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SAINTS IN HEAVEN.
Heb. IV. 9.
The coherence of the words. The doctrine and method of handling it pro
The words are an inference from the foregoing part of the chapter, wherein the apostle doth by illustration and proof make a discovery to us of the future state of rest for the people of God. He makes use of a double illustration for this. 1st. God's sacred rest from the works of creation, from the
“ And God did rest the seventh day from all his works ;” that is, after God had perfected the invisible and visible world, on the review of all his works, finding them very good, he took pleasure, he was satisfied in all those discoveries of his own perfections in the works of his hands; and this is said to be his rest.
God always enjoyed his own glory and blessedness VOL. III.
even from eternity: but this rest here spoken of, hath respect to the precedent work of creation, and that joyful reflection that God made upon his own works; because they were according to the model of his infinite wisdom, he was infinitely pleased in them. Now this divine rest is produced here as an illustration of that rest that the saints shall enjoy in heaven, after all their works done for the glory of God here on earth.
2nd. The second illustration is from the rest that was promised to the Israelites in the land of Canaan; and the apostle speaks of this in the first verse, “let us therefore fear, lest a promise being made of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” And in the foregoing chapter he had been treating of this rest. They were at first harassed in Egypt with cruel oppression, and they were to pass through a waste and wild wildorness, wherein they were to have many hard and difficult journeys. To those that did believe, and obey according to that belief, Canaan was promised as a land of rest. Now this temporal Canaan was but a type of the heavenly Canaan, the land above, that flows indeed with milk and honey; that is, where holiness, and joy, and pleasure, are for ever in perfection. Now, saith the apostle, the earthly Canaan was to be a representative of that country above, which is prepared for the people of God. And indeed this was the wisdom of the Holy Spirit of God, to raise the thoughts and desires of men by temporal things to those which are eternal. This is the double illustration. The proof which the apostle urgeth here, that there is still a rest remaining for the people of God, is from hence, that after the Israelites were possessed of Canaan, yet the royal prophet David speaks of another rest, that unbelievers should be excluded from, and that believers should obtain. “ Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, to-day after so long a time as it is said, to-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not after have spoken of another day; there remaineth a rest therefore to the people of God.” If you will be obedient to his call, do not harden your hearts, through infidelity; if you will believe and be holy, you shall come to this rest, that indeed deserves that name, not like the rest in the land of Canaan. If indeed he had given them rest, David would not have spoken of another rest. If we had been possessed of it in the land of Canaan,
David would not have said, if you remain in disobedience and infidelity you shall not enter into it, but if you be obedient you shall possess it. But seeing David hath said so, I conclude, saith the apostle, “there remains therefore a rest to the people of God.” The words that I have read to you do contain that which is the most powerful and the most comfortable motive to believe and obey the gospel, and to persevere in it, that can be offered to you, especially considering the state we are in of strangers, and of a continual warfare; there is nothing can be more desirable than to hear this, and that can give more vigour to our souls in the ways of God. There is an expression of Solomon applicable to this purpose, “ as cold waters to the thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” This is good news from heaven, the country above, therefore infinitely refreshing to us in all the heat, trouble and toil that we are engaged in, in this suffering world; “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”
The doctrine that I shall insist upon from the words, is this, there is a divine and blessed rest that is reserved as a reward to the people of God. I call it divine, because it is an imitation of God's rest, and it remains, for it is reserved as a reward. In the opening of this, I will show you,
1. Who are they that are characterized by this title, the people of God, and who are qualified for this reward and rest, and have a title to it, and an interest in it.
II. The place of this rest where it shall be.
Who are the people of God, for whom heaven is reserved. They are such as
he bath a propriety in: not upon common accounts only, but special and peculiar ones, viz. election, special redemption, and renovation. And such as unfeignedly consent to take him for their King, and yield a voluntary, persevering subjection to him.
1. First, Consider who they are that are characterized here as heirs of this divine and blessed rest ; and they are called the people of God. I shall not run forth into a long discourse of all those things that the scripture speaks concerning the heirs of heaven, and their qualifications : I shall restrain what I shall say to this title, The people of God, and this title includes,
i. God's propriety in them, they are his people.
ii. It concludes on their part, Ist. An unfeigned consent to take him for their King. And, 2nd. A voluntary persevering subjection to him.
i. God's people are those he hath a propriety in; and this I will open particularly to you.
1. God hath a general right to all the works of his hands, especially in the reasonable world. You shall find the psalmist saith, in Psalm 100. 3. “ Know ye, that the Lord he is God; it is he that made us, and not we ourselves : we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” He hath an undoubted right in all creatures, both men and angels, as he is their Creator. But notwithstanding this clear title of God, the greatest part of the world do not obey him: he hath indeed the right of a king, but they do not pay him the reverence due to him as a king ; they do not subject themselves to him. And in this respect you must make a difference between being a king, and reigning over a people: a prince may have authority over a people, and they may prove rebellious, and he not reign over them. Now the greatest part of the world live in this way of rebellious opposition against God. It is said, Psal. 2.2, 3, “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, “ let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” It is not creation that gives that propriety in a people, that they shall hereby have a title to God's rest: the fallen angels were his sons by creation : the angels are called the sons of God; but they have proved rebellious in his own court, and therefore expelled from thence.
2. The propriety of God in his people, is upon more peculiar and special accounts.
(1.) To begin with the rise of it; his merciful choosing of them from eternity to be vessels of grace and glory. God's original title ariseth from his electing-love; “ I have chosen them to be a people to myself.” Isa. 43. 20. And our Saviour speaking concerning his apostles, John 6. 17. “ thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” How were the apostles God the Father's in a special manner? The meaning of that expression is, they were thine by thy merciful choice, by thy peculiar electing-love; thine they were and thou gavest them me; to be the matter of my purchase; to be redeemed and saved by me.
You must know, as it is with earthly kings and their people, they have their several limits, whereby one kingdom is distinguished from another; as rivers, mountains, and the like; so the kingdom and people of God are limited by his election, from the kingdoms of the world, and of satan. All those upon whom the beams of electing-love shine, those that God hath chosen from pure mercy, they are his people strictly and properly, and distinguished from all those that are entitled his people by an external profession.
(2.) This title of God to his people, as it took its rise from election, so it is confirmed by his special and peculiar redeeming of them: he paid a ransom for them out of his own treasury ; that is the most precious blood of the Son of God given for them by the order and appointment of his Father : 'and the Lord Jesus was God's servant in the work of our redemption ; and his redemption had respect to the will of his father, as the first rise and motive of it; and those whom his Father gave him, he doth effectually redeem : he not only laid down a price for them, but all the benefits he purchased by his blood, he applieth to them. You know how the apostle challengeth the Corinthians upon