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folly and ignorance, and that vastly more is unknown by us than known; and our frequent imprudences and false steps do daily remind us of the great defects of these our intellectual endowments, and assure us that so it will always be during our stay in this dark world. And this one thought alone gives a great allay to the pleasure we take in this kind of improvements; and is enough, not only to discourage the most inquisitive, searching temper, but is a demonstration that the greatest advances we can make in these things here will afford but little of that high-raised delight which deserves the name of joy : but rather, considering the pains and labour of the pursuit, the slowness of the progress, the scantiness of the attainment, and the mortifying reflection that it will never be otherwise here below, that of the wise king Solomon, who spoke from his own great experience, is the real truth of the matter; In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow 9.
But now, religious wisdom and knowledge, or that wisdom and understanding which will improve our minds in righteousness and true holiness, and instruct us in the will of God, and teach us how to submit our own wills to his, and to bring our passions to pay due obedience to our reason, and not to transgress the bounds which God has been pleased to set them, and thereby make us wise to salvation : this is the parent of true solid joy, that will be always springing up in our souls, and daily rising higher and higher till the completion of it above. There will be no check to the satisfaction we shall have in our improvements in this divine wisdom.
q Eccles. i. 18.
and the pains we take in the pursuit of it will be amply recompensed even at present, by the inexpressible delight that will accompany our growth in grace, and in the knowledge and love of God and Jesus Christ.
And indeed so admirably wise is the composure of our holy religion, so exactly adapted to all the necessities and capacities of mankind; so perfect a rule of life and manners; so directly conducive to our entire and most consummate happiness both now and to all eternity; so exalted its truths, so clear' and convincing its reasonings; so amazing its revelations of the love of God to us in his eternal Son, and him crucified for the salvation of the sinful world; so affecting the notices it gives us of a future spiritual state, and the different conditions of it, and the process of the last tremendous day of this, when every one shall be judged and sentenced according to his works, and fixed in happiness or misery without end, as they have been good or evil: so admirably wise and instructive, entertaining and moving, are these great things of our holy religion, that as it infinitely surpasses all other religions that ever were in the world, and the wisest systems and composures of the most celebrated sages, and, like the great Author of it, the divine word, or reason, contains in it all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; so nothing on this side heaven can possibly give greater pleasure to the mind than the frequent study of it, nor be more delightful in the practice, it being an infallible guide to a glorious eternity
And the result of our giving ourselves entirely up to its direction and discipline will at length be this; that one day we shall be taken up from this gloomy world, where we see as through a glass darkly, and know but in part, with great dimness and imperfection; and be admitted into the presence, and near view of God, whose wisdom and knowledge are infinite, and whose goodness too is so great, as liberally to impart of all to his then glorified happy creatures, according to the utmost of each one's capacity, and which shall then be wondrously enlarged, and in his light we shall see light in perfection, and know even as we are known.
And truly the satisfaction and delight and joy that true religion does afford the soul, is so near of kin to that fulness of joy which is in the presence of God, that the apostle's prayer for the Romans, mentioned once before, comes but little short of it in the expression, and implies almost as much ; Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
For what can cause greater pleasure to a rational creature, than to have his understanding employed in the clear contemplation of the most sublime and most useful truths, and his will and affections busied in the attainment of his chief good ? This is to gratify to the height our highest and noblest faculties, which must needs be attended with the highest and purest delight; this is directly to pursue our true happiness without any checks, or illboding misgivings of soul, but rather the constant applauses of our conscience and our reason, without any disappointment, or loathing, or satiety, in a continual flow and increase of joy upon the soul, till the brook becomes a river, and that river becomes a seas. It is impossible to express that tranquillity of r Rom. XV. 13.
s Ecclus. xxiv. 31.
mind, that exaltation of thought, that transporting, though sedate and quiet pleasure, which attends the motion of a holy soul towards heaven, in the acts of contemplation and devotion: this is indeed the beginning of that heaven upon earth, and of the same nature with the joys above, only differing in degree and duration.
There the happy spirits of just men made perfect admire and contemplate, adore and praise, and love and imitate the holy, blessed God, the Fountain of perfection, of beauty, and of goodness; and in the eternal repetition of those blissful acts their felicity consists. And in like manner the truly pious here, that are conversant in the same heavenly employment, must experience in a suitable degree the same heavenly delight.
It is true, indeed too true, that those religious acts of ours are full of imperfection, and often interrupted and broke off; whereas theirs are always vigorous to the utmost stretch of their enlarged capacities, and without the least intermission to eternal ages; and their delight in them consequently does infinitely surpass that of the holiest persons upon earth; but yet it is the same kind of pleasure that they both enjoy ; and the holier men grow here, they advance still nearer and nearer to celestial bliss; and if they persist to the end, shall certainly partake of it at last.
The joys of religion then being the greatest next to those of heaven, and a necessary preparation to them, and delightful foretaste of them ; it only remains to consider upon this head, of the object of joy, what the scriptures tell us of that fulness of joy which is there in the presence of God.
BRAGGE, VOL. V.
Of the joys of heaven. St. John, the beloved disciple, through whose writings runs a peculiar vein of sublimity of thought and expression, and heavenly love and devotion; as if by often leaning on his divine Master's bosom he had received some extraordinary virtue from him, and had his heart warmed with the same celestial flame that was in Jesus' breast; St. John represents that fulness of joy' which the Psalmist says is in the presence of God, as consisting in the sight of him, and being thereupon transformed into his likeness : we know, says he, that when our Lord shall appear at the last great day, to take to himself those that are his into heaven, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is u. To which St. Paul does exactly agree, 1 Cor. xiii. 12, where he says, Now we see through a glass, darkly ; but then face to face : now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
So that the ineffable joys of heaven do spring from those communications or manifestations of himself which God is pleased there to vouchsafe to the blessed; and which shall affect them with such transporting delight, as will assimilate them to him, and by a kind of transformation change them, as St. Paul expresses it, 2 Cor. iii. 18, into the same image from glory to glory; from one glorious degree of likeness to another, and a greater still to all eternity.
But what is it thus to see God face to face, to know him as we are known, and to be changed into t Psalm xvi. II.
u i John iii. 2.