THE MUCH LAMENTED DEATH, AND SOLEMN FUNERAL of QUEEN
HEBREWS xii. 23. "AND TO THE SPIRITS OF JUST MEN MADE PERFECT."
LET me invite back your eye to the foregoing words, that
are in nearer connexion with these: "But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto
the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable
company of angels ;" "To the general assembly and church of the first-born,
which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of
just men made perfect." We have had this last week a public solemnity, that was
becomingly great and magnificent, upon a sad and mournful occasion, - the last
act of a doleful scene that hath lasted many weeks. You know I have taken
notice to you, my usual hearers, of the first and saddest, the leading part in
this tragedy, once and again; nor would I have this last to pass us without
some instructive observation and remark. It will the more instruct us, the less
it detains us; or if only taking a due - not, I mean, a slight and too hasty,
but yet a transient - notice of it, we be prompted by it to look forward from
what was in its own kind most deservedly great, to what is incomparably greater
in a more excellent kind.
In such a funeral solemnity, for so great and excellent a personage, there is what may most fitly entertain a while; there is not that which ought finally to terminate a wise and a judicious eye.
Honours done to the memory of great persons deceased, have, by the wisdom of all nations, been counted decencies, and even debts ; when especially the deceased have been some time, and might have been much longer, public blessings: then indeed it is that such rites are most fitly, as they are usually, called justa.
But we are too prone to be taken only with the mere pomp of such spectacles, and, - which is the infirmity of our too degenerate spirits, - to be wholly possessed with fanciful ideas; as those were intimated to be, which were from a spectacle of the same common kind, though on a very diverse occasion, such as do but amuse our imagination awhile, but must of course vanish, and cannot stay long with us. But we need that somewhat greater, and too latent to strike our eye, should another way enter, and teach our mind; making such impressions there, as may claim an abode, and that ought to remain and dwell with us.
You read of a very solemn funeral in Genesis. The whole country into which the march was made, was amused at the state and greatness of that mournful cavalcade, wherein it is said, "there were chariots, and horsemen, even a very great company." That which you have, many of you, so lately seen, and no doubt all of you heard of, was a most august funeral solemnity; such as whereof less concerned foreign spectators might say, as the Canaanites by mistake did of that, - " This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians." They were indeed anciently the most celebrated mourners for such as died from amongst them, in all the world, in respect of their funeral rites, and of their monuments for the dead, of which they are said to have taken more care than of the habitations of the living; accounting these they were to inhabit only a short time, but those they reckoned their eternal habitations: an imagination, which how wild soever it were of the habitations of souls - which only could be supposed capable of being pleased with them - yet implied their belief of their immortality, whereof some have groundlessly thought them the first assertors.
But the Canaanites were, as was intimated, mistaken in apprehending that to be chiefly an Egyptian mourning. The true Israelites, those that were such indeed, were the true, concerned mourners. The father of Israel was dead, - as now with us, the mother; a political, though not a natural, nor merely an economical one : a mother, not in the narrower and more minute, but in the larger and most noble sense; not of a single family only, but of nations.
The Egyptians assisted to make up the show in that mourning, but were probably the prepared, as their posterity were the active, instruments of the slavery and misery of that people with whom they were now seeming sharers in lamentation.
Ours was a mourning not less grievous than theirs, nor more grievous than just to the English nation; that is, to whom the soil and the genius are together native, - that are not of an Egyptian spirit; unto which, as things happen to its power or to its impotency, there is a radical innate disposition, either to make slaves or to be such. There is a sort of people, as was once said, born to slavery; to whom it is a birthright. They have it in their natures; and no other state, - as he most aptly spake, - is agreeable or becoming to them. They know not what to do with liberty, any more than that silly creature that used to haunt the dunghill, with the pearl. Therefore they can but suitably value the restorers and assertors of it. No irons can be heavier or less tolerable to them, than a generous and a Christian state of freedom. Therefore if none else will do them the kind office to put them into gentler shackles, they grow so unnaturally cruel as to shackle themselves, in the ignoblest sort of bondage. "They are held in the cords of their own sins," and make the chain, whereby they are to be dragged.
Brutish appetites and inclinations are to them severer taskmasters, than it can ever be in their power to become to others. They can themselves, at the utmost, but domineer over other mens externals; but these have subdued their wills, and tyrannize in their very minds.
Thus it is with them in relation to their governing and their being governed; and their policy and religion come both out of the same mint. To them this season of sorrow is a time of festivity and laughter; who, when they have suffered a more monstrous transformation themselves, can easily turn the "house of mourning" into that "of mirth." The wise man tells us what sort of people they are, whose heart is in this latter house; and what is to be thought of such mirth and laughter. And indeed without a serious repentance - by which men do "become wise" - theirs is like to prove the sardonic laughter, a certain prelude to death and ruin.
But it is to be hoped, this sort of men do dwindle into a not much regardable paucity. The current of the nation runs against them, which must turn and constrain them to fall in with it. For, - We had upon the late sad occasion a Panegyris. We find that word in the introductive part of the text, and though it is more commonly applied to a multitude gathered on other occasions, it disagrees not to that orderly great concourse on that mournful occasion; a general assembly, that is, a national one, met then on purpose to mourn; a nation assembled, and mourning in their representative. It was decent it should be so; a loss so national, so general a sorrow, were with no congruity otherwise to be represented and expressed. Our mourning was therefore by all the Estates of the Kingdom, the head only mourning with greater and more decent majesty in retirement, or being, as is usual in solemn mournings, hid and covered on that day. So was the whole legislature concerned in that sorrow, as if it were ordained by statute, or as if our mourning were as that for an excellent Prince also, by "an ordinance, in" our "Israel;" and as if our tears and lamentations were, as before they were by merit, to be also made due by law! Death marched in state and triumph that day; the king of terrors took the throne, and filled that part which it had made vacant; having plucked away from thence not only so bright an ornament, but so glorious an instrument, in our government; and all the orders of the realm, as captives, attended the chariot of the conqueror. England had lost its delight, its pleasant comeliness, and even half its soul. Nothing could correspond to such a case but a national groan, as of a half-expiring kingdom, ready almost to breathe its last and give up the ghost.
It must be confessed our just tribute to the memory of our admirable Queen can never be said to be fully paid; nor can this discourse leave out occasional reflections that may be of this import. But my present design is to endeavour our minds may be drawn upwards, and to make that improvement of this most instructive providence unto which this chosen text will direct. Not to entertain you with her character and praises, (for it is the same thing to characterize and to praise her,) that part is performed in divers excellent discourses which I have read, as I believe many of you have, and I hope with fruit as well as approbation; and - as there is cause - with great admiration of the Divine goodness that so illustriously shone forth in her, and that vouchsafed so long to entrust the people of England with so rare a jewel, whose lustre was yet exceeded by its real virtues. By which also we may make our estimate of the displeasure wherewith it is so soon withdrawn and caught away from us, so as to entertain the age - as our divine Herbert says - with
"A mirth but opened, and shut up again."
"A burning and a shining light ;" for so she also was in a
true sense and in her proper sphere, in the light whereof we rejoiced but a
But every such providence hath its dark side, and its bright. View it downward, as it looks upon us who remain beneath and we behold "blackness, and darkness, and a horrible tempest." Such a state of things we may fear our Queen hath left unto us who stay below, while we do so. But look we upon it upwards, whither she is ascended and whither we are professedly tending, and are in some sort come, "if we be followers of them, who through faith and patience have inherited the promises ;" and we find it is to "Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." And hither, - that we may fetch instruction out of terror, "out of the eater meat," and life out of death - let us bend and apply ourselves.
We have had a mournful sad solemnity and assembly, though decently pompous and great; Englands glory clad in sables, and glittering in a cloud. But now let us lift up our eye, and endeavour it may penetrate through this darkness, and behold the glorious spectacle which this context presents us with. Funeral solemnities, even for pious and holy persons, and that were of greatest use in the world, are dull and gloomy spectacles, if they are only considered in their retrospection, without prospect; or if they only solemnize their exit out of this world of ours, but be understood to have no reference to their ascent and entrance into the regions of immortality and bliss above. And, without this, we see ourselves outdone by the Egyptians themselves, with whom their funeral apparatus had reference to a subsequent immortality.
These words are allusive, and promiscuously refer partly to things known and famous among the Greeks, but are more principally accommodate to these Christian Israelites, or Hebrews, to whom they are writ ; - and, in a scheme of speech familiar and well known to them, have respect to their passage out of Egypt, - as the third and fourth chapters of this epistle also have, - towards the land of their promised inheritance; whereof the remains of their venerable ancestor and head, holy Jacob or Israel, had by Divine instinct and direction, in that mentioned solemn funeral procession, been conveyed before, to take a sort of typical and prophetical prepossession of it for them.
They are in the whole a figure, an allegory, which is expounded in Gal. In their way to their terrestrial Canaan, this people came to Mount Sinai, - the emblem of their Jewish church state, - under rigorous severities, which they were to pass from; and so shall we. The text expresses what they were come and were tending to, the representation whereof hath a double reference; intermediate - to the state and constitution of the Christian church; and final - to the heavenly state; the former being both a resemblance, and some degree, of the latter. "Ye are come," saith he, "to Mount Sion," the seat of the sacred temple, the Shechinah, the habitation of the Divine presence; not ambulatory, as the tabernacle was while they were journeying through the wilderness, but the fixed residence of the eternal King, where the order of worship was to be continued to the fulness of time; as afterwards in the Christian church it was to be permanent and unchanged to the end of time; and in the heavenly state unalterable and eternal: and here, in opposition to the case at Mount Sinai, where the people were to stay beneath the Mount (whereas they were to go up to the house of God on Mount Sion) they are now to ascend, and be higher than heaven as their glorious Head and Lord is said to be.
"To the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem :" to signify the vicinity wherein God will have his people be to him, as Jerusalem was to Sion, - their houses and dwellings being near to his own, the city to the temple. And this passage may also look back upon their former state; whereas they had heretofore nothing but wilderness, they had now a city. To which that also agrees, Heb. xi. 16. Their earlier progenitors were wanderers and strangers even in Canaan itself, but now God had prepared for them a city in the heavenly Canaan, as before he did in the earthly. But lest their minds should stay in the external sign, he lets them know he means the heavenly Jerusalem, that is, the Christian church, which was the kingdom of heaven begun; and heaven itself, as being that kingdom in its final and consummate state. "To an innumerable company of angels," which though in the singular it signifies a definite number, being here put plurally, may well be understood to signify indefinitely a numberless multitude: or whereas some selected squadrons might only attend the solemnity of giving the law at Mount Sinai, here is the whole heavenly host, whose stated office it is to guard the church below, and worship the Majesty of heaven above.
"To the general assembly," the glorious consessus of all orders of blessed spirits; which as it may be supposed constant at all times, so is as supposable to be more frequented and solemn at some; and whither any may resort, as quick as the glance of an eye or a thought; and perhaps do, at appointed seasons, so as to make more solemn appearances before the throne of God, as the laws and usages of that blessed world shall require. And we may well understand here an allusion to the appointed times at which there was a resort from all parts of Judea to Jerusalem; and, as in the Christian church, are, at set seasons, more numerous and solemn assemblies. Here may also be an allusion to the panathenaica, the more general conventions of all the people of Athens upon some solemn occasions. These can be referred to but as faint resemblances and shadows (whether they were the Jewish or the Grecian asemblies) of this universal convention, that fills the vast expanse of heaven; in comparison whereof not only this little earth of ours, but the whole vortex to which it belongs, can be considered but as a very minute spot or point. The inhabitants that people those immense, pure and bright regions, in their grand stated solemn assembly, make the term to which holy souls, ascending from among us, are continually coming. And here with what ineffable pleasure must these pure celestial intelligences, all filled with light, wisdom, life, benignity, love, and joy, converse with one another; behold, reverence, love, worship, and enjoy their sovereign Lord, displaying his glory perpetually before them, nd making his rich immense goodness diffuse itself, and flow in rivers of pleasure most copiously among them! -
"The church of the first-born written in heaven." These all constitute but one church, of whatsoever orders those blessed spirits are. And they are all said to be first-born, the church here meant consisting only of such in whom the Divine life, or the holy living image of God hath place; they having all the privileges which did belong to the first-born, - the inheritance, the principality, and the priesthood: for all Gods sons are also heirs. And they are all made "kings, and priests," having all their crowns, which they often cast down before the supreme King; and their employment being perpetual oblation of praise, adoration, and all possible acknowledgments to him. They are all of excellent dignity, and every one enrolled; so that none have a place there by oversight, casualty, or intrusion. We must here understand an allusion to what citizens need not be told, - the known custom of registering such as were made free.
"And to God the Judge of all." This may have reference to that office of the judge in the Olympic concertations, to whom it belonged to determine who were victors, and to whom the garlands or crowns were justly due. Here the privilege is, that they whose cause is to be tried are sure of righteous judgment, and that they may approach the enthroned Majesty of heaven itself. None of them are denied liberty of access to the throne of glory above, as in the Christian church none are to the throne of grace below.
"And to the spirits of just men made perfect." This shows they all make but one church, even such spirits as have "dwelt in flesh" being received into the communion of those whose dwelling never was with flesh. And, in the mean time, those that yet continue in these low earthly stations, as soon as the principles of the Divine life have place in them, belong and are related to that glorious community; for they are said to be already "come" thereto, and all together compose but one family. For there is but one "paterfamilias," of whom "the whole family in heaven and earth is said to be named."
Now for the encouragement of Christians unto a faithful perseverance, through all the difficulties of this their present conflicting, imperfect state, is this glorious representation made of the blessed issue their labours and sufferings shall have at last; whither they shall be gathered at the finishing of their course, and how Godlike, how worthy of Himself the end shall be, into which He will run up all things, when the state of probation and preparation is over with His intelligent creatures, and the stable, permanent eternal state comes to take place; which, because it is final, can admit no more changes, and because it is perfect, can no more need any. Hither Christians are to come, and in some sense the sincere are said to be come already. And now upon this part of the term of their access, namely, that they "are come to the spirits of the just made perfect," we are to stay awhile, and shall consider, -
FIRST. The perfection the spirits of the just do finally arrive to in their .future state.
SECONDLY. In what sense, sincere Christians, in their present state, can be said to be come to them who are so made perfect.
For the former of these, we may easily admit this being "made perfect," to be an agonistical phrase, as some of great note and worth have expounded it; and unto which that in the beginning of this chapter, of "running the race set before us," - as much as to say, the way laid out between the lines on each hand, - doth plainly lead us. But it should hereupon be remote from us to think, that a mere relative dignity or any external honours are the things we must principally understand to be conferred, or which these adepti must be now thought to have obtained. It is a real, inward, subjective perfection, by which they all become most excellent creatures, that must be chiefly meant. Perfection, taken in the moral sense, doth, in the language of the Holy Scriptures, contain a threefold gradation. -
I. At the lowest, sincerity; as when our Saviour proposes to that querist, if he would be " perfect," to sell all he had, and give to the poor, "following Him," with the expectation of no other recompense but of a "treasure .in heaven." If a mans soul be not in a disposition to comport with such terms, upon a sufficient signification of our Lords pleasure that he shall now do so; or if at any time this be the case, that he must either forego all this world, and even life itself, or else renounce Christ and Christianity; he is not yet in a right posture towards his last end. He hath not taken the Lord for his God, and best good; his heart more strongly adheres to this present world. But if he have arrived hither, which is his first step, - resolving upon his true and right end, which he will supremely pursue against whatsoever competition of less valuable things, - he is now, in the lowest sense, "perfect," that is, a resolved thorough Christian.
II. An eminent improvement, greater maturity in Divine knowledge, and all other Christian virtues: as when the apostle, blaming the slower progress of the Christian Hebrews, that they were yet so "unskilful in the word of righteousness," and only capable of "milk, not the strong meat" fit for persons come to a more grown age, nor had "their senses as yet well exercised," etc., he exhorts them, leaving the first principles of the Christian doctrine, "to go on to perfection."
III. The third is the consummate state of a Christian; so is a "perfect man" expounded by being "come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" that state, to which all gifts given by our ascended, conquering, crowned Redeemer; the whole gospel, the apostolate, the entire ministry, the whole frame and constitution of the Christian church, all evangelical truths and institutions, with whatsoever illuminations and influences we can suppose superadded to all these, have ultimate and final reference. And the state to which "all shall come," is this most perfect state, in respect whereof the apostle says of himsell that he had "not yet attained, nor was already perfect."
I do not reckon the mere natural perfection, either of the inner or outer man, to be here necessarily excluded, but that the moral is chiefly intended; and of that, the ultimate consummative degrees ; - still reserving room for such additions as will follow the final judgment.
And I doubt it is not enough considered, how much the felicity of the future state depends upon such perfection of the subject of it. Concerning the object of felicity, we are agreed it can be no other than the blessed God himself, the all-comprehending Good, fully adequate to the highest and most enlarged reasonable desires. But the contemperation of our faculties to the holy, blissful object, is so necessary to our satisfying fruition, that without that we are no more capable thereof, than a brute of the festivities of a quaint oration, or a store of the relishes of the most pleasant meats and drinks. That " meetness," which the apostle speaks of, "to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light," is of no small importance to our participation itself. We are too apt to fill our minds with ideas of a heaven made up of external, outside glories, forgetting we must have the "kingdom of God within us," hereafter in its perfect, as well as here in its initial state: a kingdom that consists in righteousness first, a universal holy rectitude of all our powers; then consequently in peace and joy. The perfect cure of all the distempers of our spirits and a confirmed most perfectly happy temper, is of most absolute necessity to the blessedness of the heavenly state; and without it any imagined external glory will signify no more to our satisfaction, than rich and gorgeous apparel can give the desired content and ease to an ulcerous diseased body; or, as the moralist speaks, a diadem to an aching head, a gay slipper to a pained foot, or a gold ring to a sore finger.
Let a soul be supposed actually adjoined to that glorious assembly and church above, that is yet unacquainted with God; strange and disaffected to him; alienated from the Divine life; still carnally minded; loving most, and looking back with a lingering eye towards, this present world and state of things; full of pride, haughtiness, and self-magnifying thoughts, of envy, wrath, hatred, contentiousness, of deceit, guilefulness, and dissimulation; filled with ravenous lusts and inordinate, insatiable desires after impossible things : - such a soul will only seem to have mistaken its way, place, state, and company, and can only be a fit associate for devils and infernal spirits. Its condition would be equally uneasy to itself and all about it; the outrage of its own lusts and passions would create to it a hell in the midst of heaven, and be to it as a thousand devils, both for wickedness and for torment.
But to give you a summary of this internal perfection of the spirits of just men in their most perfect state, I cannot give you a fuller and more comprehensive one than is expressed in those few words, "We shall be like Him; for we shall see him as he is : " where are two things conjoined, that together express the perfect state of these blessed spirits, - likeness to God, and the vision of him.
And these two are so connected as to admit of a twofold reference each to other; either that this likeness to God be considered as preparative for the vision of him, and so that the latter words be considered as an argument of the former; namely, that because it is designed we shall live in the perpetual vision of God, it is therefore necessary we should be like him, without which we can be no way capable of such a sight or of beholding so bright a glory: or else, that the vision of God be perpetually productive of this likeness to him; and so that the latter words be understood not only to contain an argument, whence we may conclude this likeness must be, but also to express the immediate cause by which it is. As the form of expression will admit either of these references, so I doubt not the nature of the thing will require that we take them in both. There could be no such vision of God as is here meant, if there were not some previous likeness to him, in our former state. And when, in our final state, we are first admitted to that beatific glorious vision, by that means, we may reasonably understand, will ensue the perfection of that likeness.
Whereof also it is to be considered that vision, - which spoken of the mind is knowledge, - must not only be taken for a cause, but a part; for the image of God is at first "renewed," and with equal reason must be supposed at last perfected, "in knowledge." This image or likeness of God therefore, if we consider the natural order of working upon an intelligent subject, must, as to that part of it which hath its seat in the mind or understanding faculty, be caused by the immediate irradiation of the Divine light and glory upon that, and be the cause of the rest.
But both together are the inherent subjective perfection of these blessed spirits of the just, and comprehend all that belongs to this their moral perfection; the latter being itself also virtually comprehended in the former. The vision of God therefore; or their perfect knowledge of him with whom they must ever have most of all to do, as the principal object of their fruition and enjoyment, must be the primary and the leading thing in this their perfection; for no doubt it is that perfection which directly concerns their ultimate satisfaction and blessedness which is here intended; with which their eternal employment is most conjunct and complicated, as we shall after see. They enjoy and adore the same blessed object at once; and in doing the one, do the other.
And besides the knowledge of him, there must be by his beams and in his light the perfect knowledge of all that it is needful or requisite they should know; without which, since all their enjoyments in the heavenly state must be in their first rise intellectual, it would be impossible they should ever perfectly enjoy anything at all. And that this perfection of just mens spirits is intended to be summarily comprehended in the perfection of their knowledge, is more than intimated by that series of discourse which we find in 1 Cor. The apostle, comparing the imperfection of our present with the perfection of our future state, sums up all in this: that "we know now but in part," and that then "we shall know as we are known." But the perfection of this knowledge he seems more to state in the manner of knowing, than in the extent and compass of the things known. That in this latter respect it may admit of increase, they cannot doubt who consider the finite capacity of a created mind, and the mighty advantages we shall have for continual improvement, both from the clear discovery of things in that bright and glorious light, and from the receptiveness of our enlarged and most apprehensive minds. But that state can admit of no culpable ignorance, nor of any that shall more infer infelicity than include sin.
Therefore now to speak more distinctly: We take this perfection of the spirits of the just to be principally meant of their moral perfection, such as excludes all sin and all misery; as morality comprehends and connects together sanctity, - the goodness of the means, and felicity, - the goodness of the end: the former most directly, but most certainly, inferring the latter. If therefore we say this is their sinless perfection, we say all that the case requires. In that it is said to be the perfection of spirits, it must indeed suppose all that natural perfection which belongs to such a sort of creatures, as such, in their own kind. But inasmuch as the specification is added, "of the just," it is their moral perfection or most perfectly holy rectitude, from which their blessedness is inseparable, that seems ultimately intended.
But now whereas this their ultimate perfection hath been said to be virtually contained and summed up in knowledge, we are hereupon to consider how this may appear to be a complete summary of all such perfection. And nothing can more evidently appear, if you join together the true matter or object, and right manner or nature of this knowledge.
1. The true and proper object of it must be, not omne scibile, but whatsoever they can be obliged or concerned to know, or that is requisite to their duty and felicity; all that lies within their compass, as they are creatures that in such a distinct sphere or in their own proper order are to correspond to the ends of their creation; that is, to glorify the Author of their beings and be happy in him. Infinite knowledge belongs not to them; is not competent to their nature; nor necessary either to their employment or to their blessedness in the heavenly state. Whatsoever knowledge is requisite to these ends, will be included in this their final perfection. It is; by the way, to be observed how this matter is expressed, - " made perfect ;" which signifies our arriving to this perfection out of an imperfect state. We were created with an original perfection, sufficient to a state of probation. By our apostasy we became sinfully imperfect; "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." We have been put upon a new trial by our Redeemer. Their perfection, who have run out their course, is, by the grace of God and by his methods, restored and improved to its just pitch. They are now, their trial being over, set in a consummate rectitude towards the ends of their creation; and herein are endowed with all the knowledge they need, namely, of such things as, in reference to those ends, they can any way be concerned with. With the blessed God himself they are most of all concerned, for him they are eternally to adore and enjoy. Therefore that their perfection should be virtually included in Divine knowledge, is congruous to the state of their case and to the language of the Holy Scriptures, which expresses their most perfect state by the vision of God ; which phrase is not borrowed from the sight of the eye and transferred to that of the mind, at random, or without most probable design. It most aptly signifies the great facility of this knowledge, that it is not toilsome; there is little labour in it, it is not such as requires great pains; it is but intuition; not a cautious, wary ratiocination, wherein we use to be very solicitous, lest we draw any irregular or untrue consequences. We do very easily and on the sudden, without suspicion or fear of error, only behold what is offered to our view. This is a great perfection of mind with these blessed spirits, to be capable of knowing the greatest things so easily and so soon, - "to know by seeing." And their aptness hereto is a moral perfection, for the clearness of the discovery infers their greater obligation to attend, and not to divert from what shall cost them so little. The blessed Gods manifestation of himself, in that brightest and most glorious light, is not only evidently supposed, - for "in his light only can we see light," - but it is emphatically expressed in the before-mentioned text, of seeing face to face; which signifies, on his part, gracious vouchsafement, his offering his blessed face to view; that he hides it not, nor turns it away, (as here sometimes he doth,) in just displeasure. And his face means even his most conspicuous glory, such as, in this state of mortality, it would be mortal to us to behold; for no man, - not so divine a man as Moses himself, - could "see his face and live." And it signifies, on their part who are thus made perfect, their applying and turning therr face towards his; namely, that they see not casually or by fortuitous glancea, but eye to eye, by direct and most voluntary intuition, which therefore, on their part, implies moral perfection; the will, directing and commanding the eye, and upon inexpressible relishes of joy and pleasure forbidding its diversion, holds it steady and intent. Here our ignorance of God is culpable, being voluntary, not "liking to retain him in our knowledge." There our knowledge is inculpable and sinless, being chosen, purposed, and always, principally, for its most proper ends, - the perfect adoration and fruition of the blessed object we so fixedly behold and so earnestly covet to know.
It is also fit to be noted, that the very fruition of the blessed God itself, which the Holy Scripture includes in our vision of him, is not only our very blessedness itself, but it is our duty too. It is a thing enjoined us, and comprehended in that first and great commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and might, and mind ;" which, who can perfectly do without a complacential acquiescence and final rest of their will in him, as the best, the most perfect, and all-comprehending Good? And here. upon, though we are unfit to distinguish our glorifying God and enjoying him, they are most manifestly coincident, and but notionally distinct. For in this our fruitive acquiescence of will in him stands our highest veneration, our most practical, most significant acknowledgment and testimony concerning him, as the highest, the most complete, the most absolutely perfect good, - in that we seek no further, but take up our final rest in him. This is to give him the proper glory of his Godhead, to "glorify him as God." And therefore this, being the fullest sense of that great and summary command, it is only a commanding us to be happy: as, on the other hand, the misery of the intelligent creature is his greatest and most injurious iniquity, an aversion of will from the blessed God, a testimony against him, as none of the best good, and the greatest indignity which created nature can put upon him, who is goodness itself. Thus then is the knowledge or vision of God, even as it is fruitive, a moral perfection. But the divine knowledge, more at large, of these holy spirits, though it be principally conversant about God as its noblest object, excludes not their applying their minds to other objects too, according to their concernment with them. And yet,
2. How aptly this perfection is included in such knowledge will further appear, if you consider the manner of knowing, or the special nature and kind of this vision or knowledge; namely, that it is not that slight, ineffectual, merely notional, insipid knowledge, which unregenerate minds are now wont to have of the most evident truths; namely, that for instance, - That God is the most excellent, the most perfect, the most desirable, as well as the most adorable good; which knowledge, because it answers not the true end of divine knowledge, is called ignorance: whereupon they are said to be "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them." But that ignorance is paraphrased by "blindness of heart;" that is, a most perfectly voluntary and chosen ignorance, founded in aversion of will; and elsewhere, by a "refusing to know God," a saying to him, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Whereupon "the light that is, in such is said to be very "darkness," and then "how great is that darkness ! "
This knowledge or vision, now in perfection, is most deeply and inwardly penetrative, efficacious, and transforming; admits a light which spreads and transfuses itself through the whole soul. So it is, at first, in every truly regenerate spirit; whereby such a one is begotten into the Divine likeness, His image is impressed upon it, which, as hath been noted, is said to be "renewed in knowledge ;" so that, as by solemn message to the sons of men, God is declared to be pure light. "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." And as he is the original, the paternal light, the Father of lights ; so they that are born of him are said to be light itself, and the children of light. "Ye were darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." And they are therefore said, "as the sons of God, to shine as lights," or required to do so; for the words bear either form. This so energetical, efficacious light, is, in the mentioned texts, manifestly intended to connote holiness; as it doth also, in Rom. xiii. ; which the antithesis there shows, "works of darkness and armour of light :" and in many other places.
Accordingly the whole, even of practical religion and godliness, is in the Holy Scriptures expressed by the knowledge of God." It is signified to be in its own nature sanctifying, and inconsistent with prevailing sin, in which they that live are therefore said to be destitute of it; who are also upon the same account said not to have had any sight of God. "He that sinneth" (the word is a doer or worker of sin,) "hath not seen God." The light which this vision of God receives, must much more, in the perfected spirits of the just, be supposed so prevalent and victorious as quite to have chased away and expelled all remainders of this impure darkness. Every such spirit is therefore become as it were an orb of purest, most operative, and lively light, an intellectual and a self-actuating sun, full of fervour and motive power, besides mere light. Whereupon, whatsoever this light and knowledge discovers it is fit for such a soul to be, it is, and whatsoever is fit for it to do, it can never fail to do it.
Therefore the making of such spirits perfect must be understood, in greatest part, to consist in restoring the order of their faculties towards each other; which was broken by the apostasy to that degree, and they so debilitated and become so languid, so impotent and enfeebled, that neither could the one faculty lead nor the other follow. Whence light, - even about the most practical and the most important matters imaginable, - true notions, right sentiments, signified no more to command, to govern, to form and direct the inclinations and motions of the soul, than if, as to all its sentiments about these matters, you did put false instead of true, wrong instead of right, most absurd, most impossible instead of most congruous, most necessary. Take, for instance, the idea of God; let it be supposed to comprehend - as every one grants it doth, whether he acknowledge his existence or no - all conceivable, all possible excellencies; that it means an infinite, eternal, ever-living, self-subsisting being, most perfectly intelligent, wise, true, holy, righteous, powerful, and blessed; the original of life, being, and blessedness to the creation, according to the several kinds, natures, and capacities of his creatures; the supreme and sovereign Lord of all, to whom it belongs to govern and dispose of what he hath made; of most immense and abounding goodness and. benignity; most bountiful to the indigent, compassionate to
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