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God's right hand, an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and church of the first-born, written in heaven, and the spirits of just men made perfect;" even those who but lately were accounted the scorn and off-scouring of the world; hated, nick-named, fined, imprisoned, banished, not judged worthy of room in the church, nor on earth, by the malignant world. O surprising change! to see these very saints entertained with applause, “clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,"* in token of triumph, and admitted into the presence-chamber, whilst their cruel adversaries are thrust down amongst devils, in regions of darkness for ever. O who would not be a child of God in rags, rather than sit with profane princes in their greatest glory!
Consent and harmony is the perfection of the universe, as being the music of the spheres. Divines tell us of a threefold unity. Of persons in one nature; as the three persons of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.-Of two natures in one person; the divine and human in Christ.-Of many persons and natures of one quality and disposition; this is in the mystical body of Christ. This is in some measure begun here, and perfected in heaven, when all shall sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, and there shall be no jarring in the music. O happy day, when they shall see eye to eye, and serve God with one consent! Who would not be glad to join in that concert and choir? Who would not long and say, "Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with them that hate peace."† In heaven there are no Babel builders, no confusion of languages; as they are intelligible one to another, so they all speak the language of Canaan, which some think will be the Hebrew tongue, if indeed they employ any articulate sound. There have been fine and ingenious projects of a universal character, for words or things, to make all the world understand one another, a curious invention! but if that fail, this will holdin heaven the saints are sweetly concentred.
Would to God there were more of this blessed society! the more and welcomer, there is room for all, the mansions are large, the feast plenteous; there are rivers of pleasures, an + Psal. cxx. 5, 6.
• Rev. vii. 9.
ocean of delight; they must enter into their master's joy; as thousands of vessels cast into the sea, all are filled, but all cannot contain it.
Who would not be of this number? O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity, and slight this celestial glory! Dreadful is your case if you be found out of Christ, in a state of nature. You that have attended ordinances, conversed with believers, professed to be of their number, how astonishing will it be to see so many come from all parts of the world, and “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," and you the professed children of the kingdom shut out?* Virgins foolish, because without oil, rapping at the door, and howling, rejected with I know you not; while the wise are admitted with honour. Look to it, every one is not accepted; what is your choice now, must be your case for ever. If now you walk in the way of genuine Christians, you shall have a reward with them. If you despise them as a company of frantic, or melancholy fools, because they have prayed, wept, and kept a needless stir in religion, you are like to be expelled out of their society for ever.
I shall say no more at present, but acquaint the world with the occasion of this short Tract. God had removed a very excellent minister, who left a solitary widow, and many sad hearts; this Sermon was studied and preached to comfort mourners; God made it useful for that end. A stranger of another county providentially heard it, and desired a copy of it; I transcribed it, and committed it to his disposal, to send it to the press or not, at his option.
Such as it is, I refer it to the reader's judgment, and myself to the prayers of Christians, for a sinful creature, yet a messenger of Christ,
Matt. viii. 1, 12.
HEBREWS XII. 23.
-And to the spirits of just men made perfect.
THESE words are to be considered in two points of view :
1. Absolutely, or abstractedly, as in themselves: or, 2. Relatively, or in their connection.
A word or two may be advanced on the text in the former sense, from whence may arise these observations.
Obs. 1. That there are spirits distinct from the bodies of men.
I remark this the rather, because Sadduceeism prevails much amongst us; the Sadducees say, "There is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit," Acts xxiii, 8. Practical atheists are numerous, and speculative dogmatizing atheists are too many, notwithstanding the many volumes written against them. The Sadducees judged the soul to be only a crasis or temperament of the body and its humours. The ancients say of them, that they affirmed God himself to be corporeal; but God is a spirit, and the souls of men are spirits; hence God is said to be "The Father of spirits,* who formed
• John iv. 24. Heb. xii. 9.
the spirit of man within him ;"* the constitution of man's nature proves this, yea, the exercise of his reason supposes it; he that denies it contradicts his very being. There is, saith Elihu, “A spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." It is true, it is hard to conceive what this soul is, and harder to define it; it is a heavenly spark, lighted by the breath of God, of the same nature with that of angels; spirit is the genus, angel is a species comprehended under it. The soul of man is a faint resemblance of God; the faculties of the soul resemble the Trinity in vital action, intellection, and volition; therefore it has been defined to be a vital, intellectual, volitive spirit, animating a human organized body. The powers of the soul are the instruments of reason. I need not however insist on this, but shall take it for granted amongst rational creatures.
Obs. 2. That spirits are substances, having an existence separate from bodies.
When men breathe out their last, the soul expires not; it hath an existence and agency without the body. The essence of the soul is eternal, it had a beginning, but shall have no end; it is a blossom of eternity; while it is in the body, it is called the soul; when it is separated from the body, it is not properly a soul, but a spirit. Hence, in the text, we read "the spirits of just men," and our Saviour saith, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones;" and Stephen dying, saith, “"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
That the soul is a substance, not a mere accident, is thus proved:
(1.) That which is nothing, can do nothing. the soul doth move, understand, will; therefore it hath
Luke xxiv. 39. Acts vii. 59.
* Zech. xii. 1. + Job xxxii. 8. Non existentis, non est actus.