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that pierced us to the very heart, bear even the least thought of parting from them; and going we know not whither, into strange and unknown places, and into company as strange and unknown as they are. But we shall soon meet there with what will allay all our fears, and cheer our souls, when we are only to go to that place of separate spirits, where our dear Saviour has been before us, and has secured our passage to it, and will preserve us in safety, till the restitution of all things: A place, wherever it is, of rest; and that not a stupid and insensible rest, but a rest attended with a lively perception of far greater joys and delights, than any which this whole world can afford; a place, of the best society and company where all those holy souls, which have ever been in the world from the beginning of it, the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and Confessors, and the spirits of all just men now made perfect, whom before we have heard of with admiration, and whose examples we have endeavoured to imitate; are all now gathered together, familiarly conversing with one another, and congratulating one another on their safe escape from the dangers of the late world, and on the joys they are now possessed of; and waiting for their Lord's return from heaven, and the glories of their own resurrection; a place that is frequented by the angels of God, which the Son of God himself visits and illustrates with the rays of his glory; a place where there shall be no wicked men to corrupt or offend us, no devils to tempt us, no sinful flesh to betray us; a place full of security, where we shall be out of all possible danger of being undone and miserable for ever; a place from whence all sorrow (because all sin) is banished, where our enjoyments shall be suited to our enlarged faculties, and every thing that can increase the pleasure of our separate souls shall be presented before them, and every pleasure and joy continually increased by the certain expectation of
greater joys still to come hereafter, when our souls and bodies, those once dear partners, but separated by Death, shall be re-united at the resurrection.' If we have been so wise as to fear God, and keep his commandments, while we live in this world, we have nothing to fear when Death comes to remove us out of it. For thus happy, and ten thousand times more so than we can now imagine or conceive, will our souls begin to be, as soon as they are entered into the invisible world of spirits.
This is therefore matter of abundant consolation to all good men, when Death approacheth them, that they shall not stay for their happiness, till their resurrection at the last day. They shall not indeed have their perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul till that time comes; but they are sure of being in joy and felicity in the meantime. For they shall immediately after death be put into possession of a celestial paradise; and there rejoice in the certain expectation of a crown of glory that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them;" and to be bestowed on them at the day of recompence, at the end of the world.
Indeed, if good men, when they had fought the good fight," and "had finished their course," were to wait some thousands of years for a recompence to be made them; were they when they die to pass through a long state of oblivion and inactivity, before they could reap any advantage for all their diligence and labour in God's service here; were they to have no perception of comfort till the last day; if darkness were to overshadow them, till the light of Christ's glorious appearance at the resurrection came upon them: This might reasonably make them unwilling to die, and desirous to continue longer in this world, where there is some comfort, some enjoyment of Christ, though imperfect. But when they are assured by God's holy word, that such as "die in the Lord, do not only rest from all their
labours here," but have "the reward of their works immediately following them," Rev. xiv. 13; that pious souls are no sooner delivered from the burden of the flesh, but they find themselves with God and their Saviour in paradise; this may very well take from them all fears of dying, nay, make them resigned and willing to die, when God calls them to it, and be even very desirous to depart, and be with Jesus Christ; which is far better than to live here, in this vain, and troublesome, and dangerous world; and moreover engage them "to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as they know that their labour shall so soon, and so suddenly, not be in vain in the Lord." 1 Cor. xv. 58.
For then will be fulfilled that gracious promise of their blessed Saviour to all good men: “To such as shall overcome, I will give to them to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God," Rev. ii. 7. For whenever any faithful and obedient souls depart from their bodies, he presently sends forth his angelic messengers to carry them, as they did that of Lazarus, into Abraham's bosom, the place of happy spirits departed; and there to lodge them in one of those blissful mansions in his father's house, which he went before to prepare for them.'
The Misery of bad Men upon the Separation.
BUT quite the reverse of all this will be the change which the souls of the wicked and ungodly must undergo, as soon as they are separated from their bodies. For though for wise and gracious ends, GoD often spares bad men in this life, and sometimes shines upon them in a continued day of
prosperity, without any cloud or interruption; yet he will for certain overtake them with the fearful storms of his vengeance in the life to come. Then all that they delighted themselves with in this world, is irretrievably gone and lost, and passed away from them for ever; and they shall see themselves encompassed only with dreadful sights, abandoned by God, and haunted by evil spirits; being filled at present with inexpressible horror and despair, and confounded with the just expectations of greater and more intole rable miseries, which are to come hereafter.
If indeed there were any respite after death for those who have been wicked in this life; if there were but some hundreds of years' intermission in a state of sleep and forgetfulness, this would be some little present comfort to them. But when upon their departure hence, their state of misery must immediately commence : when not only after the final judgment, they must dwell with "devouring fire," and "everlasting burnings," but in the interval be company for infernal spirits only, and with them be equally "reserved in chains of darkness, against the judgment of the great day; when they must be immediately consigned to a place and state of irretrievable misery; a place where there is no company but the devil and his angels, and those lost souls that have been seduced by them; a place of horrid darkness, where there shines not the least glimmering of light or comfort; a place of wretched spirits, that are continually vexed at the sad remembrance of their former sins and follies, and feel the dreadful wrath of God for them, and tremble at the apprehension of a greater wrath still to come: This is the miserable place and state whereunto unrepenting sinners shall immediately enter when they die. For as good angels, which ministered to holy souls, when in the body, will by the command of CHRIST, certainly resort and minister to them, when they
come out of it, to guard them safe from the malicious purposes of evil spirits; so there is little reason to doubt but that evil spirits, which tempted and inflamed wicked souls to sin, and to offend God in this life, will be ready to seize and carry away the poor helpless wretches, as soon as they enter the confines of another, into some dark and dismal abodes; there to suffer with them all the torments and agonies, that the wrath and malice of devils, together with their own awakened consciences, and furious and unsatisfied affections are able to inflict.' O how then should we frequently ponder these things in our hearts beforehand, and use our utmost diligence and care to be prepared for the one and to avoid the other!
When we have any matters of great importance in our view, relating to our worldly concerns, how do we continually think upon them, and bend all our cares, and employ all our endeavours, for the obtaining of them; if we have expectations of great advantage from them? And if we find in ourselves any indispositions for the enjoyment of them, how careful are we for the removing of them; accounting them our best friends, who are so kind as to advise us to the most proper and likely means for the accomplishing our desires? How inexcusable then shall we be to ourselves, and how justly to be blamed for it by others, if when matters of much greater concern than any of this world can be of, are proposed to us, and it is of the greatest consequence to us to be duly prepared for them (our eternal happiness hereafter depending upon it :) I say how inexcusable shall we be, if in a case of such vast importance to us, we should hardly ever allow ourselves so much time as to bestow one serious thought about it, and should spend all our lives carelessly and idly upon trifles and in the mean time let whole days, and months, and years, pass over our heads without once reflecting upon that happiness or misery, which must