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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, "havingf 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,\ 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[j Words which it is not lawful for a "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 noiv I forbear "lest any Man should think of me, above that which "he seeth me to be, or that he hearetb of me; and "lest I should be exalted above measure, through "the abundance of the Revelations," given me. But from this Piston or Trance of St. Paul, or indeed any other Visions or Dreams, spoken of in the Old or Ne-iv 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 httle 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.
• Acts, Ch.vii.Ver.56. f Ch. x. Ver. 10. f 2 Cor. Ch. xii. Ver. 1—7.
|| The explanation of this Passage of holy writ, concerning St. Paul's Vision is difficult, in some of its parts. It is called a Safture, » carrying 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 utter. The place to which he was rapt is called the third Heaven, and by the yeas, 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.
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, J as " a "far more exceeding and eternal Weight of Glory," "For our light afflictions 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 tem"poral; but the things which are not seen, aie 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 content 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 Joys 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.
rt arid thistles; that in sorrow and in the sweat of the "face they should eat bread all the days of their '* lives—until their Return to the Ground, from "whence they were taken; for Dust we are and unto "dust we must return"—"All things here, says Solomon,* are full of Labour, man cannot utter it"— - *' man is born unto trouble, saith Job,f as the sparks fly upward."—But in Christ's Kingdom, where Sin cannot enter, and divine Righteousness must forever prevail, there shall be a glorious and eternal Rest from Labour, both of Body and Soul! There shall be no more Anxieties nor Cares concerning the Future, nor Strifes, nor Frauds, nor Violence, concerning the Present; but, instead thereof, there shall be perpetual tranquillity of Enjoyment; attentive to the Voice of God, the harmony of the spirits of Just Men made perfect, and of the Church triumphant in Heaven.
And now first, with respect to those who labour and are heavy-laden in this world, and who may be ready to sink under their Burden, (who are a numerous class of Men) Heaven is described as a Rest from their Labour. St. John in the Revelation, saith, "Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours^;" "and there re"•maineth (saith St. Paul) a rest for the people of "God—Let us therefore, strive to enter into that "rest; fdr it is a glorious rest, saith the Prophet "Isaiah."
« Eccles. Ch. i. Ver. 8.
t Job, Ch. v. Ver. 7. fRev. Ch. xiv. Ver. 13.
2. The happiness of Heaven is also figured to us by the metaphor of Prace.
"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; "for the end of that man is Peace.*" "The Righte"ous are taken from the evil to come, that they may "enter into Peace."
This peace, to men who are born at enmity with God, and all goodness, must be unspeakably desirous! To have our consciences quieted against future apprehensions of sin, disobedience, and punishment; to have our souls purified from all the fell passions and inclinations of degenerate nature, from Malice, Anger, Wrath, Clamour, Evil-Speaking; to have our Hearts opened to the divine Impressions and inexpressible Sweets of Love and Friendship, which unite the spirits of the Just, and call them with the accordant voice of Joy and Happiness, to pour forth before the throne of God, their unwearied Anthems of Adoration and Praise—This is happiness, indeed, to all who love peace, and seek for Relief from Discord, Strife and Care.
3. Again the Scriptures, addressing the Devotees of worldly Riches and Wealth, represent the joys of Heaven as a treasure—a treasure which cannot be consumed, but shall ever abound and flourish—" a treasure, which neither Moth nor Rust can corrupt; which Thieves cannot break through, nor steal; which cannot take Wings and fly away in our need, and which shall remain our portion and inheritance, forever." For, in the " new Jerusalem,
"Ps. xxxvii. Ver. ST.