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tudes which cry out, saying: Alleluia ; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God .... and the four and twenty elders reply, saying, Amen ; Alleluia , let us be glad and rejoice, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready, Rev. xix. 1, 4, 7. Represent to yourself a man who has been received into heaven by those angels who rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, Luke xv. 7. and who redouble their acclamations when he is admitted into the bosom of glory : or, to say somewhat which has a still nearer relation to the idea which we ought to conceive of St. Paul : represent to yourself a man bearing in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, Gal. vi. 17. And beholding that Jesus in the bosom of the Father: represent to yourself that man giving way to unrestrained effusions of love, embracing his Saviour, clinging to his feet, passing, in such sacred transports of delight, a time which glides away, undoubtedly, with rapidity of which we have no conception, and which enables the soul to comprehend how, in the enjoyment of perfect bliss, a thousand years fly away with the velocity of one day: represent to yourself that man suddenly recalled to this valley of tears, beholding that third heaven, those archangels, that God, that Jesus, all, all disappearing. Ah, my brethren, what regret must such a man have felt! What holy impatience to recover the vision of all those magnificent objects! What is become of so much felicity, of so much glory? Was I made to possess them, then, only to have the pain of losing them again! Did God indulge me with the beatific vision only to give me a deeper sense of my misery? O moment too fleeting and transitory, and have you fled never to be recalled ! Raptures, transports, extasies, have you left me for ever! My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof, 2 Kings ii. 12. As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? Psa. xlii. 1, 2. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts ! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord : my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God ...... Blessed are they that dwell in thy house : they will be still praising thee! thine altars, thine alturs, O Lord of Hosts, my king, and my God! Psa. lxxxiv. 1, &c.
My God, wherefore enjoy we not at this day such privileges, that we also might be filled with such sentiments ! Boundless abysses, which separate between heaven and earth, why are ye not, for a season, filled up to us, as ye were to this apostle ! Ye torrents of endless delight, wherefore roll ye not to us, some of your precious rills, that they may teach us a holy contempt for those treacherous joys which deceive and ensare us !
My brethren, if, ceasing from the desire of manifestations which we have not, we could learn to avail ourselves of those which God has been pleased to bestow! were we but disposed to listen to the information which the scriptures communicate, respecting the heavenly felicity! If we would but examine the proofs, the demonstrations which we have of eternal blessedness! If we but knew how to feed on those ideas, and frequently to oppose them to those voids, to those nothings, which are the great object of our pursuit! If we would but compare them with the excellent nature of our souls, and with the dignity of our origin! then we should become like St. Paul. Then nothing would be able to damp our zeal. The end of the course would then employ every wish, every desire of the heart. Then no dexterity of management would be needful, to introduce a discourse on the subject of death. Then we should rejoice in those who might say to us: Let us go up in Jerusalem. Then we should reply, our feet shall stand within thy gates, o Jerusalem ! Psa. cxxii. 2.
Then we should see that fervor, that zeal, that transports, are the virtues, and the attainment of the dying.
You would wish to be partakers of St. Paul's rapture to the third heuven ; but if this privilege be denied you to its full extent, nothing forbids your aspiring after one part of it at least. When was it that St. Paul was caught up into Paradise ? You have been told, it was when engaged in prayer. While I prayed in the temple, says he, I was in a trance, Acts xxii. 17. The word trance or ertasy is of no indeterminate meaning. A man in an extasy is one whose soul is so entirely devoted to an object, that he is, in some sense, out of his own body, and no longer perceives what passes in it. Persons addicted to a scientific research, have been known so entirely absorbed in thought, as to be in a manner insensible during those moments of intense application Extasy, in religion, is that undivided aitention which attaches the mind to hea. venly objects. If any thing is capable of producing this effect, it is prayer. It is by no means astonishing that a man who has entered into his closet, and shut the door, Matt. vi. 6. who has excluded the world, who has lost sight of every terrestrial object, whose soul is concentrated, and lost in God, if I may use the expression, that such a man should be so penetrated with admiration, with love, with hope, with joy, as to become like one rapt in an extasy.
But farther. It is in the exercise of prayer that God is pleased to communicate himself to us in the most intimate manner. It is in the exercise of prayer that he unites himself to us in the tenderest manner. It is in the exercise of prayer, that distinguished saints obtain those signal marks of favor, which are the object of our most ardent desire. A man who prays: a man whose prayer is employed about detachment from sensible things : a man who blushes, in secret, at the thought of being so swallowed up of sensible things, and so little
cf enamored of divine excellencies : a man who asks of God, to be blessed with a glimpse of his glory, and with a foretaste of the felicity laid up in store for him, and that he would fortify his soul against the difficulties and dangers of his career : such a man may expect to be, as it were, rapt in an extasy, either by the natural effect of prayer, or by the extraordinary communications which God is pleased to vouchsafe to those who call upon his
From this source proceeds that earnest longing to depart, such as Paul expressed; hence that delightful recollection of the pleasure enjoyed in those devout exercises; pleasure that has rendered the soul insensible to the empty delights of this world : hence the idea of those blessed moments which occupy the mind for fourteen years together, and which produces, at the hour of death, a fervor not liable to suspicion : for, my brethren, there is a fervor which I am disposed to suspect. I acknowledge that when I see a man who has, all his life long, stagnated in the world, affecting, at the hour of death, to assume the language of eminent saints, and to say, I have a desire to depart: my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; becoming, all at once, a seraph, burning with zeal, I acknowledge myself to be always under an apprehension, that this zeal derives its birth from some mechanical play, or to the unaccountable duty which the sick impose upon themselves, even such of them as are most steadily attached to the earth, of declaring that they feel an earnest desire to leave it. But a man who through life has been busied about eternity, whose leading aim was to secure a happy eternity; who has, as it were, anticipated the pleasures of eternity, by habits of devotion ; a man who has been absorbed of those ideas, who has fed upon them; a man who, having devoted a whole life to those sacred employments, observes the approach of death with joy, meets it with ardent desire, zeal, transport, such a man displays nothing to excite suspicion.
And is not such a state worthy of being envied ? This is the manner of death which I ask of thee, O my God, when, after having served thee in the sanctuary, like the high priest of old, thou shalt be pleased, of thy great mercy, to admit me into the holy of holies. This is the manner of death which I wish to all of you, my beloved hearers. God
' grant that each of you may be enabled powerfully to inculcate upon his own mind, this great principle of religion, that there is a third heaven, a Paradise, a world of bliss over our heads ! God grant that each of you may attain the lively persuasion, that this is the only desirable felicity, the only felicity worthy of God to bestow, and of man to receive! God grant that each of you, in meditation, in prayer, in those happy moments of the Christian life, in which God communicates himself so intimately to his creatures, may enjoy the foretastes of that felicity; and thus, instead of