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tures place no interval between the dissolution of a saint and his glorification: they speak of the saints that are dead, as already with the Lord; and the wicked that are dead, as already in hell, calling them spirits in prison, 1 Pet. 3: 19, 20; assuring us that Judas went presently to his own place. Acts, 1:25. And to that sense is the parable of Dives and Lazarus. Luke, 16:22.
But let us weigh these four things more particularly, for our full satisfaction in this point:
1. Why should the happiness of believers be deferred, since they are immediately capable of enjoying it, as soon as separated from the body? Alas, the soul is so far from being assisted in the enjoyment of God by the body, in its present state, that it is clogged or hindered by it so speaks the apostle, 2 Cor. 5: 6, 8; "Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord;" that is, our bodies prejudice our souls, obstruct and hinder the fulness and freedom of their communion. When we part from the body, we go home to the Lord; then the soul is escaped as a bird out of a cage or snare. Here I am anticipated by an excellent pen, (Shaw's Farewell to Life,) to whose excellent observations on this point I only add this; that if the entan glements, snares, and prejudices of the soul are such in its embodied state, that it cannot so freely dilate itself and receive the comforts of God by communion with him; then surely the laying aside of that clog, or the freeing of the soul from that burden, can be no bar to the greater happiness it enjoys in its separate
2. Why should the happiness and glory of the soul be deferred, unless God has some farther preparative work to do upon it, before it be fit to be admitted into glory? But surely there is no such work wrought upon it after its separation by death: all that is done in the work of preparation is done here. The day is then ended, and
night comes, when no man can work. John, 9:3, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no wisdom, nor knowledge, nor device in the grave, whither thou goest." Eccles. 9: 10. So that our glorification is not deferred, in order to our fuller preparation for glory. If we are not fit when we die, we can never be fit: all is done upon us that ever was intended to be done; for departed saints are called "the spirits of the just made perfect." Heb. 12: 23.
3. Again, Why should our salvation slumber, when the damnation of the wicked slumbers not? God defers not their misery, and surely he will not defer our glory. If he be quick with his enemies, he will not be slow and dilatory with his friends. It cannot be imagined but he is as much inclined to acts of favor to his children, as to acts of justice to his enemies. See Jude, ver. 7; Acts, 1:25; 1 Pet. 3: 19, 20.
4. How do such delays accord with Christ's ardent desires to have his people with him where he is, and with the vehement longings of their souls to be with Christ? You may see those reflected flames of love between the Bridegroom and his spouse in Rev. 22: 17, 20. They long for his coming; and the expectation and faith in which the saints die, is then to be satisfied; and surely God will not deceive them. I deny not but their glory will be more complete when the body, their absent friend, is re-united, and made to share with them in their happiness; yet that hinders not, but meanwhile the soul may enjoy its glory, whilst the body sleeps in the dust.
INFERENCE 1. Are believers immediately with God after their dissolution? Then how surprisingly glorious will heaven be to believers! Not that they are in it before they think of it, or are fitted for it; no, they have spent many thoughts upon it before, and been long preparing for it; but the suddenness and greatness of the
change is amazing to our thoughts. For a soul to be now here in the body, conversing with men, living among sensible objects, and within a few moments to be with the Lord; this hour on earth, the next in the third heaven; now viewing this world, and anon standing among an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect: Oh what a change is this! To live as angels of God! To live without eating, drinking, sleeping! To be lifted up from a bed of sickness to a throne of glory! To leave a sinful, troublesome world, a sick and pained body, and be in a moment perfectly cured, and feel thyself perfectly well, and free from all infirmity and sorrow! You cannot think what this will be! Who can tell what sights, what apprehensions, what thoughts, what frames believing souls have, before the bodies they left are removed from the eyes of their dear surviving friends!
2. Are believers immediately with God after their dissolution? Where then shall unbelievers be, and in what state will they find themselves immediately after death hath closed their eyes? To be torn from the body, from friends and comforts, and thrust into endless misery into the dark vault of hell; never more to see the light of this world; never to see a comfortable sight; never to hear a joyful sound; never to know the meaning of rest, peace, or delight any more: Oh what a change! To exchange the smiles and applause of men, for the frowns and fury of God; to be clothed with flames, and drink Divine wrath, when but a few days before they were clothed in silks, and filled with earthly pleasure! How is the state of things altered with them! It was the lamentable cry of poor Adrian, when he felt death approaching: "Oh my poor wandering soul! alas! whither art thou going! Where must thou lodge this night! Thou shalt never jest more, never be merry more!" Your term in your houses and bodies is out, and there
397 is another habitation provided for you; but it is a dis mal one! When a saint dies, heaven above is as it were moved to receive and entertain him; at his coming, he is received into everlasting habitations, into the inheritance of the saints in light. When an unbeliever dies, we may say of him, "Hell from beneath is moved for him, to meet him at his coming; it stirreth up the dead for him." Isa. 14: 9. No more sports, nor plays, nor cups of wine, nor sensual delight; the more of these you enjoyed here, the more intolerable will this change be to you. If saints are immediately with God, others are immediately with Satan.
3. How little cause have they to fear death, who shall be with God so soon after their death! Some there are that tremble at the thoughts of death; that cannot endure to hear it mentioned; that would rather stoop to any misery here, yea, to any sin, than die, because they are afraid of the exchange. But you that are interested in Christ can lose nothing by the exchange: the words death, grave, and eternity, should have another kind of sound in your ears, and make contrary impressions upon your hearts. If your earthly tabernacle be broken up, you shall not be found naked; you have "a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ;" and it is but a step out of this into that. Oh what sweet and happy thoughts should you have of that great and last change! But what speak I of your fearlessness of death? Your duty lies much higher than that; for,
4. If believers are immediately with God after their dissolution, then it is their duty to long for that dissolution, and cast many an anxious look towards heaven. So did Paul, "I desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better." The advantages of this exchange are unspeakable: you have gold for brass; wine for water; substance for shadow; solid glory for very va
nity Oh! if the dust of this earth were but once blown out of your eyes, that you might see the Divine glory, how weary would you be to live, how willing to die! But then be sure that your title is sound and good: leave not so great a concern to the last; for, though God may do for you in an hour, what was not done all your days, yet it is not common.
Proposition 3. God may, though he seldom dcth, prepare men for glory immediately before their dissolution by death.
There is one parable, and no more, that speaks of some that were called at the last hour. Matt. 20:9, 10. And there is this one instance in the text, and no more, that gives us an account of a person so called. We acknowledge God may do it, his grace is his own, he may dispense it how and where he pleaseth. Who shall fix bounds or put limits to free grace, but God himself, whose it is? If he do not ordinarily show such mercy to dying sinners (as indeed he doth not) it is not be. cause their hearts are so hardened by long custom ia sin that his grace cannot break them, but because he most justly withholds that grace from them. When blessed Mr. Bilney, the martyr, heard a minister preaching thus: "Oh, thou old sinner, thou hast lain these fifty years rotting in thy sin, dost thou think now to be saved? that the blood of Christ shall save thee?" O, said Mr. Bilney, what preaching of Christ is this! If I had heard no other preaching than this, what had become of me? No, no, old sinners or young sinners, great or small sinners, are not to be beaten off from Christ, but encouraged to repentance and faith; for who knows but the bowels of mercy may yearn at last upon one that hath all along rejected it? This thief, a few hours before he died, was as unlikely ever to receive mercy as any person in the world could be.