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and there shalt thou do all that I command thee." - Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy oil, or of thy vine, or of the firstling of thy herds, or of thy flock, nor any of the vows which thou vowest, nor thy free-will offerings, or heave offerings of thy hand; but thou must eat them before the Lord thy God, in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose."
No distinction will subsist betwixt the different mansions in our heavenly Father's house. As all will be equally holy, the same modes of worship will pervade the whole; and whatever will be suitable to one place will be suitable to all. In this sense, John saw no temple.
(3.) During the continuance of the temple, regular sacred seasons were appointed, at which all the males of the nation were commanded to appear before God. Three times a-year, all the male part of the nation was ordered to present themselves before God at Jerusalem, the place which he chose to record his name. These periods were, the feast of the passover, the feast of pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles, or of ingathering at the close of the year. Besides these solemn anniversaries, there were certain hours of prayer, mentioned in the third chapter of Acts, at which devout men were wont to frequent the temple, to present their supplications to God: these were the third, the sixth (corresponding to our noon), and the ninth hour. In the heavenly world, no distinction of sacred times and seasons will be known: no weekly rest, no annual solemnities, will be longer recognized; the devotion of its blessed inhabitants will be one eternal Sabbath. “ There remaineth a rest,” (a keeping of Sabbath,) saith St. Paul, “ for the people of God.” Here the pious look forward with delight to the recurrence of the sacred day, when they may dismiss all earthly cares, and devote themselves more immediately to the service of the Most High: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go up unto the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand in thy courts, 0 Jerusalem!”
(4.) This declaration is probably intended to intimate, that devotion will no longer form a distinct part of the employment of the heavenly world, but that it will be intimately incorporated with all their actions and sentiments. In the present condition of our being, so many wants arise from the body, so many necessities of a worldly nature to be provided for, that it is but a small part of their time that many can devote to the offices of religion. We have two worlds with which we are concerned--the world that now is and that which is to come; and these give birth to two distinct interests—the interests of the body, and those of the soul. Though the latter are infinitely the most important, the former cannot, and ought not, to be neglected: they demand a large portion of our exertions, and, with too many, absorb the whole of their attention and solicitude. “ What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed ?” is the general inquiry. Truly holy persons employ
their hands upon the world, and set their hearts on heaven; but even these find it difficult, amidst the distractions and cares of the present state, to keep their affections set upon the things that are above. Their souls too often cleave unto the dust, and their hearts are sometimes overcharged. Nothing of that nature will be experienced there: “ God will be all in all.” No wants will there remain to be supplied, no dangers to be averted, no provision to be made for futurity. The contemplation and enjoyment of the Great Eternal will present an ample occupation of the mind for ever and ever.
It may seem, in our present dark and imperfect state, difficult to conceive how the exercises of the mind and heart on the blessed God can employ an eternity. But we must remember that the object is infinite; that the creation is but an atom, or a point, compared to the immensity of his being and perfections; and if, in the survey and examination of the creation, the mind feels such ample scope, we need not wonder if its great Author supply an infinitely wider range of operation, when he lays himself open to the view of his creatures, and permits them to “ see him as he is.” When we possess an immediate and intuitive view of his nature and excellencies, and no longer see him “ through a glass darkly, but face to face,” no doubt, the powers of the soul will find full employment, without danger of feeling itself straitened, in him“ who is all in all.” There are probably faculties in the soul, which are here either not apparent at all, or are very imperfectly developed. Among these, the powers of action and contemplation will be perfectly combined: the exercise of the reason will not interfere with that of the heart; but we shall be capable of feeling all the ecstasies of devotion, in conjunction with mental operations, with which it is at present scarcely compatible. We shall not worship at one time, and at another be engaged in active pursuits and employments; but, while we burn with the highest ardours of devotion, we shall be capable of doing the will of God, of executing those mysterious purposes which it is his wish we should accomplish.
The pursuit of truth, the enjoyment of good, and the actual business of life, require distinct portions of time. While the soul is intensely employed in comparing its ideas, the movements of the heart languish, or are suspended. It is very difficult, in the present state, to be ardent and speculative, for the understanding and the heart to be both intensely engaged; but this is owing to the limitation of our capacity. It is incident to a state of imperfection, which we may easily suppose will be done away.
For a similar reason, the active pursuits of life are scarcely compatible with the attainment of knowledge. In our present gross, corporeal state, the effort necessary to keep up the animal machine in a state of intense exertion exhausts the vigour of the mind, and leaves little room for the powerful exercise of the reason. In eternity, we may readily
conceive it will be otherwise : this inert and sluggish body will be replaced by a spiritual body; motion will be performed without fatigue; the body will be a fit instrument for executing the purposes of the soul.
At present, the occupations in which we are engaged have no immediate relation to the Deity; they are capable of being sanctified only by a general intention of pleasing God, while it is impossible to advert incessantly to his presence, or to make him the immediate object of our thought. In eternity, the capacity will be so enlarged and extended, that the idea of God will be incessantly impressed, the beams of his glory will perpetually penetrate the heart, and the fire of love will never cease to burn upon the altar.
Improvement. I. How impossible for undevout persons to be fitted for heaven ; how impossible for them to relish its employments or enjoyments.
II. How anxious should we be to improve the seasons of devotion and the means of grace, as a preparation for heaven.
III. What a well-founded hope of heaven may they indulge, who feel a supreme delight in the exercises of religion. Such are evidently ripening for an invisible and eternal state.
IV. Hence we perceive the exact correspondence of the employment of the heavenly world to the taste and disposition of real christians.* * Preached at Leicester, Sunday morning, August 13, 1815. VOL. v.