« ÎnapoiContinuați »
ment. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear,” declares. St. Paul in another of his epistles, " then shall ye also”—he is addressing himself to the 66 saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse," of whose « faith in Christ Jesus he had heard, and of the love which they had to all the saints,” that is, to all their brother Christians; and whom he here describes as “ being dead," meaning thereby “ dead to sin;" and to these faithful disciples of their Lord, commended to him, as they were, for their holiness, and charity, and deadness to sin, and fruitfulness in well-doing, he says, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with with him in glory.” 1 Similar general intimations of everlasting happiness and glory, prepared for the righteous at their resurrection, must be familiar to the mind of the reader, and cannot need to be here cited.
If it had pleased Almighty God to shut in our prospect of the future state of the blessed by such general intimations, and to withhold from us all knowledge of particulars, it might be irreverent and unprofitable for us to attempt an examination of it: irreverent, for it does not become us to pry into “ the secret things of God;"2 unprofitable, for our inquiries, being not guided by his word of truth, must in such case end in uncertainty, and might probably lead us into error. But since it
· Col. iii. 4.
. Deut. xxiv. 29
has pleased him to make a disclosure of several particulars which contribute to form the happiness of the blessed, the contemplation of such particulars is but a part of the grateful duty which we owe to God, and which we perform by the study of those Holy Scriptures, all of which “ were written for our learning, and that we, through patience and the comfort” that they impart to us, “ might have hope.”i Such a contemplation is calculated also to be profitable to us, by stimulating our endeavors in pursuit of the promised happiness, and in the preparatory acquirement of those qualifications which, by the mercy of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, may fit us for obtaining and enjoying it. After all, indeed, our acquaintance with the subject must be very limited and imperfect; for of the particulars of that state of happiness much is undoubtedly left still unrevealed; there are many things too belonging to it of which our senses are altogether inexperienced; there are many of which our minds can form no adequate conception. For, “as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Yet, again, there are others of which the revelation is plain, and the comprehension falls within the reach of our faculties; at the same time That the contemplation of them is calculated to bring instruction and improvement, peace, comfort, and delight, to the devout and meditative soul.
Rom. xv. 4.
2 1 Cor. ii. 9.
With these feelings of reverence for the proposed subject, and with this persuasion of its value and importance as a part of God's revelation, and of its profitableness in contributing to make “ the man of God perfect,”\ I proceed, with the Divine blessing, to submit it to the consideration of the reader: and in prosecuting the inquiry it will be my first endeavor to place before him the PRINCIPAL PARTICULARS in the future happiness of the blessed ; refraining from all unauthorized and imaginary speculations, confining myself to the things revealed by the wisdom of the Almighty, and agreeably to the sentiment avowed by a great divine, one of the fathers of our Reformation, on another important and mysterious topic, “ venturing only where the sacred text doth, as it were, lead me by the hand.”
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.
The day of Christ; the last, the dreadful day;
When thou, and I, and all the world shall come
Before his judgment-seat, to hear their doom
away Shall go:—but whither banish’d ?—and with whom !
And they, who lov'd him, shall be welcom'd home To God, and Christ, and heav'n, and heav'n's array,
1 2 Tim. iü. 17.
Angels and saints made perfect.—May the scene
Of that dread day be always present here, Here in my heart! that every day between,
Which brings my passage to the goal more near, May find me fitter, by his love made clean,
Before his throne of justice to appear!
THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
And here, as preliminary to our proposed investigation, it may be inquired in the first place, what will be the condition of the righteous immediately after their departure from this life, and between that event and the general resurrection.
Of that intermediate state the notices in Holy Scripture are few I apprehend in number, and scanty in their record of particulars; but they are enough, both in number and in circumstances, to enable us to form a notion of that state, as a state of repose and enjoyment to the righteous; though probably, not of that perfect and supreme enjoyment, which will be allotted to them at the resurrection of the just.
That the intermediate state of the righteous will be one of repose from the sufferings that mortality is heir to, may be thought sufficiently plain from the declaration of St. John in the Revelation: “I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit; that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." 1 Thus we understand that to those, who “ die in the Lord," their death will be the introduction to a state of undisturbed tranquillity; they will 66 rest from their labors." That it will be their immediate introduction to a state of enjoyment also, may perhaps be inferred from the ensuing clause, namely, “and their works do follow them ;” that is, the rewards consequent on their former" works." But we may perceive, more clearly, in other passages, a foundation for the opinion, that the righteous will enter upon a state of enjoyment immediately after their dissolution.
Our blessed Lord, in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, describes their condition after death in the following terms: " And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom."2 Several circumstances, specified in this as well as in other passages of the parable, are indeed to be, not literally, but figuratively understood. Nevertheless, the whole appears to proceed upon the notion, that death is at
1 Rev. xiv. 15.
Luke xvi. 23.