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things, but go lightly over them. Loose reins given to the affections even in lawful things, may soon give you a miserable fall. The way through the best of this present world is slippery, and there is need to keep a good bridle hand. The boundaries betwixt lawful and unlawful things are so very small, that it is difficult to go to the utmost of what is lawful, without slipping into what is unlawful. For though the very edge of the rock be firm, yet our heads are too light to venture on it.
Finally, Undervalue and disregard the best things of the world in comparison of Christ. "If any man, says he, come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." When they come in competition with him, give up with them. When they stand in your way to him, tread over them, that you may get forward, and count them but dung that you may win Christ. It was the commendation of Levi, when seen things and unseen were in competition, he looked not at them; "Unto his father and mother, he said, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren; nor knew his own children."
For the improvement of what has been said,
1. You may see here, where your danger lies, in your course through this world. It is on the one hand in looking at things. that are seen. These things will present themselves to your view, and strive to wind themselves into your affections. And the farther you launch into this deep, the more will you lose sight of Immanuel's land. Therefore take heed that you be not betrayed by the sight of your eyes, driven out of the way by the world's evil, or flattered out of it by its good things.
On the other hand your danger lies in losing sight of things not seen. We are apt to do so, and if we do not watch we cannot escape doing it. It is difficult to cause wet wood take fire, and as difficult to make it keep fire. And so carnal are our hearts, that it is difficult to get our eyes lifted up to look at the unseen things of another world, and when we have it, it is as difficult to keep the view. Therefore be upon your guard.
Use 2. For exhortation. Let me exhort you all as ever you would see heaven, so look to unseen things as to overlook the things that are seen.
Motives 1.-Consider the vast disproportion of the objects. Why should you not look at what is most worthy of your regard? Is the world, and all that is in it, to be laid in the balance with the favour and enjoyment of God? Can all the world's gain recompense the loss of the soul? I will give you only two views betwixt them that may shew the disproportion.
1. Seen things can never be truly satisfying, but unseen things are perfectly satisfactory to the soul. Seen things are not commensurate to the desires of the soul. If the world should cast all its best things into your bosom, would there not still be a want? "I have seen an end of all perfection." You have long squeezed the world for its sap, but did you ever yet come to say, it is enough? No, and you never will. For as a circle can never fill a triangle, so the world can never fill the heart of man. He was a fool that said to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."
But unseen things are perfectly satisfying. They are suited to the spiritual nature of the soul, and an infinite good is sufficient for the boundless desires of the soul. See what they are in time, Psal. iv. 7. "Thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased." See what they are in eternity, Psal. xvii. 15. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." Therefore I would say, "Wherefore do you spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness."
2. Seen things are but temporal, unseen things are eternal. The world's smiles and frowns will soon be over, but God's smiles and frowns will last for ever. Ere long this stage of vanity and misery will be taken down, but another scene will commence that will last for ever. Will you look forward to death, that will be the end of seen things to you. Look to the end of the world, that will be the end of them to all. But then the unseen things take place, never to give place to a change. Let me say then, Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away, as an eagle toward heaven.
Motive 2. Consider this is the way in which all the saints have gone to glory. "They walked by faith, not by sight." Had the fair ones now in heaven looked to what was seen, their carcases had fallen with others in the wilderness. But they had more noble views, "The prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. They desired a better country, that is an heavenly." Thus the cloud of witnesses steered their course, and thus did the King of saints upon their head, "Who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Motive 3. There is an unseen evil in the best things of the world, that afterwards comes to be severely felt. "But they that will be
rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts; which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Since the curse was laid upon the earth, thorns and briers have not ceased to grow up with our greatest worldly comforts. Brethren ! Why all this looking at seen things? Have you not found sometimes your greatest cross, where you looked for your greatest comfort? Have you not, sucking greedily at the dry breasts of the world, wrung out blood instead of milk? Have you not often been therein like one striking at a flinty rock for water, and got nothing but fire flashing in your faces.
4. Looking to the unseen things will help you on your way to Immanuel's land, whatever wind blow. This will make you easy, go the world as it will. He that while he has the world's good things does not stand by them, will stand without them when they are gone. Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." This has made confessors take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and martyrs joyfully to embrace a stake or a gibbet.
5. If you look to the things that are seen, then seen things will be your portion. And when the turn of unseen things comes, you will get that cutting memorandum, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things." You will never see the land that is afar off, otherwise than the rich man saw it in hell. And by the time you are in another world, the support which you have derived from the world's good things will be gone, and you will awake and find yourselves faint; but through eternity you shall not once taste the comforts of another world.
Lastly, If you overlook the things that are seen, and look at the things which are not seen, you shall not be disappointed. "For unto them that look for him shall Christ appear the second time, without sin unto salvation." What you look for now, you shall then fully enjoy, and be happy for ever, in being for ever with the Lord.
1. Live much by faith.
"The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." The life is the soul's continual travelling betwixt Christ's fulness and self-emptiness.
CHRIST DEMANDING ADMISSION,
2. Be much in prayer, so will you converse with the Lord of the unseen world, and about the unseen things of it.
3. Be much employed in reading the scriptures, for in them we have the account of the unseen things.
4. Be much given to meditation. Use stated meditations, and particularly I would recommend solemn secret fasting and humiliation. "And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart."
Lastly, Converse most as you have access, with those that are best acquainted with the unseen things and seem to have the savour of them most upon their spirits. And watch your hearts, that they slip not into a forgetfulness of things unseen, and return to a fondness for things that are seen. Amen.
Ettrick, June 24, 1716.
Sermons preparatory for the Lord's Supper.
CHRIST DEMANDING ADMISSION INTO SINNERS' HEARTS.
PSALM XXIV. 9.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
THIS psalm is judged to have been composed when David brought up the ark from the house of Obed Edom to mount Zion, 2 Sam. iv. chap. to be sung on that occasion, and others like it, particularly on the bringing of the ark into the temple, which was afterwards to be built, to which the Psalmist seems here, by the spirit of prophecy, to have a special reference.
The ark was a type of Christ, and so this psalm concerns him. The sum of it is, that though all the world be the Lord's, yet the church is his in a peculiar manner; for there, and in his people, he dwells and all ought to receive him. It was sung by the Jews ordinarily on the first day of the week, which is now the Christian Sabbath, and the matter of it is very agreeable to the Sabbath, being the day in which Christ solemnly demands admission into the hearts of the hearers of the gospel.
In the words there are two things.
1. Entrance solemnly demanded, Lift up your heads, O ye gates. Where consider, to whom the demand is directed. Some read the words, Lift up your gates, O ye princes or heads. (So the Vulgate.) Accordingly, some understand it of Christ's ascension into heaven, taking the gates for those of heaven, the princes for the angels. Others, namely, some Papists, understand it of Christ's descending into hell, taking the gates for those of hell, the princes for the devils. But as there is no ground for this reading, the interpretation as built upon it falls to the ground.
The demand is figuratively directed to the gates, a thing very natural in a joyful solemnity, especially in a song. But the Ark, Tabernacle, and Temple being all typical, this doubtless, has a compound sense, literal and mystical.
Literally, by the gates are meant, the gates of the temple, which though it was not built in David's time, yet it was designed to be built, on the place to which the ark was now brought, namely in the mount. Everlasting doors they are called, because the temple was a fixed dwelling for the ark, whereas the tabernacle was removed from place to place.
Mystically, the temple was a type of heaven, and if on this account these words be applied to Christ's ascension, (so several of the Fathers understand them) I will not contend. But it was also temple was the And so by the
a type of the church, and the ark's dwelling in the symbol of the divine presence among the Jews. gates are meant the hearts of sinners to whom the gospel comes, according to that, Rev. iii. 20, Behold I stand at the door and knock if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." These are the everlasting doors, both because of the immortality of the soul, and because when Christ once comes into them he never departs. This was aimed at in that call at the entrance of the ark, for there is not a word here of the ark, but of the King of glory. Namely, that, as they received the ark into the temple, so they should open their hearts to receive Christ into their souls.
The thing demanded is, "that the gates lift up their heads, also that the everlasting doors be lifted up." From top to bottom they must be thrown wide open that there may be a spacious entrance. This for the greater solemnity, in the bringing of the ark. It indicates a most hearty willingness in embracing of Christ and receiving him into the soul. It is expressed two ways. The first seems to belong to saints who are to be active in it. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! Do it of your own accord, willingly, for our Lord will not force his entrance. But in the day of his power he can make