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are among the spirits of just men made perfect. O what a comfort it is to think, my pious father, my zealous mother, and predecessors are ascended into paradise, and are now beholding the unveiled face of God in the beatifical vision; we remember their tears, groans, and complaints because of the body of death, and distance from God; but now all tears are wiped from their eyes, and sin from their souls; they shall sorrow no more at all; they have taken up their abode in the celestial mansions, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the holy patriarchs, and prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors; these died in faith, are perfect in love, and are as happy as their souls are capable of being at present; "waiting for the final consummation of their felicity in soul and body, at the general resurrection, "When the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first, and they that are found alive shall be changed, and caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be for ever with the Lord. Wherefore let us comfort one another with these words.”* There is comfort at present, to think that part of ourselves is glorified; my affectionate wife, my sweet children, have got the start of me, and have commenced, in that famous university, distinguished scholars in the profoundest gospel mysteries; saints in the highest attainments of grace and sanctity, and complete graduates in happiness, and everlasting felicity. O blessed state! their joy is my comfort; their holiness enlargeth my heart in gratitude, that there is such a state, and my best friends are got thither, though I be grovelling below, in this valley of Achor. O that I could discourse one hour with my * 1 Thess. iv. 16-18. 1 Cor. xv. 51.
companion on that celestial state above! His body sleeps in Jesus, his soul converseth with Jesus; the sting of death is gone, and the crown of glory is placed on his triumphant head; his body rests in hope,* his spirit hath attained the end of his hope; why should I complain that I want my dear friend, when in some sense I have him, and am come to him in association and communion? I need not want him if I had but a heart to improve my connection with him. O that my heart were elevated above this narrow polluted world, to that blessed state! I will study my duty, meditate on the felicity of departed friends, and hie after them, rather than spend my days in lamentation for my loss; let God be glorified, souls saved, and I am satisfied.
7. It is a high preferment, to be advanced by death, amongst the spirits of just men made perfect. Souls are like angels, whether men or women gracious spirits here shall be equally glorified. The essential happiness of the departed, is to be ever with the Lord; an additional happiness is to be with the blessed spirits above.
O what a meeting will that be of the pious husband and wife, that prayed and wept together here, and now shall be with each other, and both with their dear Lord for ever.
The pastor shall own his child in Christ; "which shall be his joy and crown of rejoicing." The convert shall own the instrument of his conversion, and say, This, O this is my spiritual father in Christ! At such a time, in such a place, by such a sermon, God touched my conscience and sent me home with a bleeding heart, by the same means he satisfied my soul of my interest in Christ; and by the same ordinance built t1 Thess. ii. 19, 20.
* Psalm xvi. 9.
ine up in holiness; and now he that sowed and we that reap rejoice together. O blessed day, that ever I saw that man's face or heard his voice!
The father will say of his poor depraved or prodigal child, whom the Lord hath restored, I should never have had so many errands to the throne of grace, had it not been for that sad trial; that was a costly child, for I had never gone so frequently and fervently to to God in prayer, had not that untoward youth sent me with a mournful heart and many a briny tear; but God heard me, and it was as life from the dead. I acknowledge such a child as a Samuel; and such a signal mercy shall occasion joy and hallelujahs to all eternity.
The gracious child will look with joy on his pious parents, and bless God for a religious education, for prayers, example, instruction and admonition, which God blessed to his soul's good. O what a mercy! he will say, that I enjoyed such pious parents, who were always dear to me, but never so much so as now.
Thus it will be amongst christian friends that have conversed, and wept, and prayed, and enjoyed the seals of the covenant together. What a soul-reviving meeting will they have in glory!
You will say perhaps, how are you certain that the saints will know one another in heaven? I answer, we are not certain; but it is probable, because they shall enjoy that which will most contribute to their comfort, and doubtless this mutual knowledge and review of their former intercourse would very much. Luther, on the evening before he died affirmed it, saying, that Adam knew Eve to be part of himself; and the disciples knew Moses and Elias with Jesus in the mount of transfiguration, &c. Not that they will have such a knowledge of each other as they had in the * John iv. 36.
flesh, for it will be refined from all the dregs of sense, and become like that of angels.
Divines dispute profoundly about the manner of spirits discoursing or notifying their minds to each other. I doubt not the thing; but we, being so ignorant of the nature and operations of spirits, are not able exactly to conceive of it or describe it. O, what an accession will it be to the saints' happiness, that they shall meet with such as they have known here, and celebrated saints whom they never saw in this world, to communicate experiences, solely to the glory of their supreme Lord, to whom alone the rent of glory is due. O happy meeting never to part any more! there will be no schisms, sinful passions, censures, reflections, unkind withdrawings; but all the saints there shall be one society, united together in perfect harmony, fully illuminated with the crystal beams of the sun of righteousness, and bathing their naked souls in the refreshing streams of life and love. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. O blessed day! when there shall be no more quarrels, nor jarrings; and when all those devout friends to whom our hearts were knit in the Lord, who departed before us in the faith of Christ, whom we thought we had lost, and bewailed as Jacob did Joseph, shall meet together with more joy than Jacob met his son. O what embraces, uniting of spirits and mutual interchanges of celestial favours will there be ! what reciprocal affection will there be! Nor is it any diminution of Christ's honour that he there maketh use of our fellow creatures to complete our joy. The sun shineth upon the stars as well as on the earth, and the stars on one another. The whole creation, saith a great divine, will be still one compact frame, and the heavenly society will for ever retain their relation to
one another, and their aptitude and disposition to the duties and benefit of their relations.
O when shall my soul leave this tempestuous sea, and enter that haven of rest? How long shall I dwell in Meshech? how long must I be travelling in this uneven road? when shall I come to the mount of God? If it were not for the rare and delightful visits I have from God, this world would be a hell. Did not my soul enjoy some sweetness in the communion of saints, it would be a howling wilderness: but what is this pleasure to that above, where these souls shall be purified from all the dregs of ignorance, error, and partiality, and sublimated to the highest degree of which a creature is capable? How gloriously will God shine in the glory of the blessed! How delightful will it be to see their perfection in wisdom, holiness, love, and concord! There will be no jarring or discordant spirit out of tune. If I go from affectionate friends on earth, I shall go to such as will love me incomparably better; and I shall love them better, because both shall be better, and more lovely, and love more perfectly. It costs some pains here to raise my thoughts to heavenly objects; but when I shall be above, it will be natural to delight in God and in his saints: contemplation will lead to full communion. O what a blessed harmony of minds, wills, and exercises! There is nothing except confusion in this lower world, but perfect order will be above. Let death come and deliver this weary spirit, pressed down with guilt and corruption, from all the evils of this sinful life, and raise me up among the spirits of just men made perfect.
I shall on this occasion conclude with a passage taken out of Mr. Baxter's Dying thoughts, page 198, which doth somewhat illustrate my proposition, concerning the communion of saints below and the spirits