PRAISE, ONE OF THE CHIEF
EMPLOYMENTS OF HEAVEN
by: Jonathan Edwards — 1703-1758
And I heard a voice from heaven, as
the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and I heard
the voice of harpers harping with their harps - Revelation 14:2.
We May Observe In These Words:
The distance of the voice.
What it was that John heard, that is, the voice and
melody of a company praising God. It is said in the next verse that they
sung a new song before the throne.
Whence he heard this voice: "I heard," says he, "a
voice from heaven." This company that he heard praising God was in heaven.
It is said in the following verse, "They sung this song before the throne,
and before the four living creatures, and the elders." But the throne of
God and the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders, are all
represented in these visions of John as being in heaven. So that this voice
was the voice of the heavenly inhabitants, the voice of the blessed and
glorious company that is in heaven before the throne of God there.
The kind of voice which is here set forth in a very
lively and elegant manner; it is said to be as the voice of many waters
and as the voice of mighty thunders and as the voice of harpers harping
with their harps. Hereby several things are represented in a very striking
That it was the voice of a vast and innumerable
multitude: so that it was as the voice of many waters. How naturally
does this represent the joint, continual, and loud voice of a vast multitude
at a distance, that it resembled the voice of many waters.
The loudness of the voice. It was as the
voice of many waters and as the voice of a great thunder; which describes
the extraordinary fervency of their praises and how lively and vigorous
they were therein and how that everyone praised God with all his might.
They all, joining together, sung with such fervency that heaven did as
it were ring with their praises. The noise of thunder and the roaring of
many waters are the most great and majestic sounds ever heard upon earth
and are often spoken of in the Scriptures as the mightiest sounds. John
could not distinctly hear what they said, but they being in heaven, at
a great distance, he knew not what better to compare it to than to the
roaring of the sea or a great thunder. Yet,
It was a melodious sound, signified by
this expression, "I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps."
The harp was a stringed instrument that David made much use of in praising
God. John represents the matter thus to us, that the voice which he heard,
being at a great distance, was indistinct; and being of such a vast multitude,
and such a mighty fervent voice that it seemed in some measure like distant
thunder or the roaring of water, and yet he could perceive the music of
the voice at the same time; though it was in some respects as thunder and
the noise of water, yet there was a sweet and excellent melody in it. In
short, though these comparisons of which John makes use to signify to us
what kind of a voice and sound it was that he heard are exceedingly lively
and elegant, yet this seems to be evident from them, that what he heard
was inexpressible and that he could find nothing that could perfectly represent
it. That a voice should be as the voice of many waters and as the voice
of a great thunder and yet like the voice of harpers is to us not easily
to be conceived of. But the case was that John could find no earthly sound
that was sufficient to represent it; and therefore such various and different
similitudes are aggregated and cast together to represent it. But thus
much seems to be signified by it, that it seemed to be the voice of an
innumerable multitude and that they were exceedingly fervent and mighty
in their praises; that the voice of this multitude was very great and exceedingly
full of majesty, and yet a most sweet and melodious voice at the same time.
Doctrine: The work of the saints in heaven
does very much consist in praising God.
Proposition: The Saints in Heaven Are Employed
They are not idle; they have there much to do;
they have a work before them that will fill up eternity.
We are not to suppose when the saints have finished
their course and done the works appointed them here in this world and are
got to their journey's end, to their Father's house, that they will have
nothing to do. It is true, the saints when they get to heaven rest from
their labors and their works follow them. Heaven is not a place of labor
and travail, but a place of rest. "There remaineth a rest for the people
of God" (Heb. 4:9). And it is a place of the reward of labor. But yet the
rest of heaven does not consist in idleness and a cessation of all action,
but only a cessation from all the trouble and toil and tediousness of action.
The most perfect rest is consistent with being continually employed. So
it is in heaven. Though the saints are exceedingly full of action, yet
their activity is perfectly free from all labor or weariness or unpleasantness.
They shall rest from their work, that is, from all work of labor and self-denial
and grief, care, and watchfulness, but they will not cease from action.
The saints in glory are represented as employed in serving God, as well
as the saints on earth, though it be without any difficulty or opposition.
"And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb
be in it; and his servants shall serve him" (Rev. 22:3). Yea, we are told
that they shall serve God day and night, that is, continually or without
ceasing: "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day
and night in his temple" (Rev. 7:15). And yet this shall be without any
manner of trouble, as it follows in the next verse: "They shall hunger
no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them nor
any heat" (v. 16). In this world saints labor, as it were, in the wearisome
heat of the sun; but there, though they shall still serve God, yet shall
the sun not light on them nor any heat. In one sense, the saints and angels
in heaven rest not day nor night (Rev. 4:8); that is, they never cease
from their blessed employment. Perfection of happiness does not consist
in idleness, but on the contrary, it very much consists in action. The
angels are blessed spirits, and yet they are exceedingly active in serving
God. They are as a flame of fire, which is the most active thing that we
see in this world. God Himself enjoys infinite happiness and perfect bliss,
and yet He is not inactive but is Himself in His own nature a perfect act
and is continually at work in bringing to pass His own purposes and ends.
That principle of holiness that is in its perfection in the saints in heaven
is a most active principle; so that though they enjoy perfect rest, yet
they are a great deal more active than they were when in this world. In
this world they were exceedingly dun and heavy and inactive, but now they
are a flame of fire. The saints in heaven are not merely passive in their
happiness. They do not merely enjoy God passively, but in an active manner.
They are not only acted upon by God, but they mutually act toward Him,
and in this action and reaction consists the heavenly happiness.
Proposition: Their Employment Consists Very Much
in Praising God.
John the beloved disciple had often visions of
heaven and in almost every instance had a vision of the inhabitants as
praising God. So in the fourth chapter he tells us that he looked, and
behold, a door was opened in heaven, and he was called up thither, and
that he saw the throne of God and Him that sat on 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 honor and thanks to Him,
the four and twenty elders fall down before Him and worship Him. Again
in the fifth chapter, we have an account how they sing praises to Christ
(vv. 8-9ff). There are also examples in 7:9-12; 11:16-17; 12:10; and in
15:2-4. 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 know nothing of; but this we may
determine, that much of their employment consists in praising God, and
that for the following reasons:
Because they there see God. This is a blessedness
promised to the saints, that they shall see God (see Matt. 5:8). That they
see God sufficiently shows the reason why they praise Him. They that see
God cannot but praise Him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency that
the sight of this excellency 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 (see 1 Cor. 13:12). 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 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
pure and lovely holiness of God whereby the heavens themselves are not
pure in comparison with Him, how can they avoid to praise that beauty of
the divine nature with exalted hearts! 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!
Because 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 lights, from whom proceeds every good and perfect 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 fullness, 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 ever-flowing 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 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 human, and how great a thing it was for Him to lay down His life
and to endure the shameful and accursed death of the cross. They have another
sense how great the benefits are that Christ has purchased for humanity,
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 proportionately 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 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.
Because they will be perfect in humility.
In order to a person's being rightly disposed to the work of praise, he
must be an 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 states, yet they are vastly more humble than the saints
on earth be. They are as much lower in humility as they are higher in honor
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
more sensible how wonderful it is that God should take so much notice 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 does greatly engage
and enlarge their hearts in praise to Him for His infinite mercy and grace.
Because 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 proportionately 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
fails; whether there be prophecies, they shall fail, whether there be knowledge,
it shall vanish away. Faith shall cease in vision and hope in fruition,
but love never fails. 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. 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.
This Subject May Be Applied in the Way of Instruction
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 honorable work. No employment can be a greater honor 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 (see Ps. 19:1-6; Job 12:7-8). 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.
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,
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 heaven from what they are in this world. Here much of the work to which
the saints are called consists in laboring, in fighting, in toilsome traveling
in a waste howling wilderness, in mourning, and suffering, and in offering
up strong crying and tears. But there in heaven their work continually
is to lift up their 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 among them but the
sweet and glorious melody of God's praises. There is a holy cheerfulness
to be seen throughout that blessed society. "And God shall wipe away all
tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow
nor crying" (Rev. 21:4). They shall never have anything more to do with
sighing and crying; but their eternal work henceforward shall be praise.
This should make us long for heaven, where they
spend their time so joyfully and gloriously. The saints especially have
reason to be earnestly breathing after that happy state, where they may
in so joyful a manner praise God.
This may put natural persons upon reflecting
on their own state, that they have no part nor lot in this matter.
You are alien from the commonwealth of Israel. You are not one of the people
of God. You do not belong to their society, that are to spend their eternity
after that joyful manner, which you have now heard. You have no right nor
portion in heaven. If you hereafter come and offer yourself to be admitted
into this blessed society in your present state; if you come and try to
be admitted, you will be thrust out; you will be driven away. If you come
and knock and cry to be admitted to the wedding, saying, Lord, Lord,
open unto us, all will be to no purpose! You will hear no other word
except Depart! You shall be shut out into outer darkness. You shall
not be permitted to sing among the children but shall be driven out to
howl among dogs. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they
may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates
into the city; for without are dogs" (Rev. 22:14-15). You are in danger
of spending eternity, not in joyfully singing praises, but in a quite contrary
manner; in weeping, in wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and blaspheming
God because of your pains and because of your plagues. You shall see others
coming from the east and the west, and sitting down with Abraham and Isaac
and Jacob in the kingdom of God, taking their places among that blessed,
happy society, and joining their voices in their heavenly music. But you
see your lot; you shall have other work to do. "Behold, my servants shall
sing for joy of heart; but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for
vexation of spirit" (Isa. 65:14).
This Subject May Be Applied in the Way of Exhortation.
If it be so that praising God is very much the
employment of heaven, hence let all be exhorted to the work and duty of
praising God. The following considerations will show why we should be stirred
up by this doctrine to this work.
Reasons for Praise
Let it be considered that the church on earth
is the same society with those saints who are praising God in heaven.
There is not one church of Christ in heaven and another here upon earth.
Though the one be sometimes called the church triumphant and the other
the church militant, yet they are not indeed two churches. By the church
triumphant is meant the triumphant part of the church; and by the church
militant, the militant part of it, for there is but one universal, or catholic,
church. 'My dove, my undefiled, is but one" (Song 6:9). "The body is one,
and hath many members" (1 Cor. 12:12). The glorious assembly and the saints
on earth make but one family. "Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth
is named" (Eph. 3:15). Though some are in heaven and some on earth in very
different circumstances, yet they are all united, for there is but one
body, and one spirit, and one Lord Jesus Christ. One God and Father of
all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. God has in Christ
united the inhabitants of heaven and the holy inhabitants of this earth
and has made them one. "That in the dispensation of the fullness of time,
he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in
heaven, and which are on earth, even in him" (Eph. 1:10). Heaven is at
a great distance from the earth; it is called a far country (Matt.
25:14). Yet the distance of place does not separate them so as to make
two societies. For though the saints on earth, at present, are at a distance
from heaven, yet they belong there; that is their proper home. The saints
that are in this world are strangers here; and therefore the apostle reproved
the Christians in his day for acting as though they belonged to this world.
"Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" (Col.
Some of a people may be in their own land and
some in a strange land and yet be but one people. Some of a family may
be at home and some sojourning abroad and yet be but one family. The saints
on earth, though they be not actually in heaven, yet have their inheritance
in heaven and are traveling toward heaven and will arrive there in a little
time. They are closely related to the saints in heaven; they are their
brethren, being children of the same Father and heirs with Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 2:19 the saints on earth are said to be fellow-citizens
with the saints, and of the household of God. And the apostle tells
the Christian Hebrews that they were "come to mount Zion, and to the city
of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company
of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are
written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just
men made perfect" (Heb. 12:22-24). But how were they come to this
heavenly city and this glorious assembly, when they were yet here on earth?
They were come to them, ere they were brought and united to them in the
same family. But this is what I would inculcate by all this, that the church
of God on earth ought to be employed in the same work with the saints in
heaven, because they are the same society; as they are but one family,
have but one Father, one inheritance, so they should have but one work.
The church on earth ought to join with the saints in heaven in their employment,
as God has joined them in one society by His grace.
We profess to be of the visible people of Christ,
to be Christians and not heathens, and so to belong to the universal church.
We profess therefore to be of the same society and shall not walk answerably
to our profession, unless we employ ourselves in the same work.
Let it be considered, that we all of us hope
to spend an eternity with the saints in heaven and in the same work of
praising God. There is, it may be, not one of us but who hopes to be
a saint in heaven and there continually to sing praises to God and the
Lamb; but how disagreeable will it be with such a hope to live in the neglect
of praising God now! We ought now to begin that work which we intend shall
be the work of another world; for this life is given us on purpose that
therein we might prepare for a future life. The present state is a state
of probation and preparation, a state of preparation for the enjoyments
and employment of another, future, and eternal state; and no one is ever
admitted to those enjoyments and employments, but those who are prepared
for them here. If ever we would go to heaven, we must be fitted for heaven
in this world; we must here have our souls molded and fashioned for that
work and that happiness. Our souls must be formed for praise, and they
must begin their work here. The beginnings of future things are in this
world. The seed must be sown here; the foundation must be laid in this
world. Here is laid the foundation of future misery and of future happiness.
If it be not begun here, it never will be begun. If our hearts be not in
some measure turned to praise in this world, we shall never do anything
at the work hereafter. The light must dawn in this world, or the sun will
never rise in the next. As we therefore all of us would be, and hope to
be, of that blessed company which praise God in heaven, we should now inure
ourselves to the work.
Let it be considered that those works of God's
mercy for which the saints in heaven will chiefly praise Him have been
wrought among us in this world.
The mercy and grace of God for which the saints
in heaven will chiefly praise Him is His mercy exercised in the work of
redemption, which work has been wrought out in this world. This love of
God is the chief object of their admiration and what they chiefly contemplate,
and that employs their most ardent praises.
The grace of Christ, about which their praises
will be principally employed, is that He should so love sinful man as to
undertake for him, to take upon Him man's nature, and lay down His life
for him. We find that is the subject of their praises. "And when he had
taken the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty elders,
fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials
full of odors, which are the prayers of saints; and they sang a new song,
Thou art worthy, for thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood" (Rev. 5:8-9).
They will chiefly praise God for these fruits
of His mercy because these are the greatest fruits of it that ever have
been, far greater than the glorifying of saints. The saints in heaven will
praise God for bestowing glory upon them; but the actual bestowment of
glory upon them, after it has been purchased by the blood of Christ, is
in no measure so great a thing as the purchasing of it by His blood. For
Christ, the eternal Son of God, to become human and to lay down His life
was a far greater thing than the glorifying of all the saints that ever
have been or ever will be glorified from the beginning of the world to
the end of it. The giving of Christ to die comprehends all other mercies,
for all other mercies are through this. The giving of Christ is a greater
thing than the giving of all things else for the sake of the Christ. This
evidently appears from Romans 8:32: "He who spared not his own Son, but
delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give
us all things?" So that the work of redemption is that for which the saints
in heaven do chiefly praise God. But this work has been wrought here among
us in this world. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." The incarnation
of Christ was a thing that was brought to pass in this world, and the sufferings
and death of Christ were also accomplished on earth. Shall heaven be filled
with praises for what was done on earth, and shall there be no praises
on earth where it was done?
Let it be considered that if you praise God
sincerely in this world, it will be a sign that you are really to be one
of those that shall praise Him in heaven. If any man be found sincerely
glorifying God, he will in due time be brought to them, as one who is fit
to be of their company. Heaven is the appointed place of all sincere praisers
of God; they are all to be gathered together there. And no man can sincerely
praise God, unless he be one of those who are redeemed from among men,
one that God has separated from the rest of the world and set apart for
Let it be considered that if we begin now to
exercise ourselves in the work of heaven, it will be the way to have foretastes
of the enjoyments of heaven. The business
and the happiness go together. This will be the way to have your heart
filled with spiritual joy and comfort. If you heartily praise God you shall
rejoice in Him, and He will show you more of Himself, of His glory and
love, that you may still have greater cause of praise.
Directions for Praise
I proceed to give some directions for the performance
of this work.
Be directed, in order to your acceptably performing
this duty, to repent of your sins and turn to God. If you have not a work
of conversion wrought in you, you will do nothing to any purpose in this
work of praise. An unconverted person never once sincerely or acceptably
praises God. If you would do the work of the saints in heaven, you must
be, not only in profession, but really, one of their society; for there
are none else can do their work. As in the verse following the text: "And
they sung as it were a new song, before the throne, and before the four
living creatures, and the elders; and no man could learn that song, but
the hundred and forty-four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth."
A hundred and forty-four thousand is a mystical number for the church of
God or the assembly of the saints or those that are redeemed from the earth.
There are none can learn the song that they sing in heaven, but those of
that number. It is beyond the reach of all natural human beings, let them
be persons of ever so great abilities and sagacity. They never can learn
that heavenly song, if they be not of that number. For it is only the sanctifying,
saving instruction of the Spirit of God that can teach us that song.
Labor after more and more of those principles from
whence the praise of the saints in heaven does arise. You have already
heard that the saints in heaven do praise the Lord so fervently because
they see Him; labor therefore that you, though you have not an immediate
vision of God as they have, may yet have a clear spiritual sight of Him,
and that you may know more of God and have frequent discoveries of Him
made to you.
You have heard that the saints in heaven make
praise so much their work because of the great sense they have of the greatness
and wonderfulness of the fruits of the Lord's goodness. Labor therefore
to get your minds more deeply impressed with such a sense.
The saints in glory are so much employed in praise,
because they are perfect in humility and have so great a sense of
the infinite distance between God and them. They have a great sense of
their own unworthiness, that they are by nature unworthy of any of the
mercy of God. Labor therefore that you may obtain more of a sense of your
own littleness and vileness; that you may see more what you are, how ill
you have deserved mercy at the hands of God, and how you are less than
the least of all His mercies.
The hearts of the saints in heaven are all inflamed
with divine love which continually influences them to praise God.
Seek that this principle may abound in you, and then you likewise will
delight in praising God. It win be a most sweet and pleasant employment
Labor in your praises to praise God, so far as may
be, in the same manner that the saints do in heaven. They praise Him fervently,
with their whole hearts and with all their strength, as was represented
in vision in John by the exceeding loudness of their praise. Labor therefore
that you may not be cold and dull in your praises, but that you also may
praise God fervently.
The saints in heaven praise God humbly.
Let it also be your delight to abase yourselves, to exalt God and set Him
upon the throne, and to lie at His footstool.
The saints in heaven praise God unitedly.
They praise Him with one heart and one soul in a most firm union. Endeavor
that you may thus praise God in union with His people, having your hearts
knit to them in fervent love and charity, which will be a great help to
your praising and glorifying God unitedly with them.
This Subject May Be Applied in the Way of Reproof
to Those Who Neglect the Singing of God's Praises
Certainly, such a neglect is not consonant to
the hope and expectation of spending an eternity in that work. It is an
appointment of God, that we should not only praise in our prayers, but
that we should sing His praises. It was a part of divine worship, not only
under the Old Testament, but the New. Thus we read that Christ and His
disciples sung praises together (see Matt. 26:30). So it is commanded in
Ephesians 5:19: "Be ye filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in
psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your
hearts to the Lord." And in Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms,
and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the
Lord." And also in 1 Corinthians 14:15: "1 will sing with the spirit, and
I will sing with the understanding also." So also the saints in heaven
are represented as singing God's praises. And is that their happy and glorious
employment, and yet shall it be so neglected by us, who hope for heaven?
If there be any of the godly that do neglect this duty, I would desire
them to consider how discordant such a neglect is with their profession,
with their state, and with the mercies which God has bestowed. How much
cause has God given you to sing His praise! You have received more to prompt
you to praise God than all the natural human beings in the world; and can
you content yourself to live in the world without singing the praises of
your heavenly Father and your glorious Redeemer?
Parents ought to be careful that their children
are instructed in singing, that they may be capable of performing that
part of divine worship. This we should do, as we would have our children
trained up for heaven; for we all of us would have our children go to heaven.
This Subject May Be Applied in the Way of Consolation
to the Godly
It may be matter of great comfort to you that
you are to spend your eternity with the saints in heaven, where it is so
much their work to praise God. The saints are sensible what cause they
have to praise God and oftentimes are ready to say they long to praise
Him more, and that they never can praise Him enough. This may be a consolation
to you, that you shall have a whole eternity in which to praise Him. They
earnestly desire to praise God better. This, therefore, may be your consolation,
that in heaven your heart shall be enlarged, you shall be enabled to praise
Him in an immensely more perfect and exalted manner than you can do in
this world. You shall not be troubled with such a dead, dull heart, with
so much coldness, so many clogs and burdens from corruption and from an
earthly mind; with a wandering, unsteady heart; with so much darkness and
so much hypocrisy. You shall be one of that vast assembly that praise God
so fervently, that their voice is "as the voice of many waters, and as
the voice of mighty thunderings."
You long to have others praise God, to have everyone
praise Him. There there will be enough to help you and join you in praising
Him, and those that are capable of doing it ten thousand times better than
saints on earth. Thousands and thousands of angels and glorified saints
will be around you, all united to you in the dearest love, all disposed
to praise God, not only for themselves, but for His mercy to you.