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1. These considerations illustrate in the strongest manner the Goodness of God.
The blessings, which have been summarily mentioned in this discourse, are all created, and bestowed, by the Infinite Hand, and contrived by the Infinite Mind. They are the best of all blessings; immeasurable in their value, in their multitude num. berless; in their duration eternal. To give such blessings, as these, to any beings, even the greatest and most excellent, would be an exertion of bounty, which could not fail to claim our high admiration. Here they are given to the humblest class of Intelligent Creatures : a great part of whom have held their earthly course along the line, which forms the lowest limit of moral agency; and, during their residence in this world, have always travelled along the verge of animal nature. Nor is this all, they are given to apostates; excommunicated by themselves from the assembly of virtuous beings, voluntary aliens from the Divine Kingdom; useless to their Creator; and nuisances to his creation.
Why are they given at all? To this question no answer can be returned, but that they are the mere overflowings of unlimited goodness. Why, above all, are they given to such beings, as have been bere described ? To give in this glorious manner to those, who are possessed of the highest created worth, between whose character and rewards there is a perceptible degree of congruity, evidences a bountiful disposition, whose extent and excellence are plainly incomprehensible. But our conceptions of the glory of this disposition are mightily enhanced, when we behold these blessings flowing in uninterrupted and eternal streams to beings, who have forfeited all good, and who were destined to drink the cup of bitterness for ever. Oh give thanks unto the Lord, said David, for he is good, for his mer. cy endureth for ever! Who remembered us in our low estate, and hath redeemed us from our enemies; for his mercy endureth for ever! Oh give thanks unto the God of Heaven, for his mercy endureth for ever.
3. These considerations very forcibly impress upon the mind the Glory of Christ in the work of Redemption.
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 suppose, 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, fervid, 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 continued steadfast in his obedience. But with these conceptions, every person, who pleases, may see there is no accordance in the Scriptures.
What has given birth to such conceptions appears to me plainly to be the apprehension, universally diffused, that 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 the Righteous, unless in a very humble, and very remote sense.
The Righteous are saved from perdition, and rewarded with eternal life, 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 there is a real, and considerable, difference in the degrees of excellence, which they severally obtain, and exhibit; and this difference, we are taught Vol. V.
phantly discussing it in the eighth chapter of Romans, He, that spared not his own Son, but delidered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him also, freely give us all things? The Righteous, 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 travail of his soul, and is satisfied therewith. 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, vapish. He, who believes, that in consequence of the obedience of Adam, his Posterity would have 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 gider me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory. And the glory, which thou gavest me, have I given themi : or to hear him say, He, that overcometh, shall inherit all things : or to hear Him say, To him, that overcometh, 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. He will no more wonder to find St. Paul declaring to the Corinthians, All things are yours : Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or 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 Heavens and se new earth; the everlasting residence of righteousness, truth,
Isaiah liü, 10, 11. Lowth.
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 ever-improving 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 OF HEAVEN.
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 dwell with them, and they shall be kis 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.