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if God had hurried thee out of the world in a state of unrepented guilt ; if he had not plucked thee, by a miracle of grace, out of the vortex of human things, instead of being surrounded, as now, with these thy fellow believers in Christ Jesus, thou mightest have been doomed to the society of demons; instead of those songs of praise to which thy voice is now attuned, thou mightest this day have been mingling thy howlings with those of the victims whom the wrath of God is immolating in the regions of despair.” Let the blessedness which God is accumulating upon us, support us under all the ills which we are called to endure. Our life is not yet concluded ; our warfare is not yet accomplished.
We are about to return into the world ; we have still difficulties and dangers to encounter ; bitter potions to swallow ; afflictions to suffer ; especially in this age of fire and of blood, so fatal to the Christian name. But supported by this peace of God, we shall be able to resist and to overcome the most violent assaults.
We are going to return into the world, amidst the snares of the wicked one; he will still aim many a blow at our souls; this flesh is not yet entirely mortified; the old man has not yet received his death's wound; evil concupiscence is not yei completely extinguished; we shall fall into sin again. Hümiliating reflection to a soul which, this day, places all its delight in being united unto God! But, supported by this peace of God, we shall find the means of remedying the weaknesses with which we may be still overtaken, as it has furnished the means of deliverance from those into which we had already fallen.
We are going to return into the world : it is high time to think of our departure out of it. We
are conversant with the living; we must think of being speedily mingled with the dead. We yet live; we must die. We must be looking forward to those mortal agonies which are preparing; to that bed of languishing which is already spread; to that funeral procession which is marshalling for
But, supported by this peace of God, we shall be more than conquerers in all these conflicts: with the Spirit of him who hath raised up Christ from the dead, we shall bid defiance to all the powers of the king of terrors. Jesus, who hath destroyd him who had the power of death, will deliver us from his dominion. Through that gloomy night which is fast approaching, and which is already covering our eyes with its awful shade, we shall behold the rays of the Son of righteousness, and their divine light shall dissipate to us all the horrors of the valley of the shadow of death. Amen. To God be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
THE RAPTURE OF ST. PAUL.
2 Cor. xi. 2, 3, 4.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the
body I cannot tell ; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
F there be a passage in the whole Bible capable
of inflaming, and at the same time of baffling human curiosity, it is that which I have just now read. I do not mean a vain and presumptuous curiosity, but a curiosity apparently founded on reason and justice. One of the principal causes of our want of ardor in the pursuit of heavenly blessings, is our having no experienced witness, who, after having himself tasted the sweetness of them, conveyed to us clear and distinct ideas on the subject. It is a difficult matter to love that of which we have no knowledge.
St. Paul seems to have been reserved of God to supply this defect, and to fill up, if I may use the expression, this void in religion. By a supernatural dispensation of grace, he passes into the other world before death, and he returns thence before the general resurrection. The whole church, awakened to eager attention, calls upon him for a detail of the wonders of the world unknown. And as the Israelites, after having dispatched spies into the land of promise, burnt with ardent desire to see and hear them, in order that they might obtain information respecting the country, whether it merited the exertions necessary to acquire possession, in like manner, the Christian world seems to flock round our apostle, in earnest expectation of being informed what that felicity is, into which they are invited to enter by a gate so strait. They seem with one accord to ask him : What did you hear? What did you see? in the view of determining, upon his report, this all-important question, whether they should still persevere in their exertions to surmount the obstacles which they have to encounter in the way of salvation, or whether they should relinquish the pursuit.
But St. Paul fulfils not this expectation: he maintains a profound silence respecting the objects which had been presented to his mind: he speaks of his rapture only in the view of confounding those false teachers who took upon them to set at nought his ministry: and all the description he gives of Paradise, amounts to no more than a declaration of his own utter inability to describe what he had seen and heard. I knew a man in Christ: a man in Christ, that is to say, a Christian, and by this denomination the apostle is characterizing himself, I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether oui of the body, I cannot dell: God knoweth ;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell : God knoweth ;) how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
We propose in the following discourse, my brethren, to attempt a solution of the difficulty which arises from this silence of the apostle. We propose to discuss this singular, but interesting question : Wherefore is the celestial felicity unspeakable ? Wherefore should it be unlawful for a man to utter it? We shall begin with some elucidation of the expressions of our text, inquiring, 1. Into the era to which reference is here made; I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago. 2. By considering what is said respecting the manner of this rapture ; Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth. 3. What we are to understand by Paradise, and the third heaven. 4. Finally, What ideas.we are to affix to those unspeakable words to which our apostle alludes in the text: and these will constitute the first general division of our subject.
But in the second, which we have principally in view, we shall examine the point already indicated, by inquiring, Whether the silence of scripture, respecting a state of future happiness, suggests any thing tending to cool our ardor in the pursuit of it: we shall endeavor to make you sensible, that nothing is so much calculated to convey lofty ideas of the Paradise of God, as that very veil which conceals it from our eyes.
If you fully enter into the great aim and end of this discourse, it will produce on your minds those effects to which all our exhortations, all our importunities, are adapted, namely, to kindle in your hearts an ardent desire