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Of the Happiness of the Future Estate, or of Eternal Life.
IT remains that we say something concerning the Happiness of the Future Estate after this Life is ended.
The Happiness of this Estate is called Eternal Life, and consists in the Knowledge and Love of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and the joy and delectation that necessarily results therefrom, John 17. 3. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. That is, know thee to be their God, know thee so as to love thee. Knowledge alone is not sufficient to make us happy; the lapsed 109Angels know the Excellencies and Perfections of the Divine Nature, but yet they are never the more happy for that Knowledge, because they have no interest in God, nor are like to reap any benefit or advantage by what they know of him. So in Men here in this World, Virtue and Knowledge may be separated: A knowing Man may be a vicious Man, and consequently unhappy. Again, Knowledge of the Mysteries of Nature, and the Works of God, though there be in Man an eager third after it, and some Pleasure in obtaining it: yet if it terminates only in Knowledge, and be directed to no further end, it doth not contribute much to our Happiness. It is a known saying,
Scire tuum nihil est nisi te scire hoc sciat alter;
And truly I am apt to think there may be something of truth in it. Those Men that exercise their Wits in curious Mathematical Speculations, could they be allured that their Inventions and Discoveries should never come to the knowledge of any Creature but themselves, I doubt whether the pleasure of the Intention, would in their own esteem compensate 110the labor and toil of the Inquisition. But yet even in this State thus much may be said in commendation of Knowledge; that it doth advance and enlarge the Understanding, and render the Soul capable of a greater degree of Happiness, as I have said before.
But in the World to come the Vision of God cannot be separated from his Love. Such a knowledge of God will transform the blessed Souls to whom it shall be communicated into his holy Image; We shall be like him (saith the Apostle) for we shall see him as he is. None shall be admitted to this sight, but those that are pure in heart; Without holiness no man shall see God. And to these the clear understanding of all the Works of God, both of Creation and Providence, will stir up the most exalted Affections of Admiration, Love, and Joy.
But I shall not proceed further in my own Words to describe the Happiness of a future Estate, or eternal Life, because I find it so fully and clearly done by the Right Reverend Dr. Patrick, now Lord Bishop of Ely, in his Treatise of The Witnesses to Christianity, Part 2d. that I have nothing material to add to it. Therefore I shall 111transcribe thence what he hath concerning the Love of God; for the rest referring the Reader to the Book it self.
And if (saith he) the Nature of this Life be further examined, you will find the Mind [of which he had spoken before] is not the only Faculty that shall be gratified, but the Will shall conceive a Love as great as the Knowledge of which I have discoursed. For as God is the highest Object of the Understanding, being the prime Truth, so he is the chiefest Object of the Will, being the first and best Good. And therefore as the Understanding then shall most clearly know him, so the Will in like manner shall most ardently love him, and find perfect satisfaction in that Love. There is a necessary connexion between these things, and it cannot be otherwise, but that from the best Good clearly known there will flow the greatest Love, drawing along with it the greatest delight, and the most perfect repose. And therefore to see God contains in its Notion both Love and Delectation, with Rest, and Satisfaction, Love naturally flows from thence, as from its Fountain; and the other naturally flow from Love, which is the highest Act of that Faculty which we call the Will, as 112knowing and contemplating is of the Understanding. Desire indeed is the first motion of it, when any thing is apprehended to be good for us; but that will there be quenched in possession and enjoyment, and no more of it can be conceived to remain than a longing for the continuance and increase of this Happiness, which yet will be so certain, that we shall be rather confident than desirous.
The Will therefore having such a glorious Object always before it, will be wholly employed in Love, and spend it self without any decay in flames of affection towards this universal Good, which shines so fairly and brightly in its Eyes. It will apply it self to the enjoyment of it, with as great a vehemency as it can; and laying its Mouth (as St. Augustin teaches me to speak ) to the Spring of all Happiness, do more than taste the sweetness of it: We; may expect to have it fill’d with those delicious Pleasures which we know attend on Love, and which in that State will be proportionable to the greatness of the good that is embraced, and to the strength and Ardency of the embracement.
And whereas, here in this World, Men are apt to love beyond all reason, whereby 113their Love becomes adulterate, and is mix’d with so many discontents, that it proves but a bitter sweet; there our Understanding will be in its full growth, and highest pitch; so that as nothing which is reasonable shall be omitted to be done; nothing likewise (hall be done that is unreasonable: This Love will be grounded upon the cleared Judgment; this Flame kindled by the purest Light; so that there shall be no trouble or disquiet in it, but perfect rest and peace.
And whereas in this World, Mens Affections flow to things that are not near so big as themselves (i.e. as their own Desires) and so they languish, and faint, and fall sick; even in the enjoyment of the best good it affords, because they find it is not a supply proportionable to their want, or to their expectation: There will be no such emptiness, or want of satisfaction in those Coelestial Enjoyments; because we shall embrace not only our proper good, but that which is commensurate to our desires, and beyond our hopes: Our Affections will not fall then upon that which cannot sustain the whole weight of them; but feeling themselves born up to the greatest height of Love, by a good so full, that it will leave no room for complaint or uneasiness, 114they will enjoy the most solid rest and satisfaction.
Do but conceive them in your Minds, what a pleasure it is, here in this Life, to love, and to be beloved; and you will have some notion whereby to take a measure of the Life we are speaking of, which will consist in such mutual Love, and delightful correspondencies. And they who have neither Father nor Mother, Wife nor Children, near Kindred, nor Relations, whereon to place their Affection, let them consider, if they have but a singular Friend, what the pleasure is that two persons, who sincerely and purely love, take in the sweet Company and Conversation of each other. Or if I must suppose any Man to be so unkind and so unhappy, as to have no love for any body but his own self, let him think what contentment he hath, and how he is pleased if he can arrive any thing near to a quiet enjoyment of his dear self. And such a delightful state may be a small Image of Heaven, where holy Souls will love God with a far greater flame than ever they did (or shall then) love themselves; because he will appear infinitely more lovely, and to bear also a far greater love to them, than it is possible for them to do to themselves.115
Now none can tell how transporting it will be to a good Soul, when it feels it self the beloved of God, as well as full of love to him; because we cannot think how great the Love of the Almighty is, unless we could know how great he is himself. This is a thing that cannot fail to have a strange power over our affections, and to matter them; so that we shall be quite taken out of our selves, for we all extremely love to be beloved.
If any Neighbour (hews us an unexpected and undeserved Kindness, we are apt to think he is the best person in the World: and the poorest wretch in the World, if we see in him the undoubted signs of an hearty love to us, we cannot chuse but requite it with some Expressions of kindness back again; nay if a Dog, or such a dumb Creature do but fawn upon us, or delight in our Company, and with a great deal of observance follow us wheresoever we go, we cannot but be so far pleased with his inclination towards us, as to make much of it, and to be troubled to see any harm befall it, and to love to see it play, and be well pleased. Judge then what a pleasure it will be to pious Souls to find themselves beloved of him, who hath put these 116kind Resentments into our Natures. To what an height will the sweet breathings of his Love blow up the Flames of theirs? Into what Extasies will they fall, when they feel by the happy fruits what an exceeding great affection their heavenly Father bears to them? It is above our present thoughts to apprehend the Joy that will then overflow them: But we may conceive a little of it, if we remember, that God is love, and that by our Love he will be in us, and by his Love we shall be in him.
He proceeds to speak of the love of Saints and Angels: The pleasure, joy, and delegation that naturally and necessarily flows from this knowledge and love of God, the Happiness which the Body shall be exalted to, and the eternal duration of all these.
This Eternal Life our Blessed Saviour hath brought to light through the Gospel, and hath promised to all those who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, Rom. 2. 7. And this is the promise that he hath promised, even eternal life, 1 John 2. 25.
Some perchance may say, The great disproportion that is between the Services and Rewards makes this Promise of Eternal Life difficult to be believ’d: For who 117can think that God should recompense our poor and imperfect Duties and Services, performed for a very short time, with such ap immense and eternal weight of Glory and Happiness?
To this I answer; That though indeed it cannot consist with God’s Justice to punish any Creature without, or beyond its demerit; yet nothing hinders but that he may be as bountiful as he pleases, and in his Rewards exceed all the deserts, and even expectations of his Creatures, an hundred or a thousand fold.
Let us then admire the transcendent and unmerited goodness and love of God, in doing such great things for us, as fending his Son into the World to take our nature upon him, to suffer Death for our Sins, and to give us the great Promise of Eternal Life; and let us endeavour in some measure to answer this Love by suitable Affections of the most ardent Love and Gratitude.
Let us also love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, which we have all the reason in the World to do, considering the greatness of his Love to us manifested by the great things he hath done and suffered for us, John 15. 9. As the Father hath loved me (saith our Saviour to his Disciples) so 118have I loved you. And V. 13. he proceeds to say, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his Friends. Ye are my Friends, &c. By which Words he intimates, that he was about to make the greatest demonstration of his Love to his Apostles, and to all true Believers, by laying down his Life for them. The Apostle Paul carries this yet higher, Rom. 5. 7, 8. For scarce for a righteous man will one die; yet, peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This exceeds the highest degree of love Man ever attained to, Ephes. 5. 2. As Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling favour. Phil. 2. 6, 7, 8. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of man. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. That the Eternal Son of God, equal with his Father, should so highly advance our Nature, as to unite it to the Divine in one 119Person, that so he might be qualified by the Sacrifice of himself to expiate our Sins, to make an atonement for us, and to reconcile us unto God: The greatness of this Love, together with the freeness and unmeritedness of it, there being not any the lead Motive on our part to invite him to it, is so matchless and stupendious, that it challenges the highest degree of reciprocal affection and gratitude. Magnes amoris amor; Love is the Loadstone of Love. We cannot chuse but love them again, in whom we discern any Expressions of unfeigned love to us, as I have before noted: And our love for the degree of it mull be in some measure answerable to the Dignity, and to the merit of the Person who loveth us: For Favours done us, and benefits bestowed upon us, Gratitude is the moll natural, I might say, necessary ebullition of of the Mind of Man.
To this purpose Seneca, Epist. 81. In hoc fidei populi credamus, Nihil esse grato animo honestius. Omnes hoc urbes, omnes etiam ex Barbaris regionibus gentes conclamabunt: In hoc bonis malisque conveniet. Erunt qui voluptates laudent, erunt qui labores malint, erunt qui dolorem maximum malum dicant, erunt qui ne malum quidem appellent; 120 Divitias aliquis ad summum bonum admittet; alius illas dicet humanæ malo vitæ repertas, nihil esse eo locupletius, cui quod donet, Fortuna non invenit. In tantâ judiciorum diversitate, referendam benè merentibus gratiam omnes uno tibi, quod aiunt, ore affirmabunt; in hoc tam discors turba consentiet.
“In this let us believe what People generally agree in, That there is nothing more honest and commendable than a grateful Mind. All Cities, all Nations, even of Barbarous Countries; all Men, both good and bad, consent in this. There are some who commend Pleasures; others prefer Labours: Some there be, who say that pain is the greatest Evil; others, who will not grant it to be any Evil at all: One will admit Riches to be the chiefest good; another affirms them to be the Mischief of human Life; and that none can be richer than he upon whom Fortune cannot find any thing which she may bestow. In such a diversity of Judgments about other things, that thanks are to be returned to those who have deserv’d well of us, all with one Mouth affirm: In this these Dissenting Parties are all agreed.”121
We are by Nature inclined to requite kindnesses; non docti sed facti, non instituti sed imbuti sumus: And if we cannot do that, to retain, at least, a grateful sense and memory of them, and upon all occasions to acknowledge our obligations to such Benefactors, as we are not able to recompense, to honour and love them, and to do all we can to please and gratifie them. Ingratum si dixeris, omnia dixeris: You cannot say worse of a Man, than that he is ungrateful; Ingratitude being an unnatural Sin. Seeing then we cannot requite this transcendent kindness of our Saviour to us, nor make him any amends for that great Salvation he hath wrought for us, and those inestimable Benefits he hath bestowed on us, let us not be wanting to dc/ what in us lies, to express our gratitude, by acknowledging, and celebrating his goodness to us, and the great things he hath done for us, singing with the holy Psalmist, 1414 Psal. 103. 1.Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. And by devoting our selves to his Service, and 122doing always those things which are pleasing and acceptable to him. Let his love constrain us not to live any longer to our selves, but unto him who hath died for us, and rose again, 1 Cor. 5. 16. Who hath redeemed us to God by his blood, Revel. 5. 9. And made us Kings and Priests unto our God. Let us have a care that we do not frustrate the Grace of God, as to our selves, and render this great undertaking of our Saviour in vain to us; nay, an aggravation of our Condemnation: For how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? As the Apostle speaks, Heb. 2. 3.
Let not the difficulty of obeying God’s Commandments, and leading a holy life, deter or discourage us from endeavouring it: We know that neither Learning nor Riches, nor any thing that is excellent is to be obtained without pains-taking. Now nothing so excellent, so desirable, so worthy our utmost endeavors as Eternal Life; this will abundantly recompense all our labour and travel; nay, though we were put to suffer Persecution, Imprisonment, or even Death it self, for Conscience sake, and bearing witness to the Truth, we should have no need to repent it: Our Reward shall be answerable to, nay far exceed our 123Work, 2 Cor. 4. 17. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory.
To sum up all in brief: Since then, 1. A Holy Life and Conversation here secures to us an interest in a Future State of Eternal Bliss and Happiness, Glory and Immortality in the World to come, and thereby delivers us from the fear of Death, that King of Terrors, as it is denominated, Job 18. 14. that φοβερῶν φοβερότατον, as Aristotle calls it, The most terrible of all terribles: Which the wisest Philosophers by all their Argumentations could never either arm others against, or secure themselves from the fear of; the very best of them, even Socrates himself being doubtful of the immortality of the Soul; our Saviour alone having brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel: Of which [Death] wicked Men cannot but have a dreadful apprehension, because of that indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, which is threatned against those who obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, Rom. 2. 8, 9.
2. Since also it conduceth much to the well being and happiness of the outward 124and inward Man in this present Life, as I have endeavoured to demonstrate in this Discourse.
Moreover (3.) Since this Holiness and Obedience is even in the judgment, and by the confession of vicious Persons themselves better and more eligible than the life they lead.
And Lastly, Since it is more facile, easy and pleasant than the Slavery and Drudgery of Sin and Satan.
Since, I say, all this is true and certain, surely it is the greatest folly and madness imaginable, for a little false and transient Pleasure, and to gratify some deceitful Lust, as the Apostle justly calls them, Ephes. 4. 22. to forego not only our hopes of that eternal Life and Happiness, which our Saviour hath purchased for us, and upon our Obedience promised to us, those sincere and solid Pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore. Rev. 22. 14. our right to the Tree of Life, and of entring in through the Gates into the New Jerusalem; which is their portion who keep God’s Commandments; but also that present comfort and satisfaction of mind, that inward peace and joy which attends the Conscience of well doing here.125
Mark what a 1515 Seneca, Epist. 27.Heathen saith of these sensual Pleasures, Dimitte istas voluptates turbidas, magno luendas: non venturæ tantum, sed & præteritæ nocent. Quemadmodum scelera etiamsi non sint deprehensa cùm fierent, solicitudo non cum ipsis abit; ità voluptatum improbarum etiam post ipsas pœnitentia est: Non sunt solidæ, non sunt fideles; etiamsi non nocent, fugiunt. Dismiss (saith he) these troubled, or muddy and impure pleasures, which you must pay dearly for; they are hurtful not only when they are coming, but when they are past: As crimes though undiscovered when they are committed, leave not the committers of them without solicitude, so Repentance always attends unlawful Pleasures: They are not solid they are false and deceitful, and though they were not hurtful, yet are they transient, only in motion, and suddainly gone.
As for Riches or Honours, or any other worldly good, they are also unsatisfactory. We find our Expectations in the pursuit of them, frustrated in the acquisition and enjoyment; being presently full and weary of that, which we did most eagerly and impotently desire and long after.126
And yet were there never so much worth and goodness in them, they are, 1. Uncertain, as the Apostle calls them, 1 Tim. 6. 17. they may be taken away from us before we die. 2, They are of short continuance; if they abide with us till death, we must then necessarily part with them: For as the same Apostle saith, V. 7th of the same Chapter, We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
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