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receive as credible, shall be known by actual perception. Then shall darkness become light; and crooked things shall appear straight. The interruptions, which prejudice throws in the way of intellectual vision, and those deceptions and allurements, by which sense misleads it, shall be taken away. Things shall be seen and examined as they are and truth shall appear in its own excellence and beauty. The footsteps of the Creator shall be traced throughout his widely extended dominions: and the now imperceptible operation of the laws, by which he governs the universe, shall be unveiled. The mysterious conduct of providence, now so perplexing to the considerate mind, shall be laid open the causes understood and admired, why woes and comforts were distributed with a hand apparently so unequal. The depths of the divine wisdom, in our redemption by Jesus Christ, shall be more nearly contemplated, more perfectly understood, and more thankfully adored. Nay, more, the connexion betweent he laws of nature, the conduct of providence, and the scheme of grace, shall be manifested to our astonished souls; their mutual influence and co-operation explained; the seeming discordances, and fancied contradictions, suggested by our present view of detached parts, shall vanish; and all shall appear as one whole-perfect and harmonious; the work of one just, wise, and gracious eternal mind. Yea, what is more still, more ravishing in hope, and, in reality, unutterably glorious; the beatific vision of Jehovah himself shall be enjoyed. His attributes and his nature, how imperfectly traced in his works, or believed in his declarations, shall then be manifested, to the imme
diate contemplation of his saints. They" shall see "him as he is ;" and "shall be satisfied with his "likeness."+
Such, christian, is the enlargement of understanding, and the perfection of knowledge, presented to thee in the divine world, as the object of thy hope. Rejoice, then, that if here thou hast experienced the labour of inquiry, the uneasiness of doubt, and the degradation of ignorance: rejoice, in the hope that the night is far spent, and that the day is at hand when the shadows shall flee away; when the universe of nature, of Providence, and grace, when God himself shall be revealed!
The third object of christian hope, to which I shall direct your attention, is, communion with the inhabitants of heaven.
"Ye are come," saith our apostle, " to an innu"merable company of angels, to the general assembly of the church of the first born, and to $6 God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just "men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of ¿ the new covenant." Such is the society which we hope to enjoy in the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. And what a blessed, what a glorious community is this! A society of one heart, and of one mind, of which, even the inferior and most subordinate members are knit together by mutual esteem and love; and associated under one head, whose service is all their employment, whose praise, their supreme delight. Of their number, there is not one that is defiled. All have either remained in their pure original estate, or have washed their robes, and made them white, in † Hcb. xii, 22, 24.
1 John iii. 2. † Psalm xvii. 15.
the blood of the Lamb. From their intercourse, the oppositions of temporal fame and interest, the jealousies, the peevishness, and the distrust, which diminish the happiness of society on earth, are for ever banished. There the kind master, and the faithful servant; the upright prince, and the humble subject; the tender parent, and the dutiful child, shall embrace one another; and forget their present distinctions, in the appellation of brethren. There too, shall those, who on earth were divided about forms of worship, and matters of opinion, dwell in unity; and serve God, in one way, and with one spirit, day and night, in his holy temple. There are all the gathered out of every nation, and kindred, and tongue; the Jew and the Scythian, the Greek and the Barbarian, the bond and the free. There are the patriarchs and the prophets, the apostles, and the martyrs of our Lord. How happy the company of heaven! how divinely pleasant their converse, guided by wisdom, and animated by the charity which never fails! a converse, in which treasures of each others knowledge shall be mutually communicated without disguise, without affectation of superiority, or mixture of folly; in which the works and ways of the Eternal shall be the subject; friendship, the law; mutual bliss, and the glory of God, the end. Surely, christians, the hope of joining a society, of which things so glorious are revealed, is an ample source of holy joy; and may well suffice for our support, amidst the wranglings and suspicions, the inconstant affections, and selfish spirit of the crowd below.
But angels, and the redeemed from among men, are not the only inhabitants of heaven: in entering
the heavenly city, we come " to God, the judge of "all." He, whose being fills all space, dwells more particularly there: there he commands the blessing on his people, even life, for evermore; and there hath he chosen to be more immediately seen, and to have more immediate fellowship and communion with them. The more we love and esteem a fellow creature, the more is his society, his esteem' and love, a source of joy to us. What rapturous emotions, then, what triumphant joy must possess our hearts, in having fellowship with God, the uncreated and the unfathomable fountain of all that is excellent; in receiving from himself the testimonies of his friendship and approbation, in loving and in imitating him. They are such as earthly language cannot express; such as the mortal frame of man could not support; such as "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the "heart of man."
The last mentioned, in the apostle's enumeration of the inhabitants of heaven, is " Jesus, the Media66 tor of the new covenant." Without him, there would have been no heaven, and no hope to sinners! and without the benefits of his mediation, they could have had no enjoyment, though placed in the assembly of angels. In the end of the fourth chapter of this epistle, therefore, the apostle speaks of the society of the blessed Jesus, as the chief ingredient of future felicity. To " be ever with the "Lord," he reckons a sufficiently comprehensive description of it: and the hope of that society he holds up, as the chief cause of present joy and consolation. "Wherefore, comfort one another with * 1 Thess. iv. 17.
"these words."* Hence, elsewhere, he mentions the presence of the same precious person as the grand enjoyment, which made the heavenly state the object of his own desire-I have " a desire to "depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better," than" to abide in the flesh." The love of Jesus; as the Saviour, who gave his life a ransom for us, is such as to afford the most satisfactory assurance, that whatever he knows to constitute our happiness, or to be conducive to our welfare, he will cheerfully bestow. But while we are here, our imperfections disqualify us from enjoying the unreserved expressions of his affection. We could not receive the unmingled bounties of his provi dence, which he is exalted to direct, without contracting a carnal spirit; or taste to the full spiritual tokens of his love, without being puffed up. His wisdom, therefore, finds it necessary to moderate and to restrain the manifestations of his kindness. His considerate attention to what may be most truly and permanently for our good, leads him to abridge our enjoyments both temporal and spiritual; to mingle the former with chastisements, and the latter with frowns. But in the better world, these reasons for checking the expressions of his love, and interspersing them with seasons of pain and humiliation, shall cease to operate. No dread of an ungrateful return for his condescension, or of a perverse abuse of his kindness, shall induce him to withhold any thing that, in any respect, may constitute, or may increase our felicity. He shall then give unrestrained vent to his everlasting love; and from the fullness which dwells in him, shall daily com† Phil. i. 23, 24.
I Thess. iv. 18.