« PreviousContinue »
men can follow believers off this dunghill, although the devil be called, “ the prince of the power of the air,”* yet he cannot stop or hurt the saints as they pass through his dominions ; nor shall he shoot a dart at them or after them. All troubles are at an end, death itself, the king of terrors is destroyed, he had no sting to wound the saints before, now he hath no being; the fear of him was gone in some degrees in their lives, now the very thought of him is gone;t they are delivered from the first, as well as the second death; they shall never receive a mortal wound, no, nor any wound; the accuser and abuser of the brethren is cast out, not only cast down, but quite cast out, and all his artillery and his instruments. I
4. When saints are thus gathered together, they shall know one another. It is true, some kind of imperfect knowledge shall cease, that knowledge which is only acquired in the use of means shall vanish away, 1 Cor. xiii. 8; or that which is seen through a glass darkly, then shall we see face to face, ver. 12. I must needs confess those two words are beyond my comprehension, of “knowing even as we are known, and of seeing God as he is;"|| and I suspect that no mortal can understand what they mean; but I think the faculties will be strangely enlarged, so that the saints will know all natural things, and pierce into the essence of the most intricate existences, the nature and powers of terrene creatures, the properties of angels, the mysteries of redemption, the counsels of God; though they are not omniscient, their knowledge must be limited, yet I think they will know all the ancient patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Paul, Peter, though they had never seen them in this * Eph. ii. 2.
+ 1 Cor. xv. 56. Heb. ii. 15. Rev. xii. 10. ll 1 Cor. xiii. 12. I John ii. 2.
world; thus the rich man though lost, knew father Abraham, and Lazarus in his bosom.* Luther in his discourse the night before he died, said that saints shall know one another hereafter: as would appear from Adam's knowing who Eve was, though he had been asleep,t and the disciples knowing Moses and Elias in Christ's transfiguration, Matt. xvii. 3; indeed this mutual knowledge will not be the least part of the saint's heavenly delight.
5. The souls of men live after they are separated from the body. For, what is it that is gathered with the saints ? It is not the body, for that is laid in the dust, but it is the soul, for the body and soul meet not till the great day of the resurrection; nor doth the soul sleep in the dust till then, for our Lord said to the penitent thief, “to day shalt thou be with me in paradise;" and Paul desired “to be loosed, that he might be with Christ; nor doth the soul cease to be, it hath an existence in a separate state; men may kill the body, not the soul. I Atomists and Epicureans will not admit an annihilation of any one atom in the universe, surely then not this excellent creature, the soul of man. Yea, the soul of man continues its individuality, that is, its distinct being, and falls not into one common universal soul of the world, as some have imagined; spirits have a numerical difference, a distinct being. Nor are we to think that the soul returns into the essence of God, because the text saith, “The spirit returns to God who gave it,” Eccl. xii. 7; it doth return to God to receive its sentence from him, not into his being, for then we should make God divisible, and consisting of parts, which is contrary to his infinite, divine nature; thus souls have a distinct being,
solo Luke xvi. 23.
+ Gen. ii. 23. Luke xxiii. 43. Phil. i. 23. Matt. x. 28.
yet depending on God the first being, as individuals, and must be accordingly judged.
6. That the soul being gathered with the saints, enters immediately into glory. To know where Lazarus's soul was, while he was in the grave, requires more skill than I can pretend to; some think it hovered about the grave by Christ's order, as designing its re-entering the body; but scripture assures us of the immediate salvation of gracious souls, “they enter into peace," when the body rests in its bed, Isa. lvii. 2; they are pronounced "blessed that die in the Lord ;* when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with him in glory," Col. iii. 4. Now they shall be glorious in their souls; at the resurrection, their bodies will be glorious, even like Christ's glorious body. † This answers that query, whether the saints shall have greater glory at the resurrection, than they had immediately after their death? It is easy to determine, that so far as there is an addition of a glorified body to the glorified spirit, so far is the glory greater, what further, I know not. Though Dr. Hammond thinks the word àvártaolc, translated resurrection, when flesh is not joined to it, signifies, that life which the soul enters upon immediately after death, called resurrection, that is, glorification; certainly the soul hath some intuitive knowledge in its separate state and felicity also, so far as it is capable.
7. When these blessed souls are thus gathered together, they shall never part, they shall live with God and each other for ever. Here we part and meet again, and meet and part again, and part so as that we shall never meet again in this world; but in the other world we shall part no more through the ages of eternity; after millions of years their joys are as fresh as at the first * Rev. xiv. 12.
+ Phil. iii. 21.
moment, they are never weary, nor interrupted, they are“ before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple ;" these waters have a perpetual spring, this day hath no night;* they shall reign with Christ not a thousand years definitely, but for ever and ever. O what a lasting and everlasting enjoyment of God and saints will that be! What can part them ? God will not, the devil and wicked men cannot, themselves shall not, for they have within them an incorruptible seed, even of that word “that liveth and abideth for ever,” 1 Pet. i. 23. It is not with saints in heaven, as with boon companions in playing, drinking, carousing, and matches of sport and vanity, who must part; nor is it with saints there as with God's children here in the worship of God, who have their intermissions, cessations, and interruptions; but where the work, praising God continues, the place continues, it hath foundations, the persons continue," he that doth the will of God abideth for ever,"; 1 John ii. 17..
FOR WHAT END THE SAINTS ARE GATHERED
III. The next division has a reference to the end or design of the saints gathering together.
1. The primary and principal design is, the glorifying of God. The great God doth all things for this great end, 2 Thess. i. 10, “ When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” The glory of the saints shall reflect glory to * Rev. vii. 15.
XX. 6. xxii. 5.
God. God considers himself honoured in his saints' honours, as the prince is magnified by the splendour of his court: if God be glorified in the bitterest sufferings of his saints, how much more in their exaltation ? * O what a lustre will they display, when they are all crowned as kings, when they shall shine as the firmament, as the stars, yea, as the sun in his meridian glory;t O what a wonderful change is this, to be raised out of the dust and from the dunghill, to sit upon thrones? How came this to pass, surely the author of this glory will have the chief share therein, all God's perfections will be conspicuous. The saints' meeting together in the aforesaid manner, will tend to the glory of,
(1.) God's sovereignty, wherein he chose such as were children of wrath even as others, to make them vessels of mercy, and left others as good as they to perish and be banished from God to all eternity; then his eternal counsels will be unfolded, and that scripture fully explained, Rom. ix. 15, 18, 22, 23.
(2.) God's wisdom will be conspicuous in contriving a way for man's redemption and salvation. The wisdom of God is a mystery, “even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory," 1 Cor. ii. 7. Then the secrets of this wisdom will be clearly laid open to angels and men, which now they desire to look into, and to learn more of which they become scholars in the church, 1 Eph. iii. 10.
(3.) The power of God will be displayed bringing poor weak creatures through such a world of difficulties and oppositions, as sheep in the midst of wolves, lions, and bears, in a howling wilderness, even themselves shall wonder how they ever got hither, and shall reflect with pleasure and triumph, that they were “ kept * 1 Pet. iv. 14. + Dan. xii. 3. Matt. xiii. 43. #1 Pet. i. 12.