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As to the hope which the Apostle has formed concerning them, he himself refers to the accomplishment of it to the coming of Christ, meaning that then he should receive the recompense of his labours in their behalf: his joy and glory he refers likewise to the same period, both which would result from the sight of such numbers redeemed by the blessing of God upon his ministration, when he should present them before the great Judge, and say in the words of a greater than himself, “ Lo! I, and the children whom thou hast gi. ven me.” This seems to imply that the Apostle should know the converts, and the converts the Apostle, at least at the day of judgment; and if then, why not afterwards?
See also the 4th chapter of that Epistle, 13, 14, 16, which I have not room to transcribe. Here the Apostle comforts them under their affliction, for their deceased brethren, exhorting them.“ Not to sorrow as without hope :” and what is the hope by which he teaches them to support their spirits ? Even this, " That them which sleep in Jesus shall God bring with him." In other words, and by a fair paraphrase surely, telling them they are only taken from them for a season, and that they should receive them at the resurrection.
If you can take off the force of these texts, my dear cousin, you will go a great way towards shaking my opinion ; if not, I think they must go a great way to. wards shaking yours.
The reason why I did not send you my opinion of Pearshall was, because I had not then read him. I have read him since, and like him much, especially the latter part of him; but you have whetted my curiosity to see the last letter by tearing it out. Unless you can give me a good reason why I should not see it, I shall inquire for the book the next time I go to Cambridge. Perhaps I may be partial to Hervey for the sake of his other writings, but I cannot give Pearshall the preference to him, for I think him one of the most scriptural writers in the world.
LETTER VII. To Mrs. COWPER, at the Park-House, Hartford.
April 18, 1766. MY DEAR Cousin,
Having gone as far as I thought needful to justify the opinion of our meeting and knowing each other hereafter, I find, upon reflection, that I have done but half my business, and that one of the questions you proposed remains entirely unconsidered, viz. “ Whether the things of our present state will not be of too low and mean a nature to engage our thoughts, or make a part of our communications in Heaven.?”
The common and ordinary occurrences of life no doubt, and even the ties of kindred, and all temporal interests, will be entirely discarded from amongst that happy society, and possibly even the remembrance of them done away. But it does not, therefore, follow that our spiritual concerns, even in this life, will be forgotten ; neither do I think that they can ever appear triling to us in anythe most distant period of eternity. God, as you say in reference to the Scripture, will be all in all. But does not that expression mean, that being admitted to so near an approach to our heavenly Father and Redeemer, our whole nature, the soul, and all its faculties, will be employed sin praising and adoring him ? Doubtless, however, this will be the case ; and if so, will it not furnish out a glorious theme of thanksgiving to recollect “ The rock whence we were hewn, and the hole of the pit whence we were digged?” To recollect the time when our faith, which, under the tuition and nurture of the Holy Spirit, has produced such a plentiful harvest of immortal bliss, was as a grain of mustard-seed, small in itself, promising but little fruit, and producing less? To recollect the various attempts that were made upon it by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and its various triumphs over all, by the assistance of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ ? At present, whatever our convictions may be of the sinfulness and corruption of our nature, we can make but a very imperfect estimate either of onr weakness or our guilt. Then, no doubt, we shall understand the full value of the wonderful salvation wrought out for us : and it seems reasonabls to suppose, that in order to form a just idea of our redemption, we shall be able to form a just one of the danger we have escaped; when we know how weak and frail we were, surely we shall be more able to render due praise and honour to his strength who fought for us ; when we know completely the hatefulness of sin in the sight of God, and how deeply we were tainted by it, we shall know how to va. lue the blood by which we are cleansed as we ought. The twenty-four Elders in the 5th of the Revelations, give glory to God for their redemption, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. This surely implies a retrospect to their respective conditions upon earth, and that each remembered out of what particular kindred and nation he had been redeemed; and if so, then surely the minutest circumstance of their redemption did not escape their memory. They who triumph over the Beast in the 15th chapter, sing the Song of Moses, the servant of God: and what was that Song? A sublime record of Israel's deliverance, and the destruction of her enemies in the Red-Sea, typical no doubt of the Song which the redeemed in Sion shall sing to celebrate their own salvation, and the defeat of their spiritual enemies. This again implies a recollection of the dangers they had before encountered, and the supplies of strength and ardour they had in every emergency received from the great Deliverer out of all. These quotations do not indeed prove that their warfare upon earth includes a part of their converse with each other, but they prove that it is a theme not unworthy to be heard even before the throne of God, and therefore it cannot be unfit for reciprocal communica
But you doubt whether there is any communication between the blessed at all, neither do I recollect any Scripture that proves it, or bears any relation to the subject. But reason seems to require it so peremptori, ly, that a society without social intercourse seems to be a solecism, and a contradiction in terms, and the inhabitants of those regions are called, you know, in Scripture, an innumerable company, and an assembly, which seems to convey the idea of society as clearly as the word itself. Human testimony weighs but little in matters of this sort ; but let it have all the weight it can: I know no greater names in divinity than Watts and Doddridge ; they were both of this opinion, and I send you the words of the latter :
66 Our companions in glory may probably assist us by their wise and good observations when we come to make the Providence of God, here upon earth, under the guidance and directions of our Lord Jesus Christ, the subject of our mutual converse.”
Thus, my dear cousin, I have spread out my reasons hefore you for an opinion which, whether admitted or denied, affects not the state or interest of our soul :
May our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, conduct us into his own Jerusalem, where there shall be no night, neither any darkness at all, where we shall be free even from innocent error, and perfect in the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
LETTER VIII. To Mrs. COWPER, at the Park-House, Hartford,
Huntingdon, Sept. 3, 1766. MY DEAR Cousin,
It is reckoned, you know, a great achievement to silence an opponent in dispntation, and your silence was of so long continuance, that I might well begin to please myself with the apprehena sion of having accomplished so arduous a matter. To be serious, however, I am not sorry that what I have said concerning our knowlege of each other in a future state, has a little inclined you to the affirmative : For though the redeemed of the Lord shall be sure of being as happy in that state as infinite power, employed by infinite goodness, can make them, and therefore it may seem immaterial whether we shall or shall not recollect each other hereafter ; yet our present happiness at least is a little interested in the question. A parent, a friend, a wife, must needs, I think, feel a little heartache at the thought of an eternal separation from the objects of her regard : and not to know them when she meets them in another life, or never to meet them at all, amounts, though not altogether, yet nearly to the same thing. Remember them, I think, she needs must. To hear that they are happy will indeed be no small