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give them to become acquainted with all that God has done, and will do, from the beginning to the end of time.
2. Those who shall behold the face of God in righteousness, will enjoy the pleasures of the heart, as well as those of the understanding. They will view objects and truths without that coldness and indifference, with which they viewed them in this dark and imperfect state. Their new, clear and increasing discoveries of the power, the wisdom, the goodness, the justice, the mercy, and the sovereignty of God, will fill their hearts with raptures of delight. The pleasures of the heart are the highest and most refined pleasures of the soul. When love, joy, gratitude and admiration fill the mind, they completely satisfy it, because they gratify all its powers and capacities at once, and leave no painful void. Those pleasures of the heart will naturally and constantly flow from the beatific vision of God in the kingdom of glory.
3. The saints in that blessed world shall enjoy the pleasures of the heart in the richest variety. As they will behold the face of God in righteousness, so they will be peculiarly gratified by the holy and delightful services in which they will be frequently employed. They will raise their admiring eyes to the throne of divine glory, and unitedly celebrate the praises of their Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. In these acts of pure devotion, their hearts will be full of the most lively, ardent and grateful affections. The pen of inspiration has painted, in glowing colors, the pure and elevated worship of the heavenly hosts. They are represented as casting their crowns at the feet of God and the Lamb, and paying them divine homage with the sincerest and warmest emotions of heart. The apostle John says, “I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, 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 to our God, which sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, amen : blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God, for ever and ever. Amen." This is one description of the worship of the heavenly inhabitants, and there are others equally beautiful and glorious. It is not possible to describe, nor even to conceive, with what holy fervor and delight the redeemed from among men will adore and praise Him, who washed them from their sins in his own blood, and made them kings and priests unto God.
Again, they will enjoy the pleasures of society, as well as of devotion. As rational and benevolent creatures, they will be formed for the enjoyment of social intercourse. Society is the balm of life in this world. Should any one here be entirely secluded from all human society, he would be in a very disagreeable and wretched condition. But in heaven the pleasures of society will be universally and most perfectly enjoyed. When Peter, James and John, heard Christ, Moses and Elias, freely converse on the mount of transfiguration about the glorious work of redemption, they were thrown into an ecstasy of joy. But how much more pleasing and permanent satisfaction will the redeemed derive from the holy conversation of all the heavenly inhabitants! Adam, the father of mankind, will be there, who will have much to say concerning the creation of the world, the happiness of Eden, the astonishing effects of his apostacy, and the still more astonishing displays of divine grace towards him and his ruined family. Noah will be there, who will have much to say concerning the degeneracy of mankind, the awful destruction brought upon them by the Deluge, and what he saw, and heard, and experienced, during that tremendous catastrophe. Abraham will be there, who will have much to say concerning the dark times in which he lived, and the dark scenes and fiery trials which he endured. Paul will be there, who will have much to say concerning his duties, his dangers and his triumphs, while pulling down the kingdom of darkness, and building up the kingdom of Christ. All the redeemed will have much to say concerning the discriminating grace of God, in calling them out of darkness into light, and in preparing them to behold the face of God in the beauty of holiness. Angels will be there, who saw the creation of the world, who were ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, and who saw their once holy and happy associates rebel against their Maker, forfeit their seats in heaven, and receive the due rewards of their deeds; and those pure spirits will have much to say concerning what they saw in heaven, in earth, and the regions of despair. Above all, Christ will be there, and converse as freely, and far more instructively, than he ever did in the days of his humanity. He will be able and disposed to relate what passed in the divine council, when the gracious design of redemption was devised, and all the steps that have been taken to carry it into execution. In a word, he will clearly unfold whatever was dark and mysterious in all the dispensations of providence and grace, from the beginning to the end of time. The free, mutual and unreserved intercourse in such a holy society, will fill the hearts of the heirs of glory with unspeakable satisfaction and delight.
In addition to the happiness of this general intercourse, they will enjoy the peculiar pleasures of a more particular and intimate friendship. Though there will be no enemies in heaven, yet there will undoubtedly be circles of intimate friends, whose hearts, like David's and Jonathan's, were united in tender affections before they arrived in the mansions of heaven. Pious rulers and pious subjects, pious ministers and pious hearers, pious friends and pious acquaintance, will meet and know one another amidst the general assembly and church of the first-born ; and their former union and communion in the church below will lay a foundation for a far more intimate and endearing friendship in the church above. Paul expected that the brotherly love, which united his heart with the hearts of those whom he had been instrumental of bringing to the saving knowledge of the truth, would continue and increase, and become an inexhaustible source of the purest friendship. We may well suppose that those who were the most intimately connected in this world, will often meet together in more private circles, and delightfully communicate to each other the joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears, they experienced, while passing through the storms and tempests of this present probationary state. Christ was more intimate with Peter, James, and John, than with the rest of his disciples, and still more intimate with John, than with Peter and James. The love of Christ, which cements the hearts of christians in this life, will continue to cement their hearts in the life to come, and produce a refined and sweet enjoyment peculiar to themselves.
Still farther to enhance their blessedness, they will enjoy the ineffable pleasure flowing from the expressions of the peculiar love and approbation of God. When they behold his face in righteousness, he will lift upon them the light of his countenance, and speak peace to their ravished hearts. We know not, indeed, in what mode he will express his love to them; but he, who could converse with Moses here on earth, face to face, as a man converseth with his friend, can easily employ means to convey to their minds the clearest evidence of his paternal complacency and delight in them, which will fill their souls with joys unspeakable and full of glory.
But that which will carry celestial blessedness to the highest degree of perfection, is the pleasure of anticipation. This is the principal source of divine comfort in the present state; but it will afford a far more permanent satisfaction to the blessed in their future and eternal state. They will be able to look forward to interminable ages, and anticipate not only the continuance, but the increase of holiness and happiness, as long as duration shall last. As David anticipated the joyful prospect of appearing before God, and beholding his face in righteousness, so all the redeemed will joyfully anticipate their perpetual felicity, and rising glory to all eternity. In the presence of God there will be fulness of joy, and at his right hand there will be pleasures for evermore.
It now remains to improve and apply the subject.
1. Since we have reason to believe that heaven is a real place, we have no reason to believe that those departed spirits who have arrived there have any personal knowledge of what passes in this world. Some suppose that deceased saints are still conversant with the living, and have a personal knowledge of what passes among men. This opinion they found upon the supposition that heaven is merely a state, and not a place distinct and distant from this world. But if what has been said be true, there is no ground for this supposition. The scripture certainly represents heaven and earth as very different and remote from each other; and plainly intimates, that the dead are as ignorant of the state of the living, as the living are of the state of the dead. Whatever it is that prevents living saints from looking into heaven, it must undoubtedly prevent departed saints from looking back into this world. Job had no idea that a departed parent would have any knowledge of the state and circumstances of his children whom he left behind. He says to God, “ Thou destroyest the hope of man. vailest against him; and he passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away. His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.” Isaiah represents the church as saying to God, "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not." The notion that departed saints are acquainted with the concerns of this world, seems to have been an occasion, at least, of the popish practice of praying to and worshipping canonized saints. And though protestants have not run into the same superstition and idolatry, yet the opinion that departed spirits know what passes among the living, and happens to them in this life, tends to turn men aside from the path of duty, and fills their minds with groundless hopes and fears.
2. If heaven be such a place as has been described, then it is easy to conceive of one way, at least, in which God can reward saints according to their works, when they arrive there. may do it by local situation. If he has fixed his throne in the midst of heaven, if he has seated his Son at his right hand, and if he has arranged all the heavenly inhabitants in proper order; then he may place some saints in mansions nearer to, and some in mansions farther from, the throne of his glory, and the per
Thou presonal presence of the divine Redeemer. To be near to God and to Christ, will be a peculiar mark of the divine favor. We cannot suppose that the immensely numerous inhabitants of heaven are a mixed multitude, promiscuously blended together, without any order or appointed residence. As there are many mansions in heaven, so we may naturally conclude that indi. vidual saints and angels will know their own appropriate mansions. When saints arrive in heaven, they are without doubt severally conducted to the mansions which Christ has gone before to prepare for them. And those who have acted a better part on the stage of life, and done more good in the world than others, may be rewarded according to their works, by having better seats assigned them; that is, by being placed nearer to the throne of God, and the personal presence of Christ. We know that it is a great privilege to be placed in one part of this world rather than another; and it may be a greater privilege to be placed in a conspicuous part of heaven. As the principalities and powers in heavenly places may be seated above the patriarchs, the prophets, and apostles; so these may be seated above common christians, who will be in the same manner locally distinguished and favored according to what they had done and suffered for the honor of Christ, before they were absent from the body and present with the Lord.
3. If departed saints will be put in possession of such a variety of intellectual and spiritual enjoyments as we have mentioned, then it is easy to conceive how some may be much happier than others, though all will be perfectly blessed. Some will go to heaven with larger capacities than others; some will go with larger measures of religious knowledge than others; and some will go with larger measures of righteousness or true holiness than others. All these things are qualifications for the enjoyments of heaven, and render those who possess the largest portions of them capable of enjoying the highest degrees of spiritual and divine felicity. The prophets and apostles, especially Paul and John, were far better prepared for the various enjoyments of heaven, than thousands of others who never possessed their intellectual powers, religious knowledge, and eminent attainments in holiness. As some, if I may so speak, will enter forward in heaven, so many of them will keep forward to all eternity. Their previous qualifications will enable them to make more rapid advances in intellectual and spiritual improvements and enjoyments. When they shall behold the face of God in righteousness, they will enjoy a nobler satisfaction in contemplating the glory of God, surveying the scenes and objects in heaven, and in giving and receiving mutual instruction. As one star differs from another star VOL. III.