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THE RECOGNITION OF EACH OTHER BY THE BLESSED.
THE GENERAL PERSUASION ON THE PROPOSED SUBJECT
MOTIVE FOR DISCUSSING IT.
In a poem entitled “The Exequy," written on the death of a beloved wife, by Henry King, who was Bishop of Chichester in the former part of the seventeenth century, occurs the following apostrophe to the person, whose departure was the occasion of the poem.
-“ Never shall I
And after some intervening passages, the poem concludes thus :
“ The thought of this bids me go on,
And wait my dissolution
It is not on account of any peculiarity of sentiment or expression, that I have quoted these passages: but by way of introduction to the subject, which is proposed for examination in the present chapter; and in exemplification of an opinion, which the reader will probably at once admit to prevail very generally amongst Christians: namely, that, in the future state of happiness of the blessed, they who have known and loved each other in this world will be the subjects of MUTUAL RECOGNITION, and will be RE-UNITED and ASSOCIATED with EACH OTHER, and contribute to EACH OTHER'S DELIGHT in that condition of perpetual blessedness.
But, notwithstanding the general prevalence of this opinion, a question may perhąps be entertained, whether in the minds of most persons it rests upon the sense of any distinct evidence which holy Scripture is understood to bear in support of it: or whether it is not rather a vague anticipation, which our natural feelings and affections prompt us to cherish.
Of the future state of blessedness, indeed, prepared for God's faithful servants, we are so dis
tinetly and unequivocally assured by the word of God; and by the same word we are also so distinctly and unequivocally assured of the fulness and perfection of the happiness, “ which God hath prepared for them that love him;" that no Christian, possessed of very moderate attainments in scriptural learning, can be thought altogether deficient in scriptural evidences and arguments for the proof of these doctrines. But that a restoration to the knowledge and society of those individuals, whom the blessed have known and loved on earth, will be an ingredient in their future happiness, is by no means revealed with the same distinctness and precision : and indeed it is rather remarkable, that very little that I can perceive is said expressly in Holy Writ, which can be judged to bear directly upon the subject. So that if they, who cherish the opinion to which I am adverting, were required, or were to require of themselves, to state the scriptural evidence upon which they entertain it, many of them, many I mean even of those who are not unaccustomed to serious meditation on religious topics, would be not immediately supplied with the required proofs; and would be found to entertain the opinion, rather because the presence and society of those whom they love are included in their general notion of happiness, than by reason of any specific testimony which they could adduce from Holy Scripture in its support.
These observations do not proceed in any degree
from a desire to discredit the opinion in question. It is an opinion, calculated, I think, to enhance the innocent delights, and to alleviate the unavoidable sufferings, of this present life; and to improve us in virtue, as well as to further our consolation and enjoyment. It is an opinion too, of which, if the grounds are not very distinctly and unequivocally set forth in Holy Scripture, Holy Scripture nevertheless does not contain any thing, which, so far as I am aware, militates against it; whilst, on the contrary, there are several considerations to be derived from its contents, which make the opinion highly probable. It is not therefore for the purpose of discouraging the opinion, that I have ventured on the foregoing introductory remarks; nor is it for any such purpose that I offer the present subject to the consideration of the reader. But it is for the purpose of stating the SCRIPTURAL GROUNDS, on which it appears to me that the opinion may be maintained ; so that in entertaining it we may not cherish in our minds a vague and indefinite prepossession, which will not bear examination and inquiry; but may be satisfied ourselves of the reasonable probability, and be “ready always to give an answer to every one that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us.” 1
11 Peter üi. 15.
KNOWLEDGE OF EACH OTHER IN HEAVEN.
I count the hope no day-dream of the mind,
No vision fair of transitory bue,
The souls of those, whom once on earth we knew, And lov’d, and walk'd with in communion kind, Departed hence, again in heav'n to find.
Such hope to nature's sympathies is true;
And such, we deum, the holy word to view
The Book of life: but if we read amiss,
To kinsmen, fellows, friends, a vast abyss
To fill its measure of enormous bliss.
THE RECOGNITION OF EACH OTHER PROBABLE, FROM EX
HORTATION TO COMFORT UNDER THE LOSS OF DEPARTED
The first passage in Holy Scripture, to which I would direct the thoughts of the reader, as affording a probable ground for the opinion, that the blessed in a future state will recognize, and be re-united to those, whom they have known and loved in this life, is the conclusion of the fourth chapter of St. Paul's first Epistle to the Thessalonians. It is desirable that the passage should be cited at length,