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When we read those passages of Scripture, in which the future happiness of the Righteous is exhibited; we are struck with astonishment at the strength, and splendour, of the exhibition. I do not remember, that in all the conversations, which I have heard concerning this subject, a single individual has, in any instance, given me reason to supposc, that he considered the Scriptural declarations concerning it, as intended to be fulfilled in the strict sense. Numerous as they are, and uniform as their tenour is, they appear, so far as I have observed, universally, to be regarded as pictures intentionally overdrawn; as poetical efforts, beautiful indeed, and sublime, in an eminent degree, but rendered by the imagination of the writer, bold, servid, and hyperbolical, in such a manner, as not to be received without many limitations. With this general view of the subject, I am persuaded, most persons rest satisfied; and thus regard Heaven as a state, somewhat happier than that of Eden; but substantially the same with that, which mankind would have enjoyed, had their Progenitor continucd steadfast in bis obedience. Bui with these conceptions, every person, who pleases, may see their is no accordance in the Scriptures.
What has given birth to such conceptions appears to me plainly to be the apprchension, universally citiused, ihal these wonderful blessings cannot with propriety be dispensed to such beings, as men are, even in their best estate.
The Righteous, as well as the Wicked, are in the Scriptures said to be rewarded according to their works. The wicked, it will be remembered, are rewarded for their works, as well as according to them. But this cannot be said of "e Righteous, unless in a very humble, and very remote sease. The Righteous are saved from perdition, and rewarded with eternal lifc, solely on account of the obedience of Christ. Their own works are merely the proportional measure of their reward. All are alike interested in the Righteousness of Christ; and are therefore alike entitled to a reward. But here is a real, and considerable, difference in the degrees of excellence, which they severally obtain, and exhibit; and this difference, we are taught by the Scriptures, as reason would naturally teach us, will become the foundation of a difference in their future allotments. Christians, I believe universally, are sufficient. ly ready to admit, that their escape from hell, and their admission to Heaven, are blessings, owed wholly to the obedience of Christ, and in no sense merited by themselves. Still, I suspect, that few of them ask what that Heaven is; that degree of happiness, which will be the proper consequence of Christ's obedience, and a suitable reward for its transcendent worth. Had Adam obeyed; his Posterity would have inherited a happy Immortality. Few Christians, I am pcrsuaded, ever inquire concerning the nature ani blessings of this happy Immortality, or of that, which will suitabl reward the obedience of the second Adam. Thus, considering
Heaven merely as a happy, Immortality; acknowledging them. selves to be admitted to it on account of Christ's Righteousness; and yet supposing, that the kind, and degree, of happiness, will in some indefinite manner, or other, be suited to the nature, and value, of their own obedience; they think that Heaven, so far at least as themselves are concerned, must be a state of comparatively moderate enjoyment. Without supposing themselves, therefore, to disbelieve, and without disbelieving in fact, the truth of Revelation, without calling in question intentionally, or preceptia bly to themselves, any passage of Scripture; they suffer not a little of that, which is revealed concerning the glory of Heaven, to stand for nothing.
To this mode of thinking, the humility of good men powerfully contributes. They cannot realize, that themselves, stained as they are with guilt, nor that any men, were they even perfect, can be admitted to such enjoymenis, as those, which are unfolded in the promises of the Gospel. The distance between the reward, and the character of the recipient, is too great; the change is too absolute, and wonderful; to be admitted into the mind. “Is it possible,” will a man of this characterinstinctively ask, “ that such an one as I, should inherit enjoyments of this transcendent nature?"
To the same current of thought, that so frequently quoted text has probably contributed not a little, although in an indirect manner: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither haze entered into the heart of man, the things, which God hath propared for them that love him. It would seem, that most of those, who have qucted this text, have made a full stop at the conclusion of the verse. Tiad they proceeded to the very next words, they would have found them the following. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit. Whatever may be the things, which are bere declared to have been unseen, unheard, and unimagined, St. Paul informs us, that they are revealed to us by the Spirit of God; and since the time of this Revelation, are, therefore, not unknown to us, unless through our negligence. Sull, I believe this text has put a kind of negative in the minds of very many Christians, upon most of their inouiries concerning the Heavenly state. Under the influence of this declaration, they seem to have supposed, that the Bible must of course be silent concerning this subject; and to have wandered over the passages, where it is mentioned, without stopping to ask what was their meaning. In their meditations on the future felicity of the Righteous, they seem to have drawn up this conclusion, that it is something indefinitely and indescribably great indeed, but left for their imaginations to form as well as they can, and their hearts to hope ; rather than something, to an important degree unfolded in the word of God.
To me, all this appears unhappy. No reason, it is presumed, can be given, why in this, any more than in other cases, we should limit the word of God by our own views; and interpret its declaraVol. IV.
tions according to the dictates, either of our feelings, or our philosophy. It is undoubtedly to be admitted, that the rewards of the Righteous, in the future state, are wonderfully disproportioned to any worth, of which they can boast. But this ought to occasion no surprise, when we remember, that the reward is not of debl, but of grace; that we are not only justified, but glorified also, solely on account of the obedience of the Redeemer. If this consideration be kept in view; we cannot, I think, hesitate to admit, that all, which is declared in the Gospel concerning this subject, may be strictly just without exaggeration. St. Paul has certainly removed every difficulty, which might have hung upon it; and every perplexity, with which our considerations of it are attended. He, says this Apostle, triumphantly discussing it in the eighth chapter of Romans, He, that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him also, freely give us all things? The Rightcous, the virtue which constitutes their character, and the happiness to which it is entitled, are all given to Christ in the covenant of Redemption, because He made his soul an offering for sin. They are the seed, which, it is promised, should prolong their
days; or be happy for ever. In them he sees the fruit of the trav... ail of his soul, and is satisfied therewilh. Here the gracious purpose
of JEHOVAH prospers in his hands* perfectly and for ever.
When we consider the subject in this manner; the difficulties, which seem to attend it, vanish. He, who believes, that in consequence of the obedience of Adam, his Posterity would bave enjoyed immortal life in a paradisiacal world, cannot rationally doubt, that in consequence of the obedience of Christ, his followers will enjoy all the blessings, promised in the Heaven of the Scriptures. He will cease to be surprised, when he hears the Saviour say, Father, I will that they, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am ; that they may behold my glory. And the glory, which thou gavest me, have I given them : or to hear him say, He, thut odercometh, shall inherit all things : or to hear him say, To him, that overcometh, will I grant to sit with one in my throne, eren as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He will no more wonder lo find St. Paul declaring to the Corinthians, All things are yours : Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, na death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours. However strange this sublime declaration may seem, its mysteriousness will cease to perplex him, when he reads, and considers, the following verse : And ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's
But, while these magnificent promises are thus explained by the mediation of Christ, they in return reflect the highest glory on that wonderful work. With what splendour, and excellence, must that obedience appear to the eye of God, which his wisdom
thinks it proper to reward with the creation of new headens and a new earth; the everlasting residence of righteousness, truth, happiness, and glory ; with all the magnificence, and all the enjoyments, of the New Jerusalem ; with the endless multitude of the first-born, given to him as his everlasting possession, arrayed in the splendour of knowledge and virtue, quickened by the smile of infinite complacency, and elevated to the summit of created glory. Even this is not all. Of the increase of his government and peace, that is, of the glory of his providence, and the prosperity of his subjects, there shall be no end. All things here, fair, great, and exalted, at first, will soften, refine, and harmonize, with everimproving beauty, enlarge with perpetually increasing grandeur, and rise with a sublimity ascending for ever. With this prospect in full view, who will not exclaim, How great, how good, how glorious must He be, of whose wisdom and excellence all these things are only the proper reward !
· THE REMOTER CONSEQUENCES OF DEATH.—THE HAPPINESS OY
REVELATION xxi, 1–3.-_And I saw a new heaven and a new earth : for the first
heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying ; Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will duell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
IN the preceding discourse, derived from these words, I proposed to consider,
1. The Residence ;
The two first of these I examined in that discourse. The two last I shall now make the subject of consideration.
Heaven is exhibited in the Scriptures as the world of joy, and praise. The account, here given, is both rational and sublime. Still, if I mistake not, it is often made the foundation of views concerning Heaven, which are erroneous, and unhappy. Unless I am deceived, it is a very common opinion, that to receive enjoy. ment, and to praise the Author of it, constitute chiefly, if not wholly, the state of existence allotted to the Righteous in the future world. This opinion I suppose, indeed, to exist indefinitely and loosely; and without any known decision of the mind, either that such will be the fact, or that such is its own opinion. Yet I suspect, that, if many persons, and those not of inferior understanding, were to be asked in what the happiness of Heaven consists; the two particulars above mentioned would make up their answer. This I suspect, because I find these objects mentioned alone, almost always, when Heaven becomes the theme of discourse.
To praise God for the perfections of his nature is unquestionably an universal, and eternal duty, as well as a delightful employment, of Intelligent creatures. Far be it from me to undervalue the importance, or the excellence, of this duty. To receive enjoyment, also, is unquestionably one great end, for which Intelligent creatures are made; and an end, clearly worthy of their Maker. But the mode, in which this enjoyment is attained, and the means of