by Thomas Watson
The second part of our subject is that man’s chief end is to enjoy God for ever. Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” That is, What is there in heaven I desire to enjoy but thee? There is a twofold fruition or enjoying of God; the one is in this life, the other in the life to come.
1st. The enjoyment of God in this life. It is a great matter to enjoy God’s ordinances, but to enjoy God’s presence in the ordinances is that which a gracious heart aspires after. Psalm 63:2, “To see thy glory so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” This sweet enjoyment of God is when we feel his Spirit co-operating with the ordinance, and distilling grace upon our hearts. When in the Word the Spirit quickens and raises the affections. Luke 24:32, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” When the Spirit transforms the heart leaving an impress of holiness upon it. 2 Cor. 3:8, “We are changed into the same image, from glory to glory.” When the Spirit revives the heart with comfort, it comes not only with its anointing, but with its seal; it sheds God’s love abroad in the heart. Rom. 5:5, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3. In the Word we hear God’s voice; in the sacrament we have his kiss. The heart being warmed and inflamed in a duty is God’s answering by fire. The sweet communications of God’s Spirit are the first fruits of glory. Now Christ has pulled off his veil, and showed his smiling face; now he has led a believer into the banqueting-house, and given him of the spiced wine of his love to drink; he has put in his finger at the hole of the door; he has touched the heart, and made it leap for joy. Oh how sweet is it thus to enjoy God! The godly have, in ordinances, had such divine raptures of joy, and soul transfigurations, that they have been carried above the world, and have despised all things here below.
Use 1. Is the enjoyment of God in this life so sweet? How wicked are they who prefer the enjoyment of their lusts before the enjoyment of God! 2 Pet. 3:3, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life,” is the Trinity they worship. Lust is an inordinate desire or impulse, provoking the soul to that which is evil. There is the revengeful lust, and the wanton lust. Lust, like a feverish heat, puts the soul into a flame. Aristotle calls sensual lusts brutish, because, when any lust is violent, reason or conscience cannot be heard. These lusts besot and brutalise the man. Hos. 4:11,”Whoredom and wine take away the heart;” the heart for anything that is good. How many make it their chief end, not to enjoy God, but to enjoy their lusts; as that cardinal who said, “Let him but keep his cardinalship of Paris and he was content to lose his part in Paradise.” Lust first bewitches with pleasure, and then comes the fatal dart. Prov. 7:23, “Till a dart strike through his liver.” This should be as a flaming sword to stop men in the way of their carnal delights. Who for a drop of pleasure would drink a sea of wrath?
Use 2. Let it be our great care to enjoy God’s sweet presence in his ordinances. Enjoying spiritual communion with God is a riddle and mystery to most people. Every one that hangs about the court does not speak with the king. We may approach God in ordinances, and hang about the court of heaven, yet not enjoy communion with God. We may have the letter without the Spirit, the visible sign without the invisible grace. It is the enjoyment of God in a duty that we should chiefly look at. Psalm 13:2, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” Alas! what are all our worldly enjoyments without the enjoyment of God? What is it to enjoy good health, a brave estate, and not to enjoy God? Job 30:28, “I went mourning without the sun.” So mayest thou say in the enjoyment of all creatures without God, “I went mourning without the sun.” I have the starlight of outward enjoyments, but I lack the Sun of Righteousness. “I went mourning without the sun.” It should be our great design, not only to have the ordinances of God, but the God of the ordinances. The enjoyment of God’s sweet presence here is the most contented life: he is a hive of sweetness, a magazine of riches, a fountain of delight, Psalm 36:8,9. The higher the lark flies the sweeter it sings; and the higher we fly by the wings of faith, the more we enjoy of God. How is the heart inflamed in prayer and meditation! What joy and peace is there in believing! Is it not comfortable being in heaven? He that enjoys much of God in this life carries heaven about him. Oh let this be the thing we are chiefly ambitious of, the enjoyment of God in his ordinances! The enjoyment of God’s sweet presence here is an earnest of our enjoying him in heaven.
This brings us to the second thing:
2nd. The enjoyment of God in the life to come. Man’s chief end is to enjoy God forever. Before the plenary fruition of God in heaven, there must be something previous and antecedent; and that is our being in a state of grace. We must have conformity to him in grace, before we can have communion with him in glory. Grace and glory are linked and chained together. Grace precedes glory, as the morning star ushers in the sun. God will have us qualified and fitted for a state of blessedness. Drunkards and swearers are not fit to enjoy God in glory; the Lord will not lay such vipers in his bosom. Only “the pure in heart shall see God.” We must first be, as the king’s daughter, glorious within, before we are clothed with the robes of glory. As King Ahasuerus first caused the virgins to be purified and anointed, and they had their sweet odours to perfume them, and then went to stand before the king, Esth. 2:12, so must we have the anointing of God, and be perfumed with the graces of the Spirit, those sweet odours, and then we shall stand before the king of heaven. Being thus divinely qualified by grace, we shall be taken up to the mount of vision, and enjoy God for ever; and what is enjoying God for ever but to be put in a state of happiness? As the body cannot have life but by having communion with the soul, so the soul cannot have blessedness but by having immediate communion with God. God is the summum bonum, the chief good; therefore the enjoyment of him is the highest felicity.
He is a universal good; bonum in quo omnia bona, “a good in which are all goods.” The excellencies of the creature are limited. A man may have health, not beauty, learning, not parentage, riches, not wisdom; but in God are contained all excellencies. He is a good, commensurate fully to the soul; a sun, a portion, a horn of salvation; in whom dwells “all fulness.” Col. 1:19. God is an unmixed good. There is no condition in this life but has its mixture; for every drop of honey there is a drop of gall. Solomon, who gave himself to find out the philosopher’s stone, to search out for happiness here below, found nothing but vanity and vexation, Eccl. 1:2. God is perfect, the quintessence of good. He is sweetness in the flower. God is a satisfying good. The soul cries out, I have enough. Psalm 17:15, “I shall be satisfied with thy likeness.” Let a man who is thirsty be brought to an ocean of pure water, and he has enough. If there be enough in God to satisfy the angels, then sure there is enough to satisfy us. The soul is but finite, but God is infinite. Though God be a good that satisfies, yet he does not surfeit. Fresh joys spring continually from his face; and he is as much to be desired after millions of years by glorified souls as at the first moment. There is a fulness in God that satisfies, and yet so much sweetness, that the soul still desires.
God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure; there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy. In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima immo rapitur [The soul, delighted with the sweetness of God, indeed is ravished by it]: the love of God drops such infinite suavity into the soul as is unspeakable and full of glory. If there be so much delight in God, when we see him only by faith, 1 Pet. 1:8, what will the joy of vision be, when we shall see him face to face! If the saints have found so much delight in God while they were suffering, oh what joy and delight will they have when they are being crowned! If flames are beds of roses, what will it be to lean on the bosom of Jesus! What a bed of roses that will be!
God is a superlative good. He is better than anything you can put in competition with him: he is better than health, riches, honour. Other things maintain life, he gives life. Who would put anything in balance with the Deity? Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God excels all other things more infinitely than the sun excels the light of a taper.
God is an eternal good. He is the Ancient of days, yet never decays, nor waxes old, Dan. 7:9. The joy he gives is eternal, the crown fadeth not away, 1 Pet. 5:4. The glorified soul shall be ever solacing itself in God, feasting on his love, and sunning itself in the light of his countenance. We read of the river of pleasure at God’s right hand; but will not this in time be dried up? No. There is a fountain at the bottom which feeds it. Psalm 36:9, “With the Lord is the fountain of life.” Thus God is the chief good, and the enjoyment of God for ever is the highest felicity of which the soul is capable.
Use 1. Let it be the chief end of our living to enjoy this chief good hereafter. Austin reckons up 288 opinions among philosophers about happiness, but all were short of the mark. The highest elevation of a reasonable soul is to enjoy God for ever. It is the enjoyment of God that makes heaven. 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then shall we ever be with the Lord.” The soul trembles as the needle in the compass, and is never at rest till it comes to God. To set out this excellent state of a glorified soul’s enjoyment of God: 1. It must not be understood in a sensual manner: we must not conceive any carnal pleasures in heaven. The Turks speak of a paradise of pleasure, where they have riches in abundance, and red wine served in golden chalices. The epicures of this age would like such a heaven when they die. Though the state of glory be compared to a feast, and is set out by pearls and precious stones, yet these metaphors are only helps to our faith, and to show us that there is superabundant joy and felicity in the highest heaven; but they are not carnal but spiritual delights. Our enjoyment will be in the perfection of holiness, in seeing the pure face of Christ, in feeling the love of God, in conversing with heavenly spirits; which will be proper for the soul, and infinitely exceed all carnal voluptuous delights.
2. We shall have a lively sense of this glorious estate. A man in a lethargy, though alive, is as good as dead, because he is not sensible, nor does he take any pleasure in his life; but we shall have a quick and lively sense of the infinite pleasure which arises from the enjoyment of God: we shall know ourselves to be happy; we shall reflect with joy upon our dignity and felicity; we shall taste every crumb of that sweetness, every drop of that pleasure which flows from God.
3. We shall be made able to bear a sight of that glory. We could not now bear that glory, it would overwhelm us, as a weak eye cannot behold the sun; but God will capacitate us for glory; our souls shall be so heavenly, and perfected with holiness, that they may be able to enjoy the blessed vision of God. Moses in a cleft of the rock saw the glory of God passing by, Exod. 33:21. From our blessed rock Christ, we shall behold the beatific sight of God.
4.This enjoyment of God shall be more than a bare contemplation of him. Some of the learned move the question, whether the enjoyment of God shall be by way of contemplation only. That is something, but it is one half of heaven only; there shall be a loving of God, an acquiescence in him, a tasting of his sweetness; not only inspection but possession. John 17:24, “that they may behold my glory.” There is inspection: verse 22. “And the glory thou hast given me, I have given them.” There is possession: “Glory shall be revealed in us,” Rom. 8:18; not only revealed to us, but in us. To behold God’s glory, there is glory revealed to us; but to partake of his glory, there is glory revealed in us. As the sponge sucks in the wine, so shall we suck in glory. 5. There is no intermission in this state of glory. We shall not only have God’s glorious presence at certain special seasons; but we shall be continually in his presence, continually under divine raptures of joy. There shall not be one minute in heaven, wherein a glorified soul may say, I do not enjoy happiness. The streams of glory are not like the water of a conduit, often stopped, so that we cannot have one drop of water; but those heavenly streams of joy are continually running. Oh how should we despise this valley of tears where we now are, for the mount of transfiguration! How we should long for the full enjoyment of God in Paradise! Had we a sight of that land of promise, we should need patience to be content to live here any longer.
Use 2. Let this be a spur to duty. How diligent and zealous should we be in glorifying God, that we may come at last to enjoy him! If Tully, Demosthenes, and Plato, who had but the dim watch-light of reason to see by, fancied an elysium and happiness after this life, and took such Herculean pains to enjoy it, oh how should Christians, who have the light of Scripture to see by, bestir themselves that they may attain to the eternal fruition of God and glory! If anything can make us rise off our bed of sloth, and serve God with all our might, it should be this, the hope of our near enjoyment of God for ever. What made Paul so active in the sphere of religion? 1 Cor. 15:10 “I laboured more abundantly than they all.” His obedience did not move slow, as the sun on the dial; but swift, as light from the sun. Why was he so zealous in glorifying God, but that he might at last centre and terminate in him? 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Use 3. Let this comfort the godly in all the present miseries they feel. Thou complainest, Christian, thou dost not enjoy thyself, fears disquiet thee, wants perplex thee; in the day thou canst not enjoy ease, in the night thou canst not enjoy sleep; thou cost not enjoy the comforts of thy life. Let this revive thee, that shortly thou shalt enjoy God, and then shalt have more than thou canst ask or think; thou shalt have angels’ joy, glory without intermission or expiration. We shall never enjoy ourselves fully till we enjoy God eternally.