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the throne, and there he gives us an account how those that were round about the throne were praising God; the four living creatures rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to him, the four and twenty elders fall down before him and worship him, &c. &c. Again in the fifth chapter, we have an account how they sing praises to Christ, 8, 9, &c. And so in the seventh chapter, 9, 10, 11, 12, vs. And in the eleventh chapter, 16, 17, vs. And in the twelfth chapter, 10th, v. And in the fifteenth chapter, 2, 3, 4, vs. And in the beginning of the nineteenth chapter we have an account how the hosts of heaven sing hallelujahs to God. By all which it most evidently appears, that their work very much consists in praising God and Christ. We have but a very imperfect knowledge of the future state of blessedness, and of their employment: without doubt they have various employments there. We cannot reasonably question but they are employed in contributing to each other's delight. They shall dwell together in society. They shall also probably be employed in contemplating on God, his glorious perfections, and glorious works, and so gaining knowledge in these things. And doubtless they will be employed many ways, that we now know nothing of: but this we may determine, that much of their employment consists in praising God, and that for the following reasons.
1. Because they there see God. This is a blessedness promised to the saints that they shall see God. Matth. v. 8. That they see God, sufficiently shows the reason why they praise him. They that see God cannot but praise bim. He is a Being of such glory and excellency, that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.
'Tis from the little that the saints have seen of God, and know of him in this world, that they are excited to praise him in the degree they do here. But here they see but as in a glass darkly; they have only now and then a little glimpse of God's excellency; but then they shall have the transcendent glory and divine excellency of God set in their immediate and full view. They shall dwell in his immediate glorious presence, and shall see face to face. 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Now the saints see the glory of God but by a reflected light, as we in the night see the light of the sun reflected from the moon, but in heaven they shall directly behold the Sun of Righteousness, and shall look full upon him when shining in all his glory. This being the case, it can be no otherwise, but
that they should very much employ themselves in praising God. When they behold the glorious power of God, they cannot but praise that power: when they see God's wisdom that is so wonderful and infinitely beyond all created wisdom, they cannot but continually praise that wisdom; when they view the infinitely pare and lovely holiness of God, whereby the heavens themselves are not pure in comparison with Him, how can they avoid with an exalted heart to praise that beauty of the divine nature ! When they see the infinite grace of God, and see what a boundless ocean of mercy and love he is, how can they but celebrate that grace with the highest praise !
2. They will have another sense of the greatness of the fruits of God's mercy than we have here in this world. They will not only have a sight of the glorious attributes of God's goodness and mercy in their beatific vision of God, but they will be sensible of the exceeding greatness of the fruits of it; the greatness of the benefits that he has bestowed. They will have another sense of the greatness and manifoldness of the communications of his goodness to his creation in general. They will be more sensible how that God is the fountain of all good, the Father of Lightş, from whom proceeds every good and persect gift. We do now but little consider, in comparison with what we should do, how full the world is of God's goodness, and how it appears in the sun, moon, and stars, and in the earth and seas, with all their fulness, and wheresoever we turn our eyes, and how all ranks and orders of being, from the highest angel to the lowest insect, are dependent upon, and maintained by, the goodness of God. These the saints in heaven clearly see; they see how the universe is replenished with his goodness, and how the communications of his goodness are incessantly issuing from God as from an everflowing fountain, and are poured forth all around in vast profusion into every part of heaven and earth, as light is every moment diffused from the sun. We have but faint imperfect notions of these things, but the saints in heaven see them with perfect clearness. They have another sense of the greatness of God's goodness to mankind, and to the Church, and to them in particular, than any of us have. They have another sense of the greatness of God's goodness in the temporal mercies which God bestowed upon them while they were here in this world, though they know that spiritual mercies are infinitely greater. But especially they have an immensely greater sense of the exceeding greatness of the fruits of God's grace and mercy bestowed in redemption. They have another sense how great a gift the gift of God's only begotten Son is. They have another sense of the greatness and dignity of the person of Christ, and how great a thing it was for him to become man, and how great a thing it was for him to lay down his life, and to endure the shameVOL. VIII.
ful and accursed death of the cross. They have another sense how great the benefits are that Christ has purchased for men, how great a mercy it is to have sin pardoned, and to be delivered from the misery of hell. They have another sense how dreadful that misery is, for the damned are tormented in the presence of the holy angels and saints, and they see the smoke of their torment; and have another sense what eternity is, and so are proportionably more sensible how great a mercy it is to be delivered from that torment. They have another sense how great a fruit of God's grace it is to be the children of God, and to have a right and title to eternal glory. They are sensible of the greatness of the benefits that Christ has purchased, by their experience; for they are in possession of that blessedness and glory that he has purchased; they taste the sweetness of it: and therefore they are more sensible what cause they have to praise God for these things. The grace and goodness of God in the work of redemption, appears so wonderful to them, that their thoughts of it do excite them to the most ardent praise. When they take a view of the grace of God and of the love of Christ in redemption, they in see that there is cause that they should exert the utmost of their capacities, and spend an eternity in praising God and the Lamb. It is but a very little that we at best can conceive of the greatness of the benefits of redemption, and therefore we are but little affected by it, and our praises for it are low and dull things.
3. Another reason is, they will be perfect in humility. In order to a person's being rightly disposed to the work of praise, be must be a humble person. A proud person is for assuming all praise to himself, and is not disposed to ascribe it to God. It is humility only that will enable us to say from the heart, “ Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name be the glory." The humble person admires the goodness and grace of God to him. He sees more how wonderful it is that God should take such notice of him, and show such kindness to him, that is so much below his notice. Now the saints in heaven have this grace of humility perfected in them. They do as much excel the saints on earth in humility as in other graces. Though they are so much above the saints on earth in holiness and in their exalted state, yet they are rastly more humble than the saints on earth be. They are as much lower in humility as they are higher in honour and happiness. And the reason of it is that they know more of God; they see more of his greatness and infinite highness, and therefore are so much the more sensible of their own comparative nothingness. They are the more sensible of the infinite difference there is between God and them; and therefore are more sedsible how wonderful it is that God should take so much potice of them, to have such communion with them, and give them such a
full enjoyment of him. They are far more sensible what unworthy creatures they have been, that God should bestow such mercies upon them, than the saints on earth. They have a greater sight of the evil of sin. They see more what filthy vile creatures they were by nature, and how dreadfully they provoked God by actual sin, and how they have deserved God's hatred and wrath. The saints in heaven have as much greater a sense of their unworthiness in their natural state than the saints on earth, as they have a greater sense of God's glorious excellency, for it is the sight of God's excellency which gives them a sight of their own unworthiness. And therefore they do proportionally admire the love of God to them in giving Christ to die for them, and the love of Christ in being willing to offer himself for their sins; and of the wonderful mercy of God in their conversion, and bestowing eternal life upon
them. The humble sense the saints have of their own unworthiness doth greatly engage and enlarge their hearts in praise to him for his infinite mercy and grace.
4. Their love to God and Christ will be perfect. Love is a principal ingredient in the grace of thankfulness. There is a counterfeit thankfulness in which there is no love. But there is love in exercise in all sincere thankfulness. And the greater any person's love is, the more will he be disposed to praise. Love will cause him to delight in the work. He that loves God, proportionably seeks the glory of God, and loves to give him glory. Now the hearts of the saints in heaven are all, as it were, a pure flame of love. Love is the grace that never faileth ; whether there be prophesies, they shall fail, whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away. Faith shall cease in vision, and hope in fruition, but love never faileth. The grace of love will be exalted to its greatest height and highest perfection in heaven; and love will vent itself in praise. Heaven will ring with praise, because it is full of love to God.
God. This is the reason that great assembly, that innumerable host, praise God with such ardency, that their praise is as the voice of many waters, and as the mighty thunderings, because they are animated by so ardent, vigorous, and powerful a principle of divine love.
I. This subject may be applied in the way of INSTRUCTION.
1. Hence we may learn the excellency of this work of praising God. That it is a most excellent employment, appears, because it is a heavenly employment. It is that work wherein the saints and angels are continually employed.
If we sincerely and frequently praise God, we shall therein be like the heavenly inhabitants, and join with them.
That it is the work of heaven shows it to be the most honourable work. No employment can be a greater honour to a man, than to praise God. It is the peculiar dignity of the nature of man, and the very thing wherein his nature is exalted above things without reason, and things without life; that he is made capable of actively glorifying his Creator. Other creatures do glorify God; the sun, moon, and stars, and the earth and waters, and all the trees of the field, and grass and herbs, and fishes and insects, do glorify God. Psa. xix. 146. Job xii. 7, 8. But herein is the peculiar dignity of the nature of man, that he is capable of glorifying him as a cause, by counsel, understandingly and voluntarily, which is a heavenly work.
2. This doctrine may give us an idea of the glorious and happy state of the saints in heaven. It shows how joyfully and gloriously they spend their time. Joy is a great ingredient in praise. There is an exultation of spirit in fervent praise. Praise is the most joyful work in the world. And how joyful a society are they that join together, so many thousands and millions of them, with one heart and one soul, to sing a new song before the throne, that fill heaven with their glorious melody! How joyful they are in their work, appears in the text, by their fervency in it, so that their voices resounded as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder. What ineffable joy was there in those harpers whom John heard harping with their harps !
This shows how different a state the saints are in in heaven, from what they are in this world. Here much of the work to which the saints are called, consists in labouring, in fighting, in toilsome travelling in a waste howling wilderness, in mourn. ing and suffering, and in offering up strong crying and tears. But there in heaven, their work continually is to lift joyful songs of praise.
This world is a valley of tears, a world filled with sighs and groans. One is groaning under some bodily pain, another is mourning and lamenting over a dear departed friend; another is crying out by reason of the arm of the oppressor.
But in heaven there is no mixture of such sounds as these; there is nothing to be heard amongst them but the sweet and glorious melody of God's praises. There is an holy cheerfulness to be seen throughout that blessed society. Rev. xxj. 4. “ And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying.”
They shall never have any thing more to do with sighing and crying; but their eternal work henceforward shall be praise.