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I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago,

(whether in the body, I cannot tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth,) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which

it is not lanful for a man to utter. If there be a passsage in the whole Bible capable of inflaming, and at the same time of baffling human curiosity, it is that which I have just now read. I do not mean a vain and presumptuous curiosity, but a curiosity apparently founded on reason and justice. One of the principal causes of our want of ardour in the pursuit of heavenly blessings, is our having no experienced witness, who, after having himself tasted the sweetness of them, conveyed to us clear and distinct ideas on the subject. It is a difficult matter to love that of which we have no knowledge.

St. Paul seems to have been reserved of God to supply this defect, and to fill up, if I may use the

expression, this void in religion. By a supernatural dispensation of grace, be passes into the other world before death; and he returns thence before the general resurrection. The whole church, awakened to eager attention, calls upon him for a detail of the wonders of the world unknown. And as the Israelites, aster having dispatched spies into the land of promise, burned with ardent desire to see and hear them, in order that they might obtain information respecting the country, whether it merited the exertions nécessary to acquire possession : in like manner, the Christian world seems to flock round our apostle, in earnest expectation of being informed what that felicity is, into which they are invited to enter by a gate so strait. They seem with one accord to ask him: What did you hear? What did you see? in the view of determining, upon his report, this all-important question, whether they should still persevere in their exertions, to surmount the obstacles which they have to encounter in the way of salvation, or whether they should relinquish the pursuit.

Bit St. Paul fulfils not this expectation : he maintains a profound silence respecting the objects which had been presented to his mind: he speaks of his rapture, only in the view of confounding those false teachers who took upon them to set at naught his ministry: and all the description he gives of paradise, amounts to no more than a declaration of his own utter inability to describe what he had seen and heard. I knew a man in Christ : a man in Christ, that is to say, a Christian, and by this denomination the apostle is characterizing himself, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

We propose in the following discoursé, my brethren, to attempt a solution of the difficulty which arises from this silence of the apostle. We propose to discuss this singular, but interesting question ; Wherefore is the celestial felicity unspeakable ? Wherefore should it be unlawful for a man to utter it? We shall begin with some elucidation of the expressions of our text, inquiring, 1. Into the era to which reference is here made; “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.” 2. By considering what is said respecting the manner of this rapture; “Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth.” 3. What we are to understand by Paradise, and the third hea

4. Finally, What ideas we are to affix to those unspeakable words to which our apostle alludes in the text; and these will constitute the first general division of our subject.

But in the second, which we have principally in view, we shall examine the point already indicated, by inquiring, Whether the silence of scripture, respecting a state of future happiness, suggests any thing tending to cool our ardour in the pursuit of it:

ven.

we shall endeavour to make you sensible, that nothing is so much calculated to convey lofty ideas of the paradise of God, as that very veil which conceals it from our eyes.

If you fully enter into the great end and aim of this discourse, it will produce on your minds those effects to which all our exhortations, all our importunities are adapted, namely, to kindle in your hearts an ardent desire to go to God; to put into your mouths that exclamation of the Psalmist : How great is thy goodness, O God, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee ! Ps. xxxi. 19.: to place you in the very situation of our aposile, who, after having been caught up to the third heaven, could no longer endure to live upon the earth, had his eyes opened to every path that led to death, could talk no more of any thing but of dying, but of finishing his course, 2 Tim. iv. 7. but of being absent from the body, 2 Cor. v. 8. but of departing, but of being with Christ, which was to him far betier, Phil. i. 23.

I. We begin with some elucidation of the expressions of the text, and of these,

1. The first refers to the era of St. Paul's rapture : I knew a man in Christ, above fourteen years ago. But were we to enter upon a complete discussion of this question, it would occupy much more time than is allotted for the whole of our present exercise. Never had a preacher a fairer opportunity of wasting an hour, to his hearers, in useless investigation, and impertinent quotations. We could easily supply you with an ample list of the opinions of interpreters, and of the reasons adduced by each in support

of his own. We could tell you, first, how it is alleged by some that these fourteen years denote the time elapsed from the conversion of St. Paul : and that his rapture took place during those three days in which he was without sight, and did neither eat not drink, Acts ix. 9. and to this purpose we could quote Capel, Lira, Cave, Tostat, and inany other authors unknown to the greater part of my audience.

We might add, that some other commentators, refer this epoch to the eighth year after St. Paul's conversion to Christianity, the forty-fourth of Jesus Christ, and the twelfth after his death.

We could shew you how others insist, with a greater air of probability, that the apostle enjoyed this heavenly vision, when, after his contention with Barnabas, humiliating instance of the infirmity of the greatest saints, he prosecuted his ministry in a different track. Those who adopt this opinion, allege, in support of it, the words of St. Paul in chap. xxii. of the Acts, ver. 17. “It came to pass, that when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance.” But disquisitions of this sort are unworthy of the place which I now have the honour to fill. I have matters of much higher importance to propose to you.

2. The manner of St. Paul's rapture stands in need perhaps, of some elucidation. He has expressed it in terms very inuch calculated to check curiosity. " Whether in the body, I cannot tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell.” We, accordingly, presume not to pursue researches on points respecting which the apostle himself professes ignorance.

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