« PreviousContinue »
by that sound of wisdom was awakened from the sleep of death that was just seizing on him; and opening his eyes, raising his head to give attention, being asked the reason of it, answered, * “ That when I understand wiat you are discoursing of, I may die.” Such was his delight in knowledge, that a little of it made his agony insensible.
But here are many imperfections that lessen this intellectual pleasure, which shall cease in heaven. Here the acquisition of knowledge is often with the expense of health : the flower of the spirits, necessary for natural operations, is wasted by intense thoughts. How often are the learned sickly? As the flint when it is struck, gives not a spark without consuming itself; so knowledge is obtained by studies that waste our faint sensitive faculties. But then our knowledge shall be a free emanation from the spring of truth, without our labor and pains. Here we learn by circuit, and discern by comparing things; ignorant darkness is dispelled by gradual succession of light : but then perfect knowledge shall be infused in a moment. Here, after all our labor and toil, how little knowledge do we gain ? Every question is a labyrinth, out of which the nimblest and most searching minds cannot extricate themselves. How many specious errors impose upon our understandings ? We look on things by false lights, through deceiving spectacles : but then our knowledge shall be certain and complete. There is no forbidden tree in the celestial Paradise, as no inordinate affection. But suppose that all things in the compass of the world were known, yet still there would be emptiness and anguish in the mind : for the most comprehensive knowledge of things that are insufficient to make us happy, cannot afford true satisfaction. But then we shall see God in all his excellencies, the supreme object and end, the only felicity of the soul. How will the sight of his glorious perfections in the first moment quench our extreme thirst, and fill us with joy and admiration! It is not as the naked conception of treasures, that only makes rich in idea but that divine sight gives a real interest in him. The angels are so ravished with the beauties and wonders of his face, that they never divert a moment from the contemplation of it.
[2.] The pure love of the saints to God, is fully satisfied in the possession and enjoyment of him, and consequently the greatest delight and complacency is shed abroad in their hearts. Love considered as an affection of friendship, is always attended with two desires; to be assured of reciprocal love, and to enjoy the conversation of the person beloved, the testimony of his esteem and good will. This kind of affection seems to be incon
*Ut cum istud quicquid est de quo disputatis percepero, moriar. Mar.
is inseparable from the Godhead, is inimitable by any creature; for the perfection of any creature is limited in its kind as well as degrees. Therefore God was pleased by variety of effects and resemblances, to express and represent his attributes, that our minds might ascend by those steps to contemplate those perfections that are in him eminently and beyond all comparison. The light of heaven in all its purity and lustre, is but a shadow of his unapproachable brightness: all the excellencies of visible things, are but a weak representation of the glory of his attributes, like the describing with a coal the beautiful colors of the morning : and compared with the immensity of his perfections, are like the describing in a sheet of paper the vast celestial spheres.
In his word there is a more clear and full discovery of his nature and will, but according to our capacity of receiving. The divine attributes in scripture are masked and shadowed under sensible comparisons : for no light shines into our minds here, but through the windows of sense. The intellectual powers depend, as to the first notices of things, on the lower faculties and senses : therefore as Elisha in reviving the Shunamite's child, contracted himself to the proportion of the child, and “put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes,and his hands upon his hands;" so God is pleased to condescend to our capacity, and to adapt the expressions of his majesty to the narrowness of our imaginations. But in heaven the revelation of the Deity is much more glorious : and the mind is clarified from those terrene images that flow through the gross channels of the senses. In this present state, our purest conceptions of God are mixed with dross, and very imperfect; but there the gold shall be separated from the dross, and our conceptions be more proper and becoming the simplicity and purity of God. Here the objects of glory are humbled to the perception of sense : hereafter, the sensible faculties shall be raised and refined, and made the subjects of glory. Now when divine light shines with direct beams, and the thick curtain of flesh is spiritualized and transparent, the soul enjoys the clearest vision of God. The light of nature was so defective as to the discovery of God's compassionate counsels to save the lost world, and the minds of men were so darkened from the fumes of their lust, that their light was but the hemisphere of the night, in comparison of the revelation of the gospel : as St. Peter expresses the happy privilege of Christians, and their consequent duty," that they should shew forth the praises of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvellous light." And the glorious gospel, compared to the revelation of God in heaven, is but as the twilight of the morning, wherein the light of the day is chequered with the shadows of the night, to the sun in its full lustre. ' In heaven we shall “ see God face to face ;" which signifies the clearest manifestation of his glory, and of his favor to the blessed : for the face is the throne of majesty and
6 for no
beauty, and the crystal wherein the affections are conspicuous. Accordingly, when Moses prayed, “ I beseech thee shew me thy glory;" God answered him, it was impossible, could see his face and live.” And the form of divine blessing to the people of Israel was, “ The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee.” Whether the immediate essence of God can be seen by the intellectual creature, is a question; but we are sure in the heaven of presence, God exhibits himself to the blessed in a most glorious manner : for according to the degrees of excellency in the work, are the impressions and discoveries of the cause. Now all gross material things in the low order of nature, are but weak resultances from his perfections, in comparison of their glorious effects in the divine world. The glories of the place, and of the inhabitants the angels and saints, are the most noble effects and expressions of the divine attributes. But in a transcendant manner God exhibits himself in the glorified Mediator. He is styled “the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person;" to signify that God, in the person of the incarnate Mediator, is so fully represented to us, that in him we have a view of God's unchangable perfections. This appears by the following words, “that having purged us from our sins, he sat down on the majesty on high : for they respect the Son of God as united to the human nature, in which he performed the office of the priesthood, and took possession of his kingdom. During his humble state, though darkened with many afflicting circumstances, the divine virtues, wise dom, goodness, holiness, power, were so visible in his life, revelations, and miraculous works, that when Philip with that ardency of affection desired the sight of his father, the only consummate blessedness,“ Snew us the Father, and it suffices;" he told him, he “ that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” But how brightly do they appear in his exaltation? “We shall see him as he is,” in the majesty and glory of the Son of God. The Apostle says,
We shall know as we are known :" this we not to understand according to the exactness of the expression ; for the sun may be as well included in a spark of fire, as God may be comprehended by our finite faculties. Beyond the fullest discoveries we can receive of the Deity, there remains an entire infinity of perfections, not to be known by the most intelligent spirits : but as we are known, is a note of similitude, not of equality. The light of a candle as truly shines as the light of the sun, but not with that extent and splendor. We shall have such a perfect knowledge of God, as our minds can receive, and our hearts desire.
We shall then see what we now believe concerning the glorious nature of God, his decrees and counsels, his providence and dispensations. The sublimest doctrine of the christian religion, above the disquisition and reach of reason, is that of the sacred VOL. 1.
Trinity, upon which the whole economy of the gospel depends. In assenting to this, saith bows the head and adores. But such is the pride of the carnal mind, that it disdains to stoop to divine revelation : and the seeming wise philosophers despised the primitive christians as captives of a blind belief. But this tout reproach was as unjust as many others where with they designed to disgrace Christianity; for the humility of faith does not extin. guish or darken the light of reason, but revives and increases it. What is more suitable to uncorrupt reason, than to believe the revelation God affords of his own nature, who cannot deceive us? In the state above, where reason is rectified and enlarged, we shall understand that from eternity God was sole existing, but not solitary ; that the Godhead is not confused in unity, nor divi. ded in number; that there is a priority of order, yet no superiority among the sacred persons, but they are all equally possessed of the same divine excellencies, and the same divine empire, and are the object of the same adoration. Our Saviour tells his disciples, “ In that day ye shall know that I am in the Father,” that is, by unity of essence, and as naturally and necessarily God as the Father. This promise immediately refers to the time of pouring forth the Holy Ghost upon them after the resurrection of our Saviour, but shall be fully accomplished in heaven.
All things of a supernatural order shall be revealed. The "great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh," the union of the high perfections of the divine nature with the innocent imperfections of the human nature, the contrivance of our redemption, wherein there is an harmonious concurrence and concord of the principle attributes of the Deity that seemed irreconcilable; that product of the divine wisdom that is so adored by the angels, that astonishes and saves us, shall be unfolded. The divine counsels in governing the world, the designs, the ways, the orders and operations of God's providence shall be conspicuous. In some dispensations of God, we discern the eye in the top of his sceptre : the wisdom, the rectitude, the equity of his providence, is so visible in the defence of the innocent, and his justice and power in the punishment of the guilty, that it may convince the atheists who deny a providence, and cause all sincere believers to admire and reverence it. But there are other dispensations, the immediate reasons of which are so concealed in the bosom of God, that only the Lamb, with whose blood the elect to glory are written in the book of life, can reveal : why the light of the gospel was never visible to so many kingdoms; “ why many are called, and few chosen;" the unsearchable ways, and incomprehensible judgments of God, which St. Paul in an extasy admires, which it is not lawful to inquire into here, we shall then understand in such a manner, that light itself is not more clear. How often are the people of God here in miserable perplexities ? and say with the Prophet, “Verily thou art a God
that hidest thysell, O God of Israel the Saviour !” It is true, a steadfast faith in the providence of God, that all that he does, and all that he permits and disposes is best, will quiet their passions, and change the teinpestuous ocean into the pacific sea : but when they are admitted into the council of state above, and see the immediate reasons of his decrees, what a heavenly wonder, what an exquisite pleasure will fill their minds ? When the original sountains of wisdom, as clear as deep, shall be opened, what sweet satisfaction will be shed abroad in their spirits ? They will see the beauty of providence in disposing temporal evils in order to their eternal felicity: that as in a curious picture the darkest tinctures are so disposed, as to give light and grace to orient colors; so all the afflictions of this state were but shadows or foils, to make their faith, and love, and patience more resplendent, and their reward more excellent. What our Saviour said to Peter, is applicable to the impenetrable dispensations of Providence to us in our mortal state : “What I do, thou knowest not now, but shall know hereafter.” Then the arcana imperii, the secrets of his counsels shall be unsealed, and we shall be able to expound the perplexing riddle, how“out of the eater came meat, and out of the strong came sweetness :" we shall understand that his over-ruling providence is most eminently glorified in extracting good out of evil; for we shall know as we are known.
The blessed effect of the vision of God in the saints. It is productive and
conservative of his glorious likeness. It affects them with the most humble veneration of God's excellencies. It inflames them with the most ardent love of God, and of our Saviour.
I will consider the blessed effects of the vision of God in hea
the saints. Our Saviour tells us, “this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” The beginning and introduction of our felicity, is by a lively faith here, the consummation of it is by present sight in heaven.
1. From the vision of his glory there will be a resultance of his likeness impressed on us. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All the persection and happiness of the saints is comprised in that promise. The sun, when the sky is clear and serene, forms its image on a cloud tempered to receive it, with that orient brightness, that the eye cannot distinguish between the copy and the original. Thus the uncreated sun by