« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
where they shall see him face to face, and know him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. And this knowing and beholding God face to face is, I believe, the very heaven of heavens, even the highest happiness that it is possible a creature should be made capable of; for in having a perfect knowledge of God, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all things that ever were, are, shall, yea, or can be, in the world. For God being the Being of all beings, in seeing him, we shall not only see whatsoever hath been, but whatsoever can be communicated from him. The contemplation of which cannot but ravish and transport my spirit beyond itself; especially when I consider, that in knowing this one-allthings, God, I cannot but enjoy whatsoever it is possible any creature should enjoy; for the knowing of a thing is the soul's enjoyment of it; the understanding being to the soul what the senses are to the body. And, therefore, as the body enjoys nothing but by its senses, so neither doth the soul enjoy any thing but by its understanding: and, as the body is said to have whatsoever affects its proper senses, so may the soul be said to have whatsoever comes under its knowledge. Nay, the soul so far hath what it knows, that in a manner it is what it knows; itself being in a spiritual manner enlarged according to the extent of the objects which it knows, as the body is by the meat it eats; the truths we know turning into the substance of our souls, as the meat we eat doth into the substance of our bodies.
But O what a rare soul shall I then have, when it shall be extended to every thing that ever was or ever could have been! What a happy creature shall I then be, when I shall know and so enjoy him that is all things in himself? What can a creature desire more? what more can a creature be made capable of enjoying or desiring? And that which will always accompany this our knowledge and enjoyment, is perfect love to what we enjoy and know, without which we should take pleasure in nothing, though we should have all things to take pleasure in. But who will be able not to love the chiefest good, that knows and enjoys him, and therefore enjoys him because he knows him? Questionless in heaven, as I
shall enjoy whatsoever I can love, so shall I love whatsoever I enjoy. And this therefore I believe to be the perfection of my happiness, and the happiness of my perfection, in the other world, that I shall perfectly know and love, and so perfectly enjoy and rejoice in, the most high God, and shall be, as known, so perfectly loved and rejoiced in by him. And questionless, notwithstanding all our shallow apprehensions and low estimations of these things now, they cannot choose but be vast and inconceivable pleasures, too great for any creature to enjoy whilst here below.
If we have but the least drop of these pleasures distilled into us here upon earth, how strangely do they make us, as it were, besides ourselves, by lifting us above ourselves! If we can but at any time get a glimpse of God and of his love to us, how are we immediately carried beyond all other pleasures and contentments whatsoever! How apt are we to say, with Peter, It is good for us to be here! And if the foretastes of the blessings of Canaan, if the dark intimations of God's love to us, be so unspeakably pleasant, so ravishingly delightsome, oh what will the full possession of him be! What transporting ecstasies of love and joy shall those blessed souls be possessed with, who shall behold the King of glory smiling upon them, rejoicing over them, and shining forth in all his love and glory upon them! Oh what astonishing beauty will they then behold! What flowing, what refreshing pleasures, shall then solace and delight their spirits, unto all eternity! pleasures far greater than I am able either to express or conceive, much less to enjoy, on this side heaven! My faculties are now too narrow and scanty for such an entertainment; and, therefore, till they are spiritualized and enlarged, they cannot receive it. This is the portion only of another world; this the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, reserves in heaven for me, and which, at his second coming, he has promised to bestow upon me, aud not upon me only, but upon all them also that love his appearing!
As to the other state, namely, that of the wicked in another life, I believe it will be as exquisitely miserable and wretched, as that of the righteous is happy and
glorious. They will be driven for ever from the presence of the Lord, from those bright and blessed regions above where Christ sits at the right hand of God, to those dark and dismal dungeons below, where the devil and his angels are for ever doomed to be tormented.
What sort of torments or punishments they are there to undergo, I am as unable to express, as I am unwilling ever to experience; but according to the notions which scripture and reason give me of these matters, I believe they will be two-fold; first, privative; and secondly, positive; that is the wicked will not only be deprived of all that is good and happy, but actually condemned to all that is evil and miserable; and that in the most transcendant degree.
The first part of their punishment will consist in envious, melancholy, and self-condemning reflections upon their having defeated and deprived themselves not only of their carnal mirth and sensual enjoyments, their friends, fortunes, and estates in this world, but also of all the infinite joys and glories of the next-the presence of God, the society of saints and angels, and all the refreshing and ravishing delights which flow from the fruition of the chiefest good. And what adds yet farther to their anguish and remorse is, that they have lost the very hopes of ever regaining any of these enjoyments.
Oh how infinitely tormenting and vexatious must such a condition be, which at once gives them a view both of the greatest happiness and the greatest misery, without the least hopes either of recovering the one or being delivered from the other! How must they tear, torment, and curse themselves, for their former follies; and, too late, wish that they had been stifled in the womb, or drowned in the font which was to be their second birth!
And if the bare privation of heaven and happiness be so miserable and tormenting, how will it rack their consciences, and fill their souls with horror and amazement, to behold the eternal God, the glorious Jehovah, in the fierceness of his wrath, continually threatening to pour out his vengeance upon them! How much more, when he positively consigns them over to the power of the devil, to execute his judgment in full measure!--when they
are gnawed upon by the worm of their own consciences, feel the wrath of the Almighty flaming in their hearts, and fire and brimstone their continual torture! And all this, without the least allay or mixture of refreshment, or the least hopes of ending or cessation! In a word, when they have nothing else to expect but misery for their portion, weeping and wailing for their constant employment, and the devil and damned fiends their only companions to all eternity! And this is that world of misery, which all that will not be persuaded to believe in Christ here, must be doomed for ever to live in hereafter.
I know the subjects of this article were never the objects of my sight, though they are of my faith. I never yet saw heaven or hell, the places I am now speaking of; but why should my faith be staggered or diminished because of that? I never saw Rome or Constantinople; I never saw the flaming Sicilian hill, Etna; yet I can believe there is such a burning mountain, and such glorious cities, because others who have been there, have told me so, and faithful writers have related and described them to me. And shall I believe my fellow worms, and not my great Creator who is truth itself? What, though I never did see the new Jerusalem that is above, nor the flaming Tophet that is below? yet, since God himself hath both related and described them to me, why should I doubt of them? Why should not I a thousand times sooner believe them to be, than if I had seen them with mine own eyes? I cannot so much believe that I have now a pen in my hand, have a book before me and am writing in it, as I do and ought to believe, that I shall one day, and that ere long, be either in heaven or in hell; in the height of happiness, or the depth of misery. I know my senses are fallible, and therefore may deceive me; but my God, I am sure, cannot. Aud therefore, let others raise doubts and scruples as they please, I am as fully satisfied and convinced of the truth of this article, as of any of the rest.
Do thou, O my God, keep me stedfast in this faith, and give me grace so to fit and prepare myself to appear before thee, in the white robes of purity and holiness, in another world, that whenever my dissolution
comes, I may cheerfully resign my spirit into the hands of my Creator and Redeemer; and, from this crazy house of clay, take my flight into the mansions of glory, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and with the joyful choir of saints and angels, and the blessed spirits of just men made perfect, chant forth thy praises to all eternity!
RESOLUTIONS FORMED FROM THE FOREGOING ARTICLES.
As obedience without faith is impossible, so faith without obedience is vain and unprofitable; for as the body, says St. James, without the spirit is dead, so faith with out good works is dead also. Having therefore, I hope, laid a sure foundation, by resolving what and how to believe, I shall now, by the grace of God, resolve so to order my conversation, in all circumstances and conditions of life, as to raise a good superstructure upon it, and to finish the work God has given me to do; that is, so to love and please God in this world, as to enjoy and be happy with him for ever in the next. the next. And it is absolutely necessary that I should be speedy and serious in these resolutions, especially when I reflect with myself, how much of my time I have already spent upon the vanities and follies of youth, and how much enhanced and increased this work by acquired guilt, by settled and repeated habits of sin, which are not without great difficulty to be atoned for and removed. My heart, alas! is now more hardened in iniquity, more puffed with pride, and more averse from God, than when I first entered into covenant with him; and I have added many actual sins and provocations to my original guilt and pollution. Instead of glorifying God, I have dishonored him; and instead of working out my own salvation, I have taken a pleasure and delight in such things as would, in the end, be my ruin and destruction. So that before I can be able to make any progress in the duties of religion,