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division by a reference to a few of must refer to the starry region ; the notes on which he grounded it. and from a third, that they must In the absence of such assistance, I refer to some region beyond the would remark, that the most express stars. passage which I can find in confir- As to the air or sublunary heaven, mation of his opinion is that of St. the places are numerous where that Paul in 2 Cor. xii, wherein he sense applies. We have " the fowls asserts that he was caught up to flying in the open firmament of the third heaven. This text un
heaven;"j " the dew of heaven ;''k questionably establishes the exist- " the heaven giving rain ;'1 &c. ence of three heavens; but it does The starry heaven is pointed out by not inform us in what the distinction such passages as these :
“ God set between them consists ; nor can I
nor can I lights in the firmament of heaven discover any passage which instructs lest thou lift up thine eyes unto us which is the first heaven, which heaven, and when thou seest the is the second, or which is the third. sun, and the moon, and the stars, The sacred writers in some places even all the host of heaven.”'n appear to adopt current popular no- It is plain that neither of these tions, and instead of giving us ori- notions of heaven militates against ginal information upon them, inter- my idea of this earth being in due weave them in their discourses as time counted amongst the number received and unquestionable truths. of happy and celestial spheres. Wherever this is done, it sanctions But the third heaven spoken of the popular opinion; and if it be by Mede may appear to do so ;
for the case in St. Paul's allusion to the he roundly asserts that it is the third heaven, we should be led to abode of angels and blessed spirits. examine, what were the received I am not, however, aware that there opinions of the Jews in his day to is any thing in the Scriptures inconwhich he may be supposed to yield sistent with the idea that the holy his inspired sanction respecting the angels are inhabitants of the stars, three different heavens. My library (which, doubtless, were designed for is scanty, and I have no access to inbabitancy,) or of any thing which rabbinical lore : I must therefore places their abode in that which content myself with the hope that Mede calls " the third heaven." I some modern Lightfoot will con- think it may admit of a question, descend to give us a little tractate whether the opinion of that very upon this interesting part of the learned writer was not in some question. In the mean time, I degree warped by the popular be. would observe that, as the Scrip- lief touching that unknown region. tures do not expressly teach us And here let me ask, what does the the boundaries between the three popular belief amount to ? Is it several heavens, we must look for not, that above the remotest stars the scriptural ground of the dis- there is some glorious roof, the other tinction pointed out by Mede in side of which is, as it were, the the different applications of the heavenly pavement; and that within word heaven : for I presume he that region is the place of happiwould deduce from one set of ness, where God, and Christ, and how passages that they must refer to ly angels, and blessed spirits dwell ? the air; from another, that they For this, or for any notion like
j Gen. i, 20.
k Gen. xxvii, 28.
m Gen, i.
I James v, 18.
n Deut. ix, 19.
this, I doubt whether it be possible 'ing our hearts with food and to exhibit a satisfactory scriptural 'gladness :"ų but yet he retires and foundation. I grant that the Scrip- conceals himself from our view tures speak of heaven being God's Behold I go forward, but he is not throne; and that there are many there ; and backward, but I cannot parallel phrases ; but I conceive perceive him : on the left hand, that such expressions may be em- where he doth work, but I cannot ployed with a kind of poetical sub- behold him ; he hideth himself on limity, to give us exalted conceptions the right hand, that I cannot see of the Deity; and that they are not
It is reasonable to supintended to convey any definite no- pose, that His glory, concealed from tions beyond this; much less that us, is in other worlds peculiarly they imply of necessity that God's manifested; and as these worlds residence is in the place called the are situated in the firmament of third heaven : for the same Scrip- heaven, what objection is there to tures teach us to attribute omni- the conclusion, that when the Scrippresence unto God, and expressly tures speak of God's throne being affirm “that heaven, even the heaven in heaven, or use other expressions of heavens cannot contain Him."o indicating a clear display of his preThe true explanation of such lan- sence and glory in the sky, they guage, as speaks of heaven being teach us that such displays as we God's throne, seems to be founded
are strangers to on earth are made on this principle. To suggest the in those celestial spheres ? To this thought of any thing exalted, we notion we may refer a great number naturally look upwards to the sky, of passages : such, for instance, as or what in common phrase is called Deut. xxvi, 15, and Isa. lxiii, 15, heaven :- The heaven for height, where heaven is called God's "holy seems a natural expression : For habitation; “ the habitation of his look how high the heaven is above holiness and of his glory.” Such the earth:"p_therefore in labouring expressions do not infer any emto describe God's majesty, we resort pyreal court above the stars: they to this image.
We cannot how- may be understood of the heavenly ever upon reflection suppose, that bodies themselves. it implies any local habitation, any Again, it may be alleged, that fixed material throne for the infinite we hold on scriptural grounds, that Spirit who pervades all parts of the Christ is ascended into heaven; and universe.
Or if this mode of ac- what heaven can this be, but the counting for such phrases be un- empyreal heaven, the place of happisatisfactory, we may take up the ness? To this I answer, that the notion, that wherever God manifests Scriptures likewise teach us, that his glory in a peculiar manner, there Christ is ascended up far above is heaven. On this accursed and all heavens,''s which seems to be ruined earth God is not accustomed
an expression forbidding us to limit to make visible displays of his him to the third, or any particular presence. Even here, indeed, he heaven. It is also said that she
leaves not himself without witness, sitteth at the right hand of God ;"?! ' in that he giveth us rain from that is, at His right hand whom no · heaven and fruitful seasons, fill- heavens can contain ;u which, juined
9 Acts xiv, 17.
01 Kings vii, 27. P Ps. ciii, 11. t Coloss. iii, 1. u 1 Kings viii, 27.
r Job xxiii, 8, 9.
s Eph. iv, 10.
to the ordinary arguments upon this his ascension : but in what sense point, may lead us to give a figura- can his divinity be said to have tive interpretation to the session of come down, except the expression Christ;
and equally so to his abode in be used in condescension to our im. any fixed place; and rather to con- perfect faculties, or unless it be unceive of him as having, after his as- derstood to denote a manifestation cension into the clouds, risen—we (a partial manifestation) of Deity on know not precisely how or whither earth?—"The Word was made flesh, as respects locality—but, risen to
and dwelt among us, and we beheld the highest dignity and glory with his glory, the glory as of the onlyhis Father: as one of the apostles · begotten of the Father, full of grace explains it, “ being by the right and truth."y
and truth."y Christ himself tells hand of God exalted ;''v and as it is
He that hath seen me, hath seen expressed by another, “ being made the Father :”Z “not that any man higher than the heavens."'w
hath seen the Father,” in person ; As we may be opposed by ob- but that the Son did make a manijections drawn from Christ's ascent festation of the Father in his gloriinto heaven, so likewise we may be ous attributes of wisdom, power,
, met by others taken from the nu- and goodness. Thus, whenever we merous assertions of his descent from discriminate between the divinity thence. It may be alleged that such and humanity of our Lord, we are texts imply that heaven is some prevented from limiting the divine happy place where he dwelt pre- nature to a fixed local heaven ; we viously to his incarnation; and so, are constrained to recognise the that there is a proper local residence ubiquity of him " who fills all of the Deity from which he came things ;” and can never understand down. But it may be answered, such phrases as Christ's coming that in these phrases heaven does down from heaven” previous to his not necessarily imply any other place incarnation, or “God's throne being than the stars; and that Christ's in heaven," in any other sense than dwelling there, as distinguished as denoting certain manifestations from his coming down the of a nature which is every where earth, does not mean any thing present whether perceived or not. more than such a manifestation of But still St. Paul asserts that the divine presence as we have al- there is a third heaven; and I
agree ready supposed to be made in the so far with Mede as to suppose it to heavenly bodies. Our Lord did not be the abode of blessed spirits, cease to be in heaven when he thus though not of angels. In making came down from thence. He teaches this admission, however, I do not Nicodemus that he continued still allow the third heaven to be what there : And no man hath ascended
Mede seems to understand by it; up to heaven, but he that came down and what the popular apprehension from heaven, even the Son of Man conceives it. In fact, by the third which is in heaven.”x In truth it heaven the Apostle appears to mean is plain that the passages which the place of departed souls ; that speak of Christ's having come down portion of hades to which the from heaven refer to his divinity spirits of the good are assigned alone, and not to his humanity during their separation from the which never was in heaven until body. This may be inferred from
v Acts ii, 33.
w Heb. vii, 26.
x John iii, 13.
y John i, 14.
z John xiv, 9.
the Apostle's doubt, as to whether he heaven with its innumerable shining himself was in or out of the body, orbs. As to the third heaven, or during his rapture into that place; place of departed souls, they are for this doubt would seem to be ex- from thence to come at the first pressed in reference to the place resurrection. As to the sublunary being the proper place of the dis- heaven, it is a mere appendage to embodied. It may be inferred more this earth. And then as to the strongly from his proceeding to call starry heaven, the renovated earth this third heaven by the name of becomes a portion of it, like any Paradise ; for I apprehend he other planet; and so justifies the speaks not of two raptures, one application of such terms as happiinto heaven, and another into ness and heaven to itself. Paradise ; but uses the latter term The view which I have taken of exegetically to expound the former. the ascension and session of Christ, If then the third heaven be identical not limiting him to any peculiar with Paradise, it is identical with place, when coupled with my interthe place of departed souls ; the pretation of the third heaven, may place to which Christ promised the serve to throw some light on one or repentant thief that he should be
two passages which otherwise prewith him when he was about to re- sent great difficulty ; and if this sign his fleshly tabernacle. To this shall appear to be the
the view of the third heaven I am aware elucidation thus afforded may in it may be objected, that it appears some degree confirm my interpreincongruous to consider it at the tation. same time the place to which Christ The difficulty to which I allude went down, (for he descended into is as follows. We are led by the hades,) and the place to which Paul parable of Dives and Lazarus; by was caught up. But besides that the descent of Christ into hades; by "Up" and " DOWN" are merely re- the doctrine of a resurrection; and lative terms, and consequently the by numerous other arguments, to same situation may be up or down believe that there is a place where according to its position relatively the souls of the faithful are in rest to other places to which a reference and peace during their separation is tacitly made, it is to be observed from the body. That this is not the that the words used by St. Paul are place of their reward (or, if you will, Ewg and as which do not necessarily their proper heaven) is clear, because imply either up or down; but simply all the promises which refer to the that he was caught into the third glorious state of reward refer to heaven, and thus no inconsistency the resurrection as the period of it. arises.
And it will puzzle those, who hold Considering the third heaven as that good men go to heaven when Paradise, or the blessed part of they die, to explain upon their prinhades, where the dead who die ciples for what purpose they are to in the Lord do rest from their la- appear at the general judgement, or bours,”a then we have only two whał augmentation of happiness other heavens to account for; the awaits their already beatified spirits one the circumambient air or sub- at the resurrection of their bodies. lunary heaven, pertaining to this But then, on the other hand, it is our globe ; the other the starry asserted by the Apostle, that
a Rev. xiv, 13.
depart and be with Christ is far in which St. Paul, in his anticipabetter,"") and, that he was "willing tion, not of heavenly reward and ' to be absent from the body, and to glory but of a sojourn in hades,
be present with the Lord.”c Since might expect to be with Christ, Christ is gone into heaven, it is even though the bodily presence of plausibly argued, that to depart and Christ was not to appear in hades, be with him, ' being then absent but to continue in the heavens to from the body,' is to go to heaven which he ascended until he come to at once; and of course to be com- make a heaven of earth. The phrase pletely happy in the beatified vision used by St. Paul of being with of God. But what then becomes of Christ is the same which Christ uses the separate state? This doctrine
This doctrine of being with his Church :-“ Lo, I serves to annihilate it. But mark am with you alway, even unto the how the difficulty may be solved. end of the world.”d Now what is If Christ be not limited to what the sense in which Christ is with his they understand by the empyreal Church? Is it not in spirit ? In heaven, or heaven in the popular the same sense then St. Paul might acceptation, it is perfectly intelligi- expect to enjoy communion with ble that the Apostle, who had already him in hades; and if it be said that been in the place of departed souls, this sort of communion he had might there have met and conversed already upon earth, the answer is, with his Saviour; and might antici- that while in the flesh his bodily pate similar enjoyments, in the same nature might hinder his perception place, when, being delivered from of that spiritual communion in the the burden of the flesh, he should degree to which he looked forward take up his more stated abode there. to it when released from that Moses and Elias came to the holy encumbrance. He therefore does mount to converse with Jesus; not account this present communion Jesus appeared to Paul when he a' being with Christ,' comparatively drew nigh to Damascus; he ap- with that higher degree of it which peared to him also on other occasions he anticipated in hades, and to to direct and cheer him in his min- which, in this view, he applies the istry: and is it unreasonable to expression,
. imagine that he should likewise, at My Reader may possibly exclaim proper seasons, appear to the de- that the views which I have sugparted spirits of Paul and other gested are most unsatisfactory, besaints, during their abode in hades, cause they leave no distinct imand so justify the anticipation that pression upon the mind as to where to depart and be with Christ is far God is, and where Christ is, whom better?
we have been used to consider in This solution, it will be observed, heaven, even in some definite and proceeds on the supposition, that to peculiar place. It may, however, be with Christ is to enjoy personal deserve serious reflection, whether communion with the glorified man- the thing objected does not in rehood of our Lord, conceiving that ality tend to confirm the notions I he may in his manhood осса- have advanced. For if my views sionally gladden the souls in hades. leave no distinct abode to the Deity, But this supposition is not necessary are they not more accordant with to the subject. For there is a sense the sublime principles inculcated in
b Phil, i, 23.
C 2 Cor. v, 8.
d Matt. xxviii, 20.