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Fourthly, He feels no more from the fear of losing me. Perhaps he is nearer to me than ever! Perhaps he sees me continually, and under God guards and keeps me. Perhaps he knows my very thoughts. The above reflections, though under a perhaps, give me some help; but could they be confirmed by reason, and above all by Scripture, they would yield ore much consolation. I will try if I can find this solid ground for them.
It appears to me noway contrary to reason to believe that the happy departed spirits see and know air they would wish, and are divinely permitted to know. In this Mr. Wesley is of the same mind; (from whose writings I shall borrow some of my ideas,) and that they are concerned for the dear fellow-pilgrims whom they have left behind. I cannot but believe they are; and though death is the boundary we cannot see through, they who have passed the gulf may probably see us- Some small insects can see but a little way; an apple would appear to them a mountain, but we can see a thousand of them at once, crawling on what we call a small spot of earth. When an infant is born into this world, how many senses, till then locked up, are on a sudden brought into action, and could the child reflect, a variety of new ideas would be awakened by which it would discern such a capacity of becoming useful and comfortable to its mother, as it never before had any conception of 1 It could have no communion with her but by one sense, that of feeling ; but now it is enabled both to see, hear, and to make itself heard by her. There was an apparent separation from the mother; but in reality, it has gained a more valuable possession, which every day increases its ability of entering into her thoughts, and bearing a part in all her feelings. And may we not suppose if the use of sight and hearing, as well as the powers of understanding, are so improved by our birth into this lower world, that some powers analogous to the above are, at least, equally opened on the entrance of a spirit iato a heavenly state; though perhaps small in the beginning, like the infant compared with the measure that is to follow?
Nor doth it seem contrary to reason to suppose a spirit in glory can turn its eye with as much ease, and look on any object below, as a mother can look through a window and see the actions of her children in a court underneath it. If bodies have a language by which they can convey their thoughts to each other, though sometimes at a distance, have spirits no language, think you, by which they can converse with our spirits, and by impressions on the mind, speak to us as easily as before they did by the tongue? And what can interrupt either the presence, communion, or sight of a spirit?
"Walls* within walls no more its passage bar,
But may not our reasonable ideas be much strengthened by Scripture? Some encouragement on this head 1 have lately drawn from the account of Elijah and Elishaj (though I do not offer this as a proof, but rather as an illustration,) for as Elijah was to enter glory without passing through death, it is probable he was favoured before with a more than common intercourse and communion with the world of spirits, as we see in the works of Providence there is a gradual ascent; and I the rather * believe this from some passages in his story. Near the time of his translation, it was revealed to the sons of the prophets, who said to Elisha, Knowest thou that thy master shall be taken from thy head to-day? But to Elijah himself perhaps it was revealed long before, and it seems to me, he referred to this when he was in the desert of Arabia, under the Juniper-tree, 1 Kings, chap, xix.—where he requested for himself that he might die? saying (to this effect) " It is enough, Lord, I am not better than my fathers." The prophets before me have sealed thy truth with their blood, and why should I be exempt from the common lot of man? I had rather^ die and come to Thee now? Why should I live any longer?
Thou hast enabled me to maintain thy cause against the worshippers of Baal; yet my word hath little weight with them. "They have slain thy prophets, and I only am left, and they seek my life to take it away." Let them have it, for it is far better for me to depart and to be with thee. However, quite resigned to the will of God, he lays him down to sleep, till awaked by an angel of the Lord, who bids him arise, and take the refreshmeat a watchful Providence had provided for him. Here we have no account of any alarming fear. He doth not, like Daniel, fall down as one dead, nor like Zachariah and the shepherds, become sore afraid; but after a moderate repast, he lies down to sleep again, and then receives a second visit from his bright messenger, for aught we see, with the same steady calmness as before. From which, I am led to suppose, he was accustomed to such communications.
When his faith had gathered strength by his miraculous preservation, forty days and nights without food, full of holy expectation he arrives at Horeb, waiting a further manifestation of the glory of God, as Moses, the giver €)f the law, had done in this very place before him.—Nor can we suppose this illustrious restorer of the law could y be totally forgetful of that prayer, "Lord, I beseech thee, show me thy glory!" The place would remind him of the great discoveries made there. What intercourse he might have with the spirit of Moses we know not, but it is certain they knew each other some time after on Mount Tabor. Waiting thus, like his great predecessor, for a time, the glory of the Lord was displayed before him, and the question put, "What dost thoii^h^fe5 Elijah ?"—In his answer to which, he seems to intimat^J have nothing to do here. Israel has departed from thy ways, and why should I abide on earth any longer. Let me now come up. As a pledge his prayer is heard, he is commanded to anoint Elisha to remain a prophet in his room.—And when the appointed time was come, walking with Elisha, he seems desirous of being alone, (perhaps
the powers of darkness now made their last assault, endeavouring to shake his faith with regard to the great event just ready to take place,) and bids his friend again and again to tarry behind. But Elisha, unwilling to lose any part of his blessing, answers, " As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." He then asks him, What shall I do for thee before I am taken away? Elisha answers, "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." To which Elijah replies, " Thou hast asked a hard thing." Now if a double portion of holiness was all Elisha meant, it was an odd answer, for we know there are no limits to that petition. We may ask as much of the nature of God as we please, and he will do " exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think." And no doubt Elijah knew enough of the mind of God to know that. But might he not mean, let me have the two portions of thy spirit, not only thy communion with God, but let my intellectual sight be opened as thine. Let me also discern the heavenly company wherewith we are surrounded, and commune with " the spirits of just men made perfect," though as yet I only by faith behold the Gospel day?
This therefore did seem a hard thing, for as Elisha was to die like other men, the prophet might not know whether this favour was to be granted to him or not; and therefore, as referring to the thing itself, he says, (as it were) a If thou seest me when I am taken from thee," when the spiritual change hath passed upon me, then it shall be so, and then thy inward sight will be opened. But if 1 become invisible to thee, as to the sons of the prophets who stand afar off to gaze, it shall not be sOi It is not the will of God concerning thee. But the <c effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availed." Elisha saw both him and his heavenly convoy, while the sons of the prophets saw neither, and therefore went on to the mountains to seek Elijah. And that this supernatural sight remained with Elisha, we have reason to believe, for being in Dothan, and surrounded with a great host come to take away his life, his servant said to him, "Alas, master! what shall we do?" The prophet at once answers, " They are more that be with us, than they that be with them;" and adds, "Lord, open the young man's eyes, that he may see!" And "the Lord opened the young man's eyes, and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of chariots and horses of fire round about Elisha." It is remarkable this spirit which rested on Elisha was more conspicuous than that which rested on Elijah,—perhaps to prevent the thought, though the man who was to enter heaven alive, was thus favoured, no other must expect it—Nay, but God, who delights to confer his greatest favours on the weakest objects, can confer on us all, that which he bestowed on Elijah and Elisha. And, if under that dark dispensation, why not in this Gospel day, concerning which it is foretold, "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams?"
The Apostle tells us, "We are not come to mount Sinai," where Israel both saw the power, and heard the voice of God; but to mount Zion, where we have communion "with the general assembly of angels, the church of the first-born, the spirits of just men made perfect, with Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant;" yea, and have access " to God, the Judge of all." And were we better acquainted with the privileges of our dispensation, we should become in a more full manner inheritors "with the saints in light." But though it is allowed we may have communion with angels, various are the objections raised against the belief of our communion with that other part of the heavenly family, the disembodied spirits of the just.
I shall consider these objections one by one. Lord, help me in so doing! Let me at least strive to comprehend something of « the length, and breadth, and depth, and heighth of the great victory obtained for us over