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That their negative happiness is perfectly complete, we are abundantly assured. See Rev. xiv. 13,
I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth : yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” Rev. vii. 16, “ They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ; neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat.” And chap. xxi. 4, “ God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes ; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain : for the former things are passed away.”
And that they enjoy positive good, of the purest kind, and in the highest degree, we are plainly given to understand, Psalm xvi. ll, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for ever more." 1 Cor. ii. 9, “ Eye hath not scen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." And Rev. vii. 17, " The Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters."
We are not to suppose, indeed, that the separate spirits of saints above, are now so happy, as they will be after the resurrection; nor are we to suppose that all of them are equally happy : Yet it may well be believed, that, to the utmost extent of their present capacities, whether greater or less, their joy is full.
But, that we have a more suitable impression and belief of the greatness of their felicity, it may be useful to consider, more distinctly, wherein it consists. But in attempting this, we have time now to attend only to a few of the most essential particulars. Here then,
(1.) The spirits of just men, on their leaving the bocly and this world, are admitted into a very num.
erous society of their fellow-creatures, all of whom are perfectly holy, and perfectly happy.
In this wretched corner of the universe where we now live, a good man can find few objects to excite in him much complacency or joy; nor can he avoid seeing many which must give him quite contrary sensations. The most happy have their calamities, and the best, their imperfections : And how many are there in whom there is hardly any thing but sin and misery to be seen ? Were it not for the faith of future and invisible things, it might admit of a ques. tion, perhaps, whether the purest benevolence, in such a world as this, would not be a source of more pain than pleasure-of more disgust, than satisfaction.
But heaven is a state of society perfectly pleasing to a benevolent mind. There the soul of a good man, made perfectly good, finds every one of a disposition, and in a situation, exactly agreeable to its highest wish. There are seen thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, of holy angels, which kept their first estate, and have been improving in knowledge, and in every glorious excellence, and rising higher and higher in happiness, ever since their creation. There are seen, a multitude which no man can number,” of the redeemed from among fallen men; “of all nations, and kindreds, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hand.” There are all the excellent of the earth, of former ages ; and all the pious dead, of our own relations, connections, and acquaintance. And these, how altered ! how astonishingly altered, from what the best and happiest of them ever were, while here below! They are made perfect. Now, in the kingdom of their Father, they shine forth like the sun, in the beauty of holiness, and in the perfection of happiness. To a benevolent mind, and much more to one made perfect in benevolence, must not this be a sight worth dying to see ? 'But,
(2.) The still far greater happiness of a good man gone to heaven, consists in seeing, adoring, and serving God, the uncreated source of good ; and in the full manifestation of his everlasting favor and love.
To glorify and enjoy God, is the chief end, and the supreme felicity of man. Even in our world of coldness, darkness, and distance, some have longed for this, and exulted in it, as the object of their high. est hope and joy. Hear the words of David, Psal. Ixiii. 1, 2, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee : my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is ; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” And ver. 5, “ My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness : and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” And the words of Asaph, Psal. Ixxiii. 25, 26, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth : but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” Such have been the longings of imperfect saints on earth, to see the glory of God; and such the delight they have found in drawing near to him. What then must be the ecstasy of perfected saints above, when they see his face without a vail, and worship him in the holy of holies, without intermission, and without weariness? “ Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God.”
(3.) Redeemed souls in heaven, must find transporting happiness in seeing their Divine Redeemer: in beholding him exalted at God's own right hand; in enjoying his immediate presence, and in celebrating
if I go
the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of his love, which passeth knowledge.
It was his promise to his mourning followers, when he was about to be taken from them, John xiv. 2, 3, “ I go to prepare a place for you ; and
and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”. And it was his prayer for them, John xvii. 24, “ Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." Now, when this prayer is answered, and this promise is fulfilled, how unspeakable must be their felicity? Then they join, with rapture unutterable, in singing, as it is written in the Revelation, “ Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father ; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
Let us now consider, what application and uses should be made of this subject.
1. We may hence learn what manner of persons we must be, and what faith we must have, if we would hope to be partakers of the blessedness spoken of; and should be excited to seek earnestly the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.
In the iv. chap. of this epistle, having reminded the Hebrews of their unhappy ancestors, who could not enter into the land of promise because of unbe. lief, the apostle says ; “ Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you
should seem to come short of it." To hope for an entrance into the heavenly Canaan, we must have faith in God, and also in Christ. It may seem hard to believe that creatures so vile, can ever be partakers of such glory and blessedness.
Solomon, when he had built his magnificent temple, said, “ But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth ?” and may we not rather say, Will God in very deed admit men, such as we are, to dwell with him in heaven ? But his thoughts are not as our thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. Where sin hath abounded, his grace can much more abound. And it should be remembered, that though we are unwor. thy, there is a Surety, and an Advocate for us, who is most worthy. One who is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. The great wonder of all is, that such a glorious person should be given, and give himself, to suffer and die for our redemption. Let us only believe this, and, however much we may be astonished, there will be no occasion for being staggered, at the promises of grace or glory. “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?"
It ought, however, to be remembered, that still, without personal holiness, no man shall see the Lord. Christ must be followed and obeyed, or we have no warrant to expect eternal life on account of his obedience, or to be saved from wrath through him. Luke vi. 46, “ Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” And John xii. 36, “ If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor."
The door of heaven is now open to the most wicked man on earth, if he will forsake his evil ways, and turn to the Lord, by sincere repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. But the unbelieving, and the unrighteous, remaining such, instead of inheriting eternal life, shall go away into everlasting punishment.