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departing souls, that we have our head and Saviour already in possession of the kingdom, which we are passing to! What a support and joy is it, to receive this message from our ascending Head, "Say to my brethren, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God." What a joy is it to read his promise, "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant bed." You have served him, and are following him, and now are going to be with him where he is.
There you shall be delivered from the darkness of this world. How dimly did we see through the lanthorn of the 'flesh! How little did we know! And how much were we ignorant of! And what pains did our little knowledge cost us! But there, one sight of the face of God will put an end to this longsome night; and will shew you that, which all the reading and study of a thousand years could never satisfactorily have shewn you. There you shall understand the works of God; the frame of the creation; the place, and office, and reason of all things, which here you knew not. The mysteries of the Gospel, which angels pry into, will be there much more unfolded to you, than the clearest divines were able to explain them. All sciences there shall be one pansophy; and all things knowable shall appear to you, in their wondrous perfect harmony. What welcome will those blessed angels give you, that here disdained not to minister for you, and bear you up in all your ways, and interested themselves in your concernments, rejoicing before God at your conversion! How glad then will they be of your safe arrival at the promised harbour of felicity with themselves! What joy will it be to you to be presently entertained, and welcomed into the acquaintance of those blessed spirits, and of all the holy souls that are delivered from this flesh and world; and to see their order, and be numbered with their society, and to be employed in their joyful work. O how much better company is that than the best below! There is no ignorance, and therefore no error; no want of love, and no contention; nor narrow, private interests to contend for, but all made happy in perfect love in him that is their universal end and happiness. There is no dissention, nor perverse disputes; no ignorant zeal, nor blinding passions; no proud or covetous designs, and therefore no hurtful d John xii. 26.
e John xx. 17.
means to prosecute them; no seeming necessity to hurt our brethren, to advance, or enrich, or save ourselves; no slanderers there condemn the souls whom Christ doth justify, nor take away the righteousness of the righteous from him; no cruel mockings, imprisonments, or banishments; no wandering destitute, afflicted or tormented; no more suffering for the sake of righteousnesss, but having suffered with Christ they are now reigning with him; and those, of whom the world was not worthy, are taken to God from an unworthy world. There are no troublesome mutations or confusions; no wars, nor rumours of wars, because no lusts to war in their members; but united souls in the harmony of love, do without any discord, praise the Lord. The church is not there divided into sects and factions, either through the pride or peevishness of its members; none scrupleth communion with the rest; none silence others from speaking the praises of their Redeemer; nor drive away others from their brotherhood and communion. There is neither unrighteous law, nor disobedient subject, nor unpeaceable neighbour, nor unfaithful friend, nor hurtful or malicious enemy! There is no afflicted friend to mourn for; nor any disconsolate soul to grieve with; no ignorant person to instruct, nor obstinate heart to persuade or pray for; no fearful, doubting Christian to be comforted, nor weak and wavering soul to be confirmed; no imprudent, scandalous actions of the godly to be lamented; no remnants of pride, self-conceitedness, or any delusion to keep out the light; no blemishes in them for the enemies to reproach, nor any malignant enemies to reproach them; no misrepresentations of things or persons; no raising or receiving false reports; no sin of our own to grieve for, or to strive against; and no sin of others to trouble the society, or be lamented. There we shall have no suffering friend to suffer with; none labouring of want, while you have plenty; nor any groaning in pain and sickness, while you are well. As no want or pain of your own will afflict you! so no suffering of your friends will interrupt your joy. Your comforts shall not be turned into lamentations, for the madness and obstinate wickedness of a sodomitical generation about you; nor your righteous soul be vexed with their filthy and sottish conversation. You shall not dwell in a world where the most part is drowned in heathenism and infidelity, nor in a church
defiled with papal tyranny, cruelty, covetousness, or profaneness. The whole society will shine in light, and flame in love, and none through any weakness or corruption, will be a clog or hindrance to another.
You shall above all this behold the person of your glorified Redeemer! You shall see that body, in its glorious change, which once was humbled to the Virgin's womb, and to a life of poverty, and to the scorns of sinners; to be spit upon, and buffetted, and crowned with thorns, and first made a laughing-stock, and then hanged up to die upon a cross, at the will of proud, malicious persecutors. You shall there see that person whom God hath chosen to advance above the whole creation; and in whom he will be more glorified than in all the saints. The wonderful condescension of his incarnation, and the wonderful mystery of the hypostatical union, will there be better understood.
And, which is all in all, you shall see the most blessed God himself; whether in his essence, or not, yet undoubtedly in his glory, in that state or place, which he hath prepared to reveal his glory in, for the glorifying of holy spirits. You shall see him whose sight will perfect your understandings, and love him, and feel the fulness of his love, which is the highest felicity that any created being can attain. Though this will be in different measures, as souls are more or less amiable and capacious (or else the human nature of Christ would be no happier than we), yet none shall have any sinful or troublesome imperfection, and all their capacities shall be filled with God.
O dear friend, I am even confounded and ashamed to think, that I mention to you such high and glorious things, with no more sense and admiration! And that my soul is not drawn up in the flames of a more fervent love; nor lifted up in higher joys, nor yet drawn out into more longing desires, when I speak of such transcendent happiness and joy! O had you and I but a glimpse with blessed Stephen or Paul, of these unutterable pleasures, how deeply would it affect us! And how should we abhor this life of sin! And be weary of this dark and distant state; and be glad to be gone from this prison of flesh; and to be delivered from this present evil world.
This is the life that you are going to live; though a painful death must open the womb of time, and let you into
eternity, how quickly will the pain be over. And though nature make death dismal to you, and sin have made it penal, and you look at it now with backwardness and fear; yet this will all be quickly past, and your souls will be born into a world of joy, which will make you forget all your fears and sorrows. It is meet that as the birth of nature had its pains, and the birth of grace had its penitent sorrows; so the birth of glory should have the greatest difficulties, as it entereth us into the happiest state. O what a change will it be to a humbled, fearful soul, to find itself. in a moment dislodged from a sinful, painful flesh, and entered into a world of light, and life, and holy love, unspeakably above all the expressions and conceptions of this pre-. sent life. Alas! that our present ignorance and fear should make us draw back from such a change! That whilst all our brethren that died in faith, are triumphing in these joys with Christ, our trembling souls should be so loath to leave this flesh, and be afraid to be called to the same felicity! O what an enemy is the remnant of unbelief, to our imprisoned and imperfect souls! That it can hide such a desirable glory from our eyes, that it should no more affect us, and we should no more desire it, but are willing to stay so long from God! How wonderful is that love and mercy, that brings such backward souls to happiness! And will drive us away from this beloved world, by its afflicting miAnd from this beloved flesh, by pain and weariness! And will draw us to our joyful blessedness, as it were, whether we will or not! And will not leave us out of heaven so long, till we are willing ourselves to come away!
You seem now to be almost at your journey's end. But how many a foul step have those yet to go, whom you leave behind you in this dirty world. You have fought a good fight, and kept the faith; and shall never be troubled with an enemy or temptation when this one concluding brunt is You shall never be so much as tempted to unbelief; or pride, or worldlymindedness, or fleshly lusts, or to any defects in the service of your Lord. But how many temptations do you leave us encompassed with! And how many dangers and enemies to overcome! And alas! how many falls and wounds may we receive! You seem to be near the end of your race, when those behind you have far to run. You are entering into the harbour, and leave us tossed by
tempests on the waves. Flesh will no more entice or clog your soul. You will no more have unruly senses to command, nor an unreasonable appetite to govern, nor a straggling fantasy, or wandering thoughts, or headstrong lusts, or boisterous passions to restrain. You will no longer carry about a root of corruption, nor a principle of enmity to God :it will no more be difficult or wearisome to you to do good. Your service of God will no more be mixed and blemished with imperfections. You shall never more have a cold, or hard, or backward heart, or a careless, customary duty to lament. That primitive holiness, which consisteth in the love of God, and the exercise and delights thereof will be perfected: and those subservient duties of holiness, which consist in the use of recovering means, will cease as needless. Preaching, and studying, and books, will be necessary no more: sacraments, and church discipline, and all such means have done their work: repentance and faith have attained their end. As your bodies after the resurrection will have no need of food, or raiment, or care, or labour; so your souls will be above the use of such creatures and ordinances, as now we cannot be without: for the glass will be unnecessary, when you must see the Creator face to face. Will it not be a joyful day to you, when you shall know God as much as you desire to know him? And love him as much as you desire to love him? And be loved by him as much as you can reasonably desire to be loved? And rejoice in him as much as you desire to rejoice? Yea, more than you can now desire? I open you but a casement into the everlasting mansions; and shew you but a dark and distant prospect of the promised land, the heavenly Jerusalem. The satisfying sight is reserved for the time, when thereby we shall have that satisfying fruition.
And is there any such thing to be hoped for on earth? Will health or wealth, will the highest places, or the greatest pleasures make men happy? You know it will not! Or if it would, the happiness would be so short, as maketh it little worthy of our regard. Have you not seen an end of all perfection? Have you not observed and tried what a deluding dream and shadow of felicity the world puts off its followers with? How they act their parts as players on a stage; and they that in a dream or mask, did yesterday seem princes, lords, or conquerors, to-day are buried in a