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1 THESS. Chap. IV. Ver. 16, 17.
The Dead in Christ, shall rise first. Then we which are alive and
remain, shall be caught with them, in the Clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall be forever 'with the Lord!
FROM this luminous Text, this will be the Seventh and last Sermon, which I have preached; in which we have been led by the blessed St. Paul, through astonishing scenes, whereon the human Mind cannot dwell, without the most alarming Impressions of the deepest Interest and Concern. We have trod the Mansions of Death, and passed the dark Precincts of his Domain-the Grave. We have heard the loud Clangor of the Trump of God, summoning the Dead to awake from their long, long, iron slumbers, and be gathered together, in a general Resurrection to Judgment. We have seen the World in flames, burning and dissolving beneath our feet. Turning our meditations from the Earth to the Heavens; we have been saluted with the trium
phant Hymns of the Archangel, and his whole Host of Angels and glorified Powers-singing—“ Salya
țion to him that ascends the throne. Lo! He that
was dead is alive-He that was crucified liveth “ forever and ever! He returneth with power and
great Glory, to tộiumph over his enemies! The “Sun of Righteousness that set with Redness and “ Blood, rose again with Light and with Splendour! “ The Graye could not detain his Body, nor the “ Place of departed Spirits his Soul; both delivered
up their Prey! Death and the Grave and Hell, were " subdued before him, and dragged, vanquished, at “ his Chariot-Wheels; and now he brings the Dead " in Christ with him, to place them at his right “ hand in judgment, and confirm the sentence of St.
Matthew, St. Paul, and the other holy Evangelists “ and Apostles, Go ye, and be forever with the Lord! ! “ Enter ye into the joys of Heaven!”
These Joys are now to be our ravishing Theme! But although we may feel the Consolations to be derived from the Prospects and Hopes of inheriting them; yet how shall we paint or describe that which “*Eye hath not seen, nor Ear heard, nor hath it en. “ tered into the heart of man, [to conceive, namely,] “ the things which God hath prepared for them that “ love him; but God hath revealed them unto us by “ his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, “the deep things of God.” Some description of them may, however, be given, from the experience of what gives genuine pleasure or pain to us in this
* 1 Cor. Ch. ii. Ver. 9, 10. Isaiah, Ch. iy. Ver. 4.
world; and especially from some passages of the inspired Writer in sacred Scripture, who were favoured with certain visions, or short glimpses of the beatific Bliss and Glory!
Thus Stephen,* “a man full of Faith and power " and of the holy Ghost, (for his comfort and sup
port in the moments of death) looking up sted
fastly into Heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus “ standing on the right hand of God, and cried out“ Behold I see the Heavens opened, and the Son of “ Man standing on the right hand of God and they
stopped their ears,” &c. St. Peter also, “havingt been on the House-top to pray, became very hungry and would have eaten; but while they made ready, he fell into a Trance, and saw Heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as if it had been a great Sheet, &c.—and he heard a voice from Heaven,” rebuking him, for his want of Charity towards the Gentiles, and his calling any thing common or unclean, which God had cleansed.
St. Paul, likewise, I says—Although, “ It is not expedient for me to glory-I will come to Visions " and Revelations of the Lord—I knew a Man in
Christ, above fourteen years ago (whether in the
body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I “ cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one was caught “ up to the third Heaven. And I knew such a man; “ how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard
Unspeakable Words which it is not lawful for a
* Acts, Ch. vii. Ver. 56. † Ch. x. Ver. 10. + 2 Cor. Ch. xii. Ver. 1—7.
|| The explanation of this Passa of holy w concerning St. Paul's Vision is difficult, in some of its parts. It is called a Rapture, a carry
« Man to utter. Of such an one will I glory-yet " of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities: “ for, though I would desire to glory, I shall not be
a Fool, for I will say the truth: but now I forbear “ lest any.Man should think of me, above that which " he seeth me to be, or that he beareth of me; and “ lest I should be exalted above measure, through “ the abundance of the Revelations,” given me. But from this Vision or Trance of St. Paul, or indeed any other Visions or Dreams, spoken of in the Old or New Testaments (as of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Stephen already mentioned, St. Peter, St. John in the Revelation, to whom the Heavens were opened, and Glimpses of the celestial Glory given—they were but short Glimpses, and yield little aid in describing these Joys of Heaven, which the Eyes of men, (as said before) in common have not seen, nor the Ear heard, and which it entereth not into the heart to conceive.
The Apostle has said many things, generally, concerning the happiness of Heaven, as far as human Language can go; as, for example (2 Cor. Ch. iv. Ver. 17, 18.) he describes it, [in comparison with all we have seen, or can see in this world,] as “a.
ing away of the Spirit—a Vision, a Sensibility or Perception; a strong Impression of something acting on the Mind, without any Participation of the Body, or sensibility of any thing done, suffered or enjoyed by it; and thus, says St. Paul, “ whether in the Body, or out of the Body, he could not tell—but that he heard unspeakable Words, which it was not lawful for a man to utter, or which in his embodied state, he could not be able to
The place to which he was rapt is called the third Heaven, and by the Jews, the Angelic Heaven, or habitation of the blessed Angels, and of the Majesty of God; than which none higher, unless it be the Heaven of Heavens, is spoken of.
“ far more exceeding and eternal Weight of Glory,” “ For our light aflictions which are but for a mo
ment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and “ eternal Weight of Glory; while we look not at “ the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eter“ nal.” Here then is the great distinction. If the things which men deem most valuable in this world, were to be held forever, they would be con. tent to enjoy them here forever; but when they know that they are perishable and temporal here; and that in Heaven they will be lasting and eternal, wise men must soon be determined in their choice.
To describe the joys of Heaven, as well as we can, will be the business of the remaining part of this Sermon. Howsoever far the description may fall short of the Truth; it is hoped the Souls of men may be animated by the prospect of enjoying them, and be thereby persuaded to cast off every evil Habit that would render them unfit for that holy place, or stop them in their glorious progress thither; for these Foys are too Spiritual and Sublime—too full of Glory, and Goodness to be ever tasted by a man who carries with him a heart wedded to this world, and polluted with its wickedness. It was the punishment inflicted upon Adam's first Transgression, that “the*
very Ground was cursed for his sake; that in sor“ row he, and his posterity, should eat of it all the
days of their lives; that it should bring forth thorns
* Gen. Ch. iii. Ver. 17, 18, 19.