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They shall delight to assist each other in their contemplations, communicating their glorious contemplations one to another. How sweetly will they converse together of the glories of God and Christ, and of God's glorious works of power, and wisdom, and mercy! and how will they convey the bright conceptions and the raptures of joy from one soul to another, imparting to each other the sweet communications which they themselves receive from the glorious king of heaven! and how will they help one another in their praises to God and Christ, each one bearing his part in the heavenly melody, extolling the most High! And what a glorious harmony of celestial voices without number will that be, when the whole assembly of the upper world shall together lift up the praises of God on high! John had this represented to him at a great distance, and tells us, Rev. xiv. 2, “I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and I heard the voice of harpers, harping with their harps :” so ardent were they, and so great a multitude. And how will they rejoice in their numbers, to see so great a multitude all united, all perfectly holy, all full of mutual love, all fellow-citizens, all brethren!
Here a question may arise, Whether the saints, when they go to heaven, have any peculiar comfort in meeting with those who have been their pious friends on earth? I answer in the affirmative, and I think it is evident from 1 Thess. iv. 13—18. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even 'as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God : and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we, which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Here it is evident,
1. That what the apostle mentions, as a matter of comfort to Christians respecting their departed Christian friends, is that they shall meet them, and see them again. It is not only that their departed friends, though dead are happy, but they shall see them, and be with them again. This is here plainly asserted. Mourn not for them, says the apostle, as those that have no hope; for when Christ comes, God shall bring them again, and we which are alive shall be caught up with them, and so shall we be ever with the Lord together. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. The apostle therefore must be understood to mean, that they should comfort one another when mourners, with the consideration that they should hereafter be with their departed friends again in a glorious and happy state, and never part more.
2. That there will be something else that will give comfort in meeting them in a future state, than in seeing other saints; otherwise why did the apostle mention it for their comfort, that they should see them again rather than other saints whom they had not seen or heard of? The apostle's speaking thus to the Thessalonians might give them just ground to expect, that the peculiar by strong affection which they had cherished for their de- , parted friends, which was crossed by their departure, would be again gratified by meeting them again ; for this crossing of that affection was the ground of their mourning. If the Thessalonians knew, that to see their friends again in another world would be no gratification to the affection which they had for them as their friends, and did no way think or conceive of it as such ; then to think of seeing them would be no more comfort to them or remedy to their sorrow, than to think that they should
other saint that lived or died in another country, or in a past age; and that, because it would be no remedy to the ground and foundation of their mourning, viz. the crossing their affection to them as their friends; and if it would be no remedy to their mourning, to think thus respecting it, it never would bave been mentioned to them by the apostle as a ground of comfort or reason why they need not mourn. That was what they mourned for, viz. that they should not have their affections towards them satisfied by seeing them, and conversing with them again. That for which the heathen here spoken of, that have no hope, mourned excessively, was that they should never more have that affection gratified again. Hence it follows that the special affection, which the saints have in this world to other saints who are their friends, will in some respects remain in another world. There is no reason why we should suppose that saints that have dwelt together in this world, and have showed kindness to each other, have been affectionate to each other's true happiness, should not love one another with a love of gratitude for it in another world. There is no reason why good ministers whom God had made the instruments of salvation to others, should not have special joy in meeting their converts in heaven. 2 Cor. i. 14. “As also ye have acknowledged us in part that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus." 1 Thess. ii. 19, 20. “ For what is our hope
or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ? For ye are our glory and joy.” I see no reason why those that love one another with a virtuous love, and from such a love have shown kindness one to another, should not love one another the better for it in another world. There is no reason to think, that the friendship contracted here on earth between saints will be rooted out in another world. All natural affections, so far as founded in animal nature or the infirmity of the present state, will cease in another world; and with respect to any affection that the godly have had to the finally reprobate, the love of God will wholly swallow it up, and cause it wholly to cease. But I see nothing that argues that one saint in glory may not have a special respect to another, because God made use of that other as an instrument to bring him into being, and thus made bim the remote occasion of his happiness; or that, when pious parents lose pious children, they may not comfort themselves with the thought that they shall go to them, as probably David did when he said concerning his child, 2 Sam. xii. 23, “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast ? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me :” or that even a former acquaintance with persons and their virtues may not occasion a particular respect in another world. They may go to heaven with a desire to see them upon that very account. The impressions which they have of their amiable qualifications in consequence of their acquaintance with them bere, may yet remain in another world.
5. The saints in heaven sball see and converse with Christ. They shall see Christ in a twofold sense.
1. They shall see him, as appearing in his glorified human nature, with their bodily eyes; and this will be a most glorious sight. The loveliness of Christ as thus appearing will be a most ravishing thing to them; for though the bodies of the saints shall appear with an exceeding beauty and glory, yet the body of Christ will without doubt immensely surpass them, as much as the brightness of the sun does that of the stars. The glorified body of Christ will be the master-piece of all God's workmanship in the whole material universe. There shall be in his glorious countenance the manifestations of his glorious spiritual perfections, his majesty, his holiness, his surpassing grace and love, and meekness. The eye will never be wearied with beholding this glorious sight. When Christ was transfigured in the mount, Peter was for making three tabernacles that Christ and Moses and Elijah might remain there, and that the heavenly vision might never come to an end. VOL. VIII.
Job had respect to this sight of Christ, and comforted himself with the thoughts of it, when he said, “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” This will be the most glorious object that the saints will ever see with their bodily eyes; and there will be far more happiness redounding to the beholders from this sight than from any other; yea the eyes of the glorified body will be given chiefly that the saints may behold this sight.
2. They shall see him with the eye of the soul. It is said, “They shall see him as he is.” 1 John jii. 2. “And they shall know even as they are known." 1 Cor. xii. 2. They shall have a clear understanding of Christ as Mediator, how he has undertaken from all eternity to accomplish their salvation. They shall understand the glorious covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son; shall see the eternal love Christ had to them before the foundation of the world. They shall in all probability understand the mystery of his incarnation. They shall know and understand the gloriousness of the way of salvation by Christ, “ which things the angels desire to look into;" they shall have a full understanding of the infinite wisdom of God in contriving the plan of salvation ; shall comprehend the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of Christ to sinners, in undergoing for them the agony of the garden, and the more overwhelming agonies of the cross. Now the heart is dull in the contemplation of such things. How often are they heard of by the saints on earth with but little affection! How often, when they see them set forth in the Lord's supper, are they cold and lifeless! But then it shall not be so; then the wonderful works of God, and the love of Christ in the work of redemption, will appear as they are : then there will constantly without any interruption be a most lively and full sense of it, withont any deadness or coldness ; every thing in the work of redemption will appear in its true glory, the understanding shall be wonderfully opened, and it shall be perpetually like the clear hemisphere with the sun in the meridian, and there shall never come over one cloud to darken the mind. And then the saints shall see fully how the excellence and loveliness of Christ appear in all that he did and suffered : they shall see the loveliness of those excellencies that appeared in Christ's buman nature when on earth; his wonderful meekness and humility, his patience under suffering, his perfect obedience to the Father. And then shall they also see the beauty that ap
pears in Christ's human nature in its glorified state, wherein the excellencies of it shine without a vail. They shall also see the excellence of the divine nature of Christ; they shall behold clearly and immediately his divine majesty, and lis divine and infinite holiness, and grace and love. They shall see Christ as the perfect image of God, an image wherein all the glory of the divine nature is fully expressed; they shall behold him as the brightness of bis Father's glory; and they shall see that bright and perfect image of God which the Father bebeld, and was infinitely happy in beholding from all eternity. But this sight of the glory of Christ in his divine nature belongs to that beatific vision, of which I would speak more particularly hereafter.
2. They shall not only see this glorious person, as at a distance, but they shall be admitted to be near him, and to converse with him. This sight of his glory and loveliness will fill them with the most exalted love, which love will cause them to desire conversation; and they shall be admitted to it, to the full of their desires, and that at all times. Two things may be observed concerning this converse with Christ, to which the saints shall be admitted in heaven.
1. It shall be most free and intimate. There shall be nothing to forbid them or deter them. Though Christ is so glorious a person, in so exalted a state in heaven, being Lord of heaven and earth, yet he will treat them as brethren, and they shall converse with him as friends. He will also bonour them and advance them to the dignity of kings, that they may be fit to converse with so glorious a King. Rev. i. 6. " And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to bim be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen.” Christ, when on earth, treated his disciples with great familiarity and freedom, he treated them as friends. John xv. 15. “I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what bis lord doeth : but I call you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." So in heaven he will not keep them at a greater distance, but admit them vearer; because they shall be fitted to be nearer to him and to converse more intimately with him. O how happy will it render them to have so great and honourable a person treating them with such grace and condescension !
Though they shall see the awful majesty of Christ, that will not make them afraid, because they will see his love and grace, and condescension, equal to his majesty.
2. This converse shall be most full and satisfying. This is evident from that most emphatic expression of the church being “the bride, the Lamb's wise.” He will open the infinite and eternal fountain of his love to them, and will pour forth that fountain into their hearts. This love will be as a pure river of water