« PoprzedniaDalej »
and hasty doctrine. For even as Jesus Christ himself was recalled from death to life with an entire, real, and perfect body,-neither did his soul perish or sleep in the intermediate time-,so we, who are the members of Christ, shall live in the soul after death; but, following our head, shall rise again with both body and soul at the last Judgment.
Of Eternal Life.
Eternal Life is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord: and of this Life those who are justified and reconciled to God by the merits of his only-begotten Son, are made heirs through the same merits, and not on account of any works or deservings of their own.
Eternal Life, according to scriptural phraseology, is that future state in which those who are pronounced blessed of the Father shall immediately be placed, when the irrevocable sentence of the Judgment-day shall have confirmed their title to celestial happiness. By this term is not simply meant, never-ending existence; for of this the condemned shall also be partakers: but a life of pure and perfect happiness resulting from the absence of sin, the wages of which is death; and from uninterrupted access to the Fountain of Life. This state is also called Immortality;-not that perpetuity is confined to the inhabitants of heaven, for the prisoners of hell shall never die; but because it is the most perfect state of existence to which created beings can be exalted,-because it is to be put in contra
distinction to that continued death or destruction of the soul, which is the portion of the wicked,—and because it was purchased by the Redeemer's victory over the spiritual enemy, who, as the author of sin, first subjected man to the punishment of mortality. It is spoken of as a state of Glory, not only because the bodies of those who shall be admitted into it, will be glorified, or cleansed from the infirmities of the flesh; but because their souls shall therein obtain that eternal'weight of glory which is to be revealed,-which cannot be fully comprehended by the earthly man, while his faculties are clogged and darkened by sen sual objects;-that glory which is the perfect consummation of bliss, both in body and soul, for which the faithful in all ages of the Church have earnestly prayed, and strenuously contended;-that glory to which they shall ultimately by the blessing of God attain, who have been endued with the excellent benefit of election in Christ-of being chosen to be made partakers of the privileges and aids of the covenant of grace,who, according to the eternal purpose of God to save those who embrace and perform the conditions of that covenant, have been called and admitted into the family of God, accounted righteous for the sake of Christ, and made heirs of the kingdom of heaven,who having received regenerating and preventing grace, have sought and obtained a continuance of the co-operating grace of the Holy Spirit, by whom they have been sanctified and rendered more and more conformable to the image of the only-begotten Son;that glory to which they shall assuredly attain who have duly profited by these inestimable advantages, and continued in that exercise of faith, repentance, and good works unto the end, to which the Almighty has
been pleased, in infinite mercy, to attach, for Christ's sake, an universal promise of future imperishable reward.
§ 2. When the Sacred Writings record our blessed Saviour's speaking of eternal Life as a reward, we are not to understand that such a reward is meant, as is due on account of the merit of our works, but only as a recompence, not of debt but of grace, for passive and active obedience, given for the sake of Christ, It has the name of a reward, because it is a recompence for affliction and good works; but the cer tain hope of the reward of eternal life is given to those only who believe in Jesus Christ. Good works do not therefore deserve reconciliation with God, and are not the price of eternal life; for it is absolutely requisite that reconciliation through a mediator should precede, in order that obedience may be accepted. Since, however, God does accept our obedience for the sake of Christ, although good works cannot deserve remission of sins and eternal life, yet, according to the divine promises, they may be crowned with other corporeal and spiritual rewards in this and in a future state; and certain good works have their ap propriate promises of recompence. For those, therefore, who are already reconciled to God, who are justified and adopted in his Son, good works will obtain the promised blessings of the present and a future life in proportion to their quality and number.
§3. Little as we are permitted to see and understand of the blessedness of everlasting Life, it is evident from the tenour of revelation, that those who obey the Gospel, and are guided by the Spirit of God in this
life, who keep the Commandments in their full evangelical sense, and on Christian motives, or by repentance obtain pardon for their transgressions, who rely on the divine promises for salvation through the intercession and for the merits of Jesus Christ, shall, in Life eternal, find holiness and happiness in the presence of GOD, who will then be to them all in all,-shall live in intimate communion with Christ himself, with angels and saints,-shall be freed from all cause of suffering, from sin and sorrow, from weakness, want, and care, and shall be qualified for unalloyed and spiritual enjoyment in the exaltation of those faculties which they have cultivated to good ends on earth, and in the direction of them to objects intrinsically sublime and excellent, the abundant sources of pure delight to all who are enabled to contemplate and understand such faultless objects.
§ 4. Relying on the guidance afforded us by the word of inspiration, we may conceive more particularly, that beatitude will consist in the operation of an improved mind reflecting upon, and being conversant with, the most sublime and lovely objects, and that this operation will not be transient or accidental, but permanent and inherent in the mental faculties.
Future blessedness may, therefore, be supposed to comprehend the Beatific Vision of the Deity,—Love, -and Joy.
By beatific vision is meant that more perfect knowledge to which the inhabitants of heaven are admitted by near approach to the Divinity: but, as God is a Spirit, and not the object of external senses, this knowledge must be purely spiritual. Whenever the Scriptures speak of God, as in the human form, and