« VorigeDoorgaan »
where they would be? Why may not parents and their children, brothers and sisters, unite once more in the social circle, and send up their anthems of praise, for being brought together to this state of glory? Love never faileth; not even when faith is lost in sight, and hope in fruition. In heaven the love of God, and the love of our neighbor will be our highest duty, our highest privilege, our highest joy. And so, we trust, it will be, in reference to those endearments which now constitute the chief charm of life. They will be purified, strengthened, and perpetuated."
"All is not over with earth's broken tie
Where, where should sisters love, if not on high ?" *
"It is yet but a little while," says Melvill, "and we shall be delivered from the burden and the conflict; and, with all those who have preceded us in the righteous struggle, enjoy the deep raptures of a Mediator's presence. Then, re-united to the friends with whom we took sweet counsel upon earth, we shall recount our toil only to heighten our ecstacy; and call to mind the tug and the din of war, only that with a more bounding throb and a richer song, we may feel and celebrate the wonders of redemption."+
If the inhabitants of the other world are not permitted to recognize and commune with one another, heaven is, in one respect, strikingly inferior to earth. One of the chief sources. of our happiness in this life is in the knowledge that we have friends, and that they are round about us; and, in the power of discriminating between them. The knowledge of friends, as distinct and distinguishable, one from another, is connected with some of the most important elements of our constitution. Should this knowledge be done away, the sources of that pleasure which springs from the fellowship of kindred minds would be dried up. We might be still surrounded with society, but we should dwell alone. We often contemplate the glorious presence of God, and imagine that the enjoyment of that, without any addition, would render us supremely happy. But, "if Jehovah is the temple of the New Jerusalem, and the Lamb the light thereof, may we not inquire who are the worshippers? May we not sometimes
: "Friends, e'en in heaven one happiness would miss,
turn our thoughts to the four and twenty elders,' the angels and archangels, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, the general assembly and church of the first-born, the congregation of faithful Christians with whom we have worshipped, and our own immediate circle of pious friends? May we not think of these conjointly, or separately, when we know that all these together are to form the glorious company of heaven?" Rowland Hill once remarked, that if the spirit of his wife were next to his own in heaven for a thousand years, so much should he be absorbed in contemplating the glories of Christ, that he should perchance be ignorant of her presence. The remark has more of piety in it, than of attention to the character of our nature. However high may be our views of the enjoyment of God, it is to be doubted whether the society of spirits of a rank like our own may not be necessary, in order that our joys may be full. Sweet and comforting as is the prospect of eternal intercourse with God and the Lamb, it is a fair question whether the elements of our constitution must not be changed, in order to our happiness in heaven, in the absence of those to whom we might communicate our rapturous emotions, and with whom we might share our ecstatic joys. The common inlets of knowledge may, indeed, be laid aside. But they may be replaced by a power of intuition, through which the soul shall be enlightened and expanded, both in a manner and measure far surpassing our conceptions on earth. With the expansion and enlargement of all that is capable of increasing our dignity, or our bliss, or our love, why should there be connected the destruction of that which our experience has proved to be one of the highest sources of such increase? If our knowledge of Christ, and our recognition of him as our great Deliverer, whom in the exercise of that knowledge, we shall admire and adore as such, shall, in any degree, minister to our pleasure of which we are assured-why may there not be a knowledge and recognition of friends-clothed in bodies, like his, and like our own; capable of like emotions with ourselves; whose joys arise from the same sources; who are baptized into one spirit; who are actuated by one love; and who shall worship with us at the footstool of one throne, exulting in the presence of one God, "that filleth all in all ?" Such recognition is more than intimated in the narrative of the
rich man and Lazarus. Abraham is introduced, in that account, not as if he were in the place of God; but as the most esteemed father of the Jewish nation. His name was upon their lips, more than the name of any other. They depended on their connection with him, more than on their connection with any other. Hence Lazarus, the pious Jew, could have found no place more welcome in heaven, than one where he might recognize and commune with the patriarch Abraham. And the rich man, recognizing him afar off, not through previous acquaintance, but by intuition, felt that if there was hope for him in any source, it was in lifting his desponding wail to the same glorified saint. Were we to express our real sentiments, therefore, on this point, we should say, that the mutual knowledge of friends, in the separate or in the resurrection state, instead of being annihilated, is to be greatly increased. Instead of knowing only those whom we knew on earth, we shall know an innumerable multitude. Instead of discerning kindred spirits by slow degrees, as we do in our present imperfect state, a glance of the spiritual eye, a tone of the spiritual voice, a pulsation of the spiritual heart, so to speak, will reveal to us the kindred mind. And, while all will mingle in the harmonious and sweet communion of the saved, we shall know, and love, and enjoy the intercourse of spirits, truly kindred, from our own earthly circle of acquaintance, as well as from distant nations and climes.
We are taught in the Scriptures that there will be different degrees of glory in heaven. "One star differeth from another star in glory." In the parable of the pounds, when the servants rendered their account, he whose pound had gained ten pounds received authority over ten cities; and he whose pound had gained five pounds received authority over five cities. (Luke 19: 15-19.) He that has faithfully met great responsibilities will receive tokens of the divine favor, in proportion to his labors and self-denials. Though we are not to be rewarded for our works, yet the evidence is very strong, that we are to be rewarded according to them. "The meekness of Moses, the patience of Job, the faith of Abraham, the zeal of Paul, and the steadfastness of apostles and martyrs, who have suffered for the cause of Christ, 'not accepting deliverance,' will be specially honored, in the day of
Matt. 3: 9.
judgment. The veracity of him 'who cannot lie' seems to stand pledged to assure us, that he will confer a superior degree of glory on those whose sufferings for the truth, and whose faith and patience in this life were most conspicuous. But to know that God has faithfully fulfilled these promises, it seems necessary that we should know the persons who are thus distinguished. And if we are permitted to know any of the saints in light, we see no reason why we may not know them all." *
Every heart may be full of joy in heaven; but all hearts are not equally capacious. That world may afford us a practical illustration of the passage, "the first shall be last, and the last first." Is there a Christian who lives upon earth an indifferent, wavering, worldly life, having the form of godliness, but manifesting little of its power; yet who shall, notwithstanding this, be saved "so as by fire?" He will surely take a lower seat among the glorified, than one who, from his regeneration to his death, was distinguished by supreme devotedness to his Master; whose life was a commentary on the written word; his food, the gospel; his recreation, communion with God; his labor, to secure the salvation of souls; his desire, to be worthy to become a resident in glory; and who, instead of creeping away, reluctantly, at last, from a world which he had loved too well, ascends with humility, yet triumph, passing heaven's gates with the air of a conqueror. The judgment day and the heavenly state are to vindicate God's justice before men and angels. Then, distinctions will be made according to truth, not only between the righteous and the wicked, but among the different grades of the holy and the sinful. But how will men and angels, before whom, and partly for whose sake, these distinctions are to be drawn, and these vindications of God's attributes to be displayed, perceive the very point to which the proceedings refer, unless they can distinguish between saint and sinner, the devoted and the lukewarm,-between man and man?
The scriptural argument has been in so many ways introduced in this discussion, that a separate statement of it here would be little more than a recapitulation of what has gone before. There are, however, two passages of some importance in reference to this point, which have not been named. The first is 1 Thess. 2: 19" For what is our
Recognition of Friends, p. 28.
hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" On this passage, Macknight remarks, "The manner in which the apostle speaks of the Thessalonians shows, that he expected to know his converts at the day of judgment. If so, we may hope to know our relations and friends then." The time referred to by the apostle is, evidently, the time of Christ's second coming; the persons, his Thessalonian converts; their relation, the relation of a successful minister, and the people saved by his instrumentality; and the consequence of that happy meeting, the rejoicing of the apostle in those seals and crowns of his ministry; recognized as his children in the gospel; and hailed, in that blissful world, as the fruits, not of another's labors, but of his own.
The other passage is Col. 1:28: "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Though the allusion to the subject in hand may be less distinct in this passage than in the preceding, we cannot but regard it as proving the same point. In allusion to them both, Bishop Mant remarks, "that St. Paul anticipated, on the last day, a personal knowledge of those on his part, and a personal union with them, with whom he had been connected in this life by the ties of pastoral offices and kind affection." His incessant toils for his hearers were stimulated by the earnest desire to present them to the Judge, as the seals which God had been pleased to set to his labors; and, in the words of Dr. Doddridge, "as amiable friends, in whose converse and love he hoped to be happy for ever." The apostle experienced the sustaining power of such a motive. He expected to recognize at the judgment the disciples for whom he labored. He watched over them, as those whom he was to present "perfect in Christ Jesus." He believed that their joy would be his joy, and their glory, his glory. He anticipated the pleasure of appearing before the throne, surrounded by his children in the gospel; and of making a presentation, not of spirits, whom he could not see, nor recognize, nor distinguish, nor number, nor address; but of men and women redeemed; of Christian converts, recognized, and loved, and honored; whom he knew on earth, and now knew again, far more glorious and perfect, in heaven; for whom he had prayed and toiled, and whom he was now to bring, the rich fruits of his ministry, into the garner of God.