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3. In heaven the saints as perfectly love God, as they know him. This is the principal duty of angels and men to the blessed Creator for his adınirable perfections, and his excellent benefits. The evidence of it is so entire, that the reasonable mind cannot suspend its assent: for goodness and beauty, the fruit and the flower of amiable things, do so recommend them to the understanding and will, that they powerfully allure and engage the affections. Now these are in God in unspeakable degrees of eminence. The prophet breaks out in a rapture, “ how great is his goodness, how great is his beauty!"
It was a precept of the ceremonial law, that the firstlings of the flock, and the first and best fruits of the earth should be offered to God; not as if the first that opened the belly was more valuable in his account than the last, or the most early fruits in the spring more pleasing to him than the later in the autumn; but it was instructive, that our love, the “ first-born of the soul, and the beginning of its strength,” should be consecrated to God.
The love of God is the essential character of a saint, that distinguishes him from the unregenerate. Indeed, it is strange that God, who is infinitely lovely, and infinitely liberal and beneficent, should not prevail on the hearts of all men ; but if we consider the degeneracy of mankind, how their minds are depraved and deceived, and their affections are vitiated, the wonder will cease. Carnal men have not due conceptions of God, and will not attentively observe his amiable perfections. St. John tells us, “ he that loveth not, doth not know God.” Knowledge is the leading principle in the operations of the soul. There must be a heavenly eye to discover the heavenly beauty, before there can be love of it. Now men are in ignorant darkness, and are defiled in flesh and spirit, and therefore cannot love God who is glorious in holiness. Without resemblance there can be no affectionate union which is the essence of love. The contrariety of dispositions infers a contrariety of affections. The scripture expresses this in dreadful colours : "the carnal mind is enmity against God: the friendship of the world is enmity with God;" that is, pride, and covetousness, and sensuality, which are the lusts of the carnal mind, and are terminated upon worldly things, are inconsistent with the love of God. The justice of God is terrible to the consciences, and his holiness odious to the affections of the unrenewed. Till by divine grace the understanding is enlightened and purified to have right apprehensions of God; till the will and affections are cleansed and changed; till there be a resemblance of God's holy nature, and a conformity to his holy laws, they are not capable of delightful adhering to him, which is the internal essential property of love.
But those who are partakers of the divine nature, the holy and heavenly, “ taste and see how good the Lord is :" and according to the illustrations of the mind, such are the impressions upon the heart; the love of God in their breasts here is like smoking flax, but in heaven it is a triumphant flame. God is the first fair, the original of all amiable excellencies, in whom they shine in their unstained lustre and perfection. When he fully reveals himself, and displays the richest beams of his love and glory, how transporting and endearing is that sight? Our affections that are now scattered on many things, wherein some faint reflections of his goodness appear, shall then be united in one full current to him, “ who is all in all.”. In heaven the immense treasures of his grace are revealed. That when man for his rebellious sin was justly expelled from paradise, and under the sentence of eternal death, God should not only pardon, but prefer us to the dignity of his children, and prepare such a glory for us, and us for such a glory; this will inspire the saints with such ardent affections, that will make them equal to the angels, those pure and everlasting flames of love to God.
In heaven we shall be with “ Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, who is seated at the right hand of God.” And how admirable will he appear to the sense and soul of every glorified saint? for “ we shall see the King in his beauty.” When our Saviour, was upon the holy mount, and one vanishing beam of glory appeared in his transfiguration, Peter was so transported at the sight, that he forgot the world and himself: how ravishing then will the sight of him in his triumphant majesty be, when we shall be transfigured ourselves ? Now while believers are in the shadows of the earthly state, they “ love their unseen Saviour" with such intense degrees of affection, as deface all the washy colours, all the vain loves of things in this world: but when they are admitted into his shining presence, and see him in the day of celestial glory, with what an ecstacy of affectiou will they be transported ?
We shall then feel the endearing obligations our Saviour has laid upon us, who ransomed us with so rich a price, and purchased for us such an invaluable inheritance. For in proportion as we shall understand his greatness in himself, we shall his goodness to us. The eternal Son of God descended from the heaven of heavens to our lowly earth; and, which is more, from the majesty wherein he there reigned, and was visible to the angels; he became man that he might die, to redeem us from the most woful captivity, from “ death, and the sting of death, sin, and the strength of sin, the law," and obtain a blessed life and immortality for us. O unexampleď love! “ Greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friend :" and what is the life of a sinful man, a vanishing vapour, a life mixed with troubles and vexation ? and to lay down this for a friend deservedly dear, is the highest expression of human love: but for the Son of God to lay down his life, a life without sin, and without end, for immortality was a privilege due to his innocence, and for enemies, for the worst enemies, rebels by revolture from obedience to their Creator and King, is a love truly divine, and infinitely surpassing, not only the affections, but the “ understanding and knowledge of all creatures.” Ephes. 3. Briefly, he gave his life for us, and gives himself to us, the most excellent testimonies of love that we can receive from love itself; and we shall love him with all the strength of our glorified spirits,
Union with God by knowledge and love, causes the perfection and felicity of
the saints. That union briefly unfolded. The pleasure that springs from knowledge. In heaven the knowledge of the saints incomparably excels the knowledge acquired here. The felicity that flows from the enjoyment of God, that fully satisfies the love of the saints. The blessed communion between the saints and Christ in heaven. The love of the saints is most fully pleased in the glory of God.
UNION with God by knowledge and love, accomplishes the perfection and happiness of the saints. The most pernicious effect of sin is the separation of the soul from God : and the restoral of us to happiness, is by reunion with him. This we obtain by Christ, who is Emanuel in his nature, and by office ; who took our flesh, which he offered as a sacrifice to God to atone his displeasure, and gives his “ Spirit to dwell in us," as a permanent active principle, by whose special operation faith is produced in our hearts; that is, such a belief of his love in redeeming us, as inspires us with a sincere and superlative love to him.
And by these vital bands we are united to him, and as his true members, live the same life with him in grace and glory.
Now in heaven our union with God is more near and noble, more intimate and influential, more inseparable and eternal. It is observable in natural causalities, that what is of a more refined and purer nature, is more active and penetrating, and more closely unites with other things, than what is more gross and material. Light, which is the purest quality in the world, actuates all colours, and makes them visible, and actuates the eye, and conveys the lively image of the object with shining evidence into it. The sun shoots its invisible virtue into the deepest mines. Fire is more subtile and pure than water, and will pierce into solid metals, which the water cannot soak into. The glowing iron seems to be all fire. Now God is the purest Spirit, and of infinite energy, and can unite himself to our spirits more
intimately than the closest union between any creatures in the world. He unites himself to the understanding by an immediate irradiation, and discovery of his glorious excellencies. “In thy light,” saith the psalmist, “ we shall see light.” He unites himself to the will, by the infusion of his love, and by that drawing forth our love to him. This union is complete in heaven, and most communicative of the divine influences to the saints, and consequently their conformity and fruition of God is in the highest degrees that created spirits are capable of. This is the most desirable and perfect state of reasonable creatures; for God is the ever-flowing fountain of felicity, the only stable centre of the soul, wherein it reposes itself for ever. Accordingly the psalmist speaks, “ Return to thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee."
When the soul opens its eyes to the clear discoveries of the first truth, in which is no shadow of error, and its breast to the dear and intimate embraces of the supreme good, in which is no mixture of evil, and beyond which nothing remains to be known,
nothing to be enjoyed, what a deluge of the purest and sweetest . pleasures will overflow it? We cannot ascend in our thoughts
so high, as to conceive the excess of joy that attends those operations of the glorified soul upon its proper object. But something we may conjecture.
Those who are possessed with a noble passion for knowledge, how do they despise all lower pleasures in comparison of it? how do they forget themselves, neglect the body, and retire into the mind, the highest part of man, and nearest to God? The bare apprehension of such things that by their internal nature have no attractive influence upon the affections, is pleasant to the understanding. As the appearance of light, though not attended with any other visible beauties, refreshes the eye after long darkness: so the clear discovery of truths, how abstract soever, that were before unknown, is grateful to the intellective faculty. Thus some have been strangely transported with the pleasures of a mathematical demonstration, when the evidence, not the importance, of the thing was so ravishing; for what is more dry and barren of delight than the speculation of figures and numbers ? Solon when near his end, and some of his friends that visited him were speaking softly of a point of philosophy, by that sound of wisdom was awakened from the sleep of death that was just