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living hope, that according to his own request; where he is, there we may be also. Thus this hope is strongly underset, on the one side by the resurrection of Christ, on the other by the abundant mercy of God the Father. Our hope depends not on our own strength or wisdom, nor on any thing in us; for if it did, it would be short-lived, would die, and die quickly, but on his resurrection who can die no more: for in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God". This makes this hope not to imply, in the notion of it, uncertainty, as worldly hopes do; but it is a firm, stable, inviolable hope, an anchor fixed within the vail.
According to his abundant mercy.] Mercy is the spring of all this; yea, great mercy, and manifold mercy : “ for (as St. Bernard saith) great sins and
great miseries need great mercy, and many sins "and miseries need many mercies.” And is not this great mercy, to make of satan's slaves, Sons of the most High? Well may the Apostle say, Behold what manner of love, and how great love the Father hath shewed us, that we should be called the Sons of God. The world knows us not, because it knew not him. They that have not seen the Father of a child, cannot know its resembling him. Now the world knows not God, and therefore discerns not his image in his children so as to esteem them for it. But whatever be their opinion, this we must say ourselves, Behold what manner of love is this, to take fire-brands of hell, and to appoint them to be one day brighter than the sun in the firmament; to raise the poor out of the dunghill, and set them with princes'.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.] Lastly, we see it stirs up the Apostle to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the stile of the Gospel, as formerly under the law, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the God that brought thee up out of the land * Rom. vi. 10.
y Psal. cxiii. 7, 8,
of Egypt, &c. This now is the order of the government of grace, that it holds first with Christ our Head, and in him with us; so he says, I go to iny Father, and your father, and my God, and your God. Which, as St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechism observes, shows us not only our communion with him, that might have been expressed thus, I go to my God and Father, but the order of the covenant, first my Father, and my God, and then yours. Thus ought we, in our consideration of the mercies of God, still to take in Christ, for in him they are conveyed to us. Thus”, With all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.
Blessed.], He blesseth us really, benefaciendo benedicit. We bless Iliin, by acknowledging his good. ness, and this we ought to do at all times. I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. All this is far below Him and his mercies. What are our lame praises in comparison of his love? Nothing, and less than nothing; but love will stammer rather than be dumb. They that are amongst his children, begotten again, have, in the resurrection of Christ, a lively hope of glory, as it is!, Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. This leads them to observe and admire that rich mercy whence it flows; and this consideration awakes them, and strains them to break forth into praises.
To an inheritance incorruptible.] As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart
Worldly mirth is so far from curing spiritual grief, that even worldly grief, where it is great, and takes deep root, is not allayed but increased by it. А man that is full of inward heaviness, the more he is compassed about with mirth, it exasperates and enrages his grief the more; like ineffectual weak phy. sic, that removes not the humour, but stirs it, and makes it more unquiet: but spiritual joy is season
Eph. i. 3. a Psal. xxxiv. 1. b Col. i. 27. c Prov. xxv. 20.
able for all estates; in prosperity it is pertinent to crown and sanctify all other enjoyments, with this that so far surpasses them; and in distress it is the only Nepenthe, the cordial of fainting spirits : so", He hath put joy into my heart. This mirth makes way for itself, which other mirth cannot do; these songs are sweetest in the night of distress. Therefore the Apostle, writing to his scattered afflicted brethren, begins his Epistle with this song of praise, Blessed be the God and Father, &c.
The matter of it is, the joyful remembrance of the happiness laid up for them, under the name of inheritance. Now this inheritance is described by the singular qualities of it. They contain, 1. The excellency of its nature. 2. The certainty of its attainment. The former in these three, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; the latter in the last words of this verse, and in the following, reserved in Heaven for you, &c.
God is bountiful to all, gives to all men all that they have, health, riches, honour, strength, beauty and wit; but those things he scatters (as it were) with an indifferent hand. Upon others he looks, as well as on his beloved children; but the inheritance is peculiarly theirs. Inheritance is convertible withi Sonship for, Abraham gave gifts to Keturah's sons, and dismissed them; but the inheritance was for the Son of the promise. When we see a man rising in preferment, estate, or admired for excellent gifts and endowments of mind, we think there is a happy man: but we consider not that none of all those things are matter of inheritance; within
a while he is to be turned out of all, and if he i have not somewhat beyond all those to look to,
he is but a miserable man, and so much the more miserable, that once he seemed and was reputed happy. There is a certain time wherein heirs come to possess. Thus it is with this inheritance too, there is by the Apostle mention made of a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fuld Psal. iv,
e Gen. xxv. 5.
ness of Christ. And though the inheritance is rich and honourable, yet the heir being young, is held under discipline, and is more strictly dealt with possibly than the servants, sharply corrected for that which is let pass in them; yet still even then, in regard of that which he is born to, his condition is much better than theirs, and all the correction he suffers prejudices him not, but fits him for inheriting. The love of our heavenly Father is beyond the love of mothers in tenderness, and yet beyond the love of fathers (which are usually said to love more wisely) in point of wisdom: he will not undo his children, his heirs, with too much indulgence. It is one of his heavy judgments upon the foolish children of disobedience, that ease shall slay them, and their prosperity shall prove their destruction.
While the children of God are childish and weak in faith, they are like some great heirs before they come to years of understanding, they consider not their inheritance, and what they are to come to, have not their spirits elevated to thoughts worthy of their estate, and their behaviour conformed to it; but as they grow up in years, they come by little and little to be sensible of those things, and the nearer they come to possession, the more apprehensive they are of their quality, and what doth answerably become them to do: and this is the duty of such as are indeed heirs of glory, to grow in the understanding and consideration of that which is
prepared for them, and to suit themselves, as they are able, to those great hopes. This is that the Apostle St. Paul prays for, for his Ephesians. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the Saints. This would make them holy and heavenly, to have their conversation in Heaven, from whence they look for a Saviour. That we may then the better know somewhat of the dignity and riches of this inheritance, let us consider the Eph. iv. 13.
8 Chap. i. v, 18.
description that is here given us of it. And first, it is,
Incorruptible.] Although this seems to be much the same with the third quality, that fadeth not away, which is a borrowed expression for the illustrating of its incorruptibleness; yet I conceive there is some difference, and that in these three qualities there is a gradation. Thus it is called incorruptible, that is, it perisheth not, cannot come to nothing, is an estate that cannot be spent; but though it were abiding, yet it might be such, as the continuance of it were not very desirable; it would be but a misery at best to continue always in this life. Plotinus thanked God that his soul was not tied to an immortal body,
Then undefiled, it is not stained with the least spot. This signifies the purity and perfection of it, that the perpetuity of it; it doth not only abide, and is pure, but those together, it abideth always in its integrity. And lastly, it fadeth not away; it doth not fade nor wither at all, is not sometimes more, sometimes less pleasant, but ever the same, still like itself, and that is the immutability of it.
As it is incorruptible, it carries it away from all earthly possessions and inheritances; for all those epithets are intended to signify its opposition to the things of this world, and to shew how far it excels them all. And thus comparatively we are to consider it: for as divines say of the knowledge of God that we have here, the negative notion makes up a great part of it, we know rather what he is not than what he is, infinite, incomprehensible, immutable, &c. so it is of this happiness, this inheritance, and indeed it is no other but God. We cannot tell you what it is, but we can say so far what it is not, as declares it is unspeakably above all the most excellent things of the inferior world, and this present life. It is by privatives, by removing imperfections from it, that we describe it, and we can go no further, viz. incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth