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4th place, That these earthly tabernacles must at length be dissolved. Death will soon plant its batteries against them; this king of terrors will storm them with troops of pains and diseases, and shall in the issue so far prevail, as to dislodge the soul from the body, and throw down the house of clay, crumbling it into that dust from which it was taken. This is not a bye-law that binds only a few, but an universal royal statute that stands in force against the whole human race.
“ It is appointed for all men once to die,” saith this Apostle; hence the road to the grave is called the way of all the earth, and the grave itself is styled in Scripture, the house appointed for all living. Even the bodies of the saints, which have been the temples of the Holy Ghost, are subject to this awful decree; they too must be dissolved and see corruption; but with this material difference, that in due time they shall be raised up again in glory and incorruption. Nor shall their souls for any space be destitute of an habitation; for, as the Apostle here informs us, "they have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” And this is the
II. Branch of the text, upon which I shall offer a few obvious remarks. I suppose you have already observed, that this figurative description of the future happy state of the saints, is conceived in terms of opposition to their present state of frailty and mortality. Once, indeed, the Apostle calls the body a house, but he imme. diately explains his meaning, by calling it a tabernacle, a slender thing which is easily taken down, or moved out of its place; whereas their future abode is styled an house, without any diminishing epithet, a place of rest and safety, where they dwell with God the great Master of the family, and enjoy the sweetest communion with
the Father of their spirits, and all those social pleasures which the company and conversation of their brethren and fellow-servants can be supposed to give them.
Our blessed Lord, in his last consolatory discourse to his disciples, made choice of the same similitude, as best adapted to dispel that gloom which was hanging over their minds.“ In my Father's house," said he, 6 are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” And is not this, my brethren, a delightful representation of the saint's felicity? Every word is full of melody. The very notion of an house or home is agree- . able, especially to a poor pilgrim, who is tossed and persecuted in a malignant world, and perhaps, like bis great Master, has not where to lay his head. But to what a height must our joy arise, when we hear that this is the house of God himself, the house of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, where we shall dwell with our dear. est friend and benefactor, and have a place allotted us in those happy mansions which his blood hath purchased, and his infinite love bath prepared for us.
This house is farther described by the builder of it. The great God is the architect; and therefore we may be assured that nothing is wanting that can render it a fit habitation for his people. It is a house not made with hands; it was not built by any creature, neither was it formed out of any pre-existent matter, but created im. mediately by God himself. It is called his building by way of eminence. All things were made by bim; but this was intended for the master-piece of bis works, the brightest display of his creating power and goodness.
This house is farther described by its situation; it is a house in the heavens. The earth which we now iphabit is a valley of tears, a place of exile, a common inn as it were, where clean and unclean, saints and sinners, meet together, and are promiscuously entertained. Here the godly live as in a strange land, amidst the enemies of their Father and their King, where their righteous souls are vexed from day to day, with the unlawful deeds and filtby conversation of those among whom they are obliged to dwell. But heaven is a place of perfect purity, where there is nothing that defileth, nothing to hurt or destroy. None sball be able to ascend into that bill of God, none can dwell in that holy place, but such as have clean bands and pure hearts; who are washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. And,
Last of all, this house in the heavens is farther de. scribed and commended by its duration. It is not subject to decay or dissolution, it is in eternal house, an incorruptible inheritance, a kingdom that cannot be shaken. All other things shall wax old and perish, but this shall endure for ever and ever.
But who are the persons for whom this building of God is prepared ; or how shall we know whether we belong to that happy number?—This, my bretbren, is a most important inquiry, which I propose to make the subject of another discourse.
2 Cor. v. 1.
For we know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.
In the first part of this verse, the Apostle compares the body to an earthly house, yea, to a tabernacle or tent, which is still less durable, and more easily taken down; and therefore the dissolution of such a frail thing ought not to be reckoned a very great calamity. To this be opposes the glorious object of the Christian hope, wbich he calls “ a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” At the same time expresses the firm persuasion which he had, in common with all true Christians, of being admitted into that glorious and permanent habitation, as soon as the earthly tabernacle should be dissolved. “ We know." He does not say we think, or we hope so, but we are assured of it; we are firmly persuaded that this shall be our lot, as if we were already entered upon the possession of it, In bandling this important branch of the subject, I pro. pose, through divine aid,
1. To describe the persons for whom this building of God is prepared.
II. To inquire how, or by what means they come to know that they shall certainly possess it.
And then direct you to the practical improvement of the whole.
The Psalmist proposes a question in the 24th Psalm, which you must all be sensible deserves our most seri. ous attention. “ Who shall ascend into the hill of God, and who shall stand in his holy place?” This is the question which I am now going to answer; and as God enables me, I shall follow the light of his own word, and bring in nothing as a mark of the heirs of glory, but what is clearly expressed in the Scriptures of truth, that infallible rule by which we must all be judged at last.
1st then, We are taught that this building of God, this house in the heavens, is prepared for believers in Christ Jesus, and for them only, exclusive of all others. “ This is the will of him that sent me,” says our blessed Lord, (John vi. 40.) “ that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. He that believ. eth on the Son, hath everlasting life; he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." It is faith which unites us to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the beir of all things; for, “ to as many as receive him, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on his name;" -and if once we are made sons, then are we likewise heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, and may confidently expect that inheritance which he hath purchased. By nature we are all children of wrath, and can look for nothing but judgment and fiery indignation, to devour us as adversaries; but immediately upon our be. lieving on the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Mediator between God and man, we pass from death to life, God receives us into favour, adopts us into his family, and invests us with a title to all the privileges of children
, of which this is the greatest and the best
, that we shall dwell