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saints go, who leave the world, to go to their rest, by death. Moses, when he died in the top of the mount, ascended to the same glorious abode with Elias, who ascended without dying. They are companions in another world; as they appeared together at Christ's transfiguration. They were together at that time, with Christ in the mount, when there was a representation of his glory in heaven. Doubtless, also, they were together afterwards, with him, when he was actually glorified in heaven. Thither undoubtedly it was, that the soul of Stephen ascended, when he expired. The circumstances of his death demonstrate it, as we have an account of it, Acts vii. 55. &c. “He being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man, (i. e. Jesus in his human nature), standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.—And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” Before his death he had an extraordinary view of the glory which his Saviour had received in heaven, not only for himself, but for him, and all his faithful followers; that he might be encouraged, by the hopes of this glory, cheerfully to lay down his life for his sake. Accordingly, he dies in the hope of this, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” By which doubtless he meant, “receive my spirit to be with thee, in that glory wherein I have now seen thee, in heaven, at the right hand of God.” Thither it was, that the soul of the penitent thief on the cross ascended. Christ said to him, “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Paradise is the same with the third heaven ; as appears by 2 Cor. xii. 2–4. There, that which is called the third heaven in the second verse, in the fourth verse is called paradise. The departed souls of the Apostles and Prophets are in heaven; as is manifest from Rev. xxiii. 20. “Rejoice over her thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets.” The church of God is distinguished in Scripture,from time to time, into these two parts; that part of it, which is in heaven, and that which is in earth ; Eph. iii. 14, 15. “Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Col. i. 20. “And having made peace through the blood of his cress, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Now what “things in heaven” are they for whom peace has been made by the blood of Christ's cross, and who have by him been reconciled to God; but the saints in heaven? In like manner we read, Eph. i. 10. of “God’s gathering together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.” The “Spirits of just men made perfect” are in the same “city of the living God,” with the “innumerable company of angels,” and * Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant ;” as is manifest by Heb. xii. 22–24. The church of God is often in Scripture called by the name of Jerusalem : and the Apostle speaks of the Jerusalem which is above, or which is in heaven, as the mother. of us all; but if no part of the church be in heaven, or none but Enoch and Elias, it is not likely that the church would be called the Jerusalem which is in heaven.
II. They go to dwell in the immediate, full, and constant, sight or view of Christ.
When we are absent from our dear friends, they are out of sight; but when we are with them, we have the opportunity and satisfaction of seeing them. While the saints are in the body, and are absent from the Lord, he is in several respects out of sight, I Pet. i. 8. “Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing,” &c. They have indeed, in this world, a spiritual sight of Christ; but they see through a glass darkly, and with great interruption; but in heaven, they see him face to face, I Cor. xiii. 12. “The pure in heart are blessed; for they shall see God,” Matth. v. 8. Their beatifical vision of God is in Christ; who is that brightness or effulgence of God's glory, by which his glory shines forth in heaven, to the view of Saints and angels there, as well as here on earth. This is the Sun of Righteousness, which is not only the light of this world, but is also the sun which enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem; by whose bright beams the glory of God shines forth there, to the enlightening and making happy of all the glorious inhabitants. “The Lamb is the light thereof; and so the Glory of God doth lighten it,” Rev. xxi. 23. No one sees God the Father immediately. He is the King eternal, immortal, invisible. Christ is the Image of that invisible God, by which he is seen by all elect creatures. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him and manifested him. No one has ever immediately seen the Father, but the Son; and no one else sees the Father in any other way, than by the Son's revealing him. In heaven the spirits of just men made perfect see him as he is. They behold his glory. They see the glory of his divine nature, consisting in all the glory of the Godhead, the beauty of all his perfections; his great majesty, and almighty power, his infinite wisdom, holiness, and grace; and they see the beauty of his glorified human nature, and the glory which the Father hath given him, as God-man and Mediator. For this end Christ desired that his saints might “be with him, that they might behold his glory,” John xvii. 24. When the souls of the saints leave their bodies, to go to be with Christ, they behold the glory of the work of Redemption, “which the angels desire to look into.” They have the clearest view of the infathomable depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God; and the brightest displays of the purity and holiness of God, which appears in that work. They see in a far clearer manner than the saints do here, “what is the breadth and length, and depth and height of the grace and love of Christ,” appearing in his redemption. As they see the unspeakable riches and glory of God's grace, so they clearly understand Christ's eternal and immeasurable love to them in particular. In short, they see
every thing in Christ which tends to inflame and gratify love in the most clear and glorious manner, without any darkness or delusion, without any impediment or interruption. Now thy saints, while in the body, see somewhat of Christ's glory and
love; as we, in the dawn of the morning, see somewhat of the
reflected light of the sun mingled with darkness: but when se
parated from the body, they see their glorious and loving Redeemer, as we see the sun when risen, above the horizon, by his direct beams, in a clear hemisphere, and with perfect day.
III. They are brought into a perfect conformity to, and union with, Christ.
Their spiritual conformity is begun while they are in the body. Here, “beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image; but, when they come to see him as he is, in heaven, then they become like him in another manner. That perfect sight will annihilate all remains of deformity, and sinful unlikeness; as all darkness is annihilated before the full blaze of the sun's meridian light. It is impossible that the least degree of obscurity should remain before such light; so it is impossible the least degree of sin and spiritual deformity should remain, in such a view of the spiritual beauty and glory of Christ, as the saints enjoy in heaven. When they see the Sun of Righteousness without a cloud, they themselves shine forth as the sun, and shall be themselves as suns without a spot. Then Christ presents his saints to himself, in glorious beauty; “not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;" and having holiness without a blemish. Then their union with Christ, is perfected. This also is begun in this world. Therelative union is both begun and perfected at once, when the soul first closes with Christ by faith.-The real union; consisting in the union of heart[and affection]and in the vital union; is begun in this world and perfected in the next. The union of the heart of a believer to Christ, is begun when his heart is drawn to Christ, by the first discovery of his divine excellence at conversion. Consequent on this is established a vital union with Christ; whereby the believer becomes a living branch of the true vine, living by a communication of the sap and vital juice of the stock and root: a member of Christ's mystical body living by a communication of spiritual and vital influences from the head, and by a participation of Christ's own life. But while the saints are in the body, there is much remaining distance between Christ and them. The vital union is very imperfect; and so is the communication of spiritual life and vital influence. There is much between Christ and believers to keep them asunder, much indwelling sin, much temptation, a heavy moulded, frail body, and a world of carnal objects, to keep off the soul from Christ, and hinder a perfect coalescence. But when the soul leaves the body, all these hindrances are removed, every separating wall is broken down, every impediment is taken out of the way, and all distance ceases; the heart is wholly and perfectly drawn, and firmly and for ever bound to Christ, by a perfect view of his glory. The vital union is then brought to perfection; the soul lives perfectly in and upon Christ; being perfectly filled with his spirit, and animated by his vital influence: living as it were only by Christ's life, without any remainder of spiritual death, or carnal life.
IV. They enjoy a glorious, and intmediate, intercourse and conversation with Christ.
While we are present with our friends, we have opportunity for a free and immediate conversation with them, which we cannot have when absent. Therefore, by reason of the far more free, perfect, and immediate intercourse with Christ, which the saints enjoy when absent from the body, are properly represented as present with him.
The most intimate intercourse becomes that relation in which the saints stand to Jesus Christ; and especially becomes that perfect and glorious union into which they shall be brought with him in heaven. They are not merely his servants, but his friends; John xv. 15; his brethren and companions; Psal. cxxii. 8; yea they are the spouse of Christ. They are espoused or betrothed to Christ while in the body : but when they go to heaven, their marriage with him is come, and the King brings him into his palace. Christ conversed in the most friendly manner with his disciples on earth, and admitted one of them to lean on his bosom ; but they are admitted much more fully and freely to converse with him in heaven. Though Christ be there in a state of glorious exaltation, reigning in the majesty and glory of the sovereign Lord and God of heaven and earth, of angels and men; yet this will not hinder the intimacy and freedom of their intercourse, but will rather promote it. He is thus exalted, not only for himself, but for them. He is Head over all things for their sakes, that they may be exalted and glorified; and, when they go to heaven where he is, they are exalted and glorified with him ; and shall not be kept at a greater distance. They shall be unspeakably more fit for it; and Christ will be in more fit circumstances to bestow on them this blessedness. Their seeing the great glory of their friend and Redeemer, will not
awe them to a distance, and make them afraid of a near approach; but on the contrary, will most powerfully draw them near, and encourage and engage them to holy freedom. They will know that he is their own Redeemer, and beloved friend ; the very same who loved them with a dying love, and redeemed them to God by his blood; Matt. xiv. 27. “It is I; be not afraid.” (Rev. i. 17, 18.) “Fear not: I am he that liveth, and was dead.” The nature of this glory of Christ which they shall see, will be such as will draw and encourage them ; for they will not only see infinite majesty and greatness, but infinite grace, condescension, gentleness and sweetness, equal to his majesty. He appears in heaven not only as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but as the Lamb, and the Lamb in the midst of the throne;” (Rev. v. 5, 6:) and this Lamb in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, to “feed them, and lead them to living fountains of water; (Rev. vii. 17;) so that the sight of Christ's majesty will be no terror to them; but will only serve the more to heighten their pleasure and surprise. When Mary was about to embrace Christ, being full of joy at seeing him again alive after his crucifixion, Christ forbids her to do it for the present; because he was not yet ascended; (John xx. 16, 17,) “Jesus saith unto her, “Mary.” She turned herself, and saith unto
—him, “Rabboni,' which is to say, “Master.” Jesus saith unto her, ‘Touch me not ; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” . As if he had said, “This is not the time and place for that freedom which your love to me desires. That is appointed in heaven after my ascension. I am going thither: and you who are my true disciples, shall, as my brethren and companions, soon be there with me in my glory. That is the place appointed for the most perfect expressions of complacence and endearment. Accordingly the souls of departed saints in heaven, find Christ manifesting those infinite riches of love towards them, which he has felt from eternity; and they are enabled to express their love to him, in an infinitely better manner, than they could while in the body. Thus they shall be eternally encompassed by the infinitely bright and mild and sweet beams of divine love; eternally receiving that light, and forever reflecting it to the fountain.
V. They are received to a glorious fellowship with Christ in his blessedness.
As the wife is received to a joint possession of her husband's estate; and as the wife of a prince partakes with him in his princely possessions and honours; so the church, the spouse of Christ, is received to dwell with him in heaven, and shall partake with him in his glory. When Christ rose from the dead,