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pure joy is the privilege of heaven, unmixed sorrows the punishment of hell.
ii. A concurrence of all positive excellencies is requisite to blessedness. And these are to be considered with respect to the entire man.
1. The body shall be awaked out of its dead sleep, and quickened into a glorious immortal life. The soul and body are the essential parts of man; and though the inequality be great in their holy operations, yet their concourse is necessary. Good actions are designed by the counsel and resolution of the Spirit, but performed by the ministry of the flesh. Every grace expresses itself in visible actions by the body. In the sorrows of repentance it supplies tears; in religious fasts, its appetites are restrained; in thanksgivings the tongue breaks forth into the joyful praises of God. All our victories over sensible pleasure and pain are obtained by the soul in conjunction with the body. Now it is most becoming the divine goodness, not to deal so differently, that the soul should be everlastingly happy, and the body lost in forgetfulness; the one glorified in heaven, the other remain in the dust. From their first setting out into the world to the grave, they ran the same race, and shall enjoy the same reward. Here the body is the consort of the soul in obedience and sufferings, hereafter in fruition. When the crown of purity, or palm of martyrdom shall be given by the great Judge in the view of all, they shall both partake in the honour. The apostle assures us, the bodies of the saints shall be revived and refined to a spiritual and glorious perfection. “Flesh and blood,” the body with its terrene qualities, is mutable and mortal, and “cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven;" it cannot breathe in so pure an air. God tells Moses, “ No man can see my face and live :" the sight of the divine glory is not consistent with such tempered frail tabernacles of flesh. Nay, the body must be freed from the innocent infirmities that were inseparable from Adam in paradise: for “he was made a living soul,” that is, the soul united to the body was the fountain of the natural sensitive life, which was in a perpetual flux, the vital heat wasting the radical moisture, from whence there was a necessity of food and sleep to repair the substance and spirits, and preserve his life in vigour : but in the divine world, the body shall be spiritual in its qualities and the principle of its life; it shall be supported by the supernatural power of the Spirit, without the supplies of outward nourishment, and exempted from all the low operations of nature : therefore our Saviour tells us, “ the children of the resurrection shall be equal to the angels,” prepared for the employment and enjoyments of those blessed spirits.
And a substantial unfading glory will shine in them infinitely above the perishing pride of this world, “ and the glory of the flesh," that is but an appearance, like the false colours painted on the feathers of a dove, by the reflection of the light, which presently vanishes, when the posture is changed, or the light withdrawn. Of this we have a sure pledge in the glorified body of Christ, who is the “ firstfruits of them that sleep: he shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like to his glorious body, according to the working of his power, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” What can be more glorious, than to be conformed to the humanity of the Son of God? This conformity shall be the work of his own hands : and when omnipotence interposes, nothing is difficult. The raising the body to an immortal state of glory, is as easy to the divine power, as the forming it first in the womb. As the sun labours no more in the mines, in the forming gold and silver, the most precious and durable metals, than in the production of a short-lived flower.
2. The supreme happiness of man is in the soul's communion with God. This will appear by considering the principal ingredients of happiness: they are the excellence of the object, and the vigour of the actings upon it. The life and blessedness of God is to know and love himself according to his infinite perfections. And it is the highest happiness of the reasonable creature, to know and love God : for he is a spiritual, infinite, unchangeable good, and can fully communicate all that is requisite to entire blessedness, supply all the wants, and satisfy all the wishes of the immortal soul. The understanding and will are our most comprehensive faculties, the principles of our most eminent operations. To know and to love, are essential to the reasonable soul; and in directing those acts upon God, the rectitude, the perfection and felicity of man consists. As the intellectual creature by setting its mind and heart upon earthly things, is degraded into a lower order, the thoughts and desires that are spiritual with respect to the principle from whence they proceed, are sensual and perishing with respect to their objects : so when our noble faculties are exercised in their most lively and vigorous perceptions upon the Supreme Good, man is advanced to an equality of joy and perfection with the angels. Now in heaven, God by his most evident and effectual presence, excites and draws forth all the active powers of the soul in their highest degrees; and, such is the immensity of his perfections, fills their utmost capacity, from whence a divine pleasure, a perpetual satisfaction springs, a joy that is as unspeakable as it is eternal.
The understanding shall be clearly enlightened with the knowledge of God.
Here the revelation of God in his works and word is according to our capacities. In heaven it is most glorious, and our faculties are raised and refined to receive it. The nature of God, bis decrees and counsels, his providential dispensations are revealed to the blessed.
To unfold this more particularly. The understanding shall clearly see the most excellent objects. “Now we know but in part.” 1 Cor. 13. The naked beauty of divine things is veiled, and of impossible discovery: and by natural or accidental weakness, the mind is not proportionable to sustain that dazzling brightness. “ But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." In that enlightened state, the manifestation of the objects shall abundantly exceed the clearest revealing of them here. And the understanding shall be prepared in proportion to take a full view of them. Therefore the apostle compares the several periods of the church in respect of the degrees of knowledge, to the several ages of human life. “ When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child : but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” In children the organs, either from the excess of moisture, or their smallness, are indisposed for the vigorous exercise of the mind : some strictures of reason appear, a presaging sign what will be, but mixed with much obscurity. But when the organs are come to their just proportion and temperament, the soul displays its strength and activity.
To explicate this, it is requisite to consider the expressions in scripture, that signify the eminent degrees of knowledge in the blessed. Our Saviour assures us, that “ the pure in heart shall see God.” Sight is the most noble, extensive, and affective sense, and therefore fit to notify the clear, sweet and satisfying intuition of God in heaven. It is true, the Deity is spiritual, and invisible to the eye of the body, infinite, and incomprehensible to the eye of the soul; but the glorified saints so clearly understand the divine perfections, that our present knowledge of God, compared to that vision, is but as the seeing of a dark shadow in a glass, to the immediate view of the living substance and person. The discovery of the Deity to us in the present state, is by his works and word : and both are imperfect, and far inferior to the manifestation in heaven. The absolute fulness of perfection that is inseparable from the Godhead, is inimitable by any creature; for the perfection of any creature is limited in its kind as well as degrees. Therefore God was pleased by variety of effects and resemblances, to express and represent his attributes, that our minds might ascend by those steps to contemplate those perfections that are in him eminently and beyond all comparison. The light of heaven in all its purity and lustre, is but a shadow of his unapproachable brightness : all the excellencies of visible things are but a weak representation of the glory of his attributes, like the describing with a coal the beautiful colours of the morning : and compared with the immensity of his perfections, are like the describing in a sheet of paper the vast celestial spheres.
In his word there is a more clear and full discovery of his nature and will, but according to our capacity of receiving. The divine attributes in scripture are masked and shadowed under sensible comparisons : for no light shines into our minds here, but through the windows of sense. The intellectual powers de
pend, as to the first notices of things, on the lower faculties and senses : therefore as Elisha in reviving the Shunamite's child, contracted himself to the proportion of the child, and“ put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands;" so God is pleased to condescend to our capacity, and to adapt the expressions of his majesty to the narrowness of our imaginations. But in heaven the revelation of the Deity is much more glorious : and the mind is clarified from those terrene images that flow through the gross channels of the senses. In this present state our purest conceptions of God are mixed with dross, and very imperfect ; but there the gold shall be separated from the dross, and our conceptions be more proper and becoming the simplicity and purity of God. Here the objects of glory are humbled to the perception of sense : hereafter, the sensible faculties shall be raised and refined, and made the subjects of glory. Now when divine light shines with direct beams, and the thick curtain of flesh is spiritualized and transparent, the soul enjoys the clearest vision of God. The light of nature was so defective as to the discovery of God's coinpassionate counsels to save the lost world, and the minds of men were so darkened from the fumes of their lust, that that light was but the hemisphere of the night in comparison of the revelation of the gospel: as St. Peter expresses the happy privilege of christians, and their consequent duty, “ that they should show forth the praises of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.” And the glorious gospel, compared to the revelation of God in heaven, is but as the twilight of the morning, wherein the light of the day is checkered with the shadows of the night, to the sun in its full lustre. In heaven we shall “see God face to face ;" which signifies the clearest manifestation of his glory, and of his favour to the blessed: for the face is the throne of majesty and beauty, and the crystal wherein the affections are conspicuous. Accordingly when Moses prayed, « 1 beseech thee show me thy glory;" God answered him, it was impossible, “ for no man could see his face and live." And the form of divine blessing to the people of Israel was, “ the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee.” Whether the immediate essence of God can be seen by the intellectual creature, is a question ; but we are sure “ in the heaven of presence,” God exhibits himself to the blessed in a