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We find by constant Experience, that the Scenes of the present Life are perpetually varying: A Succeffion of Hopes and Fears, of Joys and Sorrows, attends us from the Cradle to the Grave.
Must we then renounce all Hopes of Happiness for ever, and resign ourselves up to a dark and inconsolable Despair ? No! The Creator and FATHER of the Universe has not consigned Man, his favourite Offspring, to unavoidable Misery : He is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. He has provided an Happiness for them beyond the Dominion of Death. The present Life is the Infancy of our Being; if'we improve it-aright, we shal shortly attain to the Stature of perfe&t Men in Christ Jesus, and enter upon a nobler State of Existence. While upon Earth, we inhabit a Valley of Tears; but Heaven is the Seat of un
Tou!!! mingled Felicity and Joy. * This Hope, the Apostle fets before the primitive Chriftians, to fupport them under their diftinguishing Trials, to animate them to the zealouis Discharge of the various Duties of the Christian Life; Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord: Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant Mercy, . hath begotten us again to a lively Hope, by the Refurre&tion of Jesus Christ from the Dead : To an Inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away; RESERVED IN HEAVEN FOR YOU.
In speaking to the Words of my Text, I shall show,- That Heaven is the appointed Residence
of the People of God in a future World: And then take a View of some of the magnificent Descriptions which are given of Heaven in the Word of God.
First, I am to show, that Heaven is the appointed Residence of the People of God in a fu- . 'ture World.
They have here no continuing City. Heaven is the Place designed for their eternal Abode : Into this Place the penitent Thief was translated immediately after he expired upon the Cross : Our blessed Lord, amidst the Agonies of diffolving Nature, addresses him in Language becoming the PRINCE OF Life; This Day thou malt be with me in Paradise. Into this delightful Abode, the Spirit of departed Lazarus was conveyed by ministring Angels. No sooner was he delivered from the Sorrows of this mortal State, but he was admitted to the Refreshments of ABRAHAM's Bosom.
The Spirits of juft Men, while upon Earth, re. fide in Tabernacles of Clay, which must shortly · be resolved into their original Dust. But they have a Building not made with Hands, eternal in the Heavens. Even while they dwell in this the Land of their Pilgrimage, they seek a better, even an beas venly Country. GOD, who condescends to stile himself their Father and their Friend, will not disappoint those Hopes, which are founded on the Promises of his Word, but will exceed their largest Expectations. .
The enlivening Prospect of an Entrance into this happy Place,. reconciled Saint Paul to the Thoughts of his approaching Diffolution : He desired to be absent from the Body, that he might be present with the Lord.
When our divine Master took an affectionate Farewel of his favourite Apostles, He comforted them with this kind and condescending Promise; I go to prepare a Place for you ; I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, ye may be allo.
We know, that when our blefied LORD had finished his Work upon Earth, He was received into the highest Heavens ; in the View of his astonished Disciples, attended with a radiant Guard of Angels, He entred into the Courts above, to appear far us in the Presence of God. Him auft the Heaven of Heavens receive until the Times of the Reftitution of all Things (a). If then the Souls of departed Saints are to be with CHRIST, as we are assured by the unerring Oracles of Truth, they must be received into Heaven ; For this is the Place where our bleffed Redeemer resides; from thence he issues out his authoritative Orders, and governs the Worlds of Nature and Grace, for the Advantage of his Church.
Secondly, We now proceed to take a View of some of the magnificent Descriptions that are given us of Heaven in the Word of God.
:: We are indeed, at present, too distant from this
superior World to form an adequate Idea of its Excellency and Glory. It is in a great measure an unknown Country: Its Glories are covered with a Veil; they are only discovered by an Eye of Faith. Let us extend our View to the utónoft Limits of our present Capacity, we shall form as defective Conceptions of these exalted Régions, as a Man confined all his Days to a solitary Duna geon, could of the Pomp and Grandeur of the most magnificent Palace." But, blessed be Godi though we are not capable of a full View, we may take a distant Prospect of the heavenly World: We are not left intirely in the Dark; we may form fome faint Concepcion of the Happiness of those who are admitted into it.
The Son of God descended from Heaven to bring Life and Immortality to Light. He has given us such an Account of this unseen State, as is adapted to our present. Situation and Circumstances. Enough is discovered to inspire us with ardent Desires after it, and engage us to the most active and earneft Endeavours to prepare for it.
Though we must pass through the Shades of Death before we enter into this Land of Life and Light; yet we may view it as described in the sacred Scriptures. While travelling through this dark and uncomfortable Desert, we are permitted to behold, as in a Landscape, the promised Canaan."
The strongest Images are employed to shadow out its invisible Glories. The Charms of Nature
and Art are described in Strains of the sublimest Eloquence, to give us the most lively Prospect of the Happiness of its glorified Inhabitants, ..
It is represented as a City,– not like those erected by human Hands, which are often disturbed by intestine Divisions, and destroyed by hostile Neigh-, bours: But a City founded upon an immoveable Basis, whose Maker and Builder is God. Its Citizens are for ever exempted from the Affaulcs of Pain, the Ravages of War, and the Fury of the Ele. ments. It is free from those melancholly Accidents which have often depopulated the most fourishing Communities, and transformed the superb Palaces of Princes into Heaps of Ruin. Into this City entreth nothing that defileth or diftreffethits Inhabitants. There is no Night, for the Presence of the Lord God Almighty enlightneth it. # The Beams of his blefled Countenance form á perpetual and unclouded Day..
But further, to give us the most exalted Idea of the Dignity and Privileges to which the Righte. ous are advanced, they are represented as possessing a Kingdom; a Kingdom is the utmost Wish of ambitious and aspiring Mortals. To enjoy this, they form the most artful Intrigues, encounter the most formidable Dangers, wade through Fields of Blood, and often sacrifice the Lives of their dearest Friends. . If they succeed to the Extent of their Wishes, how often are earthly Kingdoms undermined by secret Treachery, or overthrown by open Violence? The Crowns of Princes are