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soul. I will behold thy face in righteousness ; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.-But, without endeavouring further to unfold mysteries which we cannot explore, there are two sublime and expressive views of the Divine Essence given us in Scripturc, on which it may be edifying that our thoughts should rest for a little, in order to aid our conceptions of the blessedness of good men hereafter, in the presence of God. It is said, God is light.* God is love.t Let us consider what fulness of joy must arise from such manifestations of the Divine Essence to the blessed.
God is light. The revelation of his presence infers, of course, a complete diffusion of light and knowledge among all who partake of that presence. This unquestionable forms a primary ingredent of happiness. Ignorance, or the want of light, is the source of all our present misconduct, and all our misfortunes. The heart of man is dark; and in the darkness of his heart is the seat of his corruption. He is unable to discern what is truly good. Perpetually employed in search of happiness, he is perpetually misled by false appearances of it. The errors of his understanding impose upon his passions; and, in consequence of the wrong directions which his passions take, he is betrayed into a thousand disorders. Hence sensuality, covetousness, and all the violent contests with others about trifles, which occasion so much misery, and so many crimes in the world. He feedeth on ashes, a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a liein my right hand ?1-Once open to him the perfect sources of knowledge and truth ; suppose him placed in the presence of that God who is Light ; suppose him illuminated by light derived immediately from the Supreme Being; presently all his former errors would fly away, as mists are dispelled by the rising sun. His whole nature would be changed and reformed. The prejudices which obscured his understanding would be removed. The seductions of his passions would disappear. Rectitude and virtue, having nothing now to obstruct their entrance, would take entire possession of his heart. Angels are happier than men, because they enjoy more enlarged knowledge and views; because they labour under none of our unhappy deceptions; but see the truth as it is in itself; see it, as it is in God. Sharing the same light which illuminates them, good men in a future state will share in their felicity.
Moreover, the light that flows from the presence of Him who is the original source of light, not only banishes miseries which were the effects of former darkness, but also consers the most exquisite enjoyment. The knowledge afforded us at present
serves to supply our most pressing wants ; but it does no more. It is always imperfect and unsatisfactory ; nay, much painful anxiety it often leaves. Narrow is the sphere within which the mind can see at all ; and even there it can see only darkly as through a glass. But when it shall be enlarged beyond this dusky territory, let loose from this earthly prison, and in God's light permitted to see light, the most magnificent and glorious spectacles must open to the view of the purified spirit. What must it be to behold the whole stupendous scene of nature unveiled, and its hidden mysteries disclosed! To trace the wise and just government of the Almighty, through all those intricacies which had so long perplexed us ! To behold his hand conducting ten thousand worlds, which are now unknown to us; and throughout all the regions of boundless space, to view wisdom and goodness perpetually acting, and diversifying its opeTations in forms of endless variety! Well may such discoveries inspire that song of the blessed, which the Apostle John heard as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia ! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Great and murvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty ! Just, and true are thy ways, thou King of saints * As God is light, so also it is said in Scripture,
God is Love. His presence must of course diffuse love, among all who are permitted to dwell in it. He that loveth not, knoweth not God. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.t Were man a single, solitary being, the full enjoyment of light might suffice for his happiness; as the perfection of knowledge would rectify and improve to the highest all his faculties. But both here and hereafter, he is connected with other beings. Heaven implies a society; and the felicity of that society is constituted by the perfection of love and goodness, flowing from the presence of the God of love.
Hence follows the entire purification of human nature from all those malevolent passions, which have so long rendered our abode on earth the abode of misery. We greatly deceive ourselves, when we charge our chief distresses merely to the account of our external condition in the world. From the disadvantages attending it, I admit, that we may often have been exposed to suffer. We have met with disappointments in our pursuits. By the arrows of misfortune, we may have been wounded. Under infirmities of body, we may have languished. But on this we may depend, that the worst evils of our present condition arise from the want of goodness and love; from the disorders of selfish passions; from the irritation which these occasion when working within ourselves, and the distress which they produce
* Rev. six. 6. xv. 3.
to 1 John, iv. 8. 16.
when breaking out upon us from others; in a word, from that corrupted state of temper, and that reciprocation of jealousies, suspicions, and injuries, which is ever taking place among the societies of men. Could you banish distrust, craft and uncharitableness, from the earth, and form all mankind into an assembly of the just and the benevolent; could you inspire every heart with kind affections, and render every one friendly and generous to his neighbour; you would banish at once the most afflictive tribe of human evils. Seldom would the voice of complaint be heard. All nature would assume a different aspect. Cheerfulness would be seen in every countenance. Paradise would return. The wilderness would smile; the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose.—Now such are the effects which the presence of the God of love must produce on the inhabitants above, beholding his glory, they are changed into the same image. In that temple of eternal love, which his presence has hallon ed and consecrated, no sound but the voice of harmony is ever heard ; no appearances ever present themselves but those of peace and joy.
Thus, considering God under these two illustrious characters which are given of him in Scripture, as Light, and as Love, it follows that in his presence there must be fulness of joy. But I am far from saying that the few imperfect hints I have now given, exhaust, or even approach to the sum of those pleasures for evermore which are at God's right hand. Ten thousand pleasures are there, which now we have neither faculties to comprehend, nor powers to enjoy. Behind that mysterious cloud, which covers the habitation of eternity, the view of mortals cannot penetrate. Content with our humble and distant situation, we must as yet remain. Faith can only look to those glories from afar. In patient silence, it must wait, trust, and adore.
Supposing the ideas which I have set before you, in this discourse, to be no more than the speculations of a contemplative mind, such as were wont of old to be indulged by the philosophers of the Platonic school, still they would deserve attention, on account of their tendency to purify and elevate the mind. But when they are considered in connection with a revelation, which, upon grounds the most unquestionable, we believe to be divine, they are entitled to command, not attention only, but reverence and faith. --They present to us such high expectations as are sufficient to determine every reasonable man to the choice of virtue ; to support him under all its present discouragements, and to comfort him in the hour of death. Justly may they excite in our hearts, that ardent aspiration of the Psalmist : My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; Oh ! when shall I come, and appear before him !-But with this wish in our hearts never, never, I beseech you, let us forget what was set forth in the first part of this discourse; that in order to arrive at the presence of VOL. II.
God, the path of life must previously be shewn to us by him, and that in this path we must persevere to the end. These two things cannot be disjoined, a virtuous life and a happy eternity. Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord ? and who shall stund in his holy place? Heonly who hath clean hands and a pure heart. Between a corrupted heart and the God of light and love, there never can be any connection. But of this we may rest assured, that the path of piety and virtue, pursued with a firm and constant spirit, will, in the end, through the merits of our blessed Redeemer, bring us to that presence, where is fulness of joy, and where are pleasures for evermore:
ON CURIOSITY CONCERNING THE AFFAIRS OF OTHERS.
Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do ? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he turry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.-JOHN, xxi. 22.
THESE words occurred in a conference which our Lord held with Simon Peter, after his resurrection from the dead. Conscious of the disgrace which he had incurred by his late denial of his Master, Peter must at this time have appeared before him with shame. Our Lord, after a tacit rebuke, implied in the question which he repeatedly puts to him, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ? restores him, with great benignity, to his office as an Apostle, by giving the commandment to feed his sheep; and intimates also, that it should be his lot to suffer death in the cause of his Master. The Apostle John, distinguished here by the denomination of the disciple whom Jesus loved, being present at this conversation, Peter, who was always eager and forward, looking to John, puts this question to our Saviour, Lord, and what shall this man do? “What shall be his employment? “ what his rank and station in thy kingdom? what his future ci fate in life?” -By what principles, Peter was moved to put this unseasonable and improper question to his Master; whether it arose from mere curiosity, or from some emotion of rivalship and jealousy, does not appear; but it is plain that our Lord was dissatisfied with the inquiry which he made; and presently he checks Peter's curiosity, by a severe reply; What is that to thee 2 “ What is it to thee what this man shall do ; what shall be his “ rank; or what the circumstances of his life or his death 3 “ Attend thou to thine own duty. Mind thy proper concerns. " Fulfil the part which I have allotted to thee. Follong thout