Third. To stand, doth here also—as the compliment of their reward—denote the saints’ standing in heaven’s glory. Princes, when they would reward any of their subjects that in their wars have done eminent service to the crown, as the utmost they can do for them, they prefer them to court, there to enjoy their princely favour, and [to] stand in some place of honourable service before them continually. Solomon sets it out as the greatest reward of faithful subjects, to ‘stand before kings.’ Heaven is the royal city where the great God keeps his court. The happiness of glorious angels is to stand there before God—‘I an Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God,’ Luke 1:19; that is, I am one of those heavenly spirits who wait on the great God, and stand before his face, as courtiers do about their prince. Now such honour shall every faithful soul have. ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge….I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by,’ Zech. 3:7. He alludes to the temple, which had rooms joining to it for the priests that waited on the Lord in his holy service there; or to courtiers, that have stately galleries and lodgings becoming their place at court allowed them in the king’s palace they wait upon. Thus all the saints—whose representative Joshua was —shall, after they have kept the Lord’s charge in a short life’s-service on earth, be called up to stand before God in heaven, where with angels they shall have their galleries and mansions of glory also. O happy they who shall stand before the Lord in glory! The greatest peers of a realm—such as earls, marquises, and dukes are—count it greater honour to stand before their king, though bareheaded and oft upon the knee, than to live in the country, where all bow and stand bare to them; yea, let but their prince forbid them coming to court, and it is not their great estates, or respect they have where they live, will content them. It is better to wait in heaven than to reign on earth. It is sweet standing before the Lord here in an ordinance. One day in the worship of God is better than many elsewhere. O, what then is it to stand before God in glory! If the saints’ spikenard sendeth forth so sweet a smell, while the king sits at his table here in a sermon or sacrament; O then what joy must needs flow from their near attendance on him, as he sits at his table in heaven, which when God first made, it was intended by him to be that chamber of presence in which he would present himself to be seen of, and enjoyed by, his saints in all his glory. I know nothing would have a more powerful, yea, universal operation, upon a saint’s spirit, than the frequent and spiritual consideration of that blissful state in heaven, which shall at last crown all their sad conflicts here on earth. None like this sword, to cut the very sinews of temptation, and behead those lusts which defy and out-brave whole troops of other arguments. It is almost impossible to sin with lively thoughts and hopes of that glory. It is when the thoughts of heaven are long out of the Christian’s sight, and he knows not what has become of his hopes to that glorious place, that he begins to set up some idol—as Israel the calf in the absence of Moses—which he may dance before. But heaven come in sight, and the Christian’s heart will be well warmed with the thoughts of it, and you may as soon persuade a king to throw his royal diadem into a sink, and wallow with his robes in a kennel, as a saint to sin with the expectation of heaven’s glory. Sin is a devil’s work, not a saint’s, who is a peer of heaven, and waits every hour for the writ that shall call him to stand with angels and glorified saints before the throne of God. This would cheer the Christian’s heart, and confirm him when the fight is hottest, and the bullets fly thickest from men and devils, to think, it is heaven all this is for, where it is worth having a place, though we go through fire and water to it. ‘It is before the Lord,’ said David to scoffing Michal, ‘which chose me before thy father, and all his house;…. therefore will I play before the Lord, and I will yet be more vile than thus,’ II Sam. 6:21,22.
Thus, Christian, wouldst thou throw off the vipers of reproaches, which from the fire of the wicked’s malice fly upon thee. It is for God that I pray, hear, mortify my lust, deny myself of my carnal sports, profits, and pleasures, that God who hath passed by kings and princes to chose me a poor wretch to stand before him in glory; therefore I will be yet more vile than thus. O sirs, were there not another world to enjoy God in, yet should we not, while we have our being, serve our Maker? The heavens and the earth obey his law, that are capable of no reward for doing his will. ‘Quench hell, burn heaven,’ said a holy man, ‘yet I will love and fear my God.’ How much more when everlasting arms of mercy stand ready stretched to carry you as soon as the fight is over into the blissful presence of God? You have servants of your own so ingenuous and observant, that can follow you work hard abroad in all weathers; and may they but, when they come home weary and hungry at night, obtain a kind look from you, and some tender care over them, they are very thankful. ‘Yea,’ saith
one, to shame the sluggish Christian, ‘how many hundred miles will the poor spaniel run after his master in a journey, who gets nothing but a few crumbs, or a bone from his master’s trencher?’ In a word, which is more the devil’s slaves; what will they not do and venture at his command, who hath not so much to give them as you to your dog, not a crust, not a drop of water to cool their tongue? and shall not the joy of heaven which is set before the Christian, into which he shall assuredly enter, make him run his race, endure a short scuffle of temptation and affliction? yea sure, and make him reckon also that these ‘are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in him.’