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truth which we regard as simple, and as taught under very favourable circumstances, to truth, blended with error, or presented under circumstances of disadvantage ?” The preference this writer avows for his own denomination is such as becomes every honest man; while the favourable opinion he avows of the designs of others does honour to his head and to his heart.
Till the legislature will exert itself, by adopting some effectual measures for the more extensive accommodation of the people in parochial churches, no enlightened friend of religion will complain of the supply of this deficiency by the exertions of persons out of the pale of the establishment. It is above all things necessary to the welfare of the state, to the salvation of souls, and the glory of God, that public worship should be supported and upheld : in what edifices, or with what forms, providing heresy and idolatry are excluded, is a consideration of inferior moment. We do not differ from our brethren in the establishment in essentials; we are not of two distinct religions: while we have conscientious objections to some things enjoined in their public service, we profess the same doctrines which they profess; we worship the same God; we look for salvation through the blood of the same Mediator; we implore the agency of the same blessed Spirit, by whom we all have access to the Father; we have the same rule of life; and maintain, equally with them, the necessity of that so holiness, without which none shall see the Lord.” The increasing demand for new places of worship, or for enlarging the old, arises, in great part, from the increased attention paid to the concerns of religion.
XXXIII. ON THE REWARD OF THE PIOUS IN HEAVEN.
Matt. v. 12.—Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is
your reward in heaven.
The gospel of Christ is not intended to extinguish or impair the natural sensibility of the human mind; but to purify and refine it rather, by directing it to its proper objects. It proposes to transfer the affections from earth to heaven, - from a world of shadows and illusions, to a world where all is real, substantial, and eternal. By connecting the present with the future, by teaching us to consider every event in its relation to an hereafter, it presents almost every thing under a new aspect, and gives birth to such views of human life as, on a superficial observation, appear false and paradoxical. What can appear more so than to call upon men to “ rejoice and be exceeding glad,” when they are persecuted and reproached, and loaded with every kind of calumny? Yet such, we find, is the language of that teacher, who, “coming from above, is above all.” .
Nor is there any difficulty in admitting the justness and propriety of the sentiment contained
in this injunction, when it is added, “ for great is your reward in heaven.” A consummation so glorious throws a lustre over all the preparatory scenes, and turns into an occasion of joy and exultation that from which we should otherwise recoil with horror. We may reasonably be expected to welcome the short-lived pains which are to be followed by eternal pleasures, and those temporary reproaches which will be compensated with everlasting glory.
I. The felicity which awaits those who persevere through good and evil report, in a steadfast adherence to Christ, is frequently expressed in the Scriptures by the name of reward. It is almost unnecessary to remind you that this term is not on such occasions to be taken in its most strict and proper sense, as though the patience and perseverance of the saints deserved eternal felicity. Nothing is more opposed to the doctrine of scripture, and the feelings of a real christian, than such an idea. It is true, the inspired writers evince no reluctance to employ this term. Our Lord declares, “ He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward ; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward; and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, he shall in no wise e his reward.”* “ Love your enemies, and do
* Matt. x. 41, 42.
good, and lend, hoping for nothing again ; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be called the children of the Highest."* St. Paul assures us, “ Every man shall receive his own reward : if any man's work abide, he shall receive a reward." op “ Let no man beguile you of your reward.” I “ Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” S “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.”|| But still we must never lose sight of its true nature—that “it is of grace, not of debt.” It is what the infinite condescension of God is pleased to bestow on those who love [him], not what any man claims as equitably due: for our best performances are mixed with sinful imperfections, which need themselves to be pardoned; not to say that the ability to perform them is the effect of renewing and sanctifying grace; so that while in one sense they are our deeds, they are in another his donations.
The felicity which God will bestow upon his faithful servants, may be properly denominated a reward, on the following accounts
1. It is inseparably joined to obedience, and is promised as a motive to encourage and sustain it. Christ will be the “ Author of eternal salvation to them,” and them only, “who obey him.”
2. It will be bestowed expressly as a mark of approbation, and acceptance of the obedience to
* Luke vi. 35. + 1 Cor. iii. 8, 14. Col. ii. 18. 8 Matt. vi. 6. Rev. xxii. 12. Heb. v. 9.
which it is annexed. It will be bestowed as a token and demonstration of God's complacency in righteousness. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels."* “ And he said unto him, Well done, thou good servant; because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities." op
3. The reward, the felicity bestowed, will be proportioned to the degree of religious improvement, “to the work of faith and labour of love." We are reminded of those who are “ saved as by fire;” and of those who have “ an abundant entrance ;” of “a righteous man's,” and of “ a prophet's reward;” of some who “ sow sparingly," and of others who “ sow bountifully,” both of whom shall reap accordingly.
II. Having said enough to establish the scripture idea of rewards, I proceed to the more immediate object in view, which is, by a comparison of both, to evince the superiority of heavenly to earthly rewards, of its recompenses to those of time.
1. The rewards of heaven are certain. Whether we shall possess them or not may be matter of great uncertainty, because it is possible we may not be of the description of persons to whom they are promised. The heirs of salvation may, at certain seasons, entertain doubts of their finally obtaining them; but they are in themselves certain, * 2 Thess. i. 6, 7.
† Luke xix. 17. VOL. V.