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Here, also, all things will live. Death and sorrow, disease and pain, crying and tears, will have fled for ever. There will be nothing to destroy, nothing to impair, nothing to lament. Every thing will live; and not merely live, but grow, and flourish, and bloom, without interruption. Life in a sublime and superior sense, life vernal and immortal, will impregnate the streams and trees, the leaves and fruits; and animate the bodies and minds of the first-born. A glorious antitype will be found, here, of the wheel, seen by Ezekiel in the vision of the Cherubim. One spirit, you will remember, one life informed both; for the spirit of life was in the wheels, as well as in the Cherubim.
As all things in heaven will be informed with life ; so they will become universally means of joy. The present world is
. justly styled a vale of tears. Distress awaits us here in a thousand forms. Within us, it dwells; without, it assails. We are sinners, are the subjects of ungratified desire, disappointment, discontent, reproaches of conscience, and distressing apprehensions concerning the anger of God. At the same time, our frail bodies are subjected to the evils of hunger and thirst, of cold and heat, of weariness and languor, of sickness and pain, of decay and death. Our friends, and families, are in want, pain, and sorrow : they sicken and die : their sins disgrace them, and wound us ; and
; awaken excruciating apprehensions concerning their destiny beyond the grave. War, also, frequently spreads wide the miseries of dismay, plunder, slaughter, and devastation. To beings, habituated to a state of existence, so extensively formed of these distressing materials, how welcome must be the change, which transports them from this world to Heaven! When the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to the celestial Zion with songs; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Heaven is created, to be the residence of happiness. Every thing wbich it contains will be beauty, grandeur, and glory, to the eye; harmony to the ear; and rapture to the heart : rapture which admits no mixture, and knows no termination.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE RIGHTEOUS in the future world may be illustrated in the following manner.
They are beings composed of Body and Mind. Their bodies I have described in the discourse on the Resurrection; and shall only add here, that they will be means of increasing essentially both the power, and the enjoyment, of their minds ; so that they will be happier, after the re-union of these two great constituents of their existence, than before. In the present world, our bodies are full of imperfection; possessed of obtuse faculties ; furnishing us information with difficulty, and in parts and parcels; sluggish in their nature, and heavy in all their movements. By disease, also, and accident, their own powers are impaired; and, with them, those of the mind. Even when these evils do not exist ; age brings on certain decay, weakens every power, and blunts every perception.
But in the world of glory, the body, as was formerly observed, will become a spiritual body; possessed of a perfection, corresponding altogether with that of the mind. By means of it, the mind will perceive more clearly, enjoy more exquisitely, and act more usefully, than it would do, if disembodied.
It is not here intended, that minds need, in the metaphysical sense, the possession of bodies to complete their happiness; or that Saints, hereafter, will enjoy a felicity, superior to that of Angels. It is only intended, that this is one way, in which God is pleased to make happiness perfect; and that saints themselves will be in a state of higher perfection, than if they were unembodied. Of this, it is apprehended, the evidence is entire, in the great fact, that Christ will reign for ever in his own glorified body: for it will not be supposed, that his human nature will by this fact be rendered less glorious.
The Redeemed are, also, just men, made perfect. The word perfect is differently understood. It may be proper, therefore, to observe, that I intend by it, not a state of existence, which admits of no accession to the powers of the mind, its attaioments, or its enjoyments. The Infinite mind only is perfect in this sense. I intend that state, in which the mind will be the subject neither of fault nor error, neither of decay nor weariness; in which there will be nothing to lessen its usefulness, or impair its enjoyment; in which it will be entirely approved by itself, and entirely loved by its Maker; in which it will fill a
station, and act a part, in the Divine Kingdom, altogether necessary, desirable, and honourable, and will perform these things perfectly, and better than they would be performed by any other being whatever. This, if I mistake not, is the perfection of Angels, and the perfection of those, who are declared by Christ to be wayyskor, equal, or like to, Angels. Both will, however, improve in their attainments, and in their attributes also, for ever.
They are redeemed. They have all been apostates, rebels, and outcasts; and were once children of wrath, because they were children of disobedience. They were all, therefore, condemned by the Law of God; and, had they been left to themselves, must have perished for ever. Every one of them, also, was turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; was renewed by the Divine goodness, and the mysterious influence of the Spirit of grace. Every one of them was once lost to the virtuous universe, and has again been found.
Thus they are a new order of beings in the Divine kingdom : beings, restored from endless sin to endless holiness, and raised from absolute perdition to immortal life. How amazing the change; how immense the deliverance! So amazing, so literally immense, that eternity will scarcely be sufficient to unfold the height, the length, and the breadth of this unexampled dispensation.
In this character, the Redeemer will behold them for ever, as the peculiar reward of his mediation, the trophies of his cross, and the gems in his crown of glory. Throughout the ages of Heaven he will look on every one as an Immortal Mind, to save which from endless turpitude and ruin, he shed his own most precious blood; as a Mind, recovered by himself to the Divine kingdom, re-instamped by his spirit with the image of God, and thus furnished with an indefeasible title to eternal glory.
They are adopted Children of God. The relation, expressed in these terms, is neither fanciful, nor figurative; but real, acknowledged by God, and inestimably important. In the covenant of grace he was pleased to promise, that he would be their God, and that they should be his people; that he would be a Father to them, and that they should be his sons and daughters.
This covenant he will now completely fulfil; this relation he will now consummate; in the sight of the universe. He will acknowledge them as heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ to his kingdom and glory; to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; an inheritance, eternal in the heavens ; a kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Christ, says St. Paul, Heb. ii. 11, is not ashamed to call them brethren. God, says the same Apostle, Heb. xi. 16, is not ashamed to be called their God.
They are Brethren to each other. In this character, they will behold each other as made of one blood, and as sprung from the same loins; as redeemed from sin and misery by the death of the Son of God; as renewed by the same spirit of Truth; as fellow-members of the same Church; as fellow-travellers in the same journey towards Heaven; as ruined by the same apostasy, recovered by the same mercy, and heirs of the same glorious inheritance. How many bonds of endearment, and union, are here presented to our view! How intimate are these relations ! How important in their nature! What sources of attachment? What indissoluble ligaments do they form for the heart! What intense endearment must they awaken! What delightful offices of love must they inspire !
They are also Companions of Angels. Ye are come, says St. Paul, with the anticipating spirit of prophecy, Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem ; and to an innumerable company of Angels. And round about the Throne, says St. John, were four and twenty seats, and upon the seats I saw four and twenty Elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And before the Throne, there was a sea of glass, like unto crystal. And in the inidst of the Throne, and round about the throne, were four Living Ones, full of eyes, both before and behind. In this passage the same station is allotted to the Representatives of the Church, and the Representatives of the Angelic host.
Throughout every part of the same book, Angels and glorified saints are exhibited as dwelling together in the same glorious mansions, occupied in the same employments, and united in the same praise. When the four Living Ones cry, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Lord God Almighty! who wast, and who art, and who art to come ; the four and twenty Elders fall down before Him, that sitteth on the Throne, and worship him, that liveth for ever and eder; and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created.
The Angel Interpreter also, whom St. John, astonished, and bewildered, by the vision of the New Jerusalem, attempted to worship, replied to him in these remarkable words : See thou do it not. I am thy fellezo-sertant, and of thy brethren the Prophets, and of them who keep the sayings of this book. No words could more completely evince the truth of the doctrine under consideration.
Angels, as I have formerly shown, are the first of all created beings in worth, dignity, and glory. To be the companions of these exalted Intelligences, these most favoured creatures of God, must plainly be a privilege, which words will in vain labour to describe, and imagination, to conceive.
Finally. They are Kings, and Priests, unto God. In the discourses, just now alluded to, I have exhibited, very imperfectly indeed, the dignity and glory of the stations, which Angels occupy in the Divine Kingdom. The saints, who will hereafter be their companions, will occupy similar stations. The name, Priest, in this declaration, indicates the distinguished purity of their character; and teaches us, that their thoughts, affections, and purposes, will be an unceasing and eternal offering of sweet incense in the Sanctuary of Heaven. The name, King, denotes their distinguished honour; and informs us, that they will here. after be elevated to princely employments, and peculiar dignities, in the Empire of JEHOVAH. To him that overcometh, says our Saviour, will I grant to sit with me in my Throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his Throne. Rev. iii. 21. They shall reign, said the interpreting Angel to John, when describing the future happiness of the Righteous, They shall reign for ever and ever.