JOHN xvii. 24.
I ENTERED last day upon the second thing I took up in the matter of Christís prayer in this verse; which was the blessing Christ prays for to his people, in these words, That they may also be with me where I am. In opening of them, I did speak a little, 1. To the force of this word also. 2. What it is to be with Christ. 3. What to be with him where he is. And then raised two points of doctrine. 1. That the perfect blessedness of the church and people of God, is in being with Christ where he is. 2. That it is Christís will that all his people should par take of, and possess this blessedness.
To the first of these I would speak, viz.
DOCT. 1. That the perfect and complete blessedness of the church and people of God, stands in being with Christ where he is.
Thus Christ expresseth it, John xiv. 3. That where I am, there ye may be also; and John xii. 26. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be. The apostle sums up the blessedness of the church at the last day in this, 1 Thess. iv. 17. And so shall we be ever with the Lord. So also in 2 Cor. v. 6, 8. it is called being present with the Lord. And in Phil. i. 23. it is called being present with Christ.
There are four things I would premise concerning this matter, that may be of use to regulate your thoughts in hearing and studying the word of God about heaven.
1. This blessedness is greatly in the dark to us. It is an enjoyment within the vail, as Heb. vi. 19. And it is necessarily so. The thing we desire to be informed in, is, What it is to be with Christ where he is? And here every thing is dark and deep. What Christ is, where he is, what it is to be with him, who can tell or know? When the beloved disciple, who lay in Christís bosom on earth, is speaking of this bliss, in 1 John iii. 2. he saith, Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. Why! Did never John see him as he is? No. They that saw him in his humbled state, saw him under a vail, which his work rendered necessary for a time. And believers, that now see him by faith, see him not as he is; but only see him painted forth to us in and by the gospel, as Gal. iii. 1. No man can know what it is to see Christ as he is, till he do see him as he is; and that is not till he appears. To this belongs that word, 1 Cor. ii. 9. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. Heaven will be a blessed surprise to all that possess it. It will be found to be far beyond all the most large desires, and the highest expectations, that ever were raised in their hearts. So will hell be to all the heirs of wrath, vastly above all their fearful expectations, Heb. x. 27.; and the foretastes of it, that are great in some wicked men: Psalm xc. 11. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. No man can over-fear Godís wrath; and no man can over-rate the glory to come. In that matter, the Lord doth exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, Eph. iii. 20.
2. There is some light about this In the word, that helps us to know somewhat of this bliss of being with Christ where he is. There are three special ends the Spirit of God designs, in making any mention of the heavenly state and glory.
1. To disparage this world, and all things either enjoyed or expected in it; and that both as to the worldling, as Psalm xvii. 14, 15. where the portion of the ungodly in this life, and the blessedness of the righteous in that to come, are expressed. So doth our Lord compare the two states, to disparage the present, and to prefer the future, Luke xx. 31, 35, 36. and Matthew vi. 19, 20. And heaven is also spoke of, in comparison with, and preference above the best state of Christians in this world, 2 Cor. v. 1, 2. and Phil. i. 29.
2. Heaven is spoke of in the word, to invite and allure men to seek it. It is the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. And all should press towards this mark, Phil. iii. 14. They should run so as they may obtain it, 1 Cor. it. 24. as being the one thing needful, and that good part, or portion, Luke x. 42. 3. The word speaks of heaven, and the glory to come, to encourage the people of God, and heirs of glory, under all their trials and troubles in this life, If it had not been for this, the Lord might have kept the glory to come, amongst many other secret things that belong to him, Deut. xxix. 29. But he knew, that through much tribulation his people must enter into the kingdom of God, Acts xiv. 22.; and that the hope of glory was a proper and needful cordial to support their hearts in all their sorrows. And be ye assured of it, that if ever ye be in the depths of distress, (and who is secured against them?), ye will find, that nothing short of the believing views and lively hope of glory, will be able to keep you from sinking. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lard in the land of the living, said David, Psalm xxvii. 13. And they have little of Davidís spirit, that think that David had no better land of the living in his eye there, than the land of Canaan, in which he lived as a stranger, though he were the king of it. So also saith Paul of himself, and of all believers in Christ, 1 Cor. xv. 19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. For these ends the Lord speaks of heaven in the word and not to gratify the curiosity of men, but rather to check it.
3. This I would premise, that this light that shines in the word about heaven, is only a light to be seen by the eye of faith. None but a believer can know rightly what the word speaks of heaven. Unbelievers are blind, and cannot see far off, 2 Peter i. 9.; but the believer doth see afar off, Heb. xi. 13. The word is light in itself, and shines in that light, as the sun is light in itself: so that, if all the world were blind, the light of the sun would be no less in itself than it is; but it would be a light to none; for it is light to none, but to them that have eyes. Even so it is with the light of the word. It shines brightly in itself, but the blind unbeliever seeth nothing of it. He is both blind and vailed, 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
4. lastly, This I would premise, that the experience of believers in this life, is a great help to them in knowing what heaven is. Now, let us join in all these four together: There is no full and perfect knowing what heaven is, till we be in it; there is no right knowing of heaven, but in the light of the word; that light in the word can only be taken up and perceived by the eye of faith; and this faith is much strengthened by experience. If believers themselves had not somewhat of this experience and spiritual feeling, they would be much more in the dark about the glory to be enjoyed in heaven than they are.
On this head of spiritual experience, I shall not mention any great and extraordinary enjoyments which the Lord, in his grace and wisdom, is pleased in some special seasons to indulge some of his people with. But I would only speak of some ordinary ones, which lie level with the experience of all true believers, and are of great advantage to them, as in many other things, so specially to raise and keep up right and high thoughts of heaven. As,
1. The revelation of Jesus Christ. This works faith; faith, union with Christ; union works communion with him; communion is the believerís bliss. This spring of all, the revelation of Jesus Christ, is of two sorts. 1. The revealing of Jesus Christ in and by the gospel. This all that have the gospel have, and many have no more; and they all perish that have no more. 2. The revealing of Christ to the heart, by the Spirit of Christ, prayed for, Eph. i. 17. This Paul got, Gal. i. 16. He revealed his Son in me. It is certain, that a man may read oft all the New Testament, and hear the most able ministers preach Christ all his days, and yet remain ignorant of Jesus Christ, and perish. The apostle in Eph. i. 17, 18. joineth the knowledge of Christ, and the knowledge of heaven, together. He prayeth, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him: the eyes of their understanding being enlightened: that they might know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Doth heaven stand in being with Christ where he is? How is it possible that that man should know what heaven is, who knows not who Christ is? And none can know Christ, without a revelation, Matth. xi. 27. and that by the grace of the Spirit of Christ, working on the heart in and by the light of the word of Christ.
2. The experience of believing in Jesus Christ, and of living by faith on him, Gal. ii. 20. is a great help to the knowing of heaven. We know, that there is no faith of this sort in heaven. Faith is the travellerís, the runnerís looking to Jesus, while the race is not yet finished, Heb. xii. 2. But the glorified above look on, and behold him so as we cannot distinctly apprehend, 2 Cor. v. 7. For we walk by faith, not by sight. And they above walk by sight, not by faith. You may say, that since there is such a difference betwixt the two states, of faith and sight; how then can the experience of believing afford any light and help to know what heaven is? In answer to this, I would have you consider, 1. That faith, though opposed to sight, yet is it, in its exercise, a sort of spiritual seeing. So is it oft expressed, both with respect to the author of it, and the actings of it. See how it is wrought by its author, 2 Cor. iv. 6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. And as it is wrought by light, faith acts in seeing. Thus the great Old Testament believers are said by their faith to have seen the promises (i.e. the blessings promised) afar of, Heb. xi. 13. And it is a looking at things not seen, 2 Cor. iv. 18.; that is, things not presently possessed, nor fully known. Faith is indeed described in Heb. xi. 1, to be the evidence of things not seen. And that description, (rather than definition), as it doth determine what the nature of the objects of faith are, things not seen; so doth it plainly express, that the act of faith is drawn forth by an evidence of these unseen things. And this evidence and demonstration is in the word of God, which the believer seeth, is persuaded by, and rests upon. ďI know not, saith he, all the great and good things that God hath promised; but I know God hath promised them; and though they be hidden in the promise, yet because they are secured thereby, I will embrace them in the promise, until performance come.Ē As it is expressed in ver. 13. These all died in faith, (But how lived they? By faith also), not having received the promises, (i.e. in their accomplishment; but the promises themselves they had, for on them their faith stood); but having seen them afar of, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Here is an account of Old Testament believerís faith, that is enough to shame and humble most New Testament believers. If we be helped at any time to set our Amen of faith to the promise of eternal life, we think it is a good length. But, alas! when do we find this seeing afar of, this persuasion, this embracing; this confessing and declaring plainly that we seek and look for this heavenly country? as in ver. 10, 14. 2. Consider, more particularly, faith in Jesus Christ. It always, (1.) Riseth from a discovery of him. (2.) Acts in an approach to him. Hence so oft by himself faith is called coming to him, John vi. 37, 44, 45. (3.) And in that act intends and seeks eternal life in and by him. 3. Consider the native and immediate effect of faith. It is union with Christ. He draws to bring them near, they believe to be near to him. His drawing and their coming, makes it up. Is then the state of glory, in being with Christ where he is? Surely, then, such as are united to him by faith, and have him dwelling in their hearts by faith, Ephesians iii. 17. and are living daily by faith on him, Gal. ii. 20. must have a great help to know better what it is to be with Christ where he is, than any unbeliever can.
3. There is the experience of communion with Christ, that is a farther and nearer help to believers to know what it is to be with Christ where he is. When Christ is revealed, he is believed on; when he is believed on, Christ and the believer are united; when the union is made, communion follows. This communion stands in these four:ó 1st, In a mutual interest of the persons united. Communion is that whereby Christ is ours, and we are his; as Cant. ii. 16. My beloved is mine, and I am his. All that Christ is, is ours for our salvation; and all that is ours, is his for his glory and service that as Christ bath all right to dispose of us, and of all that is ours, because we are his; so we have a right to partake of Christ, and of all that is his, for our salvation, because he is ours. Communion is in the improvement of this mutual right and interest. I would name some of the blessed fruits of this interest.
(1.) By virtue of this interest, Christís righteousness is a believerís for his perfect justification, The righteousness is perfect, and so is the justification. No glorified saint was more perfectly justified, than Paul was in the day he was made a believer on Christ. If perfect righteousness be the ground on which a believing sinner is justified (as the gospel plainly declares) the justification must be perfect also. If justification be sought by the law, and by works, the seeker of justification must still be doing, and can never have done; but is indeed undoing himself, dishonouring Christ, Gal. ii, 21. and frustrating tile grace of God; and not only rendering his justification imperfect, (for the law made nothing perfect, Heb. vii. 19.) but impossible, Rom. viii. 3. It is impossible for Godís holy law to justify a sinner; and never was appointed for that end, but rather to condemn, Rom. iii. 19.; to stop sinners mouths, and to bind them over to the judgment of God; till the righteousness of God, without the law, come on them, to absolve them, Rom. iii. 20, 21, 22.
(2.) By virtue of this interest in Christ, the believer receives the Spirit of Christ for his sanctification: not indeed for his perfect sanctification, but for the perfecting of sanctification. Christís righteousness is never applied imperfectly; for to whomsoever it is imputed, it is made over wholly, and to all the intents and purposes it was wrought out, and brought in by Christ for, But the Spirit of Christ is imparted to believers, in measure, and in, various degrees, as he seeth good: Eph. iv. 7. Unto every one of us is grace given, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. By this potent principle, the Spirit of Christ, sanctification is even, at first, universal in the whole man, and complete in parts: 2 Cor. v. 17. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things are become new. He is a new man; is born again hath a new nature, a new mind, a new understanding, a new conscience, a new heart and affections, and a new life. But though all be new in the believer, there is nothing in him that is perfectly new. He needs daily to pray, as Psal. ii. 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Yet, notwithstanding of all the weakness of this new creature, the mixture and neighbourhood of the flesh, its contrary, and of all opposition it meets with from it, and of the low state it is oft brought into by the captivating power of sin; yet doth the power of Christís Spirit not only preserve the holy seed in the heart, but doth raise it up again, and will certainly perfect it. There was never a saving work of Christ wrought in the heart of a poor sinner, that Christ ever left to be matter of triumph to the devil. Christ is a wise builder; when he lays the foundation, he knows what the perfecting 0f it will cost him, is provided with it, and resolved to lay it out, and to finish his work: Phil. i. 6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform (or finish) it until the day of Jesus Christ.
(3.) By virtue of this interest in Christ, believers have all Christís fulness for their supply. He is all in all to them, Col. iii. 11. It pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell, Col. i. 19. And surely this lodging of all fulness should please, and doth highly please all believers John i. 16. And of (or out of) his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. Eph. iv. 7. Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Whence had Paul and John all their grace? Out of Christís fulness. Whence was it that they received so much grace beyond others? It was according to the measure of the gift of Christ. But the stock and treasure is common to all believers. They are partakers of Christ, Heb. iii. 14. and called to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, 1 Cor. i. 9. The apostle, in Col. ii. 8, 9, 10. giveth a needful warning, Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. But how shall we know and discern the snare? It is after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (or elements, or principles) of the world, and not after Christ. His argument to enforce this warning, is deep and strong, verse 9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the God-head bodily. It dwelleth really, substantially, in this one man, Jesus Christ. So that they do deceive you, that direct you to any for supply but to him. If ye would be filled with all the fulness of God, as Eph. iii. 19. you must seek it, and find it in him, in whom all the fulness of the God-head dwelleth bodily. And this shall not be in vain: And ye are complete in him, verse 10. Never did, never could a believer use this fulness suitably to all its worth in itself, and to the gracious right he hath to use it.
But what is there in believers that Christ hath communion with? All good is in him, and this is the believerís all; and therefore it is easy to understand what their communion with Christ is, and what his communications to them are. He clothes and covers them with his righteousness, sanctifies them by his Spirit, and supplies them out of his fulness. But is there any thing in his people that Christ hath communion with? I answer, Yes, there is; and that is all in them, that either is consistent with their union with him, or that flows from that union.
(1.) Of the first sort is all the bad that is remaining in them. For as the grace of union with, and relation to Christ, was not suspended and delayed till they were faultless; so this grace when dispensed, doth not presently remove faultiness, as it will when this union and communion is perfect, which Christ here prays for. Christís body is made up of sinful members; and they are, even while sin and infirmity cleaves to them, united to a sinless, glorious head. And it is the great glory of his grace, that he takes such members into union with himself, and maintains that union by communion with them as their need requires, till the blessed day comes that is here prayed for, when this union shall issue in that communion that shall quite remove fault and infirmity in his people. To deny that Christ hath any interest, and concern, and work about what is bad in his people, is to deny our fellowship with him, in those things wherein we are most needy of it, and most sensibly benefited by it: for our own sinfulness and infirmity is better known to us, and sensed by us, than his righteousness and perfect fulness; neither is the latter so well known to us, as by its gracious application to our relief under the former. So our sinfulness (I mean, that that remains in believers, even in the best of them) serves for magnifying his forgiving grace. He that bids us forgive our brother that sinneth against us, not only seven times, but seventy-times seven, Matth. xviii. 21, 22. doth forgive his people many more times, and many sins, even all of them, Psalm ciii. 3.; all our trespasses, Col. ii. 13. And how blessed is that communion, when the blood of sprinkling speaks peace and pardon to a troubled conscience! Our corruptions and spiritual diseases are the subjects of Christís care. And his care about them, is to cure them, and to keep his people from dying under them. The greatest care is used by tender parents, about their sick and wounded children. That man never knew the guilt of sin rightly, that thinks that any thing less, or else, than the blood of the Son of God can cleanse from it, 1 John i. 7. And that man never saw the corruption and plague of his heart rightly, that is not persuaded, that only the great Physician, Christ, can cure it. And no man, can employ him rightly for the one, and not for both. And they do but deceive themselves in their religion, whose main heart-exercise is not with Christ for both. Alas! there are many disquieted consciences, and many defiled hearts and lives, in many that are called Christians; and some of them are oft complaining, and sometimes sinking in their complainings; and that because they do not believe, and lay this truth to heart, that the cleansing and purging the conscience from the guilt of sin, and the purifying of the heart and life from the dominion of sin, are Christís proper works. The first he doth by the sprinkling of his blood, the other by the power of his Spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 11. Tit. iii. 4,-7. And all that use any other means for these ends, not only labour in vain, but in greatly against God, who hath made Christ unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that no flesh should glory in his presence; and that he that glorieth, might glory in the Lord, 1 Cor. i. 29, 30, 31.
Not only are our infirmities, sinfulness, and diseases, under the gracious care and cure of our Lord Jesus Christ; but our persons, our souls, our bodies, and all our lots and concerns, are at his disposal, to his glory and service. And every believer, in every distinct acting of faith, doth yield up himself, and all he is and hath, unto Christís dominion. ďGrant me thy salvation according to thy promise, and guide me in the way according to thy will:Ē Psal. cxix. 94. I am thine, save thou me.
(2.) Christ hath communion with his own good in them. All that is in us that is our own, is bad: and all that is good in us, is of his giving and working. All our graces, are his fruits, Cant. iv. 16. and v. 1. They are all of Christís planting, watering, and ripening. and he feeds on them as his pleasant fruit. All the spiritual services and duties that believers perform, are all of them fruit growing from their abiding in the vine, Christ, John xv. 4, 5. and are pleasing to him. And surely when it is so, the believer finds sweet profit by it: Rev. iii. 20. 1 will sup with him, and he with me. It is easy to conceive how we may feast with him, for he hath all. But how can he feast with us, who are nothing, and have nothing? He doth it two ways.
1. He feasts with his people on his own store of grace he brings with him. As David said, 1 Chron. xxix. 14. Of thine own have we given thee; so doth Christ say, ďIt is of mine own I feast with thee, O believer. All thy faith, love, repentance, service, are my gifts, my grace, that I bring with me, and am delighted in.Ē 2. Christ may be said to feast with his people, in and by that pleasure he hath, not only to give, but to see them feed on what he brings with him. Would you feast Jesus Christ, believers? Feed on him with holy hunger. Is a kind mother delighted with her hungry babeís sucking at her breasts? Is it not as a feast to a charitable man, to see a person eat heartily of the food he gives him? Much more is it a feast to our Lord, to see starving sinners feeding on the bread of life, and drinking of the water of life? Hear his voice, Cant. v. 1. I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my honey-comb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. ďIt is all mine, all of my pre paring; use it freely, feed plentifully; you are highly welcome.Ē But, alas! most Christians may give the answer that follows, ver. 2. I sleep, but my heart waketh. Christís gracious offers and invitations are heard by us, as betwixt sleeping and waking and so is it seen in the sorry entertainment we give them, and hence follows the poor life that many of us lead.
So much for the first thing in communion ó mutual interest.
2dly, This communion hath converse in it. It stands, not only in the mutual interest that each hath in another, but also in converse one with another. This is what the apostle hath in 1 John i. 3. where we have two communions or fellowships spoke of; the fellowship of Christians with one another, and the fellowship that Christians have with the Father and Son; and that this second fellowship is mutual, as hinted in ver. 7. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. They then that know best by experience, what it is to be with Christ on earth, in walking with him and in him, will know best what it is to be with him where he is. The greatest enjoyments of Christ here, are the best helps to conceive of what is to be received in heaven.
3dly, This converse breeds likeness to Christ. The nearer a man is to Christ, the more converse he hath with him; the more like he grows to Christ. Compare 2 Cor. iii. 18. with 1 John iii. 2. Paul speaks of Christians in this life, John of the same persons in the next life; and both speak of likeness to Christ, and as wrought the same way, by seeing and beholding of his glory. Perfect likeness to Christ, flows from a perfect beholding of his glory, and a begun likeness to him, from a begun beholding of his glory by faith. The apostle, in 2 Cor. iii. 7. speaks of the glory of the countenance of Moses, which was such, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold his face, which glory was to be done away. In this the apostle respects that passage in Exodus xxxiv. 29-35. It is this, that Moses, returning from the mount, after his second forty days abode there, had, by his long converse with God, a beam of heavenly glory impressed on his face. Whether it continued all his life after or not, the word is silent about it; and therefore we should not be positive. But this may safely be drawn from it, that the more near and continued that our converse with Christ on earth be, the more heavenly likeness to Christ is impressed on the soul. Hath not this been known to many, that when they had been long struggling and striving with, and bewailing of a body of death, and of strong corruptions and distempers, that rendered them unlike to Christ, and lothsome in their own eyes; if he be pleased (as oft he doth) to draw near to them, and to cause them to approach to him, as Psalm lxv. 4. how suddenly and how sweetly is likeness to Christ wrought in the soul ? True nearness to Christ, and converse with him, hath always this effect. Communion with Christ, if real, is always the life of grace, and the bane of corruption. And let all examine and judge their enjoyments, by this plain and sure test. Have you any thing that you call communion with Christ? Doth it not, in some measure, mortify your lusts, and enliven the grace of God in you? If it do not work both in you, it is not of the right sort.
4thly, This converse with Christ, and this likeness to him, breeds love and delight. It is not possible it should be otherwise. So great mercies in themselves, so great blessings to us, and so much of Godís love to us, shining in the giving of them, must raise love and delight. This is one of the fruits of communion with Christ; Cant. ii. 3. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
The tree of life, Jesus Christ, hath a refreshing shade to the weary scorched traveller; and he hath fruit for the hungry soul. Sit down under his shadow, eat of his fruit, and you must find it sweet to your taste. O taste and see that the Lord is good, Psal. xxxiv. 8. if so he ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, 1 Pet. ii. 3. See how the same apostle speaks of the communion that believers have with Christ, 1 Pet. i. 8, 9. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
So that ye may perceive, that what the Lord is pleased to afford to his people here, in communion with Christ, gives a great help to believers, to know better what it is to be with Christ where he is, than any unbeliever can; and that they who have the greatest experience of these things, have an advantage in this matter beyond ordinary believers
So much of these four things I thought fit to premise: That the glory of the heavenly state is greatly in the dark to Christians while on earth: That the only light wherein any thing of it can he known, is the light of the word: That this light of the word, is light only to the eye of faith; and, lastly, That faith is helped in this discovery, by experience.
It now follows, to speak unto this that heaven stands in, in being with Christ where he is. And this I would give in these four things: ó
1. It stands in perfect immediate presence with Christ. All the presence that Christ affords, and his people now enjoy here, is, in regard of this, but absence from the Lord.
2 Cor. v. 6, 8. Knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. I am sure, that there are few Christians, but think, that if they did but enjoy that of Christ that Paul did often, they would think it a great presence. But Paul counts, that as long as he dwelt in the body, he was but absent from, the Lord. Perfect presence is, when all on both sides is present; all of Christ, and all of the Christian. But now all of Christ is not with us; and all of us is not with him. On his parts we have Christís Spirit, word, and grace. On our part, there is present with him, our hearts, and the workings of our faith, and love, and desire towards him. But this presence is imperfect, and mixed with much distance and absence. And this sort of presence with Christ is but mediate. There are some midses, glasses, and helps, which, though useful now, will be useless one day, 1 Cor. xiii. 10, 11, 12. Yet this imperfect presence, and mediate, is more excellent in itself, and more valued by every one that hath tasted it, than the utmost that this world, and the things of it, can give to a worldling, Psal. iv. 6, 7.
2. This being with Christ where he is, hath in it perfect and full fruition and enjoyment of Christ. And here, words and thoughts shrink far below the greatness of this matter. What it is to enjoy Christ, who can tell? Believers are partakers of Christ, are in him, and he in them. Faith, when strong, grasps at him, and cleaves to him. Love, when flaming, embraces him straitly; holds him fast, and will not let him go, Cant. iii. 4. When Christís love to us burns and shines, and our love to him is kindled thereby, how sweet is this enjoyment! But all this is far short of what shall be enjoyed, when we shall be with him where he is. The difference is far greater betwixt these two, than there is betwixt the loving husband and the beloved wife, entertaining correspondence by letters to one another, in different and far distant countries. Thereby they communicate their heart, and love, and mind to one another. And this is very comfortable; especially when this intercourse may be speedy, and in an instant, as it is betwixt Christ and believers: Isa. lxv. 24. And it shall come to pass, (and blessed be he that this often comes to pass), that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. There is no length of time required to carry the believerís mind to Christ in heaven; and as speedily can he send his mind to them again. But this is far short of the comfort of seeing face to face.
3. This presence, this enjoyment, is in the best state and place. It is where he is. And surely our Lord is well lodged above. All the presence we have with, and enjoyment we have of Christ, is not where he is, but where we are. And here we are on the dunghill of this earth; having sin cleaving to us to provoke him, and misery on us to grieve us. Hence it is both amazing grace in him to grant any thing of his presence and fellowship to us; and hence all that we enjoy of it, is attended with manifold imperfections, inseparable from our state while we are where we are, and not to be removed from us till we are where he is.
4. This is to be for ever. The greatest blessing hath the longest duration; if duration were a proper word to be used of eternity, which is justly called a perpetual now. Christís presence now where we are, is a choice blessing. Unbelievers would fain have it, when they are without it; and would lain have more of it, when they have a little of it; and when they have much of it, they would fain keep it. But they cannot always have his presence when they would; nor can they always keep it, when they have got it. It may please him to awake and leave them, Cant. iii.. 5. and viii. 4. even when they are best pleased with his company. And even then he is our beloved, and his love to us the same, when standing behind our wall, when looking forth at the window, shewing himself (or flourishing) through the lattice; as when his left hand is under our head, and his right hand doth embrace us, Cant. ii. 6, 9. Christís sweetest visits to his people where they are, are often imbittered (to say so) with the thoughts and fears of his withdrawing. ďNow, saith the believer, I have a clear sky; but how soon may the weather change, and clouds return again!Ē But in the state of glory above, when we shall be with him where he is, no fears, no ground, or suspicion of any such thing, shall ever enter into the heart of any of the glorified. The state of grace is a sure state, of Godís making. No vessel of grace and mercy shall ever be emptied of it. But it is not a sure state to every believerís thinking; for fears of miscarrying may be, where no real danger is. But the state of glory is not only sure and unchangeable, as it is of Godís gracious making, but it is so as to every glorified personís thinking, No pillars in the upper house can shake, Rev. iii. 12. Pillars in the lower house may shake, but never are removed. But in heaven, there is no danger, no fear, nor any cause of either, to eternity! We shall be ever with the Lord, 1 Thess. iv. 17.
APPLICATION. 1. See how great Christís interest is in our salvation; how justly he is called our Saviour. He hath bought and redeemed the kingdom for the heirs, and the heirs for the kingdom. He as slain is made the way to it, Heb. x. 19, 20. He is the guide to heaven, and Captain of our salvation, Heb. ii. 10. He wills it to them in his testament, Luke xxii. 29.; welcomes them to heaven, when he calls, them by death, Acts vii. 59.; and he, as fully enjoyed, is heaven itself.
2. Wonder not at this, that few are saved. From this doctrine you may see the causes thereof. We find Christ teaching this doctrine of the fewness of the saved, in Matth. xix. 23, 26. Mark x. 23,-27. and Luke xviii. 24,-27. It is thrice recorded, and on the same occasion, and with the same sense of it in his disciples. The occasion of Christís teaching it, was the great zeal of a young rich man, in asking of our Lord the way to heaven, and his sudden recoiling when Christ touched his idol. On this occasion Christ teacheth, How hardly shall they, that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God! His disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them, that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God! Mark x. 23, 24. Upon Christís repeating and explaining his words, it is said, ver. 26. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? Why were they so astonished, and exceedingly amazed? as it is said in Matth. xix. 25. Were there not many poor people, that had no riches, nor any temptation to trust in them, (and such the disciples themselves were), who might be saved? Their amazement seems to have its rise from this, that if one snare, as that of riches, did so endanger a manís salvation, what greater danger were all men exposed unto, by manifold temptations, and disorders of their hearts? But as to the doctrine before us, that being with Christ where he is, in heaven, I may justly confirm from it what Christ taught, that few shall be saved. For few know what it is, nor the way to it, and indeed no natural man can know what they are. When our Lord is again preaching this doctrine, in that noted place, Matth. vii. 13, 14. he saith, Enter ye in at the strait gates for wide is the gale, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. According to the frame of menís spirits, they frame thoughts of heaven, and of the way to it. The Turks paradise is brutish; the Popish paradise is little better. The natural philosophers conceptions of heaven are more manly, though carnal. Only a true Christian can have a right thought of heaven; because he knows Jesus Christ, and communion with him. Christ himself is the way to heaven, as he is a slain Redeemer; and Christ himself is heaven itself, as he is a glorified, enjoyed Redeemer. All this is unintelligible and incredible to every natural man. Can ever that man count it blessedness to be with Christ above, who counts it a piece of misery to be in his company on earth? And is it possible that such can be saved, that neither know what heaven is, nor the way to it, and do dislike and hate both the way and the end, as revealed in the word, and as impressed on the hearts of all the godly in all ages?
3. Lastly, Would you secure heaven to yourselves? See to get into Christ by faith; seek acquaintance with him, press after communion with him. Let all your thoughts of heaven, all your care to secure your possessing of it, and all your exercise in pressing towards it, let all center in this one person, Jesus Christ. Alas! how many poor Christians are there, who go aukwardly to work about salvation? how poorly they fare? how sorrowfully they live? and how many of them die in darkness? and all because they mind not Christ rightly, as the way, the truth, and the life. They do attend on all the ordinances of the gospel; they would fain be in heaven; they often muse and think on it; and wonder at the greatness of the prize; and sometimes have some good hope, through grace, that they shall possess it. But with many these are but like the morning-cloud and the early dew; and their doubts and darkness return upon them; because they do not remember Jesus Christ, and live by faith on him, as the only way to heaven, and as he enjoyed is the Christianís heaven, and as he brings all the sons to glory. You need no more to secure your right to eternal life, than to be possessed of Christ by faith; and you need no better eternal life, than to be with Christ where he is. He himself describes it by this, that they may be with me where I am. And surely Christ best knows what heaven is; since he bought it, prepared it, and possessed it, for his people. And he knows the way to it for he is both the way and the guide to it. Hear his voice, therefore, and follow him, and he will give you eternal life; and ye shall never perish, neither shall any man (or devil, or thing) pluck you out of his hand, John x. 27, 28, 29. Rom. viii 35,-39.
Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint ó Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ĎPentland Rebelí he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).
Traillís literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford's Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owenís successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.
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