« AnteriorContinuar »
of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live." But it seems that God then condescended to the infant state of the church, and to the childish notions that were entertained in those days of lesser light; and Moses' request seems to bave been answered, by God making his goodness to pass before him, and proclaiming his name and giving him a strong apprehension of the things contained in that name, rather than by showing him any outward glory.
The saints in heaven will behold an outward glory as they are in the human nature of Christ, which is united to the godhead, as it is the body of that person who is God; and there will doubtless be appearances of a divine, and inimitable glory and beauty in Christ's glorified body, which it will indeed be a refreshing and blessed sight to see.
But the beauty of Christ's body as seen by the bodily eyes, will be ravishing and delightful, chiefly as it will express his spiritual glory. The majesty that will appear in Christ's body, will express and show forth the spiritual greatness and majesty of the divine nature; the pureness, and beauty of that light and glory will express the perfection of the divine holiness; the sweetness and ravishing mildness of his countenance, will express his divine and spiritual love and grace.
Thus it was when the three disciples beheld Christ at his transfiguration upon the mount. They beheld a wonderful outward glory in Christ's body, an inexpressible beauty in his countenance; but that outward glory and beauty delighted them principally as an expression of the divine excellencies of his mind, as we may see from their manner of speaking of it. It was the sweet mixture of majesty and grace in his countenance, by which they were ravished. 2 Peter i. 16, 17, 18. “We were eye witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father, honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” But especially from the account which John gives of it. John i. 14. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth ;” where John very probably had in his mind what he had seen in the mount at the transfiguration. Grace and truth are not outward, but
Secondly. It is an intellectual view by which God is seen. God is a spiritual being, and he is beheld with the understanding. The soul has in itself those powers which are capable of appre
hending objects, and especially spiritual objects, without looking through the windows of the outward senses. This is a more perfect way of perception than by the eyes of the body. We are so accustomed and habituated to depend upon our senses, and our intellectual powers are so neylected and disused, that we are ready to conceive that seeing things with the bodily
TE eyes is the most perfect way of apprehending them. But it is not so; the eye of the soul is vastly more perfect than the eye ** of the body', yet it is not every apprehension of God by the un- & id derstanding that may be called the seeing of him. As,
1st. The having an apprehension of God merely by hearsay, 9at If we hear of such a being as God, are educated in the belief that there is such a being, are told what sort of being he is, and what he has done, and are rightly told, and we give credit 03 to what we hear; yet if we have no apprehension of God in or any other way, we cannot be said to see God in the sense of the ter text. This is not the beatific sight of God.
2d. If we have an apprehension of God merely by specula- : la tive reasoning. If we come to some apprehension of God's a being, and of his being Almighty, all-wise and good, by ratiocination, that is not what the scripture calls sceing God. It is some more immediate way of understanding and viewing that is called sight; nor will such an apprehension as this merely, ever make the soul truly blessed. Nor,
3d. Is every more immediate and sensible apprehension of God, that seeing of him mentioned in the text, and that which is truly beatific. The wicked spirits in the other world have doubtless more immediate apprehensions of the being of God, and of his power and wrath, than the wicked in this world. They stand before God to be judged, they receive the sentence H from him, they have a dreadful apprehension of his wrath and displeasure. But yet they are exceedingly remote from seeing God, in the sense of the text.
But to see God, is this. It is to have an immediate, sensible, and certain understanding of God's glorious excellency and love.
1st. There must be a direct and immediate sense of God's glory and excellency. I say direct and immediate, to distioguish it from a mere perception that God is glorious and excellent by means of speculative and distant argumentation, which is a more indirect way of apprehending things. A true sense of the glory of God is that which can never be obtained by speculative ratiocination; and if men convince themselves by argument that God is holy, that never will give a sense of his amiable and glorious holiness. If they argue that he is very merciful, that will not give a sense of his glorious grace and
mercy. It must be a more immediate, sensible discovery that must give the mind a real sense of the excellency and beauty of God. He that sees God, has a direct and immediate view of God's great and awful majesty, of his pure and beauteous holiness, of his wonderful and endearing grace and mercy.
2d. There is a certain understanding of his love, there is a certain apprehension of his presence. He that beholds God, does not merely see him as present by his essence, for so he is present with all, both godly and ungodly. But he is more especially present with those whom he loves, he is graciously present with them; and when they see him, they see him, and know him to be so; they have an understanding of his love to them; they see him from love manifesting himself to them. He that has a blessed-making sight of God, not only has a view of God's glory and excellency, but he views it as having a property in it; he sees God's love to him; he receives the testimonies and manifestations of that love.
God's favour is sometimes in scripture called his face: Ps. cxix. 58, where it is translated, “I entreated thy favour with my whole heart;" it is in the original “ thy face ;' and God's hiding his face, is a very common expression to signify his withholding the testimonies of his favour.
To see God, as in the text, implies the sight of him as glorious and as gracious; a vision of the light of his countenance, both as it is understood of the effulgence of his glory, and the manifestations of his favour and love.
The discoveries which the saints have in this world of the glory and love of God, are often in scripture called the sight of God. Thus it is said of Abraham, that he saw him who is invisible. Heb. xi. 27. So the saints are said to see as in a glass the glory of the Lord. 2 Cor. iii. 18. “But we all with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Christ speaks of the spiritual knowledge of God. John xiv. 7. “ If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." The saints in this world have an earnest of what is future, they have the dawnings of future light.
But the more perfect view which the saints have of God's glory and love in another world, is what is especially called the seeing of God. Then they shall see him as he is. That light which now is but a gliminering, will be brought to clear sunsbine; that which is here but the dawning, will become perfect day.
Those intellectual views which will be granted in another world, are called seeing God. VOL. VIII.
1st. Because the view will be very direct; as when we see things with the bodily eyes. God will, as it were, immediately discover himself to their minds, so that the understanding shall behold the glory and love of Gud, as a man beholds the countenance of his friend. The discoveries which the saints here have of God's excellency and grace, are immediate in a sense ; that is, they do not mainly consist in ratiocination; but yet in another sense they are indirect, that is, they are by means of the gospel, as through a glass; but in heaven God will immediately excite apprehensions of himself, without the use of any such means.
2d. It is called seeing, because it will be most certain. When persons see a thing with their own eyes, it gives them the greatest certainty they can have of it, greater than they can have by any information of others. So the sight that they will have in heaven will exclude all doubting. The knowledge of God which the saints have in this world, has certainty in it, but yet the certainty is liable to be interrupted with temptations, and some degree of doubtings, but there is no such thing in heaven. The looking at the sun does not give a greater nor fuller certainty that it shines.
3d. It is called seeing, because the apprehension of God's glory and love is as clear and lively as when any thing is seen with bodily eyes. When we are actually beholding any thing with our eyes in the meridian light of the sun, it does not give a more lively idea and apprehension of it than the saints in beaven have of the divine excellency and love of God. When we are looking upon things our idea is much more clear and perfect, and the impression stronger on the soul, than when we only think of a thing absent. But the intellectual views that the saints in heaven will have of God, will bave far the advantage of bodily sight, it will be a much more perfect way of apprehending. The saints in heaven will see the glory of the body of Christ after the resurrection with bodily eyes, but they will have no inore immediate and perfect way of seeing that visible glory than they will of beholding Christ's divine and spiritual glory. They will not want eyes to see that which is spiritual, as well as we can see any thing that is corporeal; they will behold God in an ineffable, and to us now inconceivable manner.
4th. The intellectual sight which the saints will have of God will make them as sensible of his presence, and give them as great advantages for conversing with bim, as the sight of the bodily eyes doth an earthly friend; yea, and more too; for when we see our earthly friends with bodily eyes, we have not the most full and direct sight of their principal part, even their souls. We see the qualities, and dispositions, and acts of their minds no otherwise than by outward signs of speech and behaviour; strictly speaking,
we do not see the man, the soul, at all, but only its tabernacle or dwelling.
· But their souls will have the most clear sight of the spiritual nature of God itself. They shall behold bis attributes and disposition towards them more immediately, and therefore with greater certainty, than it is possible to see any thing in the soul of an earthly friend by his speech and behaviour ; and therefore their spiritual sight will give them greater advantage for conversing with God, than the sight of earthly friends with bodily eyes, or hearing them with our ears gives us for conversing with them.
2. I shall now give the reasons why the thus seeing God is that which will make the soul truly happy.
First. It yields a delight suitable to the nature of an intelligent creature. God hath made man, and man only, of all the creatures here below, an intelligent creature ; and his reason and understanding are that by which he is distinguished from all inferior ranks of beings. Man's reason is, as it were, an heavenly ray, or, in the language of the wise man, it is “ the candle of the Lord." It is that wherein mainly consists the natural image of God, it is the noblest faculty of man, it is that which ought to bear rule over the other powers ; being given for that end, that it might govern the soul.
Therefore those delights are most suitable to the nature of man, that are intellectual, which result from the exercises of this noblest, this distinguishing faculty. God, by giving man understanding, made him capable of such delights, and fitted him for them, and designed that such pleasures as those should be his happiness.
Intellectual pleasures consist in the beholding of spiritual excellencies and beauties, but the glorious excellency and beauty of God are far the greatest. God's excellence is the supreme excellence. When the understanding of the reasonable creature dwells here, it dwells at the fountain, and swims in a boundless, bottomless ocean. The love of God is also the most suitable entertainment of the soul of man, which naturally desires the happiness of society, or of union with some other being. The love of so glorious a being is infinitely valuable, and the discoveries of it are capable of ravishing the soul above all other love. It is suitable to the nature of an intelligent being also, as it is that kind of delight that reason approves of. There are many other delights in which men indulge themselves, which, although they are pleasing to the senses and inferior powers, yet are contrary to reason; reason opposes the enjoyment of them, so that unless reason be suppressed and stifled, ihey cannot be enjoyed without a war in the soul. Reason, the noblest faculty, resists the inferior rebellious powers; and the more reason is in exercise, the more will it resist, and the greater will be the inward war and opposition.