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ON THE ENJOYMENTS OF MEN IN THEIR REDEEMED
The apostle Paul informs us, that when he was caught up to the third heavens," he heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for a man to utter.” In these realms of glory and immortality he saw the throne of the Eternal, and multitudes of angels and spirits of just men made perfect standing around it; and he listened to their song of praise. But though he was dazzled by the splendour of their appearance, and enraptured by the melodious sounds of the language in which they expressed their thoughts and feelings, he could not find words to convey to the minds of men upon earth a conception of the objects which he saw, and the sounds which he heard. Indeed, no adequate description of the heavenly state can be given, because human language is incapable of conveying to others any ideas but such as arise from the operations of the mind while it is connected with the body, and those which are produced by the objects of sensation; it is altogether unsuited to the objects with which spiritual beings are conversant in other and higher spheres of existence,
When the sacred writers describe its blessedness
they generally employ emblems selected from earthly things. They represent it by the figure of "treasure which neither moth nor rust doth corrupt.” They speak of it as “ the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus"- a crown of righteousness”. "a crown of glory"-"an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away"-and as kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world." These figures, although taken from objects which, in the estimation of men, are invested with all that is grand and glorious, fall infinitely short of what they are intended to represent. They bear no closer a resemblance to it than does the faint light of a twinkling star to the bright radiance of the noon-day sun. But when they give a negative description of heaven, or contrast it with the present state of imperfection and suffering and death, they place it more fully before the mind, and render it a more striking and impressive object of contemplation. Respecting the community whose place of residence it is, they say: “ the sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee : but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.”—“ And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain : for the former things are passed away." These expressions, although descriptive of what heaven is not, rather than of what it is, are designed to make us conceive of it as the dwelling-place of pure, satisfying, eternal happiness. They comprehend, indeed, everything which can be desired; everything which can be enjoyed in a state of perfection by intelligent beings.
It will be requisite, however, to descend to particulars; and, if possible, to trace that happiness to the various sources whence it springs. This may enable us to form a somewhat more definite conception of its nature, and excite us to greater diligence in the cultivation of the dispositions and habits requisite to the enjoyment of it.
First, Redeemed men shall be completely exempted from the effects of the curse. • There shall be no more curse.
This is mentioned by the apostle John as one of the circumstances which places heaven, as a sphere of existence, immeasurably above this earth, and which renders it so desirable. It was the curse which originally spread an universal blight over this fair creation; and it continues to fill the habitations of men with suffering and
Look for a moment at the awful terms of the threatening :-" Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception : in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children ; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee; and thou shalt eat of the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground : for out of it wast thou taken : for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Keeping out of view altogether, at present, that part of it which relates to the state of the soul after the infliction of death-although that is beyond all comparison the more fearful-how much evil does it entail
upon the human family in this life! In consequence of the baneful influence which it has shed over the earth, men are subjected to incessant toil in order to sustain life ; and they experience, in all their endlessly diversified forms, the inconveniences and pains which necessarily follow it. Although they were formed for activity, and were so constituted as to derive their highest enjoyment from the vigorous exercise of their faculties, the kind and the degree of labour to which they are doomed in consequence of sin, not only interfere with the high and noble pursuits which would have occupied their attention had they continued in a sinless state—they are the immediate cause of a vast amount of positive suffering. Exhaustion and weariness and fatigue are almost daily felt; and, in the great majority of instances, there is no respite enjoyed from the servile drudgery till they
are consigned to the house appointed for all living. “ There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest."
That, however, is but a small part of the evil. The curse has brought along with it a dark retinue of cares and arxieties and fears; and these have cast a cheerless gloom over the path of life, and neutralized all earthly enjoyments. There are few things which are found to be more inimical to happiness than uncertainty and solicitude, and the forebodings of real or imaginary calamities. Yet who that has run the ordinary course of human life is a stranger to them, or is incapable of telling from experience the painful effect which they have upon the mind! The causes which produce them are universally in operation, and, while they exist, men will continue to be the subjects of the most distressing emotions.
Besides, there is an incalculable amount of evil experienced in consequence of the universal reign of death. It is not, however, by a mere surface view of society that we can form a conception of its magnitude, or of the diversified ways in which it affects mankind. We must take a more minute survey, and contemplate an individual case. And how inexpressibly painful is the scene! When you enter the chamber of the sufferer, and reflect on all the circumstances of his condition, both personal and relative, you are completely overwhelmed. The emaciated frame, worn out by disease ; the pallid countenance, in which are visible the lineaments of death ; the faint,