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of Heaven, to bring about their final felicity: and then they recollect with rapturous joy the intimate connection of these events with the greatest and most sublime of all, their redemption by the death of the Son of God. On this transporting subject wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence a, they exert the utmost powers of imagination and At every step they take new light breaks in
their minds, and new joys circulate around their hearts. So a pure flame of ingenuous gratitude and love is enkindled in their bosoms, to the Father of mercies who laid the plan in the counsels of eternity, to the divine Jesus who carried it into execution, and to the Holy Spirit the Comforter who displays the glories of it to their enraptured sight.—Thus employed in contemplating the most glorious objects, discussing the noblest truths, conversing about the most interesting events, and intermingling with their discourse the harmonious melody of the most exalted devotion and praise; thus employed, I say, how pure, substantial, and satisfying must their pleasures be !
Go into a family of piety and love.—Some few such families there are in our world.-Read the character of each member in his countenance. Be a witness of the tender offices of kindness they render each other. Join their company. Make one with them in their parties of innocent amusement. Listen to their instructive, entertaining, and endearing discourse. Hear their pleasant details of interesting events. Enter into their more serious reasonings. And share with them in the comforts and joys of their undissembled and fervent devotion. You will say with rapture, Verily this is the house of God, it is the gate of heaven b! But the pleasures enjoyed by this little society, though they may distantly resemble those of the blessed above, fall infinitely short of them.
How commodious is the habitation in which this infinitely large and noble society reside! No convenience is wanting to make it pleasant and delightful in the highest degree. There are apartments in it for every one of the family, and Christ is gone before to make them ready. How delicious is their food! It is the food of angels. How highly flavoured are their joys ! They drink of rivers of pleasure that flow from the throne of a Eph. i. 8.
b Gen. xxviii. 17.
God and the Lamb. How illustrious the company! They are all wise, holy, and good; free from every possible taint of folly, imperfection, and sin. Each one enjoys health, ease, and tranquillity; without abatement or interruption. They are upon terms of the strictest amity and the most cordial friendship. Their discourse is upon subjects as delightful as they are instructive; subjects that afford the richest pleasure to the imagination, and diffuse a sacred glow of divine affection through the heart. The Father of the family is present in the midst of them, pouring upon them the noblest profusion of beneficence and love. Their elder Brother and Friend, who loved not his life unto death for their sakes, unbosoms his heart to them. The Holy Spirit not only irradiates their understandings, but in the character of a Comforter possesses them of the richest consolations. In fine, the innumerable hosts of angels who attend them, are happy in contributing all in their power to their happiness.— What refined, what exalted, what divine pleasures must this family enjoy!
The great apostle of the Gentiles, in the midst of his labours here on earth, was admitted for a few moments into their company. And so enraptured was he with the joys he there felt, that whether he was in the body or out of the body he could not tell : it was paradise, and he heard things which it is not lawful for a man to utter a. Let us check our imagination then in its flight. We have not senses capable of sustaining the heavenly vision; we have not faculties at present equal to the investigation of this sublime subject.--One thing, however, more must be observed of this family, and that is,
IV. The Continuation of their blessedness.
When we visit the pious families that have been described, and share with them a few hours in their employments and pleasures; how reluctantly do we take our leave of them! And when we see death, that cruel enemy of human felicity, breaking up these little societies, or at least ravishing some of the lovely members that compose them from the embraces of the rest; how do we mingle our tears with theirs, and silently say within ourselves ! “Ah! it had been better for them, if their pleasures had suffered more allays and interruptions: the event
a 2 Cor. xii. 1-4.
would have been less painful.” Sad sight! to see dutiful and affectionate children pouring their unavailing tears over the tomb of a parent, whose counsels, company, and love were continual sources of pleasure to them! or over the graves of brethren and sisters, with whom they dwelt in the sweetest harmony and friendship! So however it must be : so it is for their real interest that it should be. The several members of these communities on earth are called away in their turn to join the general assembly above. But, oh ! how infinitely delightful the thought !—that assembly once met shall never, never separate. Their habitation, persons, employments, friendships, and pleasures shall suffer no change, diminution, interruption, or end.
The fairest mansion on earth must in a course of time decay. Not a vestige now remains of those dwellings, so famed in Scripture for the piety, friendship, and hospitality of their inhabitants. Yea, the time will come when the vast fabric of this world shall be laid in ruins. But such is not the destiny of this more noble house above. No earthquake shall shake it, no fire consume it, no tempest destroy it. It shall remain for ever a monument of the skill and power of him who hath built it. It is a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens a.
Here, one generation passeth away and another cometh. Parents die, and their children succeed them: and after a while, families that have boasted of their ancient extraction become extinct. But in this house above all are immortal. Sickness, pain, and death have no admission there. Health ever blooms in their countenances, and not the least declension of spirits, vigour, or strength disturbs their repose. They feel no change -they dread no change. They are all happily met together, and have the comfort of knowing they shall never part. It is the will of the eternal God, the Father of the family, that their existence, like his own, should have no end.
A thousand circumstances arise, in this state of vicissitude and sin, to dissolve our connections, interrupt our duties, disturb our discourse, and diminish if not annihilate our pleasures. Though the family is not broke up, yet by this or that cross
a 2 Cor.
accident its affairs are deranged, its members for a while separated, one and another rendered incapable of their proper business, smiling plenty interdicted, pleasant discourse interrupted, the harmony of the house threatened, and all its joys sometimes converted into sorrow and sadness. But in heaven the reverse is the case. The order of the family is preserved inviolable, every one fills his proper station, without a wish or an occasion of absence, one office of love follows another in perpetual succession, plenty ever abounds, peace reigns undisturbed, social intercourse flows on without interruption, friendships contracted are never dissolved, and pleasures new, various, and refined are enjoyed without satiety, diminution, or end. The sun once risen on those pleasant abodes never goes down: and when millions of years have rolled round, the happiness of the family is but beginning.
Thus have we attempted some faint description of this illustrious family above. A faint description it indeed is: yet I flatter myself it has made such an impression on our hearts, that none of us can forbear saying—“ Is there really such a family as this?”—“ If there is, May I hope at death to be admitted into it?”—“ And if I may, How shall I, in the mean while, express my gratitude to him who has opened so glorious a prospect to my view ?” To these questions permit me, by way of improvement, to assist you and myself in making a reply.
1. What we have affirmed of a future state of happiness is true.
We have, indeed, adopted a figure to assist us in our description of it: but to that figure our Lord Jesus Christ has directed
In my Father's house are many mansions : I go to prepare a place for you. And he who said this is the faithful witness a : he is the truth b itself. The apostles had conceived a hope of this state before he thus expressed himself: and such was his integrity and benevolence that we may be sure, to use his own language, had there been no such state, he would have told them.
It will scarce be expected, that I should here enter particularly into the evidence of this most cheerful and animating truth: or I might shew you, that the admitting it involves in it no a Rev. i. 5.
6 John xiv. 6.
absurdity or impossibility—that whoever considers the powers of the human soul, the history of Providence, the present state of the world, and many characters that actually exist on our earth; must allow that it is highly probable—and that the positive evidence of Christianity, beaming upon us like the sun in all its meridian glory, to possibility and probability adds certainty. But on these topics of argument we will not now insist. All I mean is to derive a presumptive or collateral proof of what we cannot but wish to be true, froin the figure which has assist ed us in our conceptions of it. A family, a pious family, especially a family that answers to the description in the beginning of this discourse, is methinks a shadow of which heaven is the substance. Visit the pleasant mansion wherein the God of grace deigns to dwell, and say whether you are not struck at your very entrance with this prophetic inscription wrote in fair
it- THIS IS THE GATE OF HEAVEN. Man is an intelligent being. As such he is made for society. Families are the first social connections that take place among men. These are so constructed by the wise appointment of Heaven, as to create a union the most permanent and endearing. And this union, were the duties of it practised, would be a continual source of truly noble and rational pleasure. But alas ! sin has shaken the very foundations of these little societies, defaced their beauty, and spoiled their joys. They however still exist, and, amidst all the disgrace and injury they have suffered, still exhibit proofs of the wisdom and goodness of the Creator, and still remind us of the happiness, we were originally formed to enjoy. If therefore instances can be produced of any of these communities emerging out of the general wreck of human apostacy, recovering somewhat of their ancient beauty and glory, and becoming in a degree at least, wise, holy, and happy; one would be apt from thence to derive a probable argument, in favoạr of some further benevolent intention of the great Author of all good. Who knows, one cannot forbear saying, but these domestic pleasures, springing from the pure source of genuine religion, may be presages of more noble pleasures to be enjoyed hereafter? Perhaps the peace, order, friendship and love, restored to this and that dwelling, are the early dawn of future and everlasting bliss. This and that house is become a temple