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purest, and sublimest sevse, are comprehended in this blessed life. It is a treasure, that can neither fail nor be carried away by force or fraud, It is an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled; a crown that fadeth not away; a never-failing stream of joy and delight. It is a marriage feast, and of all others the most joyous and most sumptuous; one that always satisfies, and never cloys, the appetite. It is an eternal spring, and an everlasting light, a day without an evening. It is a paradise, where the lilies are always white and full blown, the saffron blooming, the trees sweat out their balsams, and the tree of life in the midst thereof. It is a city, where the houses are built of living pearls, the gates of precious stones, and the streets paved with the purest gold. Yet all these are nothing but veils of the happiness to be revealed on that most blessed day; nay, the light itself, which we have mentioned among the rest, though it be the most beautiful ornament in this visible world, is at best but a shadow of that heavenly glory: and how small soever that portion of this inaccessible brightness may be, which in the sacred scriptures shines upon us through these veils, it certainly very well deserves that we should often turn our eyes towards it, and view it with the closest attention.
1. Now the first thing that necessarily occurs in the constitution of happiness, is a full and complete deliverance from every evil and every grievance; which we may as certainly expect to meet with in that heavenly life, as it is impossible to be attained while we sojourn here below. All tears shall be wiped away from our eyes, and every cause and occasion of tears for ever removed from our sight. There are no tumults there, no wars, no poverty, no death nor disease. There, there is neither mourning, nor fear, nor sin which is the source and fountain of all other evils. There is neither violence within doors nor without, nor any complaint in the streets of that blessed city. There no friend goes out nor enemy comes in.
2. Full vigour of body and mind, health, beauty, purity, and perfect tranquillity.
3. The most delightful society of angels, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and all the saints; among whom there are no reproaches, contentions, controversies, nor party, spirit, because there are there none of the sources whence
they can spring, nor any thing to encourage their growth;. for there is there particularly no ignorance, no blind selflove, no vainglory nor envy, which is quite excluded from those divine regions; but, on the contrary, perfect charity, whereby every one, together with his own felicity, enjoys that of his neighbours, and is happy in the one as well as the other: hence there is among them a kind of infinite reflection and multiplication of happiness, like that of a spacious hall adorned with gold and precious stones, dignified with a full assembly of kings and potentates, and having its walls quite covered with the brightest lookingglasses.
4. But what infinitely exceeds and quite eclipses all the rest, is that boundless ocean of happiness, which results. from the beatific vision of the ever blessed God; without which neither the tranquillity they enjoy, nor the society of saints, nor the possession of any particular finite good, nor indeed of all such taken together, can satisfy the soul or make it completely happy. The manner of this enjoy.. ment we can only expect to understand, when we enter upon the full possession of it; till then, to dispute and raise many questions about it is nothing but vain, foolish talking, and fighting with phantoms of our own brain. But the schoolinen, who contine the whole of this felicity to bare speculation, or as they call it, an intellectual act, are in this, as in many other cases, guilty of great presumption, and their conclusion is built upon a very weak foundation; for although contemplation be the highest and noblest act of the mind, yet complete happiness necessarily requires some present good suited to the whole man, ihe whole soul, and all its faculties. Nor is it any objection to this doctrine, that the whole of this felicity is commonly comprehended in scripture under the term of vision ; for the mental vision, or contemplation of the primary and infinite good, most properly signifies, or at least includes in it, the full enjoyment of that good; and the observation of the Rabbins concerning scripture phrases, that, “ words expressing the senses include also the affections naturally arising from those sensations," is very well known. Thus, kuowing is often put for approving and loving, and seeing for enjoying and attaining. Taste and see that God is good, says the psalmist. And, in fact, it is no small pleasure to.
lovers to dwell together, and mutually to enjoy the sight of one another. Nothing is more agreeable to lovers, than to live together."
We must therefore, by all means, conclude, that this beatific vision includes in it not only a distinct and intuitive knowledge of God, but, so to speak, such a knowledge as gives us the enjoyment of that most perfect Being, and, in some sense, unites us to him; for such a vision it must of necessity be, that converts that love of the infinite Good which blazes in the souls of the saints into full possession, that crowns all their wishes and fills them with an abundant and overflowing fulness of joy, that vents itself in everlasting blessings and songs of praise.
And this is the only doctrine, if you believe it, and I make no doubt but you do this, I say, is the only doctrine that will transport your whole souls, and raise them up on high. Hence you will learn to trample under feet all the turbid and muddy pleasures of the flesh, and all the allurements and splendid trifles of the present world. However those earthly enjoyments, that are swelled up by false names and the strength of imagination to a vast size, may appear grand and beautiful, and still greater and more engaging to those that are unacquainted with them, how sinall, bow inconsiderable do they all appear to a soul that looks for a heavenly country, that expects to share the joys of angels, and bas its thoughts constantly employed about these objects! To conclude-the more the soul withdraws, so to speak, from the body and retires within itself, the more it rises above itself; and the more closely it cleaves to God, the more the life it lives in this earth resembles that which it will enjoy in heaven, and the larger foretastes it has of the first-fruits of that blessed harvest. Aspire, therefore, to holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
of the Being of God. Though on most subjects the opinions of men are various and often quite opposite, insomuch that they seem to be more remarkable for the vast variety of their sentiments,
than that of their faces and languages; there are, however, two things, wherein all nations are agreed, and in which there seems to be a perfect barıony throughout the whole human race—the desire of happiness and a sense of religion. The foriner no man desires to shake off; and though some possibly would willingly part with the latter, it is not in their power to eradicate it entirely : they cannot banish God altogether out of their thoughts, nor extinguish every spark of religion within them. It is certainly true, that, for the most part, this desire of happiness wanders in darkness from one object to another without fixing upon any, and the sense of religion is either suffered to lie inactive or deviates into superstition; yet the great Creator of the world employs these two, as the materials of a fallen building, to repair the ruins of the human race, and as handles whereby he draws his earthen vessel out of the deep gulf of misery into which it is fallen.
Of the former of these, that is, felicity, we have already spoken on another occasion: we shall therefore now, wită divine assistance, employ some part of our time in considering that sense of religion which is naturally impressed upon the mind of man.
Nor will our labour, I imagine, be unprofitably employed in collecting together those few general principles, in which so many and so very dissimilar forms of religion, and sentiments extremely different, harmoniously agree: for as every science most properly begins with universal propositions and things more generally known, so, in the present case, besides the other advantages, it will be no small support to a weak and wavering mind, that amidst all the disputes and contentions subsisting between the various sects and parties in religion, the great and necessary articles, at least, of our faith, are established in some particulars, by the general consent of mankind, and in all the rest, by that of the whole Christian world.
I would therefore most earnestly wish, that your minds, rooted and established in the faith, were firmly united in this delightful bond of religion, which, like a golden chain, will be no burden, but an ornament; not a yoke of slavery, but a badge of true and generous liberty. I would by no means have you to be Christians upon the authority of mere tradition or education, and the example and precepts
of parents and masters, but purely from a full conviction of your own understandings, and a fervent disposition of the will and affections proceeding therefrom. For piety “is the sole and only good among mankind,” and you can expect none of the fruits of religion, unless the root of it be well laid, and firmly established by faith; for, “ all the virtues are the daughters of faith,” says Clemens Alexandrinus.
Lucretius, with very ill-advised praises, extols his favourite Grecian pbilosopher as one fallen down from beaven to be the deliverer of mankind, and to dispel their distressing terrors and fears, because he fancied he had found out an effectual method to banish all religion entirely out of the minds of men. And, to say the truth, in no age has there been wanting brutish souls, too much enslaved to their corporeal senses, who would wish these opinions to be true; yet after all, there are very few of them who are able to persuade themselves of the truth of those vicious principles which, with great impudence and importunity, they commonly inculcate upon others. They belch out with full mouth their foolish dreams, often in direct opposition to conscience and knowledge; and what they upbappily would wish to be true, they can scarcely, if at all, believe themselves. You are acquainted with Horace's recantation, wherein he tells us, that he had been long bigoted to the mad tenets of the Epicurean philosophy, but found himself at last obliged to alter his sentiments, and deny all he had asserted before.
Some souls lose the whole exercise of their reason, because they inform bodies which labour under the defect of temperament or of proper organs; yet you continue to give the old definition of man, and call him a rational creature; and should any one think proper to call him a religious creature, he would, to be sure, have as much reason on bis side, and need not fear his opinion would be rejected, because of a few madmen who laugh at religion. Nor is it improbable, as some of the ancients have asserted, that those few among the Greeks who were called atheists, had not that epithet because they absolutely denied the being of God, but only because they rejected and justly laughed at the fictitious and ridiculous deities of the nations.