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CONCERNING THE COMMUNION
THE SAINTS ON EARTH,
THE SPIRITS OF JUST MEN,
MADE PERFECT IN HEAVEN.
• Psal. xxxi. 12. || Mal. iii. 16.
DIVINE providence having of late removed from the stage of this world, many worthy ministers, pious relations, and choice christian friends, I bethought myself how their removal might be improved, though their bodies are laid in the silent dust; and in that respect, are in the circumstances of a "dead man out of mind, in the land of forgetfulness." * Whether active or passive, themselves not remembering any thing, nor others remembering them; yet notwithstanding, they are alive to God, and with God, "and the memory of the just is blessed,"† and must not be altogether forgotten by survivors. If it become us not "to be slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience, inherit the promises," then must we also remember them for that purpose; and if God write a book of remembrance concerning them, surely we should; || and not only of their conduct, whilst in the flesh with us, but of their present circumstances and employment in their blessed state above, so far as our limited capacities can conceive of them from scripture revelation; and we should conform ourselves to them according to the platform of prayer taught us by our Saviour, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. §
This conformity to the saints above, and communion with them, is a duty seldom studied, and as rarely practised. Divines tell us of a sevenfold communion that saints have.¶-They have communion with God the Father, 1 John i. 3.-With Christ the Son, 1 Cor. i. 9.-With the Holy Ghost, 2 Cor. xiii. 14. With the holy angels, Heb. i. 14.-With all the true members of Christ's mystical body on earth, Eph. iv. 12, 13.-With the
+ Prov. x. 7.
Heb. vi. 12. Dr. Pearson on the Creed, p. 714.
members of the same society, 1 Cor. x. 16.—And with the saints departed. The last is that which is handled in the ensuing Treatise.
That this communion of saints is a fundamental article of a Christian's faith cannot be denied; though by many misinterpreted and practically decried, yet many that stand up for it, will not stand up to practise it without reserve; most men confining their communion to their own party, excluding all from their fellowship, that differ from them, though in things not essential. Most understand not how Christians at a distance, can have any communion in spirit, though Paul saith to the church at Colosse, "Though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit." Many are dark, most of a private, few of a catholic spirit, so as to think and act according to the latitude of this principle.
I think it is beyond all question, that the church of God is rightly distributed into militant here on earth, and that called triumphant in heaven; there is an upper and lower part of the New Jerusalem. That "above is free, which is the mother of us all." The cabalists observe that the word Jerusalem, is of the dual number, to denote doth a heavenly and earthly city; and they say, the taking away of the letter jod out of Jerusalem, 2 Sam. v. 13, hwn o doth intimate the taking away of the earthly and establishing the heavenly. But that above, and this below, differ not in kind, but degree; both are children of one father, have union to one head, are members of the same body, are animated by one and the same spirit, and employed in the same service, for the same common end, the advancement of God's glory. These in the lower room, have the "earnest of of the Spirit," which is a pledge of that felicity which those above enjoy; they are endeared to them in affection, reverence their memory, imitate their holiness, hope and long to be with them; but dare not adore them, nor beg their suffrages for them in their prayers, or their merits to pass for them, which were contrary to scripture; and irrational, because they know not our hearts; injurious to Christ our mediator, and absolute idolatry, as Protestant divines have demonstrated sufficiently against the Papists. Another opinion of some of the ancients has degraded the
• Col. ii. 5.
+ Gal. iv. 26.
saints departed; some thinking that their souls are shut up in some subterraneous places till the day of judgment, and that only martyrs enter paradise, which, they say, is a place beneath the heavens; but we believe according to Paul's description of paradise, that it is in the third heaven, 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4.—that the angels carried Lazarus into Abraham's bosom*—that the thief upon the cross went immediately into that paradise where Christ himself wast-and that the spirits of just men, are upon their dissolution made perfect in the immediate enjoyment of God. There was but a moment of interval betwixt Paul's being in the flesh, and his being with Christ in glory.‡
Well then, we do firmly believe, that our pious friends and relations, dying in the Lord, are wafted through the air, the devil's territories, into the empyrean heavens, where they "shall be ever with the Lord, and see God face to face; where God is glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe." Yea, the "saints shall judge the world, and sit with Christ on his throne."§ O happy day! O triumphant joy ! doth it not make our hearts leap within us, to consider that our parents, children, husbands, wives, dear christian friends, with whom we have walked, watched, fasted, and prayed, are now safely lodged in the mansions above? It is true, we miss their company, but should not love to them drown our sorrow for them? should not godly sympathy make us rejoice with them that rejoice? shall we not by faith see them standing on the shore, arrived in that blessed haven, where we hope in God's time to arrive, though now tossed on this tumultuous sea? They behold us, and wish us safe with them, as we pray for the resurrection of their bodies. We may be glad that the society above is increased, though ours be diminished here below; yet praying and hoping the "Lord will add unto his church daily such as shall be saved, and will be with it to the end of the world."
What a blessed prospect can faith display, when her piercing eye can peep through the curtains of mortality, and with stoned Stephen behold "God the Father, and Jesus in our flesh, at
Luke xvi. 22.
+ Luke xxiii. 43. 2 Thess. i. 10.
§ 1 Cor. vi. 2.
Phil. i. 23, 24.