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are come unto Mount Zion, unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly of the church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."
The immutability of the happiness of heaven is another character of it that deserves our consideration. The power of God will place the redeemed beyond the influence of temptation and sin, and the perfection of the heavenly state will for ever exempt them from all those causes of frailty and change that exist upon earth. It knows no change except that of continual progression. The principal value of all our sources of enjoyment in this world is destroyed by their instability. Every object here is mutable, and disappoints those who expect permanent felicity from it, and pierces through with many sorrows those who attempt to lean upon it. Even the comforts that flow from religion in the present life are variable and uncertain, because the sanctification of the believer is still partial and imperfect. But in heaven, being perfectly holy, he shall be completely and immutably happy.
Eternity is the idea that crowns and enriches the whole. . There shall be no more death,” saith the amen, the faithful and true witness. The felicity of the saints, like the being of God, shall be interminable. Glorious and consolatory truth!
I would willingly assist your minds to frame some measures of an immortal existence, but how shall we measure a subject that so far surpasses our feeble conceptions ? Number the stars that fill the sky-reckon the sands upon the seashore-count the drops in the immeasurable oceancompute the atoms that compose the globe--multiply them by millions of years, and when this amazing succession of duration shall have been finished, and repeated as many times as are equal to its own units, eternity will be but beginning. Beginning !-It cannot be said to be begun. It is wrong to apply any term which measures progression to that which
has no period.
In this astonishing and boundless idea the mind is overwhelmed. What a glory does it shed over the inheritance of the saints in light! How strongly is it calculated to awaken the desires of a believer after the rest that remaineth for the people of God! I may add, how well is it fitted to console those who mourn over their friends who sleep in Jesus! If, at any time, the mind is ready to sink under the weight of its sufferings in the present life, and to repine at the will of God, will it not become patient, and even thankful again, when it looks forward to that immortal blessedness to which every calamity that tends to crush this frail tenement of clay is only hastening our passage ?
“ For our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord ! yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. What a consolatory, what a sublime and glorious object is here presented to the faith and hope of good men, and confirmed by the faithful asseverations of the spirit of truth! All the sufferings induced by sin in the present life there come to an everlasting period; all the joys that human nature, exalted and improved with immortal powers, can sustain, shall be possessed by the redeemed, and shall continually increase in an endless progression. There you behold them in the midst of their heavenly country, from which they shall be no more exiled—there they contemplate without a veil, in the clear unclouded vision of heaven, the adorable perfections of God—they behold him enthroned in glory ineffable, whence he dispenses happiness to countless myriads of blessed spirits. Rivers of pleasure issue from the foot of the eternal throne—they bathe themselves in those pure and celestial streams—they are absorbed in ecstasies of a divine and immortal love.
1 My brethren, what an animating motive to perfect holiness in the fear of God is proposed to your faith in the blessed promise of life and immortality. What a reward for all the labours and self-denials of virtue ! What a consolation under all the afflictions of life! The happiness of heaven is essentially connected with purity of heart, with sanctity of manners, and with usefulness of living; and your progress in these divine qualities shall be the measure of your eternal felicity. The path of perfect virtue, indeed, is laborious, and osten passes in its course over steep and difficult ascents. Our passions frequently render extremely painful the sacrifices which duty requires. We are obliged to combat with the world, its interests, its pleasures, its examples, its solicitations, and, still more, to maintain a constant conflict with ourselves. But contemplate the sublime recompense which religion confers on these labours and these sacrifices, and they are arduous no longer. What are the enticements by which vice 'would ensnare the heart and withdraw it from virtue, compared with that fulness of joy that is in the presence of God, and those rivers of pleasure that flow at his right-hand for evermore? What are the labours or dangers of duty, compared with its triumphant reward? Endure hardness, therefore, as good soldiers of Christ Jesus, remembering that these short conflicts shall, ere long, gain for you crowns of victory, and encircle you with immortal glory.
Finally, this hope affords a good man the best consolation under affliction. All the necessary evils of life will soon be ended, and will open to him a peaceful entrance into the joy of his Lord. If disease and pain are hastening his return to the dust, from which he was taken, why should he repine, since they are at the same time bringing him to those living fountains of immortal health, where God shall wipe away all tears from his eyes? If the dearest ties of friendship or of love are broken asunder, and his heart is torn by cruel bereavements, religion enables him to find a sweet repose in God his best friend, and conducts his hopes to a speedy
and delightful reunion in the regions of the blessed with those pure and virtuous souls who were here most dear to his heart. In like manner, if poverty overwhelm him, or his fairest possessions have been blasted by the stroke of Divine Providence, are they not infinitely more than compensated in that heavenly inheritance to which, by divine grace, he is born? And when death comes to dissolve the temporary and decaying tabernacle in which he had sojourned in this barren wilderness, can he be dismayed, or yield to impious fears, when he sees beyond its flood the land of promised rest, in which there is prepared for him a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens ? Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord !
saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.
CONSOLATIONS FOR THE AFFLICTED UNDER
THE LOSS OF FRIENDS.
From these considerations respecting God, we proceed to such as regard our departed friends themselves. God, who gave them to us, hath been pleased to redemand his own gift, and to take them away from us! why should we not say, Blessed be the name of the Lord ! blessed be his name for vouchsafing them to us so long. He had a property in them before we had
any; they were his before they were ours; now they are his eternally. And oh! say, would you have your beloved friends immortal here, only to please you? would you have them live, though weary of life, and stay ben
low, though longing to be gone? would you have them in misery, though fit for happiness? would you have them kept amid the troubles of life, the pains of sickness, the infirmities of age; or, at the very best, in the vain insipid repetition of the same round of things, only to prevent a vacancy in your amusements and delights? Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Oh, surely, thou lovest thyself more than thy friend, or thou wouldst rejoice that he is delivered from all the evils of mortality!
Besides, we know the irreversible condition of humanity. A parting time must come; why then not this? If the time of parting with our friends were left to our choice, it would greatly increase our confusion ! We know that we enjoy our friends only upon a very frail and uncertain tenure; why then shoul we not endeavour to reconcile ourselves to that necessary separation, which, indeed, is not the total loss, is not the utter extinction of our friends. Blessed be God, Christ hath brought life and immortality to light; and we are assured, that our dear friends do not cease from existing, they only exist in a different state and manner; a different and a far more happy ;-for, though absent from us, they are present with the Lord; entered into joy unspeakable and full of glory! why then any immoderate grief? it can neither be profitable to us nor to them; it may do us much hurt, it can do them no good; it may
weaken our bodies and prejudice our health ; it may sadden our spirits, deprive us of the comforts, and indispose us for the duties of life! and what advantage can there be derived from so costly a sacrifice to their memory? do they need, can they be pleased with our tears, who have for ever taken leave of weeping themselves, and have such infinite cause for joy ? Could your cries call back the departed spirit, and awaken the claycold body into lise,-could you water the plant with tears till it revived, there might be some excuse for the abundance of your sorrow; but there are no Elijahs now, who may stretch themselves upon the breathless corpse and bring back its departed soul. Wherefore