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they saw through the glass of ordinances, and were thereby "changed into the same image from glory to glory," 2 Cor. iii. 18: that sight of God was only "through a glass darkly, but then it will be face to face," 1 Cor. xiii. 12. "When he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is," 1 John iii. What man dwelling on this side the grave knows the meaning of that word? God said to Moses, thou canst not see my face;"* it is well if we can see his back but then the Lord will unveil his face to glorified souls. We cannot tell now how a finite soul is capable of seeing an infinite object; but then as the faculties will be astonishingly enlarged and extended, so this vision will exceed our present low apprehensions. This is called the beatific vision, when it is promised "to the pure in heart that they shall see God;" and it is this that makes them completely happy. That is one of the sweetest words in the bible, 1 Thess. iv. 17, 18, "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."
ON THE INTERCOURSE WHICH THE SAINTS HAVE AT THEIR MEETING TOGETHER.
THE former chapter referred to the principal design of the saints' meeting together, which was the glorify+ Matt. v. 8.
Exod. xxxiii. 20.
ing of God, and enjoyment of him, in which consists their personal felicity.
The latter concerns their mutual society, and familiar intercourse one with another, which will be an addition to their joy and happiness in those heavenly regions.
Communion of saints is one article of our faith, and the great privilege of believers in this lower world; both that which is catholic with all saints through the world, and that which is personal and immediate with members of the same society. As soon as any man commenceth Christian, he espouseth this communion, Phil. i. 5, "For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." Wicked men talk of their good fellowship in feasting, drinking, jesting, and gaming, alas, they are all but child's play, yea devil's sport to this, and leave the soul comfortless and guilty; but this fellowship of God's children is delightful, honourable and profitable, a distinctive character of a saint, an emblem of heaven, a step to communion with God.
Yet that fellowship they have in glory far exceeds what they have below, for they are freed from the dregs of corruption and sinful passions, their souls are purified, their graces perfected, and though they be personally different, yet all centre in God.
That the saints above have familiar intercourse one with another, is generally asserted, and very probable; because such a communication must greatly heighten their pleasures and happiness. But how this is carried on, is not so evident; whether it be by imprinting their conceptions on the minds of each of other, as Scotus saith; or by arranging their conceptions in their own minds, and so in some peculiar way representing them by certain forms to others, so Aquinas; or
by forming sounds, which after their way are intelligible. But we that are so much strangers to the nature of spirits, cannot conceive of these things.
Yet after the resurrection, when bodies are united to their souls, possibly they may hold discourse vocally. It must be said, even whilst in this world, in a sound sense, that they "know no man after the flesh," 2 Cor. v. 16; how much less in heaven, when their bodies become spiritual, will they know each other, or confer together in a low sensual manner, as they do here in this world.
Let the more learned read Dr. Tuckney's discourse in his Præl. Theol. page 152-157, upon this question: That the blessed in the state of glory shall know each other, for which he brings proofs out of scripture, of Dives and Lazarus, and also Moses and Elias at Christ's transfiguration.
But of this I shall say as he does, that this question contains in it a theological truth, not a fundamental article of faith;† not necessary to our salvation, but useful to our edification and consolation.
Now if it be asked, what subjects the saints glorified shall in all probability discourse upon, I confess it is a difficult question; for I find 2 Cor. xii. 4, that when the apostle Paul was caught up into the third heavens, he heard appηra pýμara, “wordless words, or ἀῤῥητα ρήματα, words that could not be uttered," or which it is not lawful or possible for a man to utter. God forbid that I should presume to express either the matter or the manner of these conferences above; but words or things they are that are uttered, and we may lawfully conjecture what the saints above converse about, by the
* Beati in statu gloriæ se mutuò sunt agnituri.
+ Quod questio ista in se contineat veritatem theologicam, non fundamentalem fidei articulum.
holy laudable discourse they have here; and they may be such as these:
1. Concerning the work of creation. For though the visible heavens and earth shall be burnt up, yet nevertheless, according to his promise, they shall see new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness," 2 Pet. iii. 12, 13. Fire purifies, so the visible heavens which were defiled with men's sins, shall be purged with fire, and the "creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption.* And O what a fine show will that present? far beyond golden mountains, rocks of pearl or diamonds, or crystal streams; a semblance of it we have in Rev. xxi, which is the wonderful workmanship of the great Creator, enough to employ the eyes and tongues of those celestial inhabitants to the praise of Jehovah, Rev. iv. 9—11: and though the first creation be past away, yet the mighty fabric of this vast universe will possess the thoughts of the saints, with admiration of God's power, wisdom, and holiness which shine therein, and they will review them in discourses one to another, with adoration of God, to the honour of his Majesty.
2. Concerning man's apostacy. How excellently God had placed man in the primitive state of perfection, formed after his own image, adorned with the beauties of holiness, and having “dominion over the works of God's hands." Yet he unreasonably revolted from God, and rose up in rebellion against him, by violating the moral law engraven on his heart; and the positive law of not eating the fruit of one tree; whereby he utterly ruined all his posterity, made himself and his offspring subject to God's wrath and curse here and hereafter to all eternity. This will be made subser*Rev. xviii. 5. Rom. viii. 21. + Psal. viii. 6.
vient to the advancement of free grace in our deliverance out of it.
3. Especially the saints will discourse on the means of our redemption. The infinite wisdom, grace and love displayed in God's contrivance of it; the transcendent love, care, and faithfulness of Christ in the management of it, the nature, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God, his offices, suited to our state, and all his mediatorial undertakings. This will be a voluminous book for saints to read, fairly written in indelible characters; and the glorious object before their eyes, at the right hand of God, in heavenly places, above principalities, to be a perpetual monitor of his glorious transactions.* This will be the subject of triumphant praise among the celestial inhabitants to all eternity, Rev. v. 8—14.
4. The privileges of believers, the blessed fruits of Christ's purchase. Now they shall more fully understand and form a due estimate of the benefits of reconciliation, justification, and adoption, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost; these privileges will be the topics of discourse one to another; they will say, O what blessed effects of divine grace! We enjoyed them, but did not duly conceive of them, now we see what it is to be the children of God, to be justified and sanctified; these were greater mercies than we were aware of. Let us cast our eye back, and consider what we were once, what fools, what vile creatures, but how we "were washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Cor. vi. 11. Ah, what a pleasant theme is this!
5. The ordinances enjoyed. Oh, how many affecting sermons have we heard! How often have we * Eph. i. 20, 21.