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I have received of the Lord Jesus, Acts xx. 24. having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far berler, Phil. i. 23. We often find men braving death, when at a distance, but shrinking from the nearer approach of the king of terrors. But the earnestness of our apostle's wishes is heightened in proportion as they draw nigh to their centre: when he is arrived at the departing moment, he triumphs: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the fuith. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge. shall gire me at that day, 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
My brethren, you are well acquainted with St. Paul. He was a truly great character. Were we not informed by a special Revelation that he was inspired by the Spirit of God, we must ever entertain high ideas of a man, who had derived his extensive knowledge from the pure sources of the Jewish dispensation : who had ennobled his enlarged and capacious mind by all that is more sublime in Christianity ; of a man, whose heart had always obeyed the dictates of bis understanding: who opposed Christianity with zeal, so long as he believed Christianity to be false ; and who bent the full current of his zeal to the support of Christianity, from the moment he became persuaded that it was an emanation from God.
St. Paul was a man possessed of strong reasoning powers, and we have in his writings many monuments which will convey down to the end of the world, the knowledge of his intellectual superiority, Nevertheless, this man so enlightened, so sage, so rational; this man who knew the pleasures of heaven by experience, no longer beholds any thing on the earth once to be compared with them, or that
€ould, for a moment, retard his wishes. He concludes, that celestial joys ought not to be conisdered as too dearly purchased, at whatever price it may have pleased God to rate them, and whatever it may cost to attain them. “ I reckon,” says he, “ I reckon what I suffer, and what I may still be called to suffer, on the one side : and I reckon, on the other, the glory of which I have been a witness, and which I am still to enjoy ; I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us :" Rom. viii. 18. Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, Phil. i. 23.
But who is capable of giving an adequate representation of his transports, so as to make you
feel them with greater energy, and, were it possible, to transfuse them into your hearts? Represent to yourself a man, who has actually seen that glory, of which we can give you only borrowed ideas. Represent to yourself a man, who has visited those sacred mansions, which are in the house of the Father, Jo. xiv. 2. a man who has seen the palace of the sovereign of the universe, and those thousands, those thousand thousands which surround his throne : Dan. vii, 10; a man who has been in that new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven, Rev. ii. 12. in that new heaven, and that new earth, Rev. xxi. l. The inhabitants of which are angels, archangels, the seraphim; of which the lamb is the sun and the temple, Rev. xxi. 22, 23. and where God is all and all, I Cor. xv. 28. Represent to yourself a man, who has heard those harmonious concerts, those triumphant choirs, which sing aloud day and night: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory, Isa. vi. 3. a man who has heard those celestial multi
tudes which cry out, saying: Alleluia ; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God... and the four and twenty elders reply, saying, Amen ; Alleluia ...... let us be glad and rejoice, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready, Rev. xix. 1, 4, 7. Represent to yourself a man who has been received into heaven by those angels who rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, Luke xv. 7. and who redouble their acclamations when he is admitted into the bosom of glory: or, to say somewhat which has a still nearer relation to the idea which we ought to conceive of St. Paul: represent to yourself a man bearing in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, Gal. vi. 17. And beholding that Jesus in the bosom of the Father : represent to yourself that man giving way to unrestrained effusions of love, embracing his Saviour, clinging to his feet, passing, in such sacred transports of delight, a time which glides away, undoubtedly, with rapidity of which we have no conception, and which enables the soul to comprehend how, in the enjoyment of perfect bliss, a thousand years fly away with the velocity of one day: represent to yourself that man suddenly recalled to this valley of tears, beholding that third heaven, those archangels, that God, that Jesus, all, all disappearing. Ah, my brethren, what regret must such a man have felt ! What holy impatience to recover the vision of all those magnificent objects! What is become of so much felicity, of so much glory? Was I made to possess them, then, only to have the pain of losing them again! Did God indulge me with the beatific vision only to give me a deeper sense of
my misery ? O moment too fleeting and transitory, and have you fled never to be recalled ! Raptures, transports, extasies, have you left me for ever!
My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof, 2 Kings ii. 12. As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God : my soul thirstelh for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God ? Psa. xlii. 1, 2. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts ! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house : they will be still praising thee! thine altars, thine alturs, O Lord of Hosts, my king, and my God! Psa. Ixxxiv. 1, &c.
My God, wherefore enjoy we not at this day such privileges, that we also might be filled with such sentiments! Boundless abysses, which separate between heaven and earth, why are ye not, for a season, filled up to us, as ye were to this apostle ! Ye torrents of endless delight, wherefore roll ye not to us, some of your precious rills, that they may teach us a holy contempt for those treacherous joys which deceive and ensare us !
My brethren, if, ceasing from the desire of manifestations which we have not, we could learn to avail ourselves of those which God has been pleased to bestow! were we but disposed to listen to the information which the scriptures communicate, respecting the heavenly felicity! If we would but examine the proofs, the demonstrations which we have of eternal blessedness! If we but knew how to feed on those ideas, and frequently to oppose them to those voids, to those nothings, which are the great object of our pursuit! If we would but compare them with the excellent nature of our souls, and with the dignity of our origin! then we should become like St. Paul. Then nothing would be able to damp our zeal. The end of the course
would then employ every wish, every desire of the heart. Then no dexterity of management would be needful, to introduce a discourse on the subject of death. Then we should rejoice in those who might say to us: Let us go up in Jerusalem. Then we should reply, our feet shall stand within thy gales, o Jerusalem! Psa. cxxii. 2.
Then we should see that fervor, that zeal, that transports, are the virtues, and the attainment of the dying.
You would wish to be partakers of St. Paul's rapture to the third heaven ; but if this privilege be denied
you to its full extent, nothing forbids your aspiring after one part of it at least. When was it that St. Paul was caught up into Paradise ? You have been told, it was when engaged in prayer. While I prayed in the temple, says he, I was in a trance, Acts xxii. 17. The word trance or ertasy is of nu indeterminate meaning. A man in an extasy is one whose soul is so entirely devoted to an object, that he is, in some sense, out of his own body, and no longer perceives what passes in it. Persons addicted to a scientific research, have been known so entirely absorbed in thought, as to be in a manner insensible during those moments of intense application Extasy, in religion, is that undivided aitention which attaches the mind to heavenly objects. If any thing is capable of producing this effect, it is prayer. It is by no means astonishing that a man who has entered into his closet, and shut the door, Matt. vi. 6. who has excluded the world, who has lost sight of every terrestrial object, whose soul is concentrated, and lost in God, if I may use the expression, that such a man should be so penetrated with admiration, with love, with hope, with joy, as to become like one rapt in an extasy.