« AnteriorContinuar »
most glorious manner : for according to the degrees of excellency in the work, are the impressions and discoveries of the cause. Now all gross material things in the low order of nature, are but weak resultances from his perfections, in comparison of their glorious effects in the divine world. The glories of the place, and of the inhabitants the angels and saints, are the most noble effects and expressions of the divine attributes. But in a transcendent manner God exhibits himself in the glorified Mediator. He is styled “ the brightness of luis Father's glory, and the express image of his person;" to signify that God, in the person of the incarnate Mediator, is so fully represented to us, that in him we have a view of God's unchangeable perfections. This appears by the following words, “ that having purged us from our sins, he sat down on the majesty on high :" for they respect the Son of God as united to the human nature, in which he
performed the office of the priesthood, and took possession of his kingdom. During his humble state, though darkened with many afflicting circumstances, the divine virtues, wisdom, goodness, holiness, power, were so visible in his life, revelations, and miraculous works, that when Philip with that ardency of affection desired the sight of the Father, the only consummate blessedness, “ show us the Father, and it suffices ;" he told him, he “ that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” But how brightly do they appear in his exaltation? We shall “ see him as he is,” in the majesty and glory of the Son of God. The apostle says, shall know as we are known :" this we are not to understand according to the exactness of the expression; for the sun may be as well included in a spark of fire, as God may be comprehended by our finite faculties. Beyond the fullest discoveries we can receive of the Deity, there remains an entire infinity of perfections, not to be known by the most intelligent spirits : but “ as we are known," is a note of similitude, not of equality. The light of a candle as truly shines as the light of the sun, but not with that extent and splendour. We shall have such a perfect knowledge of God, as our minds can receive, and our hearts desire,
We shall then see what we now believe concerning the glorious nature of God, his decrees and counsels, his providence and dispensations. The sublimest doctrine of the christian religion, above the disquisition and reach of reason, is that of the sacred
Trinity, upon which the whole economy of the gospel depends. In assenting to this, faith bows the head and adores. But such is the pride of the carnal mind, that it disdains to stoop to divine revelation : and the seeming wise philosophers despised the primitive christians as captives of a blind belief. But this foul reproach was as unjust as many others wherewith they designed to disgrace christianity; for the humility of faith does not extinguish or darken the light of reason, but revives and increases it. What is more suitable to incorrupt reason, than to believe the revelation God affords of his own nature, who cannot deceive us? In the state above, where reason is rectified and enlarged, we shall understand that from eternity God was sole existing, but not solitary; that the Godhead is not confused in unity, nor divided in number ; that there is a priority of order, yet no superiority among the sacred Persons, but they are all equally possessed of the same divine excellencies, and the same divine empire, and are the object of the same adoration. Our Saviour tells his disciples, “ in that day ye shall know that I am in the Father," that is by unity of essence, and as naturally and necessarily God as the Father. This promise immediately refers to the time of pouring forth the Holy Ghost upon them after the resurrection of our Saviour, but shall be fully accomplished in heaven.
All things of a supernatural order shall be revealed. The “ great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh,” the union of the high perfections of the divine nature with the innocent imperfections of the human nature, the contrivance of our redemption, wherein there is an harmonious concurrence and concord of the principal attributes of the Deity that seemed irreconcileable ; that product of the divine wisdom that is so adored by the angels, that astonishes and saves us, shall be unfolded. The divine counsels in governing the world, the designs, the ways, the orders and operations of God's providence shall be conspicuous. In some dispensations of God, we discern the eye in the top of his sceptre: the wisdom, the rectitude, the equity of his providence, is so visible in the defence of the innocent, and his justice and power in the punishment of the guilty, that it may convince the atheists who deny a providence, and causes all sincere believers to admire and reverence it. But there are other dispensations, the immediate reasons of which are so eancealed in the bosom of God, that only the Lamb, with whose blood the elect to glory are written in the book of life, can reveal: why the light of the gospel was never visible to so many kingdoms; “ why many are called, and few chosen;" the unsearchable ways, and incomprehensible judgments of God, which St. Paul in an ecstacy admires, which it is not lawful to inquire into here, we shall then understand in such a manner, that light itself is not more clear. How often are the people of God here in miserable perplexities ? and say with the prophets, “ verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel the Saviour!” It is true, a steadfast faith in the providence of God, that all that he does, and all that he permits and disposes is best, will quiet their passions, and change the tempestuous ocean into the pacific sea: but when they are admitted into the council of state above, and see the immediate reasons of his decrees, what a heavenly wonder, what an exquisite pleasure will fill their minds ? When the original fountains of wisdom, as clear as deep, shall be opened, what sweet satisfaction will be shed abroad in their spirits ? They will see the beauty of providence in disposing temporal evils in order to their eternal felicity : that as in a curious picture the darkest tinctures are so disposed, as to give life and grace to the orient colours; so all the amictions of this state were but shadows or foils, to make their faith, and love, and patience more resplendent, and their reward more excellent. What our Saviour said to Peter, is applicable to the impenetrable dispensations of providence to us in our mortal state : 66 what I do, thou knowest not now, but shalt know hereafter.” Then the arcana imperii, the secrets of his counsels shall be unsealed, and we shall be able to expound the perplexing riddle, how “ out of the eater came meat, and out of the strong came sweetness :” we shall understand that his overruling providence is most eminently glorified in extracting good out of evil ; " for we shall know as we are known.”
The blessed effect of the vision of God in the saints. It is productive and
conservative of his glorious likeness. It affects them with the most humble veneration of God's excellencies. It inflames them with the most ardent love of God, and of our Saviour.
I will consider the blessed effects of the vision of God in heaven upon the saints. Our Saviour tells us, “this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou bast sent.” The beginning and introduction of our felicity, is by a lively faith here, the consummation of it is by present sight in heaven.
1. From the vision of his glory there will be a resultance of his likeness impressed on us. “ We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” All the perfection and happiness of the saints is comprised in that promise. The sun, when the sky is clear and serene, forms its image on a cloud tempered to receive it, with that orient brightness, that the eye cannot distinguish between the copy and the original. Thus the uncreated sun by powerful emanations transforms the soul into its likeness, in that divine degree of holiness and felicity, as gloriously resembles God, Moses by conversing with God in the mount, and seeing his back-parts, returned to the Israelites with such a radiancy in his face, that they could not look on it without a veil. What an impression of glory is in the saints, who see his perfections in their infinite lustre? It is the privilege of christians in this life, above the church under the law; “they behold in the gospel as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image, from glory to glory;" they become more holy and heavenly, more purified and adorned with his virtues and graces. Now if the vision of Christ here in a glass, an eclipsing medium, be so influxive upon believers, what an illustrious and infallible efficacy has the immediate, clear, and permanent view of his glory upon the saints in heaven? That sight is productive and conservative of his image in its purity and perfection for ever.
2. The divine presence affects the saints with the most humble reverence and solemn veneration of God. This is an eternal respect due from the intellectual creature to the Creator, upon the account of his infinite and incommunicable excellencies. He is distinguished not only from idols, but from creatures of the highest order, by his essential, supreme and singular name, “I AM.” Every kind of being, every spark of life, every degree of perfection is from his efficiency, and depends entirely upon his supporting power. The most eminent qualities of the creatures are but in show and appearance compared with the reality and stability of his glorious nature. In the scripture, wisdom, holiness, goodness, power, truth, immortality, are attributed to God, with the exclusion of all creatures from those prerogatives; they being his essential, infinite and incomparable perfections, They are separable qualities in the creatures, like the gilding and enameling of baser metal : but in the Deity, they are like substantial massy gold. There is a vast distance between created beings; but the distance between a fly, or a worm, and an angel, is nothing to the distance between an archangel and God, there being no comparison between finite and infinite. All creatures equally vanish, and disappear as nothing, compared to the glorious Creator. As if one from the region of the stars should look down upon the eartlı, the mountains and hills with the vallies would appear one flat surface, an equal plain, the height and the lowness of the several parts being indiscernible at that immense distance.
Now in heaven the divine majesty is most visible, and most awful and adorable. The sublimest spirits “ cover their faces” before his glorious brightness. The prophet Isaiah had a representation of heaven : “ I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Ahove it stood the seraphims : each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet, with twain he did fly. And one cried to another, and said, holy, holy, holy Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” They highly honour him, by the reflection of his separate and peerless excellencies, his almighty power, his infinite supremacy and eternal empire, in their concert of praises.