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begins our blessedness; oh the cowardice of our unbelief, if we shrink at so momentary a purchase of eternity! How many have we known, that, for a false reputation of honour, have rushed into the jaws of death, when we are sure they could not come back to enjoy it; and do I tremble at a minute's pain, that shall feoff me in that glory, which I cannot but for ever enjoy? How am I ashamed to hear a heathen Socrates, encouraging himself against the fears of death, from his resolution of meeting with some famous persons in that other world; and to feel myself shrugging at a short brunt of pain, that shall put me into the bliss-making presence of the all-glorious God, into the sight of the glorified Humanity of my Dear Redeemer, into the society of all the Angels and Saints of Heaven !
SECT. III. OF THE SOUL'S PERPETUAL VIGILANCY, AND FRUITION OF GOD. It is no other than a frantic dream of those erroneous spirits, that have fancied the Sleep of the Soul; and that, so long and deep a sleep, as from the evening of the dissolution, till the morning of the resurrection: so as, all that while, the soul hath no vision of God, no touch of joy or pain. An error, wickedly raked up out of the ashes of those Arabic heretics, whom Origen is said to have reclaimed: and, since that time, taken up, if they be not slandered, by the Armenians and Fratricelli; and once countenanced and abetted by Pope John the XXIId. as Pope Adrian witnesseth; yea, so enforced by him upou the University of Paris, as that all access to degrees was barred unto any whosoever refused to subscribe and swear to that damnable position.
The Minorites began to find relish in that poison; which, no doubt, had proceeded to further mischief, had not the interposition of Philip, the then French king, happily quelled that uncomfortable and pernicious doctrine, so as we might hoped it should never have dared more to look into the light.
But, woe is me, these prodigious times, amongst a world of other uncouth heresies, have not stuck to fetch even this also back from the region of darkness, whither it was sent.
Indeed, who can but wonder that any Christian can possibly give entertainment to so absurd a thought; while he hears his Saviour say, Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am ; and thai, not in a safe sleep, they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; John xvii. 24. Behold it? yea, but when ? at last perhaps, when the body shall be resumed? Nay, to choke this cavil, the bliss is present, even already possessed: The glory, which thou gavest me, I have given to them ; v. 22. It was accordingly his gracious word to the penitent thief, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
How clear is that of the Chosen Vessel, opposing our present condition to the succeeding; For now we see through a glass darkly; but then, that is, upon our dissolution, face to face, 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
v. 22. dah shalt thou be of the choskow we see thoroface,
the face of the soul to the face of God! the infinite amiableness whereof was that, which inflamed the longing desire of the blessed Apostle to depart and to be with Christ; as knowing these two inseparable, the instant of his departure, and his presence with Christ: else, the departure were no less worthy of fear, as the utmost of evils; than now it is of wishing for, as our entrance into blessedness.
Away, then, with that impious frenzy of the soul's, whether mor. tality or sleep in death. No, my soul, thou dost then begin to live: thou dost not awake, till then. Now, while thou art in the bed of this living clay, thine eyes are shut; thy spiritual senses are tied up; thou art apt to snort, in a sinful security; thou dreamest of earthly vanities: then, only then, are thine eyes opened, thy spiritual faculties freed, all thy powers quickened, and thou art perpetually presented with objects of eternal glory. And, if at any time during this pilgrimage, thine eye-lids have been some little raised by divine meditations; yet, how narrowly, how dimly art thou wont to see! now, thine eyes shall be so broadly and fully opened, that thou shalt see whole heaven at once; yea, which is more, the face of that God, whose presence makes it heaven.
O glorious sight! () most blessed condition! Wise Solomon could truly observe, that the eye is not satisfied with seeing; neither indeed can it be here below. Nothing is so great a glutton as the eye: for, when we have seen all that we can, we shall still wish to see more; and that more is nothing, if it be less than al). But this Infinite Object, which is more than all, shall so fill and satisfy our eyes, that we cannot desire the sight of any other; nor ever be glutted with the sight of this. Old Simeon, when once he had lived to see the Lord of Life clothed in flesh, could say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. If he were so full of the sight of his Šaviour, in the weakness of human flesh, and in the form of a servant: how is he more than sated with the perfection of joy and heavenly detestation, to see the Saviour clothed with majesty; ta see his all-glorious Godhead; and so to see, as to enjoy them; and so enjoy them, as that he shall never intermit their sight and fruition to all eternity.
SECT. IV. OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GLORIFIED. As concerning all other matters, what the Knowledge is of our souls, separated and glorified, we shall then know when ours come to be such: in the mean time, we can much less know their thoughts, than they can know ours. Sure we are, they do not know in such manner as they did, when they were in our bosoms; by help of senses and phantasms, by the discursive inferences of ratiocination: but that they are elevated to a condition suitable to the blessed angels, so that they know like tiem: though not by the means of a natural knowledge, as they; yet by that super
natural light of intimation, which they receive by their glorified estate.
Whether by virtue of this divine illumination, they know the particular occurrences, which we meet with here below; he were bold, that would determine: only this, we may confidently affirm, that they do clearly know all those things, which do any way appertain to their estate of blessedness.
Amongst which, whether the knowledge of each other in that region of happiness may justly be ranked, is not unworthy of our disquisition.
Doubtless, as in God there is all perfection eminently and transcendently; so, in the sight and fruition of God, there cannot be but full and absolute felicity: yet this is so far from excluding the knowledge of those things which derive their goodness and excel. lency from him, as that it compriseth and supposeth it. Like as it is also, in our affections : we love God only, as the chief good; yet so, as that we love other things, in order to God. Charity is 110 more subject to loss, than knowledge: both these shall accompany our souls to, and in, that other world. As then, we shall perfectly love God, and his Saints in him; so shall we know both: and, though it be a sufficient motive of our love in heaven, that we know them to be Saints; yet it seems to be no small addition to our happiness, to know that those Saints were once ours. And, if it be a just joy to a parent here on earth to see his child gracious, how much more accession shall it be to bis joy above, to see the fruits of his loins glorious; when both his love is more pure, and their improvement absolute! Can we make any doubt, that the blessed angels know each other? How senseless were it, to grant that no knowledge is hid from them, but of themselves! Or, can we imagine that those angelical spirits do not take special notice of those souls, which they have guarded here, and conducted to their glory? If they do so, and if the knowledge of our beatified souls shall be like to theirs, why should we abridge our souls more than them, of the comfort of our interknowing? Surely, our dissolution shall abate nothing of our natural faculties; our glory shall advance them, so as what we once knew we shall know better: and, if our souls can then perfectly know themselves, why should they be denied the knowledge of others?
Doubt not then, O my soul, but thou shalt once see, besides the face of thy God whose glory fills heaven and earth, the blessed spirits of the ancient Patriarchs and Prophets; the holy Apostles and Evangelists; the glorious Martyrs and Confessors; those eminent Saints, whose holiness thou wert wont to magnify; and, amongst them, those in whom nature and grace have especially interested thee: thou shalt see them; and enjoy their joy, and they thine. How oft have I measured a long and foul journey, to see some good friend; and digested the tediousness of the way, with the expectation of a kind entertainment, and the thought of that complacency which I should take in so dear a presence! and yetperhaps, when I have arrived, I have found the house disor
complacentation of a kind digested the long and four joy, and
i was too much, ight, as yet, of Glory of his Said please bim
dered, one sick, another disquieted, myself indisposed: with what cheerful resolution should I undertake this my last voyage, where I shall meet with my best friends, and find them perfectly happy, and myself with them!
SECT. V. OF THE GLORY OF HEAVEN ENJOYED BY BLESSED SOULS. How often have I begged of my God, that it would please bim to shew me some little glimpse of the Glory of his Saints! It is not for me, to wish the sight, as yet, of the face of that Divine Majesty : this was too much, for a Moses to sue for: my ambition only is, that I might, if but as it were through some cranny or key-hole of the gate of heaven, see the happy condition of his glorious servants.
I know what hinders me; my miserable unworthiness, my spi. ritual blindness. () God, if thou please to wash off my clay with the waters of thy Siloam, I shall have eyes : and, if thou anoint them with thy precious eye-salve, those eyes shall be clear; and enabled to behold those glories, which shall ravish my soul.
And now, Lord, what pure and resplendent light is this, wherein thy blessed ones dwell! How justly did thine ecstatical Apostle call it the inheritance of the Saints in light! Col. i. 12: light unexpressible, light unconceivable, light inaccessible! Lo, thou, that hast prepared such a light to this inferior world, for the use and comfort of us mortal creatures, as the glorious sun, which can both enlighten and dazzle the eyes of all beholders; hast proportionally ordained a light to that higher world, so much more excellent than the sun, as heaven is abore earth, immortality above corruption. And, if wise Solomon could say, Truly the light is sweet ; and a pleasant thing it is, for the eyes to see the sun ; Eccl. xi. 7: how infinitely delectable is it, in thy light to see such light, as may make the sun, in comparison thereof, darkness! In thy presence is the fulness of joy, and at thy right-hand are pleasures for evermore. What can be wished more, where there is fulness of joy? and, behold, thy presence, () Lord, yields it.
Could I neither see saint nor angel in that whole imperial heaven, none but thine Infinite Self, Thyself alone were happiness for me more than enough. But, as thou, in whom, here below, we live, and move, and have our being, detractest nothing from thine all-sufficiency; but addest rather to the praise of thy bounty, in that thou furnishest us with variety of means of our life and subsistence: so here, it is the praise of thy wonderful mercies, which thou allowest us, besides thine immediate presence, the society of thy blessed angels and saints, wherein we may also enjoy thee.
And, if the view of any of those single glories be enough to fill my soul with wonder and contentment; how must it needs run over at the sight of those worlds of beauty and excellency, which are here met and united! Lo here, the blessed hierarchy of innumerable Angels; there, the glorious company of the Apostles: here, the goodly fellowship of the Patriarchs and Prophets; there,
the noble army of Martyrs : here, the troops of laborious Pastors and Teachers; there, the numberless multitudes of holy and conscionable Professors. Lord, what exquisite order is here; what perfection of glory!
And if, even in thine eyes, thy poor despised Church upon earth be so beautiful and amiable, fair as the moon, clear as the sun ; Cant. vi. 10 : which yet, in the eyes of flesh, seems but homely and hard favoured : how infinite graces and perfections shall our spiritual eyes see, in thy giorified spouse above! what pure sanctity! what sincere charity! what clear knowledge! what absolute joy ! what entire union! what wonderful majesty! what complete felicity! All shine alike in their essential glory, but not without difference of degrees. All are adorned with crowns; some also, with coronets : some glister with a sky-like, others with a star-like, clearness: the least hath so much, as to make him so happy, that he would not wish to have more; the greatest hath so much, that he cannot receive more.
O divine distribution of bounty, where is no possibility of either want or envy! O transcendent royalty of the Saints! One heaven is more than a thousand kingdoms; and every Saint hath right to all : so as every subject is here a sovereign ; and every sovereign is absolute, under the free homage of an Infinite Creator. Lo here, crowns, without cares; sceptres, without burden; rule, without trouble ; reigning, without change. Oh, the transitory vanity of all earthly greatness! Gold is the most during metal; yet even that yields to age: Solomon's rich diadem of the pure gold of Ophir, is long since dust: these crowns of glory are immarcescible, incorruptible; beyond all the compass of time; without all possibility of alteration. Oh, the pressing and unsatisfying contentments of earth! How many poor great ones below have that, which they call honour and riches, and enjoy them not; and, if they have enjoyed them, complain of satiety and worthlessness ! Lo here, a free scope of perfect joy, of constant blessedness, without mixture, without intermission : each one feels his own joy, feels each other's; all rejoice in God, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory; and most sweetly bathe themselves, in a pure and complete blissfulness. This very sight of blessed souls is happiness; but oh, for the fruition!
Go now, my soul, and, after this prospect, doat upon those silly profits and pleasures, which have formerly bewitched thee; and, if thou canst, forbear to long after the possession of this blessed immortality; and repine at the message of this so advantageous a translation; and pity and lament the remove of those dear pieces of thyself, which have gone before thee to this unspeakable felicity.
SECT. VI. WHEREIN THE GLORY OF THE SAINTS ABOVE CONSISTETH, AND HOW
THEY ARE EMPLOYED. Such is the Place, such is the Condition, of the Blessed. What is their Employment? How do they spend, not their time, but their eternity?