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licate as to afford thee a conviction that there is no such thing as real friendship among men? And that what are called connections, friendships, affections, unions, tenderness, are generally no other than interchanges of deceit disguised under agreeable names? Are thy feelings so refined that thou sighest after connections formed on a nobler plan? God will have such connections with thee. Yes, there is, in the plan of religion, an union formed between God and us, on the plan of that which subsists between the three persons in the godhead, the object of our worship: that is, as far as a similar union between God and us can subsist without contradiction. God grants this to the intercession of his Son, in virtue of that perfect obedience which he rendered to his father on the cross. This Jesus Christ requested for us, on the eve of that day, in which, by his ever-memorable sacrifice, he reconciled heaven and earth. I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word : that they also may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, John xvii. 9, 20, 21. Do not inquire the possibility of this union, how we can be one with God and with Jesus Christ, as Jesus Christ and God are one. Our hearts, as defective in the power of feeling as our minds in that of reasoning, have no faculties, at present, for the knowledge of such things as can be known only by feeling. But the time will come when both sense and intelligence will be expanded, and then we shall know, by a happy experience, what it is to be one with God and with Jesus Christ.
This leads us to our fifth and last article, That is; the felicity that God reserveth for his children in another world. A re-union of all the felicities of this present world would not be sufficient to express the love of God to us. Nature is too indi-, gent : our faculties are too indigent: society is too indigent: religion itself is too indigent.
Nature is too indigent: it might indeed afford us a temperate air, an earth enamelled with flowers, trees laden with fruits, and climates rich with delights: but all its present beauties are inadequate to the love of God, and there must be another world, another economy, new heavens and a new , earth, Isa. Ixv. 17.
Our faculties are too indigent: they might indeed admit abundant pleasures, for we are capable of knowing, and God couid gratify our desire of knowledge. We are capable of agreeable sensations, and God is able to give us objects proportional to our sensations, and so of the rest. But all these gratifications would be too little to express the love of God to us. Our faculties must be renewed, and, in some sense, new cast; for this corruptible body must put on incorruption ; this natural body must become a spiritual body, 1 Cor. xv. 53, 44. so that by means of more delicate organs we may enjoy more exquisite pleasures. Our souls must be united to glorified bodies, by laws different from those which now unite us to matter, in order to capacitate us for more extensive knowledge.
Society is too indigent, although society might become an ocean of pleasure to us.
There are men whose friendships are full of charms; their conversations are edifying and their acquaintance delightful : and God is able to place us among such amiable characters in this world : but society hath nothing great enough to express the love of God to
We must be introduced to the society of glorified saints, and to thousands of angels and happy
spirits, who are capable of more magnanimity and delicacy than all that we can imagine here.
Religion itself is too indigent, although it might open to us a source of delight. What pleasure hath religion afforded us on those happy days of our lives, in which, having fled from the crowd, and suspended our love to the world, we meditated on the grand truths which God hath revealed to us in his word, when we ascended to God by fervent prayer; or renewed at the Lord's table our communion with him! How often have holy men been enraptured in these exercises! How often have they exclaimed during these foretastes, Our souls are satisfied as with marrow and futness ! Psal. Ixiii. 5. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee! Psal. xxxi. 19. We are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house : we drink of the rivers of thy pleasures ! Psal. xxxvi. 8. Yet even religion can afford nothing here below that can sufficiently express the love of God
We must be admitted into that state, in which there is neither temple nor sun, because God supplieth the place of both, Rev. xxi. 22, 23. We are to behold God, not surrounded with such a handful of people as this, but with thousand thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, who stand continually before him, Dan. vii. 10. We must see God, not in the display of his grace in our churches, but in all the magnificence of his glory in heaven. We are to prostrate ourselves before him, not at the Lord's table, where he is made known to us in symbols of bread and wine : (august symbols indeed : but too gross to exhibit the magnificence of God) but we are to behold him upon his throne of glory, worshipped by all the happy host of heaven. What cause produceth those. noble effects ? From what source do those rivers of pleasure flow? Psal. xxxiv. 8. It is love which lays up all this goodness for us : Psal. xxxi. 19. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love, Hosea xi. 4.
Let us meditate on the love of God, who, being supremely happy himself, communicateth perfect happiness to us. Supreme happiness doth not make God forget us; shall the miserable comforts of this life make us forget him ? Our attachments to this life are so strong, the acquaintances we have contracted in this world so many, and the relations we bear so tender; we are in a word, so habituated to live, that we need not wonder if it cost us a good deal to be willing to die. But this attachment to life, which, when it proceeds only to a certain degree, is a sinless infirmity, becomes one of the most criminal dispositions when it exceeds its just limits. It is not right that the objects of divine love should lose sight of their chief good, in a world where, after their best endeavors, there will be too many obstacles between them and God. It is not right that rational creatures, wbo have heard of the pure, extensive, and munificent love of God to them, should be destitute of the most ardent desires of a closer union to him than any that can be attained in this life. One single moment's delay should give us pain, and if we wish to live, it should be only to prepare to die. We ought to desire life only to mortify sin, to practise and to perfect virtue, to avail ourselves of opportunities of knowing ourselves better, and of obtaining stronger assurances of our salvation. No, I can never persuade myself that a man, who is wise in the truths of which we have been discoursing, a man, in whom the love of God hath been shed abroad by the holy Ghost given unto him, Rom. v. 5. a man, who thinks himself an object of the love of the great Supreme, and
who knows that the great Supreme will not render him perfectly happy in this life, but in the next, can afford much time for the amusements of this. I can never persuade myself that a man, who hath such elevated notions, and such magnificent prospects, can make a very serious affair of having a great name in this world, of lodging in a palace, or of descending from an illustrious ancestry. These little passions, if we consider them in themselves, may seem almost indifferent, and I grant, if
, that they are not always attended with very bad
consequences, that, in some cases, they injure nobody, and, in many, cause no trouble in society: but, if we consider the principle from which they proceed, they will appear very mortifying to us. We shall find that the zeal and fervor, the impatient breathings of some, to depart and be with Christ, Phil. i. 23. the aspiring of a soul after the chief good: the prayer, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, Rev. xxxii. 20. the eager wish, When shall 1 come and appear before God ? Psal. xlii. 2. We shall find that these dispositions, which some of us treat as enthusiasm, and which others of us refer to saints of the first order, to whose perfections we have not the presumption to aspire; we shall find, I say, that these dispositions are more essential to
, christianity than we have hitherto imagined.
May God make us truly sensible to that noble and tender love which God hath for us! May God kindle our love at the fire of his own! May God enable us to know religion by such pleasures as they experience, who make love to God the foundation of all virtue! These are our petitions to God for you: to these may each of us say Amen!