The Necessity, Excellency, Rarity, and Beauty of Holiness
Thomas Brooks, 1662
The more grace
you have on earth—the more glory you shall have in heaven. Now
before I come to make good this argument—namely, that some saints shall
partake of more glory in heaven than others shall—give me permission to
premise these few things to prevent mistakes.
First, That the object of their happiness, which is the eternal blessed God—will be one and the same to all saints. All glorified saints shall have but one God among them all. God shall be no more one saint's God than he shall be every saint's God in heaven, etc.
Secondly, That the beatifical vision shall be seen by all the saints, and communicated to all the saints; they shall all have a happy and blessed fruition and possession of God. All the vessels of glory shall be filled to the brim with a clear sight of God, and with a full enjoyment of God; and yet doubtless, for all this, some saints shall apprehend more of God than others, and comprehend more of God than others, and enjoy more of God than others. Though all shall be filled with those everlasting springs of pleasure and delight that are at God's right hand, Psalm 16:11—yet some shall be able to take in more of those pleasures of paradise than others shall. Though all the widow's vessels were filled to the brim with oil—yet, doubtless, some being greater and larger than others, they accordingly contained more oil than others, 2 Kings 4:3-8; and so it will be with the saints when they come to heaven. There shall be no lack of glory to any of the saints in glory. All the saints shall be filled with glory—according to their capacity. If you bring a thousand vessels of different sizes to the sea, the sea fills them all. Though their sizes differ, and some are bigger, and others lesser—yet all are filled, every little vessel has its fill as well as the greater—just so, every saint shall have his fill of glory when he comes to glory; the felicity of every saint shall be perfect God will be all in all to all saints, Psalm 17:15.
Thirdly, All saints shall be freed from all evils alike; they shall all be freed from the aching head, and from the unbelieving heart; they shall all alike be free from the evil of sin, and from the evil of sufferings; there shall not be a saint in glory that shall ever feel a pricking brier or a grieving thorn, Ezek. 28:24; there all sorrow shall be removed from all their hearts, and all tears shall be wiped from all their eyes, Rev. 7:17.
Fourthly and lastly, The degrees of glory that saints shall have in heaven shall not be given out to them upon the account of their merits, or the dignity of their persons, or the worthiness of their works—but upon the account of God's mere mercy and grace, who in the day of retribution will delight to crown his own gifts, not our merits. And where he shall find the greatest measures of grace and holiness, there he will, of his own free mercy, bestow the greatest measure of glory. [When God crowns us, he does but crown his own gifts in us. Augustine.]
Well, friends, remember this, you must always carefully
distinguish between the essence and substance of glory, and between
degrees and measures of glory. Now the essence and substance of
glory, which consists in the saints' full communion with God, and in their
perfect conformity to God, and in their universal subjection to God, and
in their everlasting fruition of God—is common to all the saints, so that
no one saint shall have more of the essence and substance of glory than
another has—yet the degrees and measures of glory shall be distributed to
some more, to some less. Now that there shall be different degrees of
glory in heaven, answerable to the different degrees of grace and holiness
that the saints reach to here on earth, and that God will at last
proportion his rewards according to the different degrees of labor,
service, and sufferings of his people in this world, may be made evident,
Now there are several SCRIPTURES that speaks out this truth. Take these for a taste:
[1.] First, 1 Cor. 3:8, "Now he who plants and he who waters are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." The apostle having compared his own and Apollos' work together, adds, "That both should receive their reward according to their work"—that is, as their work differed—just so, should their reward differ. Though they both preached one and the same doctrine, and had both one and the same design and purpose, namely, to bring in souls to Christ, and to build up souls to Christ—yet according to their different degrees of labor—just so, should be their different degrees of reward. Though no man should work in God's vineyard for nothing—yet he who was most faithful, diligent, and laborious in planting or in watering God's husbandry, should have the greatest reward. Paul and Apollos shall at last receive their different reward according to their different labor; or they shall each of them receive, according to their proper work.
[2.] A second scripture is 1 Cor. 15:41-42, "The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their beauty and brightness. It is the same way for the resurrection of the dead." It is very observable that the comparison runs between the glorified condition of some saints that shall rise, and other some that shall rise in the great day. Just so, that look, as one star differs from another star in glory—just so, one saint shall differ from another saint in glory at the resurrection of the dead. Though every star is bright, shining, and glorious—yet some stars are more bright, shining, and glorious than others are. Just so, though every saint will shine gloriously in heaven—yet some saints shall have a greater luster, glory and shine upon them than others shall. Look! as some heavenly bodies are more glorious than others—just so, in the morning of the resurrection some saints shall be more glorious than others, etc.
[3.] A third scripture is 2 Cor. 9:6, "But this I say, He who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully." A sparing liberality shall be attended with a sparing reward, and a bounteous liberality shall be attended with a bounteous reward. Look! as the harvest answers the measure of seed that is sown—just so, that he who sows but little reaps but little, and he who sows much reaps much—just so, saints' reaping at last will be answerable to their sowing here. All men's charities shall at last be rewarded proportionable to the several degrees of it. He who gives a pound shall have a greater reward than he who gives a penny. He who sows thousands shall reap more than he who sows hundreds. He shall have the most plentiful crop in heaven, who has sowed most seed here on earth, etc. They shall have interest upon interest in heaven, who sow much on this side heaven.
[4.] A fourth scripture is Luke 19:12-20. Now in this parable you have a great Lord going into a far country; but before he goes he gives ten minas to ten of his servants to trade with until his return. Now upon his return, he who had increased his mina to ten minas was made ruler over ten cities, verse 17; and he who made five from his one mina was made ruler over five cities, verse 19. Here he who improved their mina most, received the greatest reward. The nobleman in this parable is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is truly and highly noble, he being co-eternal and co-equal with his Father, in respect of his deity; he was born a king, and is now King of kings, and Lord of lords, and Prince of the kings of the earth. The far country that he is gone to is heaven, for there he went at his ascension. Now when he shall return from heaven to judge the living and the dead, he will then bring men to an account, to a reckoning about their improvement of all the gifts and graces that he has entrusted them with; and, according to the different improvement that men shall make of their talents—just so, shall be their reward.
He who makes the greatest improvement of his mina, he shall have the greatest reward, he shall be ruler over ten cities, that is, he shall be very highly honored and exalted. And he who makes a lesser improvement, he shall have a lesser reward, he shall be ruler over five cities. He who makes a great improvement of a little, he shall, if I may so speak, sit at Christ's right hand; but he who makes a lesser improvement, he must be contented to sit at Christ's left hand. God will proportion out men's reward at last answerable to their improvement of that treasure which he has put into their hands. Yet this does not infer merit of works—but a gracious disposition in God to encourage his servants in a way of well-doing, etc.
[5.] A fifth scripture is Daniel 12:3, "Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like stars forever." [From this very text, your English commentators conclude that there are degrees of glory in heaven, etc.] The glory of heaven is here laid out in shining terms, for look how gloriously the shining of stars does excel the shining of the sky. Just so, some saints shall as far outshine others in glory, as the stars do now outshine the sky. Look! as the stars are a more beautiful and glorious part of the orb than the sky is—just so, some saints shall have a great deal more beauty and glory upon them than others shall. And look, as there are different degrees of glory between the glory of the sky and the glory of the stars now—just so, there shall be different degrees of glory between one glorious saint and another at last. All the saints shall at last shine as the sky—but those who by their doctrine, instruction, and life, turn many to righteousness, these shall shine as the stars, forever and ever. Some of the highest seats in glory shall be for such "who turn sinners from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to Jesus Christ," Acts 26:18.
It is very observable, that as the apostles were very eminent in this work—just so, Christ has given it under his own hand, that they shall sit upon twelve thrones, as so many kings, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:28-29. They had done and suffered more for Christ than others, and therefore Christ will put a greater glory upon them than upon others. Though many learned men differ about the interpretation of those words, "you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"—therefore I dare not peremptorily conclude this or that to be the sense of them. Yet this is most plain and evident in the text, that the apostles are under a promise of some peculiar and more eminent degree of honor, glory, and dignity, than others are under.
Look! as their service to Christ was a special and eminent service—just so, Christ promises them a special and eminent reward. Every man of them shall have his particular throne, and everyone of them shall have the honor and dignity of judging—that is, of governing and ruling the twelve tribes of Israel. Look! as ambassadors and chief counselors and presidents have the highest and chief seats in the kingly assembly—just so, the apostles shall have the highest and the chief seats in the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven, Heb. 12:22-23. They shall sit, as it were, on the throne, or on the bench, with Christ—so highly and greatly shall they be exalted.
If we cannot hit upon the exact meanings of the reward here promised—yet we may safely and easily gather from the description of it that there shall be different degrees of glory in Christ's kingdom of glory. The apostles followed Christ through great tribulations and afflictions, and they continued with him in all his temptations; they forsook all, to follow him; and after they had faithfully, laboriously, successfully, and very eminently served him—they made themselves an offering for him, as I have formerly showed you, and therefore Christ will at last in a more eminent way exalt them, and glorify them, than he will others who have never seen that of Christ, nor received that from Christ, nor done that for Christ, nor suffered that for Christ—as they have done.
Degrees of glory shall at last be proportioned out answerable to those degrees of service which in this life men have been drawn out to. Such a thing as this the apostle Paul does more than hint, if I mistake not, in 1 Thes. 2:19-20, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For you are our glory and joy." The crown that Paul speaks of here is not that common crown of righteousness, nor that common crown of life and immortality, nor that common crown of glory which all the saints shall be crowned with at last; [2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; Rev. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:4.] But he speaks here of an apostolic crown, of a special, peculiar crown, that should accrue to him upon the account of his serviceableness to their souls; and of this crown he speaks again in that Phil. 4:1, "Therefore, my brethren, my dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." He calls the Philippians his crown, and that partly because their spiritual growth, constancy, and perseverance was now his glory among other churches—but mainly because they should be his particular crown of rejoicing in the great day of our Lord Jesus. He knew that the Philippians' profit would be his crown and his advantage another day. The apostle alludes here to the custom of the Romans, who, as they had their common crowns of ivy and laurel, etc.—and these were such that their horses which won the race were often crowned with, which occasioned Theocritus to say, "See what poor things the world glories in; for, as their conquerors are crowned—just so, are their horses!" Just so, they had their peculiar, their special crowns, which were the rewards of their conquerors that had done special service for their country.
Just so, there are common crowns that belong to all the saints, as saints—as the crown of righteousness, the crown of life, and the crown of glory. And as there are these common crowns—just so, there are special and peculiar crowns, that they shall be crowned with, who are exercised in more high and excellent services than others have been employed in; and this is the crown that here the apostle speaks of. He knew very well that his reward should be answerable to his work, for though God never did, nor ever will, reward men for their works, as if they were the meritorious cause of the reward—yet he will for degrees reward them according to their works. There are peculiar crowns, special crowns, for those who have done peculiar and special services for Christ on earth.
[6.] A sixth scripture is Mat. 5:11-12, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven." Suffering saints, persecuted saints, shall be sure of great rewards. God will reward his people, not only their innocence, integrity, patience, and courage under their sufferings—but the more their sufferings, revilings, and persecutions are multiplied in this world, the more shall their recompense and reward be multiplied in the eternal world. It is true, Christ has many lovers of his crown—but few bearers of his cross. All would reign with him—but few care to suffer for him. But yet it is as true on the one hand—namely, that those who bear most of his cross shall be greatest sharers in his crown; those who suffer most for him on earth shall be most blessed and rewarded by him when they come to heaven.
Look! as the consolation of the saints rises higher and higher in this world, even as their sufferings rise higher and higher, 2 Cor. 1:4-5—just so, the glory of the saints shall rise higher and higher in the eternal world, as their sufferings rise higher and higher in this world. Tertullian writes of the persecuted Christians who cry out, "Your cruelty is our glory, and the harder we are put to it, the greater shall be our reward in heaven!" One speaking of the martyrs said, "look how many sufferings they have—just so many crowns they shall have!" For every suffering—God shall set a crown on their heads. "By how much men's sufferings have been greater," says Chrysostom, "by so much the more their crown shall be bright and resplendent!"
"The greater conflicts and buffetings which any saint has endured, the greater shall be his reward, and the more ample shall be his glory," says Austin. As Christ has many crowns upon his head, suitable to the multitude of his sufferings and victories—just so, Christians at last shall have crowns suitable to the multitude of their sufferings, and suitable to those famous victories which they have gained over a tempting devil and a persecuting world, Rev. 19:7. Certainly it will be but justice, that they should receive the weightiest crown who have bore the heaviest cross, 1 John 5:4, and 2:13-14.
[7.] The seventh and last scripture that I shall produce is Mat. 10:41, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward;" that is, say some, they shall be partakers of the same reward which is laid up for the prophets. Without all question, these two things lie fair in the text:
First, That there is some special and eminent degrees of reward due unto a prophet above other men. And,
Secondly, That he who shall entertain a prophet, and perform any offices of love and favor to him under that name and notion, he shall be partaker of that reward. He who receives a prophet, as he is God's messenger, and employed in his service, and sent about his errand, and not upon any carnal or worldly respects—he shall receive a prophet's reward; that is, he shall receive either such a reward as the prophet himself shall receive at last, or he shall receive such a large, ample, and noble recompense as is fit for one to receive, who received a prophet as coming from the Lord.
Look! as such who give an honorable reception to the ambassadors of kings or princes, do highly raise themselves in the favor and esteem of those kings or princes who had sent them—just so, those who receive the faithful prophets of the Lord, as the ambassadors of God, they shall be highly interested in the favor of God, and as nobly be rewarded by God.
I might produce several other scriptures that echo to
the same purpose as these seven do—but enough is as good as a feast; as
that Mark 6:20; John 14:2; Mat. 20:20-24.
I shall, therefore, in the second place come to the REASONS that may further evidence and confirm this great truth—namely, that there shall be different degrees of glory in heaven. Among many other reasons that might be given, I shall only give you these five.
[1.] First, There are diversities of degrees of angels in heaven.There are cherubim and seraphim, and there are angels and archangels. Now the cherubim and seraphim are a lower rank and order of angels, and the archangels are a higher rank and order of angels. And the apostle speaks clearly of several ranks and orders of invisible creatures in that Col. 1:16. Here you have an enumeration of thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. And so in Eph. 1:21, "Far above all principalities, and powers, and might, and dominion." These principalities and powers are the blessed angels who minister before the Lord, and who are subordinate unto one another; and here they are reckoned up by ascending: power is above principality, and might above power, and dominion above might. To define those orders and degrees of angels with which God is environed, is a work too high and hard for me, and though the Papists and several schoolmen are so bold as to define their particular offices and orders—yet I dare not be wise above what is written. Where the Scripture is silent—I love to be silent; and where the Scripture has no tongue—there I desire to have no ears. [Mat. 9:34, and 12:34; Mark 3:22. The very supposition of order supposes inequality and disproportion.]
There is an order in HELL, an order among the devils, and therefore you read in three scriptures of the prince of devils, and so much also that expression imports that you have in that Mat. 25:41, "The devil and his angels," which intimates a prince among those unclean and damned spirits. Now shall there be order in hell and confusion in heaven? Shall there be order among the evil angels, and shall there not much more be order among the good angels? Certainly that God who is the God of order, and who has made all things in order, and who to this day keeps all things in order here below—will never allow the least disorder and confusion to be among those princes of glory who stand continually before him. He who denies order in heaven, denies heaven to be heaven; and he who grants order in heaven, grants degrees of glory in heaven. Though there is no difference between the angels in nature—the angelical nature being alike in all—yet in office, there is a great deal of difference in the glory of the angels, for God employs some of the heavenly host in more high, noble, and excellent services than others, and answerable thereunto shall their reward be. Though all angels shall share alike in the essential and substantial glory of heaven—yet there is an additional glory, an overplus of glory, which shall be conferred upon the angels, answerable to the several and various services that they have managed and engaged in.
Now the Scripture tells us plainly that "in heaven we shall be like the angels," Mat. 22:30; and therefore if there be degrees of angels, and if the angels in heaven shall have a different glory and reward, according to the work in which they have been employed, then the glory of the saints in respect of degrees shall be different also. But,
[2.] Secondly, There are degrees of torments in hell, and therefore, by the rule of contraries, there shall be degrees of glory in heaven.Now that there are degrees of torments in hell is most evident from several plain scriptures, as from Mat. 10:14-15, "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town." Sodom and Gomorrah shall have an easier and cooler hell than such cities shall have, which have despised the offers of grace, and the offers of mercy. [Contempt of Christ and his gospel, is worse than sodomy.] It is very observable, that the punishments that God in this life has inflicted upon the Jews for their contempt of Christ, and his everlasting gospel, have been more terrible than his raining hell out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah: for suddenly, and in a moment, God consumed them, and burnt Sodom and Gomorrah up. But God has for above this sixteen hundred years been a-raining hell out of heaven upon the Jews; he has for a long time vexed them with all manner of adversity, and to this very day he has made them, all the world over, a spectacle of his dreadful severity. But all those plagues and punishments that the Jews have been and still are under, are but flea-bitings and scratches on the hand—compared to those dreadful and astonishing judgments which God, in the great day of account, will inflict upon all Christ refusers and gospel-despisers! "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John 3:36
And so chapter 11:20-23, "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day!" The more mercy has been upon the bare knee entreating sinners to repent, the more earnest the Lord Jesus has been in wooing sinners to believe on him and to resign up themselves wholly and only to him, the more clearly and sweetly the everlasting gospel has sounded in sinners' ears, and the more near, and the more often heaven has been brought to sinners' doors—and yet they have bid defiance to all, and hardened themselves in their sins—with the greater violence and with the more dreadful vengeance shall such be plunged into the lowest hell.
And so in Mat. 23:14, "Woe unto you, scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites, for you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers; therefore you shall receive the greater damnation." Hypocrites shall be double damned; the hottest and the darkest place in hell is reserved for them. "Give him his portion with hypocrites;" for number and weight, there are no torments in hell, compared to the torments of hypocrites. Counterfeit sanctity is double iniquity, and therefore it is but justice that the hypocrite should have double torment.
And so in Luke 12:47, 48, "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants, will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Sins against light and knowledge are sins against the noblest remedy. They waste and wound the conscience most, they most open sinners' mouths to blaspheme against God, and they most harden sinners' hearts in sinning against God; and every way they dare God most, and provoke God most—to strike with an iron rod, and to whip the knowing transgressor, not with rods, but with scorpions.
It is very observable, that the more light and knowledge men sin against in this world—the greater judgments God gives them up to, even in this life, Romans 1:21-23. Oh, how much more, then, will God in the great day give them up to the greatest judgments, who have given themselves up to the greatest sins! Certainly the professors of this age, yes, of this city, whether they go to heaven or hell, will be the greatest debtors that shall be in either place—the one to the free grace of God, and the other to his justice. That those who have most of hell in their mouths, and most of hell in their hearts, and most of hell in their lives—should have most of hell in their souls at last, is but justice.
I shall conclude this second argument with a saying of Augustine, "Look!" says he, "as in heaven one is more glorious than another—just so, in hell one shall be more miserable than another." Now if there be degrees of torments in hell, which I suppose the scriptures but now cited does undeniably prove, then, doubtless, there will be degrees of glory in heaven.
[3.] Thirdly, God in this life dispenses the gifts and graces of his Spirit unequally among his saints; to some he gives two talents, to others five, and to others ten.Hence it is you read both of a weak faith, and of a strong faith. "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" and, "O woman, great is your faith;" and, "Truly, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." [Mat. 25, 8:10, 26, and 15:28.]
And hence it is that you read both of weak Christians, and of strong Christians. "He who is weak in the faith receive;" "another who is weak eats herbs;" "and to the weak, I became as weak, that I might win the weak;" "we then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves;" "when I am weak, then am I strong." [Romans 14:1-2; 1 Cor. 9:22; 2 Cor. 12:10; Heb. 5:13-14; 1 Pet. 2:2, and 5:1.]
And hence it is that you read of babes, and of children, and of young men, and of old men, in the Scripture. Saints are of different growths. Some are but babes in gifts and grace, others are children, others young men, and others old men. God distributes the good things of this world unequally among the sons of men, as to some more, to others less; to some great things, to others little things; to some high things, to others low things. God unequally distributes spiritual blessings among his dearest children; to some he gives more light, to others less; to some a greater measure of love, to others a less; to some a greater degree of joy, to others a less, etc. Some saints shine in grace and holiness as the skies, and others shine in grace and holiness as the stars; some shine in grace and holiness as the moon, and others shine in grace and holiness as the sun; and all this springs from those different measures of grace and holiness which God bestows upon his people.
Now doubtless men may as well plead for equal degrees of grace—as they may for equal degrees of glory; they may as well plead for an equal share in the good things of this world—as they may plead for an equal share in the happiness and blessedness of the eternal world. Doubtless as God dispenses his gifts and graces unequally in this life—just so, he will dispense his rewards unequally in the next life. As men's gifts and graces are different here on earth—just so, their glory shall be different when they come to heaven. Without all question, they shall have the whitest and the largest robes of honor, and the heaviest and the brightest crowns of glory—whose souls are most richly adorned with grace, and whose lives are most eminently bespangled with holiness.
The more grace and holiness any saint has here, the more he is prepared and fitted for glory; and the more any saint is fitted for glory, the more that saint shall at last be filled with glory. The greatest measures of grace and holiness do most enlarge the soul, and widen the soul, and capacitate the soul—to take in the greatest measures of glory; and therefore the more grace, the more glory, the more holiness, the more happiness, a saint shall have at last. Certainly God will crown his own gracious works in his children proportionable to what they are—but they are different and unequally in all his children in respect of measures and degrees; and therefore God will set different crowns of glory upon the heads of his children at last. But,
[4.] Fourthly, Those who have more grace and holiness than others, they are more like God than others.They bear his glorious image in a greater print, they have a brighter character of God upon them, and they are the most lively picture of God in all the world.
Now we know, though parents love their children well, and wish all their children well, and provide for all their children well—yet commonly they love them most, and provide for them best, who resemble them most. Parents cannot but love those children most, and lay up for them most, who have most of themselves in them; and I cannot see how God can do otherwise than love them most, and provide for them best, who most resemble him to the life. The nature of God is a holy nature, and so there lies a holy necessity on his nature to love them most, who have most grace and holiness in them, Psalm 45:7.
Look! as it is natural to God to hate wickedness—just so, it is natural to God to love holiness; and as the higher men rise in wickedness, the more a holy God hates them—just so, the higher men rise in holiness, the more a holy God loves them. Now the more any are like God, and the more they are beloved by God, the higher doubtless in glory shall they be advanced by God. The best and the largest portion is laid up for that child that is most like his father. The more any man in holiness resembles God on earth, the greater and the larger portion of glory that man shall have when he comes to heaven. But,
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, To deny degrees of glory in heaven, and to say that God will not suit men's wages to their works, nor their rewards to their services, nor crown the highest improvements of grace with the highest degrees of glory, is to render useless many glorious exhortations which are scattered up and down in the Scripture.1 Cor. 15:58, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." If this were not a truth that I have been all this while asserting, why then, when men meet with this exhortation, they may say, "Why, it is no great matter whether we are steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord or not; for if we are, we shall never advance our reward in heaven, we shall never add pearls to our glorious crown, we shall never add one mite to our happiness and blessedness; and if we are not, we shall be as high in heaven, and our reward as great, and our crown as weighty, as theirs shall be who are steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord." [2 Cor. 7:1, and 9:6; 2 Pet. 3:18; John 15:8; 2 Pet. 1:5-7.]
And so the denial of degrees of glory in heaven will take off also the edge of all those other exhortations of perfecting holiness, of sowing liberally, of growing in grace, of bringing forth much fruit, and of adding virtue to virtue, etc. Yes, this will cut the throat of all divine endeavors; for who will labor to be rich in grace, and to be much in service, and to abound in all the fruits of righteousness and holiness, when none of all this will turn to a man's advantage in the eternal world? If he who sows little shall have as great a harvest as he who sows much; if he who is dull and negligent in the work of the Lord shall have as great a reward as he who is active and abundant in the work of the Lord; if those trees of righteousness which bring forth much fruit shall have no greater a recompense than those trees of righteousness which bring forth many leaves of profession but little fruit, etc., who would sow much, and who would be active and abundant in the work of the Lord, and who would bring forth much fruit? truly but few, if any.
The truth that I have been laboring to make good,
namely, that there shall be different degrees of glory in heaven, and that
God will proportion men's reward to their work, and that he will measure
out happiness and blessedness to them at last, according to the different
measures of grace bestowed upon his people, and according to the work,
service, and faithfulness of his people in this world; this truth, I say,
held forth in its luster and glory, is a marvelous encouragement, and a
mighty provocation to all sincere Christians—to labor after the highest
pitches in Christianity, and to be very eminent in grace and holiness; for
what man is there, who will not reason thus, "the more grace the more
glory; the more holiness the more happiness; the more work the more wages;
and the greater my service shall be here, the greater shall be my reward
hereafter. Therefore, O my soul! grow in grace, perfect holiness, and
abound in the work and service of the Lord, knowing that your labor shall
not be in vain in the Lord." And thus I have given you the reasons that
prove that there shall be degrees of glory in heaven.
Now I have nothing further to do upon this point—but to give a few brief answers to such OBJECTIONS as are commonly raised against this truth, that I have asserted and proved.
Objection 1.First, Some object and say, That one Christ bought us all, and that all our portions are bought by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that therefore all believers shall share alike in the inheritance of the saints in light. Now to this objection I shall answer,
[1.] First, That all saints shall be equal sharers in the substantial and essential glory of heaven, etc. But of this I have spoken before; and, therefore,
[2.] Secondly, Though a father buys a rich inheritance for all his children—yet this lays no necessity nor obligation at all upon him to allot to everyone of his children an equal portion. Just so, though our Lord Jesus Christ has by his blood purchased a rich inheritance for his children—yet this lays no necessity nor obligation at all upon Jesus Christ to divide this rich inheritance by equal portions among his children. It is true that Christ has purchased all with his blood; and it is as true that he may divide his purchase among his people as he pleases. If every man may do with his own as he pleases, why may not Christ? Must he needs be bound, when others are free?
[3.] Thirdly and lastly, I answer, That as it is true that the merits and satisfaction of Christ is the ground and foundation of our reward, and that alone which makes our works capable of a reward—just so, it is as true that our works are the subject to reward, and this is most agreeable to the compact that was made between Christ and his Father—that everlasting happiness and blessedness, that eternal glory and felicity, should be measured out to the saints according to their different measures of grace, and different degrees of service that they have been engaged in this world, and all this upon the credit of Christ's blood. Certainly there is nothing under heaven, below the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that can make differing works capable of a different reward.
The Papists are most sadly wrong, for they are so blind and bold as to affirm that the more grace any man has, the more glory he merits by his grace. These men make degrees of grace, and not the blood of Jesus Christ, to be the meritorious cause of degrees of glory; and therefore of all men I think they are furthest from glory. Certainly this is the believer's glory, and his crown of rejoicing, that all recompenses and rewards shall flow in upon him, not upon the account of his merits—but upon the account of Christ's blood; and thus much shall suffice to have spoken by way of answer to this objection.
Objection 2.But now, in the second place, I shall come to answer their grand and main objection; and that is taken from that parable in the 20th chapter of Matthew, where the kingdom of heaven is compared to a vineyard. Now in this parable there is mention made of a farmer that called several laborers into his vineyard, at several hours in the day; some he called at the first hour, and some he called at the third, and some at the ninth, and some at the eleventh. Now when they all came to receive their wages, the story tells us that he gave every man a penny, he gave every man an equal reward. Those who labored from the first hour, and those who labored from the third hour, and those who labored from the sixth hour of the day—had no greater a recompense than he who came in at the eleventh hour, and so had labored but one hour in the vineyard, and bore but little if any of the heat of the day. From whence the objectors conclude that there are no degrees of glory in heaven—but that all shall have glory alike, happiness and blessedness alike; every man shall have his penny, every man shall have an equal reward, and no man's penny in heaven shall be brighter or bigger than another's.
Now, by way of answer to this objection, give me permission to premise these three things:
First, That this parable of the householder, in giving to every man a penny, has no reference at all to heaven, nor to the reward, nor to the glory that shall be conferred upon the elect, and this I shall clearly and fully prove by these four following arguments:
[1.] First, This inferential particle, "for," in verse 1, shows that this parable is inserted to expound the former conclusion, namely, "that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first," and therefore the end of the parable is concluded with the repetition of the same sentence, verse 16, "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last." Christ by this parable would teach his hearers, that there is no reason why those who are first called in respect of time should boast or triumph over others, because he can easily call the uncalled at pleasure, and either make them equal with them, or else prefer them before those who are first. The scope of Christ in this parable is not to set forth the equality of celestial glory, it is not to prove that the happiness and blessedness of the saints shall be equal in heaven—but the very drift of the parable is to show, that those who are first called and converted have no cause at all to despise the uncalled and unconverted, or to trample upon them with the foot of pride, considering that they who are yet in their sins, and in an unconverted and unsanctified estate—may yet be called, and either made equal to them, or preferred before them. But,
[2.] Secondly, Interpreters do generally agree in this, that by the farmer we are to understand God himself, and by the laborers—men upon earth, and by the vineyard—the church of God; and several of them say, that by the five hours in the parable we are to understand the five ages of man.
First, By those who were called in the morning and sent into the vineyard, we are to understand those who in their childhood are called and converted; they are such who begin to seek the Lord, and to serve the Lord, even as soon as they are capable of the use of reason; as Samuel did, and as Josiah did, and as Timothy did.
Secondly, By those who are called at the third hour, we are to understand those who are converted and turned to the Lord in their youth, in the prime, the spring and morning of their days.
Thirdly, By those who were called at the sixth hour, we are to understand those who are turned to the Lord in their strength, and in their full and perfect age.
Fourthly, By those who were called at the ninth hour, we are to understand those who are converted and turned to the Lord in their declining age.
And fifthly, By those who were called at the eleventh hour, we are to understand those who are converted and turned to the Lord in their decrepit old age, when they have one foot in the grave, and there is but a short step between them and eternity, when, with the thief upon the cross, they are even ready to be turned off of the ladder of life.
Now the vineyard being the church, all that this parable proves is no more but this, that whether men are called into the vineyard of the church either sooner or later—either at the first hour, or at the ninth, or eleventh hour: yet this shall neither greaten nor lessen their reward; for if they are called at the first hour, their recompense shall be ever the greater upon that account, or if they are called at the eleventh hour, their reward shall be ever the lesser upon that account; the reward shall not be different according to the different times of men's being called and converted, and that this parable proves; but the reward shall be different according to the diversity of our works, and that my former arguments prove.
[3.] Thirdly, If the penny that everyone had in the parable be meant of glory, then it will roundly follow, that murmurers shall be saved and glorified as well as others, for the murmurers had their penny as well as the rest: verse 10-12, "But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more, and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and you have made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day." The Greek word which is here rendered murmured, signifies to grunt as swine grunt. They grumbled and grunted, and they grunted and grumbled; and pray tell me what should such swine as murmurers are do grunting and grumbling in heaven? doubtless the crown of glory is too bright, too noble, too glorious, and too weighty a crown to be set upon murmurers' heads. Heaven would be no heaven if there were but one gruntler or murmurer there.
In heaven all the vessels of glory shall be full, and there shall not be the least shadow of envy or repining there. In the streets of that new Jerusalem above, none shall ever complain that others have too much, or that they themselves have too little. Every glorified saint shall sit down fully satisfied and contented with his portion there. Now should we understand the penny to be a glorified estate and condition, then this would unavoidably follow, that many shall be brought to a state of glory which are not elected, nor sanctified, nor prepared for glory; but this can never, nor must never be granted; and therefore without all question this parable does no way hold out that state of glory and felicity which all the called and chosen of God shall have at Christ's coming to judge the quick and the dead. But,
[4.] Fourthly, The penny that is here mentioned in this parable cannot, nor may not, be interpreted so as to signify an equality of glory, or an equality of happiness and blessedness, that the saints shall have in heaven, because such an interpretation, such an exposition, is cross and contrary to the common and received rules of interpreting and expounding of Scripture. Now, among other rules which are to be observed in the interpreting and expounding of Scripture, there are these two:
FIRST, You must so interpret and expound one text of Scripture, that you do not set it at strife and variance with another text of Scripture; for though there is a seeming contradiction between scripture and scripture—yet there is a blessed harmony and a glorious agreement between all the parts of Scripture. It is a very dangerous thing so to interpret Scripture as to raise contests and opposition between scriptures and scriptures; it is an evil thing to raise up scripture against scripture, and so to interpret one as to make it affront another. Woe to him who by his interpretations of Scripture proclaims the scriptures to be at open war among themselves. Now to interpret the penny in the parable so as to make it signify an equality of glory and happiness among the saints in heaven, is to set this scripture at variance and strife with all those scriptures that I have produced to prove an inequality in the glory and happiness of the saints in heaven, and therefore such an interpretation is rather to be abhorred than to be received. But,
SECONDLY, Another rule that is to be observed in the interpreting of Scripture is this—we must always interpret those scriptures which are more dark and mysterious, by those scriptures which are more plain and clear; and not interpret those scriptures which are plain and clear by those who are dark and mysterious, for this were to darken counsel by words without knowledge, Job 38:2.
Those who interpret the penny in the parable to signify an equality of glory among the saints in heaven, they transgress this second rule; for they must then interpret all those clear and plain scriptures that I have brought to prove degrees of glory in heaven by this dark and mysterious parable, whereas they should interpret this dark and mysterious parable, if I may so say, by those plain and clear scriptures that I have already cited; and therefore their interpretation must be rejected.
It is true, of some parables we may say as Gregory does, namely, that they rather require a practicer than an interpreter, Psalm 49:4, and 97:2; John 16:29. And it is as true that other parables are so dark, obscure, and mysterious, that we shall never understand them without the sweat of our brows and the beating of our brains, and such a parable this seems to be, and therefore we must interpret the parts of it rather by other clear scriptures, than to make clear and plain scriptures bow to this—which seems to have a veil upon it. And thus you see by these arguments, that the penny in the parable has no reference at all to heaven, nor to any equality of glory that shall be among the saints there.
Secondly, Chrysostom's counsel on the text should be eyed and followed. Says he, "We should not strain every particular of a parable—but only consider the scope of Christ in the propounding of it, and accordingly apply it." We look not on every particular color in a well-drawn picture—but on the whole piece. Just so, when we come to view a parable, it is enough that we cast our eye principally upon the general intention and scope of it. He who is very exact and curious to view and observe every particular circumstance about parables, may easily draw blood, instead of milk, out of the breasts of parables. Parables are like to the sroll which Ezekiel saw in a vision spread before him, which was written within and without; without the history was written, and within the mystery was written, Ezek. 2:10. Now though the outside, the history, of a parable be like the golden pot—yet the inside, the mystery, of a parable is like the manna that was hidden therein, and it is the manna, the manna, that we must seek after. It is our wisdom to cast a special eye upon the inside of parables, upon the mystical reference that parables have, than to lie poring upon the outside of parables.
Therefore, the scope of this parable is not to prove that there is an equality of glory in heaven—but to reprove the Jews, who, being called into the Lord's vineyard early in the morning, repined and murmured that the Gentiles, who were called in at the latter end of the day, who were called in some thousand years after them, that they should through the riches of grace have an equal share with them in the reward, and stand upon as good and as noble terms with God as themselves, who had so long bore the heat of the day. God, to show that his gifts, his grace, and his rewards are free, will give his pennies as well to those who have labored but a little—as to those who have labored much; and this is no prejudice at all to his truth and justice, that his grace is free. But,
Thirdly and lastly, That by the penny we cannot, nor we may not, understand everlasting happiness and blessedness—but some other reward that hypocrites may attain to as well as sincere-hearted Christians; and the reason is obvious: for he who was sent away for his envious grumbling and grunting, was sent away also with his penny, "take your penny and be packing." [Some by the penny do understand worldly honor, and the estimation and approbation of men.] By the penny some pious interpreters do understand some competent gift or other, whatever it were, which might be well managed and improved to advantage. The vineyard is the church, and everyone that is called to labor in the vineyard is called to labor in the use and improvement of ordinances. Now everyone that is laborious in the use of ordinances shall be sure to get something; no man shall kindle a fire on God's altar for nothing. And yet it many times comes to pass that those who have been called and converted long before others, do yet make no greater, nor any better earnings on it than those do, who have been called and converted long after them. He who is called at the first hour sometimes gets no more than he who is called at the eleventh hour. It is in the trade of Christianity, as it is in other trades. Now you know that many men who have been set up in this or that trade ten, nay twenty, years before others—yet they many times make no more earnings, no more advantage of their trade, than those who have set up but the other day, as we say.
Why, so many who have been called long to the trade of Christianity before others—yet they make no more earnings, no more advantage of that trade, than those who have been called to it but yesterday, as I may speak. His gifts, his gain, his earnings, who is called in at the eleventh hour of the day, is many times equal to his that was called in at the first hour of the day. Yes, I have formerly proved that sometimes many who are called later than others, do yet in gifts and grace excel those who were called long before them.
Now these objections being answered, that truth stands firm, like mount Zion, namely, that the more holiness you have here, the more happiness you shall have hereafter; the more grace you have here on earth, the more glory you shall have when you come to heaven.