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A Sweet Contemplation of Heaven and Heavenly
O My soul, lift up thyself above thyself; fly away in the contemplation of heaven and heavenly things; make not thy further abode in this inferior region, where is nothing but travail, and trials, and sorrow, and woe, and wretchedness, and sin, and trouble, and fear, and all deceiving and destroying vanities. Bend all thine affections upward unto the superior places where thy Redeemer liveth and reigneth, and where thy joys are laid up in the treasury of His merits, which shall be made thy merits, His perfection thy perfection, and His death thy life eternal, and His resurrection thy salvation. Esteem not the trifling pleasures of this life to be the way to this wealth, nor thy ignominious estate here to be any bar to prevent thee from the full use and joyful fruition of the glory there prepared for thee.
I am assured that though I want here, I have riches there ; though I hunger here, I shall have fulness there ; though I faint here, I shall be refreshed there; and though I be accounted here as a dead man, I shall there live in perpetual glory.
That is the city promised to the captives whom Christ shall make free; that is the kingdom assured to them whom Christ shall crown; there are the joys prepared for them that mourn ; there is the light that never shall go out; there is the health that shall never be impaired; there is the glory that shall never be defaced; there is the life that shall taste no death; and there is the portion that passeth all the world's preferment; there is the world that never shall wax worse; there is every want supplied freely without money; there is no danger, but happiness, and honour, and singing, and praise, and thanksgiving unto the heavenly Jehovah, “To Him that sitteth on the throne,” “To the Lamb” that here was led to the slaughter, that now “Reigneth,” with whom I “Shall reign,” after I have run this comfortless race through this miserable earthly vale.
The honour in this earth is baseness; the riches of this world is poverty ; the fulness of this life is want; the joys of this world's kingdom are sorrow, and woe, and misery, and sadness, and grief: and yet, “The fool saith in his heart” there is no other heaven but this harmful, deceiving world's happiness; no other hell but this world's bitterness; no better comfort than this world's cares; no further help than this world's wealth.
Thus is man's wisdom made foolishness, and man's glory turned into shame, and man's power made of no force : and the faithful poor that are here despised, they are advanced ; the sorrowful are comforted; and the castaways in this world are received to this blessed being, that cannot be expressed with the tongue of man, nor conceived with the heart of man.
“O that I had wings," saith heavenly-hearted David, that I might fly away from this world's vanities and possess heaven's happiness! "O that I were dissolved,” saith blessed Paul,“ That I might be with Christ !” O that I were in this place of such wished happiness, where I might rest from those worldly labours, and earthly miseries, and transitory vanities !
But be not heavy, O my soul, though thou must yet wade under the burden of these earthly troubles ; for these heavenly mysteries are not seen of carnal eyes, nor can be obtained by carnal means; but through troubles, and afflictions, and dangers, and persecutions, they must be achieved; and none that are God's elected shall be free from this world's hatred. For such difference is there between earth and heaven, and between earthly and heavenly things, that whoso delighteth in the first shall be deprived of the latter ; for we cannot have this world's heaven and “ The heaven of heavens,” the heaven of saints and angels, and cherubim and seraphim, where are all unspotted and all glorious, and all “In white robes of sanctity," and where Christ the sacrificed Lamb is unto them “ All in all."
0, blessed are all they that are thus assured ; blessed are
that shall have this heaven's riches; blessed are the base that shall be thus advanced ; blessed are the low that shall be thus raised; and blessed are the world's despised that shall have this heaven's happiness; yea, happy is this wretched world's unhappy man, for he shall be happy.
I will daily meditate of the greatness and majesty of this high heaven's blessed estate, where I shall one day bless my God with the company of His saints; and where I shall one day sit secure and free from the dangers, and perils, and crosses, and afflictions that now do assail me on the right hand and on the left, within me and without me; and am never free from one calamity or another.
But it is good for me to be here humbled, that I may be there advanced where I wish speedily to come ; it is good that I were in want here, that I might seek heavenly necessaries; it is good that the world did discourage me, that I might fly to God that comforteth me; it is good that I am daily killed here, that I might live continually.
Now, therefore, O my soul, stand up; fear not, faint not at this world's crosses, but give glory to this great God, praise this high and helping God, seek Him "While it is day;" drive not off to pray to this God, notwithstanding any hope thou hast in mortal men, but reject not His gracious means, who, in favour infinite and mercy endless, moveth the hearts of men in this life to do good unto such as He seeth distressed. He can find out and afford infinite means to succour them that are His, and will not leave them forsaken in danger ; for He even here giveth me His blessings as pledges of His never-failing love, that, being visited in His mercy with timely comforts here, I may assure me of greater blessings in heaven, where they are prepared beyond all that I can ask or think.
“O Lord God of Hosts, who is like unto Thee," who hast“ Established Thy kingdom with truth and equity, with mercy and judgment ?” “Thou hast a mighty arm, strong is Thine hand, and high is Thy right hand :" whoso is under Thy protection, He is safe ; and “He that trusteth in Thee, mercy embraceth him on every side.”
O blessed art thou, O my soul, if thou canst “Rejoice in the Lord.” He is thy father, He is thy helper; walk, therefore, “In the light of His countenance," and be patient; wait in hope till these storms be past, and then shalt thou have that quiet rest that He hath prepared in heaven.
“Lord, increase my faith.”
“Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, even the Lord Jesus.”
"If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.”
“Set your affections on things which are above, and not on things which are on the earth.”
Walking with God.
Now that we have seen what duty we owe to men, let us see what God requireth to be performed unto Himself. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good.” Our duty towards Him is to humble ourselves, and to walk carefully with our God. He that will walk with God must be of an humble heart. It is the mild-hearted and not the proudminded, the publican and not the pharisee, that walketh with Him.
To walk with Him is to be sincerely and heartily careful to set forward His cause, to promote His gospel, to defend His truth, to amplify His kingdom to the uttermost of our powers. Princes and they that judge the earth, whom God hath blessed with so high an honour, especially should in fear and reverence serve their God, love His Word and gospel, earnestly and cheerfully advance, maintain, and defend true religion. They are able to do most good, and, therefore, most is required of them. Bishops and ministers, the dispensers of God's blessed mysteries, should carefully travail in their Lord's cause and glory, in season and out of season, to preach the gospel, even so much as in us lieth; or else the woe of God which hangeth over our heads shall be poured down upon us.
But the saying of St. Paul is verified in these our days upon all sorts of people, "All men seek their own.” The preferring of true religion, the seeking of God's glory, is the least part of men's care or thought. It was otherwise with Moses, who both loved God's service with perfect love and hated superstition with perfect hatred.