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cilably angry with sinners, it is with such only as nave for a long time been irreclaimable, and quite thrown off Christ's yoke and his burden, and persisted obstinately in their impieties, notwithstanding all methods taken to reform them; and rejected all overtures of reconciliation, and refused to repent, and gloried in their shame; and such as these have made themselves incapable of mercy. And that which we are to conclude from such a case is only this, that God is just as well as merciful, and will not save us whether we will or no, but sometimes gives men over to a reprobate sense, when, for many years, they have given themselves over to all manner of wickedness. And this dreadful condition of those that thus sin with a high hand, should be a powerful motive to us to return to our obedience to God while it is called to-day; to make use of the opportunity of grace and favour while it lasts, that it may not be said of us, as our Lord said of unrepenting Jerusalem, How often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! but now your house is left unto you desolate. O that ye had known in your day the things that belonged to your peace ! but now they are hid from your eyes. But, in the
Last place, our Lord's yoke is easy, and his burden light, by reason of the invaluable rewards that are proposed to such as shall sincerely take it upon them and submit to it; such as the kingdom of heaven—a crown of glory that fadeth not away, eternal in the heavens—everlasting life; and, which includes all the rest, and all that is possible of happiness, the clear and intimate vision and enjoyment of God; which are often in scripture proposed as the reward of the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
And such rewards they are, as answer to the strongest desires of mankind : crowns and kingdoms are things of highest estimation with us; riches and honour and greatness we thirst after insatiably; and though but few can be princes, yet every man is for enlarging his possessions still more and more, and arriving as near to principality as is possible; and those that have attained that height are the envy of every body else, as the only happy persons in the world. And this, notwithstanding those numerous cares and troubles which we all know do constantly attend even the happiest princes here below, and make them often wish (as some have openly declared) to change conditions with their meaner subjects. And as for life, as miserable as it is, it is valued as the most precious jewel of all; we never think it long enough, and would give every thing else to preserve it, when in danger, and dread the loss of it above all things.
Now to these most general and strongest desires of mankind, our Lord proposes suitable objects, and those raised to the highest degree of perfection; as motives to incline us to embrace sincerely his most excellent religion.
Since we are so fond of crowns and kingdoms, he who is faithful and true, and the great Lord of all things, hath promised both, as the reward of our faithful obedience to him. A kingdom infinitely greater and richer and happier, a crown infinitely more glorious and resplendent, than all the kingdoms and glories of this world amassed together; to all whose pomp and grandeur death will quickly put an end : and it is not seldom that such strange, sudden turns of fortune happen, that he who lately was a great and powerful prince, lives to see himself deprived of all, and thrown down to imprisonment, contempt, and poverty.
But the kingdom which is promised us by our Saviour is removed out of all reach of such contingencies; it is in the highest heaven, the region of perfect happiness and tranquillity ; where there is no possibility of any the least misery or misfortune, where no troubles or disturbances can enter, but every thing will fully answer to our utmost wishes. The crown that will there be placed upon our heads will never totter or sit uneasy, but be for ever glorious and sure and steady; death, which is the period of all this world's glory, shall never have admittance into that blissful state, for the righteous shall go into life everlasting ; life, in the most genuine and proper sense; that is, the most perfect happiness and peace shall be the portion of those blessed souls, and that without the least allay or interruption, to eternal ages.
So that, are we ambitious and thirst after greatness, here we may have it, and upon most reasonable terms too; and do we love life, and would fain see many happy days, why here is perfect felicity to be had, and that without end.
As for the difficulties which we may expect to meet with before all this can be attained, we find, by daily experience, that for earthly crowns and dominions men grapple resolutely, and cheerfully too, with the greatest hardships; and attempt the most difficult and dangerous enterprises, when they have a prospect of advancing themselves to any pitch of
worldly wealth and greatness. They sacrifice their ease and quiet, and hazard their very lives too, in pursuit of their ambitious designs; and all for what is no better than a short-lived vanity, plentifully dashed with gall and wormwood. With how much greater reason therefore should a kingdom so infinitely more glorious and peaceful and durable, as that of heaven is, and which is not near so difficult to be attained neither, make whatever we obliged to do in order to it seem tolerable and easy, in prospect of such a recompense of reward ; for, though we cannot describe the particular nature of that kingdom, yet we are sure it will infinitely exceed our highest notions of it, and the most glorious ideas that we have of kingdoms here.
And as for life, since no conditions, almost, are unacceptable in order to protract it, when in danger of being lost, and even slavery is looked upon as eligible, when we must choose that or death; and in desperate cases we are willing to undergo the most exquisite pain and torture, and consent to part with the most useful members of our bodies to preserve the whole, and thank and reward those that put us to that torment; certainly the hopes of life eternal, without the least mixture of disease or pain of any
kind whatever, should, in all reason, be sufficient to render that yoke easy and that burden light, the submitting to which will assuredly instate us in an endless enjoyment of it.
As for a clear and intimate sight and fruition of God, which is likewise proposed as the reward of true Christianity, that includes whatever can possibly be imagined of bliss and happiness, nay, infinitely more than can now enter into our narrow
hearts to conceive; and carries with it all that can any ways win upon a rational creature. For God is the fountain of being and perfection, and all that is charming and desirable in nature is derived from him: he is the first and chiefest excellence; from him every good thing has received its goodness, and every lovely thing its beauty; and therefore he himself must be the chiefest good, and most lovely and desirable of all things; and consequently the expectation of seeing and enjoying him for ever must needs recommend and sweeten the servitude, and alleviate the burden of that religion, were it far greater than really it is, which will certainly bring us to such inexpressible happiness as this.
As for what may be objected, concerning these great rewards, that they are far distant and unseen, and we must die before we can receive them; their distance may be much less than we think for ; there is only a frail, uncertain life between, which innumerable unexpected accidents may put a speedy end to, and let us into eternity, and give us possession of that glorious reversion, ere many hours more pass over our heads. However, were those rewards much further off than they are, since God, who cannot falsify his word, hath promised them, let us but take care to perform the conditions required on our part, and they will be as certainly ours at last as if we enjoyed them now. And if it is no new thing for men to put themselves to much present trouble and expense for good reversions even in this world of uncertainty, much more reasonable is it for us to do and suffer, and part with any thing, how dear and precious soever, for the kingdom of heaven ;