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attempting a description of them. For when the point in question is to represent that which consists in lively and affecting sensations, there is no other method left, but actually to produce them in the breasts of the persons to whom you would make the communication. In order to produce them, faculties must be found, adapted to the reception of such sensations. But these faculties you do not as yet possess. It is therefore impossible that you should ever comprehend, while here below, what such sensations mean. And it is no more in my power to convey to you an idea of those which I have enjoyed, than it is to give the deaf an idea of sounds, or the blind man of colors."
You must be sensible then, my brethren, that defect in respect of faculties, prevents our concepiion of the sensible pleasures which the blessed above enjoy, as want of taste, and want of genius, prevents our comprehending what are their inclinations, and what is their illumination. Accordingly, the principal reasons of St. Paul's silence, and of the silence of scripture in general, respecting the nature of the heavenly felicity, present nothing that ought to relax our ardor in the pursuit of it: they are proofs of its inconceivable greatness, and so far from sinking its value in our eyes, they manifestly enhance and aggrandize it. This is what we undertook to demonstrate.
THE RAPTURE OF ST. PAUL
2 Cor. xi. 2, 3, 4.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the
body I cannot tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
E have endeavored to elucidate the expres
sions of our apostle in the text, and to demonstrate that the silence of scripture, on the subject of a state of celestial felicity, suggests nothing that has a tendency to cool our ardor in the pursuit of it; but rather, on the contrary, that this very
veil which conceals the Paradise of God from our eyes, is, above all things, calculated to convey the most exalted ideas of it. We now proceed,
III. To conclude our discourse, by making some application of the subject.
Now, if the testimony of an apostle, if the decisions of scripture, if the arguments which have been used, if all this is deemed insufficient, and if, notwithstanding our acknowledged inability to describe the heavenly felicity, you should still insist on our attempting to convey some idea of it, it is in our power to present you with one trait of it, a trait of a singular kind, and which well deserves your most serious attention. It is a trait which immediately refers to the subject under discussion : I mean the ardent desire expressed by St. Paul, to return to that felicity, from which the order of Providence forced him away, to replace him in the world.
Nothing can convey to us a more exalted idea of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, than the effects which it produced on the soul of St. Peter. That apostle had scarcely enjoyed a glimpse of the Redeemer's glory on the holy mount, when behold he is transported at the sight. He has no longer a desire to descend from that mountain ; he has no longer a desire to return to Jerusalem; he has forgotten every thing terrestrial, friends, relations, engagements: Lord it is good for us to be here : if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, Matt. xvii. 4. and to the extremity of old age he retains the impression of that heavenly vision, and exults in the recollection of it: He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory: This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice, which came from heaven, we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount, 2 Pet. i. 17, 18.
The idea of the celestial felicity has made a similiarly indelible impression on the mind of St. Paul. More than fourteen years have elapsed since
he was blessed with the vision of it. Nay for fourteen years he has kept silence. This object, nevertheless, accompanies him wherever he goes, and, in every situation, his soul is panting after the restoration of it. And in what way was he to look for that restoration ? Not in the way of extasy, not in a rapture. He was not to be translated to heaven, as Elijah, in a chariot of fire. Necessity was laid upon him of submitting to the law imposed on every child of Adam: It is appointed to all men once to die, Heb. ix. 27. But no matter; to that death, the object of terror to all mankind, he looks forward with fond desire.
But what do I say, that death simply was the path which St. Paul must tread, to arrive at the heavenly rest? No, not the ordinary death of most men; but death violent, premature, death arrayed in all its terror. Nero, the barbarous Nero, was then upon the throne, and the blood of a Christian so renowned as our apostle, must not escape so de. termined a foe to Christianity. No matter still. “ Let loose all thy fury against me, ferocious tiger, longing to glut thyself with Christian blood : I defy thy worst. Come, executioner of the sanguinary commands of that monster ; I will mount the scaffold with undaunted resolution: I will submit my head to the fatal blow with intrepidity and joy.” We said, in the opening of this discourse, Paul, ever since his rapture, talks only of dying, only of being absent from the body, only of finishing his course, only of departing. We that are in his tabernacle do groan, being burdened :. willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, 2 Cor. v. 4,8. Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which