« VorigeDoorgaan »
In the preceding Essays I have endeavoured to delineate the emotions which agitate a righteous man while upon the eve of his departure to another state. I have also endeavoured to trace the progress and sensations of the disembodied spirit, from the moment she has left her earthly tenement, until she enters the blissful presence of her Creator,-mingles with the assembly of heaven-born spirits, and is crowned with everlasting happiness. And, although it is possible for a human pen to err in a minute description of the felicity she will then enjoy, it cannot err in too high a representation of the character of that felicity. All that God can do (and where is the understanding to fathom the resources of such a Being?) will, in the successive ages of eternity, be done to advance the happiness of those who love him.
Hence, although the mind should now indulge in the highest conceptions of felicity, they cannot but be immeasurably surpassed in the actual experience of the saints in light, inasmuch as the Being from whom that felicity will originate is able to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think."
The resources of this world only, as God created it to promote the happiness of man, are great and numerous; so that, but for the moral depravity of its inhabitants, his existence upon it would be a scene of varied and uninterrupted enjoyment. And yet, what are the resources of this one world in the creation, when compared to those of the unbounded universe? And what are those of the unbounded universe, when compared to what are still existing within the Deity? But, oh! inexhaustible as these resources are, yet, according to the capacities of the beatified spirit, will they be brought to bear upon her enjoyment in glory everlasting.
Now, so far as the physical construction of the human spirit is concerned, it is capable of the highest measure of felicity that can be
enjoyed in heaven; God having originally laid within it such capacities for exalted blessedness, capacities which, as they strengthen and enlarge, would exhaust the resources of the universe,—and, but for those still existing within the Deity, would be in want of perfect satisfaction. But, although the physical construction of even every human spirit is thus adapted to the highest measure of felicity, the moral condition of many not only disqualifies them for it, but, unless removed, would be an insurmountable barrier to their entering upon it. For the happiness of heaven being as pure as the source from which it originates, namely, the holy God, it can never be entered upon by any who have not been cleansed from the pollution which sin has occasioned. For, "what fellowship," saith the Scripture, "hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" Now it is upon this principle,-the principle of accordance between the moral condition of man, and the moral character of celestial
happiness, the apostle so expressly asserts, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
Whatever, then, be the peculiar or distinctive features of celestial blessedness,whatever be the immediate sources of the felicity of the saints in light,—and however many and varied may be scenes and glories which they behold, holiness is an indispensable qualification to the enjoyment of them. But for the purity of their nature the spirits of heaven would be unhappy-unhappy amidst the "fulness of joy" which dwells in the presence of their Creator, and wretched although every where surrounded with the "pleasures" which are at his "right hand for evermore." Had such, however, been their condition, they could never have been admitted to the blissful place where they are; and could it by any possibility become so now, they could not for an instant retain their high position in the presence of a holy God, but, like the angels that sinned, would immediately fall from it into the blackness of darkness for ever!
So far as this life only is concerned, it is not
enough to complete our happiness that we be placed in circumstances of a favourable and prosperous character, or that many sources of enjoyment are existing around us : without a capacity to participate in them, they will avail us nothing. Without the most perfect adaptation in the moral taste and feelings of the heart to the outward circumstances in which we are placed, then, however favourable these circumstances of themselves may be to real enjoyment, our happiness can never be complete; and when there is no kind of adaptation to them, no happiness whatever can result from them. Thus, could an individual of low and sordid feeling, who had never cultivated a taste for the scenes of nature, and who had been intent upon nothing but the acquisition of gain, be placed in the midst of the most enchanting scenery, it would scarcely afford him any gratification; whereas, to a man of refined and cultivated taste, it would be a source of high and exquisite delight. Again, could an individual of uninformed understanding and immoral habits be brought into a society of intelligent, cultivated, and virtuous persons, so