, so in the best heart there may be a mixture of hardness, yet because there is some softness and melting, God looks upon it as a soft heart. Therefore, Christian, dispute not against thyself, if thou canst find but this one thing, that the frame and temper of thy soul be holy. Art thou still breathing after God, delighting in him? Is the complexion of thy soul heavenly? Canst thou say, as David, â€˜When I awake, I am still with theeâ€™? Psa 139: 18. As colours laid in oil, or a statue carved in gold abide, so does a holy complexion; the soul is still pointing towards God. If it be thus with thee, assure thyself the kingdom of grace is come into the soul. Be not unkind to God, to deny any work of his Spirit, which he has wrought in thee.
Use 1. For exhortation. Labour to find that this kingdom of grace is set up in your hearts. While others aspire after earthly kingdoms, labour to have the kingdom of God within you. Luke 17: 21. The kingdom of grace must come into us before we can go into the kingdom of glory. The motives to this are:
(1) The kingdom of God within is our spiritual beauty. The kingdom of grace adorns a person, and sets him off in the eyes of God and of angels. It makes the kingâ€™s daughter all glorious within. Psa 45: 13. Grace sheds a glory and lustre upon the soul. As the diamond to the ring, so is grace to the soul. A heart beautified with grace has the King of heavenâ€™s picture hung in it.
(2) The kingdom of grace set up in the heart is our spiritual defence. Grace is called â€˜the armour of light.â€™ Rom 13: 12. It is light for beauty, and armour for defence. He who has the kingdom of grace within him, is â€™strengthened with all might according to [Godâ€™s] glorious power.â€™ Col 1: 11. He has the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, and the breastplate of righteousness. His armour can never be shot through. He is fortified against the assaults of temptation, and the terrors of hell.
(3) The kingdom of grace set up in the heart brings peace with it. â€˜The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace.â€™ Rom 14: 17. There is a secret peace proceeding from holiness. Peace is the best blessing of a kingdom. Pax una triumphis innumeris melior [One peace is better than countless victories]. The kingdom of grace is a kingdom of peace. Grace is the root, peace is the flower that grows out of it. It is pax in procella [peace in a storm], such peace that no worldly affliction can shake. The doors of Solomonâ€™s temple were made of olive tree, carved with open flowers; so in a gracious heart is the olive of peace, and the open flowers of joy. 1 Kings 6: 32.
(4) The kingdom of grace enriches the soul. A kingdom has its riches. A believer is said to be rich in faith. James 2: 5. How rich is he who has God for his God, who is heir to all the promises! Heb 6: 17. A man may be rich in bills and bonds, but a believer may say as Peter, â€˜Silver and gold have I none (Acts 3: 6); yet I am rich in bills and bonds, an heir to all Godâ€™s promises;â€™ and to be heir to the promises, is better than to be heir to the crown.
(5) When the kingdom of grace comes, it fixes and establishes the heart. â€˜O God, my heart is fixed.â€™ Psa 57: 7. Before the kingdom of grace comes, the heart is very unfixed and unsettled; like a ship without ballast, like quicksilver that cannot be made to fix: but when the kingdom of grace comes, it does stabilire animum, fixes the heart on God; and when the heart is fixed, it rests quiet as in its centre.
(6) This kingdom of grace is distinguishing. It is a sure pledge of Godâ€™s love. God may give kingdoms in anger; but wherever the kingdom of grace is set up, it is in love. He cannot give grace in anger. The crown always goes with the kingdom; let us therefore be ambitious of this kingdom of grace.
What must we do to obtain this kingdom?
(1) In general, take pains for it. We cannot have the world without labour, and do we think to have grace? â€˜If thou seekest her as silver.â€™ Prov 2: 4. A man may as well expect a crop without sowing, as grace without labour. We must not think to have grace as Israel had manna; who did not plough nor sow, but it was rained down from heaven upon them. No, we must operam dare, take pains for grace. Our salvation cost Christ blood, and will cost us sweat.
(2) Let us go to God to set up this kingdom of grace in our hearts. He is called the â€˜God of all grace.â€™ I Pet 5: 10. Say, Lord, I want this kingdom of grace, I want a humble, believing heart. O enrich me with grace; let thy kingdom come. Be importunate suitors. As Achsah said to her father Caleb, â€˜Thou hast given me a south land, give me also springs of water;â€™ so, Lord, thou hast given me enough of the world, here is a south land; but Lord, give me the upper springs of grace; let thy kingdom come. Josh 15: 19. What is the venison thou hast given me, without the blessing? When we are importunate with God, and will take no denial, he will set up his kingdom within us.
(3) Keep close to the word preached. The word preached, is virga virtutis, the rod of Godâ€™s strength; it is the great engine he uses for setting up the kingdom of grace in the heart. â€˜Faith comes by hearing.â€™ Rom 10: 17. Though God could work grace immediately by his Spirit, or by the ministry of angels from heaven, yet he chooses to work by the word preached. This is the usual mean, by which he sets up the kingdom of grace in the heart; and the reason is, because he has put his divine sanction upon it; he has appointed it for the means of working grace, and he will honour his own ordinance. 1 Cor 1: 21. What reason could be given why the waters of Damascus should not have as sovereign virtue to heal Naamanâ€™s leprosy, as the waters of Jordan, but this, that God appointed and sanctified the waters of Jordan to heal, and not the others? Let us keep the word preached, because the power of God goes along with it.
Use 2. For thanksgiving. What will you be thankful for, if not for a kingdom? Grace is the best blessing, it is the result and product of Godâ€™s electing love. In setting up his kingdom of grace, God has done more for you than if he had made you kings and queens; for you are born of God, and of the blood-royal of heaven. Oh! admire and exalt free grace. â€˜Make [Godâ€™s] praise glorious.â€™ Psa 66: 2. The apostle seldom mentions the work of grace, but he joins praise. â€˜Giving thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.â€™ Col 1: 12. If God has crowned you with the kingdom of grace, do you crown him with your praises.
IV. We pray that the kingdom of grace may increase, that it may come more into us: and this may answer a question.
Why do we pray, â€˜Thy kingdom come,â€™ when the kingdom of grace is already come into the soul?
Though the kingdom of grace be already come into us, yet still we must pray, â€˜Thy kingdom come,â€™ that grace may be increased, and that this kingdom may flourish still more in our souls. Till we come to live among the angels, we shall need to pray this prayer, â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™ Lord, let thy kingdom of grace come in more power into my soul; let grace be more augmented and increased.
When does the kingdom of grace increase in the soul? When is it a flourishing kingdom?
When a Christian has further degrees of grace, there is more oil in the lamp, his knowledge is clear, his love is more inflamed. Grace is capable of degrees, and may rise higher as the sun in the horizon. It is not with us as it was with Christ, who received the Spirit without measure. John 3: 34. He could not be more holy than he was; but our grace is receptive of further degrees; we may have more sanctity, we may add more cubits to our spiritual stature.
The kingdom of grace increases when a Christian has got more strength than he had. â€˜He that has clean hands, shall be stronger and stronger.â€™ Job 17: 9. â€˜He shall add to his strength.â€™ Heb. A Christian has strength to resist temptation, to forgive his enemies, to suffer affliction. It is not easy to suffer; a man must deny himself before he can take up the cross. The way to heaven is like the way which Jonathan and his armour bearer had in climbing up a steep place. â€˜There was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other.â€™ 1 Sam 14: 4. It requires much strength to climb up this rocky way. That grace which will carry us through prosperity, will not carry us through sufferings. The ship needs stronger tackling to carry it through a storm than a calm. Now, when we are so strong in grace, that we can bear up under affliction without murmuring or fainting, the kingdom of grace is increased. What mighty strength of grace had he, who told the emperor Valentinian, You may take away my life, but you cannot take away my love to the truth!
The kingdom of grace increases when a Christian has most conflict with spiritual corruptions; when he not only abstains from gross evils, but has a combat with inward, hidden, close corruptions; as pride, envy, hypocrisy, vain thoughts, carnal confidence, which are spiritual wickedness, and both defile and disturb. â€˜Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.â€™ 2 Cor 7: 1. There are two sorts of corruptions, one of the flesh, the other of the spirit. When we grieve for and combat with spiritual sin, which is the root of all gross sins, then the kingdom of grace increases, and spreads its territories in the soul.
The kingdom of grace flourishes when a Christian has learned to live by faith. â€˜I live by the faith of the Son of God.â€™ Gal 2: 20. There is the habit of faith, and the drawing of this habit into exercise. For a Christian to graft his hope of salvation, only upon the stock of Christâ€™s righteousness, and make Christ all in justification; to live on the promises, as a bee on the flower, and suck out the sweetness of them; to trust God where we cannot trace him; to believe his love through a frown; to persuade ourselves, when he has the face of an enemy, that he has the heart of a Father â€" when we are arrived at this, the kingdom of grace is flourishing in our souls.
It flourishes when a Christian is full of holy zeal. Numb 25: 13. Phinehas was zealous for his God. Zeal is the flame of the affections, it turns a saint into a seraphim. A zealous Christian is impatient when God is dishonoured. Rev 2: 2. He will wrestle with difficulties, he will swim to Christ through a sea of blood. Acts 21: 13. Zeal loves truth when it is despised and opposed. â€˜They have made void thy law, therefore I love thy commandments.â€™ Psa 119: 126, 127. Zeal resembles the Holy Ghost. â€˜There appeared cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.â€™ Acts 2: 3. Tongues of fire were an emblem of that fire of zeal which the Spirit poured on them.
The kingdom of grace increases when a Christian is as diligent in his particular calling, as he is devout in his general calling. He is the wise Christian that carries things equally; that so lives by faith that he lives in a calling. Therefore it is worthy of notice, that when the apostle had exhorted the Thessalonians to increase in grace, he presently adds, â€˜And that you do your own business, and work with your own hands.â€™ 1 Thess 4: 10, 11. It is a sign grace is increasing, when Christians go cheerfully about their calling. Indeed, to be all the day in the mount with God, and to have the mind fixed on glory, is more sweet to a manâ€™s self, and is a heaven upon earth; but to be conversant in our callings, is more profitable to others. Paul says, â€˜To be with Christ is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.â€™ Phil 1: 23, 24. So, to converse with God in prayer and sweet meditation all the week long, is more for the comfort of a manâ€™s own person; but to be sometimes employed in the business of a calling, is more profitable for the family to which he belongs. It is not good to be as the lilies, which toil not, neither do they spin. It shows the increase of grace when a Christian keeps a due decorum. He joins piety and industry, when zeal runs forth in religion, and diligence is put forth in a calling.
The kingdom of grace increases when a Christian is established in the belief and love of the truth. The heart by nature is as a ship without ballast, that wavers and fluctuates. Beza writes of one Bolezius, that his religion changed as the moon and planet Mercury. Such as are wandering stars will be falling stars; but when a soul is built on the rock Christ, and no winds of temptation can blow it away, the kingdom of grace flourishes. One calls Athanasius, Adamas Ecclesiae, an invincible adamant, in respect of his stability in the truth. â€˜Rooted and built up in him.â€™ Col 2: 7. The rooting of a tree evidences growth.
The kingdom of grace increases in a manâ€™s own heart when he labours to be instrumental to set up this kingdom in others. Though it is the greatest benefit to have grace wrought in ourselves, it is the greatest honour to be instrumental to work it in others. â€˜Of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.â€™ Gal 4: 19. Such as are masters of a family should endeavour to see the kingdom of grace set up in their servants; such as are godly parents should not let God alone by prayer, till they see grace in their children. What a comfort to be both the natural and spiritual fathers of your children! Augustine says his mother Monica travailed with greater care and pain for his new birth, than his natural. It shows the increase of grace when we labour to see the kingdom of grace set up in others. As water abounds in the river, when it overflows and runs into the meadows, so grace increases in the soul when it has influence upon others, and we seek their salvation.
What need is there that the kingdom of grace should be increased?
Godâ€™s design in keeping up a standing ministry in the church is to increase the kingdom of grace in menâ€™s hearts. â€˜He gave gifts unto men;â€™ that is, ministerial gifts. Why so? â€˜For the edifying of the body of Christ.â€™ Eph 4: 8, 12. Not only for conversion, but for augmentation; therefore the word preached is compared not only to seed, but to milk; because God designs our growth in grace.
We need have the kingdom of grace increase, as we have a great deal of work to do, and a little grace will hardly carry us through. A Christianâ€™s life is laborious: there are many temptations to resist, many promises to believe, many precepts to obey, so that it will require a great deal of grace. A Christian must not only pray, but â€˜be zealous, and repentâ€™ (Rev 3: 19); not only love, but be sick of love. Cant 2: 5. What need, therefore, to have the kingdom of grace enlarged in his soul? As his work increases upon him, so his grace need increase.
If the kingdom of grace does not increase, it will decay. â€˜Thou hast left thy first love.â€™ Rev 2: 4. Grace, for want of increasing, is sometimes like a winter plant in which all the sap runs to the root, and it looks as if it were dead. â€˜Strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.â€™ Rev 3: 2. Though grace cannot expire, it may wither; and a withering Christian loses much of his beauty and fragrance. What great need have we to pray, â€˜Thy kingdom come,â€™ that this kingdom of grace may be increased! If grace be not improved, it will soon be impaired. A Christian, for want of increasing his grace, loses his strength; he is like a sick man that cannot either walk or work; his prayers are sick and weak; he is as if he had no life in him; his faith can hardly fetch breath, and you can scarcely feel the pulse of his love to beat.
To have grace increasing is suitable to Christianity. Christians are called trees of righteousness. Isa 61: 3. The saints are not only jewels for sparkling lustre, but trees for growth. They are called the lights of the world. Phil 2: 15. Light is still increasing. First there is the crepusculum, or daybreak, and so it shines brighter to the meridian. They who are the lights of the world must increase till they come to the meridian of glory. Not to grow is suspicious; painted things do not grow.
As the kingdom of grace increases, so a Christianâ€™s comforts increase. Comfort belongs to the bene esse, or well-being of a Christian; like sweetmeat, it is delicious to the taste. Psa 94: 19. The more grace, the more joy; as the more sap in the root, the more wine in the grape. Who more increased in grace than David? And who more in consolation? â€˜Thou hast put gladness in my heart.â€™ Psa 4: 7. Grace turns to joy as milk to cream.
How may they be comforted who bewail their want of growth, and weep that they cannot find the kingdom of grace increase?
To see and bewail our decay in grace, argues not only the life of grace, but growth. It is a sign that a man recovers and gets strength when he feels his weakness. It is a step forward in grace to see our imperfections. The more the Spirit shines in the heart, the more evil it discovers. A Christian thinks it worse with him than it was, whereas his grace may not grow less, but his light greater.
If a Christian does not increase in one grace, he may in another; if not in knowledge he may in humility. If a tree does not grow so much in the branches, it may in the root: and to grow downwards in the root, is good growth.
A Christian may grow less in affection when he grows more in judgement. As the fingers of a musician, when he is old, are stiff, and not so nimble at the lute as they were, but he plays with more art and judgement than before, so a Christian may not have so much affection in duty as at the first conversion, but he is more solid in religion, and more settled in his judgement than he was before.
A Christian may think he does not increase in grace because he does not increase in gifts; whereas there may be a decay of natural parts, the memory and other faculties, when there is not a decay of grace. Parts may be impaired when grace is improved. Be not discouraged, it is better to decay in parts, and be enlarged in grace, than to be enlarged in parts, and to decay in grace.
A Christian may increase in grace, and not be sensible of it. As seed may grow in the earth, when we do not perceive it to spring up, so grace may grow in time of desertion, and not be perceived.
V. We pray that the kingdom of glory may hasten, and that God would in his due time translate us into it. Under this we have now to consider  What this kingdom of glory is?  What are the properties of it?  Wherein it exceeds all other kingdoms?  When this kingdom comes?  Wherein appears the certainty of it?  Why we should pray for its coming?
 By this kingdom is meant, that glorious estate which the saints shall enjoy when they shall reign with God and angels for ever. If a man stand upon the sea-shore, he cannot see all the dimensions of the sea, its length, breadth, and depth, yet he may see it is of vast extension, so, though the kingdom of heaven be of that incomparable excellence, that neither tongue of man or angels can express, yet we may conceive of it to be an exceeding glorious thing, such as the eye has not seen.
Concerning the kingdom of heaven I shall show what it implies, and what it imports.
First, it implies a blessed freedom from all evil.
(1) It implies a freedom from the necessities of nature. We are in this life subject to many necessities; we need food to nourish us, clothes to cover us, armour to defend us, sleep to refresh us; but in the kingdom of heaven there will be no need of these things; and it is better not to need them than to have them; as it is better not to need crutches than to have them. What need will there be of food when our bodies shall be made spiritual? 1 Cor 15: 44. Though not spiritual for substance, yet for qualities. What need will there be of clothing when our bodies shall be like Christâ€™s glorious body? What need will there be of armour when there is no enemy? What need will there be of sleep when there is no night? Rev 22: 5. The saints shall be freed, in the heavenly kingdom, from these necessities of nature to which they are now exposed.
(2) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from the imperfections of nature. Since the fall, our knowledge has suffered an eclipse.
Our natural knowledge is imperfect, it is chequered with ignorance. There are many hard knots in nature which we cannot easily untie. He who sees dearest, has a mist before his eyes. Socrates said on his death-bed, that there were many things he had yet to learn. Our ignorance is more than our knowledge.
Our divine knowledge is imperfect. We know but in part, said Paul, though he had many revelations, and was rapt up in the third heaven. 1 Cor 13: 9. We have but dark conceptions of the Trinity, â€˜Canst thou by searching find out God?â€™ Job 11: 7. Our narrow capacities would no more contain the Trinity, than a little glass vial would hold all the water in the sea. We cannot unriddle the mystery of the incarnation, the human nature assumed into the person of the Son of God; the human nature not God, yet united with God. We see now in aenigmate, in a glass darkly; but in the kingdom of heaven the veil shall be taken off, all imperfection of nature shall be done away. When the sunlight of glory shall begin to shine in the heavenly horizon, all dark shadows of ignorance shall fly away, our lamp of knowledge shall burn brightly, we shall have a full knowledge of God, though we shall not know him fully.
(3) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from the toilsome labours of this life. God enacted a law in paradise, â€˜in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.â€™ Gen 3: 19. There is the labour of the hand in manufacture and the labour of the mind in study. â€˜All things are full of labourâ€™ (Eccl 1: 8); but in the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from our labours.
There needs no labour when a man has got to the haven, he has no more need of sailing. In heaven there needs no labour, because the saints shall have the glory which they laboured for.
There shall be no labour. â€˜They rest from their labours.â€™ Rev 14: 13. As when God had finished the work of creation, he rested from his labours, so, when his saints have finished the work of sanctification, they rest from theirs. Where should there be rest, but in the heavenly centre? Not that this sweet rest in the kingdom of heaven excludes all motion, for spirits cannot be idle; but the glorified saints shall rest from all wearisome employment. It will be a labour full of ease, a motion full of delight. The saints in heaven shall love God, and what labour is that? Is it any labour to love beauty? They shall praise God, and that surely is delightful. When the bird sings, it is not so much a labour as a pleasure.
(4) In the kingdom of heaven, we shall be freed from original corruption, which is causa causati, the root of all actual sin. There would be no actual sin if there were no original; there would be no water in the stream if there were none in the fountain. Original sin is incorporated into our nature; it is as if the whole mass of blood were corrupted. Thus, to offend the God whom he loves, makes a Christian weary of his life. What would he give to have his chains taken off, to be rid of vain thoughts? How did Paul, that bird of paradise, bemoan himself for his sins! Rom 7: 24. We cannot exercise either our duties or our graces without sin. The soul that is most refined and clarified by grace, is not without some dregs of corruption; but in the kingdom of heaven the fountain of original sin shall be quite dried up. What a blessed time will that be, never to grieve Godâ€™s Spirit more! In heaven are virgin souls; their beauty is not stained with lust: nothing enters there that defiles. Rev 21: 27.
(5) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all sorrows. â€˜There shall be no more sorrow.â€™ Rev 21: 4. Our life here is interwoven with trouble. Psa 31: 10. Either losses grieve, or law- suits vex, or unkindness breaks the heart. We may as well separate moisture from air, or weight from lead, as troubles from manâ€™s life. Quid est diu vivere, nisi diu torqueri? [What is long life but long torment?] Augustine. But, in the kingdom of heaven, sorrow and sighing shall fly away. Here the saints sit by the rivers weeping, but one smile from Christâ€™s face will make them forget all their sufferings. Their water shall then be turned into wine, their mourning into singing.
(6) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be beyond the reach of temptation. Satan is not yet fully cast into prison; like a prisoner under bail, he walks about tempting, and labouring, to draw us into sin. He is either laying snares, or shooting darts. Stat in procinctu diabolus [The devil stands girded for battle]. He laid a train of temptation to blow up the castle of Jobâ€™s faith. It is as great a grief to a believer to be followed with temptations to sin, as for a virgin to have her chastity assaulted. But in the kingdom of heaven the saints shall be freed from the red dragon, who is cast out of paradise, and shall be for ever locked up in chains. Jude 6.
(7) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all vexing cares. The Greek word for care comes from a primitive which signifies to cut the heart in pieces. Care tortures the mind, wastes the spirits, and eats out the comfort of life. Care to prevent future dangers, and preserve present comforts, is an evil spirit that haunts us. All care is full of fear, and fear is full of torment. 1 John 4: 18. God threatens it as a judgement. â€˜They shall eat their bread with carefulness.â€™ Ezek 12: 19. Every comfort has its care, as every rose has its thorns; but in the kingdom of heaven we shall shake off the viper of care. What needs a glorified saint to take any anxious care, who has all things provided to his hand? There is the tree of life, bearing all sorts of fruit. When the heart shall be freed from sin, the head shall be freed from care.
(8) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all doubts and scruples. In this life the best saint has his doubting, as the brightest star has his twinkling. If there were no doubting, there would be no unbelief. Assurance itself does not exclude all doubting. â€˜Thy loving kindness is before mine eyes.â€™ Psa 26: 3. At another time, â€˜Lord, where are thy former loving kindnesses?â€™ Psa 89: 49. A Christian is like a ship at anchor, which, though safe, may sometimes be tossed upon the water. Sometimes a Christian questions his interest in Christ, and his title to the promise. As these doubting eclipse a Christianâ€™s comfort, so they bear false witness against the Spirit. But, when the saints shall come into the kingdom of heaven, there shall be no more doubting; the Christian shall then say, as Peter, â€˜Now I know of a surety that the Lord has sent his angel and has delivered me.â€™ Acts 12: 11. Now I know that I am passed from death to life, and I am got beyond all rocks, I have shot the gulf, now I am in my Saviourâ€™s embraces for ever.
(9) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all society with the wicked. Here we are sometimes forced to be in their company. â€˜Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar.â€™ Psa 120: 5. Kedar was Ishmaelâ€™s son, whose children dwelt in Arabia, a profane, barbarous people. Here the wicked are still raising persecutions against the godly, and crucifying their ears with their oaths and curses. Christâ€™s lily is among thorns; but in the heavenly kingdom there shall be no more any pricking brier. â€˜The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.â€™ Matt 13: 41. As Moses said, â€˜Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever;â€™ so will God say, Stand still, and see the salvation of God; these your enemies, that vex and molest you, you shall see them again no more for ever. Exod 14: 13. At that day, God will separate the precious from the vile; Christ will thoroughly purge his floor; he will gather the wheat into the garner; and the wicked, which are the chaff, shall be blown into hell.
(10) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all signs of Godâ€™s displeasure. Here he may be angry with his people. Though he has the heart of a father, he may have the look of an enemy; and this is sad. As when the sun is gone, the dew falls; so when the light of Godâ€™s face is gone, tears drop from the saintsâ€™ eyes. But in the kingdom of heaven, there shall be no spiritual eclipses, there shall never appear any tokens of Godâ€™s displeasure; the saints shall have a constant aspect of love from him, they shall never complain any more, â€˜My beloved had withdrawn himself.â€™ Cant 5: 6.
(11) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all divisions. The saddest thing in the world is to see divisions among them that are good. It is sad that such as have one faith, should not be of one heart. Ephraim envies Judah, and Judah vexeth Ephraim. It is matter of tears, to see those who are united to Christ, divided one from another. The soldierâ€™s spear pierced Christâ€™s side, but the divisions of saints wound his heart. But in the kingdom of heaven there shall be no vilifying one another, or censuring. Those who before could hardly pray together, shall praise God together. There shall not be one jarring string in the saintsâ€™ music.
(12) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from vanity and dissatisfaction. What Job says of wisdom, in chap. 28: 14; â€˜The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith, It is not with me;â€™ I may say concerning satisfaction; every creature says, â€˜It is not in me.â€™ Take things most pleasing and from which we promise ourselves most content, still, of the spirit and essence of them all we shall say, â€˜Behold, all was vanity.â€™ Eccl 2: 11. God never did, nor will, put a satisfying virtue into any creature. In the sweetest music the world makes, either some string is wanting, or out of tune. Who would have thought that Haman, who was so great in the kingâ€™s favour, that he â€™set his seat above all the princesâ€™ of the provinces, for want of the bowing of a knee, would be dissatisfied? Est 3: 1. But in the kingdom of heaven, we shall be freed from these dissatisfactions. The world is like a landscape painting, in which you may see gardens with fruit trees, curiously drawn, but you cannot enter them; but into the joys of heaven you may enter. â€˜Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.â€™ The soul shall be satisfied while it bathes in those rivers of pleasure at Godâ€™s right hand. â€˜I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.â€™ Psa 17: 15.
(13) In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from the torments of hell. â€˜Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come.â€™ 1 Thess 1: 10. Consider the multiplicity of those torments. In this life the body is usually exercised but with one pain, the stone or headache, at one time; but in hell there is a diversity of torments; there is darkness to affright, fire to burn, a lake of sulphur to choke, chains to bind, and the worm to gnaw. The torments of hell will seize upon every part of the body and soul. The eye shall be tortured with the sight of devils, and the tongue that has sworn so many oaths shall be tortured. â€˜Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.â€™ Luke 16: 24. The memory will be tormented to remember the mercies that have been abused, and seasons of grace neglected. The conscience will be tormented with self-accusations.
In the pains of hell there is no mitigation, no mixture of mercy. In this life God in anger remembers mercy. Hab 3: 2. But in hell there is no alleviation or lessening of the pains. As in the sacrifice of jealousy, God would have no oil or frankincense put into it, so, in hell, there is no oil of mercy to lenify the sufferings of the damned, no incense of prayer to appease his wrath. Numb 5: 15. In the pains of hell there is no intermission. The poets feign of Endymion, that he got leave of Jupiter always to sleep. What would the damned in hell give for one hourâ€™s sleep! â€˜They have no rest day nor night.â€™ Rev 14: 11. They are perpetually on the rack. In the pains of hell there is no expiration; they must always lie scorching in flames of wrath. â€˜The smoke of their torment ascended up for ever and ever;â€™ but in the heavenly kingdom, the elect shall be freed from all infernal torments. â€˜Jesus delivered us from the wrath to come.â€™ A prison is not made for the kingâ€™s children. Christ drank that bitter cup of Godâ€™s wrath that the saints might never drink it.
A second thing in the kingdom of heaven is, a glorious fruition of all good. Had I as many tongues as hairs on my head, I could not fully describe this. It is a place where there is no want of anything. Judges 18: 10. It is called â€˜the excellent glory.â€™ 2 Pet 1: 17. I might as well span the firmament, or drain the ocean, as set forth the glory of this kingdom. Coelum non habet hyperbolum; the kingdom of heaven is above all hyperbole. Were the sun ten thousand times brighter than it is, it could not parallel the lustre of this kingdom. Apellesâ€™ pencil would blotch, angelsâ€™ tongues would lessen it. I can but give you the skiagraphia, or dark shadow of it; expect not to see it in all its orient colours till you are mounted above the stars. But let us not stand afar off, as Moses, to behold this Canaan, but enter into it, and taste the honey. The privileges of this heavenly kingdom are:
(1) We shall have an immediate communion with God himself, who is the inexhaustible sea of all happiness. This divines call â€˜the beatific vision.â€™ The psalmist triumphed in the enjoyment he had of God in this life. â€˜Whom have I in heaven but thee?â€™ Psa 73: 25. If God, enjoyed by faith, gives so much comfort to the soul, how much more when he is enjoyed by immediate vision! Here we see God darkly through the glass of ordinances but in the kingdom of heaven we shall see him â€˜face to face.â€™ 1 Cor 13: 12. We shall have an intellectual sight of him; we shall see him with the eyes of our mind; we shall know him as much as the angels in heaven do. Matt 18: 10; we shall know as we are known. 1 Cor 13: 12. We shall have a full knowledge of God, though not know him fully; as a vessel in the sea is full of the sea, though it holds not all the sea. To see and enjoy God will be most delicious; in him are beams of majesty, and bowels of mercy. God has all excellencies concentred in him, bonum in quo omnia bona [the good in which are all good things]. If one flower should have the sweetness of all flowers how sweet would that flower be! All the beauty and sweetness which lies scattered in the creature is infinitely to be found in God. To see and enjoy him, therefore, will ravish the soul with delight. We shall see God so as to love him, and be made sensible of his love; and when we shall have this sweet communion with him he shall be â€˜all in all;â€™ light to the eye, manna to the taste, and music to the ear. 1 Cor 15: 28.
(2) In the kingdom of heaven, we shall with these eyes see the glorified body of Jesus Christ. The Saviour makes it a great part of the glory of heaven to view the glory of his human nature. â€˜That they may behold my glory.â€™ John 17: 24. When Christ was transfigured upon earth, it is said, that â€˜his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.â€™ Matt 17: 2. If the glory of his transfiguration was so great, what will the glory of his exaltation be! Much of the glory of God shines in Christ, by virtue of the hypostatic union. â€˜In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.â€™ Col 2: 9. Through Christâ€™s humanity, as through a bright mirror, we may see some beams of the divine majesty shine forth. Put a back of steel to a glass and you may see a face in it. Christâ€™s human nature is as a back of steel put to the divine nature, through which we may see God, and then our capacities are enlarged to a wonderful degree, to receive this glorious object; and we not only see Godâ€™s glory, but some of his glory shall be put upon us. Non tantum aderit gloria sed inerit [Glory will be not only present, but within]. Bernard. A beggar may behold the glory of a king and not be the happier; but Christâ€™s glory shall be ours, â€˜We shall be like him.â€™ 1 John 3: 2. We shall shine by his beams.
(3) In the kingdom of heaven we shall enjoy the society of â€˜an innumerable company of angels.â€™ Heb 12: 22.
But is there not enough in God to fill the soul with delight? Can the sight of angels add to its happiness? What need is there of the light of torches, when the sun shines?
Besides the divine essence, the sight of angels is desirable. Much of Godâ€™s curious workmanship shines in the angels; they are beautiful, glorious creatures; and as the several strings in a lute make the harmony sweeter, and the several stars make the firmament brighter, so the society with angels will make the delight of heaven the greater; and we shall not only see them with the glorified eye of our understanding, but converse with them.
(4) In the kingdom of heaven, we shall have sweet society with glorified saints. Oh! what a blessed time will it be when those who have prayed, wept, and suffered together, shall rejoice together! We shall see the saints, in their white linen of purity, and see them as so many crowned kings: in beholding the glorified saints, we shall behold a heaven full of suns. Some have asked whether we shall know one another in heaven? Surely, our knowledge will not be diminished, but increased. The judgement of Luther and Anselm, and many other divines is, that we shall know one another; yea, the saints of all ages, whose faces we never saw, and, when we shall see the saints in glory without their infirmities of pride and passion, it will be a glorious sight. We see how Peter was transported when he saw but two prophets in the transfiguration; but what a blessed sight will it be when we shall see the whole glorious company of prophets, and martyrs, and holy men of God! Matt 17: 3. How sweet will the music be when all shall sing together in concert in the heavenly choir! And though, in this great assembly of saints and angels, â€˜one star may differ from another in glory,â€™ yet no such weed as envy shall ever grow in the paradise of God; there shall be perfect love, which, as it casts out fear, so also envy. Though one vessel of glory may hold more than another, every vessel will be full.
(5) In the kingdom of heaven there shall be incomprehensible joy. Aristotle says, â€˜Joy proceeds from union.â€™ When the saintsâ€™ union with Christ is perfected in heaven, their joy shall be full. All the birds of the heavenly paradise sing for joy. What joy, when the saints shall see the great gulf shot, and know that they are passed from death to life! What joy, when they are as holy as they would be, and as God would have them to be! What joy to hear the music of angels; to see the golden banner of Christâ€™s love displayed over the soul; to be drinking that water of life which is sweeter than all nectar and ambrosia! What joy, when the saints shall see Christ clothed in their flesh, sitting in glory above the angels! Then they shall enter into the joy of their Lord. Matt 25: 21. Here joy enters into the saints; in heaven â€˜they enter into joy.â€™ O thou saint of God, who now hangest thy harp upon the willows, and mingles thy drink with weeping, in the kingdom of heaven thy water shall be turned into wine; thou shalt have so much felicity that thy soul cannot wish for more. The sea is not so full of water as the heart of a glorified saint is of joy. There can be no more sorrow in heaven than there is joy in hell.
(6) In heaven honour and dignity are put upon the saints. A kingdom implies honour. All that come into heaven are kings. They have, 1. A crown. Rev 2: 10. â€˜I will give thee a crown of life.â€™ Corona est insigne regiae potestatis [A crown is the sign of royal power] This crown is not lined with thorns, but hung with jewels; it is a never-fading crown. I Pet 5: 4. 2. The saints in heaven have their robes. They exchange their sackcloth for white robes. â€˜I beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, clothed with white robes.â€™ Rev 7: 9. Robes signify their glory, white their sanctity. And, 3. They sit with Christ upon the throne. Rev 3: 21. We read in 1 Kings 6: 32, the doors of the holy of holies were made of palm-trees, and open flowers covered with gold â€" an emblem of that victory, and that garland of glory, which the saints shall wear in the kingdom of heaven. When all the titles and ensigns of worldly honour shall lie in the dust, the mace, the silver star, the garter, the saintsâ€™ honour shall remain.
(7) In the kingdom of heaven we shall have a blessed rest. Rest is the end of motion; heaven is centrum quietativum animae, the blessed centre where the soul acquiesces and rests. In this life we are subject to unquiet motions and fluctuations. â€˜We were troubled on every sideâ€™ (2 Cor 7: 5): like a ship on the sea having the waves beating on both sides; but in the kingdom of heaven there is rest. Heb 4: 9. How welcome is rest to a weary traveller! When death cuts asunder the string of the body, the soul, as a dove, flies away, and is at rest. This rest is when the saints shall lie on Christâ€™s bosom that hive of sweetness, that bed of perfume.
(8) The saints in the kingdom of heaven shall have their bodies richly bespangled with glory. They shall be full of brightness and beauty. As Mosesâ€™ face shined, that Israel were not able to behold the glory (Exod 34: 30), so the bodies of the saints shall shine seven times brighter than the sun, as Chrysostom says; they shall have such a resplendence of beauty on them, that the angels shall fall in love with them; and no wonder, for they shall be made like Christâ€™s glorious body. Phil 3: 21. The bodies of saints gloried need no jewels, when they shall shine like Christâ€™s body.
(9) In the heavenly kingdom is eternity. It is an eternal fruition; they shall never be put out of the throne. â€˜They shall reign for ever and ever.â€™ Rev 22: 5. It is called â€˜the everlasting kingdomâ€™ (2 Pet 1: 11), and an â€˜eternal weight of glory.â€™ 2 Cor 4: 17. The flowers of paradise, of which the saintsâ€™ garland is made, never wither. If there could be a cessation of heavenâ€™s glory, or the saints had but the least fear or suspicion of losing their felicity, it would infinitely abate and cool their joy; but their kingdom is for ever, the rivers of paradise cannot be dried up. â€˜At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.â€™ Psa 16: 2: The kingdom of heaven was typified by the temple which was built with stone, covered with cedar overlaid with gold, to show that the fixed permanent state of glory abides for ever. Well may we pray, â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™
 The properties or qualifications of the kingdom of heaven.
(1) The glory of this kingdom is solid and substantial. The Hebrew word for glory signifies a weight, to show how solid and weighty the glory of the celestial kingdom is. The glory of the worldly kingdom is airy and imaginary, like a blazing comes, or fancy. Agrippa and Bernice came with a great pomp, with a great fancy. Acts 25: 23. The earth hangs like a ball in the air, without anything to uphold it. Job 26: 7. The glory of the heavenly kingdom is substantial, it has twelve foundations. Rev 21: 14. That which God and angels count glory, is true glory.
(2) The glory of this kingdom is satisfying. â€˜With thee is the fountain of life.â€™ Psa 36: 9. How can they choose but be full who are at the fountainhead? â€˜When I awake, I shall be satisfied with thy likeness,â€™ i.e., when I awake in the morning of the resurrection, having some of the beams of thy glory shining in me, I shall be satisfied. Psa 17: 15. The creature says, concerning satisfaction, â€˜It is not in me.â€™ Job 28: 14. If we go for happiness to the creature, we go to the wrong box: heavenâ€™s glory only is commensurate to the vast desires of an immortal soul. A Christian bathing himself in these rivers of pleasures, cries out in divine ecstasy, I have enough. The soul is never satisfied till it has God for its portion, and heaven for its haven. Dissatisfaction arises from some defect, but God is an infinite good, and there can be no defect in that which is infinite.
(3) The glory of heavenâ€™s kingdom is pure and unmixed. The streams of paradise are not muddied, omnia clara, omnia jucunda [all are clear, all are delightful]. There gold has no alloy. There is no bitter ingredient in that glory: it is pure as the honey that drops from the comb. There the rose of Sharon grows without thorns. There is ease without pain, honour without disgrace, life without death.
(4) The glory of this kingdom is constantly exhilarating and refreshing; there is fulness, but no surfeit. Worldly comforts, though sweet, yet in time grow stale. A down-bed pleases awhile, but soon we are weary and would rise. Too much pleasure is a pain; but the glory of heaven never surfeits or nauseates; because, as there are all rarities imaginable, so every moment fresh delights spring from God into the glorified soul.
(5) The glory of this kingdom is distributed to every individual saint. In an earthly kingdom the crown goes but to one, a crown will fit but one head; but in that kingdom above, the crown goes to all. Rev 1: 6. All the elect are kings. The land is settled chiefly upon the heir, and the rest are ill provided for; but in the kingdom of heaven all the saints are heirs. â€˜Heirs of God, and co- heirs with Christ.â€™ Rom 8: 17. God has land enough to give to all his heirs.
(6) Lucid and transparent. This kingdom of heaven is adorned and bespangled with light. 1 Tim 6: 16. Light is the glory of the creation. â€˜The light is sweet.â€™ Eccl. 11: 7. Hell is a dark dungeon; fire, but no light. Matt 22:13. The kingdom of heaven is a diaphanum [transparency], all embroidered with light, clear as crystal. How can there be want of light, where Christ the Sun of Righteousness displays his golden beams? â€˜The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.â€™ Rev 21: 23.
(7) The glory of this kingdom is adequate and proportionable to the desire of the soul. In creature fruitions, that which commends them, and sets them off to us, is suitableness. The content of marriage lies not in beauty or portion, but in suitableness of disposition. The excellence of a feast is, when the meat is suited to the palate. One ingredient in the glory of heaven is, that it exactly suits the desires of the glorified saints. We shall not say in heaven, â€˜Here is a dish I do not love!â€™ There shall be music to suit the ear in the anthems of angels; and food that suits the glorified palate in the hidden manna of Godâ€™s love.
(8) The glory of this kingdom will be seasonable. The seasonableness of a mercy adds to its beauty and sweetness, like apples of gold to pictures of silver. After a hard winter in this cold climate, is it not seasonable to have the spring flowers of glory appear, and the singing of the birds of paradise come? When we have been wearied, and tired out in battle with sin and Satan, will not a crown be seasonable?
 The kingdom of heaven infinitely excels all the kingdoms of the earth.
(1) It excels in its Architect. Other kingdoms have men to raise their structures, but God himself laid the first stone in this kingdom. Heb 11: 10. This kingdom is of the greatest antiquity. God was the first King and founder of it; no angel was worthy to lay a stone in this building.
(2) This heavenly kingdom excels in altitude. It is higher than any kingdom. The higher anything is the more excellent it is. Fire being the most sublime element, is most noble. The kingdom of heaven is seated above all the visible orbs. There is, 1. The airy heaven, which is the space from the earth to the sphere of the moon. 2. The starry heaven, the place where the planets are, of a higher elevation, as Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. 3. The coelum empyraeum, the empyrean heaven, which Paul calls the third heaven; where Christ is, there the kingdom of glory is situated. This kingdom is so high that no scaling ladders of enemies can reach it; so high that the old serpent cannot shoot up his fiery darts to it. If wicked men could build their nests among the stars, the least believer would shortly be above them.
(3) The kingdom of heaven excels all others in splendour and riches. It is described by precious stones. Rev 21: 19. What are all the rarities of the earth to this kingdom â€" coasts of pearl, rocks of diamonds, islands of spices? What are the wonders of the world to it â€" the Egyptian pyramids, the temple of Diana, the pillar of the sun offered to Jupiter? What a rich kingdom is that where God will lay out all his cost! Those who are poor in the world, soon as they come into this kingdom, grow rich, as rich as the angels. Other kingdoms are enriched with gold, this is enriched with the Deity.
(4) The kingdom of heaven excels all other kingdoms in holiness. Kingdoms on earth are for the most part unholy; there is a common sore of luxury and uncleanness running in them. Kingdoms are stages for sin to be acted on. â€˜All tables are full of vomitâ€™ (Isa 28: 8); but the kingdom of heaven is so holy that it will not mix with any corruption. There shall enter into it nothing that defileth. Rev 21: 27. It is so pure a soil, that no serpent of sin will breed there. There beauty is not stained with lust, and honour is not swelled with pride. Holiness is the brightest jewel of the crown of heaven.
(5) The kingdom of heaven excels all other kingdoms in its pacific nature. It is regnum pacis, a kingdom of peace. Peace is the glory of a kingdom; pax una triumphis innumeris melior [one peace is better than countless victories]. A kingâ€™s crown is more adorned with the white lily of peace, than when beset with the red roses of a bloody war. But where shall we find an uninterrupted peace upon earth? Either there are home-bred divisions or foreign invasions. â€˜There was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in.â€™ 2 Chron 15: 5. But the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of peace; there are no enemies to conflict with; for all Christâ€™s enemies shall be under his feet. Psa 110: 1. The gates of that kingdom always stand open: â€˜The gates shall not be shut at all;â€™ to show that there is no fear of an assault of an enemy. Rev 21: 25. When the saints die they are said to enter into peace. Isa 57: 2. There is no beating of drums or roaring of cannons; but the voice of harpers harping, in token of peace. Rev 14: 2. In heaven, â€˜righteousness and peace kiss each other.â€™
(6) The kingdom of heaven excels in magnitude; it is of vast dimensions. Though the gate of the kingdom be strait, and we must pass into it through the strait gate of mortification, yet, when once we are in it, it is very large. Though there be an innumerable company of saints and angels, yet there is room enough for them all. The kingdom of heaven may be called by the name of that well in Gen 26: 22: Isaac â€˜called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord has made room for us.â€™ Thou who art now confined to a small cottage, when thou comest into the celestial kingdom, shalt not be straitened for room. As every star has a large orb to move in, so it shall be with the saints, when they shall shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven.
(7) The kingdom of heaven excels in unity. All the inhabitants agree together in love. Love will be the perfume and music of heaven; as love to God will be intense, so to the saints. As perfect love casts out fear, so it casts out envy and discord. Those Christians who could not live quietly together on earth (which was the blemish of their profession) in the heaven shall be all love; the fire of strife shall cease; there shall be no vilifying, or censuring one another, or raking into one anotherâ€™s sores, but all shall be tied together with the heart-strings of love. There Luther and Zwingli are agreed. Satan cannot put in his cloven foot there to make divisions. There shall be perfect harmony and concord, and not one jarring string in the saintsâ€™ music. It were worth dying to be in that kingdom.
(8) This kingdom exceeds all earthly kingdoms in joy and pleasure, and is therefore called paradise. 2 Cor 12: 4. For delight, there are all things to cause pleasure; there is the water of life clear as crystal; there is the honeycomb of Godâ€™s love dropping. It is called â€˜entering into the joy of our Lord.â€™ Matt 25: 23. There are two things which cause joy.
 Separation from sin shall be complete, and then joy follows. There can be no more sorrow in heaven than there is joy in hell.
 Perfect union with Christ. Joy, as Aristotle says, flows from union with the object. When our union with Christ shall be perfect our joy shall be full. If the joy of faith be so great, what will the joy of sight be? I Pet 1: 8. Joseph gave his brethren provision for the way, but the full sacks of corn were kept till they came to their fatherâ€™s house. God gives the saints a taste of joy here, but the full sacks are kept till they come to heaven. Not only the organic parts, the outward senses, the eye, ear, taste, but the heart of a glorified saint shall be filled with joy. The understanding, will, and affections, are such a triangle as none can fill but the Trinity. There must needs be infinite joy, where nothing is seen but beauty; nothing is tasted but love.
(9) This kingdom of heaven excels all earthly kingdoms in self-perfection. Other kingdoms are defective, they have not all provision within themselves, but are fain to traffic abroad to supply their wants at home, as King Solomon sent to Ophir for gold. 2 Chron 8:18. But there is no defect in the kingdom of heaven; it has all commodities of its own growth. Rev 22: 2. There is the pearl of price, the morning star, the mountains of spices, the bed of love; there are those sacred rarities, wherewith God and angels are delighted.
(10) This kingdom of heaven excels all others in honour and nobility. It not only equals them in the ensigns of royalty, the throne and white robes, but it far transcends them. Other kings are of the blood-royal, but they in this heavenly kingdom are born of God. Other kings converse with nobles: the saints glorified are fellow commoners with angels; they have a more noble crown; it is made of the flowers of paradise, and is a crown that fadeth not away. I Pet 5: 4. They sit on a better throne. King Solomon sat on a throne of ivory overlaid with gold (1 Kings 10: 18); but the saints in heaven are higher advanced, they sit with Christ upon his throne. Rev 3: 21. They shall judge the princes and great ones of the earth. 1 Cor 6: 2. This honour have all the glorified saints.
(11) This kingdom of heaven excels all others in healthfulness. Death is a worm that is ever feeding at the root of our gourd: kingdoms are often hospitals of sick persons; but the kingdom of heaven is a most healthful climate. Physicians there are out of date: no distemper there, no passing bell, or bill of mortality. â€˜Neither can they die any more.â€™ Luke 20: 36. In the heavenly climate are no ill vapours to breed diseases, but a sweet, aromatic smell coming from Christ; all his garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
(12) This kingdom of heaven excels in duration, it abides for ever. Suppose earthly kingdoms to be more glorious than they are, their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their windows of sapphire; yet they are corruptible and fading. â€˜I will cause to cease the kingdom.â€™ Hos 1: 4. Troy and Athens now lie buried in their ruins; jam seges est ubi Troja fuit [corn now grows where Troy once stood]. Mortality is the disgrace of all earthly kingdoms; but the kingdom of heaven has eternity written upon it, it is an everlasting kingdom. 2 Pet 1: 11. It is founded upon the strong basis of Godâ€™s omnipotence. The saints shall never be turned out of this kingdom, or be deposed from their throne, as some kings have been, as Henry VI., &c. but shall reign for ever and ever. Rev 22: 5.
How should all this affect our hearts! What should we mind but this kingdom of heaven, which more outshines all the kingdoms of the earth than the sun outshines the light of a taper!
 This glory in the kingdom of heaven shall be begun at death, but not perfected till the resurrection.
(1) The saints shall enter upon the kingdom of glory immediately after death.
Before their bodies are buried, their souls shall be crowned. â€˜Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.â€™ Phil 1: 23. From this connection, departing, and being with Christ, we see clearly that there is a subitus transitus, speedy passage from death to glory; no sooner is the soul of a believer divorced from the body, but it presently goes to Christ. â€˜Absent from the body, present with the Lord.â€™ 2 Cor 5: 8. It were better for believers to stay here, if immediately after death they were not with Christ in glory; for here the saints are daily increasing their grace; here they may have many praelibamina [foretastes], sweet tastes of Godâ€™s love: so that it were better to stay here, if their soul should sleep in their body, and they should not have a speedy sight of God in glory; but the consolation of believers is that they shall not stay long from their kingdom; it is but winking and they shall see God. It will not only be a blessed change to a believer, from a desert to a paradise, from a bloody battle to a victorious crown, but a sudden change. No sooner did Lazarus die, but he had a convoy of angels to conduct his soul to the kingdom of glory. You who now are full of bodily diseases, scarce a day well, saying, â€˜My life is spent with griefâ€™ (Psa 31: 10); be of good comfort, you may be happy before you are aware, before another week or month be over, you may be in the kingdom of glory, and then all tears shall be wiped away.
(2) The glory in the kingdom of heaven will be fully perfected at the resurrection and general day of judgement. Then the bodies and souls of believers will be reunited. What joy will there be at the reunion and meeting together of the soul and body of a saint! Oh, what a welcome will the soul give to the body! â€˜O my dear body, thou didst often join with me in prayer, and now thou shalt join with me in praise; thou were willing to suffer with me, and now thou shalt reign with me; thou were sown a vile body, but now thou art made like Christâ€™s glorious body; we were once for a time divorced, but now we are married, and crowned together in a kingdom, and shall mutually congratulate each otherâ€™s felicity.â€™
 The certainty and infallibility of this kingdom of glory.
That this blessed kingdom shall be bestowed on the saints, is beyond all dispute.
(1) God has promised it. â€˜It is your Fatherâ€™s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.â€™ Luke 12: 32. â€˜I appoint unto you a kingdom.â€™ Luke 22: 29. â€˜I bequeath it as my last will and testament.â€™ Has God promised a kingdom, and will he not make it good? Godâ€™s promise is better than any bond. â€˜In hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised.â€™ Tit 1: 2. The whole earth hangs upon the word of Godâ€™s power; and cannot our faith hang upon the word of his promise?
(2) There is a price laid down for this kingdom. Heaven is not only a kingdom which God has promised, but which Christ has purchased; it is called a purchased possession. Eph 1: 14. Though this kingdom is given us freely, yet Christ bought it with the price of his blood; which is a heaven procuring blood. â€˜Having boldness to enter into the holiest (i.e., into heaven) by the blood of Jesus.â€™ Heb 10: 19. Crux Christi clavis paradisi [The cross of Christ is the key of paradise], Christâ€™s blood is the key that opens the gates of heaven. Should not the saints have this kingdom, then Christ should lose his purchase. Christ on the cross was in hard travail. Isa 53: 11. He travailed to bring forth salvation to the elect: should not they possess the kingdom when they die, Christ would lose his travail; all his pangs and agonies of soul upon the cross would be in vain.
(3) Christ prays that the saints may have this kingdom settled upon them. â€˜Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.â€™ i.e., in heaven. John 17: 24. This is Christâ€™s prayer, that the saints may be with him in his kingdom, and be bespangled with some of the beams of his glory. Now, if they should not go into this heavenly kingdom, then Christâ€™s prayer would be frustrated; but that cannot be, for he is Godâ€™s favourite. â€˜I knew that thou hearest me always;â€™ and besides, what Christ prays for, he has power to give. John 11: 42. Observe the manner of Christâ€™s prayer, â€˜Father, I will;â€™ Father, there he prays as man; â€˜I will,â€™ there he gives as God.
(4) The saints must have this blessed kingdom by virtue of Christâ€™s ascension. â€˜I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.â€™ John 20: 17. Where lies the comfort of this? Jesus Christ ascended to take possession of heaven for all believers. As a husband takes up land in another country in behalf of his wife, so Christ went to take possession of heaven in behalf of all believers. â€˜I go to prepare a place for you.â€™ John 14: 2. My ascension is to make all things ready against your coming: I go to prepare the heavenly mansions for you. The flesh that Christ has taken into heaven, is a sure pledge that our flesh and bodies shall be where he is ere long. Christ did not ascend to heaven as a private person, but as a public person, for the good of all believers; his ascension was a certain forerunner of the saints ascending into heaven.
(5) The elect must have this blessed kingdom, in regard of the previous work of the Spirit in their hearts. They have the beginning of the kingdom of heaven in them here: grace is heaven begun in the soul; besides, God gives them primitias Spiritus, the first-fruits of the Spirit. Rom 8: 23. The first-fruits are the comforts of the Spirit. These first-fruits under the law were a certain sigh to the Jews of the full crop of vintage which they should after receive. The first-fruits of the Spirit, consisting of joy and peace, assure the saints of the full vintage of glory they shall be ever reaping in the kingdom of God. The saints in this life are said to have the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts. 2 Cor 5: 5. As an earnest is part of payment, and an assurance of payment in full to be made in due time, so Godâ€™s Spirit in the hearts of believers, giving them his comforts, bestows on them an earnest, or taste of glory, which further assures them of that full reward which they shall have in the kingdom of heaven. â€˜Believing, ye rejoice;â€™ there is the earnest of heaven. I Pet 1: 8. â€˜Receiving the end of your faith,â€™ salvation; there is the full payment; ver 9.
(6) The elect must have this blessed kingdom by virtue of their coalition and union with Jesus Christ, they are members of Christ, therefore they must be where their head is. Indeed, the Arminians hold, that a justified person may fall from grace, and so his union with Christ may be dissolved and the kingdom lost; but I demand of them, can Christ lose a member of his body? Then he is not perfect; and if Christ may lose one member of his body, why not as well all, by the same reason? He will then be a head without a body; but be assured a believerâ€™s union with Christ cannot be broken, and so long he cannot be hindered of the kingdom. John 17: 12. What was said of Christâ€™s natural body, is as true of his mystical. â€˜A bone of him shall not be broken.â€™ John 19: 36. Look how every bone and limb of Christâ€™s natural body was raised up out of the grave, and carried into heaven; so shall every member of his mystical body be carried up into glory.
(7) We read of some who have been translated into this kingdom. Paul had a sight of it, for he was caught up into the third heaven. 2 Cor 12: 2. And the converted thief on the cross was translated into glory. â€˜Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.â€™ Luke 23: 43. By all that has been said, it is most evident that believers have a glorious kingdom laid up for them in reversion, and that they shall go to this kingdom when they die. None doubt the certainty of the heavenly kingdom but such as doubt the verity of Scripture.
 We should pray earnestly, â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™
(1) Because it is a kingdom worth praying for. It exceeds the glory of all earthly kingdoms, it has gates of pearl. Rev 21: 21. We have heard of a cabinet of pearl, but when did we hear of gates of pearl? In that kingdom is the bed of love, the mountains of spices; there are the cherubim, not to keep us out, but to welcome us into the kingdom. Heaven is a kingdom worth praying for; nothing is wanting in that kingdom which may complete the saintsâ€™ happiness; for, wherein does happiness consist? Is it in knowledge? We â€™shall know as we are known.â€™ Is it in dainty fare? We shall be at the â€˜marriage supper of the Lamb.â€™ Is it in rich apparel? We shall be â€˜clothed in long white robes.â€™ Is it in delicious music? We shall hear the choir of angels singing. Is it in dominion? We shall reign as kings, and judge angels. Is it in pleasure? We shall enter into the joy of our Lord. Surely then this kingdom is worth praying for! â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™ Would God give us a vision of heaven awhile, as he did Stephen, who saw â€˜the heavens openedâ€™ (Acts 7: 56), we should fall into a trance; and being a little recovered out of it, how importunately would we put up this petition, â€˜Thy kingdom come!â€™
(2) We must pray for this kingdom of glory, because God will not bestow it on any without prayer. â€˜To them who seek for glory and immortalityâ€™ (Rom 2: 7); and how do we seek but by prayer? God has promised a kingdom, and we must by prayer put the bond in suit. God is not so lavish as to throw away a kingdom on those who do not ask it. And certainly, if Christ himself, who had merited glory, did pray, â€˜Now, O Father, glorify me with thine own selfâ€™ (John 17: 5), how much more ought we to pray for the excellent glory who have this kingdom granted as a charter of Godâ€™s mere grace and favour!
(3) We must pray that the kingdom of glory may come, that by going into it we may make an end of sinning. I think sometimes, what a blessed time it will be, never to have a sinful thought more! though we must not pray, â€˜Thy kingdom come,â€™ out of discontent, because we would be rid of the troubles and crosses of this life. This was Jonahâ€™s fault; he would die in a pet, because God took away his gourd; â€˜Lord,â€™ says he, â€˜take my life from me.â€™ Jonah 4: 3. But we must pray, â€˜Thy kingdom come,â€™ out of a holy design that the fetters of corruption may be pulled off, and we may be as the angels, those virgin spirits, who never sin. This made the church pray in Rev 22: 20, Veni, Domine Jesu [Come, Lord Jesus].
(4) Because that all Christâ€™s enemies shall be put under his feet. The devil shall have no more power to tempt, nor wicked men to persecute; the antichristian hierarchy shall be pulled down, and Zionâ€™s glory shall shine as a lamp, and the Turkish strength shall be broken.
(5) We must pray earnestly that the kingdom of glory may come, that we may see God â€˜face to face,â€™ and have an uninterrupted and eternal communion with him in the empyrean heaven. Moses desired but a glimpse of Godâ€™s glory. Exod 33: 18. How then should we pray to see him in all his embroidered robes of glory, when he shall shine ten thousand times brighter than the sun in its meridian splendour! Here, in this life, we rather desire God than enjoy him; how earnestly therefore should we pray, â€˜Thy kingdom of glory come!â€™ The beholding and enjoying God will be the diamond in the ring, the very quintessence of glory. And must we pray, â€˜Thy kingdom comeâ€™? How then are they ever like to come to heaven who never pray for it? Though God gives some profane persons â€˜daily breadâ€™ who never pray for it, yet he will not give them a kingdom who never pray for it. God may feed them, but he will never crown them.
Use 1. For information.
(1) From all this, you see that nothing within the whole sphere of religion is imposed upon unreasonable terms. When God bids us serve him, it is no unreasonable request; out of free grace he will enthrone us in a kingdom. When we hear of repentance, steeping our souls in brinish tears for sin; or of mortification, beheading our king-sin, we are ready to grumble, and think this is hard and unreasonable. â€˜But, do we serve God for nought?â€™ Is it not infinite bounty to reward us with a kingdom? This kingdom is as far above our thoughts, as it is beyond our deserts. No man can say, without wrong to God, that he is a hard master; for though he sets us about hard work, yet he is no hard master. God gives double pay; he gives great perquisites in his service, sweet joy and peace; and a great reward after, â€˜an eternal weight of glory.â€™ God gives the spring-flowers, and a crop; he settles upon us such a kingdom as exceeds our faith. Praemium quod fide non attingitur [The reward which is not attained by faith]. Augustine. Such as mortal eye has not seen, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive. 1 Cor 2: 9. Alas, what an infinite difference is there between duty enjoined, and the kingdom prepared! What is the shedding of a tear to a crown! So that Godâ€™s â€˜commandments are not grievous.â€™ 1 John 5: 3. Our service cannot be so hard as a kingdom is sweet.
(2) See hence the royal bounty of God to his children, that he has prepared a kingdom for them, a kingdom bespangled with glory; infinitely above the model we can draw of it in our thoughts. The painter going to draw the picture of Helena, as not being able to draw her beauty to the life, drew her face covered with a vail; so, when we speak of the kingdom of heaven, we must draw a vail, we cannot set it forth in all its orient beauty and magnificence; gold and pearl do but faintly shadow it out. Rev 21: 21. The glory of this kingdom is better felt than expressed.
They who inherit this kingdom are amicti stolis albis, â€˜clothed with white robes.â€™ Rev 7: 9. White robes denote three things:  Their dignity. The Persian were arrayed in white, in token of honour.  Their purity. The magistrates among the Romans were clothed in white, therefore called candidate, to show their integrity. Thus the queen, the Lambâ€™s wife, is arrayed in fine linen, pure and white, which is â€˜the righteousness of the saints.â€™ Rev 19: 8.  Their joy. White is an emblem of joy. â€˜Eat thy bread with joy, let thy garments be always white.â€™ Eccl 9: 7, 8.
The dwellers in this kingdom have â€˜palms in their hands,â€™ in token of victory. Rev 7: 9. They are conquerors over the world: and, being victors, they have now palm-branches. They sit upon the throne with Christ. Rev 3: 21. When Caesar returned from conquering his enemies, there was set for him a chair of state in the senate, and a throne in the theatre. Thus the saints in glory, after their heroic victories, shall sit upon a throne with Christ. It is royal bounty in God, to bestow such an illustrious kingdom upon the saints. It is a mercy to be pardoned, but what is it to be crowned? It is a mercy to be delivered from wrath to come, but what is it to be invested with a kingdom? â€˜Behold, what manner of love is this?â€™ Earthly princes may bestow great gifts and donations upon their subjects, but they keep the kingdom to themselves. Though king Pharaoh advanced Joseph to honour, and took the ring off his finger and gave it to him, yet he would keep the kingdom to himself. Gen 41: 40. But God enthrones the saints in a kingdom. He thinks nothing too good for his children. We are ready to think much of a tear, a prayer, or to sacrifice a sin for him; but he does not think much to bestow a kingdom upon us.
(3) See hence, that religion is no ignominious disgraceful thing. Satan labours to cast all the odium and reproach upon it that he can; that it is devout frenzy, ingrain folly. Acts 28: 22. â€˜As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.â€™ But wise men measure things by the end. What is the end of a religious life? It ends in a kingdom. Would a prince regard the slightings of a few frantics, when he is going to be crowned? You who are beginners, bind their reproaches as a crown about your head; despise their censures as much as their praise: a kingdom is coming.
(4) See what contrary ways the godly and the wicked go at death. The godly go to a kingdom, the wicked to a prison: the devil is the jailer, and they are bound with the chains of darkness. Jude 6. But what are these chains? Not iron chains, but worse; the chain of Godâ€™s decree, decreeing them to torment; and the chain of Godâ€™s power, whereby he binds them fast under wrath. The deplorable condition of impenitent sinners, is that they do not go to a kingdom when they die, but to a prison. Oh, think what horror and despair will possess the wicked, when they see themselves engulfed in misery, and their condition hopeless, helpless, endless! They are in a fiery prison, and there is no possibility of getting out. A servant under the law, who had a hard master, at every seventh year might go free; but in hell there is no year of release when the damned shall go free; the fire, the worm, the prison are eternal. If the whole world, from earth to heaven, were filled with grains of sand, and once in a thousand years an angel should come and fetch one grain, how many millions of ages would pass before that vast heap of sand would be quite spent! Yet, if after all this time the sinner might come out of hell, there would be some hope: but this word "ever" breaks the heart with despair.
(5) See that which may make us in love with holy duties; that every duty spiritually performed brings us a step nearer to the kingdom. Finis dat amabilitatem mediis [The end makes the means loveable]. He whose heart is set on riches, counts trading pleasant, because it brings him riches. If our hearts are set upon heaven, we shall love duty, because it brings us by degrees to the kingdom; we are going to heaven in the way of duty. Holy duties increase grace; and as grace ripens, so glory hastens. The duties of religion are irksome to flesh and blood, but we should look upon them as spiritual chariots to carry us apace to the heavenly kingdom. The Protestants in France call their church paradise; and well they might, because the ordinances led them to the paradise of God. As every flower has its sweetness, so would every duty, if we would look upon it as giving us a lift nearer heaven.
(6) It shows us what little cause the children of God have to envy the prosperity of the wicked. Quis aerario quis plenis loculis indiget [Who needs a full purse when he owns a treasury]? Seneca. The wicked have the â€˜waters of a full cup wrung out to them.â€™ Psa 73: 10. As if they had a monopoly of happiness: they have all they can desire; nay, they have â€˜more than heart can wish.â€™ Psa 73: 7. They steep themselves in pleasure. â€˜They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.â€™ Job 21: 12. The wicked are high when Godâ€™s people are low in the world: the goats clamber up the mountains of preferment, when Christâ€™s sheep are below in the valley of tears. The wicked are clothed in purple, while the godly are in sackcloth. The prosperity of the wicked is a great stumbling- block. This made Averroes deny a providence, and made Asaph say, â€˜Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain.â€™ Psa 73: 13. But there is no cause of envy at their prosperity, if we consider two things. First, this is all they have. â€˜Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things:â€™ thou hadst all thy heaven here. Luke 16: 25. Luther calls the Turkish Empire a bone which God casts to dogs. Secondly, that God has laid up better things for his children. He has prepared a kingdom of glory for them. They shall have the beatific vision: they shall hear the angels sing in concert; they shall be crowned with the pleasures of paradise for ever. Oh, then, envy not the flourishing prosperity of the wicked! They go through fairway to execution, and the godly go through foul way to coronation.
(7) Is there a kingdom of glory coming? See how happy all the saints are at death! They go to a kingdom; they shall see Godâ€™s face, which shines ten thousand times brighter than the sun in its meridian glory. The godly at death shall be installed into their honour, and have the crown royal set upon their head. They have in the kingdom of heaven the quintessence of all delights; they have the water of life clear as crystal; they have all aromatic perfumes; they feed not on the dew of Hermon, but the manna of angels; they lie in Christâ€™s bosom, that bed of spices. There is such a pleasant variety in the happiness of heaven, that after millions of years it will be as fresh and desirable as the first hourâ€™s enjoyment. In the kingdom of heaven, the saints are crowned with all those perfections which human nature is capable of. The desires of the glorified saints are infinitely satisfied; there is nothing absent that they could wish might be enjoyed; there is nothing present that they could wish might be removed. They who are got into this kingdom would be loath to come back to the earth again, for it would be much to their loss. They would not leave the fulness and the sweetness of the olive, to court the bramble; the things which tempt us, they would scorn. What are golden bags to the golden beams of the Sun of Righteousness? In the kingdom of heaven there is glory in its highest elevation; in that kingdom is knowledge without ignorance, holiness without sin, beauty without blemish, strength without weakness, light without darkness, riches without poverty, ease without pain, liberty without restraint, rest without labour, joy without sorrow, love without hatred, plenty without surfeit, honour without disgrace, health without sickness, peace without war, contentment without cessation. Oh, the happiness of those that die in the Lord! They go into this blessed kingdom. And if they are so happy when they die, then let me make two inferences.
 What little cause have the saints to fear death! Are any afraid of going to a kingdom? What is there in this world that should make us desirous to stay here? Do we not see God dishonoured, and how can we bear it? Is not this world â€˜a valley of tears,â€™ and do we weep to leave it? Are we not in a wilderness among fiery serpents, and are we afraid to go from these serpents? Our best friends live above. God is ever displaying the banner of his love in heaven, and is there any love like his? Are there any sweeter smiles, or softer embraces than his? What news so welcome as leaving the world and going to a kingdom? Christian, thy dying day will be thy wedding day, and dost thou fear it? Is a slave afraid to be redeemed? Is a virgin afraid to be matched into the crown? Death may take away a few worldly comforts, but it gives that which is better; it takes away a flower and gives a jewel; it takes away a short lease and gives land of inheritance. If the saints possess a kingdom when they die, they have no cause to fear death. A prince would not be afraid to cross the sea, though tempestuous, if he were sure to be crowned as soon as he came to shore.
 If the godly are so happy when they die, that they go to a kingdom, what cause have we to mourn immoderately for the death of godly friends? Shall we mourn for their preferment? Why should we shed tears immoderately for them who have all tears wiped from their eyes? Why should we be swallowed up of grief for them who are swallowed up of joy? They are gone to their kingdom; they are not lost, but gone a little before; not perished, but translated. Non amissi sed praemissi. Cyprian. They are removed for their advantage; as if one should be removed out of a smoky cottage to a palace. Elijah was removed in a fiery chariot to heaven. Shall Elisha weep inordinately because he enjoys not the company of Elijah? Shall Jacob weep when he knows his son Joseph is preferred and made chief ruler in Egypt? We should not be excessive in grief when we know our godly friends are advanced to a kingdom. I confess when any of our relations die in their impenitence, there is just cause of mourning, but not when our friends take their flight to glory. David lost two sons: Absalom, a wicked son, he mourned for him bitterly; he lost the child he had by Bathsheba: he mourned not when the child was departed. Ambrose gives this reason, that David had a good hope, nay, assurance that the child was translated into heaven, but he doubted of Absalom; he died in his sins; therefore David wept for him, â€˜O Absalom, my son, my son.â€™ But though we are to weep to think any of our flesh should burn in hell, yet let us not be cast down for them who are so highly preferred at death as to a kingdom. Our godly friends who die in the Lord, are in that blessed estate, and are crowned with such infinite delights, that if we could hear them speak to us out of heaven, they would say, â€˜Weep not for us, but weep for yourselves.â€™ Luke 23: 28. We are in our kingdom, weep not for our preferment, â€˜b- t weep for yourselves,â€™ who are in a sinful sorrowful world. You are tossing on the troublesome waves, but we are got to the haven: you are fighting with temptations, while we are wearing a victorious crown, â€˜Weep not for us, but weep for yourselves.â€™
(8) See the wisdom of the godly. They have the serpentâ€™s eye in the doveâ€™s head; they are â€˜wise virgins.â€™ Matt 25: 2. Their wisdom appears in their choice. They choose that which will bring them to a kingdom; they choose grace, and what is grace but the seed of glory? They choose Christ with his cross, but this cross leads to a crown. Moses chose â€˜rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.â€™ Heb 11: 25. It was a wise, rational choice, for he knew if he suffered he should reign. At the day of judgement, those whom the world accounted foolish, will appear to be wise. They made a prudent choice â€" they chose holiness; and what is happiness but the quintessence of holiness? They chose affliction with the people of God; but, through this purgatory of affliction they pass to paradise. God will proclaim the saintsâ€™ wisdom before men and angels.
(9) See the folly of those who, for vain pleasures and profits, will lose such a glorious kingdom; like that cardinal of France who said, â€˜He would lose his part in paradise, if he might keep his cardinalship in Paris.â€™ I may say (as Eccl 9: 3), â€˜Madness is in their heart.â€™ Lysimachus, for a draught of water, lost his empire; so, for a draught of sinful pleasure, these will lose heaven. We too much resemble our grandfather, Adam, who for an apple lost paradise. Many for trifles, to get a shilling more in the shop or bushel, will venture the loss of heaven. It will be an aggravation of the sinnerâ€™s torment, to think how foolishly he was undone; for a flash of impure joy he lost an eternal weight of glory. Would it not vex one who is the lord of a manor to think he should part with his stately inheritance for a fit of music? Such are they who let heaven go for a song. This will make the devil insult at the last day, to think how he has gulled men, and made them lose their souls and their happiness for â€˜lying vanities.â€™ If Satan could make good his brag, in giving all the glory and kingdoms of the world, it could not countervail the loss of the celestial kingdom. All the tears in hell are not sufficient to lament the loss of heaven.
Use 2. For reproof.
(1) It reproves such as do not look after this kingdom of glory, and live as if all we say about heaven were but a romance. That they mind it not appears, because they do not labour to have the kingdom of grace set up in their hearts. If they have some thoughts of this kingdom, yet it is in a dull, careless manner; they serve God as if they served him not; they do not vires exercere, put forth their strength for the heavenly kingdom. How industrious were the saints of old for this kingdom! â€˜Reaching forth unto those things which are before;â€™ the Greek word is epekteinomenos, â€™stretching out the neck,â€™ a metaphor from racers, that strain every limb, and reach forward to lay hold on the prize. Phil 3: 13. Luther spent three hours a day in prayer. Anna, the prophetess, â€˜departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.â€™ Luke 2: 37. How zealous and industrious were the martyrs to get into this heavenly kingdom! They wore their fetters as ornaments, snatched up torments as crowns, and embraced the flames as cheerfully as Elijah did the fiery chariot which came to fetch him to heaven; and do we not think this kingdom worth our labour? The great pains which the heathens took in their Olympic races, when they ran but for a crown made of olive intermixed with gold, will rise up in judgement against such as take little or no pains in seeking after the kingdom of glory. The dullness of many in seeking after heaven is such as if they did not believe there was such a kingdom; or as if it would not countervail their labour; or as if they thought it were indifferent whether they obtained it or not, which is as much as to say, whether they were saved or not; whether they were crowned in glory, or chained as galley slaves in hell for ever.
(2) It reproves those who spend their sweat more in getting the world than the kingdom of heaven. â€˜Who mind earthly things.â€™ Phil 3: 19. The world is the great Diana they cry up, as if they would fetch happiness out of the earth which God has cursed; they labour for honour and riches. Like Korah and Nathan, â€˜The earth swallowed them up.â€™ Numb 16: 32. It swallows up their time and thoughts. If they are not pagans, they are infidels; they do not believe there is such a kingdom: they go for Christians, yet question that great article in their faith, life everlasting. Like the serpent, they lick the dust. Oh, what is there in the world that we should so idolise it, and Christ and heaven are to be disregarded? What has Christ done for you? Died for your sins. What will the world do for you? Can it pacify an angry conscience? Can it procure Godâ€™s favour? Can it fly death? Can it bribe the judge? Can it purchase for you a place in the kingdom of heaven? Oh, how are men bewitched with worldly profits and honours, that for these things they will let go paradise! It was a good prayer of Bernard, Sic possideamus mundana, ut non perdamus aeterna. Let us so possess things temporal, that we do not lose things eternal.
(3) It reproves such who delay and put off seeking this kingdom till it be too late; like the foolish virgins who came when the door was shut. Mora trahit periculum [Delay brings danger]. People let the lamp of life blaze out, and when the symptoms of death are upon them, and they know not what else to do, will look up to the kingdom of heaven. Christ bids them seek Godâ€™s kingdom first, and they will seek it last; they put off the kingdom of heaven to a death-bed, as if it were as easy to make their peace as to make their will. How many have lost the heavenly kingdom through delays and procrastinations! Plutarch reports of Archias, the Lacedemonian, that when, being among his cups, one delivered him a letter and desired him to read it presently, being of serious business, he replied, â€˜Seria cras, I will mind serious things to-morrow;â€™ and that night he was slain. Thou that sayest, thou wilt look after the kingdom of heaven to-morrow, knowest not but that thou mayest be in hell before to-morrow. Sometimes death comes suddenly: it strikes without giving warning. What folly is it to put off seeking the kingdom of heaven till the day of grace expire; till the radical moisture be spent. As if a man should begin to run a race when a fit of the gout takes him.
(4) It reproves such as were once great zealots in religion, and seemed to be touched with a coal from Godâ€™s altar, but have since cooled in their devotion, and left off pursuing the celestial kingdom. â€˜Israel has cast off the thing that is good:â€™ there is no face of religion to be seen: they have left off the house of prayer, and gone to play-houses; they have left off pursuing the heavenly kingdom. Hos 8: 3.
Whence is this?
 For want of a supernatural principle of grace. That branch must needs die which has no root to grow upon. That which moves from a principle of life lasts, as the beating of the pulse; but that which moves from an artificial spring only, when the spring is down, the motion ceases. The hypocriteâ€™s religion is artificial, not vital; he acts from the outward spring of applause or gain, and if that be down, his motion towards heaven ceases.
 From unbelief. â€˜An evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.â€™ Heb 3: 12. â€˜They believed not in God.â€™ Psa 78: 22. â€˜They turned back;â€™ 5: 41. Sinners have hard thoughts of God: they think they may pray and hear; yet be never the better. Mal 3: 14. They question whether God will give them the kingdom at last; then they turn back, and throw away Christâ€™s colours; they distrust Godâ€™s love, and no wonder they desert his service. Infidelity is the root of apostasy.
 Men leave off pursuing the heavenly kingdom, from some secret lust nourished in the soul, perhaps a wanton or a covetous lust. Demas, for love of the world, forsook his religion, and afterwards turned priest in an idol temple. One of Christâ€™s own apostles was caught with a silver bait. Covetousness will make men betray a good cause, and make shipwreck of a good conscience. If there be any lust unmortified in the soul, it will bring forth the bitter fruit either of scandal or apostasy.
 Men leave off pursuing the kingdom of heaven out of timidity. If they persist in religion, they may lose their places of profit, perhaps their lives. The reason, says Aristotle, why the chameleon turns into so many colours is through excessive fear. When carnal fear prevails, it makes men change their religion as fast as the chameleon does its colours. When many of the Jews, who were great followers of Christ, saw the swords and staves, they deserted him. What Solomon said of the sluggard, is as true of the coward: he says, â€˜There is a lion without.â€™ Prov 22: 13. He sees dangers before him; he would go on in the way to the kingdom of heaven, but there is a lion in the way. This is dismal. â€˜If any man draw back (in the Greek, if he steals, as a soldier, from his colours), my soul shall have no pleasure in him.â€™ Heb 10: 38.
Use 3. For trial.
Let us examine whether we shall go to this kingdom when we die. Heaven is called a â€˜kingdom prepared.â€™ Matt 25: 34.
How shall we know this kingdom is prepared for us?
If we are prepared for the kingdom.
How may that be known?
By being heavenly persons. An earthly heart is no more fit for heaven, than a clod of dust is fit to be a star; there is nothing of Christ or grace in such a heart. It were a miracle to find a pearl in a gold mine; and it is as great a miracle to find Christ, the pearl of price, in an earthly heart. Would we go to the kingdom of heaven? Are we heavenly?
(1) Are we heavenly in our contemplations? Do our thoughts run upon this kingdom? Do we get sometimes upon Mount Pisgah, and take a prospect of glory? Thoughts are as travellers: most of Davidâ€™s thoughts travelled heavenâ€™s road. Psa 139: 17. Are our minds heavenlized? â€˜Walk about Zion, tell the towers thereof, mark ye well her bulwarks,â€™ Psa 68: 12, 13. Do we walk into the heavenly mount, and see what a glorious situation it is? Do we tell the towers of that kingdom? While a Christian fixes his thoughts on God and glory, he does as it were tread upon the borders of the heavenly kingdom, and peep within the veil. As Moses had a sight of Canaan, though he did not enter into it, so the heavenly Christian has a sight of heaven, though he be not yet entered into it.
(2) Are we heavenly in our affections? Do we set our affections on the kingdom of heaven? Col 3: 2. If we are heavenly, we despise all things below in comparison of the kingdom of God; we look upon the world but as a beautiful prison; and we cannot be much in love with our fetters, though they are made of gold: our hearts are in heaven. A stranger may be in a foreign land to gather up debts owing him, but he desires to be in his own kingdom and nation: so we are here awhile as in a strange land, but our desire is chiefly after the kingdom of heaven, where we shall be for ever. The world is the place of a saintâ€™s abode, not his delight. Is it thus with us? Do we, like the patriarchs of old, desire a better country? Heb 11: 16. This is the temper of a true saint, his affections are set on the kingdom of God: his anchor is cast in heaven, and he is carried thither with the sails of desire.
(3) Are we heavenly in our speeches? Christ, after his resurrection, spoke of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Acts 1: 3. Are your tongues turned to the language of the heavenly Canaan? â€˜Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another.â€™ Mal 3: 16. Do you in your visits season your discourses with heaven? There are many say, they hope they shall be saved, but you shall never hear them speak of the kingdom of heaven perhaps of their wares and drugs, or of some rich purchase they have got, but nothing of the kingdom. Can men travel together in a journey, and not speak a word of the place they are travelling to? Are you travellers for heaven, and never speak a word of the kingdom you are travelling to? Herein many discover they do not belong to heaven, for you shall never hear a good word come from them. Verba sunt speculum mentis. Bernard. The words are the looking-glass of the mind, they show what the heart is.
(4) Are we heavenly in our trading? Is our traffic and merchandise in heaven? Do we trade in the heavenly kingdom by faith? A man may live in one place, and trade in another; he may live in Ireland, and trade in the West Indies; so we trade in the heavenly kingdom. They who do not trade in heaven while they live, shall never go to heaven when they die. Do we send up to heaven volleys of sighs and groans? Do we send forth the ship of prayer thither, which fetches in returns of mercy? Is our communion with the Father and his Son Jesus? 1 John 1: 3. Phil 3: 20.
(5) Are our lives heavenly? Do we live as if we had seen the Lord with bodily eyes? Do we emulate and imitate the angels in sanctity? Do we labour to copy out Christâ€™s life in ours? 1 John 2: 6. It was a custom among the Macedonians, on Alexanderâ€™s birthday, to wear his picture about their necks set with pearl and diamond. Do we carry Christâ€™s picture about us, and resemble him in the heavenliness of our conversation? If we are thus heavenly, we shall go to the kingdom of heaven when we die; and truly there is a great deal of reason why we should be thus heavenly in our thoughts, affections, and conversation, if we consider that the main end why God has given us our souls, is, that we may mind the kingdom of heaven. Our souls are of noble extraction, they are akin to angels, a glass of the Trinity, as Plato speaks. Now, is it rational to imagine that God would have breathed into us such noble souls only to look after sensual objects? Were such bright stars made only to shoot into the earth? Were these immortal souls made only to seek after dying comforts? Had this been the only end of our creation, to eat and drink, and converse with earthly objects, worse souls would have served us: sensitive souls had been good enough for us. What need our souls to be rational and divine, to do that work only which a beast may do?
Great reason we should be heavenly in our thoughts, affections, conversation, if we consider what a blessed kingdom heaven is. It is beyond all hyperbole. Earthly kingdoms scarce deserve the names of cottages compared with it. We read of an angel coming down from heaven, who set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth. Rev 10: 2. Had we but once been in the heavenly kingdom, and viewed the superlative glory of it, how might we, in holy scorn, trample with one foot on the earth, and with the other foot upon the sea? There are rivers of pleasure, gates of pearl, sparkling crowns, white robes; and should not this make our hearts heavenly? It is a heavenly kingdom, and such only go into it who are heavenly.
Use 4. For exhortation to all in general.
(1) If there be such a glorious kingdom, believe this great truth. Socinians deny it. The Rabbis say, the great dispute between Cain and Abel was about the world to come; Abel affirmed it, Cain denied it. It should be engraver upon our hearts as with the point of a diamond, that there is a blessed kingdom in reversion. â€˜Verily, there is a reward for the righteous.â€™ Psa 58: 11. Let us not hesitate through unbelief. Doubting principles is the next way to denying them. Unbelief, like Samson, would pull down the pillars of religion. Be confirmed in this, there is a kingdom of glory to come; whoever denies this, cuts asunder the main article of the creed, â€˜life everlasting.â€™
(2) If there be such a blessed kingdom of glory to come, let us take heed lest we miss this kingdom; let us fear lest we lose heaven by short shooting. Trembling in the body, is a malady; in the soul, a grace. This fear is not a fear of diffidence or distrust, such as discourages the soul, for such fear frights from religion, it cuts the sinews of endeavour; but holy fear lest we miss the kingdom of heaven, is a fear of diligence; it quickens us in the use of means, and puts us forward, that we may not fail of our hope. â€˜Noah moved with fear, prepared an ark.â€™ Heb 11: 7. Fear is a watch-bell to awaken sleepy Christians; it guards against security; it is a spur to a sluggish heart. He who fears he shall come short of his journey, rides the faster. And indeed this exhortation to fear lest we miss this kingdom, is most necessary, if we consider two things:
 There are many who have gone many steps in the way to heaven, and yet have fallen short of it. â€˜Thou art not far from the kingdom of God;â€™ yet he was not near enough. Mark 12: 34.
How many steps may a man take in the way to the kingdom of God, and yet miss it?
He may be adorned with civility; he may be morally righteous; he may be prudent, just, temperate; he may be free from penal statutes; all which is good, but not enough to bring a man to heaven.
He may hang out the flag of a glorious profession, and yet fall short of the kingdom. The Scribes and Pharisees went far; they sat in Mosesâ€™ chair, were expounders of the law; they prayed, gave alms, were strict in the observation of the Sabbath; if one had got a thorn in his foot, he would not pull it out on the Sabbath-day, for fear of breaking the Sabbath. They were so externally devout in Godâ€™s worship, that the Jews thought, that if but two in all the world went to heaven, the one would be a Scribe, and the other a Pharisee; but the mantle of their profession was not lined with sincerity; they did all for the applause of men, and therefore missed heaven. â€˜Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.â€™ Matt 5: 20.
A man may be a frequenter of ordinances, and yet miss the kingdom. It is a good sight to see people flock as doves to the windows of Godâ€™s house; it is good to lie in the way where Christ passes by; yet, be not offended, if I say, one may be a hearer of the word, and fall short of glory. Herod heard John the Baptist gladly, yet beheaded John instead of beheading his sin. The prophet Ezekielâ€™s hearers came with as much delight to his preaching, as one would do to a piece of music. â€˜Thou art to them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.â€™ Ezek 33: 32. What is it to hear oneâ€™s duty, and not do it? It is as if a physician prescribed a good recipe, but the patient would not take it.
A man may have some trouble for sin, and weep for it, and yet miss the heavenly kingdom.
Whence is this?
A sinnerâ€™s tears are forced by Godâ€™s judgements; as water which comes out of a distillery is forced by the fire. Trouble for sin is transient, it is quickly over again. As some that go to sea are sea- sick, but when they come to land are well again; so hypocrites may be sermon-sick, but this trouble does not last, the sick-fit is soon over. A sinner weeps, but goes on in sin; his sins are not drowned in his tears.
A man may have good desires and yet miss the kingdom. â€˜Let me die the death of the righteous.â€™ Numb 23: 10.
Wherein do these desires come short?
They are sluggish. A man would have heaven, but will take no pains. As if one should say, he desires water, but will not let down the bucket into the well. â€˜The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labour.â€™ Prov 21: 25. The sinner desires mercy but not grace; he desires Christ as a Saviour, but not as he is the Holy One; he desires Christ only as a bridge to lead him over to heaven. Such desires as these may be found among the damned.
A man may forsake his sins, oaths, drunkenness, uncleanness, and yet come short of the kingdom. He may forsake gross sins, and yet have no reluctance to heart-sins, pride, unbelief, and the first risings of malice and concupiscence. Though he dams up the stream, he lets alone the fountain; though he lop and prune the branches, he does not strike at the root of it. Though he leaves sin for fear of hell, or because it brings shame and penury, yet he still loves sin; as if a snake should cast her coat, and yet retain her poison. â€˜They set their heart on their iniquity.â€™ Hos 4: 8. It is but a partial forsaking of sin; though he leaves one sin, he lives in some other. Herod reformed very much. â€˜He did many things;â€™ but he lived in incest. Mark 6: 20. Some leave drunkenness, and live in covetousness; they forbear swearing, and live in slandering. It is but a partial reformation, and so they miss of the kingdom of glory. Thus you see there are some who have gone many steps in the way to heaven, and yet have come short. Some have gone so far in profession, that they have been confident their estate has been good, and that they should go to the kingdom of heaven, and yet have missed it. â€˜When once the master of the house is risen up, and has shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us.â€™ Luke 13: 25. How confident were these of salvation! They did not beseech, but knock, as if they did not doubt but to be let into heaven; yet to these Christ says, â€˜I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.â€™ Therefore fear and tremble, lest any miss of this kingdom of heaven.
 This fear is necessary, if we consider what a loss it is to lose the heavenly kingdom. All the tears in hell are not sufficient to lament the loss of heaven. They who lose the heavenly kingdom, lose Godâ€™s sweet presence, the ravishing views and smiles of his glorious face. Godâ€™s presence is the diamond in the ring of glory. â€˜In thy presence is fulness of joy.â€™ Psa 16: 11. If God be the fountain of all bliss, then, to be separated from him, is the fountain of all misery. They who lose the heaven]y kingdom, lose the society of angels; and, what sweeter music than to hear them praise God in concert? They lose all their treasure, their white robes, their sparkling crowns; they lose their hopes. â€˜Whose hope shall be cut off.â€™ Job 8: 14. Their hope is not an anchor, but a spiderâ€™s web. If hope deferred makes the heart sick, what is hope disappointed? Prov 13: 12. They lose the end of their being. Why were they created, but to be enthroned in glory? Now, to lose this, is to lose the end of their being, as if an angel should be turned to a worm. There are many aggravations of the loss of this heavenly kingdom.
The eyes of the wicked shall be opened to see their loss; now they care not for the loss of Godâ€™s favour, because they know not the worth of it. A man that loses a rich diamond, and took it but for an ordinary stone, is not much troubled at the loss of it; but when he comes to know what a jewel he lost, he laments. He whose heart would never break at the sight of his sins, breaks at the sight of his loss. When the wife of Phinehas heard the ark was lost, she cried out, â€˜The glory is departed.â€™ 1 Sam 4: 21. When the sinner sees what he has lost, that he has lost the beatific vision, he has lost the kingdom of heaven, he will cry out in horror and despair, â€˜The glory, the everlasting glory, is departed.â€™
A second aggravation of the loss of this kingdom will be, that sinners shall be upbraided by their own conscience. This is the worm that never dies, a self-accusing mind. Mark 9: 44. When sinners shall consider that they were in a fair way to the kingdom; that they had a possibility of salvation; that though the door of heaven was strait, yet it was open; that they had the means of grace; that the jubilee of the gospel was proclaimed in their ears; that God called but they refused; that Jesus Christ offered them a plaister of his own blood to heal them, but they trampled it under foot; that the Holy Spirit stood at the door of their heart, knocking and crying to them to receive Christ and heaven, but they repulsed the Spirit, and sent away this dove; and that now, through their own folly and wilfulness, they have lost the kingdom of heaven; a self- accusing conscience will be terrible, it will be like a venomous worm gnawing at the heart.
A third aggravation of the loss of heaven will be, to look upon others that have gained the kingdom. The happiness of the blessed will be an eyesore. â€˜There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.â€™ Luke 13: 28. When the wicked shall see those whom they hated and scorned exalted to a kingdom, and shine with robes of glory, and they themselves miss the kingdom, it will be a dagger at the heart, and make them gnash their teeth for envy.
A fourth aggravation is, that this loss of the kingdom of heaven is accompanied with the punishment of sense. He who leaps short of the bank, falls into the river: such as come short of heaven, fall into the river of fire and brimstone. â€˜The wicked shall be turned into hell;â€™ and how dreadful is that! Psa 9: 17. If to have but a spark of Godâ€™s anger light upon the conscience be so torturing here, what will it be to have mountains of Godâ€™s wrath thrown upon the soul? â€˜Who knoweth the power of thine anger?â€™ Psa 90: 11. The angel never poured out his vial, but some woe followed. Rev 16: 3. When the bitter vials of Godâ€™s wrath are poured out, damnation follows. Dives cries out, â€˜I am tormented in this flame.â€™ Luke 16: 24. In hell there is not a drop of mercy. There was no oil nor frankincense used in the sacrifice of jealousy. Numb 5: 15. In hell there is no oil of mercy to lenify the sufferings of the damned, nor incense of prayer to appease Godâ€™s wrath.
A fifth aggravation of the loss of this kingdom will be to consider on what easy and reasonable terms men might have had this kingdom. If indeed God had commanded impossibilities, to have satisfied justice in their own persons, it had been another matter; but what God did demand was reasonable, and was for their good, which was to accept of Christ for their Lord and Husband, and to part with that which would ruin them. These were the fair terms on which they might have enjoyed the heavenly kingdom. Now, to lose heaven, which might have been had upon such easy terms, will be a cutting aggravation. It will rend a sinnerâ€™s heart with rage and grief, to think how easily he might have prevented the loss of the heavenly kingdom.
It will be an aggravation of the loss of heaven for sinners to think how active they were in doing that which lost them the kingdom. It was felo de se. What pains they took to resist the Spirit and to stifle conscience! They sinned until they were out of breath. â€˜They weary themselves to commit iniquity.â€™ Jer 9: 5. What difficulties men went through! How much they endured for their sins! How much shame and pain! How sick was the drunkard with his cups! How sore in his body was the adulterer! What marks of sin he carried about him! What dangers men adventure upon for their lusts! They adventure Godâ€™s wrath, and adventure the laws of the land. Oh, how will this aggravate the loss of heaven! How will it make men curse themselves to think what pains they were at to lose happiness! How will it sting menâ€™s consciences to think that had they but taken as much pains for heaven as they did for hell, they had not lost it!
It will be an aggravation of the loss of this kingdom, that it will be irreparable: heaven once lost can never be recovered. Worldly losses may be made up again. If a man lose his health he may have it repaired by physic; if he be driven out of his kingdom he may be restored to it again as king Nebuchadnezzar was, â€˜Mine honour returned unto me, and I was established in my kingdom.â€™ Dan 4: 36. King Henry VI was deposed from his throne, and restored to it again. But they who once lose heaven can never be restored to it again. After millions of years they are as far from obtaining glory as at first. Thus you see how needful this exhortation is, that we should fear lest we fall short of this kingdom of heaven.
What shall we do that we may not miss this kingdom of glory?
Take heed of those things which will make you miss heaven. (1) Take heed of spiritual sloth. Many Christians are settled upon their lees; they are loath to put themselves to too much pains. It is said of Israel, â€˜They despised the pleasant land.â€™ Psa 106: 24. Canaan was a paradise of delights, a type of heaven; ay, but some of the Jews thought it would cost them a great deal of trouble and hazard in the getting, and they would rather go without it. â€˜They despised the pleasant land.â€™ I have read of certain Spaniards that live where there is a great store of fish, but are so lazy that they will not be at the pains to catch them, but buy of their neighbours. Such sinful sloth is upon the most, that though the kingdom of heaven be offered them, yet they will not put themselves to any labour for it. They have some faint wishes and desires. O that I had this kingdom! They are like a man that wishes for venison, but will not hunt for it. â€˜The soul of the sluggard desireth, and has nothing.â€™ Prov 13: 4. Men could be content to have the kingdom of heaven if it would drop as a ripe fig into their mouths, but they are loath to fight for it. O take heed of spiritual sloth! God never made heaven to be a hive for drones. We cannot have the world without labour, and do we think to have the kingdom of heaven? Heathens will rise up in judgement against many Christians. What pains did they take in their Olympic races when they ran but for a crown of olive or myrtle intermixed with gold; and do we stand still when we are running for a kingdom? â€˜Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep.â€™ Prov 19: 15. Sloth is the soulâ€™s sleep. Adam lost his rib when he was asleep. Many a man loses the kingdom of heaven when he is in this deep sleep of sloth.
(2) Take heed of unbelief. Unbelief kept Israel out of Canaan. â€˜So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.â€™ Heb 3: 19. And it keeps many out of heaven. Unbelief is an enemy to salvation, it is a damning sin; it whispers thus, To what purpose is all this pains for the heavenly kingdom? I had as good sit still; I may come near to heaven, yet come short of heaven. â€˜And they said, There is no hope.â€™ Jer 18: 12. Unbelief destroys hope; and if you cut this sinew, a Christian goes but lamely in religion, if he goes at all. Unbelief raises jealous thoughts of God; it represents him as a severe judge; it discourages many a soul, and takes it off from duty. Beware of unbelief: believe the promises. â€˜The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him:â€™ seek him earnestly and he will open both heart and heaven to you. Lam 3: 25. Deus volentibus non deest [God does not fail those who desire him]. Do what you are able, and God will help you. While you spread the sails of your endeavour, Godâ€™s Spirit will blow upon these sails, and carry you swiftly to the kingdom of glory.
(3) If you would not miss the heavenly kingdom, take heed of mistake by imagining the way to be easier than it is; as though it were but a sigh, or, Lord have mercy. There is no going to heaven per saltum [at a leap]; one cannot leap out of Delilahâ€™s lap into Abrahamâ€™s bosom. The sinner is â€˜dead in trespasses.â€™ Eph 2: 1. Is it easy for a dead man to restore himself to life? Is regeneration easy? Are there no pangs in the new birth? Does not the Scripture call Christianity a warfare and a race? And do you fancy this easy? The way to the kingdom is not easy, but a mistake about the way is easy.
(4) If you would not miss the heavenly kingdom, take heed of delays and procrastinations. Mora trahit periculum [Delay brings danger]. It is a usual delusion, I will mind the kingdom of heaven, but not yet; when I have gotten an estate, and grown old, then I will look after heaven; but on a sudden, death surprises men, and they fall short of heaven. Delay strengthens sin, hardens the heart, and gives the devil fuller possession of a man. Take heed of adjourning and putting off seeking the kingdom of heaven till it be too late. Caesar, deferring to read a letter put into his hand, was killed in the senate-house. Consider how short your life is; it is a taper soon blown out. Animantis cujusque vita in fuga est [The life of everyone living is fleeing away]. The body is like a vessel tunned with breath: sickness broaches it, death draws it out. Delay not the business of salvation a day longer; sometimes death strikes, and gives no warning.
(5) If you would not come short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed at prejudice. Many take a prejudice at religion, and on this rock dash their souls. They are prejudiced at Christâ€™s person, his truths, his followers, his ways.
They are prejudiced at his person. â€˜And they were offended in him.â€™ Matt 13: 57. What is there in Christ that men should be offended at him? He is the â€˜pearl of great price.â€™ Matt 13: 46. Are men offended at pearls and diamonds? Christ is the wonder of beauty. â€˜Fairer than the children of men.â€™ Psa 45: 2. Is there anything in beauty to offend? He is the mirror of mercy. Heb 2: 17. Why should mercy offend any? He is a Redeemer. Why should a captive slave be offended at him who comes with a sum of money to ransom him? The prejudice men take at Christ is from the inbred depravity of their hearts. The eye that is sore cannot endure the light of the sun: the fault is not in the sun, but in the sore eye. There are two things in Christ against which men are prejudiced:  His meanness. The Jews expected a monarch for their Messiah; but Christ came not with outward pomp and splendour. His kingdom was not of this world. The stars which are seated in the brightest orbs are least seen. Christ, who is the bright morning-star, was not much seen; his divinity was hid in the dark lantern of his humanity, all who saw the man did not see the Messiah. The Jews stumbled at the meanness of his person.  Men are prejudiced at Christâ€™s strictness. They look upon him as austere, and his laws as too severe. â€˜Let us break their bands, and cast away their cords from us.â€™ Psa 2: 3. Though to a saint, Christâ€™s laws are no more burdensome than wings to a bird, yet to the wicked his laws are a yoke; and they love not to come under restraint, therefore they hate Christ. Though they pretend to love him as a Saviour, they hate him as he is the Holy One.
Men are prejudiced at the truths of Christ.  Self-denial. A man must deny his righteousness. Phil 3: 9. He will graft the hope of salvation upon the stock of his own righteousness.  He must deny his unrighteousness. The Scripture seals no patents to sin; it teacheth us to deny all â€˜ungodliness and worldly lusts.â€™ Tit 2: 12. We must divorce those sins which bring in pleasures and profit.  Forgiveness of injuries. Mark 11: 25. These truths men are prejudiced at; they can rather want forgiveness from God, than they can forgive others.
Men are prejudiced at the followers of Christ.  Their paucity. There are but few, in comparison, that embrace Christ; but why should this offend? Men are not offended at pearls and precious stones, because they are few.  Their poverty. Many that wear Christâ€™s livery are low in the world; but why should this give offence? Christ has better things than these to bestow upon his followers; as the holy anointing, the white stone, the hidden manna, and the crown of glory. All Christâ€™s followers are not humbled with poverty. Abraham was rich with gold and silver, as well as rich in faith. Though not many noble are called, yet some noble are. â€˜Honourable women which were Greeksâ€™ believed. Acts 17: 12. Constantine and Theodosius were godly emperors. So that this stumbling block is removed.  Their scandals. Some of Christâ€™s followers, under a mask of piety, commit sin, which begets a prejudice against religion; but does Christ or his gospel teach any such thing? The rules he prescribes are holy. Why should the master be thought the worse of, because some of his servants prove bad?
Men are prejudiced at the ways of Christ. They expose them to sufferings. â€˜Let him take up his cross and follow me.â€™ Matt 16: 24. Many stumble at the cross. There are, as Tertullian says, delicatuli, silken Christians, who love their ease; they will follow Christ to mount Tabor, to see him transfigured, but not to mount Golgotha, to suffer with him. But, alas! what is affliction to the glory that follows! The weight of glory makes affliction light. Adimant caput, non coronam [Let them take the head, but not the crown]. O take heed of prejudice, which has been a stumbling-stone in menâ€™s way to heaven, and has made them fall short of the kingdom!
(6) If you would not miss the kingdom of heaven, take heed of presumption. Men presume all is well, and take it as a principle not to be disputed, that they shall go to heaven. The devil has given them opium, to cast them into a deep sleep of security. The presumptuous sinner is like the leviathan, made â€˜without fear;â€™ he lives as bad as the worst, yet hopes he shall be saved as well as the best; he blesses himself and saith, he shall have peace, though he goes on in sin. Deut 29: 19. As if a man should drink poison, yet not fear but he will have his health. But whence does this presumptuous hope arise? Surely from a conceit that God is made up of all mercy. It is true that God is merciful, but he is just too. â€˜Keeping mercy for thousands, and that will by no means clear the guilty.â€™ Exod 34: 7. If a king proclaimed that those only should be pardoned who came in and submitted, ought any still persisting in rebellion, to claim the benefit of the pardon? Dost thou hope for mercy who wilt not lay down thy weapons, but stand out in rebellion against heaven? None might touch the ark but the priests: none may touch this ark of Godâ€™s mercy, but holy, consecrated persons. Presumption is heluo animarum, the great devourer of souls. A thousand have missed heaven by putting on the broad spectacles of presumption.
(7) If you would not miss the heavenly kingdom, take heed of the delights and pleasures of the flesh. Soft pleasures harden the heart; many people cannot endure a serious thought, but are for comedies and romances; they play away their salvation. Homilies capiuntur voluptate, ut pisces hamo [Men are caught by pleasure, as fish by the hook]. Cicero. Pleasure is the sugared bait men bite at, but there is a hook under it. â€˜They take the timbrel and harp; and rejoice at the sound of the organ.â€™ Job 21: 12. â€˜That lie upon beds of ivory, that chant to the sound of the viol, that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments.â€™ Amos 6: 4, 5, 6. The pleasures of the world keep many from the pleasures of paradise. What a shame is it, that the soul, that princely thing, which sways the sceptre of reason, and is akin to angels, should be enslaved by sinful pleasure! Beard, in his Theatre, speaks of one who had a room richly hung with fair pictures, he had most delicious music, he had the rarest beauties, he had all the candies, and curious preserves of the confectioner, to gratify his senses with pleasure, and swore he would live one week as a god, though he were sure to be damned in hell the next day. Diodorus Siculus observes, that the dogs of Sicily while hunting among the sweet flowers, lose the scent of the hare; so, many while hunting after the sweet pleasures of the world, lose the kingdom of heaven. It is, says Theophylact, one of the worst sights to see a sinner go laughing to hell.
(8) If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of worldly-mindedness. A covetous spirit is a dunghill spirit, it chokes good affections, as the earth puts out the fire. The world hindered the young man from following Christ; abiit tristis, he went away sorrowful, which extorted these words from our Saviour: â€˜How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!â€™ Luke 18: 23, 24. Divitiae saeculi sunt laquei diaboli [The riches of the world are the snares of the devil]. Bernard. Riches are golden snares. If a man were to climb up a steep rock, and had weights tied to his legs, it would hinder him in his ascent; so too many golden weights will hinder us from climbing up the steep rock which leads to heaven. â€˜They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in.â€™ Exod 14: 3. So it may be said of many, they are entangled in earthly affairs, the world has shut them in. The world is no friend to grace. The more the child sucks, the weaker the nurse is; and the more the world sucks and draws from us, the weaker our grace is. â€˜Love not the world.â€™ 1 John 2: 15. Had a man a monopoly of all the wealth of the world; were he able to empty the western parts of gold, and the eastern of spices; could he heap up riches to the starry heaven, yet his heart would not be filled. Covetousness is a dry dropsy. Joshua could stop the course of the sun, but could not stop Achan in his covetous pursuit of the wedge of gold. He whose heart is locked up in his chest, will be locked out of heaven. Some ships that have escaped the rocks, have been cast away upon the sands; so, many who have escaped gross sins, have been cast away upon the worldâ€™s golden sands.
(9) If you would not come short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of indulging any sin. One millstone will drown, as well as more, and one sin lived in will damn, as well as more. Ubi regnat peccatum, non potest regnare Dei regnum. Jerome. If any one sin reign, it will keep you from reigning in the kingdom of heaven. Especially keep from sins of presumption, which waste conscience, vastare conscientiam (Tertullian); and the sin of your natural constitution; the peccatum in deliciis (Augustine); thy darling sin; â€˜I kept myself from mine iniquity,â€™ that sin which my heart would soonest decoy and flatter me into. Psa 18: 23. As in the hive there is one master bee, so in the heart one master-sin: Oh, take heed of this!
How may this sin be known?
That sin for which a man cannot endure the arrow of a reproof is the bosom-sin. Herod could not brook to have his incest meddled with, that was a noli me tangere [touch me not]. Men can be content to have other sins declaimed against; but if a minister put his finger upon the sore, and touches upon one special sin, then igne micant oculi [their eyes flash with fire], they are enraged, and spit the venom of malice.
That sin which a manâ€™s heart runs out most to, and he is most easily captivated by, is the Delilah in the bosom. One man is overcome with wantonness, another by worldliness. It is a sad thing for a man to be so bewitched by a beloved sin, that if it ask him to part with not only one half the kingdom, but the whole kingdom of heaven, he must part with it to gratify that lust.
That sin which most troubles a man and flies in his face in an hour of sickness and distress, is the sin he has allowed himself in, and is his complexion-sin. When Josephâ€™s brethren were distressed, their sin in selling their brother came into their remembrance. â€˜We are verily guilty concerning our brother,â€™ &c. Gen 42: 21. So, when a man is upon his sick-bed, and conscience shall say, Thou hast been guilty of such a sin, the sin of slandering or uncleanness, conscience reads a man a sad lecture, and affrights him most for one sin; that is the complexion-sin.
That sin which a man is least inclined to part with, is the endeared sin. Of all his sons Jacob could most hardly part with Benjamin. â€˜Will ye take Benjamin away.â€™ Gen 42: 35. So says the sinner, this and that sin I have left, but must Benjamin go too? Must I part with this delightful sin? That goes to the heart. As with a castle that has several forts about it, the first and second forts of which are yielded, when it comes to the main castle, the governor will rather fight and die than yield it; so a man may suffer many of his sins to be demolished; but when it comes to one, that is like the taking of a castle, he will never yield to part with that; surely that is the master-sin. Take heed especially of this sin; the strength of sin lies in the beloved sin, which, like a humour striking to the heart, brings death. I have read of a monarch, who being pursued by the enemy, threw away the crown of gold on his head, that he might run the faster; so the sin which thou didst wear as a crown of gold must be thrown away, that thou mayest run the faster to the kingdom of heaven. Oh, if you would not lose glory, mortify the beloved sin; set it, as Uriah, in the forefront of the battle to be slain. By plucking out this right eye you will see the better to go to heaven.
(10) If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of inordinate passion. Many a ship has been lost in the storm; and many a soul has been lost in a storm of unruly passions. Every member of the body is infected with sin, as every branch of wormwood is bitter; but â€˜the tongue is full of deadly poison.â€™ James 3: 8. Some care not what they say in their passion; they will censure, slander, and wish evil to others. How can Christ be in the heart, when the devil has taken possession of the tongue? Passion disturbs reason, it is brevis insania, a short frenzy. Jonah in a passion flies out against God. â€˜I do well to be angry, even unto death.â€™ Jon 4: 9. What! to be angry with God, and to justify it? â€˜I do well to be angry;â€™ the man was not well in his wits. Passion unfits for prayer. â€˜I will, therefore, that men pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath.â€™ 1 Tim 2: 8. He that prays in wrath may lift up his hands in prayer, but he does not lift up holy hands. Water, when hot, soon boils over; so, when the heart is heated with anger, it soon boils over in fiery passionate speeches. Some curse others in their passion. Let those whose tongues are set on fire, take heed that they do not one day in hell desire a drop of water to coo] them. Oh, if you would not miss the heavenly kingdom, beware of giving way to unbridled passions. Some say, words are but wind; but they are such a wind as may blow them to hell.
(11) If you would not fall short of the heavenly kingdom, beware of too much indulging the sensual appetite. â€˜Make not provision for the flesh.â€™ Rom 13: 14. The Greek word, pronoian poiein, to make provision, signifies to be caterers for the flesh. â€˜Whose god is their belly.â€™ Phil 3: 19. The throat is a slippery place. Judas received the devil in the sop; and often the devil slides down in the liquor; excess in meat and drink clouds the mind, chokes good affections, and provokes lust. Many a man digs his own grave with his teeth. The heathen could say, Magnus sum et ad majora natus quam ut sim corporis mei mancipium [I am great and born to greater things than to be a slave to my body]. Seneca. He was higher born than to be a slave to his body. To pamper the body, and neglect the soul, is to feed the slave and to starve the wife. Take such a proportion of food as may recruit nature, but do not surfeit it. Excess in things lawful has lost many the kingdom of heaven. A bee may suck a little honey from the leaf, but put it in a barrel of honey, and it is drowned. To suck temperately from the creature, God allows; but excess engulfs men in perdition.
(12) If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of injustice in your dealings. Defrauding lies in two things, 1. Mixing commodities, as if anyone should mix bad wheat with good, and sell it for pure wheat, which is to defraud. â€˜Thy wine mixed with water.â€™ Isa 1: 22. 2. Giving scant measure. â€˜Making the ephah small.â€™ Amos 8: 5. The ephah was a measure which the Jews used in selling: they made the ephah small; they gave not full measure. I wish this were not the sin of many. â€˜He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand.â€™ Hos 12: 7. Can they be holy which are not just? â€˜Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances?â€™ Micah 6: 11. Is his heart sincere who has false weights? Many cannot reach heaven because of their over-reaching.
(13) If you would not miss the kingdom of heaven, take heed of evil company. There is a necessary commerce with men in buying and selling, or, as the apostle says, we must go out of the world, but do not voluntarily choose the company of the wicked. 1 Cor 5: 10. â€˜I have written unto you not to keep company.â€™ 1 Cor 5: 11. Do not incorporate into the society of the wicked, or be too much familiar with them. The wicked are God-haters and â€˜Shouldest thou love them that hate the Lord?â€™ 2 Chron 19: 2. A Christian is bound, by virtue of his oath of allegiance to God in baptism, not to have intimate converse with such as are Godâ€™s sworn enemies: it is a thing of bad report. What do Christâ€™s doves among birds of prey? What do virgins among harlots? The company of the wicked is very defiling, it is like going among them that have the plague. â€˜They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.â€™ Psa 106: 35. If you mingle bright armour with rusty, the bright armour will not brighten the rusty, but the rusty armour will spoil the bright. Such as have had religious education, and have some inclinations to good, by mixing with the wicked, are apt to receive hurt. The bad will sooner corrupt the good, than the good will convert the bad. Pharaoh taught Joseph to swear, but Joseph did not teach Pharaoh to pray. There is a strange attractive power in ill company to corrupt and poison the best dispositions; they damp good affections. Throw a fire-ball into the snow, and it is soon quenched. Among the wicked, the heat of zealous affections is lost. By holding familiar correspondence with the wicked, they will dissuade us from strict godliness, and debar us our liberty and pleasure. â€˜This sect everywhere is spoken against.â€™ Acts 28:22.
Hereupon he, who before looked towards heaven, begins to be discouraged, and gradually declines from goodness. There steals upon him a dislike of his former religious course of life; he thinks he was righteous overmuch, stricter than needed. There is instilled into his heart a secret delight of evil. He begins to like foolish scurrilous discourse; he can hear religion spoken against, and be silent, nay, well pleased; he loves vanity, and makes sport of sin. He is by degrees so metamorphosed, and made like the company he converses with, that he now grows into disgust and hatred of his former sober ways. He is ill-affected towards good men, transformed into scoffing Ishmael, a breathing devil; and becomes at last as much the child of hell as any of that graceless damned crew he conversed with. And what is the end of all? A blot in the name, a moth in the estate, a worm in the conscience. Oh, if you would not miss the kingdom of heaven, beware of evil company! Bad company is the bane and poison of the youth of this age. Such as were once soberly inclined, by coming among the profane, grow familiar, till at last they keep one another company in hell.
(14) If you would not miss the kingdom of heaven, take heed of parleying with the fleshly part. The flesh is a bosom traitor. When an enemy is gotten within the walls of a castle, it is in great danger of being taken. The flesh is an enemy within: it is a bad counsellor; it says, There is a lion in the way; it discourages from religious strictness; it says as Peter did to Christ, â€˜Spare thyself;â€™ it says as Judas, â€˜What needs all this waste?â€™ What needs this praying? Why do you waste your strength and spirits in religion? What needs all this waste? The flesh cries out for ease and pleasure. How many, by consulting with the flesh, have lost the kingdom of heaven!
(15) If you would not fall short of heaven, take heed of carnal relations. Our carnal friends are often bars and locks in our way to heaven; they will say, Religion is preciseness and singularity. A wife in the bosom may be a tempter. Jobâ€™s wife was so. â€˜Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die.â€™ Job 2: 9. What! still pray? What dost thou get by serving God? Job, where are thy earnings? What canst thou show thou hast had in Godâ€™s service, but boils and ulcers? And dost thou still retain thy integrity? Throw off Godâ€™s livery, renounce religion. Here was a temptation handed over to him by his wife. The woman was made of the rib, the devil turned this rib into an arrow, and would have shot Job to the heart, but his faith quenched his fiery dart. Beware of carnal relations. We read that some of Christâ€™s kindred laid hold on him, and would have hindered him when he was going to preach. â€˜They said, He is beside himselfâ€™ Mark 3: 21. Our kindred sometimes would stand in our way to heaven, and, judging all zeal rashness, would hinder us from being saved. Such carnal relations Spira had; for having advised with them whether he should remain constant in his orthodox opinion, they persuaded him to recant; and so, abjuring his former faith, he fell into horror and despondency of mind. Galeacius, Marquis of Vice, found his carnal relations a great block in his way; and what ado had he to break through their temptations! Take heed of a snare in your bosom. It is a brave saying of Jerome, si mater mihi ubera ostendat, &c. â€˜If my parent should persuade me to deny Christ, if my mother should show me her breast that gave me suck, if my wife should go to charm me with her embraces, I would forsake all, and fly to Christ.â€™
(16) If you would not fall short of the kingdom of heaven, take heed of falling off. Beware of apostasy. He misses the prize who does not hold out in the race; he who makes shipwreck of the faith cannot come to the haven of glory. We live in the fall of the leaf; men fall from that goodness they seemed to have; some are turned to error, others to vice; some to drinking and dicing, and others to shoring; the very mantle of their profession is fallen off. It is dreadful for men to fall off from hopeful beginnings. The apostate, says Tertullian, seems to put God and Satan in the balance, and having weighed both their services, prefers the devilâ€™s service, and proclaims him to be the best master; in which respect he is said to put Christ to open shame. Heb 6: 6. This is sad at last. Heb 10: 38. If you would not miss the glory, take heed of apostasy. Those who fall away, must needs fall short of the kingdom.
What, then, must we do?
(1) If we would not come short of this heavenly kingdom, let us be much in the exercise of self-denial. â€˜If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.â€™ Matt 16: 24. He who would go to heaven must deny self righteousness. Cavendum eat a propria justitia [We must beware of our own righteousness]. â€˜That I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness.â€™ Phil 3: 9. The spider weaves a web out of her own bowels; so a hypocrite would spin a web of salvation out of his own righteousness. We must deny our civility in point of justification. Civility is a good staff to walk with among men, but it is a bad ladder to climb up to heaven. We must deny our holy things in point of justification. Alas! how are our duties chequered with sin! Put gold in the fire, and there comes out dross; so our most golden services are mixed with unbelief. Deny self- righteousness; use duty, but trust to Christ. Noahâ€™s dove made use of her wings to fly, but trusted to the ark for safety! Let duties have your diligence, but not your confidence. Self-denial is via ad regnum [the way to the kingdom]. There is no getting into heaven but through this strait gate of self-denial.
(2) The second means for obtaining the kingdom is serious consideration. Most men fall short of heaven for want of consideration.
We should often consider what a kingdom heaven is. It is called regnum paratum, a kingdom prepared, which implies something that is rare and excellent. Matt 25: 34. God has prepared in his kingdom such things as â€˜eye has not seen nor ear heard.â€™ 1 Cor 2: 9. Heaven is beyond hyperbole. In particular in this celestial kingdom are two things. A stately palace, and a royal feast. The stately palace is large and has several stories. The dimensions of it are twelve thousand furlongs, or, as it is in some Greek copies, twelve times twelve thousand furlongs, a finite number put for an infinite; no arithmetician can number these furlongs. Rev 21: 15. Though there be an innumerable company of saints and angels in heaven, yet there is infinitely enough room to receive them. The palace of this kingdom is lucid and transparent; it is adorned with light, and the light is sweet. Hell is a dark dungeon, but the palace above is bespangled with light. Col 1: 12. Such illustrious beams of glory shine from God, as shed a brightness and splendour upon the empyrean heaven. This palace of the kingdom is well situated for good air and a pleasant prospect. There is the best air, which is perfumed with the odours of Christâ€™s ointments; and a most pleasant prospect of the bright morning-star. The palace is rich and sumptuous. It has gates of pearl. Rev 21: 21. It is enriched with white robes and crowns of glory; it never falls to decay, and the dwellers in it never die. â€˜They shall reign for ever and ever.â€™ Rev 22: 5.
There is also a royal feast. It is called â€˜the marriage-supper of the Lamb.â€™ Rev 19: 9. Bullinger and Gregory the Great understood this of the magnificent supper prepared in the kingdom of heaven. A glorious feast it will be in respect of the founder. The glorified saints shall feast their eyes with Godâ€™s beauty, and their hearts with his love. A delicious feast it will be in respect of the festivity and holy mirth. What joy shall there be in the anthems and triumphs of glorified spirits! Saints and angels shall twist together in an inseparable union of love, and lie in each othersâ€™ sweet embrace. A royal banquet it will be, where there is no surfeit, because a fresh course is continually served in. The serious consideration of what a kingdom of heaven is, would be a means to quicken our endeavours in the pursuit after it. What causes men to make voyages to the Indies but the consideration of the gold and spices which are to be had there? Did we survey and contemplate the glory of heaven, we should soon take a voyage, and never leave till we had arrived at the celestial kingdom.
How it will trouble you if you should perish to think you came short of heaven for want of a little more pains! The prophet Elisha bid the king of Israel smite the ground six times, and he smote but thrice, and stayed. 2 Kings 13: 19. He lost many victories by it; so when a man shall think thus, I did something in religion, but did not do enough; I prayed, but it was coldly; I did not put coals to the incense; I heard the word, but did not meditate on it; I did not chew the cud; I smote but thrice, when I should have smote six times; had I taken a little more pains I had been happy, but I have lost the kingdom of heaven by short-shooting. The consideration, how terrible the thought will be of losing heaven for want of a little more pains, should be a means to spur on our sluggish hearts, and make us more diligent to get the kingdom.
(3) The third means for obtaining this kingdom is to keep up daily prayer. â€˜I give myself unto prayer.â€™ Psa 109: 4. Prayer inflames the affections, and oils the wheels of endeavour; it prevails with God, unlocks his bowels, and then he unlocks heaven. All that have got to heaven have crept thither upon their knees. The saints now in heaven have been men of prayer. Daniel prayed three times a day, Jacob wrestled with God in prayer, and as a prince, prevailed. Prayer must be fervent, else it is thuribulum sine prunis, as Luther says, a golden censer without fire. O follow God with prayers and tears; say as Jacob to the angel, â€˜I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.â€™ Gen 32: 26. Prayer vincit Invincibilem; as Luther says, it conquers the Omnipotent. Elijah by prayer opened heaven: by ardent and constant prayer heaven is opened to us.
(4) If you would obtain the heavenly kingdom, get a love to heaven. Love puts a man upon the use of all means to enjoy the thing loved. He who loves the world, how active is he! He will break his sleep and peace for it. He that loves honour, what hazards will he run! He will swim to the throne in blood. Jacob loved Rachel, and what would he not do, though it were serving two seven-yearsâ€™ apprenticeships for obtaining her! Love carries a man out violently to the object loved. Love like wings to the bird, like sails to the ship, carries a Christian full sail to heaven. Heaven is a place of rest and joy, it is paradise, and will you not love it? Love heaven, and you cannot miss it. Love breaks through all opposition; it takes heaven by storm. Though it labour, it is never weary. It is like the rod of myrtle in the travellerâ€™s hand, which makes him fresh and lively in his travel, and keeps him from being weary.
(5) If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven, make religion your business. What a man looks upon as a parergon, a thing by the by, he does not much mind. If ever we would have heaven, we must look upon it as our main concern; other things do but concern our livelihood, this concerns our salvation. We make religion our business when we wholly devote ourselves to Godâ€™s service. Psa 139: 18. We count those the best hours which are spent with God; we give God the cream of our affections, the flower of our time and strength; we traffic in heaven every day, we are merchants for the â€˜pearl of price.â€™ He will not get an estate who does not mind his trade; he will never get heaven who does not make religion his main business.
(6) If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven, bind your hearts to God by sacred vows. Vow to the Lord that, by his grace, you will be more intent upon heaven than ever. â€˜Thy vows are upon me, O God.â€™ Psa 56: 12. A vow binds the votary to duty; he looks upon himself as obliged by his vow to cleave to God. When bees fly in a great wind, they ballast themselves with little stones, that they may not be carried away; so we must fortify ourselves with strong vows, that we may not be carried away from God with the violent wind of temptation. No question, a Christian may make such a vow, because the ground of it is morally good, he vows nothing but what he is bound to do by virtue of his baptismal vow, namely, to walk with God more closely, and to pursue heaven more vigorously.
(7) If you would obtain the kingdom, embrace all seasons and opportunities for your soulâ€™s welfare. â€˜Redeeming the time.â€™ Eph 5: 16. Opportunity is the cream of time; improving seasons of grace is as much as our salvation is worth. The mariner, by taking the present season while the wind blows, gets to the haven; by taking the season, while we have the means of grace, and the wind of the Spirit blows, we may arrive at the kingdom of heaven. We know not how long we shall enjoy the gospel. The seasons of grace, like Noahâ€™s dove, come with an olive branch in their mouth, but they soon take wings and fly. Though they are sweet, yet they are swift. God may remove the golden candlestick from us, as he did from the churches of Asia. We have many sad symptoms, â€˜Grey hairs are here and there upon him.â€™ Hos 7: 9. Therefore let us lay hold upon the present seasons. They that sleep in seedtime, will beg in harvest.
(8) If you would go to the kingdom of heaven, you must excubias agere, keep a daily watch. â€˜I say unto all, watch.â€™ Mark 13: 37. Many have lost heaven for want of watchfulness. Our hearts are ready to decoy us into sin, and the devil lies in ambush by his temptations; we must every day set a spy, and keep sentinel in our souls. â€˜I will stand upon my watch.â€™ Hab 2: 1.
We must watch our eye. â€˜I made a covenant with mine eyes.â€™ Job 31: 1. Much sin comes in by the eye. When Eve saw the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, then she took. Gen 3: 6. First she looked, and then she lusted; the eye, by beholding an impure object, sets the heart on fire; the devil often creeps in at the window of the eye. Watch your eyes.
Watch your ear. Much poison is conveyed through the ear. Let your ear be open to God, and shut to sin.
Watch your hearts. We watch suspicious persons. â€˜The heart is deceitful.â€™ Jer 17: 9. Watch your heart,  When you are about holy things, it will be stealing out to vanity. When I am at prayer, says Jerome, aut per porticum deambulo aut de foenore computo; either I am walking through galleries or casting up accounts.  Watch your hearts when you are in company. The basilisk poisons the herbs he breathes on; so the breath of the wicked is infectious. Nay, watch your hearts when you are in good company. Such as have some good in them may be some grains too light, and have much levity of discourse; so that, if no scum boils up, yet there may be too much froth. The devil is subtle, and he can as well creep into the dove as he did once into the serpent. Satan tempted Christ by an apostle.  Watch your hearts in prosperity. Now you are in danger of pride. The higher the water of the Themes rises, the higher the boat is lifted up: the higher menâ€™s estates rise, the higher their hearts are lifted up in pride. In prosperity, you are in danger not only to forget God, but to lift up the heel against him. â€˜Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.â€™ Deut 32: 15. It is hard to carry a full cup without spilling, and to carry a full, prosperous estate without sinning. Turpi fregerunt saecula luxu divitiae molles [Soft riches have ruined the age by disgraceful luxury]. Seneca. As Samson fell asleep in Delilahâ€™s lap, so many have fallen so fast asleep in the lap of prosperity, that they have never awaked till they have been in hell.  Watch your hearts after holy duties. When Christ had been praying and fasting, the devil tempted him. Matt 4: 3. After combating with Satan in prayer, we are apt to grow secure and put our spiritual armour off, and then the devil falls on and wounds us. Oh, if you would get to heaven, be always upon your watch-tower, set a spy, keep close sentinel in your souls. Who would not watch when it is for a kingdom!
(9) If you would arrive at the heavenly kingdom, get these three graces, which will undoubtedly bring your thither.
 Divine knowledge. There is no going to heaven blindfold. In the creation, light was the first thing that was made; so it is in the new creation. Knowledge is the pillar of fire that goes before us, and lights us into the heavenly kingdom. It is light that must bring us to the â€˜inheritance in light.â€™ Col 1: 12.
 Faith. Faith ends in salvation. â€˜Receiving the end of your faith, salvation.â€™ 1 Pet 1: 9. He who believes, is as sure to go to heaven as if he were in heaven already. Acts 16: 31. Faith touches Christ; and can he miss of heaven who touches Christ? Faith unites to Christ; and shall not the members be where the head is? All have not the same degree of faith; we must distinguish between the direct act of faith and the reflex act of affiance and assurance; yet the least seed and spark of faith gives an undoubted title to the heavenly kingdom. I am justified because I believe, not because I know I believe.
 Love to God. Heaven is prepared for those that love God. 1 Cor 2: 9. Love is the soul of obedience, the touchstone of sincerity; by our loving God, we may know he loves us. 1 John 4: 19. And those whom God loves, he will lay in his bosom. Ambrose, in his funeral oration for Theodosius, brings in the angels hovering about his departing soul, and ready to carry it to heaven, who ask him, â€˜What that grace was he had practised most on earth?â€™ Theodosius replied, Dilexi, Dilexi, â€˜I have loved, I have loved,â€™ and straightway, by a convoy of angels, he was translated to glory. Love is a sacred fire kindled in the breast; in the flames of which the devout soul ascends to heaven.
(10) If we would obtain this heavenly kingdom, let us labour for sincerity. â€˜Whoso walketh uprightly, shall be saved.â€™ Prov 28: 18. The sincere Christian may fall short of some degrees of grace, but he never falls short of the kingdom. God will pass by many failings where the heart is right. Numb 23: 21. True gold, though it be light, has grains of alloy. â€˜Thou desires truth in the inward parts.â€™ Psa 51: 6. Sincerity is the sauce which seasons all our actions, and makes them savoury; it is an ingredient in every grace; it is called â€˜unfeigned faith,â€™ and â€˜love in sincerity.â€™ 2 Tim 1: 5; Eph 6: 24. Coin will not go current that wants the kingâ€™s stamp; and grace is not current if it be not stamped with sincerity. Glorious duties soured with hypocrisy are rejected, when great infirmities sweetened with sincerity are accepted. If any thing in the world will bring us to heaven, it is sincerity. Sincerity signifies plainness of heart. â€˜In whose spirit there is no guile,â€™ Psa 32: 2. The plainer the diamond is, the richer.
Sincerity is when we serve God with our heart; when we do not worship him only, but love him. Cain brought his sacrifice, but not his heart. Godâ€™s delight is a sacrifice flaming upon the altar of the heart. A sincere Christian, though he has a double principle in him, flesh and spirit, has not a double heart, his heart is for God.
Sincerity is when we aim purely at God in all we do. The glory of God is more worth than the salvation of all menâ€™s souls. Though a sincere Christian comes short in duty, he takes a right aim. As the herb, heliotropium, turns about according to the motion of the sun, so a godly manâ€™s actions all move towards the glory of God.
(11) If we would obtain the heavenly kingdom, let us keep up fervency in duty. What is a dead form without the power? â€˜Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.â€™ Rev 3: 16. Fervency puts life into duty. â€˜Fervent in spirit, serving God;â€™ Gr. Zeontes, â€˜boiling over.â€™ Rom 12: 11. Christ prayed â€˜more earnestly.â€™ Luke 22: 44. When the fire on the golden censor was ready to go out, Aaron was to put more coals to the incense; so praying with devotion is putting more coals to the incense. It is not formality, but fervency, that will bring us to heaven. The formalist is like Ephraim, a cake not turned, hot on one side, and dough on the other. In the external] part of Godâ€™s worship, he seems to be hot; but as for the spiritual part of Godâ€™s worship, he is cold. Oh! if you would have the kingdom of heaven, keep up heart and fervour in duty. Elijah was carried up to heaven in a fiery chariot: if you would go to heaven, you must be carried thither in the fiery chariot of zeal. It is violence that takes the kingdom of heaven.
(12) If we would arrive at the heavenly kingdom, let us cherish the motions of Godâ€™s Spirit in our hearts. The mariner may spread his sails, but the ship cannot get to the haven without a gale of wind; so we may spread the sails of our endeavour, but we cannot get to the haven of glory without the north and south wind of Godâ€™s Spirit. How nearly therefore does it concern us to make much of the motions of the Spirit â€" motions to prayer, motions to repentance. â€˜When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself, for then shall the Lord go out before thee.â€™ 2 Samuel 5: 24. So, when we hear a voice within us, a secret inspiration stirring us up to good duties, we should bestir ourselves. While the Spirit works in us, we should work with the Spirit. Many men have Godâ€™s Spirit striving with them, he puts good motions in their hearts and holy purposes; but they neglect to prosecute these good motions, and the Spirit is grieved, and, being grieved, withdraws his assistance, and that assistance being gone, there is no getting to heaven. Oh! make much of the motion of the Spirit; it is as much as your salvation is worth. The Spirit of God is compared to fire. Acts 2: 3. If we are careful to blow the spark, we may have fire to inflame our affections, and to light our feet into the way of peace. If we quench the Spirit by neglecting and resisting its motions, we cut ourselves off from salvation. The Spirit of God has a drawing power. Cant 1: 4. The blessed Spirit draws by attraction, as the loadstone the iron. In the preaching of the word, the Spirit draws the heart up to heaven in holy longings and ejaculations. Now, when the Spirit is about thus to draw us, let us take heed of drawing back, lest it be to perdition. Heb 10: 39. Do as Noah, who, when the dove came flying to the ark, put forth his hand, and took it into the ark; so when the sweet dove of Godâ€™s Spirit comes flying to your hearts, and brings a gracious impulse as an olive-branch of peace in its mouth, O take this dove into the ark; entertain the Spirit in your hearts, and it will bring you to heaven.
How shall we know the motions of the Spirit from a delusion?
The motions of the Spirit are always agreeable to the word. If the word be for holiness, so is the Spirit. The Spirit persuades to nothing but what the word directs. Which way the tide of the word runs, that way the wind of the Spirit blows.
(13) We obtain the kingdom of heaven by uniform and cheerful obedience. Obedience is the road through which we travel to heaven. Many say they love God, but refuse to obey him. Does he love the princeâ€™s person who slights his commands?
Obedience must be uniform. â€˜Then shall I not be ashamedâ€™ (Heb. I shall not blush) â€˜when I have respect unto all thy commandments.â€™ Psa 119: 6. As the sun goes through all the signs of the zodiac, so we must go through all the duties of religion. If a man has to go a hundred miles, and he goes ninety nine, and there stops, he comes short of the place he is to travel to. If, with Herod, we do many things that God commands, yet, if we die in the total neglect of any duty, we come short of the kingdom of heaven. For instance, if a man seem to make conscience of duties of the first table, and not the duties of the second; if he seem to be religious, but is not just, he is a transgressor, and is in danger of losing heaven. As the needle which points the way which the loadstone draws, so a good heart moves the way which the word draws.
Obedience must be cheerful. â€˜I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart.â€™ Psa 40: 8. That is the sweetest obedience which is cheerful, as that is the sweetest honey which drops from the comb freely. God sometimes accepts willingness without the work, but never of the work without willingness. â€˜There came out two women, and the wind was in their wings.â€™ Zech 5: 9. Wings are swift, but wind in the wings denotes great swiftness; and is an emblem of the swiftness and cheerfulness which should be in obedience. We go to heaven in the way of obedience
(14) If we would obtain this kingdom we must be much in the communion of saints. One coal of juniper will warm and inflame another; so, when the heart is dead and frozen, the communion of saints will help to warm it. â€˜They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.â€™ Mal 3: 16. â€˜Christians should never meet,â€™ says Mr Boston, â€˜without speaking of their meeting together in heaven.â€™ One Christian may be very helpful by prayer and conference to another, and give him a lift towards heaven. Old Latimer was much strengthened and comforted by hearing Mr Bilneyâ€™s confession of faith. We read that when Mosesâ€™ hands were heavy, and he was ready to let them fall, Aaron and Hur stayed them up. Exod 17: 12. A Christian who is ready to faint under temptation, and lets down the hands of his faith, by conversing with other Christians is strengthened, and his hands are held up. A great benefit of holy conference is counsel and advice. â€˜If a man,â€™ says Chrysostom, â€˜who has but one head to advise him, could make that head a hundred, he would be very wise; but a single Christian has this benefit by the communion of saints, that they are as so many heads to advise him what to do in such a case or exigency.â€™ By Christian conference the saints can say, â€˜Did not our hearts burn within us?â€™ Communion of saints we have in our creed, but it is too little in our practice. Men usually travel fastest in company; so we travel fastest to heaven in the communion of saints.
(15) If we would attain to this kingdom of heaven, let us be willing to come up to Christâ€™s terms. Many will cheapen, and bid something for the kingdom of heaven; they will avoid gross sin, and will come to church, and say their prayers; and yet all this while they are not willing to come up to Godâ€™s price, that is, they will not resist the idol of self-righteousness, flying only to Christ as the horns of the altar; they will not sacrifice their bosom-sin; they will not give God spirit-worship, serving him with zeal and intenseness of soul. John 4: 24. They will not forgive their enemies; they will not part with their carnal profits for Christ; they would have the kingdom of heaven, but they will not come up to the price. If you would have this kingdom, do not article and bargain with Christ, but accept of his terms; say, â€˜Lord, I am willing to have the kingdom of heaven, whatever it cost me; I am willing to pluck out my right eye, to part with all for the kingdom; here is a blank paper I put into thy hand, Lord, write thy own articles, I will subscribe to them.â€™
(16) If we would obtain the heavenly kingdom, let us attend to the holy ordinances, by which God brings souls to heaven. â€˜Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.â€™ Acts 27: 31. Some people would leap out of the ship of ordinances, and then God knows whither they leap; but except ye abide in the ship of ordinances, ye cannot be saved. Especially, if you would get to heaven, attend to the word preached. It was by the ear, by our first parents listening to the serpent, that we lost paradise; and it is by the ear, by hearing of the word, that we get to heaven. â€˜Hear, and your soul shall live.â€™ Isa 55: 3. God sometimes in the preaching of the word drops the holy oil into the ear, which softens and sanctifies the heart. The word preached is called the â€˜ministration of the Spirit,â€™ because the Spirit of God makes use of the engine to convert souls. 2 Cor 3: 8. If the word preached does not work upon men, nothing will; not judgement, nor miracles; no, not though one should rise from the dead. Luke 16: 31. If a glorified saint should come out of heaven, and assume a body, and tell you of all the glory of heaven, and the joys of the blessed, and persuade you to believe; if the preaching of the word will not bring you to heaven, neither would his rhetoric do it who rose from the dead. In heaven there will be no need of ordinances, but while we live here there is. The lamp needs oil, but the star needs none. While the saints have their lamp of grace burning here, they need the oil of ordinances to be continually dropping upon them; but there will be no need of this oil when they are stars in heaven. If you intend to get to heaven, be swift to hear: for faith comes by hearing. Rom 10: 14, 17. Peter let down the net of his ministry, and at one draught caught three thousand souls. If you would have heavenâ€™s door opened to you, wait at the posts of wisdomâ€™s door.
(17) If you would arrive at heaven, have this kingdom ever in your eye. Our blessed Lord looked at the joy that was set before him; and Moses had an â€˜eye to the recompence of the reward.â€™ Heb 11: 26. Let the kingdom be much in your thoughts; meditation is the means to help us to heaven.
How does it help?
As it is a means to prevent sin. No sword like this to cut asunder the sinews of temptation. It is almost impossible to sin presumptuously with lively thoughts and hopes of heaven. It was when Moses was out of sight that Israel set up a calf, and worshipped it; so when the kingdom of heaven is out of sight, out of menâ€™s thoughts, they set up their lusts and idolise them. The meditation of heaven banishes sin; he who thinks of the weight of glory, throws away the weight of sin.
To meditate on the kingdom of heaven would excite and quicken obedience. We should think we could never pray enough, never love God enough, who has prepared such a kingdom for us. Immensum gloria calcar habet [Glory possesses an immeasurable stimulus]. Paul had heaven in his eye, he was once caught up thither; and how active was he for God! 1 Cor 16: 10. This oils the wheels of obedience.
It would make us strive after holiness, because none but such are admitted into this kingdom; only the pure in heart shall see God. Matt 5: 8. Holiness is the language of heaven, it is the only coin that will pass current there. This consideration should make us â€˜cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.â€™ 2 Cor 7: 1.
(18) The last means for obtaining the heavenly kingdom is perseverance in holiness. â€˜Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.â€™ Rev 2: 10. In Christians non initia set fines laudantur [it is not the beginning but the end which wins praise]. Jerome.
Is there such a thing as persevering till we come to heaven?
That any one holds out to the kingdom, is a wonder, if you consider, (1) What a world of corruption is mingled with grace. Grace is apt to be stifled, as the coal to be choked with its own ashes. Like a spark in the sea, it is a wonder it is not quenched. It is a wonder that sin does not overlay grace, as the nurse sometimes does the child, that it dies.
(2) The implacable malice of Satan. He envies that we should have a kingdom, when he himself is cast out. It cuts him to the heart to see a piece of dust and clay made a bright star in glory, and he himself an angel of darkness. He will Acheronta movere, move all the powers of hell to hinder us from the kingdom; he spits his venom, shoots his fiery darts, raises a storm of persecution; yea, and prevails against some. â€˜There appeared a great red dragon, and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.â€™ Rev 12: 3, 4. By the red dragon is meant the heathenish empire; now, when his tail cast so many to the earth, it is a wonder that any of the stars keep fixed in their orb.
(3) The blandishments of riches. The young man in the gospel went very far, but he had rich possessions, and these golden weights hindered him from the kingdom. Luke 18: 23. Jonathan pursued the battle till he came at the honeycomb, and then he stood still. 1 Sam 14: 27. Many are forward for heaven, till they taste the sweetness of the world; but when they come at the honeycomb, they stand still, and go no further. Faenus pecuniae funus animae [The gain of money is the ruin of the soul]. Those who have escaped the rocks of gross sins, have been cast away upon the golden sands. What a wonder therefore that any holds on till he come to the kingdom!
(4) It is a wonder that any hold out in grace, and do not tire in their march to heaven, if you consider the difficulty of the Christianâ€™s work. He has no time to lie fallow, he is either watching or fighting; nay, he is to do those duties which to the eye of sense and reason seem inconsistent. While he does one duty, he seems to cross another. He must come with holy boldness to God in prayer, yet must serve him with fear; he must mourn for sin, yet rejoice; he must be contented, yet covet (1 Cor 12: 31); condemn menâ€™s impieties, and yet reverence their authority. What difficult work is this! It is a wonder that any saint arrives at the heavenly kingdom. To this I might add, the evil examples abroad, which are so attractive, that we may say the devils are come among us in the likeness of men. What a wonder is it that any soul perseveres till he come to the kingdom of heaven! But great as the wonder is, there is such a thing as perseverance. A saintâ€™s perseverance is built upon three immutable pillars.
Upon Godâ€™s eternal love. We are inconstant in our love to God; but he is not so in his love to us. â€˜I have loved thee with an everlasting love;â€™ with a love of eternity. Jer 31: 3. Godâ€™s love to the elect is not like a kingâ€™s love to his favourite, which when it is at the highest spring-tide, soonest ebbs; but Godâ€™s love is eternized. He may desert, not disinherit; he may change his love into a frown, not into hatred; he may alter his providence, not his decree. When once the sunshine of Godâ€™s electing love is risen upon the soul, it never sets finally.
A saintâ€™s perseverance is built upon the covenant of grace. It is a firm, impregnable covenant; as you read in the words of the sweet singer of Israel. â€˜God has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.â€™ 2 Samuel 23: 5. It is a sweet covenant, that God will be our God; the marrow and quintessence of all blessing; and it is a sure covenant, that he will put his fear in our heart, and we shall never depart from him. Jer 32: 40. This covenant is inviolable, it cannot be broken; indeed, sin may break the peace of the covenant, but it cannot break the bond of the covenant.
The third pillar upon which perseverance is built is the mystic union. Believers are incorporated into Christ, they are knit to him as members to the head, by the nerve and ligament of faith, so that they cannot be broken off. Eph 5: 23. What was once said of Christâ€™s natural body is as true of his mystic body. â€˜A bone of him shall not be broken.â€™ John 19: 36. As it is impossible to sever the leaven and the dough when they are once mingled, so it is impossible when Christ and believers are once united, ever by the power of death or hell to be separated. How can Christ lose any member of his body and be perfect? You see upon what strong pillars the saintsâ€™ perseverance is built.
How does a Christians hold on till he comes to the kingdom? How does he persevere?
(1) Auxilio Spiritus [By the help of the Spirit]. God carries on a Christian to perseverance by the energy and vigorous working of his Spirit. The Spirit maintains the essence and seed of grace; it blows up the sparks of grace into a holy flame. Spiritus est Vicarius Christi [The Spirit is the Vicar of Christ]. Tertullian. It is Christâ€™s deputy and proxy; it is every day at work in a believerâ€™s heart, exerting grace into exercise, and ripening it into perseverance. The Spirit carves and polishes the vessels of mercy, and makes them fit for glory.
(2) Christ causes perseverance, and carries on a saint till he comes to the heavenly kingdom, vi orationis, by his intercession. He is an advocate as well as a surety; he prays that the saints may arrive safe at the kingdom. â€˜Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost (i.e. perfectly), seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.â€™ Heb 7: 25. That prayer he made for Peter on earth, he prays now in heaven for the saints, that their faith fail not, and that they may be with him where he is. Luke 22: 32. John 17: 24. And surely if he pray that they may be with him in his kingdom, they cannot perish by the way. Christâ€™s prayer is efficacious. If the saintsâ€™ prayers have so much force and prevalence in them, as Jacob, who had power with God, and as a prince prevailed, and Elijah by prayer unlocked heaven; if the prayers of the saints have so much power with God, what has Christâ€™s prayer? How can the children of such prayers miscarry? How can they fall short of the kingdom who have him praying for them, who is not only a Priest, but a Son? Besides, what he prays for as he is man, he has power to give as he is God.
But methinks I hear some Christian say, if only perseverance obtains the kingdom, they fear they shall not come thither; they fear they shall faint by the way, and the weak legs of their grace will never carry them to the kingdom of heaven.
Wert thou indeed to stand in thy own strength, thou mightest fall away. The branch withers and dies that has no root to grow upon. Thou growest upon the root Christ, who will be daily sending forth vital influence to strengthen thee; though thou art imbecile and weak in grace, yet fear not falling short of heaven: For,
(1) God has made a promise to weak believers. What is a bruised reed but an emblem of a weak faith? yet it has a promise made to it. â€˜A bruised reed shall he not break.â€™ Matt 12: 20. God has promised to supply the weak Christian with as much grace as he shall need, until he comes to heaven. Beside the two pence which the good Samaritan left to pay for the cure of the poor wounded man, he passed his word for all that he should need beside. Luke 10: 35. So, Christ does not only give a little grace in hand, but his bond for more, that he will give as much grace as a saint should need till he comes to heaven. â€˜The Lord will give grace and glory:â€™ that is, a fresh supply of grace, till we be perfected in glory. Psa 84: 11.
(2) God has most care of his weak saints, who fear they shall never hold out till they come to the kingdom. Does not the mother tend the weak child most? â€˜He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.â€™ Isa 40: 11. If thou thinkest that thou art so weak that thou shalt never hold out till thou comest to heaven, thou shalt be carried in the arms of the Almighty. He gathers the lambs in his arms. Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, marches before his people, and his power is their reward, so that none of them faint or die in their march to heaven.
What are the encouragements to make Christians hold on till they come to the kingdom of heaven?
(1) It is a great credit to a Christian, not only to hold forth the truth, but to hold fast the truth till he comes to heaven. When grace flourishes into perseverance, and with the church of Thyatira, our last works are more than our first, it is insigne honouris, a star of honour. Rev 2: 1. It is matter of renown to see grey hairs shine with golden virtues. The excellency of a thing lies in the finishing of it. Where is the excellence of a building? Not when the first stone is laid, but when it is finished. So the beauty and excellence of a Christian is, when he has finished his faith, having done his work, and is landed safe in heaven.
(2) You that have made a progress in religion, have not many miles to go before you come at the kingdom of heaven. â€˜Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.â€™ Rom 13: 11. You who have hoary hairs, your green tree is turned into an almond tree; you are near to heaven, it is but going a little further and you will set your feet within heavenâ€™s gates. Oh! therefore now be encouraged to hold out, your salvation is nearer than when you first began to believe. Our diligence should be greater when our salvation is nearer. When a man is almost at the end of the race, will he now tire and faint? Will he not put forth all his strength, and strain every limb, that he may lay hold upon the prize? Our salvation is now nearer; the kingdom is as it were within sight; how should we now put forth all our strength, that we may lay hold upon the garland of glory! Doctor Taylor, when going to his martyrdom, said, â€˜I have but two stiles to go over, and I shall be at my Fatherâ€™s house.â€™ Though the way to heaven be up-hill, you must climb the steep rock of mortification; and though there be thorns in the way, you have gone the greatest part of it, and are within a few daysâ€™ march of the kingdom, and will not you persevere? Christian, pluck up thy courage, fight the good fight of faith, pursue holiness. Ere long you will put off your armour, and end all your weary marches, and receive a victorious crown; your salvation is nearer, you are within a little of the kingdom, therefore now persevere, you are ready to commence and take your degree of glory.
(3) The blessed promise annexed to perseverance is an encouragement. The promise is a crown of life. Rev 2: 10. Death is a worm that feeds in the crowns of princes, but behold here a living crown, and a never-fading crown. 1 Pet 5: 4. â€˜He that overcometh, and keepeth my works to the end, I will give him stellam matutinam, the morning-star.â€™ Rev 2: 28. The morning-star is brighter than the rest. This morning-star is meant of Christ; as if Christ had said, I will give to him that perseveres some of my beauty; I will put some of my illustrious rays upon him; he shall have the next degree of glory to me, as the morning-star is next the sun. Will not this animate and make us hold out? We shall have a kingdom, and that which is better than a kingdom, a bright morning-star.
What are the means which conduce to perseverance, or, what shall we do that we may hold out to the kingdom?
(1) Take up religion upon good grounds, not in a fit or humour, or out of worldly design; but be deliberate, weigh things well in the balance. â€˜Which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost?â€™ Luke 14: 28. Think with yourselves what religion must cost you; it must cost you the parting with your sins; and may cost you the parting with your lives. Consider if a kingdom will not countervail your sufferings. Weigh things well, and then make your choice. â€˜I have chosen the way of truth.â€™ Psa 119: 30. Why do many apostatise, and fall away, but because they never sit down and count the cost?
(2) If we would hold out to the kingdom, let us cherish the grace of faith. â€˜By faith ye stand.â€™ 2 Cor 1: 24. Faith, like Herculesâ€™ club, beats down all opposition before it; it is a conquering grace.
How comes faith to be so strong?
Faith fetches Christâ€™s strength into the soul. Phil 4: 13. A captain may give his soldier armour, but not strength. Faith partakes of Christâ€™s strength, and gets strength from the promise; as the child by sucking the breast gets strength, so faith by sucking the breast of the promise; hence faith is such a wonder-working grace, and enables a Christian to persevere.
(3) If you would hold out to the kingdom, set before your eyes the examples of those noble heroic saints who have persevered to the kingdom. Vivitur exemplis [Life is lived by examples], examples have more influence upon us than precepts. â€˜My foot has held his steps.â€™ Job 23: 11. Though the way of religion has flints and thorns in it, yet my foot has held its steps; I have not fainted in the way, nor turned out of the way. Daniel held on his religion, and would not intermit prayer, though he knew the writing was signed against him, and a prayer might cost him his life. Dan 6: 10. The blessed martyrs persevered to the kingdom through sufferings. Saunders, that holy man, said, â€˜Welcome the cross of Christ; my Saviour began to me in a bitter cup, and shall I not pledge him?â€™ Another martyr, kissing the stake, said, â€˜I shall not lose my life, but change it for a better; instead of coals I shall have pearls.â€™ What a spirit of gallantry was in these saints! Let us learn constancy from their courage. A soldier, seeing his general fight valiantly, is animated by his example, and has new spirits put into him.
(4) Let us add fervent prayer to God, that he would enable us to hold out to the heavenly kingdom. â€˜Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.â€™ Psa 119: 117. Let us not presume on our own strength. When Peter cried to Christ on the water, â€˜Lord save me,â€™ then Christ took him by the hand. Matt 14: 30. When he grew confident of his own strength, Christ let him fall. Oh pray to God for auxiliary grace. The child is safe when held in the nurseâ€™s arms; so are we in Christâ€™s arms. Let us pray that God will put his fear in our hearts, that we do not depart from him; and that prayer of Cyprian, Domine, quod coepisti perfice, ne in portu naufragium accidat. Lord, perfect that which thou hast begun in me, that I may not suffer shipwreck when I am almost at the haven.
Use 5. Here let me lay down some powerful persuasive, or divine arguments to make you put to all your strength for obtaining this blessed kingdom.
(1) The great errand for which God sent us into the world is to prepare for this heavenly kingdom. â€˜Seek ye first the kingdom of God.â€™ Matt 6: 33. First in time, before all things; and first in affection, above all things. Great care is taken for securing worldly things. Matt 6: 25. To see people labouring for the earth, as ants about a molehill, would make one think it were the only errand they came about. But, alas! what is all this to the kingdom of heaven? I have read of a devout pilgrim travelling to Jerusalem, who passing through several cities, where he saw many stately edifices, wares and monuments, would say, â€˜I must not stay here, this is not Jerusalem;â€™ so when we enjoy worldly things, peace and plenty, and have our presses burst out with new wine, we should say to ourselves, this is not the kingdom we are to look after, this is not heaven. It is wisdom to remember our errand. It will be but sad upon a death-bed for a man to find he has busied himself about trifles, played with a feather, and neglected the main thing he came into the world about.
(2) Seeking the heavenly kingdom will be judged most prudent by all men at last. Those who are most regardless of their souls now, will wish before they die that they had minded eternity more. When conscience is awakened, and men begin to come to themselves, what would they give for the kingdom of heaven? How happy would it be if men were of the same mind now, as they will be at death! Death will alter menâ€™s opinions. They who most slighted and disparaged the ways of religion, will wish their time and thoughts had been taken up about the excellent glory. At death menâ€™s eyes will be opened, and they will see their folly when it is too late. All men, even the worst, will wish at last that they had minded the kingdom of heaven. Why should not we do now what all will wish they had done when they come to die?
(3) This kingdom of heaven deserves our utmost pains and diligence. It is glorious, beyond hyperbole. Suppose earthly kingdoms more magnificent than they are, their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their windows of sapphire, they are not comparable to the heavenly kingdom. If the pavement of it be bespangled with so many bright shining lights and glorious stars, what is the kingdom itself? â€˜It does not yet appear what we shall be.â€™ 1 John 3: 2. This kingdom exceeds our faith. How sublime and wonderful is that place where the blessed Deity shines forth in his immense glory, infinitely beyond the comprehension of angels!
The kingdom of heaven is a place of honour. There are glorious triumphs and sparkling crowns. In other kingdoms there is but one king, but in heaven all are kings. Rev 1: 6. Every glorified saint partakes of the same glory as Christ does. â€˜The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them.â€™ John 17: 22.
This kingdom is a place of joy. â€˜Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.â€™ Matt 25: 21. To have a continual aspect of love in Godâ€™s face, to be crowned with immortality, to be as the angels of God, to drink of the rivers of pleasure for ever, this will cause raptures of joy. Surely it deserves our utmost pains to pursue and to secure this kingdom. Julius Caesar coming towards Rome with his army, and hearing the senate and people had fled from it, said, â€˜They that will not fight for this city, what city will they fight for?â€™ If we will not take pains for the kingdom of heaven, what kingdom will we take pains for? It was the speech of the spies to their brethren, â€˜We have seen the land, and behold, it is very good; and are ye still? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.â€™ Judg 18: 9. We have had a lively description of the glory of heaven, we find the kingdom is very good; why then do we sit still? Why do we not operam navare, put forth our utmost zeal and industry for this kingdom? The diligence of others in seeking after earthly kingdoms, shames our coldness and indifference in pursuing after the kingdom of heaven.
(4) The time we have to make sure of the heavenly kingdom is very short and uncertain. Take heed it does not slip away before you have prepared for the kingdom. Time passes on apace, cito pede preterita vite: it will not be long before the silver cord be loosed, and the golden bowl broken. Eccl 12: 6. The skull wherein the brains are inclosed is a bowl that will soon be broken. Our soul is in the body as the bird in the shell, which soon breaks, and the bird flies out; the shell of the body broken, the soul flies into eternity. We know not whether we shall live to another Sabbath. Before we hear another sermon-bell go, our passing-bell may go. Our life runs as a swift stream into the ocean of eternity. Brethren, if our time be so minute and transient, if the taper of life be so soon wasted, or perhaps blown out by violent death, how should we put to all our strength, and call in help from heaven that we may obtain the kingdom of glory! If time be so short, why do we waste it about things of less moment, and neglect the â€˜one thing needful,â€™ which is the kingdom of heaven? A man that has a great work to be done, and but one day for doing it, needs to work hard. We have a great work to do, we are striving for a kingdom, and alas! we are not certain of one day to work in; therefore what need have we to bestir ourselves, and what we do for heaven, to do it with all our might!
(5) To excite our diligence, let us consider how inexcusable we shall be if we miss the kingdom of heaven. Who have had such helps for heaven as we have had? Indians who have mines of gold, have not such advantages for glory as we. They have the light of the sun, moon, and stars, and the light of reason, but this is not enough to light them to heaven. We have had the light of the gospel shining in our horizon; we have been lifted up to heaven with ordinances; we have had the word in season and out of season. The ordinances are the pipes of the sanctuary, which empty the golden oil of grace into the soul; they are scala paradisi, the ladder by which we ascend to the kingdom of heaven. â€˜What nation is there so great who has God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?â€™ Deut 4: 7. We have had heaven and hell set before us; we have had counsels of friends, warnings, examples, the motions and inspirations of the Holy Ghost; how should all these spurs quicken us in our pace to heaven? Should not that ship sail apace to the haven which has the tide of ordinances, and the wind of the Spirit to carry it? Surely if we, through negligence, miss the kingdom of heaven, we shall have nothing to say for ourselves; we shall be as far from excuse as from happiness.
(6) You cannot do too much for the kingdom of heaven. You cannot pray too much, sanctify the Sabbath too much, nor love God too much. In secular things a man may labour too hard, he may kill himself with work; but there is no fear of working too hard for heaven. In virtute non est verendum ne quid nimium sit [In righteousness there is no need to fear excess]. Seneca. The world is apt to censure the godly, as if they were too zealous, and overstrained themselves in religion. Indeed, a man may follow the world too much, he may make too much haste to be rich. The ferry-man may take too many passengers into his boat, so as to sink it; so a man may heap up so much gold and silver as to sink himself in perdition. 1 Tim 6: 9. We cannot be too earnest and zealous for the kingdom of heaven; there is no fear of excess here; when we do all we can, we come short of the golden rule set us, and of Christâ€™s golden pattern. When our faith is highest, like the sun in the meridian, still there is something lacking in our faith, so that all our labour for the kingdom is little enough. 1 Thess 3: 1. When a Christian has done his best, still he has sins, and wants to bewail.
(7) You may judge of the state of your souls, whether you have grace or not, by your earnest pursuit after the heavenly kingdom. Grace infuses a spirit of activity into a person; it does not lie dormant in the soul; it is not a sleepy habit, but it makes a Christian like the seraphim, swift and winged in his heavenly motion; like fire, it makes him burn in love to God; and the more he loves him, the more he presses forward to heaven, where he may fully enjoy him. Hope is an active grace, it is called â€˜a lively hope.â€™ 1 Pet 1: 3. It is like the spring in the watch, which sets all the wheels of the soul running. Hope of a crop makes the husband man sow his seed; hope of victory makes the soldier fight; and a true hope of glory makes a Christian vigorously pursue it. Here is a spiritual touchstone by which to try our grace. If we have the anointing of the Spirit, it will oil the wheels of our endeavour, and make us lively in our pursuit of the heavenly kingdom. No sooner had Paul grace infused, but it is said, â€˜Behold, he prayeth.â€™ Acts 9: 11. The affections are by divines called â€˜the feet of the soul;â€™ if these feet move not towards heaven, it is because there is no life in them.
(8) Your labour for heaven is not lost. Perhaps you may think that you have served God in vain; but know that your pains are not lost. The seed is cast into the earth, and it dies, yet at last it brings forth a plentiful crop; so your labours seem to be fruitless, but at last they bring you to a kingdom. Who would not work hard for one hour, when, for that hourâ€™s work, he should be a king as long as he lived? And let me tell you, the more labour you have put forth for the kingdom of heaven, the more degrees of glory you shall have. As there are degrees of torment in hell, so of glory in heaven. Matt 23: 14. As one star differeth from another in glory, so shall one saint. 1 Cor 15: 41. Though every vessel of mercy shall be full, yet one may hold more than another. Such as have done more work for God, shall have more glory in the heavenly kingdom. Could we hear departed saints speaking to us from heaven, surely they would speak after this manner: â€˜Were we to leave heaven awhile, and live on the earth again, we would do God a thousand times more service than ever we did; we would pray with more life, act with more zeal; for now we see, the more has been our labour, the greater is our reward in heaven.â€™
(9) While we are labouring for the kingdom, God will help us. â€˜I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.â€™ Ezek 36: 27. The promise encourages us, and Godâ€™s Spirit enables us. A master gives his servant work to do, but he cannot give him strength to work; but God both cuts us out work and gives us strength. â€˜Give thy strength unto thy servant.â€™ Psa 86: 16. God not only gives us a crown when we have done running, but gives us legs to run; he gives exciting, assisting grace; lex jubet, gratia juvat [law commands, grace assists]; the Spirit helping us in our work for heaven, makes it easy. If the loadstone draw the iron, it is not hard for the iron to move; so, if Godâ€™s Spirit draws the heart, it moves towards heaven with facility and alacrity.
(10) The more pains we have taken for heaven, the sweeter heaven will be when we come there. As when a husband man has been grafting trees, or setting flowers in his garden, it is pleasant to review and look over his labours: so, when in heaven, we shall remember our former zeal and earnestness for the kingdom, which will sweeten heaven, and add to the joy of it. For a Christian to think, such a day I spent in examining my heart; such a day I was weeping for sin; when others were at their sport, I was at prayer; and now, have I lost any thing by my devotion? My tears are wiped away, and the wine of paradise cheers my heart. I now enjoy him whom my soul loves, I am possessed of a kingdom; my labour is over, but joy remains.
(11) If you do not take pains for the kingdom of heaven now, there will be nothing to be done for your souls after death. This is the only fit season for working; and if this season be lost, the kingdom is forfeited. â€˜Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest.â€™ Eccl 9: 10. It was a saying of Charles V, â€˜I have spent my treasure, but that I may recover again; I have lost my health, but that I may have again; but I have lost a great many brave soldiers, but them I can never have again.â€™ So other temporal blessings may be lost and recovered again; but if the term of life, wherein you should work for heaven, be once lost, it is past all recovery, you can never have another season again for your souls.
(12) There is nothing else but this kingdom of heaven of which we can make sure. We cannot make sure of life. Quis scit an adjiciant hodiernae crastina vitiae tempora di superi? [Who knows whether the gods above will add a tomorrow to the life of today?]. Horace. When our breath goes out, we know not whether we shall draw it in again. How many are taken away suddenly! We cannot make riches sure; it is uncertain whether we shall get them. The world is like a lottery, in which every one is not sure to draw a prize. If we get riches, we are not sure to keep them. â€˜Riches make themselves wings, they fly away.â€™ Prov 23: 5. Experience seals the truth of this. Many who have had plentiful estates, by fire, or losses at sea, have been squeezed as sponges, and all their estates exhausted; but if men should keep their estates awhile, death strips them of all. When deathâ€™s gun goes off, away flies the estate. â€˜It is certain we can carry nothing outâ€™ of the world. 1 Tim 6: 7. So that there is no making sure of anything here below, but we may make sure of the kingdom of heaven. â€˜To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.â€™ Prov 11: 18. He who has grace is sure of heaven, for he has heaven begun in him. A believer has an evidence of heaven. â€˜Faith is the evidence of things not seen.â€™ Heb 11: 1. He has an earnest of glory. â€˜Who has given us the earnest of the Spirit.â€™ 2 Cor 1: 22. An earnest is part of the whole sum. He has a sure hope. â€˜Which hope we have as an anchor.â€™ Heb 6: 19. This anchor is cast upon Godâ€™s promise. â€˜In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised.â€™ Tit 1: 2. So that here is great encouragement to take pains for heaven, that we may make sure of this kingdom.
(13) The kingdom of heaven cannot be obtained without labour. Non est ad astra mollis e terris via [The way from earth to heaven is not easy]. A boat may as well get to land without oars, as we to heaven without labour. We cannot have the world without labour, and do we think to have heaven? If a man digs for gravel, much more for gold. â€˜I press toward the mark.â€™ Phil 3: 14. Heavenâ€™s gate is not like that iron gate which opened to Peter of its own accord. Acts 12: 10. Heaven is not like those ripe figs which fall into the mouth of the eater. Nah 3: 12. No, there must be taking pains. Two things are requisite for a Christian, a watchful eye and a working hand. We must, as Hannibal to Rome, force a way to the heavenly kingdom through difficulties. We must win the garland of glory by labour, before we wear it with triumph. God has enacted this law, â€˜That no man shall eat of the tree of paradise but in the sweat of his brows.â€™ How, then, dare any censure Christian diligence? How dare they say you take more pains for heaven than need? God says, â€˜Strive as in an agony: fight the good fight of faith;â€™ and they say, â€˜You are too strict:â€™ but whom shall we believe, a holy God who bids us strive, or a profane atheist who says we strive too much?
(14) Much of our time being already misspent, we had need work the harder for the kingdom of heaven. He who has lost his time at school, and often played truant, had need ply it the harder, that he may gain a stock of learning; and he who has slept and loitered in the beginning of his journey, had need ride the faster in the evening, lest he fall short of the place to which he is travelling. Some are in their youth, others in the flower of their age, others have grey hairs, the almond tree blossoms, and yet perhaps have been very regardless of their souls and heaven. Time spent unprofitably is not time lived, but time lost. If there be any such here who have misspent their golden hours, they have not only been slothful, but wasteful servants. They had need now to redeem the time, and press forward with might and main to the heavenly kingdom. â€˜The time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles.â€™ 1 Pet 4: 3. It may suffice us that we have lost so much time already, let us now work the harder. They who have crept as snails, had need now fly as eagles to the paradise of God. If, in the former part of your life, you have been as willows, barren in goodness, in the latter part, be as â€˜an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits.â€™ Cant 4: 13. Recompense former remissness with future diligence.
(15) How uncomely and sordid a slothful temper of soul is! â€˜I will punish the men who are settled on their lees;â€™ (Heb â€˜Curdled on their lees.â€™) Zeph 1: 12. Settling on the lees is an emblem of a dull, inactive soul. The snail, by reason of its slow motion, was reckoned among the unclean. Lev 11: 30. â€˜A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom:â€™ he is loath to pull it out, though it be to lay hold on a crown. Prov 19: 24. Non capit porta illa caelestis torpore languidos [That gate of heaven does not receive those who are dull with sloth]. Brugensis. The devil himself cannot be charged with idleness. He â€˜walketh about.â€™ 1 Pet 5: 8. An idle soul stands in the world for a cipher, and God writes down no ciphers in the book of life. Heaven is no hive for drones. An idle person is fit for a temptation. When the bird sits still upon the bough, it is in danger of the gun: when one sits still in sloth, the devil shoots him with a temptation. Standing water putrifies. Heathens will rise up in judgement against supine Christians. What pains did they take in the Olympic games! They ran but for a garland of flowers, or olive; and do we sit still who run for a kingdom? How can he expect a reward who never works, or a crown who never fights? Inertia animae somnus. Sloth is the soulâ€™s sleep. Adam, when asleep, lost his rib; and when a person is in the deep sleep of sloth, he loses salvation.
(16) Holy activity and industry ennoble a Christian. Labor splendore decoratur [Work is adorned with honour]. Cicero. The more excellent anything is, the more active. The sun is a glorious creature, it is ever in motion, going its circuit. Fire is the purest element, and the most active, it is ever sparkling and flaming; the angels are the most noble creatures, they are represented by the cherubim, with wings displayed. The more active for heaven, the more illustrious, and the more do we resemble the angels. The phoenix flies with a coronet on its head; so the industrious soul has his coronet, his labour is his ensign of honour.
(17) It is a mercy that there is a possibility of happiness, and that upon our painstaking we may have a kingdom. By our fall in Adam we forfeited heaven. Why might not God have dealt with us as with the lapsed angels? They had no sooner sinned than they were expelled from heaven, never to come thither more. We may say, as the apostle, â€˜Behold the goodness and severity of God. â€™ Rom 11: 22. The apostate angels behold the severity of God, that he should throw them down to hell for ever; we behold the goodness of God in that he has put us into a possibility of mercy; so that if we do but take pains, a kingdom stands ready for us. How should this whet and sharpen our industry, that we are in a capacity of salvation; and that if we do but what we are able, we shall receive an eternal weight of glory!
(18) Our labour for the kingdom of heaven is minute and transient. It is not to endure long; it expires with our life. It is but awhile, and we shall leave off working; for a little labour we shall have an eternal rest. Who would think much to wade through a little water, if he were sure to be crowned as soon as he came on shore? Christians, let this encourage you, you have but a little more pains to take, a few tears more to shed, a few more Sabbaths to keep, and, behold an eternal recompense of reward. What are a few tears to a crown, a few minutes of time to an eternity of glory?
(19) What striving is there for earthly kingdoms, which are corruptible, and subject to change! With what vigour and alacrity did Hannibalâ€™s soldiers continue their march over the Alps, and craggy rocks, and Caesarâ€™s soldiers fight with hunger and cold! Men will break through laws and oaths, they will swim to a crown in blood. Will they venture thus for earthly promotions, and shall not we strive more for a heavenly kingdom? This is â€˜a kingdom which cannot be movedâ€™ (Heb 12: 28); a kingdom where there is unparalleled beauty, unstained honour, unmixed joy; a kingdom where there shall be nothing present which we could wish were removed, and nothing absent which we could wish were enjoyed. Surely if there be any spark of grace, or true generosity in our breasts, we shall not suffer ourselves to be out-striven by others; we shall not let them take more pains for earthly honours, than we do for that excellent glory which will crown all our desires.
(20) What pains some men take to go to hell, and shall not we take more pains to go to heaven? â€˜They weary themselves to commit iniquity.â€™ Jer 9: 5. Sinners hackney themselves out in the devilâ€™s service. What pains some men take to satisfy their unclean lusts! They waste their estates, wear the shameful marks of their sin about them, and visit the harlotâ€™s house, though it stands the next door to hell. â€˜Her house is the way to hell.â€™ Prov 7: 27. What pains do others take in persecuting! Holiness is the mark they shoot at. It is said of Antiochus Epiphanes, that he undertook more tedious journeys, and went upon greater hazards, to vex and oppose the Jews, than any of his predecessors had done in getting victories. The devil blows the horn and men ride post to hell, as if they feared hell would be full see they should get thither. When Satan had entered into Judas, how active was he! He went to the high priests, from them to the band of soldiers, and with them back again to the garden, and never left till he had betrayed Christ! How industrious were the idolatrous Jews! So fiercely were they bent upon their sin, that they would sacrifice their sons and daughters to their idol-gods. Jer 32: 35. Do men take all these pains for hell, and shall not we take pains for the kingdom of heaven? The wicked have nothing to encourage them in their sins, they have all the threatening of God as a flaming sword against them. Oh, let it never be said that the devilâ€™s servants are more active than Christâ€™s; that they serve him better who rewards them only with fire and brimstone, than we do God, who rewards with a kingdom!
(21) The labour we take for heaven is a labour full of pleasure. Prov 3: 17. A man sweats at his recreation, tires himself with hunting, but there is a delight he takes in it which sweetens it. â€˜I delight in the law of God after the inward man.â€™ (Gr. I take pleasure) Rom 7: 22. Not only is the kingdom of heaven delightful, but the way thither. What a delight has a gracious soul in prayer! â€˜I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.â€™ Isa 56: 7. While a Christian weeps, joy drops with tears; while he is musing on God, he has such quickening of the Spirit, and, as it were, such transfigurations of soul, that he thinks himself half in heaven. â€˜My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips, when I remember thee upon my bed,â€™ &c. Psa 63: 5, 6. A Christianâ€™s work for heaven is like a bridegroomâ€™s work on the morning of the marriage-day, he puts on his vesture and wedding-robes in which he shall be married to his bride; so, in all the duties of religion, we are putting on those wedding robes in which we shall be married to Christ in glory. Oh, what solace and inward peace is there in close walking with God! â€˜The work of righteousness shall be peace.â€™ Isa 32: 17. Serving God is like gathering spices or flowers, wherein there is some labour, but the labour is recompensed with delight. Working for heaven is like digging in a gold mine; the digging is labour, but getting the gold is pleasure! O, then, let us bestir ourselves for the kingdom of heaven; it is a labour of pleasure. A Christian would not part with his joy for the most delicious music; he would not exchange his anchor of hope for a crown of gold. Well might David say, â€˜In keeping [thy precepts] there is great reward,â€™ not only after keeping thy precepts, but in keeping them. Psa 19: 11. A Christian has both the spring-flowers and the crop; inward delight in serving God is the spring-flowers, in the kingdom of glory at last is the full crop.
(22) How industrious have the saints in former ages been! They thought they could never do enough for heaven; they could never serve God enough, love him enough. Minus te amavi Domine. Augustine. Lord, I have loved thee too little. What pains did Paul take for the heavenly kingdom. â€˜Reaching forth unto those things which are before.â€™ Phil 3: 13. The Greek word, to reach forth, signifies to stretch out the neck; a metaphor from racers, who strain every limb, and reach forward to lay hold on the prize. Anna, the prophetess, â€˜departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.â€™ Luke 2: 37. Basil the Great, by much labour and watching, exhausted his bodily strength. â€˜Let racks, pulleys, and all torments come upon me,â€™ said Ignatius, â€™so I may win Christ.â€™ The industry and courage of former saints, who are now crowned with glory, should provoke our diligence, that so at last we may sit down with them in the kingdom of heaven.
(23) The more pains we take for heaven, the more welcome will death be to us. What is it that makes men so loath to die? They are like a tenant that will not go out of the house till the serjeant pull him out. They love not to hear of death. Why so? Because their conscience accuses them that they have taken little or no pains for heaven; they have been sleeping when they should have been working, and now they are afraid lest death should carry them prisoners to hell; but he who has spent his time in serving God, can look death in the face with comfort; he was wholly taken up about heaven, and now he shall be taken up to heaven; he traded before in heaven, and now he shall go to live there. Cupio dissolvi, I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. Phil 1: 23. Paul had wholly laid himself out for God, and now he knew there was a crown laid up for him, and he longed to take possession.
Thus I have given you twenty-three persuasive or arguments to exert and put forth your utmost diligence for obtaining the kingdom of heaven. O that they were written in all your hearts, as with the point of a diamond! Because delays in these cases are dangerous, let me desire you to set upon this work for heaven at once. â€˜I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.â€™ Psa 119: 60. Many people are convinced of the necessity of looking after the kingdom of glory, but they say as those in Hag 1: 2, â€˜The time is not come.â€™ They adjourn and put off till their time is slipped away, and so they lose the kingdom of heaven. Beware of this fallacy; delay strengthens sin, hardens the heart, and gives the devil fuller possession of a man. â€˜The kingâ€™s business required haste;â€™ so the business of salvation requires haste. 1 Sam 21: 8. Do not put off an hour longer. Volat ambiguis mobilis alis hora [The fleeting hour flies on fickle wings]. What assurance have you that you shall live another day? Have you any lease of life granted? Why then do you not presently arise out of the bed of sloth, and put forth all your strength and spirits, that you may be possessed of the kingdom of glory? Should not things of the highest importance be done first? Settling a manâ€™s estate, and clearing the title to his land, is not delayed, but done in the first place. What is there of such grand importance as the saving of your souls, and the gaining a kingdom? Therefore to-day hear Godâ€™s voice; now mind eternity; now get your title to heaven cleared before the decree of death brings forth. What imprudence is it to lay the heaviest load upon the weakest horse! So it is to lay the heavy load of repentance on thyself when thou art enfeebled by sickness, the hands shake, the lips quiver, and the heart faints. O be wise in time; prepare now for the kingdom. If a man begins his voyage to heaven in the storm of death, it is a thousand to one if he does not suffer an eternal shipwreck.
Use 6. For exhortation to those who have any good hope through grace. You that are the heirs of this kingdom, let me exhort you to six things:
(1) Often take a prospect of this heavenly kingdom. Climb up the celestial mount; take a turn, as it were, in heaven every day by holy meditation. â€˜Walk about Zion, tell the towers thereof, mark ye well her bulwarks.â€™ Psa 48: 12, 13. See what a glorious kingdom heaven is; go tell the towers, view the palaces of the heavenly Jerusalem. Christian, show thy heart the gates of pearl, the beds of spices, the clusters of grapes which grow in the paradise of God. Say, â€˜O my soul, all this glory is thine, it is thy Fatherâ€™s good pleasure to give thee this kingdom.â€™ The thoughts of heaven are very delightful and ravishing. Can men of the world so delight in viewing their bags of gold, and fields of corn, and shall not the heirs of promise take more delight in contemplating the celestial kingdom? The serious meditation of the kingdom of glory would work these three effects:
It would put a damp and slur upon all worldly glory. To those who stand upon the top of the Alps, the great cities of Campania seem but small in their eye; so, could we look through the perspective glass of faith, and take a view of heavenâ€™s glory, how small and minute would all other things appear! Moses slighted the honours of Pharaohâ€™s court, having an eye to the recompense of reward. Heb 11: 26. When Paul had a vision of glory, and John was carried away in the Spirit, and saw the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven, having the glory of God in it, how did the world after appear in an eclipse to them!
The meditation of the heavenly kingdom would much promote holiness in us. Heaven is a holy place: â€˜an inheritance undefiled.â€™ I Pet 1: 4. It is described by transparent glass, to denote its purity. Rev 21: 21. Contemplating heaven would put us upon the study of holiness, because none but such are admitted to that kingdom. Heaven is not like Noahâ€™s ark, into which came clean beasts and unclean. Only the pure in heart shall see God. Matt 5: 8.
The meditation of the heavenly kingdom would be a spur to diligence. Immensum gloria calcar habet [Glory possesses an immeasurable stimulus]. â€˜Always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.â€™ 1 Cor 15: 58. When the mariner sees the haven, he plies harder with his oars; so when we have a sight and prospect of glory, we should be much in prayer, alms, and watching; it should add wings to duty, and make the lamp of our devotion burn brighter.
(2) If you have hopes of this kingdom, be content though you have but a little of the world! Contentment is a rare thing, it is a jewel that but few Christians wear; but if you have a grounded hope of heaven, it may work your heart to contentation. What though you have but little in possession, you have a kingdom in reversion! Were you to take an estimate of a manâ€™s estate, how would you value it? By what he has in his house, or by his land? Perhaps he has little money or jewels in his house, but he is a landed man â€" there lies his estate. A believer has but a little oil in the cruse, and meal in the barrel, but he is a landed man, he has a title to a kingdom, and may not this satisfy him? If a man who lived here in England, had a great estate befallen him beyond the seas, and perhaps had no more money at present but just to pay for his voyage, he is content; he knows when he comes to his estate he shall have money enough; so, thou who art a believer hast a kingdom befallen thee; though thou hast but little in thy purse, yet if thou hast enough to pay for thy voyage, enough to bear thy charges to heaven, it is sufficient. God has given thee grace, which is the fore-crop, and will give thee glory, which is the after-crop; and may not this make thee content?
(3) If you have hope of this blessed kingdom, pray often for its coming; say, â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™ Only believers can pray heartily for the hastening of the kingdom of glory.
They cannot pray that Christâ€™s kingdom of glory may come who never had the kingdom of grace set up in their hearts. Can the guilty prisoners pray that the as sizes may come?
They cannot pray heartily that Christâ€™s kingdom of glory may come who are lovers of the world. They have found paradise, they are in their kingdom already; this is their heaven, and they desire to hear of no other; they are of his mind who said, If he might keep his cardinalship in Paris, he would give up his part in paradise.
They cannot pray heartily that Christâ€™s kingdom of glory may come who oppose his kingdom of grace, who break his laws, which are the sceptre of his kingdom, who shoot at those who bear Christâ€™s name and carry his colours. Surely these cannot pray that Christâ€™s kingdom of glory may come, for then Christ will judge them; and if they say this prayer, they are hypocrites, they mean not what they speak. But you who have the kingdom of grace set up in your hearts, pray much that the kingdom of glory may hasten; say, â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™ When this kingdom comes, then you shall behold Christ in all his embroidered robes of glory, shining ten thousand times brighter than the sun in all its meridian splendour. When Christâ€™s kingdom comes, the bodies of the saints that sleep in the dust shall be raised in honour, and made like Christâ€™s glorious body; then your souls like diamonds shall sparkle with holiness; you shall never have a sinful thought more, you shall be as holy as the angels; you shall be as holy as you would be, and as holy as God would have you to be; then you shall be in a better state than in innocence. Adam was created a glorious creature, but mutable; a bright star, but a falling star; but in the kingdom of heaven is a fixation of happiness. When Christâ€™s kingdom of glory comes, you shall be rid of all your enemies; as Moses said, â€˜The Egyptians whom you have seen to day, you shall see them no more for ever.â€™ Exod 14: 13. So those enemies who have sloughed on the backs of Godâ€™s people, and made deep their furrows, when Christ shall come in his glory, you shall see no more. All Christâ€™s enemies shall be â€˜put under his feet.â€™ 1 Cor 15: 25. Before the wicked be destroyed, the saints shall judge them. â€˜Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?â€™ 1 Cor 6: 2. It will cut the wicked to the heart that those whom they have formerly scorned and scourged, shall sit as judges upon them, and vote with Christ in his judicial proceedings. Oh, then, well may you pray for the hastening of the kingdom of glory, â€˜Thy kingdom come.â€™
(4) If you have any good hope of this blessed kingdom, let it make the colour come in your faces, be of a sanguine, cheerful temper. Have you a title to a kingdom, and are sad? â€˜We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.â€™ Rom 5: 2. Christians, the trumpet is ready to sound, an eternal jubilee is at hand, when a freedom from sin shall be proclaimed; your coronation-day is coming. It is but putting off your clothes, and laying your head upon a pillow of dust, and you shall be enthroned in a kingdom, and invested with the embroidered robes of glory. Does not all this call for a cheerful spirit? Cheerfulness adorns religion. It is a temper of soul that Christ loves. â€˜If ye loved me, ye would rejoice.â€™ John 14: 28. It makes many suspect heaven is not so pleasant, when they see those that walk thither sad. How does the heir rejoice in hope of the inheritance? Who should rejoice if not a believer, who is heir of the kingdom, and such a kingdom as eye has not seen? When the flesh begins to droop, let faith lift up its head, and cause a holy jubilation and rejoicing in the soul.
(5) Let the saints long to be in that blessed kingdom. Does not a prince that travels in foreign parts long to be in his own nation, that he may be crowned? The bride desires the marriage day. â€˜The Spirit and the bride say, Come: even so, come, Lord Jesus.â€™ Rev 22: 17, 20. Sure our unwillingness to go hence, shows either the weakness of our faith in the belief of the heavenly kingdom, or the strength of our doubts whether we have an interest in it. Were our title to heaven more clear, we should need patience to be content to stay here any longer.
Again, our unwillingness to go hence, declares we love the world too much, and Christ too little. Love, as Aristotle says, desires union. Did we love Christ as we should, we should desire to be united to him in glory, when we might take our fill of love. Be humbled that ye are so unwilling to go hence. Let us labour to arrive at that divine temper of soul which Paul had: Cupio dissolvi, â€˜Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ.â€™ Phil 1: 23. We are compassed with a body of sin: should we not long to shake off this viper? We are in Mesech, and the tents of Cedar, in a place where we see God dishonoured. Should we not desire to have our pass to be gone? We are in a valley of tears. Is it not better to be in a kingdom? Here we are combating with Satan. Should we not desire to be called out of the bloody field, where the bullets of temptation fly so fast, that we may receive a victorious crown? O ye saints, breathe after the heavenly kingdom. Though we should be willing to stay to do service, yet we should ambitiously desire to be always sunning ourselves in the light of Godâ€™s countenance. Think what it will be to be ever with the Lord! Are there any sweeter smiles or embraces than his? Is there any bed so soft as Christâ€™s bosom? Is there any such joy as to have the golden banner of Christâ€™s love displayed over us? Is there any such honour as to sit upon the throne with Christ? Rev 3: 21. O, then, long for the celestial kingdom!
(6) Wait for this kingdom of glory. It is not incongruous or improper to long for heaven, yet wait for it. Long for it because it is a kingdom, yet wait your Fatherâ€™s good pleasure. God could bestow this kingdom at once, but he sees it good that we should wait awhile.
 Had we the kingdom of heaven as soon as ever grace is infused, then God would lose much of his glory. Where would be our living by faith, which is the grace that brings in the chief revenues of glory to God? Rom 5: 20. Where would be our suffering for God, which is a way of honouring him which the angels in heaven are not capable of? Where would be the active service we are to do for God? Would we have God give us a kingdom, and we do nothing for him before we come there? Would we have rest before labour, a crown before victory? This were disingenuous. Paul was content to stay out of heaven awhile that he might be a means of bringing others thither. Phil 1: 24.
 While we wait for the kingdom, our grace is increasing. Every duty religiously performed, adds a jewel to our crown. Do we desire to have our robes of glory shine brighter? Let us wait and work. The longer we stay for the principal, the greater will the interest be. As the husband man waits till the seed spring up, wait for the harvest of glory. Some have their waiting weeks at court; this is your waiting time. Christ says, men ought to pray, and not to faint. Luke 18: 1. So, wait, and faint not. Be not weary, the kingdom of heaven will make amends for waiting. â€˜I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord,â€™ said the dying patriarch. Gen 49: 18.
Use 7. For comfort to the people of God.
(1) In all their sufferings. The true saint, as Luther says, is haeres crucis, heir to the cross. Affliction is his diet-drink, but this keeps him from fainting, that his sufferings bring a kingdom. The hope of the kingdom of heaven, says Basil, should indulcerate and sweeten all our troubles. â€˜If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.â€™ 2 Tim 2: 12. It is but a short fight, but an eternal triumph. This light suffering produces an â€˜eternal weight of glory.â€™ 2 Cor 4: 17. The more weighty precious things are, the more they are worth, as the more weight in a crown of gold, the more it is worth. Did this glory last for awhile only, it would much abate and embitter the joys of heaven; but it runs parallel with eternity. God will be a deep sea of blessedness, and the glorified saints shall for ever bathe themselves in the ocean. One dayâ€™s wearing the crown will abundantly pay for all the saintsâ€™ sufferings; how much more when â€˜they shall reign for ever and ever!â€™ Rev 22: 5. O let this be our support under all the calamities and sufferings in this life. What a vast difference is there between a believerâ€™s sufferings and his reward! â€˜The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.â€™ Rom 8: 18. For a few tears, rivers of pleasure; for mourning, white robes. This made the primitive Christians laugh at imprisonments, and snatch up torments as so many crowns. Though now we drink in a wormwood-cup, there is sugar in the bottom to sweeten it. â€˜It is your Fatherâ€™s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.â€™
(2) Comfort in death. That which takes away from Godâ€™s children the terror of death, is that they are entering into the kingdom. No wonder if wicked men be appalled and terrified at the approach of death, for they die unpardoned. Death carries them to the jail, where they must lie for ever, without bail or deliverance; but why should any of Godâ€™s children be scared and half dead with the thoughts of death? What hurt can death do to them, but lead them to a glorious kingdom? Faith gives a title to heaven, death a possession. Let this be a gospel antidote to expel the fear of death. Hilarion, that blessed man, cried out, Egredere, anima, egredere, quid times? Go forth, my soul, go forth, what fearest thou? Let them fear death who do not fear sin; but let not Godâ€™s children be over much troubled at the grim face of that messenger, which brings them to the end of their sorrow, and the beginning of their joy. Death is yours, it is a part of the believerâ€™s inventory. 1 Cor 3: 22. Is a prince afraid to cross a narrow sea, who shall be crowned when he comes to shore? Death to the saints shall be an usher to bring them into the presence of the King of glory. This thought puts lilies and roses into the ghastly face of death, and makes it look amiable. Death brings us to a crown of glory which fades not away. The day of death is better to a believer than the day of his birth. Death is aditus ad gloriam, an entrance into a blessed eternity. Fear not death, but rather let your hearts revive when you think these rattling wheels of deathâ€™s chariot are but to carry you home to an everlasting kingdom.
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