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mind has been strengthened by reasoning, observation, and experience.
Now, (he adds in the text) we see indistinctly and obscurely, as though we viewed distant objects only by their reflections in a mirror; but then 6 face to face,” as we fixedly contemplate the countenance of a friend with whom we converse : 6 Now we know in part;" we have but a slight acquaintance with God or his works; but then we shall know even as we are known :” our knowledge will in a degree resemble that which God has of us; not derived merely from reasoning, deduction, or testimony, but from intuition; not wavering and mingled with error, but free from all doubt and mistake.
That we may be more deeply affected with the contemplation of this part of the future felicity, let us,
I. Attend to some considerations which show the high attainments that we shall then make.
II. Inquire what will be the principal objects of our knowledge.
III. What will be its chief properties.
I. There are many considerations which show how vast will be the attainments of the glorified spirit. 1
. All causes of ignorance and error will then be entirely removed. The animal part of our nature is here a clog, an incumbrance, frequently checking us in our pursuit of truth. The feebleness, the languor, the decay, the sicknesses of the body, often check our meditations, arrest the flights of the soul, and weigh it down to earth. But at death, the soul shakes off these fetters, and springs into liberty and light, and can range through the boundless fields of knowledge that are opened to it, unretarded by the frailties, the imperfections, or the exhaustion of its companion. And at the resurrection, the body that
it receives will be spiritual, calculated to assist it in all its exercises. It shall be like the glorified body of our Lord; with senses that shall never, as in this world, deceive us; that shall not, as here below, be confined within a narrow sphere of operation; but shall in their action be enlarged in a degree proportioned to the expansion of the soul.
Here below, not only the body of flesh, but still more the body of sin, darkens our understandings : “ Because we are alienated from God, there is ignorance within us, and blindness in our minds.” Here numberless prejudices, resulting from education, from the incidents of our lives, from the persons with whom we associate, from party or from interest, obstruct the admission of light into our souls. Here our passions destroy that tranquillity of mind necesa sary for the discovery of truth, disguise it from us, and lead us astray. Here the objects of sense divert our mind. The cares of this world, the necessity of providing for our support, our temporal callings, our relations in life, engross our attention. But in heaven, sin, utterly abolished, will no longer becloud our minds; prejudices will be eradicated, and all objects be viewed in their real character; the passions, refined, purified, and directed to their proper object, will only aid us in the pursuit of truth; and the cares and pleasures of a world which we have left, and which even if they were present, would shrivel into nothing before the overpowering glories of heaven, can no longer affect us.
2. There our intellectual faculties will be greatly strengthened. We see that they are capable of continual progression. Trace the expansion of the feeble powers of a child, until this child becomes a profound philosopher, unveiling the secrets of nature,
or unlocking the treasures of revelation. Yet has he still reached that point, has he approximated to that point where the utmost limits of the intellectual faculties are fixed ? Can we even in imagination set bounds to the improvement of the understanding, or conceive of a state in which we have learned so much that we can learn no more? In heaven, “ the spirits of just men are made perfect.” There our capacities will be so enlarged, that, according to the image of the apostle, we shall look back upon the profoundest of our speculations on earth as we now do upon the notions of childhood. Our faculties shall ever be in vigorous exercise, never requiring to be relaxed, always penetrating and active; our imaginations ever unclouded; our memories never losing the knowledge we have acquired.
3. Much of our improvement depends upon the society with which we associate. “ He that walketh with wise men shall be wise." Who then will be the companions and friends of the redeemed in the world of felicity? All the various orders of pure and holy intelligences who have lived for so many centuries, who have beheld so many displays of the divine perfections, and have so long “ in God's light seen light.” But besides the angelic host, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, cherubim and seraphim, the spirits of the blest, shall associate with all the
redeemed from among men; with those who walked : with God in patriarchal ages; with those who looked through the types of the ceremonial law to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world ;" and with those who, living in the splendour of gospel-day, rejoiced in the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. And can we associate with these : with Abraham and Moses, with Isaiah and Paul; with the Christian philosophers who have laid their literary laurels at the foot of the cross; with the holy poets who have lighted in the souls of others the sacred fires which burned in their own hearts; with those who chose the word of God as their heritage, and searched deeply into the mysteries of grace? Can we ever associate with them in that world where they are purified from every imperfection, and delivered from every error; where they speak only on subjects worthy that heaven where they reside, and accordant with the sublimity and majesty of the objects which surround them; where they delight to communicate those discoveries which wake their songs to praise, and animate their hearts to bless, that God who there unveils his presence : can we thus associate with them, without towering to a height of knowledge which cannot be imagined till we mingle with them?
4. It is a still more ennobling thought, that there . the redeemed shall be instructed by the All-wise God. “ I saw no temple therein,” in the New Jerusalem ; " for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Rev. xxi. 22.) 66 The Father of lights, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift,” who even while we are on earth 6 giveth wisdom liberally to them that ask,” will there communicate to the redeemed the most sublime instructions, in modes not to be described by us in this land of distance and of darkness. There too the blessed Redeemer is still the Instructer of that church which he has
purchased with his blood. And that Holy Spirit, who was given us to “ abide in us and be in us for ever,"
as he was our enlightener upon earth, shall still enlighten and lead us into all truth in the world of glory. Add to this,
5. That the knowledge of the saved will be increasing throughout eternity. We know what advances have been made in human and in divine science by many of our race, notwithstanding the narrow limits of human life, and all the obstructions that are necessarily found while we are in this world. Trace then the progress of an exalted spirit in that world into which death can never enter, and where every thing within it and around it is calculated to pour new light upon it. Trace the progress of this deathless soul for millions of ages; see its faculties continually dilating; follow it till its powers become as far superior to those which Gabriel now has, as those of Gabriel are superior to the most illiterate believer upon earth; behold it through eternity still rising higher and higher in excellence and perfection: and acknowledge, with adoring wonder, how ineffable is the grace of God; how valuable the soul of man; how sublime the destination of the believer !
H. But what shall be the objects of our knowledge? What shall engage the exalted minds of the redeemed throughout eternity? In general, we may answer, God himself and his works.
In God is to be found all that is lovely, and all that is august, all that is attractive, and all that is majesetic. The glorified saints shall know him in his nature. We shall understand the divine essence, not indeed fully, but according to the capacity of our highly exalted, though still finite nature; we shall understand it in the manner which Paul here terms, “ seeing him face to face, and knowing as we are known." Those