BELIEVERS CITIZE S OF HEAVE . BY THE REV. ALEXA DER COBBA , RATHE . " For our conversation is in heaven.

" — Philip, iii. 20. The word conversation in Scripture signifies mode of life, conduct ; " Be ye holy in all manner of conversation," — in your whole mode of life, (1 Peter i. 15) : "Be thou an example of the believers in conversation'' — in life or conduct, (1 Tim. iv. 12). But the word in the original rendered conversation in the text, is not the word so rendered in other places of Scripture. It denotes rather citizenship — community — society. The Apostle is exhorting to holiness of life. "Brethren," he says in the 17th verse, " be ye followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample.'' Then, immediately connected with this, and assigning the reason or ground of the exhortation, is the text, " For our conversation is in heaven." You will easily perceive that if you understand conversation here to mean mode of life or conduct, it scarcely assigns the reason or ground of the exhortation. But observe how different when you understand it as meaning citizenship — community — society. The idea then meant to be conveyed is, that believers are members of a society, and enjoy the rights of a society, not on earth, but in heaven. They are enrolled citizens of heaven, and therefore they must be exhorted to walk worthy of heaven, as becomes the citizens of such a city, the members of such a society. The doctrine in the text therefore is, that believers are even here enrolled citizens of heaven. Heaven is not unfrequently compared to a state or city, and its inhabitants said to be enrolled. We find mention made of the Book of Life, in which are written the names of them that are saved ; and the Apostle elsewhere speaks of the " church of the first-born which are written (or enrolled) in heaven.'' Keeping this in view, then, let us endeavour to bring out what is implied in this heavenly citizenship.

202 FREE CHURCH PULPIT. I. Heavenly society. If heaven is the believer's city, then the inhabitants of heaven are the believer's society. They are his fellow-citizens. We are too much accustomed, perhaps, to regard heaven as " the land that is very far off." To some, it is more a shadow than a substance — an imagination than a reality. It is something all future — something with which they do not at present feel that they have much close connexion.

But with believers such should not be the case. Even here, heaven is not that far-off land they are too ready to suppose. They are already enrolled its citizens, and this is not a mere name. They are in very deed citizens of heaven — members of the society of heaven. Their lot may be lowly here ; they may be encompassed with trials and afflictions in continual succession, but still they are citizens of heaven. It is a real right which they possess — the right of a citizen of heaven. True, their full enjoyment of heaven is all to come ; but their right to heaven is theirs at present. And is there nothing valuable in the possession of such a right ? It brings heaven near to them : it connects them with heaven, and in spite of earthly ties, they feel that the tie that binds them to heaven is a reality. But heaven is not a mere name ; and if the believer is here in reality a citizen of heaven, he has in this a title not to a mere name, nor yet to a mere place. He is brought into connexion not so much with a particular locality as with a particular society. He is a fellow-citizen with all that are already in heaven, only he has not yet arrived in the city. He is on his way to it. ow, look at the heavenly society among which the believer is at present enrolled. There is, first of all, God the Father — the infinite and incomprehensible God. And the believer is brought into close connexion with him. Once he was far off, but now he is nigh to God — he is of the household of God. Once he was an alien and an enemy, now he is a child. God is his father. The filial relation subsists between God and the believer here. He has received not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries, Abba, Father. He is thus brought into the society of God. Despised of men, he is yet a child of God. Scarcely admitted into the society of men, he is in the society of God. Again, in heaven there is Christ, the beloved Son, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. And the believer is brought into his society too. He is united to Christ — he becomes a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. He abides in Christ. Christ lives in him, and he in Christ. Christ and he are one. He is related to God by the filial relation. He is related to Christ by the fra-

REV. ALEXA DElt COBBA . 203 ternal relation. Christ and he are brothers. "Both he that sanctifieth land they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."

Again, there is in heaven the Holy Spirit, equal with the Father and the Son. And the believer is brought into his society too. He is led |by the Spirit, " As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." He is taught by the Spirit, "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you ; and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth and is no lie ; and even as it hath taught you ye shall abide in him." He is helped in prayer by the Spirit, " The Spirit helpeth our 'infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit maketh intercession for us, &c." He has the witness of the Spirit, " The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." He is sealed by the Spirit, "After that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." Yea, the Spirit dwelleth in him, " Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you ?" Thus closely is the believer connected with the highest in the heavens. He can no more be said to be a stranger to the Spirit than to the Father and the Son. With all the three he is brought into close connection. All are linked together. |A11 form one society. The believer is a son, and, therefore, an heir — >a brother, and, therefore, a joint-heir with Christ — a habitation of the 'Holy Ghost, and thus sealed and made fit for the heavenly city. Who can doubt that he is among heavenly society ? But, farther, holy angels and the spirits of the just made perfect are part of the society of heaven, and, therefore, part of the believer's society. Holy angels are his brethren — citizens of the same city — members of the same society — enrolled together as sons or children of God. And so also are all the ransomed of the Lord that surround the throne on high. All are one society. And as friend after friend with whom he is linked here in holy brotherhood departs, there is a breaking only of earthly ties ; for the tie that bound them together as citizens of heaven is unbroken still. They have gone before to the city, and he is on his way. And, dear brethren, is not this a marvellous dignity to which believers are raised here ? They are citizens of heaven, in a world at enmity to them. Their fathers after the flesh may leave them ; but they have another Father, whose watchful eye never slumbers, and whose guardian hand is never withdrawn. Brother in the flesh they may have none, or if they have, his heart may turn cold, or he may meet them with ridicule and reproach for Christ's sake ; but they have an elder brother in

204 FREE CHURCH PULPIT. heaven, whose heart never cools, and whose faithfulness never falls.

And although no friend should be near to speak a word of counsel, or to whisper a word of consolation, they have the counsellor and the comforter within them — the living Spirit dwelling in them. Dear brethren, all this is a reality. And thus it is with those that are citizens of heaven. II. Heavenly fellowship. A person in a strange land does not forget his native country. The friends he most loves are there, and though the wide ocean roll between them and him, he still feels that he is connected with them — still feels that they are his friends — and still holds fellowship with them. He can sit down in his far distant abode, and in imagination carry himself back to the homes and the hearths of his much loved friends in his native land, till all but enjoying their society, he forgets the wide waters that roll between. And the delight -with which he lingers over such imaginations, the regularity of his intercourse with his distant friends, and the pleasure with which he receives in return their written communications, all this tells where his country, and his kindred, and his home are. And just so it is with believers. Heaven is their city, the land which they love, and there are their most loved friends ; and it must, therefore, be that they will hold intercourse with heaven. Just as a person in a foreign land shows that his country and his friends are in another land by the correspondence which he keeps up with it, so believers show that they are citizens of heaven by the correspondence or fellowship which they keep up with heaven. Can a child dwell out of his father's house and not hold fellowship with him ? Can brother be separated from brother and not seek to draw near by some kind of intercourse ? And can there be a citizen of heaven here that does not hold intercourse with heaven ? It must, therefore, be a fact, that since believers are citizens of heaven, they will be distinguished by the intercourse which they hold with heaven. " Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus." Just as a person in a strange land seeks to make home nearer by fondly dwelling on its scenes, and keeping up a cor- J respondence with friends there, so the believer, feeling himself here in \ a strange land and wishing to be home, keeps heaven before him, and j seeks to make it nearer by intercourse with it. And that which makes I him do so is, that there is his home. When dwelling with wonder/and delight on the excellencies of God's nature, his wonder aud delight are ] enhanced by the knowledge that all these exellencies are the excellencies bf a Father and a friend. And how can he be but constrained to ask

REV. ALEXA DER COBBA . 205

often when he asks of a Father, and asks in the name of his Elder Brother, and is helped to ask by the Holy Spirit ! Thus great is the privilege and honour conferred on the believer. As it is not a mere name that he receives when he is called a citizen of heaven, so it is not a nominal but a real intercourse which he enjoys with heaven. And here we perceive the secret of that delight which the believer has in the ordinances. By them he holds fellowship with heaven. They are the connecting links between earth and heaven; and were they removed, the believer would have no way of holding intercourse with his home. They lessen the distance between him and heaven. They bring him into the presence of his Father and his Elder Brother ; so that not only the man that never prays, and never waits on ordinances, but also the man that prays and waits on ordinances as a formal duty — that has no relish for prayer, no delight in it — gives certain indication that he is not a citizen of heaven. It is not enough, therefore, to ask, Do you pray ? But what is the nature of your prayers ? Do you feel it a privilege, a delight, a refreshing exercise, to pray ? Do you feel that you can speak as children to a father ? Are your prayers really intercourse with heaven ? Do they lift you up above earth ? Do they bring you into the presence-chamber of God ? And can you delight in them just because they bring you near to God and to heaven ? So it is with the citizens of heaven. And never so well as when " in the secret place of the Most High," yet feeling that he is beside a Father, — when sensible of his wretchedness and unworthiness, yet asking much, and asking with the simplicity and confidence of a child — when Christ gives him confidence, and the Spirit gives him affections and utterance, never so well as then does the believer realize that he is a citizen of heaven. III. Heavenly affections. The city where one has his home is loved. There he has his peculiar rights and privileges — there are the familiar faces and the much loved friends — and there is home. And all these throw around it an air of interest, and make one attached to it in spite of the absence of natural beauty or artificial adornment. It is not so much the beauty of nature or the adornment of art that entwines the affections around it, as the rights and privileges, the familiar faces, the much loved friends, the happy home. Xow, dear brethren, heaven is the believer's city — his home. There he has peculiar rights and privileges ; and there are they whom he most loves. It must be, therefore, that his affections will be entwined around it. It will be the city of his affections. It will awaken his love — it will call forth his desires — it will excite his joy. And mark o. 122.— Ser. 111. vjl. in.

206 FREE CHURCH PULPIT. why : ot so much because of any glory in the place or locality, as because of its rights and privileges, because of the Father, the Elder Brother, the home, that are there. Perhaps we think of heaven too much as a locality. But it were little to the believer in what locality heaven were. His heaven is not a particular locality, but holy rights and privileges, holy society. God, and Christ, and the Spirit, are there — holy angels and glorified saints are there. There the Lamb has all the glory. There all his ransomed ones cast their crowns at his feet, and sing their never ceasing hallelujah. It is this that makes heaven be loved by the believer. To behold the Lamb — to dwell in his light — to stand before the throne — to cast his crown down there — that is the highest aspiration of the believer, and one thing that marks him out as a citizen of heaven. But heavenly affections are not merely affections called forth by heaven, inasmuch as the objects of the believer's supreme affection are there, but affections of the same kind as those cherished by the inhabitants of heaven. When one is residing for a time in a distant land from his home and his family, not only does home call forth his affections — not only does he feel that there is a tie that binds him to home, which ail the lapse of time, and all the mighty waters that roll between, cannot break — but his affections are the same with those of the family at home. They love the same friends — they desire the same things — their hopes and their joys are the same ; and thus it is that the heart of the wanderer in the far distant land just beats in unison with the hearts of those that are at home. Even so, the believer, here among clouds, and encompassed with infirmity, has affections of the same kind with his brethren in heaven. His love is the same ; not, indeed, of the same degree but of the same Unci. Its object is the same. His desires, too, are the same — to know Christ more, to glorify him more, to be ever with him. His joys, too, are the same, for they are all in the Lord. In one word, the heart of the believer on earth beats in unison with the hearts that surround the throne on high. Dear brethren, is it so with you ? Are your hearts heavenly ? Are they, in some measure, at least, in unison with the hearts that surround the throne ? O ! if they are not, how can you suppose that you are citizens of heaven ? IV. A heavenly mode of life. When one goes to a foreign country, there are several things that mark him out as a stranger, and indicate the land to which he belongs. His speech, for example, is

peculiar. So are his habits and manner of life ; for he does not adopt the manners of the place where he is only sojourning for a time.

REV. ALEXA DER COBBA . 207 Just so the believer is a citizen of heaven, and here he is a stranger in a strange land. And as he knows he can be here only a short time, and expects to be soon home, he does not conform to this world. He seeks neither to speak its tongue, nor adopt its mode of living. On the contrar}-, as he has no wish to tarry here long, he strives to live as much in accordance with heaven as possible. There is something in his speech that savours of heaven without any affectation. Why should a citizen of heaven have nothing to speak about but the things of this fleeting world? Will such conversation fit him for heaven ? or will there be any of it when he arrives there ? And, in short, must not his whole mode of life be conformed to the rules ot beaven ? Clearly it must, if you consider two things. 1. What is implied in being a citizen of heaven. We have seen that it implies that the believer is enrolled among heavenly society. God is his Father, Christ his Elder Brother, angels and glorified saints are his kindred. Is it possible that the man that claims kindred with these can live a life conformed to the world ? Must there not be a powerful inducement to holiness, when be keeps in view the holy city of which he is a citizen, and the holy society of which he is a member ? Surely he that calls God his Father, and Christ his Brother, and angels his kindred, must keep himself unspotted from the world. Or, again, he has heavenly fellowship — daily intercourse with God, and the Son, and the Spirit. ow, the society which a man keeps, every one knows, has a mighty influence on his character and conduct. He that keeps company with the noble-minded can scarcely be baseminded. He that keeps company with the pure can scarcely be habitually impure. And the believer, the citizen of heaven, who has daily intercourse with the highest and the holiest, and the noblest society, cannot but feel the influence of this in ennobling and purifying his mind. And the same result must follow from his heavenly affections ; for every one knows what an effect the affections have on the conduct. The man whose esteem and love are all reserved for objects mean, and base, and unholy, cannot but live an ignoble and unholy life. It must, therefore, be that the believer, the citizen of heaven, whose affections are the noblest and the holiest that can beat in human breast on this side heaven, will feel the influence of this in making his life heavenly. Dear brethren, are you believers ? Then you are citizens of heaven, and you see " what manner of persons you ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness."

2. The believer cannot otherwise be fitted for heaven. It were to no purpose to be made a citizen of heaven at present, if he were not fitted for dwelling in heaven. Could he find admission into heaven without

208 FREE CHURCH PULPIT. being fitted for it by being made perfectly holy, he could find no enjoyment in it. ow, it is here that he must be fitted for heaven. It is here that the preparation goes on without which the gates of the city will not open to him. If it is true that he is in reality a citizen of heaven, and that he shall one day " enter in through the gates into the city," then it is equally true that he must of necessity be daily growing in fitness for heaven. He is here in a state of preparation for heaven. This is his great work. And if he has a firm persuasion that he is a citizen of heaven, and that he is to have his eternal home among all that is noble and all that is holy, he must feel constrained to " cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." But we cannot conclude without reminding you that there are some among us strangers to the privileges of which we have been speaking. 1. There are some amongst us who have not yet been enrolled in heavenly society. You ask, how can this be known ? but the question is not difficult to answer. You would fain call God your Father, and regard yourselves as his children. But how did he become your Father ? His word declares that you are by nature his enemies. How, then, was that enmity slain, and how were you reconciled and made children ? Look that question in the face. How was this great change wrought ? And this may lead you to see that it has not been wrought at all. Can you look back upon a time when you were at enmity to God, and trace the change from enmity to friendship ? Alas ! you can scarcely say that a change has taken place. It has been always the same with you. ow, were men born children of God, you might have some reason to think you were his children. But men are born his enemies, and they can become his children only by being begotten again by God — born again by the Spirit. Has this change been wrought in you ? Or can you find freedom and delight in intercourse with God ? Do you like to be near him ? Do you like the thought that his holy eye ever sees you ? Can you say that the Spirit of God dwells in you ? Do you believe that the Spirit dwells in you ? Alas ! that strangeness to God — that want of delight in his presence — that conscious feeling that whatever change has been wrought in you, the Spirit does not dwell in you, are too plain indications that you are yet "far off," un-

converted, unsaved ! 2. There are some among us that have no heavenly fellowship. Heaven is a strange land to them. In this world they feel at home. Are there not among us formalists in prayer, and formalists in waiting on ordinances ? They pray indeed, but they have no pleasure in it. They wait on ordinances, but it is all because such is the custom with

REV. ALEXA DER COBBA . 2()9 i most people. They know not what it is to unburden their minds to a Father in heaven, to wrestle, to tarry at the throne of grace. Their prayers are as lifeless as their own souls. And such prayers are not heavenly fellowship. Yea, and must we not go farther ? For are there not among us persons that live in the neglect of prayer altogether ? They are going down to the pit, yet they will not so much as utter a cry for their perishing souls ! There is mercy within their reach, but they will let it be " clean gone for ever," before they open their lips to cry for it ! Miserable men ! to dream away a day of grace in this manner. What intercourse have you with heaven ? And how then can it be your city ? And yet you hope ! It is a foolish dream. O ! prayerless man ! — ! prayerless woman ! — O ! prayerless child ! your hope is vain ; you are without God, without hope, unconverted, unsaved ! 3. There are some among us that have no heavenly affections. Say, brethren, where are your hearts ? On what are they most set ? 13 it on God and the things which are at his right hand, or is it on this present world ? Alas ! the answer is too easy ? Seldom or never do your hearts rise to heavenly things. You have no pleasure in thinking on them. You can scarcely desire them. From the beginning of the week to the end, you think of earthly things, and desire earthly things, and love earthly things, and are content with earthly things. Does Jesus draw forth your supreme affections ? Do you, with those that surround his throne, desire him above all, and glorify him above all ? Alas ! you are strangers to all this ; and how, then, can you hope for heaven ? 4. There are some among us that do not show a heavenly life. Look at the iniquity that abounds every where — the intemperance, the deceiving, the evil-speaking, the Sabbath-breaking. These indicate any thing but a heavenly citizenship. But, not to dwell on these, are not the lives of most among us, at best, but negative lives ? There is the absence of most that men count great or scandalous offences, but there is no positive heavenliness, abounding fruit, unwearied zeal and activity

in the Lord's service. The character must be described rather by what is wanting than by any thing positive. Dear brethren, these things ought not so to be. ! it is full time to awake out of your day-dreams. You cannot be fitted for heaven in that way. Have you begun aright in this matter? You cannot be made citizens of heaven without being born again — united to Christ. The title to the heavenly city is in Christ.

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