An exhortation to the pursuit of heaven and heavenly things 3/3

Heaven is a kingdom that cannot be shaken—Christ an abiding portion—his graces and comforts, sure waters that fail not, but spring up into eternal life.  The quails that were food for the Israelites’ lust soon ceased, but the rock that was drink to their faith followed them.  This rock is Christ.  Make sure of him, and he will make sure of thee; he will follow thee to thy sick-bed, and lie in thy bosom, cheering thy heart with his sweet comforts, when worldly joys lie in cold upon thee, as David’s clothes on him, and [when] no warmth of comfort [is] to be got from them.  When thy outward senses are locked up, that thou canst neither see the face of thy dear friends, nor hear the counsel and comfort they would give thee, then he will come, though these doors be shut, and say, ‘Peace be to thee, my dear child; fear not death or devils; I stay to receive thy last breath, and have here my angels waiting, that as soon as thy soul is breathed out of thy body, they may carry and lay it in my bosom of love, where I will nourish thee with those eternal joys that my blood hath purchased, and my love prepared for thee.’

           Fourth Argument. Earthly things are empty and unsatisfying.  We may have too much, but never enough of them.  They oft breed loathing, but never content; and indeed how should they, being so dis­proportionate to the vast desires of these immortal spirits that dwell in our bosoms?  A spirit hath not flesh and bones, neither can it be fed with such; and what hath the world, but a few bones covered over with some fleshly delights to give it?  ‘The less is blessed of the greater,’ not the greater of the less. These things therefore being so far inferior to the nature of man, he must look higher if he will be blessed, even to God himself, who is the Father of spirits.  God intended these things for our use, not enjoyment, and what folly is it to think we can squeeze that from them, which God never put in them?  They are breasts, that, moderately drawn, yield good milk, sweet, refreshing; but, wring them too hard, and you will suck nothing but wind or blood from them.  We lose what they have, by ex­pecting to find what they have not.  None find less sweetness and less and more dissatisfaction in these things, than those who strive most to please them­selves with them.  The cream of the creature floats atop, and he that is not content to fleet it, but thinks by drinking a deeper draught to find yet more, goes further to speed worse, being sure by the disap­pointment he shall meet to pierce himself through with many sorrows.  But all these fears might happily be escaped, if thou wouldst turn thy back on the creature, and face about for heaven.  Labour to get Christ, and through him hopes of heaven, and thou takest the right road to content; thou shalt see it before thee, and enjoy the prospect of it as thou goest, yea, find that every step thou drawest nearer and nearer to it.  O what a sweet change wouldst thou find!  As a sick man coming out of an impure un­wholesome climate, where he never was well, [finds] when he gets into fresh air or his native soil, so also wilt thou find a cheering of thy spirits, and a reviving [of] thy soul with unspeakable content and peace. Having once closed with Christ,

  1. The guilt of all thy sins is gone, and this spoiled all thy mirth before.  All your dancing of a child, when some pin pricks it, will not make it quiet or merry; well, now, that pin is taken out which robbed thee of the joy of thy life.
  2. Thy nature is renewed and sanctified.  And when is a man at ease, if not when he is in health? and what is holiness, but the creature restored to his right temper, in which God created him?
  3. Thou becomest a child of God, and that can­not but please thee well, I hope, to be a son or daughter to so great a King.
  4. Thou hast a right to heaven’s glory, whither thou shalt ere long be conducted to take and hold possession of that thy inheritance for ever, and who can tell what that is?  Nicephorus tells us of one Agbarus, a great man, that—hearing so much of Christ’s fame, by reason of the miracles he wrought —sent a painter to take his picture, and that the painter when he came was not able to do it, because of the radiancy and splendour which sat on Christ’s face.  Whether this be true or no, I leave it; but, to be sure, there is such a brightness on the face of Christ glorified, and that happiness which in heaven saints shall have with him, as forbids us that dwell in mortal flesh to conceive of it aright, much more to express [it].  It is best going thither to be informed, and then we shall confess [that] we on earth heard not half of what we there find, yea, that our present conceptions are no more like to that vision of glory we shall there have, than the sun in the painter’s table is to the sun itself in the heavens.  And if all this be so, why then do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not, yea, for that which keeps you from that which can satisfy?  Earthly things are like some trash, which doth not only not nourish, but takes away the appetite from that which would.  Heaven and heavenly things are not relished by a soul vitiated with these.  Manna, though for deliciousness called angels’ food, [is] yet but light bread to an Egyptian palate.  But these spiritu­al things depend not [so] on thy opinion, O man, whoever thou art—as earthly things in a great measure do—that the value of them should rise or fall as the world’s exchange doth, and as vain man is pleased to rate them.  Think gold dirt, and it is so, for all the royal stamp on it.  Count the swelling titles of worldly honour—that proud dust brags so in—vanity, and they are such; but have base thoughts of Christ, and he is not the worse.  Slight heaven as much as you will, it will be heaven still.  And when thou comest so far to thy wits, with the prodigal, as to know which is best fare, husks or bread, where best living, among hogs in the field or in thy Father’s house, then thou wilt know how to judge of these heavenly things better.  Till then, go and make the best market thou canst of the world, but look not to find this pearl of price—true satisfaction to thy soul —in any of the creature’s shops; and were it not better to take it when thou mayest have it, than after thou hast wearied thyself in vain in following the creature, to come back with shame, and may be miss it here also, because thou wouldst not have it when it was offered?

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