« PreviousContinue »
How? but in the exercise of the perpetual acts of their blessedness; Vision, Adhesion, Fruition ?
Who knows not, that there is a contract passed betwixt God and the regenerate soul, here below ? Out of the engagement of his mercy and love, he endows her with the precious graces of faith, of hope, of charity : faith, whereby she knowingly apprehends ber interest in him : hope, whereby she cheerfully expects the full accomplishment of his gracious promises : charity, whereby she is feelingly and comfortably possessed of him, and clings close unto him. In the instant of our dissolution, we enter into the consummation of this blessed marriage. Wherein it pleaseth our bountiful God, to endow his glorified Spouse with these three privileges and improvements of her beatitude, answerable to these three diyine graces : Vision answers to faith; for, what our faith sees and apprehends here on earth and afar off as travellers, our estate of glorification exhibits to us clearly and at hand as comprehensors; the object is the same, the degrees of manifestation differ : Adhesion answers to our hope ; for, what our hope comfortably expected and longed for, we do now lay hold on as present, and are brought home to it indissolubly: Fruition, lastly, answers to charity ; for, what is fruition, but a taking pleasure in the thing possessed, as truly delectable, and as our own; and what is this, but the perfection of love? Shortly, what is the end of our faith, but Sight? what the end of our hope, but Possession ? what the end of our love, but Enjoying?
Lo, then, the inseparable and perpetual sight, possession, enjoyment, of the infinitely amiable and glorious Deity, is not more the employment than the felicity of Saints.
And what can the soul conceive matchable to this happiness?
The man after God's own heart had one boon to ask of his Maker: it must be, sure, some great suit, wherein a favourite will set up his rest : One thing have Y desired of the Lord, which I will require : even that I nnay dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life ; to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit his holy temple ; Psalm xxvii
. 4. Was it so contenting a happiness to thee, O David, to behold, for a moment of time, the fair beauty of the Lord in his earthen temple, where he meant not to reveal the height of his glory? How blessed art thou now, when thy soul lives for ever in the continual prospect of the Infinite Beauty and Majesty of God, in the most glorious and eternal sanctuary of heaven! It was but in a cloud and smoke, wherein God shewed himself in his material house; above, thou seest him clothed in a heavenly and incomprehensible light: and, if a little glimpse of celestial glory, in a momentary transfiguration, so transported the prime Apostle, that he wished to dwell still in Tabor; how shall we be ravished with the full view of that all-glorious Deity, whose very sight gives blessedness! What a life doth the presence of the sun put into all creatures here below! yet the body of it is afar off; the power of it, created and finite. "Oh, then, how perfect and happy a life must we needs receive from the Maker of' it, when the beams of his
heavenly glory shall shine in our face! Here below, our weak senses are marred with too excellent objects : our pure spirits above cannot complain of excess ; but, by how much more of that divine light they take in, are so much the more blessed. There is no other thing, wherein our sight can make us happy: we may see all other objects, and yet be miserable: here, our eyes convey into us influences of bliss.
Yet not our eyes alone; but, as the soul hath other spiritual senses also, they are wholly possessed of God: our adhesion is, as it were, a heavenly touch, our fruition, as a heavenly taste, of the Ever Blessed Deity; so the glorified soul in seeing God, feelingly apprehends him as its own; in apprehending, sweetly enjoys him to all eternity, finding in him more absolute contentment than it can be capable of, and finding itself capable of so much as to make it everlastingly happy. Away with those brutish paradises of Jews, and Turks, and some Judaizing Chiliasts, who have placed happiness in the full feed of their sensual appetite; inverting the words of the Epicurean in the Gospel : he could say, Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die ; they, “ Let us die, for we shall eat and drink :” men, whose belly is their God; their kitchen, their heaven. The soul, that hath had the least smack, how sweet the Lord is, in the weak apprehension of grace here below, easily contemns these dunghill-felicities ; and cannot but long after those true and satisfying delights above, in comparison whereof all the pleasures of the paunch and palate, are but either savourless or noisome.
Feast thou thyself, onwards, O my soul, with the joyful hope of this blessed Vision, Adhesiun, Fruition. Alas, here, thy dim eyes see thy God through clouds and vapours, and not without manifold diversions: here, thou cleavest imperfectly to that absolute goodness, but with many frail interceptions ; every prevalent temptation looseth thy hold, and makes thy God and thee strangers : here, thou enjoyest him sometimes in his favours, seldom in himself ; and, when thou dost so, how easily art thou robbed of him, by the interpositions of a crafty and betwitching world! There, thou shalt so see him, as that thou shalt never look off ; so adhere to him, as never to be severed; so enjoy him, that he shall ever be All in all to thee, even the soul of thy soul : thy happiness is then essential; thy joy as inseparable as thy being.
IN WHAT TERMS THE DEPARTED SAINTS STAND TO US, AND WHAT RE
SPECTS THEY BEAR TO US. Such is the Felicity, wherein the separate souls of God's elect ones are feoffed, for ever. But, in the mean time, what Terms do they stand in to their once-partners, these human bodies ? to these, the forlorn companions of their pilgrimage and warfare? Do they de. spise these houses of clay, wherein they once dwelt? Or have they, with Pharaoh's courtier, forgotten their fellow-prisoner ? Far be it
from us, to entertain so injurious thoughts of those spirits, whose charity is no less exalted than their knowledge.
Some graces they do necessarily leave behind them. There is no room for faith, where there is present vision; no room for hope, where there is full fruition; no room for patience, where is no poss sibility of suffering: but charity can never be out of date; charity, both to God and man.
As the head and body mystical are undivided, so is our love to both : we cannot love the head, and not the body : we cannot love some limbs of the body, and not others. The triumphant part of the Church then, which is above, doth not more truly love each other glorified, than they love the warfaring part beneath.
Neither can their love be idle and fruitless : they cannot but wish well, therefore, to those they love.
That the glorified Saints then above, in a generality wish for the good estate and happy consummation of their conflicting brethren here on earth, is a truth, not more void of scruple, than full of comfort.
It was not so much revenge, which the souls under the altar pray for upon their murderers; (Rev. vi. 10.) as the accomplishment of that happy resurrection, in which that revenge shall be perfectly acted. The prayer in Zechariah (and Saints are herein parallel) is, 0 Lord of Hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation ? Zech. i. 12.
We do not use to joy, but in that, which we wish for. There is joy in heaven, in the presence of the angels for sinners repenting; Luke xv. 7, 10: in the presence of the angels, therefore, on the part of the saints: none but they dwell together.
O ye blessed Saints, we praise God for you, for your happy departure, for your crown of immortality. Ye do, in common, sue to God for us, as your poor fellow-members, for our happy eluctation out of those miseries and temptations, wherewith we are continually confiicted here below, and for our society with you in your blessedness. Other terms of communion, we know none. As for any local presence, or particular correspondence, that ye may have with any of us, as we cannot come to know it; so, if we could, we should have no reason to disclaim it.
Johannes à Jesu-Maria *, a modern Carmelite, writing the life of Theresia, Sainted lately by Gregory the fifteenth, tells us, that as she was a vigilant overseer of her votaries in her life; so, in and after death, she would not be drawn away from her care and attendance : “ For," saith he, “ if any of her Sisters did but talk in the set hours of their silence, she was wont, by three knocks at the door of the cell, to put them in mind of their enjoined taciturnity :" and, on a time, appearing, as she did often, in a lightsome brightness, to a certain Carmelite, is said thus to bespeak him; “We citizens of heaven, and ye exiled pilgrims on earth, ought to be linked in a league of love and purity *, &c.”. Methinks the reporter should fear this to be too much good fellowship for a Saint. I am sure neither divine nor ancient story had wont to afford such familiarity : and many have mis-doubted the agency of worse, where have appeared less causes of suspicion. That this was, if any thing, an ill spirit, under that face, I am justly confident : neither can any man doubt, that, looking further into the relation, finds him to come with a lie in his mouth. For thus he goes on, + “We celestial ones behold the Deity, ye banished ones worship the eucharist ; which ye ought to worship with the same affection, wherewith we adore the Deity.” Such perfume doth this holy devil leave behind him. The like might be instanced, in a thousand apparitions of this kind; all worthy of the same entertainment.
* Joh. à Jesu Mar. l. y. de vit. Theres. c. 3.
As for the state of the souls of Lazarus, of the Widow's son, of Jairus's daughter, and of Tabitha, whether there were, by divine appointment, a suspension of their final condition for a time; their souls awaiting not far off from their bodies, for a further disposition: or, whether they were, for the manifestation of the miraculous power of the Son of God, called off from their settled rest, some great divines may dispute; none can determine. Where God is silent, let us be willingly ignorant.
With more safety and assurance may we enquire into those respects, wherein the separated soul stands to that body; which it left behind it, for a prey to the worms, a captive to death and corruption : for, certainly, though the parts be severed, the relations cannot be so: God made it intrinsically natural to that spiritual part, to be the form of man; and, therefore, to animate the body. It was, in the very infusion of it, created; and, in the creating, infused into this co-esseutial receptacle: wherein it holds itself so interested, as that it knows there can be no full consummation of its glory, without the other half. It was not therefore more loth to leave this old partner in the dissolution, than it is now desirous to meet him again; as well knowing, in how much happier condition they shall meet, than they formerly parted. Before, this drossy piece was cumbersome, and hindered the free operations of this active spirit: now, that by a blessed glorification it is spiritualized, it is every way become pliable to his renewed partner, the soul; and both of them to their infinitely glorious Creator.
THE RE-UNION OF THE BODY TO THE SOUL, BOTH GLORIFIED. Lo, then, so happy a Reunion, as this material world is not capable of, till the last fire have refined it, of a blessed soul, met with a glorified body, for the peopling of the new heaven.
* Nos cælestes, ac vos exules, amore ac puritate fæderati esse debemus, &c. + Nos cælites intuentes Divinitatem, vos exules eucharistiam venerantes ; quam eo affectu quo nos Divinitatem suspicimus, colere debetis. Ibid,
Who can but rejoice in spirit, to foresee such a glorious communion of perfected Saints to see their bodies, with a clear brightness, without all earthly opacity ; with agility, without all dulness ; with subtlety, without grossness ; with impassibility, without the reach of annoyance or corruption ?
There, and then, shalt thou, O my soul, looking through clarified eyes, see, and rejoice to see, that glorious body of thy dear God and Saviour, which he assumed here below; and wherein he wrought out the great work of thy Redemption. There, shalt thou see the radiant bodies of all those eminent Saints, whose graces thou hadst wont to wonder at, and weakly wish to imitate. There, shall I meet with the visible partners of the same unspeakable glory; my once dear partners, children, friends : and, if there room for any more joy in the soul that is taken
with God, shall both communicate and appropriate our mutual joys. There shall we, indissolubly, with all the choir of heaven pass our eviternity of bliss, in lauding and praising the incomprehensibly-glorious Majesty of our Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier; in perpetual Hallelujahs to him that sits upon the throne.
And canst thou, O my soul, in the expectation of this happiness, be unwilling to take leave of this flesh for a minute of separation ? How well art thou contented to give way to this body, to shut up the windows of thy senses, and to retire itself after the toil of the day, to a nightly rest, whence yet thou knowest it is not sure to rise; or, if it do, yet it shall rise but su lay down, some little fresher, no whit better; and art thou so loth to bid a cheerful good-night to this piece of myself, which shall more surely rise than lie down; and not more surely rise, than rise glorious ? Away with this weak and wretched infidelity : without which the hope of my change would be my present happiness, and the issue of it mine eternal.glory. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.