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place to which the believer is admitted is called mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. He becomes acquainted with the highest orders of created beings, and shares their happiness. He enters the general assembly and church of the first-born enrolled in heaven; he stands before the Judge, the God of all, is numbered with the spirits of the just, obtains his final reward, approaches the Mediator, loves to see Jesus, and knows that all has been freely conferred upon him through the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.
Our attention must be limited to that part of Paul's description contained in the text: "Ye are come to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant." Confining ourselves to the text, we shall meditate upon the state of the soul, when it has left the body, and then consider what is necessary, in order that the soul may enter that state when it leaves this world.
First, we have to meditate upon THE STATE OF THE SOUL WHEN IT HAS LEFT THE BODY. There is nothing speculative in the text or context. We have the literal description of an ancient and memorable scene, as characteristic of the whole dispensation. And we have a figurative representation of the present position of the believer, but which is, at the same time, literally accurate as to his future state. God is now the object of our faith and worship. The spirits of the just form a part of our race. We think of them, look back upon their history, and rejoice in their triumphs: and we now love and worship Jesus the Mediator as equal with the Father and the eternal Spirit; and on him we rely for holiness and immortal happiness. But when the barriers of separation shall be removed, we shall see God; be numbered with the spirits of the just, and dwell with Jesus.
The first fact mentioned in the text is, "Ye are come to God the Judge of all." Mr. Stewart observes, that the transposition made by our English version, to God the Judge of all, is against the arrangement of the text, and fails to give the appropriate sense of the words: he therefore reads, " to the Judge the GOD OF All." There is a sense in which God is not the Judge of all. None will be judged but sinners. In the context, beings are referred to who have not sinned, and of them it cannot strictly be said that he is their Judge. But he is the GOD OF ALL: there is no exception in the universe. He is "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," and all else live, and move, and have their being in him. When death shall remove us, we shall stand before our Judge. Many judgments have already passed, and punishments have been inflicted. Adam and Eve were judged and punished; the antediluvian world was judged and destroyed; Sodom and Gomorrah were judged, and to this hour they are monuments of the Divine displeasure. Jerusalem was judged for the rejection of Christ, and punished with utter ruin. When we leave the body, there is a judgment, and it is decided whether we go to the place of the blessed or miserable. But there will be a final and general judgment of the whole universe of beings, who have sinned. The general judgment will not be confined to human beings, "the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved (and this after a process of judgment and expulsion) in everlasting chains unto the judgment of the great day." It
is inconceivably solemn to stand before the Judge of all the earth. There is so much in ourselves that we know of, for which he might punish us everlastingly; such a perfect acquaintance with our thoughts, words, and actions; such an impossibility of escaping detection, and so rigid an adherence to the great principles of his government, in maintaining truth and purity, that every sinner entering his presence must be filled with awe, and lie prostrate before him. He will not, however, be clothed with terror and anger to the believer. No transgressor can be justified before God who attempts to plead obedience to the law. The method of justification which he has declared in the New Testament, is the only one available for the sinner, and that is sufficient. Nothing is to be apprehended by the redeemed soul when in the presence of the Judge. There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus; and no one shall be able to establish any charge against the elect of God: for "Christ has died, yea, rather, is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
But the apostle speaks of the Judge as the God of all. No man has seen God at any time, but at death we approach him: every eye then sees him. What a change must pass over the spirit of man at such a moment. In the presence of the godhead. The uncreated and eternal spirit: Lord of all power and might; the author of every good gift, and of every perfect gift: the Father of Lights, in whom there is no variableness nor the shadow of a turning. Our Father who art in heaven. We now draw near to his veiled Majesty, and the power of his presence is often sensibly felt. We enter his presence to obtain forgiveness by the blood of sprinkling, to have our hearts raised to that world where he presides; by faith to unite our humble adoration and thanksgiving with the sinless creation around his throne, and to swell the praise of Him who is "God over all, blessed for evermore." But no forgiveness will be conferred in heaven. No sinner will be admitted there in such a state, and there can be nothing to forgive. This is the place of pardon, reconciliation, and justification. Heaven is the place of exaltation, glory, and reward. What thoughts shall fill our minds when, with a spiritual vision, enlarged capacity, pure hearts, and sensible of our happiness and the greatness of our deliverance, we shall see the unveiled glory of the Most High! Here, on every spot of earth; in every insect that wings its way above or around us, or crawls beneath our feet; in the deep caverns of earth and sea; in the expanse of heaven and of waters; in man, in redeemed man; in Christ, and in the Bible we see the glory of God. His glory, wisdom, power, and goodness, are all daily shewn to men, but there are brighter and more attractive manifestations in heaven. Adoration and praise are there, absorbing to angels and the spirits of the just, and the object of unceasing love and praise is the ever blessed and eternal godhead.
The apostle further says, "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." This may be explained of perfection of nature: of state, and of final reward. The description of them is unambiguous. There is nothing uncertain in the terms Paul uses, and no false charity; which, while it might allay prejudice in the church, cannot alter the state of the living or the dead. Often is it necessary instead of saying, "Sleep on and take your rest," to say,
Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give
The spirit enters The righteousness All that belongs
you light." None but the spirits of the just enter heaven. before the body: they will be re-united at the resurrection. or holiness which fits the spirit for heaven, is not its own. to man, as a creature and sinner, at the great tribunal of the Judge, is disobedience and ungodliness. These will condemn and destroy, but they cannot justify and save. The righteousness of the spirits of the just, is Christ's. The Lord is our righteousness: He has undertaken to do for us what we could not accomplish, and from the beginning to the end of human redemption, it is all of grace through Christ. Believers in Christ are justified, sanctified, and will for ever be glorified.
They will be made perfect as to their nature. What delight could they have in God if they were still the subjects of sin and were hostile to God?— We had none when we were in such a state, and it is only as the initiatory state of regeneration and sanctification flourishes in us, and approximates to the divine likeness, that our souls enjoy God, and dwell above. Perfection of the intellectual powers eminently distinguish the spirits of the just. The decreased power and energy of the mind occasioned by sin is supplied; the feeble and grovelling conceptions of this state are exchanged for the clear, vivid, and heavenly views of God and truth which are manifest to every soul in heaven. Difficulties, which the shortsightedness of our present state created or magnified, readily disappear: perplexing doubts as to God's providence and grace, and his government of men, are removed, when the soul enters the eternal kingdom and lives under the mild and benignant reign of the King of kings. All the moral affections, as well as the intellectual powers, are restored to their proper tone; spiritual health, and paradisaical vigour and harmony. O, how lovely must man be in that state! We shall consort with the spirits of the just, with stronger sympathy and affection probably than with the other spirits of the heavenly world. The ascending scale from man upwards may be as lofty as the descending scale from man downwards is deep. Many orders of being may be invested with great attractions, but the sympathy and love of the redeemed will not be lessened by the higher rank and more splendid powers and distinctions of other spirits. The godhead sustains a relation to the spirits of the just which is singular, and, probably, does not exist with any other race. There will therefore eternally appear in the redeemed family, features of inexpressible interest; and while we may have to study evidences of almighty power and wisdom in other beings which are not manifest in us, they will ever look at us as the objects of eternal and boundless love, and as composing the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.
The state also of the spirits of the just is perfect, as well as their nature, and their reward is complete. It is the heavenly state into which they have entered. Whatever is necessary to unchanging happiness they possess. They are filled with pure delight in the presence of God. The fulness of blessing which issues from his throne satisfies every soul, however vast. The highest state of rectitude-conformity to God's likeness divine love, and spirituality of devotion-characterize them all; and their testimony is that "in his presence there is fulness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
The change from a state of sin to a state of holiness is represented by strong
and figurative language. We are said to be "translated out of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son." "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." If these things be true, as to the change that passes upon us in the present state by becoming acquainted with God through the influences of the spirit, and seeing the necessity of a Saviour, how great must be that change which shall pass upon our spirits at death! We are now advancing to the period when it shall take place. Many anxieties may exist and perplex our spirits before it arrives. But when it is said, "Ye are come to the Judge, the God of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect," we shall need the omnipotent strength of God to bear us up under the overwhelming glories of that state. The immeasurable regions of that world, with its spiritual population, its divine realities and glories, shall delight, enchant, and overpower us. The object of fervent desire will be attained, for we shall see Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
To this Paul refers, as to another fact connected with the admission of the soul to the church in heaven. If the members of the church shall be loved by each other on account of the natural and spiritual brotherhood existing between them-the Head of the church appearing in human nature, and the fulness of the godhead dwelling in him and exalting that nature above every other, shall be loved more intensely. When certain Greeks said "We would see Jesus," a feeling of curiosity was, probably, mingled with a spirit of inquiry, and they sought to gratify it. But in truly spiritual minds, I do not think there is much curiosity about the realities of the eternal state. There may be great anxiety: some subjects may be often revolved, on which more light is desired: but an idle curiosity I do not think very common. Higher and spiritual feelings occupy the soul, and there is no space allotted for what is merely speculative, unsubstantial, and unassociated with our happiness in that state. As to the fact of the vision of Christ, there can be no doubt. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." "Ye are come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant." He gladdened many a heart in the days of his humiliation. "But when the great Judge, with equal eye o'er all" his redeemed sons and daughters, shall come in the clouds of heaven, the joy of myriads will be complete. We shall look upon him as our restorer and saviour-our prophet, priest, and king. His original glory will not then be shrouded, for his glorified humanity wil! emit its splendour to every being in his presence: with adoring gratitude, praise, and love, you will look upon Jesus. What force and beauty you will then see were in the prophet's expression, "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, the Prince of Peace." We shall be humbled before him, and cast our crowns at his feet, while we sing, "Worthy the Lamb." Now the object of faith, then of vision; now trusted and at times dishonoured by our unbelief, but then the altogether lovely, and the author of heavenly bliss. Some see no beauty in Christ now, and they would see none then. There must be a state of the heart corresponding with the holiness of Christ and of heaven, to fit men to delight in such beatific scenes. Where this exists (and in every case it is the work of
the Holy Spirit), then there is delight in Christ: the path of life is much smoothed; for although it may oe rugged, the end of it is perceived: and such prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus" animates us in our course, and we press forward to our final reward. Be encouraged, then, with the apostolic representation of your privileges, exaltation, and glory, when you shall leave this world. Ever keep in view the objects and glories of eternity. They shall endure, but all earthly things shall wax old as doth a garment, and shall be changed. The pleasures of devotion, of love to Christ, of praising God, of dwelling near his throne, shall be eternal. At his right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
To make the part of the subject we have just attended to more practically useful, we shall consider, secondly, WHAT IS NECESSARY TO OUR ENTRANCE UPON SUCH A STATE. "Ye are come :" does it refer to the whole race? or is it a peculiar people, distinguished by principles, piety, and faith, that the wise, the worldly, and the wealthy treat with scorn? The apostle Peter answers the question, when he thus describes the company of believers: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." There are two changes necessary before we can join the spirits of the just. The first relates to the mind: the second to the body.
The change of mind is nothing less than that "godly sorrow that worketh repentance unto life," the new birth unto righteousness, and the sanctification of the soul by the Holy Spirit. No thought, however deep; no taste, however refined; no morality, however elevating, can raise the soul of a sinner to reconciliation and fellowship with God. The great change which is necessary, and must be the commencement of the Christian character, is that insisted on by Christ in his conversation with Nicodemus: "Ye must be born again:" "Except a man be born of water and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. An imperfect obedience to a pure and spiritual law cannot be accepted. No rites and ceremonies can be admitted as the pleas of justification. No deeds of alms-giving can be registered with a view to pardon the sin of other actions, and of other periods of life. The Almighty regards men in their sinful state, not only as beings who have degraded themselves, but as those who are yet capable of rising to dignity and glory. All folly, useless appeals to the external senses, a variety of attitudes, and the love of pomp and ceremony in the house of God, are treated by the Almighty as vain oblations: but when he sees an immortal soul struggling against sin, praying for divine aid to resist and overcome it; when the heart loathes iniquity, and the spirit is broken and contrite, then God sees an object worthy of his regard. He will not turn away his ear from any prayer offered in this state, and he will not fail to impart strength to every creature, coming to him as the source of light, power, and sanctifying grace, that he may finally reach heaven and dwell with God.
The change to which I am alluding is a real change. The religion of Christ has especially to do with the state of the heart before God, and not with ceremonial observances. I urge this fact upon the serious consideration of all who