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'Not that we are to imagine, that when we come to Heaven, our understandings shall be raised to such a pitch, as to be able perfectly to comprehend the infinite nature and perfections of GOD: for a created understanding being naturally limited and finite, it cannot be stretched to the comprehension of what is infinite. But our knowledge shall then be advanced and raised to such degrees of perfection as a finite and created understanding is capable of. And this perfect knowledge of GOD, together with the happy effects of it, viz. those affections which it will raise in us, and that blessed enjoyment of the chief good, which we are not now able to express, and shall never be able fully to comprehend, is that which is called the sight of God.
Here in this world we know but in part, we understand but as children, we see but, as it were, through a glass darkly; 1 Cor. xiii. 12. All that we do now know of GOD, and of those other most glorious objects in heaven, is but very little in comparison of what we shall know hereafter; and that little we do know, is but imperfectly, obscurely, and confusedly. But when from children in this world, we come to be men of the other world, then that which is in part shall be done away: and in that state we shall see face to face, and know even as we are known: that is, we shall know more fully and evidently. We shall know GOD, and all those infinite other objects, which we shall desire to contemplate, as we know those that we look upon and converse with; as we ourselves are known to others, not by our picture only, but by being personally seen by them, and acquainted with them.
'And as our understandings will be thus made perfect in knowledge, so will our wills also be made perfect in love. This being a natural consequence of that. For our minds having such a perception of GOD's infinite loveliness and perfections (as they will have in the heavenly state) cannot but represent him
to us as the greatest good, and the most amiable object that can possibly be. For it is impossible, but that when we come perfectly to know him, we must take infinite pleasure in him, in beholding his glory, in praising and admiring his goodness, in doing his will with all imaginable readiness and cheerfulness, as the angels themselves now do. We cannot avoid cleaving to him with our whole hearts, and shall then find the greatest satisfaction that is possible in so doing. We shall see such an infinite inexhaustible treasure of good in GoD, that we shall love and admire, and delight in him, incomparably more than any other good whatsoever. Nay, we shall love so long and so intensely, till our souls be quite transformed into the nature of our beloved; till we become as like GOD, as it is possible for creatures to be. His will will be our will; his perfections will be our perfections; and we shall in a manner be one with him; and this is the perfection of love."
As our souls must be raised to a higher perfection, before they can be capable of perceiving the perfect happiness of that blessed state which is above; so must our bodies likewise be made more perfect than now they are, for the same end. Our bodies are here in a perpetual flux and change, continually tending to corruption and dissolution. But when they shall be raised again at the last day, they shall be so tempered and refined, as to be free from all destructive qualities, for they shall be raised incorruptible, so as not to be liable any more to decay and death. The body shall indeed still continue material; but it shall be then so pure and refined, that it shall partake of the immortality of the soul, to which it is united, and be of equal duration with it.' So the apostle tells us, 1 Cor. xv. 52, 53. "The dead shall be raised incorruptible; for this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." For nothing but a fixed and immutable, and immortal nature, which
can never decay, can be happy for ever; and therefore there is a necessity for this in order to our perfect happiness.
But, as our bodies are now constituted, they are utterly incapable of the happiness of the next life. Hence, says the apostle, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of GOD," 1 Cor. xv. 50; that is, our mortal nature cannot, which consists of such gross materials as flesh and blood are; for the maintenance and support of which, there is continual need of recruits and fresh supplies of nourishment, by meat and drink.
'Whereas our bodies, which shall be admitted to dwell there, shall undergo so great an alteration, that they shall from thenceforth have no wants or infirmities, no importunity of appetite, no hunger or thirst, no weariness for want of sleep, no pain or sorrow, no feebleness or decay, no sickness or old age, no dying any more; but they shall be of such lasting and durable matter, as not only time, but even eternity itself, shall make no impression upon them, or cause the least decay in them; for they shall be incorruptible, and by that means immortal, and so fitted to inherit the everlasting kingdom of GOD.' And what a mighty accession will all this be to our happiness?
Now if it be enquired, by what means the bodies of the saints in heaven shall undergo such a mighty change, and be fashioned after another manner, and be endowed with quite other qualities than they had before, the apostle St. Paul has told us in his epistle to the Philippians, chap. iii. 21. "Our Saviour the LORD JESUS CHRIST shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself." And this is a great change indeed, whether we consider what our bodies now are, vile and corruptible, or the pattern accord
ing to which they shall be changed. They shall be fashioned like to the glorious body of our blessed Saviour; that body wherein he now sits in the highest heavens, at the right hand of the throne of GOD. The omnipotency of the Son will display its whole force in bringing about this change. And what cannot that Almighty do, which is able to conquer and subdue all things?'
And can we then desire a greater glory for our bodies than this, with which GOD thought fit to reward his own Son, after all his obedience and sufferings? A glory, which the angels themselves shall never partake of; for they shall never be clothed with such bodies as our Saviour now hath, wherein he sits at the right hand of GOD; yet such bodies as these, the apostle assures us, our souls shall be clothed with at the resurrection; bodies as bright and glorious as the light; bodies so refined, that they shall be as pure as the regions are, wherein they are to inhabit; bodies so light and active, that our souls may move them whither and how we please, nor will they be the least clog or encumbrance to us; and to sum up all, for we can go no further, even bodies so glorious, that they shall be like unto that of the Son of GOD himself!'
And, O! what pleasure must this needs raise in our souls, when we set ourselves seriously to consider of these things? to think what exalted degrees of perfection and happiness both our souls and bodies are designed one day to be advanced to in yonder regions above, beyond what they are partakers of here! O! how should they fill us with eager wishes and longings after so great a bliss! and especially make us beg of GOD continually, that he would, by the daily workings of his Holy Spirit upon our hearts, dispose us so to order our conversation here, that we may be prepared to partake with all his faithful servants in all those blessings, which he has designed for them hereafter.
Secondly, Another positive blessing, which will greatly add to the happiness of Heaven, will be the excellent company that we shall there meet and converse with. The apostle to the Hebrews, chap. xii. 22, 23, 24, has given us a catalogue of the blessed company which inhabit the city of GOD, the heavenly Jerusalem; and tells us, that "when we come to Mount Sion, the city of the living GOD, we shall there be adjoined to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to JESUS the mediator of the new covenant."
Let us stay and exercise our thoughts a while on the delightful contemplation of each of these particulars. We shall there be admitted to the presence of the blessed JESUS, and enter into the joy of our LORD, our most gracious Redeemer, the best friend our souls ever had. And, O! how will our hearts spring with joy, and burn with love, and our mouths overflow with praises and thanksgivings to him, when thatbl essed person shall not only permit us to see his glory, but also make us partakers of it! When we shall hear him recite to us the wondrous adventures of his love, through how many woeful stages he passed, to rescue us from misery, and make us happy! When we shall be thoroughly acquainted by himself, with the happy change of his woeful condition, and shall see him that was once so cruelly treated upon earth for our sakes, raised now to be the head and prince of the heavenly hierarchy !
There we shall know and be known, love and be beloved, by the gracious sons of light, the holy angels of GOD; who, in the days of our pilgrimage here, were always ready and cheerful to execute the commands of their and our great LORD and Master, whenever he was pleased to signify his will to them, for our protection and preservation from the many evils we were here encompassed with.