CHAP. XXII. Seven Rules, or Directions, how to get Heavenly Conversa∣tion.
BUt you will say, How should we do to get this our Conversa∣sation to be in Heaven? it's an excellent Conversation indeed, Oh that we might attain unto it!
The First Rule.
First, Take this Rule, Be perswaded that it is attainable. Let Christians conclude thus with themselves, it is possible for me to live a life of Heaven while I am upon the earth: There is a Heaven to be got, it will mightily stir up the spirit of a Christian if he do beleeve this. I may live in Heaven here, with God, and Christ, and his Angels, and Saints; there are some that have attain'd to this; and how have they attain'd to it? not by their own strength, they were men subject to the same infirmities that you are, even Paul himself that had his Conversation in Heaven, was subject to many infirmition But through the strength Page 252 of Christ he can do all things, he was nothing in himself; reade but the 7. of the Romans, Paul saith there of himself, that he was even sold under sin, and when he would do good, evil was present with him: and he was led captive, and he found a Law in his members rebelling against the law of his mind, and he had many corruptions and was feign to have a prick in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to humble him: and he spake of this Heavenly Conversation, not only that he had it himself, but writing to the Phi∣lippians they attain'd to it; they were a Church that were very spiritual, but were but poor and mean in respect of some others, and they had not those eminent gifts that the Corinthians had, and yet the Philippians had their Conver∣sations in Heaven: therefore it is a thing that is attainable.
The Second Rule.
Secondly, If you would get your Conversations in Hea∣ven, Labor to keep a cleer conscience, keep a Heaven in your cons∣eience. Those men that do fully and defile their conscien∣ces, they lose their intercourse with Heaven, and indeed, the presence of the God of Heaven is tedious to them, they be loth to go into his presence when once they have defiled consciences, If there be a Hell in a mans conscience, there will not be a Heaven in his Conversation., but let men and women la∣bor to keep conscience clean, and a Heaven there, and then there will be a Heaven in their Conversations.
The Third Rule.
Watch opportunicies for Heavenly exercises, though you have much business in the world, watch time. You that are servants, you should not indeed neglect your Masters business, for you may serve God in the work of your Master, but yet you must watch opportunities; get alone, and if you can∣not have any long time let it be so much the frequenter, watch all opportunities for Heavenly exercises, for medi∣tation, Page 253 for prayer, for reading, for conversing with God: Oh! we might get many opportunities to get our souls in Heaven if we would but watch; and those that are dili∣gent to watch opportonities for Heavenly exercises, and prize opportunities for them, they are the men and women that will come to attain to a Heavenly Conversation, that do not' make it as a light matter whether they have con∣verse with God or no in holy duties: Christians that would have their Conversations in Heaven, they must look upon their opportunities for Heavenly exercises, they eye them, as that wherein much of the joy and comfort of their lives consists.
The Fourth Rule.
Forget not this in the next place, (I speak now to Chri∣stians that would feign have their Conversations in Hea∣ven) I say to you, Take heed and be careful that you rest not in formallity; watch to get opportunities, but be not formal in duties in them. Oh! this will mightily darken your Conversa∣tions, it will make them very earthly, there will be no beauty at all in them if you come to rest in formallity in holy performances: There's many Christians that we hope may have some good at the bottom, yet growing to a form in Religion they never honor their profession, they have little comfort to their own souls, they go on in a dead hearted condition, they know not what it is to have com∣munion with God, Oh beware of that; that we are all by nature subject too; those that have enlightenings of cons∣cience, they dare not but take opportunities for Heavenly duties; but then comes in the temptation of the Devil, and the corruption of our own hearts; when I have done my task, then it's over, I have prayed, I but you have been in Heaven that while? what converse with God have you had there? Oh take heed of formallity! it will exceedingly hinder your Conversation. But now, a Christian though of never such weak parts, can but chatter to God, and Page 254 speak a few broken words and half sentences, yet if he doth not rest in formallity he may have much converse with God, whereas others that have excellent parts, yet resting in the work done, never knows what the meaning is of having a Conversation in Heaven.
The Fifth Rule.
Labor to beat down your Bodies, That is, take heed of ma∣king provision for the flesh, beware of sensual lusts; how came Paul to have his Conversation in Heaven? saith he, I*beat down my body; The word is, Black and blue; club'd it down; as if he should say, This body of mine would draw my heart aside from spiritual things, and make me earth∣ly and sensual, I wil keep down my body, I will not give that satisfaction to the flesh, and body so as to strengthen any temptation that should draw my heart off from Spiri∣tual, and Heavenly things: no, but I beat down my body saith he. There's no Christian that is Heavenly but he must be very careful and watchful over his sences while he lives here, to beat down his body, and so he may come to have his Conversation in Heaven.
The Sixth Rule.
Labor to be skilful in the mystery of godliness, to draw strength from Jesus Christ in every thing you do. For my Brethren, Christ he is Jacob's Ladder. When Jacob lay asleep he saw a ladder on which the Angels did descend and ascend up to Heaven. Now this Jacob's Ladder is no other but Jesus Christ to Christians, and that must be set up to Hea∣ven; if you would go to Heaven, and converse with Heaven, it must be by Jesus Christ, you must be instructed in the mysterie of the Gospel in conversing with God through a Mediator; there is such an infinite distance be∣tween God and us, that except we have Christ the Media∣tor we can never come to God, nor God come to us; it is Page 255 only Christ the Mediator that is the Ladder: We need not say Who shall go up to Heaven to fetch Christ down? No, we may have Christ in our hearts, and set up him, and so we may go up to Heaven by his Mediation. When as a Christian comes to live in this manner; what I do expect from God, I expect to draw it through a Mediator, and all the services that I tender up to God I tender them up through the hand and heart of Christ: Now those that are acquainted with this have much converse with Heaven: By Jesus Christ the Mediator I may come up there and pre∣sent my self there, though no unclean thing may come there, for God looks upon the Saints through him as righ∣teous, being cloathed with his righteousness, they may come to their Father with boldnesse, having their Elder brothers garments upon them, they may come and kneel before the Throne of grace, come into Heaven as into the Presence Chamber and kneel every morning for their Fa∣thers blessing; it's by him what we have accesse unto the Father: Oh! acquaint thy self with the Mystery of god∣linesse in drawing all from Christ; and tendering all to God through Christ: By this Heaven comes down to thee, and by this thou climest up to Heaven, this is the Jacob's Ladder. But those men that only look upon God in a natural way, that's thus, Indeed all good things must come from God; and so they go to prayer, Lord we beseech thee bless us this day, for all good things come from thee. And they serve God, their consciences tell them they must worship, and serve God while they live here: but it is but in a dull natural way: let me leave it in your hearts, All good comes from God through a Mediator, through Jesus Christ the second Person in Trinity, God-Man, and all my services are tendered up to God through him; there is this Media∣tor God-Man that unites God and me together, and so by him I have acceptance both for my person and all my acti∣ons, and by him I come to have other manner of blessings than comes from God meerly as Creator, God in bounty bestows upon the creature many good things, but when Page 256 we come to deal with God in Christ we come to have Hea∣venly blessings, blessings beyond the power of nature, yea beyond all those blessings that nature can be any convey∣ance of, beyond the blessings that the conduits of the crea∣ture are able to hold forth, they have the blessing from God imediately, imediately I mean in respect of the crea∣ture, it's by the mediation of Christ, they enjoy God in Christ, and so come to enjoy God in a Heavenly, Super∣natural way: Oh this is the way to have our Conversati∣ons in Heaven; and those Christians that are much ac∣quainted with the Gospel of Christ, they come to live far more Heavenly Conversations than others that go on in a dull, heavie, and natural kind of way in serving of God: But being not acquainted with this mysterie, their hearts lie low upon the earth, and know not what it is to have their Conversations in Heaven.
The Seventh Rule.
And so the next Rule with which I must close all is this, Exercise much the grace of faith: There is no way to get above the Creature, and above Nature, but by exercising the grace of Faith. Many Christians think they must exercise love to God, and exercise sorrow for sin; the grace of Repen∣tance, mourning for sin, that's good, thou shouldest do that, and thou shouldest exercise patience; but the great grace that is to be imployed if thou wouldest attain a Hea∣venly life, it is, The exercise of Faith: and make consci∣ence to put forth that grace much, for it's by that that we do converse with God through Christ. Though Christ be the ladder, yet it's faith that carries us up this ladder, and brings us down again, it's faith that makes the things of Heaven real to the soul, Heb. 11. 1. It's faith that is an evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things ho∣ped for, by faith these things come to be made real and sub∣stantial things, and as present things, faith it is that gives a great excellency to all the things of Heaven its self, and Page 257 therefore live much by faith, and walk by faith, and not by sence, and then shalt thou be above the world and live in Heaven; and as the fruit of thy faith wait for the appea∣ring of Jesus Christ. Our Conversation is in Heawen (saith the Apostle) from whence also we look for the Savior the Lord Je∣sus Christ &c. Where a mans Conversation is, there his expe∣ctations may be; and where the expectations are, there a mans Conversation is; now our Converstaion is in Heaven from whence also we look for Jesus Christ; as if he should say, It's not a motion, do not you think that when we speak of Conversing in Heaven that we please our own fan∣cies; Oh no, saith he, we by faith look upon Heaven as the most real thing in the world, for we expect the Lord Jesus Christ ere long to appear in glory bodily, and we shall see him with these eyes, and shall change our vile bodies and make them like his glorious body, we by faith looking upon such glorious things to be so real, and so at hand, and we waiting for these things it's this that makes our Conversation to be in Heaven: our hearts and all are there, because that we expect that these things will be made good to us quickly, Oh Christians do but exercise your faith in this, in Jesus Christ, and put forth this fruit of faith in waiting for the appearing of Jesus Christ when he shall come and appear in his glory, this will help to make your Conversations to be in Heaven; Oh what a blessed time will that be when Jesus Christ shall come from the Heavens, and appear to those that have been waiting for him! it was a blessed thing to have Christ here personally and to live with him when he was upon the earth though it were in the state of his humiliation, Oh when he shall come in his glory, how blessed will that be! and when he shall change our vile bodies that they may be like unto his glorious body, Oh this will keep the heart in expectation of Christ, for then that vile body of thine that is now a bo∣dy of sin and death, matter of diseases, a body of weak∣ness, and a lump of clay, now it shall be made like the glo∣rious body of Jesus Christ to shine more glorious than the Page 258 Sun in the firmament; this will be when Jesus Christ shall come with all his Angels in his glory; and this is observa∣ble, when all the glory of the creature shall be darkened with the glory of God and Jesus Christ, yet then the bodies of the Saints shall shine gloriously before the face of God and Jesus Christ, surely they shall be more glorious than the glory of the Sun, for that you know will be darkened at the coming of Jesus Christ; The great glory of the Fa∣ther, and Jeus Christ, and the Angels shall darken the glo∣ry of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, but the glory of the bodies of the Saints shall be so great, as all the glory of God, and Jesus Christ, and the Angels shall not darken their glory, but it shall appear with a very great lustre: now if the glo∣ry of God, and the Angels should darken it, then to what purpose is it that their bodies shall be like to the glorious body of Jesus Christ? but certainly it shall not darken their glory: If a candle could be raised to have so much lustre and beauty as if you should put it into the midest of the Sun, yet it would shine in the midst of it, it would be a strange kind of light you would say: It shall be so with the bodies of the Saints, that though they are put into the midst of the glory of God, and his Son, yet their very bodies shall shine in beauty and lustre there: Now did we beleeve this, and wait for it every day, how would it change us! I have a diseased and a lumpish body, and my body hinders me in every duty of worship, and service, wandering and vain thoughts lodge in me now; I but I'le wait for that time when Christ shall come in all his glory, and make my body to be like unto his glorious body, to make it to be able to look upon the face of God, and to be able to be exercised in holy duties to all eternity without any weariness, and without any intermission: so shall the bodies of the Saints be raised to that power, that their bo∣dies shall be so strong, that their souls shall be exercised a∣bout the highest things possible for a creature to be exerci∣sed with without weariness; wait for this: I have many things here that trouble my mind, and spirit, and hinders Page 259 me in my converse with Heaven, but within a while the time shall come that I shall be delivered from all trou∣bles here, when Christ shall appear with his mighty An∣gels to be admired of his Saints, and when he shall come and take the Saints to judg the world, and shall set all the Saints upon Thrones to judg the world: the expectation of this time will raise the heart very much to be in Heaven.
But then especially, when I consider the glory that shall be upon my soul, let me think thus, if this body of mine that is a lump of flesh shall be by the almighty power of God whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself, raised to that height of glory, to be more glorious than the Sun in the Firmament; then, what height of glory shal my soul be raised too! but then, take not only my soul, but my grace, the Divine Nature that is in my soul, what shall that be raised too? The plants are capable to be raised to a higher excellency than stones; and the Rational creature to a higher excellency than a Sensitive creature; and the Sensitive higher than the Vegetative, and the Supernatu∣ral creature to a higher excellency than the Natural: Then raise your thoughts thus; My body shall be raised so high, what shall my soul be then? and what shall my graces that are in my soul be? Oh! wait for this, it is but for a little while before I shall be with God for him to be all in all to my soul enjoying full communion with him; (I say) exer∣cise faith, and wait for it, look for it every day, consider it's neerer and neerer, your salvation is neerer than when at first you beleeved, God hath a little work for you here, but as soon as this is done this shall be my condition, I shal see my Savior, my soul shal presently be with him and en∣joy ful communion with him in glory, and my body with∣in a while shal be raised and shall live for ever with him: shall be where he is, and shall enjoy all that he hath pur∣chased by his blood, as much glory as the blood of Christ is worth am I capable of; the text saith, It shall be a weight of glory: I am not here fitted to bear a weight of glory, if the glory of Heaven should shine in upon me so much as it Page 260 might, it would swallow me up presently. We reade in the 7. of Dan. upon the glory of God appearing to him, saith he, I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain daies. If God should open the Heavens, and dart in some light from Hea∣ven into us so as he might, alas we should faint presently and be sick and die, No man can see God and live; no man here can enjoy that that God hath prepared for his Saints in Heaven and live; therefore let us be content for a while to be as we are, and exercise thy faith and hope in what shall be; Thou shalt be able to bear that weight of glory, and be able to stand before the face of God continually to enjoy those things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can enter into the heart of man to conceive: nay, though a man hath a spiritual eye, and a spiritual ear, and a spiritual heart enlarged to superna∣tural things, yet they are things not only beyond the eye of sence, but the eye of reason; nay, the eye of faith hath not seen them fully, nor ear hath ever heard of, neither can enter into a gracious heart to convince what it is; but those Clusters that we have of this land of Canaan do shew that mere is a glorious rest for his people. Now by the ex∣ercise of your faith and hope work these things upon your souls every day, it would be a mighty help to make your Conversation to be in Heaven; where should my heart and thoughts, where should my life and conversation be, but where I expect such things as these are to be revealed very soon in the Day of Jesus Christ, in his appointed time, which is at hand.