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be said that all these are the figures of poetry, not the declarations of reason; but do they not harmonize with Scripture? Nay does not reason unbiassed, assent to them; for if we connect no visible objects with our ideas of heaven, what idea can we possibly form of it?
Let us but for a moment cast off all thought of visible things, and then try to imagine a heaven without them; and we shall find either that we have no idea at all, or that it is
and dark, and filled with confusion.
Still it must not be forgotten that all these things are spiritual, and not material. As the inhabitants of heaven are spiritual beings, so are the objects that surround them spiritual also. Heaven then is a place filled with objects of beauty and glory correspondent to the pure and holy feelings of those who inhabit it.
When, however, we say that heaven is a place, we use the word in a different sense from that which it commonly bears. By place is generally understood local extension, bounded by space, and having connexion with time: but by place, when applied to the world of realities, we mean local situation, not connected with time or material space, but depending entirely upon the ruling love of the individual. As then place on earth is regulated by material objects, so place in heaven is measured and regulated by objects which are spiritual. Thus the visible things of heaven, though not existing in the space of matter, are not less real nor substantial than the visible things of earth : on the contrary, they are more substantial and more enduring. Here, every thing is in a state of alteration - visible nature is the region of changes. There, all is enduring, solid, and eternal - without corruption and without decay. Well, therefore, said Dr. Young,
“ All, all on earth is SHADOW, all beyond
We notice, in the next place, the blessedness of heaven.That this is eternal, we need not repeat, as it is included in what we have already said: as the glory is everlasting, so is the blessedness. But we must distinguish between the visible glory of heaven, and the happiness which is enjoyed by its inhabitants. It is not the objects which surround them, perfect and beautiful though they be, that communicate to them their delight,
but the possession of their Lord, in his love, his wisdom, and his operation.
That the presence of God constitutes heaven, is a truth allowed by all parties of Christians. Indeed, the Scriptures are so clear and decisive upon this point, that it is not possible to deny it, without, at the same time, denying the truth of revelation. But the presence of God equally extends to hell; nor is there a single spirit in the regions of misery, who is not constantly surrounded by his Maker. How then does the presence of God in heaven cause peace and blessedness, while that same presence in hell is the source of misery and torment? To understand this, we must consider that every man while on earth, is the maker of his own destiny, and forms within himself his own heaven or his own hell. To the man who, by love, faith, and good works, has been created anew, and formed into an image of God, his presence and influence is the source of peace and joy: whilst to the unregenerate, whose minds and will are directly at variance with holiness, that same influence causes only unhappiness and pain. Thus the beams of the sun are to the eagle the source of light and pleasure ; while to the bird of night they are the cause of darkness and pain. The influence of God is unvaried both in heaven and in hell; but in one is in agreement with the affections of the inhabitants; while in the other, it is in direct opposition to all their views, affections, and delights.
And as man, on earth, renders himself capable of receiving the divine influence, or closes his mind against it; so he brings himself into immediate connexion with the angels of God, or the spirits of evil ; for, as we formerly observed, likeness of affection joins spirit with spirit; and when death divests him of his natural clothing, he comes into the society of those whom he resembles in his desires and love. A man must therefore have the nature of heaven here, or he can never enjoy its glory hereafter: for heaven is not given by a mere act of mercy, without reference to character; those only being capable of its enjoyment, whose souls are in a fit state to receive and rejoice in the divine influence.
Love is the first and purest principle which enters into heavenly delight : yet this love may very properly be divided into three distinct kinds, each having its proper object, and yet each joining and uniting with the others — the love of God, the love
of truth, and simple obedience. It is true, all these are required to constitute a perfect man;” but in every individual one or other of these principles holds the supremacy
Death changes not the love of the soul, nor does it change the quality of that love: and the general body of Christians on earth may be divided and classed according to these component principles of holy affection. Thus there are some, whose whole affections are devoted solely to God: the object of their minds is goodness alone; and truth and obedience in outward works, though still existing, have comparatively but a low and very subordinate value. There are others, in whom religion developes itself chiefly in the understanding
in the understanding It is their end and aim to search out and dwell upon the doctrines of Christianity. Their lives are one continual combat against error, as the lives of the former are against evil. We
may perceive this distinction existing even amongst the first disciples of the Lord. The writings of John breathe love, and love only : it seems to have swallowed up in his mind every other passion. The Epistles of Paul, on the other hand, are devoted principally to the elucidation of truth, and the overturning of error. The one viewed God chiefly in his quality of Love, the other more immediately in his attribute of Wisdom. But besides these two classes, there is another, composed of the great mass of Christians, namely, those, who without being able to enter deeply into the study of doctrines, yet, from a holy principle, obey those precepts which their religion commands. In none of these classes does one principle exist without the others; all of them possess love, faith, and obedience; but in the first love predominates, in the second truth reigns, and in the third obedience is the chief characteristic.
Now, (as we have already observed) such as man is here, such he will be hereafter ; and as likeness of affection joins one spirit to another, so they who resemble each other in the nature of their love, will by such resemblance be united together in the spiritual world. All the blessed are joined by the divine love, but as this love is varied in form, according to the state of reception in individuals, so will there be various societies in that heavenly world, and various degrees of glory, according to our Lord's words, “ in my Father's house are many mansions.”
It is therefore the reception of the Lord in his divine influence alone, which constitutes heaven. · And as this influence
is received, the degrees of glory and happiness are varied. Every angel possesses as much delight and pleasure as his mind can enjoy, yet as one star differeth from another star in glory," so do the blessed in heaven differ from each other.
The kingdom of heaven is generally supposed, to be a state of complete rest from every work of charity and usefulness: or if that rest is at all broken, it is only by the repetition of worship and praise. However such an opinion became general, it is neither in agreement with reason or scripture. Perfect rest from every useful function is not pleasure, but weariness, and such a rest deserves not the name of holiness, but of indolence. It is much more reasonable to conclude with Dr. Watts, that though heaven is a rest from sin and sorrow, from toil and weariness, it is by no means such a rest as lays all the active powers to sleep; and that though divine worship and praise may frequently occupy the heavenly societies, yet there may be other employments, errands of mercy and love and wisdom, in which they may be engaged. Heaven is not a kingdom of idleness but a kingdom of use: where each is employed in communicating happiness to those around him; and where in proportion as happiness is communicated, a greater portion of joy is received. Where all are bound together by love, all loving each, and each loving all ;-a place where selfishness is unknown. No narrow contracted feelings are there. There is. no hoarding up of pleasure: each lives not for himself but others, and these in return live not for themselves but for him : while love, supreme love to their Maker unites them to Him and to happiness for ever.
Heaven, therefore, is a place of glory, in which all the righteous live, not as shadows, but as real and substantial men. Yet the mere outward glory is not that which constitutes the happiness of the blessed, but the love and truth of God received and communicated. And as the reception of this love differs according to the states of individuals, so do the degrees of glory differ in the heavenly mansions. Let then “ the world their wisdom boast”
Let them hope for heaven while leading a life of evil and error! Let them trust to faith alone, while love and obedience are not to be found! Our heaven is the union of love and wisdom, of charity and faith, of goodness and truth: and our preparation is a constant and watchful care to get these principles implanted
in the mind here, that so they may expand and bear fruit hereafter. Yet not by our own exertion alone, but by virtue, and through the medium, of that blessed atonement, which THE LORD himself wrought, when, subduing evil, he “overcame the world.
All our ideas of the blessedness of heaven, must however fall far short of the reality. He who is in the love of God, and who enjoys the “peace that passeth understanding, ” feels and knows some little of its happiness; but death only can teach us by experience, the height of that glory, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and which the heart itself has never yet conceived.” We may however say with a poet who seldom employed his pen on this subject,
“ Go wing thy flight from star to star :
From world to luminous world, as far
Moore's LALLA Rooxy.