2 Cor. v. 8. ‘We are Confident, I say, and Willing Rather to be Absent from the Body,
and to be Present with the Lord

Sir, When you assigned unto me that part, not of forming a memorial for your excellent deceased consort, - which is reserved to the fittest hand, - but of instructing the people upon the occasion of her decease; this text of Scripture occurring also to my thoughts, (which I reckoned might sufficiently agree with the design you generally recommended to me, though I am sensible how little the prosecution did so,) it put me upon considering with how great disadvantage we set ourselves, at any time, to reason against bodily inclination; the great antagonist we have to contend against in all our ministerial labours! An attempt which, if a higher power set not in with us, looks like the opposing of our faint breath to the steady course of a mighty river! I have often thought of Cicero’s wonder: ‘That since we consist of a mind and a body, the skill of curing and preserving the body is so admired as to have been thought a Divine invention; that which refers to the mind is neither so desired, before it be found out, nor so cultivated afterwards, nor is approved and acceptable to so many : yea, is even to the most, suspected and hateful !' Even the tyrant Phalaris tells one, in an epistle, (though by way of menace,) that whereas a good physician may cure a distempered body, death is the only physician for a distempered mind.
It works not indeed a universal cure. But of such on whom it may, how few are there that count not the remedy worse than the disease! Yet how many thousands are there that for greater (hoped) bodily advantages afterwards, endure much more pain and trouble than there is in dying! We are a mysterious sort of creatures. Yet I acknowledge the wisdom of God is great and admirable, in planting in our natures so strong a love of this bodily life, without which the best would be more impatient of living on earth so long as God thinks it requisite they should; and to the worst, death would not be a sufficiently formidable punishment; and consequently human laws and justice would be, in great part, eluded.
And the same Divine wisdom is not less admirable, in providing there should so generally be so much of mutual love as doth obtain among near friends and relatives; for thereby their cohabitation and mutual offices towards each other are made more pleasant and easy; which is a great compensation for the concomitant evil, - that by the same love their parting with one another cannot but be rendered grievous. But for you, who live so much upon the borders and in the pleasant view of the other state; the one separation is, I doubt not, much easier to your sense, and the other to your forethoughts, than they are with the most. A perfect indifferency towards this present bodily state and life, is, in mine eyes, a most covetable thing and my daily aim; wherein I entreat your prayers may assist.
Your most respectful, though most unworthy Fellow-servant, and expectant in the work And hope of the gospel,

THE solemn face of this assembly seems to tell me that you already know the present, special occasion of it; and that I scarce need to tell any of you, that our worthy, honoured friend, Mrs. Baxter is dead. You have, it is like - most of you - often met her in this place, when her pleased looks were wont to show what delight she took to have many share in those great advantages wherein she had a more peculiar interest; you are now to meet her here no more, but are met, yourselves, to lament together that our world hath lost so desirable an inhabitant; and to learn, as I hope you design, what so instructive an occasion shall of itself, or as it may be improved, serve to teach us.
It doth of itself most obviously teach the common document, that we, who are of the same make and mould, must all die too; and our own prudence should hereupon advance one step further, and apprehend it a most covetable thing, that the temper of our minds might comply with this unalterable state of our case; and that we be in a disposition, since we must die, to die willingly and with our own consent. Nothing can be more irrational or unhappy than to be engaged in a continual quarrel with Necessity, - which will prevail and be too hard for us at last. No course is so wise in itself or good for us, as to be reconciled to what we cannot avoid; to bear a facile yielding mind towards a determination which admits of no repeal. And the subject, now to be insisted on, may help us to improve the sad occasion to this very important purpose; and show us that dying, which cannot be willed for itself, may be joined with somewhat else which may and ought to be so; and in that conjunction become the object of a rational and most complacential willingness: a subject recommended to me, though not the special text, by one, than whom I know no man that was better able to make a fit choice; as, in the present case, none could have that right to choose.
I cannot stay to discuss and open the most fruitful pleasant series of discourse in the foregoing verses, though there will be occasion to reflect somewhat upon it by and by; but, in the text, the apostle asserts two things concerning the temper of his spirit in reference to death: his confidence and complacency,
I. His confidence, or his courage and fortitude. "We are confident, I say." He had said it before : "We are always confident ;" and assigned the cause: "knowing that while we are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord." And he also declared the kind of that knowledge - namely, which he had of that presence of the Lord, whereof he was deprived by being present in the body; that is, that it was the knowledge of faith, not of sight. Now here he adds: "We are confident, I say." It notes a deliberate courage, and the fixedness of it; that it was not a sudden fit, a passion soon over. He had said above therefore, we are confident at all times; it was his habitual temper. And here the ingemination signifies increase, as if he had said: ‘We grow more and more bold and adventurous, while we consider the state of our case, and what we suffer by our presence in the body. Sense of injury or damage heightens and adds an edge unto true valour. We would venture upon a thousand deaths, if the matter were left entirely to our own option, rather than be thus withheld any longer from the presence of our blessed Lord; a thing whereof nothing but duty to him could make us patient. We are not destitute of the fortitude to enable us even to rush upon death, without more ado, if he did say the word; but as yet he bids us stay, and his supreme and. holy will must in all things determine ours. Therefore it is immediately subjoined in the midst of this high transport, "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him, or well-pleasing to him," We less mind the pleasing ourselves, than him. We are indifferent to life or death, being in the body or out of it, in comparison of that; his pleasure is more to us than either.’ Here the highest fortitude yields and submits itself. Otherwise, and for his own part, and as to what concerned his own inclination singly, and in the divided sense, the apostle to his confidence doth -
II. Add complacency. ‘We are better pleased,’ This is a distinct thing; a valiant man will venture upon wounds and death, but is not pleased with them; but in reference to so excellent an object and occasion, they must mingle, and the latter runs into the former. "We are willing rather," as we read it, "to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord." The word which we read willing, signifies to approve or wish well, not a merely judicious, but complacential approbation; the word signifies the high satisfaction he takes in all his purposes and determinations.It is certainly no tautology, but speaks how perfectly and pleasingly he agrees, and, as it were, consents with himself, in all that ever he had resolved on. - This rather, says the apostle, is our the thing that would please us best, and wherein we should most highly satisfy ourselves. It would not be the matter of our submission only, or whereto we could yield, when we cannot help it; but of our highest joy and pleasure: according as we find it was with the psalmist’ in the same case, which though it had a further meaning in reference to Christ, had a true meaning as to himself also: "Therefore my heart is glad, my glory rejoices, my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in (SHEOL) the state of the dead, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption, but wilt show me the path of life ;" and no matter though it lie through the dark shady vale, it leads however into that blessed presence of thine - the same with that in the text - " where is fulness of joy ;" and unto that right hand, that high and honourable station, where "are pleasures for evermore."
Both these, - the apostle’s courage and fortitude, and his complacency or well-pleasedness, - have express reference to the state of death, or of being absent from the body. The one respects it as a formidable, but superable, evil, the other as a desirable and most delectable good. But both have reference to it in its concomitancy or tendency; namely, as "absence from the body" should be accompanied, or be immediately followed, with "being present with the Lord." -
The sense therefore of the whole verse, may be fitly expressed thus: - That it is the genuine temper of holy souls, not only to venture with confidence upon the state of absence or separation from the body; but to choose it with great complacency and gladness, that they may be present with the Lord. ‘Body’ we are not here to understand so generally, as if he affected or counted upon a perpetual final state of separation from any body at all. No, the temper of his spirit had nothing in it so undutiful or unnatural; no such reluctation or disposition to contend against the common lot of man, the law of human nature, and the comely order which the Author of our beings and of all nature, hath settled in the universe; that, whereas one sort of creatures- that have life should be wholly confined to terrestrial bodies; another, quite exempt from them ours should be a middle nature, between the angelical and the brutal: so as we should, with the former, - partake of intellectual immortal spirit;, and a mortal body macic up and organized of earthly materials, with the latter: which yet we might also depose, and reassume, - changed and refined from terrene dross. The apostle’s temper hath in it nothing of rebellion or regret against this most apt and congruous order and contitution; he had no impatient proud resentment of that gradual debasement and inferiority, that in this respect we are "made a little lower than the angels." When Porphyry tells us, in the Life of Plotinus, that he blushed as often as he thought of his being a body, it was agreeable enough to his notion of the pre-existence of the soul; that is, if it were true that the original state of human spirits was the same with that of angels - which this is no fit season to dispute against - and that by their own fault, some way or other, they lapsed and slid down into grosser matter, and were caught into vital union with it, there was just cause of shame indeed Apuleius’s transformation - which many of you know what it means - if it had been real, was not more ignominious.
But it appears the apostle affected not a state wherein be should be simply "naked, or unclothed" of any body at all; for he longs to be "clothed upon with his heavenly house." And whereas he tells us that which he groaned for was, "not to be unclothed, but clothed upon ;" that being unclothed, doth not mean the act, but the state; that is, that he did not covet or aspire to a perpetual final state of being naked, or without any body at all. For so he speaks : "If so be," as we read, "that being clothed, we shall not be found naked." "In this, we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven," that is, of heaven, or suitable to heaven; denotes here, (as often,) the matter whereof a thing is formed and made; a body made up of a heavenly material; or, which is all one, an earthly body refined and transformed into such a one. And then he subjoins the reason why his desire is so conditioned and limited, or runs only in this particular current, to have, - not no body at all, - but only not such a body ‘as now’: he wishes to have a body made more habile and commodious, and fitter for the uses of a glorified soul, which hath its own more inward clothing peculiar to itself, in respect whereof that of such a body would be an additional one; a superinvestiture. His desire is thus limited and modified for this reason: "Inasmuch as, being thus clothed, we shall not be found naked," or without any body at all; which the law of our creation admits us not to affect or aspire unto. And therefore in qualifying our desire thus, we shall contain ourselves within our own bounds, and not offer at anything whereof humanity is, by the Creator’s pleasure and constitution, incapable. Therefore he inculcates the same thing over again: "We groan not to be unclothed, but only to be clothed upon ; where that unclothed, the thing he desired not, must signify the state and not the act only, is evident; in that being clothed, the thing which he did desire, must plainly be so understood. For was it only an entrance into glory he desired, and not continuance in a glorified state. Nor can this ‘ being unclothed’ (much less) refer, as an act, to the present clothing of this earthly body, as if it were our being divested of that which he intended, in this fourth verse, as the thing he desired not; for then the fourth verse would contradict this eighth, where he tells us he did desire it. The meaning then is, that he did not desire to be exempted from wearing a body, or to be without any at all. He did only covet to be absent from this body, gross and terrene as now it was, that he might be present with the Lord; with which he found being in such a body, and in the several accompanying circumstances of this bodily state, to be inconsistent.
Wherefore it was a terrestrial body, "the earthly house of this tabernacle," which he was now better pleased to quit upon this account. And I say it is the genuine temper of a holy soul to be like-minded, not their constant, explicit, discernible sense. We must allow for accidents, as we shall note afterwards; but when they are themselves and in their right mind, and so far as the holy divine life doth prevail in them, this is their temper. And now, that I may more fully open this matter to you, I shall, -
FIRST. Endeavour to unfold, somewhat more distinctly, the state of the case in reference whereto good and holy souls are thus affected.
SECOND. Shall show you what is their true and genuine temper, or how it is that they stand affected in reference to that case.
THIRD. Shall discover how agreeable this temper is to the general frame and complexion of a holy soul; and then make such reflections upon the whole, as may be more especially useful to ourselves.
FIRST. We are to take, as much as we can, a distinct view and state of the case. We see the apostle speaks by way of comparison, "we are willing rather." We are therefore to consider - that we may comprehend clearly the - true state of this case - what the things are which he compares; and between which his mind might be supposed, as it were, to lave been before, (at least in order of nature before,) in some suspense, till at last it come so complacentially to incline and be determined this one way. Take the account of the whole case in these particulars.
I. There are here two principal terms between which the motion and inclination of such a mind lies, from the one to the other : - The Lord and the body. Both do as it were attract and draw, or are apt to do, two several ways. ‘The Lord strongly draws on the one hand; and the body hangs on, and holds, and draws in as strongly to itself as it can, on the other. The body as having us present in it. And how? not locally only, but in the way of vital union and communion with it. And that shows how we are to understand being present with the Lord too; not by a mere local presence, but of more intimate vital union -and commerce: where, as in the union between the soul and body, the more excellent communicates life, the other receives it; so it must be here. Though now the Lord is present thus in some measure - which this attraction supposes - yet speaking comparatively, that presence is absence in respect of what we are to look for hereafter.
Both these unions are very mysterious, and both infer very strong and powerful drawing, or holding together of the things so united. There is no greater mystery in nature than the union between the soul and body; that a mind and spirit should be so tied and linked with a clod of clay, that, while that remains in a due temper, it cannot by any art or power free itself! It can by an act of the will move a hand, or foot, or the whole body; but cannot move from it one inch. If it move hither and thither, or by a leap upward do ascend a little, the body still follows; it cannot shake or throw it off. We cannot take ourselves out; by any allowable means we cannot; nor by any at all (that are at least within mere human power) as long as the temperament last. While that remains, we cannot go; if that fail, we cannot stay; though there be so many open avenues - could we suppose any material bounds to hem in or exclude a spirit - we cannot go out or in at pleasure. A wonderful thing! and I wonder we no more wonder at our own make and frame in this respect; that we do not, with reverent submissive adoration, discern and confess how far we are outwitted and overpowered by our wise and great Creator; that we not only cannot undo his work upon us in this respect, but that we cannot so much as understand it. What so much akin are a mind and a piece of earth, a clod and a thought, that they should be thus affixed to one another? or that there should be such a thing in nature as thinking clay?
But hereupon, what advantage hath this body upon the soul and spirit! In the natural union is grounded a moral one, of love and affection; which (on the soul’s part) draws and binds it down with mighty efficacy. Again, how mysterious and ineffable is the union of the Lord and the soul; and how more highly venerable, as this is a sacred mystery! And who would not admire at their proud disdainful folly, that while they cannot explain the union between the soul and body, are ready to jeer at their just, humble, and modest igorance, that call this other a mystical union? or, because they know not what to make of it, would make nothing, and will not allow there should be any such thing, or would have it be next to nothing. Have those words no sense belonging to them, or not a great sense, "but he that is joined unto the Lord, is one spirit " And, upon this supernatural union also (be it what it will) methinks the binding and drawing power of love should not be less!
II. We must conceive in our minds, as distinctly as we can, the peculiar adjuncts of each of these more principal terms; that is, on the part of the body, first, we are to consider a sensible, a grossly corporeal world, to which this body doth connaturalize us, and whereto we are attempered by our being in the body, and living this bodily life. This body, while we live in it, is the medium, the unitive bond between us and it. In this world we find ourselves encompassed with objects that are suitable, grateful, and entertaining to our bodily senses, and the several principles, perceptions, and appetites that belong to the bodily life; and these things familiarize and habituate us to this world, and make us, as it were, one with it. There is, particularly, ‘a bodily people,’ as is intimated in the text, that we are associated with by our being in the body. The words in this verse, (and the same are used in the 6th and 9th,) signify there is such a people, of which we are, and from which we would be dissociated; an inhabitant or native among this or that people; as one that lives abroad and is severed from the people he belonged unto. The apostle considers himself, while in the body, as living among such a sort of people as dwell in bodies, a like sort of people to himself; and would be no longer a homedweller with these, but travel away from them, to join and be a dweller with another people.
For also, on the other hand, he considers "with the Lord" an invisible world, where He resides; and an incorporeal people, He presides over: so that the case here is, are we willing to be dispeopled from this bodily sort of people, and peopled with that incorporeal sort, the world and community of spirits?
III. It is further to be considered in this case, that we are related both ways, - related to the body and related to the Lord; to the one people and the other; the one claims an interest in us, and so doth the other. We have many earthly alliances, it is true, and we have many heavenly; we are related to both worlds, and have affairs lying in both. And now what mighty pleadings might the case admit, on the one hand and the other? Were the body, apart, capable of pleading for itself, to this effect it must bespeak the soul: "I am thy body, I was made and formed for thee, and (some way) by thee. Thou hast so long inhabited and dwelt with me and in me. Thou art my soul, my life, my strength; if thou be absent, I am a carcass and fall to dirt; and thou wilt be a maimed thing, and scarce - thy whole self." But though it cannot dictate, and do not utter, such words, nature doth itself plead more strongly than words can.
And again, how much more potently might the Lord plead for his having the soul more closely united and intimately conversant with himself! ‘Thou art one of the souls I have loved and chosen, which were given to me, and for which I offered up my own soul. I have visited thee in thy low and abject state, "said to thee in thy blood, Live," have inspired thee with a heavenly, sacred, divine life; the root and seminal principle of a perfect, glorious, eternal life. Let this body drop, which hath been long thy burden; let it fall and die, it matters not! Yet since thou lovest it, I will restore it thee again, pure and glorious, like mine own'. "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."’ Never fear to venture thyself with me, nor to commit thy body to my after-care.’
And now all the question will be, - which alleges the more considerable things and the matter will be estimated, as the temper of the soul is. An earthly, sordid soul, when the overture is made to it of such a translation, will be ready to say, as the Shunamite did to the prophet, when he offered "to speak for her to the king,". - perhaps that her husband might be called to court, and made a great man, - " I dwell among my own people;" an answer that in her case well expressed the true greatness of a contented mind, but in this case nothing more mean: ‘I am well where I am, and dwell among a people like myself.’ So saith the degenerate, abject soul, sunk into a deep oblivion of its own country: ‘Here I dwell a fixed inhabitant of this world, among a corporeal people, where I make one.’ And we find how it is with this sort of people; each one charms another, and they grow familiar, have mutual ties upon one another, and there is a loathsomeness to part: especially as here, in this lower world, we are variously disposed, and cast into several mutual relations to one another; husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, all dwelling in bodies alike, cohabiting, eating and drinking daily, and conversing, together. These are great and sensible endearments, by which the minds of men become as it were knit and united to one another. How are men’s spirits fixed to their own countries! .It is by an inexpressible ‘pleasure and sweetness, that the people of one country are as it were linked and held together.
But would not a heavenly, new-born soul say, ‘No, this is none of my country; I "seek a better," and am here but "a pilgrim and stranger;" this is none of my people.’ So it was with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that, conversed in the earthly Canaan, but "as in a strange country;" their mind being gone towards that other which they sought. And accordingly you find it said of each of them, in their story, when they quite left this world (as also of Moses and Aaron afterwards) that they were "gathered to their people;" a people that were more their own. And surely, as God, "who was not ashamed to be called their God," ‘is "not the God of the dead, but of the living ;" we must understand this was not the congregation of the dead to which these were gathered, otherwise than in a low, relative sense, as to us only and our world. Holy men, as they die out of one world, are born into another; to associate with them that dwell in light, and be joined to a glorious community above, "the general assembly, the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect;" where all love and adore, praise and triumph together.
IV. It is again to be taken into the state of this case, that we have, one way or other, actual present notices of both the states, which both sorts of objects, that stand in this competition, belong unto: of the one by sense and experience; we so know what it is to live in the body, and in a sensible world, and among a corporeal people: of the other by faith, by believing as we are told, by one that we are sure can have no design or inclination to deceive us. There are "many mansions," saith he, "in my Father’s house;" as good accommodations, as suitable society, and sufficiently numerous, which the "many mansions" implies, to be sure, as any you have met with here. Faith is, in this case, to serve us instead of eyes; it is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; " as we have the notion of a country where we have not been, by the description of a person whom we can trust, and that we think intends not to abuse us by forgeries and false representatiqns.’ In reference to this country, we walk and guide ourselves by sight, in our converses and affairs wherein we have to do with it; as to that other, by faith.’
V. Yet further, it is to be considered that this body, and this bodily people and world, have the present possession of us. And though the spiritualized mind do as it were step forth, and place itself between both, when it is to make its choice; yet the objects of the one sort are much nearer, the other are far distant, and much more remote.
VI. That it cannot but be apprehended that though the one sort of things hath the faster hold the other sort are things of greater value; the one hath the more entire present possession of us, the other, the better right. Thus we see the case stated. SECOND. We are next to show what the temper is of a holy soul; that is, its proper and most genuine temper in reference to this supposed state of the case. We are "willing rather," or have a more complacential inclination, to be unpeopled from the body, and this bodily sort of people; and to be peopled with the Lord, and that sort of incorporeal people over which he more immediately presides in the upper world, He speaks comparatively, as the case requires; and because all comparison is founded in somewhat absolute, therefore a simple disposition, both ways, is supposed. Whence then, -
I. This temper is not to despise and hate the body; it imports no disdainful aversion to it, or to this present state.
II. Nor is it an impetuous precipitant tendency towards the Lord, impatient of delay, mutinous against the Divine disposal; or that declines present duty and catches at the the crown and prize, before the prescribed race be run out. A holy man is at once dutiful and wise; as a servant, he refuses not the obedience of life, and as a wise man, embraces the gain of death.
III. But it is considerate, - the effect of much foregoing deliberation and of a thorough perspection of the case; knowing or considering that "while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." This choice is not made blindly, and in the dark.
IV. It is very determinate and full, being made up of the mixture of fortitude and complacency, as was said; the one whereof copes with the evil of being severed from the body; the other entertains the good of being present with the Lord. Therefore this is the sense of a pious soul in the present case: it is as much as saying, ‘I do indeed love this body well, and reckon it a grievous thing to be severed from it, if that part of the case be singly considered, and alone by itself; but considering it in comparison with the other part, what is this body to me? What is it as an object of love, in comparison of being with the Lord? What is death to me as an object of fear, in comparison of being absent from the Lord? which is a death many thousand times more deadly than the other.’
THIRD. The agreeableness of this temper to the general frame and complexion of a holy soul as such; which will appear, if we consider, -
I. What sort of frame or impression in the general that is, that doth distinguish a sincerely pious person from another man. II. The more eminent principles in particular that are constituent of it, and do as it were compose and make it up.
I. The general frame of a holy soul, as such, is natural to it. It is not an artificial thing, a piece of mechanism, a lifeless engine; nor a superficial, an external, form, an evanid impression. It is the effect of a creation, as Scripture often speaks, by which the man becomes a new creature, and hath a nature peculiar to him as other creatures have; or of regeneration, by which he is said to be born anew: which forms of speech, whatever they have of different signification, do agree in this, that they signify a certain nature to be the thing produced. This nature is said to be "Divine," somewhat "born of God," - as it is expressed, 1 John v. 4, and in many places more. And it is an intellectual nature; or the restored rectitude of such a being. Now who can think but what is so peculiarly from God, - a touch and impress from him upon an intelligent subject, - should with design, choice, and complacency tend to him, and make the soul do so? Especially, when it is so purposely designed for remedy of the apostacy wherein men are revolted and gone off from him? Will he suffer himself to be defeated in a design, upon which he is so industriously intent? Or is it supposable the all-wise God should so mistake himself, as to do such a work upon the spirit of man on set purpose for an end which it is no way apt to serve; yea, and when he now takes him in hand a second time? Nor can it be but this impression of God upon the soul, must have principal reference to our final state. It is a kind of nature, and must therefore tend to what is most perfect in its own kind.
But we need not reason, in a matter wherein the word of God so plainly unfolds the scope and the success of this his own work. By it we are said to be "alive to God, through Jesus Christ," to turn and move and act towards him, as many Scriptures speak; and towards him, as he is most perfectly to be served and enjoyed, in the most perfect state of life.
We are said to be begotten again "to a lively where hope is taken objectively, as the following words show; "to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us." And when, elsewhere, it had been said, "Every one that doeth righteousness is born of him," there is immediately subjoined a description of the future blessedness; whereto it is presently added, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure:" implying the hope of that blessed state to be connate, implanted as a vital principle of the new and divine nature. And all hope, we know, involves desire in it; which is here intimated to be so powerful and prevailing as to shape and form a man’s whole course to an agreeable tenor: which it could not do, if hope were not superadded to desire; for no man pursues an end whereof he despairs. And what else is living religion, but a tendency to blessedness? a seeking "honour, glory, and immortality," by a "patient continuance in well-doing."
Nor need we look further than this context for evidence that this Divine impression upon the soul hath this reference; for when the apostle had avowed the fervour of his desire after that state wherein "mortality should be swallowed up of life," he immediately adds, "Now he, that hath wrought us to this selfsame thing, is God," etc. And indeed, after that transforming touch, the great business of such a soul, in this world, is but a dressing itself for the Divine presence; a preparation for that state, wherein "we are to be for ever with the Lord." And it is not only an incongruity, but an inconsistency, - not only that which is not fit, but not possible, - that a man should ever design that as his end, which he cares not ever to attain; or that for his last end, which he doth not supremely desire;
II. If we consider particular principles that belong to this holy Divine nature, the more noble and eminent are faith and love. The former is the perceptive, visive principle; the other the motive and fruitive. And these, though they have their other manifold references, have yet, both, their final, to that state of absence from this body and presence with the Lord; the one eyeing, the other coveting it, as that wherein the soul is to take up its final rest.
Here some consideration should be had of objections that some ipay be apt to make use of, to shift off the urgency of this truth, and excuse the unsuitable temper of their spirits to it.
1. That they are unassured about their states Godward; and how can they be willing to die and be absent from the body, or not be afraid of the Lord’s presence, whom they may, for aught they know, find an angry vindictive Judge, when they appear before him?
Answer. This, which is the most considerable objection that the matter admits of, if it were directly pointed against this truth as it hath been laid down, would answer itself. For it is not dying simply that is the object of this inclination; but dying conjunctly with "being with the Lord," in his blessed joyous presence. Do not therefore divide the object, and that objection is no objection. You are unwilling to die, and be banished the divine presence; but are you unwilling to die and enjoy it? Or, upon supposition you should, are you willing? This is all that we make characteristical and distinguishing. Where there is only an aversion to leave this bodily life and state, upon a fear we shall not be admitted into that blessed presence; there is only an accidental obstruction to the more explicit, distinct, and discernible exertions of desire this way; which obstruction, if it be removed, the soul would then follow the course which the Divine and holy principle in it doth naturally incline to. But the mortal token is, when there is no such doubt, and yet there is still a prevailing aversion; when men make no question, if they die they shall go to God, and yet they are not willing to go. In the former case, there is a supreme desire of being with God, only suspended; take off that - continued in second part.
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