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heightened by the vain imagination of men, while 66 they sat in darkness and in the shadow of death :" so are all these imaginary places now vanished, and such weak notions and inventions totally discarded by Christians, as they ought to be, since a more glorious light has risen upon them by the Gospel, and they have a more sure word of promise than ever the world had before; whereby they have an infallible assurance given them by CHRIST and his inspired apostles, that God will bestow upon all holy and good men, after this world and all things in it are at an end, an habitation with himself and his most blessed Son, and the Holy Ghost, and an innumerable company of angels, in the blessed regions above; such as are the purest regions of the world, and therefore called "the regions of light;" and such as the Scripture calls "the highest heavens," and St. Paul expresseth by the "third heavens," 2 Cor. xii. 2, where shall be joys and delights, infinitely above all those which this world can afford, and, which is the greatest and most valuable addition to them that can be, they shall continue such without any decay or end, for ever and ever. And this place, wherever it is, we justly call Heaven.
Before I proceed to consider the happiness which all those shall be partakers of who shall be admitted to dwell within that blessed place, I conceive it may not be improper (in order to raise in us more ardent desires of enjoying it) to take some notice of the outward beauty and magnificence of it, as it is thought to be described by St. John in his Revelations, chap. xxi. under the notion of the new Jerusalem. There, ver. 18, 19. 21. 23, "The building of the wall of it is represented as being of jasper, and the city itself as pure gold, like unto glass, and the foundation of the walls as garnished with all manner of precious stones, and the streets of the city as pure gold, and as it were transparent glass. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory
of GOD did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Which expressions, though allowed to be figurative only, and not literal, yet, as they seemed designed to convey to our minds the notion of a place of such transcendent beauty and magnificence as never was heard of or imagined before in this world, we may very well conclude it to be so, both from thence, and also because it is the place where the King of glory himself resides and keeps his court, and gives the greatest evidences of his presence, by communicating his glory with the utmost majesty to the perceptions of all his happy subjects: a place which, beside all the natural beauties and pleasures of it, is adorned with the illustrious presence of the Son of GOD, who after all his sufferings and all his combats with the kingdom of darkness, is there triumphantly set at the right hand of God the Father, in the fulness of power and glory, and made Governor and Lord both of angels and men; where an innumerable company of angels (every one of whom is far greater in dignity and glory, than the greatest monarchs of this world) do continually attend and wait upon GOD, to fulfil his commands; and where he intends most bountifully to reward all those pious and holy souls, who faithfully served him in this world, with unspeakable glory and happiness, that shall never have an end.
And so I proceed to the second thing which I proposed to do, viz. to endeavour to explain, in some measure, wherein the happiness of Heaven does con
Wherein the Happiness of Heaven does consist.
I SAID, in some measure, because we are as yet much in the dark about these matters. St. John has
told that though us, we are the sons of God, it does not yet appear what we shall be." 1 John iii. 2. To declare wherein the blessedness of the just shall exactly consist at the resurrection, exceeds our narrow apprehensions of things while we are in this mortal and imperfect state. Our present faculties are not able to bear a full and clear representation of so great a glory, as good men shall be partakers of in the heavenly mansions.
When our Saviour was transfigured upon the mount, and but a little image of Heaven were shewn to the disciples, they were strangely amazed, and "knew not what they said." St. Mark ix. 6. And St. Paul tells, when he was taken up into the third heaven," the things which he saw and heard there were not to be uttered. So that well might St. John say, "It doth not yet appear what we shall
We must be content, while we are in this world, to know something of it in general only; for as we are at present, we do not understand a thousandth part of the particular circumstances, which will contribute to the bliss of good men in the future state. Our souls must be raised to a greater perfection, and our understandings filled with a stronger and steadier light, before we can be fit to treat of such a subject, according to the real worth and dignity of it. We must first have been in Heaven, and possessed of that felicity and glory which is there to be enjoyed, before we can think or talk of it in such a manner, and such terms as it truly deserves.'
And then again, besides all this, the blessedness of that state does entirely depend upon the good pleasure of GOD, whose free gift it is, and he has not thought fit to reveal to us all the particular ingredients whereof it consists; though he has been pleased for our support and encouragement in this life, to discover to us so much of them, as fully to
convince us, that it will be exceedingly happy, beyond all that we have ever seen or experienced in this world.
It will concern us, therefore, whenever we think or speak of that happy state, to form our thoughts and our notions of it, according to those measures that GoD has given us in the Holy Scriptures; and not rashly to conceive any thing of it, but what we have warrant for, either directly, or by consequence, from the discoveries which are therein made.
But even as to what is said in the Scriptures, give me leave to mention one caution to be observed before I proceed. There are in the Scriptures several metaphors and parables made use of, to figure out to us the joys of the blessed; as eating and drinking at CHRIST's table, sumptuous banquets, marriage-feasts, fertile pastures, beautiful dwellings, magnificent cities, whose sun never sets; thrones, and all the ensigns of honour peculiar to princes upon earth: all which passages are certainly not to be understood in their literal sense, because all such gratifications of sense as they express, shall cease after this life is at an end, as well as the necessities that require them, and the appetites themselves that recommend them.
• All that is intended by that great variety of figures made choice of for this purpose, being no more than this; to shew us that all the satisfaction, which the most sensual man can possibly imagine or wish for in this world; as from the greatest plenty, the highest honour, the most exquisite beauty, and every ra→ tional and truly manly pleasure; shall be vastly exceeded in the happiness of the next world, where there is no sort of joy whereof we are capable in that state, but what will be conferred upon us in its utmost perfection.'
I proceed therefore, now, in the description of the heavenly happiness, as we may learn it from the Scriptures. There are these two things which may bé evidently gathered from thence concerning it.
The first is this, that we shall there be entirely freed from all those things, which are used to give us any disturbance or uneasiness in this world; such as are those infirmities and imperfections, those evils and miseries, those sins and temptations, to which we are liable, while we continue here; all which shall there be far removed from us, never to grieve or afflict us any more for ever; this may be called a negative happiness.
Secondly, We shall there enjoy all those solid and substantial blessings, which the infinitely good and gracious lover of souls has prepared for the entertainment and pleasure of all his faithful friends and servants to all eternity: wherein the positive happiness of Heaven does consist.
Of the Negative Happiness of Heaven.
FIRST, we shall there be entirely freed from all those things which were used to give us any disturbance and uneasiness, while we continued in this mortal
The very best and happiest persons whom the sun ever shone upon in this world, have not been wholly exempted from the infirmities and imperfections, from the evils, and miseries, from the sins and temptations, which are the attendants of our mortal nature; the wise and good providence of GOD, having so permitted or ordered it for the very excellent ends and purposes, which we shall be hereafter fully acquainted with, to his greater glory, and our own greater happiness: when we shall be arrived at that blessed place of rest and peace, from whence all