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If the applause of men, and the good opinion which they have from others, be esteemed an honour, what shall be the applause of heaven, and the good opinion not only of saints and angels, but of God himself, whose judgment cannot err? David took it for a great honour, that the daughter of his king was judged a reward of his valour: God surpasses this, and honours so much the service of his elect, that he pays their merits with no less a reward than himself.
Besides this, he, who is most known, and is praised and celebrated for good and virtuous by the greatest multitude, is esteemed the most glorious and honourable person: but all this world is a solitude in respect of the citizens of heaven, where innumerable angels approve and praise the virtuous actions of the just: and they likewise are nothing; and all creatures, men, and angels, but as a solitary wilderness, in respect of the Creator. What man so glorious upon earth, whose worth and valour hath been known to all? Those who were born before him could not know him: but the just in heaven shall be known by all, past and to come, and by all the angels, and by the King of men and angels. Human fame is founded upon the applause of mortal men, who, besides being less than angels, may be deceived, may speak untruth, and are, most part of them, sinners and wicked; how far must that honour exceed it, which is conferred upon the just by the holy angels, and by those blessed and pure souls, who cannot be deceived themselves, nor will deceive others! If we esteem it more to be honoured by the kings of the earth, by the great men of the world, than by some ignorant peasants of some poor village; how ought we then to value the honour which shall be bestowed upon us by the saints in - heaven, who are the kings and grandees of the court of God, and are all replenished with most perfect and Divine wisdom? All the honour of men is ridiculous; and his ambition no wiser who seeks it, than if one worm should desire to be honoured by another: all the earth is but as a village, or rather some small cottage, in respect of heaven; let us not, therefore, strive for a name upon earth, but that our names may be written in heaven.
If Saul thought the honour too much which was given to David by the damsels, when they celebrated his victory in their songs, what shall it be to be celebrated by all the angels
and saints in celestial responsories? When a servant of God enters into heaven, he shall be received with such divine music, all the blessed in heaven often repeating those words in the Gospel, "Well done, good servant and true; because thou hast been faithful in a few things, thou shalt be placed over much; enter into thy Master's joy." Which words they shall repeat in quires: this shall be a song of victory and honour, above all the honours of the earth; being conferred by so great, so wise, so holy, and so authentic persons. Although the honour and applause, which the just receive in heaven, from the citizens of that holy city, be incomparable; yet that honour and respect, with which God himself shall treat them, is far above it; it is expressed in no meaner similitude than that of the honour done by the servant unto his Lord; and therefore it is said, that God himself shall, as it were, serve the blessed in heaven at their table. It is much amongst men to be seated at the table of a prince; but for a king to serve his vassal, as if he himself were his servant, who ever heard it?
David, when he caused Mephibosheth, (although the grandchild of a king, and the son of an excellent prince, unto whom David owed his life,) to sit at his table, he thought he did him a singular honour; but this favour never extended to wait on him. The honour which God bestows upon the just, exceeds all human imaginations; who, not satisfied with crowning all the blessed with his own Divinity, giving himself to be possessed and enjoyed by them for all eternity, does also honour their victories and heroic actions with new crowns b.
The just shall shine like the stars in the firmament; and if the least saint in heaven shall shine seven times more than the sun, what shall that light be, which shall outshine so many suns!
The honour of the just in heaven depends not, like that of the earth, upon accidents and reports, nor is exposed to dangers, or measured by the discourse of others; but in itself contains its own glory and dignity. The Romans erected statues unto those, whom they intended to honour, because, being mortal, there should something remain after
b Apoc. xxi.
Apoc. i. 21.
death, to make their persons and services, which they had done to the commonweal, known to posterity; but in heaven there is no need of this artifice, because those, which are there honoured, are immortal, and shall have in themselves some character engraved, as an evident and clear token of their noble victories and achievements: what greater honour than to be friends of God, sons, heirs, and kings in the realm of heaven?
St. John, in his Apocalypse, sets forth this honour of the blessed, in the twenty-four elders, who were placed about the throne of God; and in that honour and majesty, as every one was seated in his presence, and that upon a throne, clothed in white garments, in sign of their perpetual joy, and crowned with a crown of gold, in respect of their dignities. To be covered in the presence of kings is the greatest honour they confer upon the chiefest grandees; but God causes his servants to be crowned and seated upon thrones before him; and our Saviour, in the day of judgment, makes his disciples his fellow judges. Certainly, greater honour cannot be imagined, than that which the just receive in heaven; for if we look, upon him, who honours, it is God; if with what, with no less joy than his own Divinity, and other most sublime gifts; if before whom, before the whole theatre of heaven; if the continuance, for all eternity: therefore, let us so dispose of our lives here, and live so righteously and holily, that we may be thought worthy of that crown of glory, which he hath prepared for all those who love and serve him,
Of the Riches of the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
THE riches in heaven are no less than the honours; though those are, as hath been said, inestimable. There can be no greater riches than to want nothing which is good, nor to need any thing which can be desired; and in that blessed life no good shall fail, nor no desire be unsatisfied; if, as the
d Apoc. iv.
philosophers say, he is not rich who possesseth much, but he who desires nothing; there being in heaven no desire unaccomplished, there must needs be great riches. It was a position of the Stoics, that he was not poor who wanted, but he who was necessitated: since, then, in the celestial kingdom there is necessity of nothing, most rich is he who enters into it. By reason of these divine riches, Christ, our Saviour, when he speaks in his parables of the kingdom of heaven, doth sometimes call it, "the hidden treasure, the precious pearls ;" for if divine happiness consists in the eternal possession of God, what riches may be compared with his who enjoys him? and what inheritance to that of the kingdom of heaven? and what possession more precious than the Divinity? and what more to be desired than the Creator of all things precious, who gives himself for a possession and riches unto the saints, to the end they should abhor those riches which are temporal, if by them the eternal are endangered?
Besides the possession of God, the just shall reign with Christ eternally in the kingdom of heaven; whose riches must needs be immense, since they are to be kings of so great and ample a kingdom: if the earth, compared with heaven, be but a point, and yet contains so many kingdoms; what shall that be which is but one kingdom, and yet extended over the whole heavens? Some famous mathematicians say of the imperial heaven, that it is so great, that if God should allow unto every one of the blessed a greater space than the whole earth, yet there would remain as much more to give unto others; and that the capaciousness of this heaven is so great, that it contains more than ten thousand and fourteen millions of miles. What wonder will it be to see a city so great, of so precious matter! Divines confess the capaciousness of this heaven to be immense, but are more willing to admire it, than bold to measure it. It is all composed of matter far more beautiful and precious than gold, pearl, and diamonds the heavens which we discover, with the sun and all the other stars, are but the pavement of the eternal firmament; the inhabitants thereof tread under their feet the front of the brightest stars: the sun and moon were made to
a Jo. Gaiter in Peregrino.
give light to this low elementary world; the heavenly Lamb is the lamp which doth lighten the eternal Sion, the mansion of glory what shall that place be, where the saints in the light of glory see the uncreated and inaccessible light of the Deity!
It is called a kingdom, for its immense greatness; and a city, for its great beauty and population: it is full of inhabitants of all nations and conditions; where are many thousands of angels, an infinite number of the just, even as many as have died since Abel; and thither also shall repair all who are to die unto the end of the world, and after judgment shall there remain for ever, invested in their glorious bodies: neither shall this populous city be inhabited with mean and base people, but with citizens so noble, rich, and just, that all of them shall be most holy and wise kings: how happy shall it be to live with such persons! The queen of Sheba, only to see Solomon, came from the end of the earth: to behold a king issue out of his palace, all the people flock together what shall it then be, not only to see, but to live and reign with many angels, and converse with so many eminent and holy men! If there should now descend from heaven one of the prophets or apostles, with what earnestness and admiration would every one strive to see and hear him! in the other world we shall hear and see them all: how admirable will it be to see thousand of thousands in all their beauty and greatness; and so many glorious bodies of saints in all their lustre! If one sun be sufficient to clear up the whole world here below, what joy shall it be, to behold those innumerable suns in that region of light!
This kingdom of God is not like other kingdoms, which contain huge deserts, inaccessible mountains, and thick woods; nor is it divided into many cities and villages, distant one from another; but this kingdom, although a most spacious region, is all one beautiful city: who would not wonder if all England were but one city, and that as beautiful as Rome in the time of Augustus Cæsar, who found it of brick, and left it of marble! What a sight were that of Syria, if all a Jerusalem! What shall then be the celestial city of saints, whose greatness possesses the whole heavens, and is, as the holy Scriptures describe, (to exaggerate the riches of the saints,) all of gold and precious stones! The