« PreviousContinue »
secure his hope, notwithstanding all his unrighteous and implacable enemies. But the following verses are applicable to David, but in a lower sense, and by a remote metaphor, and have their literal and principal accomplishment in our Saviour. “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;" that is, in the state of the dead ;
nor suffer thy holy One to see corruption :” that is, the body of our Saviour should be exempted from the corrupting power of the grave, and restored the third day to life. In this propriety and perfection of sense, the prophecy is applied by St. Peter to our Saviour's alone : for David died, “and saw corruption,” Acts 2. 27, 29. and his body still remains under the dominion of death. And this last verse, “ Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore;” is applied by the apostle to Christ, his resurrection, ascension to heaven, “and sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Thou wilt show me the path of life;" that is, introduce him into the kingdom of glory, and by experimental fruition make him partaker of it: “In thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.”
In these words the causes and excellencies of the heavenly life are expressed. The causes, are the glorious presence of God, and the intimate application of his presence, and discovery of his peculiar love to the saints. This our blessed Saviour had respect to, as the complete reward of his sufferings : “Thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.” And his right hand implies his bounty that dispenses, and his power that secures our happiness. The excellencies of it, are “fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore."
From the words I shall observe one proposition.
The enjoyment of the divine presence in heaven, is the supreme and everlasting felicity of the saints, and
In discoursing of this point, I will consider ;- The place wherein the divine presence is gloriously revealed ;-Show that the enjoyment of the divine presence is the supreme felicity of the saints ;-and lastly, Prove that the felicity shall be everlasting.
1. The place wherein the divine presence is revealed. It is consistent with the divine immensity, to be differently present in some places. The essential presence of God is the same every where; the influxive declarative presence of God is special, and otherwise in one place than another. He is more excellently present in the living temples, his saints on earth, by the gracious and eminent operations of his Spirit, than he is in the rest of the world: he is most excellently present in heaven, by the clearest manifestation, and the express characters and effects of the divine perfections.
This inferior world is framed with exquisite order ; " The earth is full of the glory of the Lord:” yet it is but the sediment of the creation, the habitation of birds and beasts, nay of rebellious sinners : and by this we may raise our thoughts to conceive something of the glorious sanctuary of life, and blessedness above. It is called the “heaven of heavens,” which is the highest comparison to instruct and astonish us with the amplitude and glory of the place. It is a place becoming the majesty of God, the image of his immensity. Our Saviour assures us,
In his Father's house are many mansions,” to receive the innumerable company of glorified saints. It is called “the excellent glory," 2 Pet. 1. 17.
The shining firmament, with all the luminaries that adorn it, are but the frontispiece to the highest heaven. All the lustre of diamonds, the fire of carbuncles and rubies, the brightness of pearls are dead in comparison of its glory. “It is the throne of the God of glory," wherein his majesty is revealed in the most illustrious manner. For pleasantness it is called paradise, in allusion to the delightful garden planted by the hands of God him. self for Adam, his favourite, whilst innocent. There is the tree of life.” There are rivers of pleasure springing from the divine presence. “It is called the inheritance of the saints in light;" to signify the glory and joy of the place: for light has splendour, and conciliates cheerfulness, and is a fit emblem of both. As on the contrary, hell is described by “the blackness of darkness for ever,” to sigoify the sadness and despair of the damned; and because in that centre of misery, a perpetual night and invincible darkness increases the horror of lost souls.
Heaven for stability is called “a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” The present world is like a tent or tabernacle set up for a time, whilst the church is passing through the wilderness : but heaven is the “ City of the living God,” the place of his happy residence, the seat of his eternal empire. The visible world, with all its perishing idols, shall shortly fall, this beautiful scene shall be abolished: but the supreme heaven is above this sphere of mutability, wherein all bodies compounded of the jarring elements are continually changing and dissolving: it is truly called “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Briefly, the wise maker has framed it correspondently to the end for which it was designed: it is the seat of his Majesty, his sacred temple wherein he diffuses the richest beams of his goodness and glory, and his chosen servants see and praise his adorable excellencies for ever.
II. I will endeavour to show that the enjoyment of the divine presence in heaven, is the supreme felicity of the saints.
To make this supernatural blessedness more easy and intelligible to us, the scripture describes it by sensible representations, For while the soul is clothed with fresh, fancy has such a dominion, that we conceive of nothing but by comparisons and images taken from material things. It is therefore set forth by a “ Marriage-Feast," Rev. 17. 7. to signify the joy' and glory of the saints above. But to prevent all gross conceits, we are instructed, that the bodies of the saints shall be spiritual, not capable of hunger or thirst, nor consequently of any refreshment that is caused by the satisfaction of those appetites. The objects of the most noble senses, seeing and hearing, the pleasure of which is mixed with reason, and not common to the brutes, are more frequently made use of to reconcile the blessed and heavenly state to the proportion of our minds. Thus sometimes the saints above are “represented on thrones, and with crowns on their heads : sometimes clothed in white, with palms in their hands : sometimes singing sovgs of triumph to him that sits on the throne.” But the real felicity of the saints infinitely exceeds all those faint metaphors. The apostle, to whom the admirable revelation was exhibited of the sufferings of the church, and the victorious issue out of them in the successive ages of the world, tells us, “it does not appear what the saints shall be in heaven. The things that God has prepared for those that love him," are far more above the highest ascent of our thoughts, than the marriage-feast of a king exceeds in splendour and magnificence, the imagination of one that has always lived in an obscure village, that never saw any ornaments of state, nor tasted wine in his life. We can think of those things but according to the poverty of our understandings. But so much we know as is able to sweeten all the bitterness, and render insipid all the sweetness of this world.
Whatever is requisite to our complete blessedness, is enjoined in heaven.
There is an exemption from all evils. Sin and all the penal consequences are abolished in heaven. The concurrence of all positive excellencies is enjoyed there. The body is revived to a glorious life. The soul lives is communion witb God. The excellence of the object, and vigour of the actings upon it, the principal ingredients of happiness.
This will appear by considering that whatever is requisite to constitute the complete blessedness of man, is fully enjoyed in the divine presence.
i. An exemption from all evils is the first condition of perfect blessedness. The sentence of the wise Solon is true,
- Dicique beatus
No man can be called happy whilst in this valley of tears. There are so many natural calamities, so many casual, which no human mind can foresee or prevent, that one may be less miserable than another, but none perfectly happy here. But upon the entrance into heaven, all those evils, that by their number, variety of weight, disquiet and oppress us here, are at an end.
Sin, of all evils, the worst and most hateful, shall be abolished, and all temptations that surround us and endanger our innocence, shall cease. Here the best men lament the weakness of the flesh, and sometimes the violent assaults of spiritual enemies, St. Paul himself breaks forth into a mournful complaint, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death!" And when harassed by the buffets of satan, renews his most earnest addresses to God to be freed from them. Here our purity is not absolute, we must be always cleansing ourselves from the reliques of that deep defilement that cleaves to our nature. Here our peace is preserved with the sword in our hand, by a continual warfare against satan and the world. But in heaven no ignorance darkens the mind, no passions rebel against the sanctified will, no inherent pollution remains. “The church is without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing:” and all temptations shall then cease. The tempter was cast out of heaven, and none of his poisoned arrows can reach that purified conipany. Glorious liberty! here ardently desired, but fully enjoyed by the saints above. And as sin, so all the penal consequences of it are quite taken away. The present life is a continual disease, and sometimes attended with that sharp sense, that death is desired as a remedy, and accepted as a benefit. And though the saints have reviving cordials, yet their joys are mixed with sorrows, nay caused by sorrows. The tears of repentance are their sweetest refreshment. Here the living stones are cut and wounded, and made fit by sufferings for a temple unto God in the New Jerusalem. But as in building of Solomon's temple, the noise of a hammer was not heard, for all the parts were framed before with that exact design and correspondence, that they firmly combined together; they were hewn in another place, and nothing remained but the putting them one upon another, and then as sacred they became inviolable: so God the wise architect, having prepared the saints here by many cutting affictions, places them in the eternal building, where no voice of sorrow is heard. Of the innumerable assembly above, is there any eye that weeps, any breast that sighs, any tongue that complains, or any appearance of grief? The heavenly state is called life, as only worthy of that title. There is no infirmity of body, no poverty, no disgrace, no treachery of friends, no persecution of enemies. “There is no more death, nor sorrow'; nor shall there be any more pain ; for former things are passed away. God will wipe away all tears from the eyes of his people.” Their salvation is complete in all degrees :