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The second Consolation against the Fears of Death is, to look upon
God as a merciful Father, and to trust upon his infinite Goodness.
THERE is no child well descended, but desires earnestly
1 to see his father's face, and especially the face of a good and gracious father. A great prince's son, who hath been brought up in a foreign country, rejoiceth when his father sends for him, to make him partake of the glory and dignity of his empire. He is not then grieved nor troubled ; he seeks not to delay his departure, but rather embraceth, with transport of joy, the messenger of such good news, He thinks of nothing but hastening his journey :if he could borrow wings, he would fly with an unspeakable swiftness to his father's palace. Now we are the children of the great God, whose throne is heaven, and whose footstool is the earth : for our faith, that looks upon Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Redeemer, considers God as our God and Parent: for to them, who have received this only Son of the Father, hath been granted the privilege of being the sons of God, to them who believe in his name, 1 John i. So that we have just cause to be transported in an holy excess of joy, with the apostle St. John, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God," 1 John iii.
We are by nature children of wrath, as others; but God, who is rich in mercy, hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, Eph. ii. He gives us the gracious assurances of this free adoption in this life ; for as we are children, he hath sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, to cry, Abba, Father, Eph, i. This Holy Spirit bears witness
§2 ti? with our spirits that we are the children of God. If we be children, then heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ, Gal. iv. Yea, if we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him, Rom. viii. That we might be the children of God, he hath not only adopted us by Jesus Christ, but also regenerated us with incorruptible seed. We are not born of flesh and blood, but we are born of God. His infinite goodness moved him first to grant us a being, and his incomprehensible love hath inclined him to reform our beings, and reprint his divine image in our hearts, John i. 1 Pet. i. He hath begotten us by his pure grace, by the word of his truth, that we might be the first-fruits of his creatures, James i. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to hisabundant mercy, hath begottenus again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away,reserved in heaven for us,”1 Pet.i.
Now though we be the children of God, and the apparent heirs of his crown, our gloryand dignity is not to be discerned during the years of our earthly pilgrimage. Our heavenly Father suffers us here to live in a contemptible state in the eyes of the world, that we might learn humility, and long more earnestly for his celestial inheritance. As it happens in a dark and obscure midnight, men tread under feet pearls, diamonds, sceptres and crowns, as dust and dung; and now that a gross ignorance overspreads the world, the children of God, the most precious jewels of his crown, are esteemed no bet. ter than the scum of the filth of the earth. This consideration causeth St. John to tell us, “Beloved, we are now the children of God; it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like bim, for we shall see him as he is,” I John ü. As David sent for Absalom out of the Philistines' country, and gave him leave to dwell in the city of Jerusalem ; but for the space of two years he
would not suffer him to enter his royal palace, or see his face: thus God hath freed us from the devil's tyranny, and hell's power ; he hath admitted us into his holy church, which is as his Jerusalem, where he gives us a foretaste of our heavenly peace and reconciliation ; but he delays for a time our reception into the magnificent palace of his glory, and to the enjoyment of his divine presence, our highest satisfaction and greatest happiness. While we remain in the body, we are at a distance from God, so that we are saved but by hope, 2 Cor. v. But when we shall depart out of this body we shall be with the Lord, and shall enter into a real fruition of his celestial inheritance, Rom. viii. Finally, while we dwell here below, we may see the image of our heavenly Father, and behold his face as in a glass; but when he shall admit us near his throne, we shall see him face to face, we shall be transformed into his likeness, and be fully satisfied with his resemblance, Rom. i. 1 Cor. iii. xiii, Psa. xvii.
Let Death be ever so frightful and ill-favoured, it is the messenger of our heavenly Father; and if we can have the confidence to open its iron hands, and look into them, we shall find gracious letters, full of love, by which this Fatber of mercy calls us to the full enjoyment of our eternal happiness. Death not only invites us to God, but serves as a ship to convey us through this tempestuous sea of the world to our Redeemer, who expects our coming at the haven of everlasting rest: it is like Elijah's chariot of fire that carried him up to heaven, 1 Kings ii. If Death covers our eyes with one hand, and deprives us of the light of the sun with the other, it rends in pieces that veil which hinders us from the sight of those excellencies of God's immortal sanctuary, and discovers to us the glorious face of the Father of light. With the one it digs for our bodies a grave to cast them in, but with the other hand it Alings open for our souls the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, to introduce them into the ban
queting queting hall. Therefore Death should be so far from frighting us, that its arrival should rather comfort us, and cause us to resolve to follow it with an holy cheerfulness. For we should not only be willing to go to God, with transports of joy, when he is pleased to call us to behold his face, and to eat of the bread of eternal life in his heavenly kingdom; but of our own accord we should he impatient to enjoy his glorious presence, and in a continual longing to see that happy day that shall bring us to him, and satisfy us with unspeakable delights. A true Christian should be moved, on this occasion, with David's spirit. “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so pantech my soul after thee, O God: my soul thirsterb for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God ?"
I confess, that this great God, before whom we are to appear, is clothed with glory and majesty, and dwells in the light which no man can approach unto, 1 Tim. vi. I know that he sits upon a dreadful throne of fire, whereof the wheels are like a burning flame, Dan. vii. That thousand thousands wait upon him, and ten thousand millions stand before him, Isa, vi. I am not ignorant, that at his presence the earth is moved, the sea and the rivers dry up, the mountains tremble, and the little hills shake, the rocks shrink, the pillars of heaven fall, and the seraphims cover themselves with their wings, Rev. iv. But let not this dreadful majesty, and heavenly pomp, terrify thee, O believing soul; for this great God is full of fatherly affection for thee. Round about this throne of God there is a beautiful rainbow, of a green colour, like to an emerald ; to signify that God is reconciled, and that the covenant of our peace is to continue for ever. As out of his magnificent throne proceed thunders and thunderbolts that fright the worldlings, and cast the proud souls down to the ground; so from thence proceed also lightnings, and such refreshing flames, as are able to comfoșt the believer,
and to direct him to his celestial inheritance. We are re, lated to God more than the angels and seraphims; for we are not only his creatures and servants, but also his children and the members of his Son; nay, we are one with him, John xvii. Let us therefore return our hearty thanks to our heavenly Father, who hath made us meet to be made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. i.
Let us go with confidence to Mount Sion ; for there are no signs of God's wrath, nor his just vengeance, to be scen. We shall find no boundaries to keep us off from God; but we shall find assurances of love to invite and unite us unto him. We shall see no fire to devour and scare us; but we shall perceive the comfortable filames, which burn without consuming, and which bring consolation rather than fear. We shall not meet there a terrible lawgiver to drive us from him, to terrify us with his thunderbolts; but we shall meet a loving Father, to embrace and open to us the bosom of his tender compassion. In short, we shall not hear there the terrible sound of the trumpet, that causeth the rocks to split asunder, that flings to the ground the proud cedars, and makes the deer cast their young; but we shall hear the sweet and melodious voice, that will quiet our trembling souls, refresh our languishing spirits, and fill us with peace and eternal consolations, Heb. xii.
I acknowledge that God is just ; but he is also merciful, and his mercy rejoiceth over judgment. His justice is like an exceeding high mountain ; but his mercy may be compared to the bottomless deep, Ps. xxxix. Therefore Moses, who had seen God more than any living man, cannot be satisfied to extol and magnify his infinite mercy, and the overflowing riches of his love. He names him but once just, but many times he calls him “merciful, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth,” Exod. xxxiv. It is not unworthy of our observation, that the words righteous or just,