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objects of their benevolence during their season of probation. 66 When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another. ... .. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For .... inasmuch as ye have done it," namely, an act of bounty and mercy as just specified in the foregoing sentence, “unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 1
It is worthy of observation, that he does not say, 66 unto one of the least of
brethren; but he says, “ unto one of the least of these my brethren." The demonstrative pronoun “ these " appears to be emphatical and significant with regard to our present subject, as if it were intended to convey the understanding, that they, who had called forth the exercise of Christian benevolence, should be presented immediately to the eyes of those, by whom that benevolence had been exercised towards them; and that the dispensers of temporal as well as of spiritual blessings, which latter case we have already contemplated in the instance of St. Paul and his disciples, should be thus delightfully reminded of the special objects of their care.
· Matt. xxv. 31, 32, 34, 40,
And according to this is the general supposition, a supposition which may be esteemed natural and reasonable in itself, that when the righteous shall receive the reward of all their other kind words and actions in the presence of assembled men and angels, the objects at large of their brotherly love and Christian charity will be offered to their sight, at the same time that the particular occasions will be revived in their memory: and the pleasure of the recompense will be enhanced by perceiving, that they who have partaken of their benevolence are also the witnesses of their reward.
THE REWARD OF CHRISTIAN BENEVO
Remove the seal from thy compassion's spring,
And let the water for the pilgrims flow
Of the world's waste, the sons of want and woe! Though their exhausted frame affliction wring; And hunger, thirst, and nakedness, the sting
Of sharp disease, and bitter bonds they know;
They are the “ brethren,” he to call them so Vouchsafes, the brethren of thy Lord and King. A day shall come, when thou before his throne
Those sons of woe with lively thoughts must see
The alms in secret done; and publicly
THE RECOGNITION OF EACH OTHER PROBABLE, FROM WHAT
IS REVEALED CONCERNING THE FUTURE SOCIETY OF THE
Passing on to the information which the Holy Scriptures give us concerning the future society of the blessed, I observe that the Apostle says, in his twelfth chapter to the Hebrews, “Ye are come to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” 1
Here the society, with which they are to be in future conversant, is evidently adduced as one constituent of heavenly blessedness. And when we reflect on the pleasure which is imparted to our minds by being admitted, after long separation, to the society of those, whom we have known and loved from early years, but from whom we have been constrained to endure a temporary separation; and on the special delight which we experience from reviving in communion with them old but dormant affections, retracing in conversation the events of scenes gone by, and dwelling upon affairs of mutual personal interest; a delight, which the formation of no new acquaintance, however virtuous, however intelligent, however amiable, is for the most part found capable of conferring : it may be thought probable, that among their future associates, considered as constituents of the happiness of the blessed, those, whom they have formerly known and loved and cherished, will be comprehended ; and that the company of “the spirits ” of other “just men made perfect,” will not preclude a readmission to the fellowship of their former connexions and friends.
1 Heb. xii. 23.
In connexion with this I would notice the declaration of our blessed Lord, with reference to a future state, that “ many
shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” 1
The idea is that of a feast, at which the believers of the Gospel are described to be admitted as fellow-guests with the Hebrew patriarchs; and the declaration seems to designate some of the most illustrious members of the believers' future society; and also to intimate on the part of the believers a consciousness as to the illustrious persons to whose society they should be introduced.
This consciousness readily offers itself to our thoughts as an occasion of peculiar gratification; for who can think without delight on the promised admission to the company of those, whom he has been wont to regard as estimable for piety, wisdom, and virtue? But if such consciousness exists with reference to those individuals, with whom the
blessed were previously acquainted only by name and character, it seems probable that they will be conscious of the presence of those also with whom they have been personally acquainted. If consciousness exist with reference to those, whom they have been used to hold in respect and veneration as their natural or spiritual progenitors in former ages, it seems probable that it will not be withholden with respect to those, whom they have cherished in their affections and dwelt upon with fond and unceasing recollection, as their own immediate connexions; the watchful and tender parent, the affectionate consort, the dutiful child, the attached kinsman, the faithful friend, the vigilant and revered pastor, the meek and docile disciple.
In pursuance and in support of this sentiment we may refer to our Saviour's parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where the former is represented in a future state as seeing and knowing “in Abraham's bosom " the beggar who had been known to him on earth. 1
In this indeed, as in other parables, I apprehend that we may discern some ornamental and illustrative circumstances of a figurative nature, which were introduced by our blessed Lord as useful in setting forth the important truths that he intended to convey under this parabolical imagery; but which ought not to be strictly interpreted or literally
1 Luke xvi. 23.