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in glory, so one saint will differ from another saint in respect to knowledge, holiness and happiness; while there will not be one discontented or dissatisfied person in heaven. Such a uniformity, and yet variety, in heavenly felicity, will be absolutely necessary in order to raise the holiness and blessedness of God, of Christ
, of angels and of saints, to the highest possible degree of perfection.
4. Jf saints, as soon as they shine forth in the kingdom of their Father, shall be put into the possession of the rich variety of intellectual and spiritual enjoyments, then there is reason to believe that their death will occasion more joy in heaven than sorrow on earth. Since saints at death carry all their piety, virtue and usefulness out of this world, so their decease is justly to be lamented. When David died, when Moses and Samuel died, when Rachel and Dorcas died, and when other pious persons left the world, their departure out of it justly occasioned sorrow and mourning, not only to their nearest connections, but to all who knew their worth and importance in life. But since the pious dead carry all their virtues and excellences into heaven, where they behold the face of God in righteousness, and take possession of all the holiness and felicity which they are capable of enjoying, their entrance into the kingdom of glory must give joy to all the holy and benevolent beings there. They rejoiced when they were converted ; and their joy must be increased, when they see them actually glorified. Benevolence in all intelligent beings disposes them to rejoice with those who rejoice. When saints have surmounted all their sorrows and sufferings, and safely arrived at the haven of eternal rest, they will certainly rejoice; and will not the benevolent spirits in heaven rejoice with them, especially their former christian friends, who had been waiting for their safe and happy arrival ? If benevolence be the same in heaven as on earth, the heavenly hosts will rejoice at the deaths of the godly; and if they do rejoice, they certainly will rejoice more sensibly and sincerely than surviving friends will mourn.
5. Since departed saints will behold the face of God in righteousness, we may form some clear and just conception of their beautiful appearance in the world of glory. Every amiable and distinguishing trait in their character will not only continue, but be vastly improved. Adam will be Adam there ; Moses will be Moses there; Solomon will be Solomon there ; Peter will be Peter there ; Paul will be Paul there; and John, the beloved disciple, will be the beloved disciple there. Departed saints will carry with them all that variety of natural and moral excellences which they possessed in this life, and by which they were here known and distinguished. But though none of their intellectual powers and faculties will be essentially altered, yet they will all be brightened and adorned with the beauties of holiness. And this variety in the characters of the blessed will beautifully display the wisdom and sovereignty, as well as the grace of God, in forming the vessels of mercy, and fill the mouth of each individual with peculiar arguments and motives of gratitude and praise. Each one will have something to thank God for, which is peculiar to himself; and so each will be perfectly satisfied with both his character and condition for ever. Whatever pious survivers loved and admired in their departed christian friends, they may be assured they shall see, and love, and admire, in them, when they shall happily meet them in the state of perfection.
6. If departed saints do immediately pass into glory, and become perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God, then their bereaved friends have no occasion to mourn on their account, but only on their own. The departed do not mourn for themselves, that they have safely reached the kingdom of glory, and behold the face of God in righteousness; and if they do not mourn for themselves, why should their surviving friends mourn for them? And if they rejoice, why should not their bereaved friends rejoice with them? Certainly they should not mourn as those who have no hope; or, in other words, they should not mourn that those whom they loved and esteemed on earth are put into a state of endless and growing perfection. But they have indeed just cause to mourn on their own account, and to mourn according to the loss they have sustained.
In this view, the decease of Mrs. FARRINGTON, in the midst of her days and usefulness, is greatly to be lamented. It is not, perhaps, too much to say, that she nearly resembled the virtuous women whose character and conduct are drawn by the pen of inspiration. She merited the confidence of her husband, the affection of her children, and respect of all her friends and acquaintance. She was agreeable to all with whom she conversed, and conducted herself with propriety in every situation in which she was placed. She was called to move in a conspicuous, rather than elevated, sphere of life, where she exhibited peculiar wisdom, prudence, patience, economy, and all the domestic virtues. She passed through many checkered and trying scenes, with that serenity, affability, cheerfulness and fortitude, which are very rarely discovered in similar circumstances. How much this propriety of conduct was owing to her pious education, and early opportunities for mental improvement, it is not easy to determine; but there is ground to believe it was partly owing to the special grace of God, which she experienced in an earlier or later period of life. Though in the first stages of her decline, she cherished high hopes and ardent desires of a recovery, yet some time before her decease, she totally renounced all such hopes and desires, and said she was willing to die, and if her heart did not deceive her, she was prepared to leave the world. This is a source of consolation to her bereaved husband, and to her sorrowful children, under their great and irreparable loss. They have just reason to mourn, but not to complain. The Judge of all the earth has done right, and it becomes them to be still, and not open their mouths, because he has done it. Submission to God is the only balm that can heal the wounds he has given them. He counted their tears before he drew them from their eyes, and weighed their sorrows before he pierced their hearts with anguish and distress. He meant to cast the cares and burdens of this young, numerous and promising family upon the parent, who has publicly devoted them to God, whom he has so long served in the gospel of his Son, and to increase his obligations to lead them in the ways of wisdom, and to do every thing in his power, to render them useful and happy, through every period of their existence. He meant, also, to teach these motherless children to be dutiful to their afflicted father, and to be kind and tender-hearted to each other; and, especially, to teach the elder to instruct, and guide, and watch, over the younger. If they cordially receive and follow these solemn admonitions of providence, they will hereafter have reason to say that it has been good for them that they have felt the chastising rod, and obeyed him who appointed it. Let them, therefore, neither despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when they are rebuked of him; and then he will give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
But is it nothing to us, my hearers, to behold and see this instance of mortality, and its distressing effects upon this circle of mourners ? Certainly we ought to mourn with them that mourn, and weep with them that weep, and alleviate their sorrows by our sympathetic tears. We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, and have yet to pass through the vale of tears to our long home. It deeply concerns us to improve this call of providence to prepare for the trials and close of life. We know not how soon it will be our lot to go before, or follow our friends to the grave, the house appointed for all living. Let us cordially embrace the gospel, sincerely devote the residue of our lives to God, and set our souls and houses in order, that we may meet the king of terrors without dismay, and have a happy transition out of this, into the world of light, where we may behold the face of God in righteousness, and be completely and forever satisfied with his likeness. Amen.
DECEMBER 19, 1819.
THESE all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed
that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. -- HEB. xi. 13.
6. These all died in faith.” But who were these? If we look into the preceding verses, we shall find that they were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their pious posterity, whose faith in the promises of God transformed them into strangers and pilgrims on the earth, until the day of their death. And since a similar cause will produce a similar effect, we may justly conclude,
That the faith of christians in the promises of God, leads them to live and act as pilgrims and strangers on the earth. I shall show,
I. That christians do exercise a true faith in the promises of God. And,
II. That it leads them to live and act as pilgrims and strangers on the earth.
I. I am to show, that christians do exercise a true faith in the promises of God.
All real christians possess the same spirit which the patriarchs and prophets possessed, and which disposes them to exercise the same faith in the promises of God. Though God made many promises to the patriarchs and prophets, yet all his promises were comprised in one great promise of eternal life beyond the grave, through the death and mediation of the promised Messiah. It was to this promise they looked, and in this promise they trusted with entire confidence. This same promise is made to christians under the gospel, in which they exercise a true and living faith. So the apostle tells us in the sixth chapter of this epistle. Having mentioned the promise made to Abraham, he goes on to say, “ Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath : that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we (christians) might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." The question now is, how do christians exercise a true faith in the promises of God? To which I answer, as they exercise faith in the same promises of God in which the patriarchs exercised faith, so they exercise it in the same manner.
And this leads me to observe, 1. That the faith of christians in the promises of God implies that they understand them. The apostle says, the patriarchs saw the promises afar off; which signifies that they understood their meaning, or what was promised. Seeing and understanding, signify the same thing. Seeing a truth and understanding it, signify the same thing. Seeing and understanding a design, signify the same thing. And seeing and understanding, a promise, signify the same thing. The patriarchs saw, that is, understood the promises of God made to them, and knew the nature of the spiritual and eternal blessings which they contained and secured. So the faith of christians in the promises of God, implies that they see them afar off, and understand the nature of that spiritual and eternal life which consists in the love, the service and enjoyment of God beyond the grave.
2. Their faith in the promises of God implies that they have a full and undoubting conviction of their truth and certainty. This was the case of the pious patriarchs. Having seen, that is, understood the promises afar off, they “were persuaded of them.” They knew that God had pledged his veracity to fulfil his promises, and confirmed it by the solemnity and immutability of an oath. And christians having understood the promises of God, have a firm and unshaken conviction of their final accomplishment. They have set to their seal that God is true, and able and faithful to fulfil what he has promised. All real faith is always weaker or stronger, according to the evidence upon which it is founded. The faith of christians in the promises of God is as strong and unwavering as the immutability of God upon which it is founded. They have not the least doubt, whether the divine promises will be fulfilled to those to