An exhortation to the pursuit of heaven and heavenly things
Use Third. Is heaven and all that is heavenly that Satan seeks to hinder us of? let this provoke us the more earnestly to contend for them. Had we to do with an enemy that came only to plunder us of earthly trifles, would honours, estates, and what this world affords us stay his stomach; it might suffer a debate, in a soul that hath hopes of heaven, whether it were worth fighting to keep this lumber; but Christ and heaven sure are too precious to part withal upon any terms. ‘Ask the kingdom for him also,’ said Solomon to Bathsheba, when she begged Abishag for Adonijah. What can the devil leave thee worth, if he deprive thee of these? and yet, I confess, I have heard of one that wished God would let him alone, and not take him from what he had here. Vile brute! the voice of a swine and not a man, that could choose to wallow in the dung and ordure of his carnal pleasures, and wish himself for ever shut up with his swill in the hog’s coat of this dunghill earth, rather than leave these, to dwell in heaven’s palace, and be admitted to no meaner pleasures than what God himself with his saints enjoy. It were even just if God gave such brutes as these a swine’s face to their swinish hearts; but alas! how few then should we meet that would have the countenance of a man? the greatest part of the world—even all that are carnal and worldly —being of the same mind, though not so impudent, as that wretch, to speak what they think. The lives of men tell plain enough that they say in their hearts, it is good being here—that they wish they could build tabernacles on earth for all the mansions that are prepared in heaven. ‘The transgression of the wicked,’ saith in David’s heart, ‘that the fear of God was not before them,’ Ps. 36:1; and may not the worldliness of a muck-worm say in the heart of any rational man, that heaven and heavenly excellences are not before their eyes or thoughts? O what a deep silence is there concerning these in the conversations of men! Heaven is such stranger to the most, that very few are heard to inquire the way thither, or so much as ask the question in earnest, What shall they do to be saved? The most express no more desires of obtaining heaven, than those blessed souls now in heaven do of coming again to dwell on earth. Alas! their heads are full of other projects; they are either, as Israel, scattered over the face of the earth to gather straw, or busied in picking that straw they have gathered, labouring to get the world, or pleasing themselves with what they got. So that it is no more than needs to use some arguments to call men off the world to the pursuit of heaven, and what is heavenly.
First Argument. As for earthly things, it is not necessary that thou hast them. That is necessary which cannot be supplied per vicarium—with somewhat besides itself. Now there is no such earthly enjoyment but may be so supplied, as to make its room more desirable than its company. In heaven there shall be light and no sun, a rich feast and yet no meat; glorious robes and yet no clothes, there shall want nothing, and yet none of this worldly glory [shall] be found there. Yea, even while we are here these may be recompensed; thou mayest be under infirmities of body, and yet better than if thou hadst health. ‘The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick, the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity,’ Isa. 33:24. Thou mayest miss of worldly honour, and obtain, with those worthies of Christ, Heb. 11, a good report by faith, and that is a name that is better than [that] of the great ones of the earth; thou mayest be poor in the world, and yet rich in grace, and ‘godliness with contentment is great gain;’ in a word, if thou partest with thy temporal life, and findest an eternal, what dost thou lose by the change? But heaven and heavenly things are such as cannot be recompensed with any other. Thou hast a heavenly soul in thy bosom; lose that, and where canst thou have another? There is but one heaven; miss that, and where can you take up your lodging but in hell? One Christ that can lead you thither; reject him, and ‘there remaineth no more sacrifice foe sins.’ O that men would think on these things. Go, sinner, to the world, and see what it can afford you in lieu of these. May be it will offer to entertain you with its pleasures and delights. O poor reward for the loss of Christ and heaven! Is this all thou canst get? Doth Satan rob thee of heaven and happiness, and only give thee posy to smell on as thou art going to thy execution? Will these quench hellfire, or so much as cool those flames thou art falling into? Who but those who have foredone their understandings, would take these toys and new nothings for Christ and heaven? While Satan is pleasing your fancies with these rattles and babbles, his hand is in your treasure, robbing you of that which is only necessary. It is more necessary to be saved, than to be; better not to be, than to have a being in hell.
Second Argument. Earthly things are such as it is a great uncertainty whether, with all our labour, we can have them or not. The world, though so many thousand years old, hath not learned the merchant such a method of trading, as from it he may infallibly conclude he shall at last get an estate by his trade, nor the courtier such rules of comporting himself to the humour of his prince as to assure him he shall rise. They are but few that carry away the prize in the world’s lottery; the greater number have only their labour for their pains, and a sorrowful remembrance left them of their egregious folly, to be led such a wild-goose chase after that which hath deceived them at last. But now for the heaven and the things of heaven, there is such a clear and certain rule laid down, that if we will but take the counsel of the Word we can neither mistake the way, nor in that way miscarry of the end. ‘And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God,’ Gal. 6:16. There are some indeed who run, and yet obtain not this prize; that seek, and find not; [that] knock, and find the door shut upon them; but it is because they do it either not in the right manner, or in the right season.