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the spirits of the just now dwell, and all the righteous shall be finally assembled. Where it is situated, we do not know. We speak of it as above us : but the phrase is used in conformity to a notion founded upon the appearance of the visible heavens. What is above us at this moment, will be beneath us twelve hours hence, in consequence of the revolution of the earth ; and what is beneath us, seems to be above to those who are on the opposite side of the globe. Our ideas of its situation are therefore vague; and there is only one thing, which it seems warrantable to conclude, that it lies beyond the limits of the visible creation ; for Jesus Christ, who is now in it, is said to have ascended “above all heavens,” that is, above the aerial and starry hea. vens, according to the Jewish division of the superior regions. That it is a place, we have no reason to doubt, and it is an imaginary refinement to consider it only as a state. It is undeniable that God can make any place heaven by there revealing himself, and communicating the fulness of his love ; but this is nothing to the purpose. Our business is not with speculations about his power, but with the declarations of his word; and Scripture uniformly supposes that there is a particular place, which is appointed to be the final abode of the righteous. There have been curious and idle discussions respecting the ubi of Spirits, and whether, as they are not material, and cannot like body be confined within definite limits, places can be predicated of them; but there is no occasion at present to perplex ourselves with the arguments on either side, because the saints in the future state will be clothed with a material frame. It must be a material place which is inhabited by our blessed Saviour, and Enoch, and Elijah, and the saints who came out of their graves after the resurrection of Christ, and will be inhabited hereafter by the thousands and millions whom he will raise to life at his second coming.

Concerning the nature of the place we can form no conjectures. The descriptions of it are undoubtedly figurative. Some parts of our earth display scenes of astonishing grandeur and consummate beauty ; but heaven will be inconceivably superior to what the earth was, even before its loveliness had been impaired by the curse. It seems reasonable to suppose that it will be totally different from the earth, because the beings who inhabit it, although men, will be entirely changed in respect of the constitution of their bodies. We are indeed told in the book of Revelation, that a river flows in it, and that trees grow upon its banks ;* but who does not perceive, that the subject would be degraded by a literal interpretation, and that the ideas suggested are those of beauty, refreshment, and abundance? It is presented to us under the image of a city of pure gold, the foundation and gates of which are composed of precious stones. " And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there." All that we can say is, that in heaven there will be visible tokens of the presence of God. Upon earth he manifests himself, not only by impressions upon the minds of his intelligent creatures, but by displays of his perfections in the splendour of the heavens, and the various processes which are going on above us and around us. We may believe, therefore, that he will manifest himself in heaven, both by a secret intercourse with the souls of the saints, and by such external signs as will show that he is near, and that this is his temple and his palace. Who can conceive the majesty and glory of the place which he has chosen for his peculiar residence. Here all the magnificence and beauty, which we admire in the universe, will be united with beauty and mag• Rev. xxii. 1, 2.

+ Ib. xxi. 19,21. Ib. 23-25,

nificence of which we can form no idea. It will be the noblest work of his almighty hand.

It has been asked, whether, in this blessed abode, the saints will know one another? One should think that the question was unnecessary, as the answer naturally presents itself to every man's mind; and it could only have occurred to some dreaming Theologian, who, in his airy speculations, has soared far beyond the sphere of reason and common sense. Who can doubt whether the saints will know one another? What reason can be given why they should not? Would it be any part of their perfection to have all their former ideas obliterated, and to meet as strangers in the other world? Would it give us a more favourable notion of the assembly in heaven, to suppose it to consist of a multitude of unknown individuals, who never hold communication with each other; or by some inexplicable restraint are prevented, amidst an intimate intercourse, from making mutual discoveries? Or have they forgotten what they themselves were, so that they cannot reveal it to their associates ? What would be gained by this ignorance no man can tell; but we can tell what would be lost by it. They would lose all the happiness of meeting again on the peaceful shore, those from whom they were separated by the storms of life; of seeing among the trophies of Divine grace, many of whom they had despaired, and for whose sakes they had gone down with sorrow to the grave; of knowing the good which they had been honoured to do, and being surrounded with the individuals who had been saved by means of their prayers, and instructions, and labours. How could those whom he had been the instrument of converting, and building up in the holy faith, be to the minister of the gospel a crown of joy and rejoicing in the day of the Lord, if he did not recognize them when standing at his sidle? The saints will be free from the turbulence of passion, but their innocent affections will remain; and could they spend eternal ages without asking, Are our children here ? Are our still dearer relatives here? Have our friends, with whom we took sweet counsel together, found their way to this country, to which we travelled in company till death parted us? And, if to these questions no answer could be returned, would they be happy ?

The same mode of thinking which suggested this question, has led to another strange notion of heaven, as if it would be a state of solitary enjoyment. It has been glossed over, too, with the appearance of piety; and it has been said, that the saints will be so absorbed in the contemplation and enjoyment of God, that they will not need the society of others, and will be insensible to their presence. But, while we acknowledge that God alone is sufficient to the happiness of his creatures, and cordially concur in the sentiment that he is the chief good, we must not permit ourselves to be carried away by imposing sounds, and follow even piety in its fanciful wanderings. What some mystic, or some good but enthusiastic man may have said, is nothing to us, whose ideas of future and invisible things should rest on a more solid foundation. The question is, what kind of heaven has God promised to his people, and what kind of heaven is suitable to the nature of man? With respect to the latter question, I remark, that, although the present relations among mankind, of father and son, husband and wife, which are dissolved at death, will not be renewed, yet the general relation of a common descent, and a common nature, strengthened by the relation arising from a common redemption, will remain ; and the love, too, will remain which is implied in those relations, and leads to the performance of their duties. Human nature will be purified and exalted, but will not be essentially changed. Without such a change, however, we could not conceive its present tendency to union and fellowship with others to cease. Unless man should become a totally different being, he could not be perfectly happy in absolute solitude. It is true, indeed, that, according to the

*

hypothesis, all his desires will be concentrated upon his Maker; but before we can admit this assumption, we must be assured that his instinctive desire for communion with his equals will be extinguished, or in other words, that he will receive a new constitution. If love to his fellow-men should remain, it would, according to the hypothesis be superfluous and useless ; a power preserved but never to be exercised. What idea can any person form of the family of heaven, consisting of insulated individuals, of brothers connected in the most intimate bonds, but holding no correspondence? With regard to the other part of the question, which relates to the heaven which God has promised to his people ; you know that it is positively represented as a state of society. And how could it enter into any sound mind to conceive of it otherwise ? Are not its inhabitants the identical persons, who were congregated into one body upon earth, and united in the same faith, and love, and worship; and why, when they are assembled again in the celestial sanctuary, should they be supposed immediately to separate, that each may dwell in his own recess, through an eternal duration, like the solitaries of the desert? It is not thus that revelation describes the world to come. “In my Father's house are many mansions.

What a wild imagination must it be which would suppose that those mansions are to be tenanted by individuals living in a state of seclusion from the family? No; the natural suggestion is, that heaven is furnished with every accommodation; that there all those comforts will be found which we usually enjoy in a house-rest, peace, society, and friendship; that it is the place of final meeting to the children of God, as the members of a human family, who were separated during the day, and scattered abroad in pursuit of their respective employments, assemble in the evening in their common habitation. In the revelation of John, they are represented as “standing" before the throne; but that we may not imagine that they stand there as units composing the aggregate number, without any other tie but juxta-position, they are farther represented as engaged in the same service of adoration and thanksgiving. It is not the song of each man for himself, but the song of the multitude of the redeemed, which will be heard in the celestial temple. “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which co man could nuinber, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation unto our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."| There, they will meet, and rejoice, who upon earth went to the house of God in company; and there, they will meet who never met before, and will hail one another as brethren.

Praise is represented to be the employment of the saints in heaven; and who can doubt that the representation is just ? Every individual will feel his infinite obligations to Divine grace, and will experience ineffable delight in expressing them. Whether there will be vocal praise in heaven, cannot be ascertained from the figurative descriptions of it; but that it will be vocal dues not seem improbable, as the saints, having bodies, may be conceived to have also organs of speech. Yet, on reflection it cannot be supposed, that praise will be their only and perpetual exercise. They will serve God day and night in his temple; but there are other ways in which this service may be performed They will have minds to contemplate, as well as hearts to love him; and why may we not presume that a portion of their happy existence will be devoted to the survey of the glorious manifestations of his attributes, and the review of his wonderful works? They will be surrounded with their redeemed brothren; and will they not enter into conversation with them upon subjects in which they are all equally interested? Will they not listen with delight to one another's history, and feel their hearts glow with admiration and love, while * John xiv, 2.

| Rev. vii. 9, 10.

in every new tale there are new displays of Divine wisdom and goodness ? But we speak as children do of the actions of men, and with still less knowledge. We are ignorant whether language will be used in heaven as the vehicle of thought, or some new medium of communication will be established. We understand still less the manner in which intercourse will be maintained between men who have bodily senses and organs, and angels who are incorporeal beings. But one thing we know, that angels and men will be united in one holy society, and will dwell together in perfect friendship, loving one another, receiving and communicating happiness.

But the felicity of the saints in the heavenly world, will not arise solely from the nature of the place which they inhabit, and from the company with which they are associated. As the chief end of man is the glory of God, so his supreme happiness consists in the enjoyment of him. This is the judge ment of all regenerated men; and heaven is the object of their hope, because in that place their desires for his presence and the full communication of his love, will be gratified. “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth whom I desire besides thee."'*

Our Saviour pronounces the pure in heart to be blessed, “ for they shall see God.”| There is only an apparent contradiction between his words and those of Paul, who says of the blessed and only Potentate, that “no man hath seen, or can see him ;" for the one speaks of mental, and the other of corporeal vision. As God is a spiritual being, he has never been seen by mortal eyes ; the appearances of him which are mentioned in Scripture having been symbols and sensible forms assumed for a time. For the same reason, no man will see him, even in the future state ; for it should be remembered that, although the bodies of the saints will be highly refined, it is physically impossible that a spirit should be perceived by material organs. Jesus Christ will be seen, because he is clothed with human nature ; but the Father dwells amidst inaccessible light. It is not inconsistent with what is now stated, to suppose, a visible manifestation of his glory, similar to the symbol which appeared in the most holy place, or the representation made to Moses, when the Lord passed by him, and proclaimed his name; because, this would not be God himself, but only a sign of his presence.

The saints will see God with their minds, or attain knowledge clear and comprehensive, when compared with the obscure and imperfect knowledge which they at present derive from his works and his word. “ Now,” says Paul, “ we know in part, and prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”'S Strong as this language is, it must not be understood of an adequate knowledge; for an infinite being can be comprehended only by an infinite understanding. The knowledge of the future state will be comparatively perfect, free from doubts and errors, and much more extensive than it is at present possible to acquire. Here, our progress is slow, and impeded by obstacles. There, knowledge will be infused into the mind without the operose process of instruction and inquiry. Here, our views are limited, and we see only the skirts of his glory; there, the revelation will be as ample as our finite faculties will permit. What the saints already know, will shine with new light, and present itself to their minds with an evidence and a satisfaction which they never formerly experienced ; and many things will be disclosed to them, which it had not entered into their hearts to conceive: mysteries will be explained, difficulties will be solved, and excellencies will rise to view in the Divine nature, of which no vestige was discoverable in his works. How glorious will he appear, when every veil is removed, and he is contemplated

• Ps. lxxii. 25. Matth. v. 8. +1 Tim, vi. 15. $1 Cor. xii, 9-12.

in the fulness of his attributes! The sight will be transporting, and will excite the highest admiration and joy.

As the Almighty cannot be sought out to perfection by any finite mind, we do not conceive the knowledge of the saints in heaven to be stationary. It is possible, indeed, that although it is now progressive, it may arrive at a point beyond which it is destined not to proceed ; at least, we could not prove

this supposition to be absurd. The soul might acquire, on its first entrance into heaven, or on its re-union to the body at the last day, all the knowledge of which it was capable ; and this being sufficient for its happiness, there might be no further expansion of its faculties. But we naturally judge of the future state by the present; and finding that the soul now advances from step to step, we are led to anticipate its perpetual progression. There is no doubt that the will of the Creator can indefinitely enlarge its powers, and that, in the infinitude of his nature, there will be new discoveries to be made for ever and ever. In the course of an eternal duration, all the wonders of creation may be surveyed, however wide its extent, and however numerous its parts; but He, in comparison of whom it is as nothing, can never be fully understood.

The knowledge of God in the future state will be accompanied with love ; for it is impossible to contemplate infinite excellence without loving it, without loving it intensely and supremely. In this world, the saints prefer God to their chief joy ; and there are seasons when their hearts go out to him with an ardour which no created object can excite, with vehement desire for the closest union and the most intimate fellowship. But this flame will glow more ardently in the pure atmosphere of heaven. Here, love struggles with the infirmity of the flesh, the reluctance of corrupt nature, the operations of sel. fishness, the opposing influence of visible things, by which the senses and the imagination are so powerfully affected; but there, free and unconfined, it will be concentrated upon its object with ineffable delight. Brought back from his wanderings into the immediate presence of his Father, man will indeed love him with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. The fervour of his affection will never abate, nor will any thing occur to suspend it, or to turn it into a different channel. God will always maintain the pre-eminence, and appear infinitely greater and better than all other beings; and his love to other beings will be in perfect harmony with supreme love to God, will flow from this exalted source and will be attracted by his image, as impressed upon them in all its loveliness and glory. Some ancient philosophers imagined, that, after death, the souls of men were absorbed by the Divine essence, from which they had originally emanated; and mystics have talked of being identified with God, and deified in him. These are the dreams of ignorance, and the ravings of insanity. But there will be a union of the most intimate kind between God and the soul in the future state; such a union as is effected by the purest and most active mutual love; and the saints will be one with him in a higher sense than we are able to conceive. There will not be a momentary opposition of desires and interests. They will rejoice in God as he is, and every power will be devoted to him alone. Upon him their thoughts will be constantly fixed, and in communion with him their never-failing joy will consist.

" Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail ; whether there be tongues, they shall cease : whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." But love never fails. It is adapted to every condition of our nature, and constitutes its moral perfection. “ Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love."| In the world to come, faith will be unnecessary, because its object is seen; and hope because its object is possessed. Faith will terminate in vision, and hope, in enjoyment; but love will remain, and join all hearts in one. . 1 Cor. xiii. 8.

f Io, 13.

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