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PREACHED AT ST. LAWRENCE JEWRY, JUNE THE 17th, 1690.
FROM REV. xxii. 14.
BLESSED ARE THEY THAT DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, THAT THEY
MAY HAVE RIGHT TO THE TREE OF LIFE, AND MAY ENTER
THROUGH THE GATES INTO THE CITY, These words, which I have now, read, consist of these Two parts:
A Proposition: They, that do God's commandments, are
blessed. Here is the Proof of this proposition: They have a right
to the Tree of Life, and shall enter through the gates
into the city. It is the connection of both these together, which I intend chiefly to speak unto.
I. Give me leave, as a preliminary to the ensuing discourse, to shew you what is contained in the first and great word in my text; and that is the word BLESSED.
There is therefore a Twofold Beatitude or Blessedness. The one is perfect and consummate;, the other, initial and incomplete.
i. The FORMER . is the complection of all good, perfective of our natures; and our entire and satisfying enjoyment of it. This blessedness is only attainable in heaven : for God alone is the centre of all good; and all the good, which is desirable in this world, is but as so many lines drawn from the centre, to the utmost circumference of the creation. There is nothing, that can supply the wants, perform the hopes, fulfil the desires,
without confinement circumscribe, without cloying satisfy the most enlarged capacities of a rational soul, but only that God, who is infinitely, universally, and indefectively good'; and therefore he alone is our objective happiness. And our formal happiness is our relation to and union with this all-comprehensive and incomprehensible good; our assimilation to him, and participation from him of all those perfections, which our natures are capable of enjoying, but which our understandings not now capable of knowing. But this consummate blessedness is reserved for our unknown reward hereafter, and is not that, which my text here speaks of.
ii. There is, therefore, an IMPERFECT and INITIAL BLESSEDNESS, which consists in a preparation for and a tendency unto the other. As those are said to be accursed, whose sins and vices prepare them for eternal perdition; so those, likewise, are said to be blessed, whose grace and holiness prepare them for eternal bliss and happiness.)
Now such as these are blessed in a Fourfold respect. '1. They are blessed in Semine. :." in the Seed.?. Í
They go forth bearing precious seed, and shall doubtless rejoice in a plentiful harvest. 'So the Psalmist tells us, iPs. xcvii. 11. Light' is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart : and though they often appear clods of earth, ploughed up, harrowed, and broken with affliction; yet is there that blessed seed cast into them, which will certainly sprout up to immortality and eternal life: as all the beauties of a flower lie couched in a small, unsightly seedor Andi so, truly, grace is glory in the seed; and glory is bat grace full blown...
2. They are blessed in Primitiis :1" in the First-Fruits."
They have already received some part of their eternal felicity, in the graces and consolations of the Holy Ghost; which are therefore called the first-fruits of the Spirit, by the Apostle, Rom. viii. 23. and the earnest of the Spirit, 2 Cor. i. 22. and the earnest of iour inheritance, Eph. i. 14. Now, as the earnest is always part of the bargain, and the first-fruits are always of the same kind with the whole harvest, so is it here: the graces and comforts of the Holy Ghost are the very same now, that they shall be in heaven itself. And therefore the Apostle blésseth God, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ. Eph. i. 3. Better, indeed, they shall be in
heaven, but not other: here, our graces often languish under the load and pressure of corruption; but, in heaven, they shall be for ever vigorous and triumphant: here, our waters of comfort often fail us, our cistern is often dried up and our bottle spent; but, in heaven, we shall for ever lie at the fountain of living waters, and take in divine communications as they immediately flow from the divine essence, without having them deadened or flatted in the conveyance. But, yet, both by these imperfect graces and comforts, we do truly and properly enjoy God: the enjoyment of whom, in any measure, is happiness ; but, in the highest measure, is heaven itself. If, therefore, the mass and lump be blessedness, the first-fruits must be blessed also.
3. They are blessed in Spe : “ in Hope.”
Whence it is called by the Apostle, that blessed hope : Titus ii. 13; a blessed hope it is, because that, which we hope for, is eternal blessedness. The hope of worldly things is commonly more tormenting, than the enjoyment of them can be satisfying: it is a hope, which vitiates and deflowers its objects; and so mightily overrates them in the fancy, that, when they come to pass, our hope is rather frustrated than accomplished : and, were it not for that impatience which is the constant attendant of this hope, it would be a problem hard to be resolved, whether expectation or fruition were the more eligible estate: vain, therefore, and wretched must needs be the hopes of those things, which cannot answer what is expected from them; like a golden dream to a beggar, or the dream of a furnished table to one that is hunger-starved. But, the hopes of heaven can never impoverish the glories of it: for they are infinite and inexhaustible; and God hath laid up for his, that, which the heart of man cannot conceive.
A Christian's hope hath Two prerogatives above any worldly hope.
(1) One is, that it may attain to a full and final assurance.
As the Apostle speaks to the Hebrews; Heb. vi. 11. where he calls it, the full assurance of hope unto the end. A hope it is, because the object of it is a future good, desired and expected. But yet it is a hope, that is joined with a full assurance of the event: a hope, that may flower up into such a certainty, as to have no mixture of fear or doubting in its composition; but may be as sure of the heavenly inheritance, as if our reversion
were already in actual possession. Whereas worldly hope can never be secure, but some providence or other may interpose to disappoint it.
(2) The other prerogative of a Christian's hope, is, that though it be thus fully assured, yet the accomplishment of it shall always have the sweet relish of surprise and wonder.
For the happiness will be far greater than the hope, and the inheritance larger than the expectation ; whereas earthly hopes, if they grow to any. degree of confidence of success, upon frustration they turn into impatience and rage. Or if perhaps they do succeed, the sweetness of the accomplishment was long before sucked out and devoured by our greedy expectation: the game is torne and eaten, before the huntsman can come in.
And, upon both these accounts, the pious and obedient Christian is blessed in hope. It is a blessed hope, that shall certainly be accomplished: and a blessed hope, the accomplishing of which shall infinitely exceed our expectations; and fill us, not with shame, but with eternal admiration and wonder.
4. They are blessed in Right and Title.
And, upon this very account, especially, my text pronounceth those blessed, that do God's commandments, because they have a right to the Tree of Life, and to enter in through the gates into
II. Now these expressions, according to the genius and style of this whole book, are mystical and allusive: and, for the explaining of them, I must shew,
What the Tree of Life is..
ments gives us to the Tree of Life, and to enter into
i. For the first of these, what this TREE of LIFE is.
I answer: We find inention made of this Tree of Life in two other places of this dark prophecy.
The one is in ver. 2. of this chapter: On either side of the river, was there the Tree of Life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. But this, very probably, may be only an enigmatical representation of the doctrine of the Gospel
Let us then consult the other place, where mention is made of this Tree of Life: and that is in Rev. ii. 7. To him, that overcometh, will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Now this carries a plain allusion to that description of the earthly paradise, of which we read, Gen. ii. 9. where it is said, God planted the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden. Now this Tree of Life was so called, not that it had any natural virtue to perpetuate man's life to immortality, but only from its typical and sacramental use; God having appointed the eating thereof as a sign and pledge of our immortality, had we continued in our innocency and obedience. And therefore we find, that, upon the fall, God set a guard upon this tree; and, as it were, excommunicates sinful Adam from partaking of this Sacrament of the Covenant of Works, which was both a sign and seal of immortality ; signifying thereby, that sinners have no right to eternal life, according to the terms of the first covenant. But this right being again restored to us by Jesus Christ, therefore they are pronounced blessed that do God's commandments, because they have a right to the Tree of Life: that is, to that eternal life and immortality, which is brought to light by the Gospel, and to which the Tree of Life in paradise was a sacrament and emblem.
ii. Let us enquire what is this city, into which those, who do God's commandments, shall enter.
And we have a most large and glorious description made of it in chap. xxi. of this book, from v. 10. to the end of the chapter. And, in brief, it is nothing else but Heaven; the New Jerusalem, that holy city, the city of the Living God, into which no unclean thing shall enter. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers....and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie : chap. xxii. 15.
iii. What is it TO ENTER THROUGH THE GATES INTO THIS CITY.
I answer: Though, in the foregoing chapter, this city is described to have twelve gates, and in them the names of the twelve tribes of.... Israel; to signify to us, that, through the grace of the Gospel, there is a passage and an inlet into heaven for all those who are true Israelites; yet, in true propriety of speech, there is but one way and but one gate to heaven. Yea, and