the Truest Ground of Joy
LUKE 10.20.In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you: but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.OUR Lord Christ, here in the text, calls off his disciples from rejoicing much in that which yet was as lawful and likely a cause of rejoicing as any, namely, victory over infernal spirits, and success against the powers of darkness; to fix their joy upon a good infinitely to be preferred to that, and desired before it, and that is, a name written in heaven. "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you: but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
In the words you have,
A prohibition, and an exhortation.
Somewhat from which they are dehorted; somewhat to which they are invited.
That from which they are dehorted is, rejoicing in their success over infernal spirits; "Rejoice not in this, that the spirits are subject to you."
That to which they are invited is, to rejoice in a mercy of a much nobler nature, and that is, their share and interest in the glory and blessedness above; "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
I shall begin with the prohibition, and speak a little to that; "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you."
This doth clearly imply, that this casting out of devils, by the power of the disciples' ministry, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, was matter of great joy to them; and one would think, if any thing in the world could justify the running out of their joy below God, this casting out of devils might. For,
First, To free them from the danger of spiritual pride, which is very apt to insinuate itself into our rejoicing: the success of duty is too too apt to puff up and swell us beyond our proportions. The prosperity of the creature in its attempts, becomes a temptation "to sacrifice to its own net, and burn incense to its own drag." [Hab. 1.16.] When spiritual pride mixeth itself with our joy in God, we take from him more than we give to him; we rob him of his glory, whilst we rejoice in his mercy.
- It was a great and miraculous gift of Jesus Christ.
- It was a gift foretold by the prophets, as reserved for gospel times.
- It was a victory over the most potent enemy, that laughs to scorn all human power, a stronger than he must come and bind him.
- It was a victory very conducing to the honour of the Lord Christ, that his naked disciples, in his name alone, could make the powers of hell submit and stoop; so that certainly here was, in the success of this service, sufficient cause of joy to the disciples; and yet saith our Lord Christ to them, "Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not." It is not an absolute prohibition, but rather we may call it a cautionary limitation, Rejoice not so much in this; though it was a true ground of joy, yet the Lord Christ takes them off from it by raising their hearts above it, to a higher and nobler cause of joy; and that for a two-fold end.
Therefore the Lord Christ takes them off from this to a higher object; The devils are subject to you, it is true; the power of the gospel in your mouths and ministry, hath cast Satan like lightning from heaven, it is true; and I know that your hearts are filled with joy; for so it is said in the seventeenth verse, "They returned again with joy:" well, saith the Lord Christ, "notwithstanding, in this rejoice not:" why should your affections be terminated in these things, when you have a nobler object for your joy to dilate itself upon, and that is, the electing love of God, your portion in the eternal mansions?
Your joy in the subduing infernal spirits may be your snare; whilst they are subject to you one way, spiritual pride may subject you to them another; and so, though you conquer, yet they will overcome; "therefore in this rejoice not."
Secondly, To teach us that no external mercy should terminate the delight of our souls, but that we should use all outward benefits as a ladder whereby to ascend to God in our affections.
The way to allay and moderate the joy of the soul, in common and present mercies, is to realize the things of the invisible world, and let out our hearts much to the glories above. The design of Christ and the gospel is to spiritualize the Christian's joy, and place it upon the chiefest good; "therefore in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you."
Question. But you will say, Why should we not?
Answer. I will give you a three-fold reason for it.
Reason 1. Because this gift may be vested where the love of God is not enjoyed; Matt. 7.22,23, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Many may cast out devils in the name of Christ, and yet after all be cast out themselves by Christ. Judas was once of them that cast out devils, and yet Judas was cast out himself.
That enjoyment, whatever it be (be it gifts, be it relations, be it honours) which may be separated from the love of God in Christ, can be no true ground of rejoicing. Therefore what our Lord Christ saith of casting out of devils, I may (upon a parity or superiority of reason) say of all things below, which we place our contentment in, and look upon as matter of joy; "notwithstanding, in this rejoice not."
Reason 2. It is a vanity to rejoice much in any thing which we cannot rejoice in long. What the apostle saith, 1 Cor. 13.8, "Prophecies shall fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish away;" the same I may say of all common and sublunary mercies and comforts, they shall fail and vanish: "The fashion of this world passeth away," 1 Cor. 7.31.
What pleasure can that man take in his expedition, whose voyage is for a year, and his victual but for a day? who sets out for eternity with the pleasures and contents of nothing but mortality? therefore though you may have all that heart can wish of the comfort and prosperity of this world, yet "notwithstanding, in this rejoice not."
Reason 3. Why should we rejoice much in that which cannot rescue us out of the hands of eternal misery? None of these things we glory in can: they are poor lying delights, which, like Jordan, empty all their sweetness into a stinking and sulphurous lake.
When I see the rich man in the parable "clothed with purple, and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day," Luke 16.19, methinks I could wish my lot might lie at his table, rather than with an ulcerous Lazarus "begging for crumbs at his door;" but when I look again, and find him paying his reckoning in tormenting flames, who would have his pomp and glory at this price? He buyeth his pleasures too dear, who pays for them with the loss of his soul.
May we have all the comforts that this world can afford, and yet die comfortless? may we be rejoicing in our relations today, and yet shut out of all relation to God tomorrow? then whatever we possess of the comforts of this world, yet "notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
And this brings me to the Exhortation, in which the true ground of a Christian's joy is propounded, and preferred before all other: "rejoice not in this, &c., but rather in that, that your names are written in heaven." Joy in this mercy is not absolutely prohibited, but a higher joy is preferred; an interest in heaven is another-guise mercy than casting out devils on earth; and therefore rejoice much more in this than that.
The expression is in manner of speech much like that of our Lord Christ, in John 6. 27, "Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life;" that is labour not so much for this or for that, or rather for that than this.
Let us a little consider the expression, "Rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
The Lord Christ might have said, Rejoice in your discipleship to me, that I have called you out of the world; when "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called," 1 Cor. 1.26.
Rejoice that ye have followed me in the regeneration, and that ye are become new creatures, when "the whole world lieth in wickedness," 1 John 5. 19.
Rejoice that ye are enlightened in the mysteries of the gospel, when "they are hid from the wise and prudent," Matt. 11.25. But if Christ had fixed their joy in any of these, then the fountain and cause of all had been hid, and therefore our Lord Christ leads them to the fountain from whence all these privileges are derived, and that is, the electing love of God; this being the cause of all future good to the creature.
Are ye called out of the world? It is "because your names are written in heaven."
Are ye begotten of God, and born again? It is "because your names are written in heaven."
Are you taken into membership with Christ, and thereby become the sons and daughters of God? It is "because your names are written in heaven."
Have you the earnest of your inheritance in the sealings of the spirit upon your hearts? It is "because your names are written in heaven."
Can ye subdue corruptions within, and resist temptations without? are the devils subject to you? It is "because your names are written in heaven. Therefore rejoice not so much because the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Query. But what is meant by having "our names written in heaven?" how must we understand this?
Answer. The name is in scripture phrase frequently put for the person: Acts 1.15, "The number of the names together were about a hundred and twenty;" that is, the number of the persons. Rev. 3.4, "Thou hast a few names in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments;" a few names, that is, a few saints in Sardis.
So that we are not to understand it as if God did literally write down the names of men; but the expression is to show us what a peculiar and distinct knowledge God hath of persons in the world.
When our names are said to be written in heaven, it is a way of speaking borrowed from the customs of men whose names are registered and enrolled in some public records, to keep in memory and assure them of their freedom and privilege in that corporation.
The apostle, in Phil. 4.3, speaks of names written in the book of life; "whose names are in the book of life." And in Rev. 13.8, you read of names written in the book of the Lamb; "All that dwell upon earth shall worship the beast, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And here in the text you read of "a name written in heaven."
They that have an interest in the electing love of God, that are his chosen ones, their names are written "in the book of life." But these lying in a fallen state with the rest of the lost world, must be redeemed with the blood of Christ, and when they come to share in the redeeming love of Christ, then they may be said to have their "names written in the book of the Lamb."
And when the Spirit of grace hath changed and sanctified them, and given them a right to eternal life, then their "names may be said to be written in heaven."
If ye share in the electing love of God, ye shall also share in the redeeming grace of Christ; and if ye are redeemed by Christ, ye shall share in the renewing and sanctifying work of the Spirit.
If your name be written in the book of life, it shall be written in the book of the Lamb; and if it be in the book of the Lamb, it shall be written in heaven; and if it be written there, then "rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
But I conceive that all these various phrases of the Holy Ghost signify one and the same thing, to be written "in the book of life, and in the book of the Lamb," is all one in sense with this phrase before us in the text, of "having our names written in heaven."
Now the writing our names in heaven imports and implies three things.
1st, The foreknowledge of God: The names of believers are said "to be written in heaven," because they are as certainly and as distinctly known to God, as if their names were written and recorded there.
God is said "not to know the wicked," Matt. 7.23; but he "knoweth all that are his." "You only have I known of all the families of the earth," Amos 3.2. "The foundation of the Lord stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are his," 2 Tim. 2.19.
2dly, The writing our names in heaven implies an interest in the electing love of God, Phil. 4.3, "whose names are written in the book of life;" that is, who are in an elected state, chosen to salvation and eternal life. The book of life is God's immutable and eternal decree, wherein, as in a book, the names of the elect are written.
"Behold, what manner of love the father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God," 1 John 3.1. "This is the new name in the white stone, which none can know but they that receive it," Rev. 2.17.
But then there is also a fitness for heaven; and this lies in our attainments in grace; when we are sanctified throughout, and our measure filled up, then we have a fitness for heaven and the state of glory.
We are decreed to this state by the eternal love of God, from before the foundation of the world; we are redeemed to it by the blood and death of Jesus Christ; we are called to it by the preaching of the gospel; but we are not actually entered into it, till we are renewed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
There are four doctrines which the words of the text afford to us.
Doctrine 1. That rejoicing in outward mercies is warrantable; the Lord Christ doth here allow of it, even when he preferreth the joy of a name written in heaven before it.
Doctrine 2. That when the Lord vouchsafeth us any matter of rejoicing in the mercies and blessings he bestoweth upon us, the best of us are too prone to take up with a carnal selfish joy; this doctrine is implied in that, "Rejoice not."
Doctrine 3. That though rejoicing in outward mercies is good and warrantable, yet to terminate our joy, and let our hearts rest in them, is evil and sinful. "Rejoice not in this;" that is, not in this as the chief good, not as the highest cause of joy, not so as to hinder your hearts from a higher and nobler matter of rejoicing.
Doctrine 4. That a right to, and interest in the glories of the world to come, is a greater ground of joy than any thing this world can afford. The greatest ground of joy imaginable is to have a name written in heaven.
I shall pass by the two former doctrines, being only implied in the text, and speak a little to the third, to make way to the last, which I chiefly intend to insist upon.Doctrine 3. That though rejoicing in outward mercies is good and warrantable, yet to terminate our joy, and let our hearts rest in them, is evil and sinful.First, It proceeds from an evil cause, and that is inordinate love of sensual objects; for joy in anything is proportioned to love. We never rejoice much in any thing but what we love much. Now, to have the choicest respects of an immortal soul laid out upon, and centre in, present and perishing comforts, is a great evil.
It proceeds from an evil cause.
It hath an evil effect.
Secondly, It hath an evil effect; hereby God is disparaged, the Lord Christ despised, the unseen glories neglected, and the soul in danger of being misled and ruined. See Job 21.7-15.
Thirdly, We hereby make a wrong use of the mercies of God, which are given to raise our hearts, not for our hearts to rest in; to elevate our affections, not to terminate them; to draw our hearts up, not to swallow them up.
Present enjoyments should be as a glass for the soul to take a view of the goodness of God in; David saith, "The earth is full of his goodness," Psalm 33.5. You may enjoy God in every creature, and have an account of his goodness from every comfort.
To the believing eye there is a transparency in the creature; faith can see divine goodness and bounty beaming through every mercy; and they that cannot, can never rightly use them, nor innocently enjoy them.
The sensual heart makes a cloud to hide him, of that which God made for a glass, in which we might see him. God made it for a window to let in the light of his love, and we make it a curtain to shut it out.
To let our hearts rest in present mercies is to make them our images, our idols, and this is the highest abuse of mercy.
1. This God hath expressly forbidden "Thou shalt not make to thyself the likeness of any thing in heaven above," Exod. 20.4. To make the creature our chief good, is to put it in the room and place of God, and make to ourselves an image like God.
2. This hazards the continuance of our mercies: when once we begin to set up idols, it is time for God to pull them down: when once our hearts centre in them, he will quickly remove them; one of these two things God always doth in this case; either he takes our comforts from us, to recover our respects to himself! or if he leaves them with us, then he withdraws himself.
Would you not then that your hearts should terminate in any thing below? hearken to a double exhortation.
1. Whatever you love, let it be also your fear; fear will be a bridle to love, nothing hath such advantage upon us to steal our hearts from God, as the things we love and delight in. Have you a child or relation you love, a friend or companion you love, &c. O be jealous of them, for these, "like wine, and new wine, take away the heart," Hos. 4.11.
If what you love be not your fear, it will be your loss and sorrow; if Samson had feared his Delilah as much as he loved her, he had saved both his locks and his life. Solomon's wives became his woe: fondling children often repay their parents dotage in tears and troubles, being thorns in their sides and a grief to their souls: whatever thou over lovest, look to find it thy cross or thy curse.
2. Then live above the pleasures of sense: what, have you no nobler delights? have you not a God to delight in? a Christ to solace your souls in communion with? what a poor thing it is to put your souls off with those delights wherein the brutes have as great a share as you! Where is peace with God? where is joy in the Holy Ghost? where is peace of conscience? where is the hope of glory? where is "a name written in heaven?" these are the only proper pastime for immortal souls. And this leads me to the observation I chiefly aim at.Doctrine 4. That the greatest ground of joy imaginable is to have "a name written in heaven." An interest in the glories of the other world is a truer and nobler cause of rejoicing than any thing that this world can afford.I need produce no other proof of the truth of this doctrine than the authority of the text itself; it stands clear in the light of its own evidence; the Lord Christ himself hath said it, and therefore we ought to believe it is so.
But why is it so?
Reason 1. "A name written in heaven" is a rich result of electing love, Love is the most comfortable attribute in God, the best name the creature knows him by: "God is love," 1 John 4.16. There are three things to be considered in it.
1. Love acts with a priority to all other attributes. Wisdom contrives the good and felicity of the creature; power and providence maturate and bring the contrivements of wisdom to pass; but love hath the first hand in the work. It was love that first summoned the great counsel held by all the three persons, in Elohim, when neither men nor angels existed.
It was love that first pitched upon the Son, and laid him as the foundation of the whole structure of man's salvation and blessedness. Love sent Christ into the world, love put him to death, love made him an offering for sin, John 3.16. All the attributes of God act in the strength of love, and all the providences of God follow the motions of love.
2. Electing love is the proper source of all our other mercies; so the apostle makes it, Eph. 1.3,4, "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings;" how so? "according as he hath chosen us in Christ." And what those spiritual blessings are, he tells you, v. 6, "he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." v. 7, "He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;" v. 8, "Having made known to us the mystery of his will." v. 9, "In whom we have obtained an inheritance;" v. 11, "that is, a name written in heaven." All which the apostle resolves again into electing love, v. 11, "being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will."
3. Love is the only attribute which God hath acted to the utmost: we have never seen the utmost of his power, what God can do; but we have seen the utmost of his love; he hath found a ransom for lost souls; Job 33.28, "He hath laid help upon one that is mighty;" Psalm 89.19, "He hath tabernacled divinity in flesh;" 1 Tim. 3.16, "hath made his soul an offering for sin, laid upon him the iniquity of us all;" Isa. 53.11, "hath made us the righteousness of God in him;" 2 Cor. 5.2l, "hath accepted us in the beloved;" Eph. 1.6, "hath made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;" Eph. 2.6, "written our names in heaven." How can divine love put forth greater efforts of itself than these?
It is infinite love; and it gives the soul interest in an infinite good, entitles it to an infinite blessedness, and so fills the soul with an infinite satisfaction. And is not an interest in electing love the highest cause of rejoicing? The scripture compares the love of God to wine; Cant. 1.2, "New wine is said to make glad the heart;" Psalm 104.15, but "the love of God is better than wine;" Cant. 14.10, it gives "a name in heaven," which causes an eternal rejoicing.
Reason 2. A name written in heaven is a mercy with a distinction, a peculiar appropriated privilege. David prays, Psalm 106.4,5, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favor thou bearest to thy people;" but the Hebrew reads it thus: "Record me, O Lord, in the good will of thy people." God in good will to his people records their names in the book of life, and there David would be recorded too; and why? "That I may see the good of thy chosen; that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation; that I may glory with thine inheritance."
Nothing is so great a cause of rejoicing and glorying as this. What if God give you life, riches, relations, honours? there is no distinction in all this; can you prove your title to the love of God by any or all of these? Solomon says no; Eccles. 9.1, "No man knows love or hatred by all that is before him." A man may have life, and yet be dead to God, dead in sin; a man may be rich, and yet wretched; we may have children, and yet be ourselves children of wrath for all that; God doth not love us in giving us sons, unless he gives us his own Son; a man may have honour, and yet not be honoured of God. Herod was honoured of the people, and yet "eaten up of worms," Acts 12.21,23.
Peculiar mercy causes peculiar rejoicing; common mercies can cause but common joy. A name in heaven is a mercy with a distinction: this is not the lot of all; the names of the greatest part of the world are written in the dust; Jer. 17.13, "All that forsake thee shall be ashamed, their names shall be written in the earth; because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters." The expression hath much in it; it travels with a curse.
The earth is opposed to heaven: as "a name in heaven" imports the greatest happiness, so a name written in the earth implies the greatest misery.
The earth is a place of short duration, it shall not always last; "Heaven (that is, the lower heaven) and earth shall pass away," our Lord Christ says, Matt. 5.18. A name written in the earth implies a short duration, a name of no continuance: so says Bildad of the wicked, Job 18.16, "His roots shall be dried up beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off."
The earth is a place of putrefaction and corruption; what is buried in the earth soon turns to rottenness; so that a name in the earth implies rottenness, according to that of Solomon, Prov. 10.7, "The name of the wicked shall rot."
The earth is a place of oblivion; what is written in heaven is recorded for ever, but what is written in the dust is soon forgotten; so says Bildad of the wicked. "His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street. He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world. He shall neither have son nor nephew among his people, nor any remaining in his dwellings. Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knows not God," Job 18.17-20.
The earth is designed for burning; it is decreed to be fuel for the conflagration of the great day, when "the Lord Christ shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire," 2 Thess. 1.7,8. So saith the apostle, 2 Pet. 3.10, "The day of the Lord will come, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up." Whatever is of affinity to earth must feel the flames of that trying day: not only the element of earth, but the treasures of the earth, the pleasures of the earth, the names written in the earth, earthly affections, earthly fruitions, earthly designs, earthly hearts: all must together make fuel for that fire; for the earth, and all "the works that are therein, shall be burnt up."
You see what a curse a name written in the earth is; and yet the names of the greatest part of men and women in the world are written there. To have a name written in heaven is the portion but of few; it is a special privilege, by which the Lord doth distinguish his from the rest of the world; and therefore to have a name in heaven is cause of rejoicing indeed.
Reason 3. A name written in heaven, speaks the soul in the highest relation to God; you are his children, his sons and daughters, the adopted of the Lord; and what greater ground of joy imaginable.
Whatever excellency there is in the relation the benefit of that excellency redounds to the correlate by virtue of the tie of that relation.
What is it that first clothes your child with honour and name, but the nobleness of his descent? and how comes your honour and greatness to descend upon him, but by being of the same blood? It is the nearness of the relation that entitles him to all. So all that is in God, all his excellencies, all his attributes, his wisdom, his power, his love, his justice, his providence, all are yours, and work for your benefit and advantage by virtue of this relation.
There is a two-fold relation to God, a relation of servants and of sons. But the difference between them is very great, especially in five things.
1st, The relation of servants is a common relation; all creatures in the world are God's servants, as he is the great master and householder of heaven and earth. God hath servants of all sorts, good and bad; he hath "good and faithful servants," Matt. 25.23, and he hath "wicked and slothful servants," v. 26. He hath some that honour him, and some that honour him not, but rebel against him. God hath many servants that take wages of him, but do the devil's work.
All creatures stand in this relation to God, the very devils themselves are subject to his command; "Every knee bows to him, both of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth," Phil. 2.10.
But the relation of sons is a peculiar special relation, that appertains but to few. God hath many servants, but he hath but few sons; he hath many in subjection, but few in this relation: all are his subjects, but all are not his sons and daughters.
2dly, The relation of servants is a mercenary relation; the duty of that relation is drawn forth by the rewards of it; servants work for hire, it is wages they chiefly look at. God hath many such servants, that are merely mercenaries in all their duties. They know God is a good master, pays well, and keeps a good table; his commands are equal, and his rewards are bountiful, therefore they own him: as many followed the Lord Christ when he was upon earth, not because of his miracles, but because of his morsels; not because they would be saved, but because "they did eat of the loaves and were filled," John 6.26. It was not for the sake of his person, but his provision; not out of love to the truth, so much as the trencher. The Lord Christ hath many such servants now, that call themselves the Servants of Christ, and Ministers of Christ, but they are but Trencher-Chaplains to him. It is the salary they look at, more than the service; dignities more than duty; the preferments of the church, more than the concernments of it: they have the flesh-hook of the law in their hand, 1 Sam. 2.13,14, often to serve themselves, but the book of the law is in their hand but seldom, whereby they should "save themselves and them that hear them," 1 Tim. 4.16. These follow Christ, indeed, but it is for the loaves; no wages, no work; like them in Mal. 3.14, that cry out, "What profit is it to serve God?"
But now the relation of sons is more ingenuous: sons obey and serve in ingenuity; not for the reward, but duty; they labour, because they love. Not but that the children of God may look at the rewards promised. Moses was ingenuous in all his performances, and yet "he had a respect to the recompense of the reward," Heb. 11.26. Christ was a son in the highest relation, the son of God's choicest regard, Matt. 17.5, and yet it is said of him, in his "enduring the cross, and despising the shame," that he "had an eye to the joy that was set before him," Heb. 12.2. A dutiful child may look at his inheritance; yet he would pay the obedience of children, though he were to receive no father's blessing.
3dly, The relation of sons, is a communicative relation: the relation of a servant is not so. A master doth not impart all his mind, nor disclose his secrets to his servant; he lays upon him his commands, but doth not betrust him with his secrets. So saith our Lord Christ, John 15.15, "Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knows not what his Lord doth." But a father will disclose and communicate his heart to his child; he will tell all his mind, and will, and counsels, to his son.
4thly, The relations of servants gives no claim; it doth not entitle them to the estate of their Lord: the law allows them a present maintenance, but no share in the inheritance.
But the relation of a son is entitling; it gives a claim: by virtue of his sonship, he hath a title to what is his father's; his father's riches, his father's honours, &c.
If you are the "children of God," you are born heirs, and your inheritance is the greatest in this world or in the next; for God himself is your portion; and all he is, and all he hath, is "the lot of your inheritance."
5thly, The relation of servants is not lasting; it is arbitrary, founded in will and pleasure: you take one servant, and put away another, at your pleasure. But the relation of a son is abiding, it lasts for ever, to the end of being: so says our Lord Christ, John 8.35, "The servant abides not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever." If you are the children of God, you are taken into a lasting relation that shall never end: God is your father for ever, and you are his children for ever; it is an everlasting relation.
How should we rejoice in this near relation to the great God! sons and daughters of God is the highest title I ever heard of in the world. David was made but son-in-law to a king, not born a son; he was not of the blood royal, but by favour taken in and made a son, and it was but a son-in-law neither, by marriage; and this sonship was but to a king, that dies like other men, Psalm 82.7, and yet the thoughts of it wrought to astonishment in him: "Seemeth it a light thing to you to be son-in-law to a king?" 1 Sam. 18.23. What is it then to be taken into an eternal sonship to an everlasting father, before whom the kings of the earth are as grasshoppers; that "bringeth the princes to nothing, and maketh the judges of the earth as vanity?" Isa. 40.22,23.
Reason 4. "A name written in heaven" gives an assured hope of heaven: we are by this for ever set free from all fear of miscarrying. If ye have a title, never question the possession: if the right be yours, ye shall surely inherit. When you look over a bundle of deeds, and see the name of such a particular person run through them all, and expressly mentioned in the conveyance, and all things run in his name, you conclude that estate his, it belongs to him, and will come to him, for all the law in the world is on his side.
It is so in the case in hand; if ye have "a name written in heaven," the estate is yours, the conveyance is made to you, the covenant is the main deed, which is sealed in the blood of Christ, and therein the inheritance is made over and conveyed to you.
There is an inseparable connection between election and salvation: though there are many links in the golden chain that reaches from one to the other, yet not one of them can be broken: "Whom he did predestinate, them he called; and whom he called, them he justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified," Rom. 8.30.
It is observable in what tense the Spirit of God puts it; not in the future, as a thing to be done, but in a tense that notes it done already, to show the certainty of it. If our "names are written in heaven," we shall as surely share in the glories of it, as if already in possession; nay, we are already in possession:
- Partly in Christ, who is already entered upon his inheritance in our right; Heb. 6.20, "Whither the forerunner is for us entered." Hence that of the apostle, "He hath made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Eph. 2.6.
- Partly by the promise: we have the deeds, though we do not enjoy the estate; we keep the title, though we do not possess the inheritance.
- Partly in the "first fruits of glory," Rom. 8.23, which we receive by the Spirit of God, and the graces of the Spirit in our hearts. Entrance upon the least part of an estate, gives a right to the possession, as well as entrance upon the whole: the least turf of the premises conveys the inheritance, and gives livery [writ to possession] and seisin [possession] of all the demesnes [estate]. Grace in the heart is a turf of the holy land, the land of promise, whereby God doth actually instate us in the glorious inheritance.
The first use shall be for examination. Is "a name written in heaven," the truest cause of rejoicing? then let us see what cause of rejoicing we may have in ourselves upon this account. The apostle's counsel is plainly to this purpose, Gal. 6.4, "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another."
You have heard that there can be no true cause of joy in the heart, but "a name written in heaven." Is "a name written in heaven" the chief ground of your joy?
Question. But you will reply, Who can say his name is written in heaven? who hath thus far known the mind of the Lord? to whom hath he at any time opened the sealed book of his secret decrees? was ever any man admitted into the regions above, to search the eternal records of the divine purpose?
Answer. Surely no: but yet let me, in answer to this, lay down two conclusions.
First, The knowledge of this, that our names are written in heaven, is attainable: why else are we commanded to "make our calling and election sure?" Would the Lord Christ have called upon us to rejoice, because "our names are written in heaven," if it were a thing that could not be known? Surely therefore it is no such secret as lies out of the reach of faith's attainment.
Indeed, to wicked, unbelieving, and impenitent sinners, the knowledge of this is impossible. How can a man that forsakes God, know that his name is written in heaven, when God says, "They that forsake him, their names shall be written in the earth?" But believers may attain to the knowledge of this.
Secondly, As the knowledge of it is attainable, so it is evident from scripture-instance, that many have attained to it: God hath sometimes unsealed the book of his decrees, and held it open to the believing eye; so that the soul hath been enabled to read its interest in divine love, by the spiritual optics of faith; for "faith is the evidence of things not seen," Heb. 11.1. Faith can make its passage through all the obstructions that lie in the way between a soul at home in the body, and an absent God; for that is the case of every incarnate christian. The soul is as yet wrapt up in gross matter, imprisoned in flesh, and confined to an abode in a tabernacle of clay; and therefore distanced from God, and utterly incapable of any farther converse and communion with him than what is attainable by the mediation of faith.
Now faith enters within the veil, removes the soul out of the valleys of sense, and sets it upon the highest ground of gospel consolation, that it may stand at the fairest advantage to get a prospect into the glory of the other world. Faith draws infallible conclusions of the goodness of its state, from the immutable decrees of electing love: what else made Job say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and that though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself?" Job 19.25-27.
And what made Paul glory in the Lord Christ, crying out, "Who loved me, and gave himself for me?" Gal. 2.20, and what made the church say, with so much confidence, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine," Cant. 6.3.
Question. But the great question is, How shall a man be able to know that his name is written in heaven?
Answer. There are certain discoveries of this in a man's self; which if we attend to, we may have a sure proof and witness of.
1. Effectual calling is a sure proof of this: if the call of God hath taken hold of our hearts, then our names are written in heaven. There is an inseparable connection between election and vocation; and therefore, when the apostle bids us "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure;" though election be before calling (the one being an immanent act of God in eternity; the other a transient act of God in time), yet the apostle puts the making our calling sure in the first place; because a man can never be sure he is elected till he is first called.
Now then, if you would know whether your names are written in heaven; satisfy yourselves in this, that the call of God hath taken effectual hold of your hearts. Hath it brought your souls off from every thing below Christ, wholly to follow Christ? It is said, when Christ called Peter and Andrew, they presently "left their nets and followed him," Matt. 4.18,19. Every man hath his nets, somewhat that his soul is entangled in, till the call of God take hold of him. Can you now, with Peter, when God calls, lay aside your nets to follow him?
For it is not every call that will witness the truth of our election: there is an external call of the word, that is ineffectual, it prevails not upon the sinner's heart, he turns a deaf ear upon it; this call leaves sinners as it finds them, in their sins and lusts, Matt. 20.16.
But then there is an internal call; when Word and Spirit go together, and work together, to bring the soul off from sin, and lust, and self, and world, and all to Jesus Christ, to live upon him as its portion, and conform to him as its pattern. Now if thou art thus called, then is thy name written in heaven: and therefore thou mayest go and rejoice indeed; for if any in the world hath cause, thou hast.
2. If the law of God be written in thy heart, then thy name is written in heaven. It is one of the great promises of the new covenant, that "God will write his law in our hearts," Heb. 8.10.
Question. Now you will say, What is this law of God?
Answer. It is the law of love, the law of holiness, a law that takes in all the duties that God requires of us, a law of universal obedience: Psalm 40.8, "Thy law is within my heart;" it is a law that comprehends the whole rule of the new creature. The law within is a counterpart of the law without; so that, look whatever the word of God commands, the soul is enabled to perform, when this law is written in the heart.
Question. When is God said to write his law in the heart?
Answer. When he doth powerfully impress a divine principle of grace, by his Holy Spirit, in the heart. Believers are said to be "the epistle of Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God," 2 Cor. 3.3. An epistle is nothing else but a paper, with the mind of a man written in it, and sent to another: believers are "the epistle of the living God;" there his mind, and will, and law is written, not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.
So that if the law of God be written in your heart, then may you know that your name is written in heaven.
Converting grace in the heart is the best comment upon the election of God; without which the eternal decree concerning us can never be read with clearness, nor understood with comfort. The decree travails and brings forth, in a work of grace in the heart: the mind of God, concerning our eternal condition, is best known by a sound conversion; for there he speaks plainly; that fountain of love which ran under ground before, now bubbles up and breaks forth. In election, God spake within himself; but in conversion, God speaks to the soul: in election, God wrote our names in heaven secretly; but in conversion, we see them written there openly.
A work of grace in the heart carries in it a four-fold witness,
And the least of these is worth a whole world. Who would not be willing to know himself the chosen of God? who would not be glad to see sin pardoned? who would not rejoice in a friendship with God, whose wrath burns to the lowest hell? who would not triumph, in an assurance of being saved for ever? Now if grace be wrought in thy heart, this is thy privilege; thou mayest say, with Tamar, Gen. 38.25, "Whose this staff, and this signet, and these bracelets are; his am I;" and thou mayest rejoice in hope of glory. No better witness of our names written in heaven, than the image of God engraven in the heart: say not, "Who shall ascend to heaven?" &c. Rom. 10.6.
- That we are the objects of God's election.
- That sin is pardoned through Christ's satisfaction.
- That God is reconciled by Christ's intercession.
- That we are secure as to eternal salvation.
As sinners need not descend in the deep, to search for hell, to see if their names be written, by the wrath and vengeance of God, in eternal misery: no, they may find it nearer home; there is an hell within them; there is the stench and filth of hell in their vile affections; the smoke and flames of hell, in their burning and raging lusts; the darkness of hell in their blind minds; and sometimes the torments of hell in their guilty and self-revenging consciences, that "worm that never dies," Mark 9.44. So many believers find a heaven in their own souls, a heaven of light, of love, of holiness, of joy and praise; "the kingdom of heaven is within you."
3. If true faith be wrought in thy heart, then is thy name written in heaven: 1 John 5.10, "He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself." Faith is a sure fruit of electing love: "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed," Acts 13.48. God doth not, you see from hence, elect us because we believe (election upon faith foreseen is an Arminian dream), but we believe because we are elected; it is some of the first fruits which eternal love brings forth in the heart; final unbelief is a sad witness of a reprobate state: so says our Lord Christ, "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep," John 10.26.
Would you know then whether your name be written in heaven? then see what faith is wrought in your heart. Have you ever truly closed with the Lord Jesus Christ? do you heartily embrace him, as he is set forth in the gospel? can you venture your soul, your salvation, your eternal all, upon the single bottom of a Redeemer's righteousness? have you ever had actual application of the blood and righteousness of Christ to your own consciences, to take off that guilt of sin whereby your souls stand bound over to wrath and damnation? this is faith of the operation of God; and wherever this faith is found in the heart the name of that man, that woman, is found in heaven: and therefore well may the apostle say, "In whom believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1 Pet. 1.8.
4. If the father's name be written in our foreheads, then are our names written in heaven. In Rev. 14.l, it is said of those that stood with the Lamb upon Mount Sion, that "the Father's name was written in their foreheads."
The name of God is written in the forehead, when we openly confess the truths of God, and are not ashamed of religion; nor ashamed to own God, and his ways, and ordinances, and people, in the midst of a profane, scoffing, and adulterous generation. Now says our Lord Christ, "He that confesses me before men," (that is, the name of Christ written in the forehead) "him will I confess before my father;" that is, he shall have a name written in heaven.
Now where is the name of God written? do ye repine at difficulties, shrink at sufferings, blush at being counted religious? are you ashamed of Christ, his ways, his name, his people? why if so, his name is not in your foreheads.
Or can you lift up your heads, and shew your faces, in the cause of Christ? it should be thus, "God is not ashamed to be called our God," Heb. 11.16. And will you be ashamed to be called his children, his saints, his witnesses? Moses was not, when he "esteemed the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt," Heb. 11.26. He had the father's name in his forehead.
5. If your great work be, to have treasure in heaven, then your names are written in heaven. This is the counsel of the blessed Jesus, Matt. 6.20, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven:" and Luke 12.33, "Provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not."
The treasures of most men are perishing, earthly treasures, cankered and moth-eaten treasures, treasures of vanity. Christians! where is your treasure? is it in this world, or the next? is it in present vanities, or future glory? is it in present contentments, or in everlasting inheritance? is it in corn, and wine, and oil; or is it in the light of God's countenance? is it in profits, pleasures, and honours; or is it in grace and glory? do ye build, and plant, and sow in the other world, that hereafter ye may reap an eternal harvest of blessedness? if so, then are your names written in heaven.
6. If your conversations are in heaven, then are your names written in heaven. Phil. 3.20, "Our conversation is in heaven." Many profess hope of heaven, but their conversations are in the meanwhile upon the earth: like that foolish actor, that whilst his eyes were fixed upon the earth, cried, O heavens! they savour only earthly things; earthly profits, earthly comforts, earthly vanities.
Let a man's profession be never so heavenly, his prayers and duties never so heavenly; yet if they are over-topped by an earthly conversation, that man's religion is vain. The scripture says expressly, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," 1 John 2.15.
Never talk of a name in heaven, so long as your hearts are buried in the earth: where your hearts are, there your names are: if your hearts are earthly, your names are in the earth, "Carnal, worldly, sensual, enemy to God," that is thy name, and the scripture gives thee no other, James 4.4, "He that is a friend of the world, is the enemy of God."
Now what is your life? how do ye live? do ye live by sense, or do ye live by faith?
do ye live upon the creatures, or upon the promises?
It is said of the virtuous woman, Prov. 31.14, that "she fetcheth her food from far." So doth the true believer; he uses the blessings of the creature, but he lives upon the blessings of the covenant.
From far.] That is, far out of the sight and ken [view] of the natural eye: for it is bread the world knows not of. The natural man is blind and cannot see afar off. "God hath set the world in their hearts." Eccles. 3.11. They are strangers to this joy.
From far.] "A man's life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesseth," Luke 12.15. His "life is hid with Christ in God," Col. 3.3; and from thence are the comforts of his life. "He fetches his food from far:" it is God in Christ, and the glories of the other world that are the bread of his soul.
Do ye fetch your food from far, or nearer home? are you fed by sense, with what is next; or doth faith feed you with clusters fetched from the holy land? do ye serve flesh, lust, and sins, and times, which is the basest thraldom? or do ye serve "God and Christ, whose service is perfect freedom?" Rom. 6.16; his ye are whom ye serve. The apostle Paul will tell you whom he serves, "The Lord whom I serve in my spirit," Rom. 1.9. "Forgetting the things behind, I press towards the mark," Phil. 3.13. Outward privileges, carnal contentments, perishing hopes, these were once the things before him; but now he hath turned about, and set his face the other way, and left them all behind him.
"I press forward towards the mark." He is now ascending upon the wings of faith and love, above this dung and darkness, to the regions of light and glory
If your conversation be in heaven, it is thus with you in one degree or other. Heavenly concernments are your work, and heavenly comforts are your support. It is not "the fig-tree's blossoms, nor the olive's labour," Hab. 3.17, that can comfort and glad you; but it is fruit from the tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God, that feeds you. If thus your conversation be in heaven, then is your name written in heaven.
The next use shall be by way of
IS a name written in heaven the highest cause of rejoicing? and can you, upon examination, find that your names are written there? O then set your selah upon this mercy! fix your heart, your joy, your thankfulness upon this privilege. Other things you may rejoice in, in their place, and by the by; but here your joy should be fixed. See how the Apostle breaks out into thanksgiving for this, Eph. 1.3-6, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world; that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Having predestinated us to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
His heart dwells in triumph upon this mercy; and so should ours also; the Lord Christ, here in the text, commands it; "Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven."
Now give me leave to propound to you six considerations, which are very proper motives to stir up your hearts to the practice of this duty.
Consider (1.), There is no name like this.
1. It is an honourable name: Isa. 43.4, "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable." If God poureth contempt upon the creature, it must needs be vile and base: God is the true fountain of honour; if he puts honour upon us, it is the truest honour in the world.
2. It is "a better name than that of sons and daughters," Isa. 56.4,5. "Thus saith the Lord to the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; to them will I give in my house a place, and a name better than of sons and daughters." Though they have no children, yet they shall be my children; though they are without a name in the world, yet they shall have a name in my house.
3. It is a durable and lasting name. A name in the world may be lost:
The wicked may defame it.
Wickedness may corrupt it.
God may blast it: "Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever," Psalm 9.5.
Time may eat it out of the records of honour. But a name written in heaven, is a durable name, it can never be blotted out: "I will give them an everlasting name that shall never be cut off," Isa. 56.5. As the inheritance is incorruptible, so the title is unalterable, and the heir immortal.
Consider (2.), A name written in heaven, is a blessing that sweetens all our other blessings. This land is mine, and these riches are mine, and this child is mine, and this honour is mine: yea, and God is mine, and Christ is mine, and the white stone and the new name is mine, and heaven and eternal life is mine: ay, this, this sweetens all.
What if you could be supposed to enjoy all outward blessings imaginable? the fairest estate, the highest honours, the sweetest children, the richest pleasures: yet in the midst of all these, if conscience should secretly gripe you within, and tell you ye are "strangers and enemies to God," ye have no part in Christ, no portion in his death, your names are not in the book of life, ye are the children of God's curse: O, what a heart-sinking would this cause under all your fruitions! this one thing left in doubt, "I know not what will become of my soul to eternity," is enough to bring us into straits in the midst of all our sufficiencies, Job 20.22, to sour all our possessions, and to make the face of all our enjoyments look dim and unpleasant.
Consider (3.), This is that which gives confidence and comfort in death, and makes us strong to grapple with that king of terrors.
What is it which makes even believers themselves, many of them, shrink at the thoughts of death; why, it is want of evidence, they have never seen their names written in the book of life. The sight of this by faith, makes the soul triumph over death and despise the grave, and say with Simeon, "Now, Lord, let thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation," Luke 2.29,30.
"We know," saith the apostle, 2 Cor. 5.1, "that if our earthly tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
This we know, and are assured of; well, and what is the fruit of this assurance? he tells you in the second and fourth verses: "In this we groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."
What is death, to the assured believer, but a speedy conveyance to the possession of that glory which divine love has entitled him to from everlasting?
Consider (4.), Herein joy can never run into excess: in temporal things it may; it is possible and common to rejoice and delight in outward mercies too much, for they are every way disproportionable to the vast capacity of the soul; as unable to fill it, as the dim light of a candle is to give day to the world, in the absence of the sun.
Hear what the prophet says in the case, Isa. 28.20, "The bed is too short for a man to stretch himself upon it, and the covering too narrow for a man to wrap himself in it."
How unsuitable is a short bed for a long body! so are perishing comforts to an immortal soul. And from hence it is that the apostle adviseth, in 1 Cor. 7.30, that "they that rejoice, should be as though they rejoiced not;" that is, in worldly things. But in spiritual and eternal concerns, joy cannot exceed; for infinite blessedness calls for infinite joy and delight.
Consider (5.) This will be a lasting and perpetuated joy. Therefore it is congruous and equal that we now rejoice in that which shall be our joy for ever. Other joys have their periods and intermissions, their terms, and vacations; they ebb and flow, blossom and wither; a fit of sickness, or a pang of conscience, extinguishes all: but this joy is abiding, "Your joy shall no man take from you," John 16.22.
It is true, that the "children of God have many causes of sorrow:" if they look inward, strong corruptions, hard hearts, weak graces, many temptations: but yet in God they have continual cause of rejoicing.
A name in heaven is an enduring ground of comfort; not like these transient shadows. Can stability be moved, or eternity expire?
Nothing is matter of lasting joy, but that good which is commensurate in duration to the soul that is to be satisfied with it.
The times we live in are changeable and uncomposed; the hatred of religion great; we see distractions at home, distresses abroad; the Lord is shaking heaven and earth, church and state: our experience tells us how mutable are the wills, how fickle the favours, how sudden the frowns of men; how vain the hopes, how unsuitable the delights, which are drawn out of broken cisterns; how full of dross and dregs the most refined comforts and contents of the world are. Nothing can be an enduring joy but this, which our Lord Christ propounds in the text, as matter of joy.
Who would not therefore retire from the noise of laughter, from the courtships of flattering gallants, the clutter and vainglory of a distracted world, to solace his soul in the joys and delights of the world to come?
Consider (6.), What heaven is; and that will raise your hearts to glory in this privilege of a name written in heaven.
1. Heaven is the habitation of the great God, where he dwells in his infinite glory; so that "a name written in heaven," imports our future inheritance of that glory; according to that of the apostle, Col. 3.4, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear: then shall we appear with him in glory."
2. Heaven is a freedom from all evil, both of sin and suffering; so that "a name in heaven" entitles us to a blessed redemption from all evil.
There is no sin there. Grace weakens sin, but it is glory that abolishes it. Old Adam shall there be put off, never to be put on again. The Lord Christ will "present his church, in that day, faultless before the throne of his glory, with exceeding joy," Jude 24.
There is no affliction there: sin and sorrow came in together, and they shall go out together. There the Shunamite's son complains no more of his aching head, nor Mephibosheth of his lame feet. There Job's blotches are perfectly cured, and Lazarus's sores are all dried up.
3. Heaven is a place of all perfection. So that "a name written in heaven" entitles us to a perfection of state which we cannot hope for in this world: "Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect," Phil. 3.12.
All perfection is above.
There is perfection of faculties: the understanding shall be elevated by the light of glory, into "the vision of God," 1 Cor. 13.12.
The nature of God, the mystery of Three in One, the union of two natures in one person, the course of God's decrees and providence; these are deeps of God, and at present there is darkness upon the face of these deeps; but there the glorified eye shall see all.
The will shall there be perfectly holy, and swallowed up into the will of God.
There is perfection of privileges; perfect union and communion. Here we lay hold of Christ; but there we shall have full possession: here we hang upon him, but there we shall dwell in his embraces.
There is perfection of graces: here the children of God have perfection of parts, but not of degrees.
Holiness in the best saint here is mixed with some dregs of flesh and defilement; but there it shall be complete; we shall appear "not having spot or wrinkle," Eph. 5.27.
Love shall there be perfect: here we are either weary of the act, or apt to make a change of the object of our love, ever and anon swerving and starting aside to the creature; but then we shall act love without ceasing, upon one and the same object, without changing. There shall be an eternal solace and complacency in God.
4. Heaven is the abstract of all blessedness, the sum of all felicity. Reckon up all comforts and pleasures, and satisfactions, and delights, and happinesses, and put them all together, and then separate from them finiteness and imperfection, and that is heaven.
So that a name written in heaven imports our future fruition of all blessedness. Yet a little while, and ye shall be let into all this.
All the objects of joy which are scattered among the creatures, are everlastingly heaped up in heaven: so that say what it is you delight and joy in, and I will shew it you there.
Is it wealth? why there are "unsearchable riches in heaven," Eph. 3.8; "durable riches," Prov. 8.18; unsearchable, and therefore without bottom and without bound: durable, and therefore without end.
Do ye delight in honour and dignity? why in heaven, the glory of the great God himself shall be put upon you, Col. 3.4.
John tells us, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, when he shall appear, we shall be like him," 1 John 3.2. "Such honour have all his saints," Psalm 149.9.
Is it pleasure you delight in? why in heaven "there are rivers of pleasures," Psalm 36.8. "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore," Psalm 16.11.
Do ye delight in feasting? why in heaven there is plenty and variety, fulness without satiety; "bread of life, the tree of life, the fountain of life."
Do ye delight in music? (it is not fit that such a feast should be without it:) in heaven the saints and angels are in one concord "singing eternal hallelujahs to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever."
Do you delight in stately and magnificent structures? why in heaven is "a house not made with hands," 2 Cor. 5.1. This is "a city, whose walls are jaspar, whose foundations are precious stones, whose gates are pearl, whose streets are pure gold," Rev. 21.18,19,21, "Whose builder and maker is God," 2 Cor. 5.1.
Thus you see heaven is the comprehension of all good, the abstract of all felicity. And your name is written upon all this; it is all yours, as the apostle says, 1 Cor. 3.21,22. "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours."
Ministers are yours, to instruct you.
The world is yours, to supply you.
Life is yours, to prepare you for heaven.
Things present are yours, to support you in the way.
Things to come are yours, to crown you in the end.
What then remaineth? but as David adviseth, "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice ye righteous, and shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart," Psalm 32.11.
Whatever ye enjoy in the world, yet let your joy be in God. Have ye riches, honours, pleasures, children, health, beauty, &c. "notwithstanding, in this rejoice not; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven."