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Our friends in Heaven-shall we see and know them again? This is my theme. I have written this book because I love the subject of which it treats. It was, therefore, not a toil, but a pleasure. It was in my heart before it was in my mind; and it grew up there like a flower, living and fragrant, to my own soul. If life, warmth, and tenderness, do not now glow upon its leaves, it is because the mind has spoiled the image in transferring the impression. What a pity, we are sometimes tempted to say, that it is so hard to make a picture for others of what we ourselves see and feel! I have done as well as I could.
Three years ago, the Author published a work entitled : “Heaven; or, An Earnest and Scriptural Inquiry into the Abode of the Sainted Dead.” While writing that book, the thought of writing this gradually waked up in my mind: hence, at the close of that book occurs the following passage:
“Here I lay down my pen, but here do I not end my meditations on the heavenly land. My thoughts, and feelings, and hopes, crowd onward still.” That may be taken as a promise or prophecy of what is here fulfilled. Here, accordingly, we offer the fruits of three years' further meditation on the heavenly world. We feel the more encourage
ment in offering this additional contribution to this department of pious inquiry, because it is one of those peaceful themes, which, even in the present distracted and divided state of the church, is not likely to excite any sectional jealousies. In the hope of another and a better life, we are all one.
The Author believes that human nature generally, and particularly in this age, is too prone to disjoin the material and spiritual, the finite and infinite, the temporal and eternal, and, consequently, also the kingdom on earth and the kingdom in heaven. God, in the Incarnation of his Son, has for ever united these, and brought them into living and loving sympathy with each other. Time and space are annihilated in “ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." In Him we are raised above the ruins of the Past above the changes of the Present—and above the fears of the Future. In proportion as we rise, by faith in Him, above all fragmentary and sectional ideas into communion with the general, the catholic, the infinite, and the absolute-in that proportion will we escape the downward tendencies towards the sordid regions of sense, and the more refined but chilling abstractions of Rationalism, both in its spiritualistic and materialistic extremes. God has made the heavens above us higher, broader, deeper, and more magnificent than the earth, that we might be overawed by them; and He has made them more bright and beautiful than the earth, that they might allure us. Morally, as well as physically, God has hung the earth fast to the heavens, and controls it by a law of gravitation whose centre is there; and
hereby He would shadow forth to us the truth, that our spirits, in all their affections, should hinge and turn upon the high, the infinite, the heavenly. Our proper position therefore is, to stand like the high-priest before the altar, and, in devout reverence and worship, to stretch forth our hands towards the heavens, while our hearts also rise thitherward in humble but earnest hope and love. We must embrace the infinite and heavenly, in all its forms, if we would be devout.
We, therefore, firmly believe that our hearts will become better by being filled with heavenly thoughts. This can be done by sitting together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and meditating upon the eternal inheritance which He has in reserve for us. The reader will discover how much Christ is made the centre and substance of this book; and how the hope of our eternal union with our sainted friends is ultimately resolved into our union with Him. This is a feature in this doctrine of future recognition and the most important onewhich we have not been able to discover in all that we have found written on this subject, in any degree of prominence. We believe that this is the real basis of the doctrine, which serves to make all other arguments in its favour consistent and living To this feature, and to the historical manner in which we have treated the subject, we respectfully invite the reader's special attention, as being, in our estimation, of the greatest importance.
We have carefully studied all we could find on this interesting subject, and acknowledge ourselves more or less indebted to those from whom we occasionally quote,
and whose names are generally referred to, or placed in the margin. We have aimed at making this a full discussion of the subject; and have therefore pursued it, so far as we could find any light to lead us, into all its details. This has enlarged the book, but it will hardly be considered a fault, as we have not consciously admitted any thing irrelevant.
It will be seen, we hope, on every page, that we have not followed the subject as one merely of vain curiosity, but with a sincere desire also that it might produce its practical fruits. We have been anxious that it should not only afford consolation, but also make the heart better. We have endeavoured to keep prominently before the mind of the reader the solemn fact, that the heavenly society of which this book treats it may never be his happiness to enjoy,—that the only ground upon which he can safely rest his hope of reunion in heaven with his sainted friends, is his own personal union on earth with Him“ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
Standing in the deepest reverence of soul before the solemn mysteries of that holy world into which this book presumes to cast a humble look, and in the name of our adorable Saviour, I lay this offering at His sacred feet. May He pardon what is wrong, and bless what is good, to the consolation of the saints, and to the advancement of His own great Kingdom of Eternal Love.