It is a blessed thing to be with Christ while we are here. ‘I am ever with thee.’ What is it the pious soul desires in this life? Is it not to have the sweet presence of Christ? He cares for nothing but what hath something of Christ in it; he loves duties only as they [lead] to Christ: Why is prayer so sweet, but because the soul hath private conference with Christ? Why is the word precious but because it is a means to convey Christ? He comes down to us upon the wings of the Spirit, and we go up to him upon the wings of faith. An ordinance without Christ, is but feeding upon the dish instead of the meat. Why doth the wife love the letter, but because it brings news of her husband? Here we enjoy Christ by letters, and that is sweet; but what will it be to enjoy his presence in glory? Here is that which may amaze us, we shall be with Christ. Christ is all that is desirable: nay, he is more than we can desire. A man that is thirsty, he desires only a little water to quench his thirst; but bring him to the sea, and here he has more than he can desire. In Christ there is not only a fullness of sufficiency, but a fullness of redundancy; it overflows all the banks. A Christian that is most sublimated by faith, hath neither a head to devise, nor an heart to desire all that which is in Christ. Only when we come to heaven, God will enlarge the vessel of our desire, and will fill us as Christ did the water-pots with wine, ‘up to the brim.’John Newton
All our prayers should carry a correspondence with our great aim. What is our great aim? To be with God in heaven, as remembering that is the centre and place of our rest, to which we are all tending: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). We come to our Father which is in heaven. He will have his residence there, that our hearts might be there. Therefore the main things we should seek of God from heaven are saving graces, for these “come down from above, from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). We have liberty to ask supplies for the outward life, but chiefly we should ask spiritual and heavenly things: “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:22, 23). What then? “First seek the kingom of God,” etc. If we have to do with a heavenly Father, our first and main care should be to ask things suitable to his being, and his excellency. If children should ask of their parents such a thing as is pleasing to their palate, possibly they might give it them; but when they ask instruction, and desire to be taught, that is far more acceptable to them. When we ask supplies of the outward life, food, raiment, God may give it us; but it is more pleasing to him when we ask for grace. In every prayer we should seek to be made more heavenly by conversing with our heavenly Father.
Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 1:61–62.
It should be the Christian’s chief care to obtain from God the choicest mercies. The worldly are indeed easily put off with the meanest, because their inquiry is only who will show them any good. But O Christian! Let nothing please or satisfy you, but the light of God’s countenance and do so receive from God here, as that you may be received to God hereafter. Desire not gifts, but mercies from God; not pebbles but pearls, and always labor for that which God never bestows but in love. Luther, when he had a rich present sent to him, professed with a holy boldness to God that such things should not serve his turn. Always desire the favor of God rather than outward felicity. O desire from God that your portion may not be in this life, but that what you enjoy here may be a pledge of better things hereafter.
William Jenkyn, Dying Thoughts, 1.
From what our Savior said to the penitent thief on the cross, and from what we may gather from the parable concerning Lazarus, the immediate happiness of the souls of Christians in another state is affirmed, that they are not to tarry for their felicity till the resurrection. So when the body of Stephen fell asleep, the Lord Jesus received his spirit. And the apostle desires to be unclothed of this earthly tabernacle that his soul might enter into the house not made with hands, that he might be present with the Lord. He desired to be dissolved, that he might be with Christ, as what was far better (much better). And the same phrase, “being with Christ,” or being “present with Him,” is used for the happiness of the saints after the resurrection, intimating that it is the same sort of happiness, and is so much preferable to any present enjoyment of God in this world, that is called an “absence from Him.” We likewise read of the souls of the martyrs, who came out of great tribulation, and had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, “That they are before the throne of God, serving Him in His temple” (Revelation 6:14). And that is interpreted of His immediate presence in another place, for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb are said to be the Temple (Revelation 21:22).
Heaven and Hell (London: Printed by J. Heptinstall for John Sprint, 1700), 9-10.