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Apostles; there the noble army of the Martyrs ; there the convention of confessors; there the holy men and women, who in the days of their flesh were mortified to the pleasures of sin and the world; there the virgins and youths, whose blooming virtues put out early fruits, and ripened into piety far exceeding the proportion of their years. There the sheep and lambs, who have escaped the ravening wolf, and all the snares laid for their destruction. These all rejoice in their proper mansions; and, though each differ from other in degrees of glory, yet all agree in bliss and joy, diffused to all in common; and the happiness of every one is esteemed éach man's own.
For there charity reigns in its utmost perfection, because God there is all in all, whom they continually behold, and beholding, continually admire, and praise and love, and love and praise without intermission, without end, without weariness, or distraction of thought. This is their constant, their delightful employment. And O how happy shall I be, how exquisitely, how incessantly happy, if, when this body crumbles into dust, I shall be entertained with that celestial harmony, and hear the hymns of praise to their eternal King, which hosts of angels, and saints innumerable, are ever singing in full concert! How happy myself to bear a part with them, and pay
the same tribute to my God and Saviour, the author and the captain of my salvation! To behold his face in glory, and be made partaker of those gracious promises, of which he hath given me the comfortable hope, when saying to his Father, I will, that they whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold the glory which I had with thee before the world was. And again, supporting his disciples against the tribulations they should encounter here below, If any man love me, let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my servant be. And in another place, He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him.
The Praise of God.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. O praise the Lord, all ye works of his, in all places of his dominions ; praise the Lord, O my soul. Let us magnify that great God, whom angels praise, whom dominions adore; before whom, powers fall down and tremble; whose excellent glory cherubim and seraphim proclaim with loud incessant voices. Let us then bear a part too in this heavenly song, and together with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, laud and magnify that glorious name. Let us tune our voices up with theirs; and though we cannot reach their pitch, yet will we exert the utmost of our skill and power, in this tribute to the same common Lord; and say with them, as poor mortals are able, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of thy glory; glory be to thee, O Lord most high.
For these are the happy spirits, who offer a sacrifice of pure praise before the throne of God continually, who are ever wrapt in the contemplation of his perfections; and see them, not like us, through a glass darkly, but near at hand, and face to face. What tongue can express, what thought conceive, the admirable beauty, the exact order, the numberless multitude of this heavenly host; the inexhaustible source of joy springing from the
beatific vision; the fervent love which ministers delight without torment; the ever-growing desire, which rises with their satisfactions, and the grateful satisfactions which crown that desire; a desire always eager, and never uneasy, always full, and never cloyed; the blessedness derived down to them, by their inseparable union to the fountain of all bliss; the light communicated to them from the original light; the bappy change into an immutable nature, by seeing the immutable God as he is, and being transformed into the likeness of him they see!
But how, alas! should we hope to comprehend the divinity and bliss of angels so far above us, when we feel ourselves unable to find out the nature and perfections of this very soul within us? What sort of being must this be, which inspires a lump of dead flesh with life and activity, and yet, when most desirous so to do, cannot confine its thoughts to holy exercises ? What a mixture of power and impotence is here? How great, and yet, how poor and little is this principle, which dives into the secrets of the Most High, searches the deep things of God, and expands itself to celestial objects, at the same time that it is forced to employ its talent in the invention of useful arts, and to serve the necessities of a mortal life? What sort of creature is this, that knows so much of other things, and so little of itself? So ingenious in matters abroad, so perfectly in the dark to what is done at home? Specious, but very disputable notions have indeed been advanced concerning the origin of our soul, but all we know of it amounts at last to this: That it is an intellectual spirit, created by the Almighty power of its Divine maker, endued
with such an immortality as he was pleased to qualify it for; enlivening and sustaining a body subject to change, corruption, and death, and liable to all the unequal affections of fear and joy, and every turbulent passion, that in their turns exalt and depress, enlarge or contract its powers.
And what an amazing thing is this now! The more we attend to it, the more we shall find ourselves lost in wonder. When we read, or speak, or write of God, the great Creator of the universe, we can deliver ourselves clearly and distinctly, though at the same time his perfections be too vast for our words to express, or our minds to comprehend; the subject, not of an adequate conception, but of an awful astonishment. But when we descend lower, and treat of angels, and created spirits, of souls united to bodies, and beings of the same level with, or a condition inferior to our own; we are not able to support our ideas with proofs so incontestible; and find it impracticable to satisfy ourselves or others in the inquiries concerning them. Why then should we, to so very little purpose, hover uncertainly about these lower regions, and spend our time and pains in groping in the dark? No, let our minds rather enlarge their thoughts, and take a nobler range; let them leave all created objects behind, and run, and mount, and fly aloft: and, taking faith to the assistance of reason, fix their eyes with the utmost intenseness our nature will bear, upon the Creator, the universal cause. Yes, I will make a ladder, like that of Jacob, reaching from earth to heaven, and as by rounds, go up from my body to my soul, from my own soul to that eternal Spirit that made it; who sustains, preserves it; always with me, about me, above me; thus skipping over all the intermediate stages of being, and