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CHRISTIANS OUGHT CONSTANTLY TO REALIZE THEIR
INCREASING NEARNESS TO HEAVEN.
"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep:
for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."-Rom. xiii. 11.
THERE is an intimate and infallible connection between the first exercise of faith and final salvation. As soon as any person cordially embraces the gospel and becomes united to Christ, he stands entitled to eternal life. So Christ himself declared. “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Upon this ground true believers are represented as heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ to all the blessings of the heavenly world. Peter, writing to believers in general, says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Though Christians may sometimes fall into spiritual sleep, darkness, and doubt, so that they cannot easily read their title to mansions in the skies; yet when they awake out of sleep, and exercise the spirit of adoption, they find that they are children, and if children, then heirs of a rich and heavenly inheritance. Hence Paul, including himself, exhorts the believers at Rome in the language of the text. “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." The plain meaning of the apostle is,
That it is of high importance, that Christians should live
under a realizing sense of their constantly approaching nearer and nearer to heaven. I shall,
I. Consider what is implied in their living in this manner, and,
II. Illustrate the importance of it.
I. We are to consider what is implied in Christians living under a realizing sense of their continually approaching nearer and nearer to heaven. And,
1. This certainly implies their living under a realizing view of invisible and eternal realities. Heaven is inseparably connected with eternity, and lies in the invisible world. Christians may think of heaven, without the least realizing sense that they are going there. Visible objects obstruct the sight of those that are invisible. It is impossible for believers to realize, that they are going to heaven, without realizing heaven itself. They must exercise that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;" that faith, which makes future things present, and invisible things visible. They must have, like the primitive Christians, "their conversation in heaven.” They must live, as the ancient patriarch did, “who desired a better country, that is, an heavenly:" and who “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." It is one thing to believe, that there is a future state of existence, and another thing, to realize the scenes and objects in that state, and our relation to, and connection with them. Believers must turn off their attention from the scenes and objeots of time, and oarry their thoughts into eternity, in order to realize heaven, and the holiness and blessedness of it. Nothing but frequent, serious, and delightful meditations on heaven, can give a lively sense of what it is to be there, and uniting with Christ, and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in their holy services and enjoyments. David had such a realizing sense of the holy joy and felicity of heaven, when he said, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore." And Paul seems to have had his heart in heaven, when he said, “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far bet
Such views of the invisible and heavenly world those maintain, who live under a realizing sense of continually drawing nearer and nearer to the state of the blessed.
2. For Christians to maintain a realizing sense, that they are constantly approaching nearer and nearer to heaven, implies that they live in the habitual exercise of those gracious affections to which the promises of salvation are made. The characters of the heirs of heaven are beautifully and justly delineated by Christ himself, in his sermon on the mount. 6 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” All these Christian graces are essentially the same, and consist in the various exercises of that holy love to God and man, which the divine law requires, and which Christ taught as necessary qualifications for heaven. It is only by the exercise of grace, that true believers can know, that they are the children of God, and heirs of eternal life. For they are expressly told, that " without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" and that “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Sanctification is the only sure evidence of justification. It is only by the sensible exercise of holy and devout affections, that believers can realize that they are going to heaven, or can sincerely desire to go there. But when they habitually live in the happy exercise of faith and love, and are heartily united to God and Christ, to his friends and cause, then they desire and hope soon to be admitted into the presence of God, and to the enjoyments of his heavenly kingdom. Besides,
3. Believers realize the shortness and rapidity of time, which gives them a realizing sense how fast they are approaching towards heaven. The longest period of time appears very short in the view of eternity. Just so far as Christians real.
. ize eternity, their present state dwindles into nothing. It seems to them, that they shall soon, very soon exchange worlds, and reach their long home. While they keep themselves in the love of God, and habitually converse with the objects of eternity, they realize, that their lives are rapidly shortening, and coming to a final and happy close. Job was deeply impressed in view of the rapidity with which the current of time was bearing him on to the ocean of eternity. He says, “My days are vanity; they are swifter than a weaver's shuttle; they are swifter than a post, they flee away." Joshua said while in health, “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth." Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob habitually felt, that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and constantly drawing nearer and nearer to the heavenly world. Paul solemnly protested, "I die daily." While the eyes and hearts of Christians
are fixed upon heaven, they realize that their salvation is nearer than when they believed. They can bear to contemplate the shortness and rapidity of time, and rejoice in the thought, that the wings of every hour are constantly and swiftly bearing them forward to the world of glory. They realize with pleasure, that as their days are shortening, their redemption is drawing nigh; and as they are passing from stage to stage in life, they are hastening to the end of their journey, and shall soon reach that rest which remaineth for them in the mansions of the blessed. I now proceed, II. To illustrate the importance of their living in such a
The apostle says, “ It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” It becomes believers to realize how soon they shall “receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.” Such realizing views of heaven are suited to produce very useful and desirable effects on their hearts and lives. For,
1. A realizing sense that they are perpetually approaching nearer and nearer to a holier and better state, tends to wean them from the captivating objects of the present world. The apostle says, “ God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Those who understandingly and
, ' cordially embrace the gospel, see that glory and blessedness in it, which cures them of the love of the world, and gives them a distaste to the things of earth, to which they had once been supremely attached. Accordingly our Saviour says, “ The king
. dom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Those who have cordially embraced the gospel and tasted of the blessedness of the kingdom of heaven, and expect soon to come to the full possession of it, are willing to renounce the world and all its objects, as the source of their highest happiness. Their hearts are where their treasure is, that is, in heaven. The apostle, therefore, directs Christians to set their affections on things above, to wean them from things below. If
then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set
affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” While Christians are alive to God, they are dead to the world. While they set their affections on things above, they renounce things below. While they view their treasures
in heaven, they set lightly by their treasures on earth. This the apostle says was exemplified by the primitive Christians and ancient patriarchs. To the Hebrews he says, “ Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves, that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Of Moses he says, “ He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
The more sensibly and habitually Christians realize, that they daily approach nearer and nearer to heaven, the less and less they love the world and its unsatisfactory enjoyments. On this account, it is highly important, that they should habitually maintain a realizing sense how constantly and rapidly they are approaching to the full enjoyment of all good. This will have a happy and powerful tendency to awaken them from their stupidity, to which they are perpetually prone, by the ensnaring nature of the world, which so often absorbs all their attention and affections.
2. A realizing sense of their continual advances toward heaven, will afford them much support under all the sufferings of this present evil world. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” They have an equal and often a double share of trouble and affliction in their journey through life, which calls for patience, submission, and consolation. And their principal source of consolation is to be derived from a well-grounded hope of future and eternal happiness in heaven. The apostles always directed the followers of Christ to keep their eyes and hearts fixed on their future, happy state, as the most solid ground of hope, peace, and consolation. Paul says, “We are saved by hope,” and “ If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." And again he says, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in
Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Peter represents the consoling view of future and eternal felicity in a still brighter light. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." While the primitive Christians kept up a realizing sense of a