« PreviousContinue »
receive from him. Death, which is only a separation of the soul from the body, cannot break off the fellowship of the saints on earth with those in heaven ; because the foundation, on which it is built, remaineth for ever. Death does not destroy the communion which subsisted between them on earth; because it improves that principle of holiness which first joined them together. Hence the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews thus addresses those who are called to the Christian faith : “ Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and an innumerable company of angels, to the general assemhly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven ; and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men inade perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant'.
This communion of the Church militant with the Church triumphant in heaven, which is founded on the mystical union of Christ the Head, and the incessant care with which he preserves the different members of his vast family, and the perpetual connexion which subsists between them, as partakers both here and hereafter of the same salvation, is not without its advantages. That the saints on earth communicate with those in heaven, in hope of that happiness which they actually enjoy, is evident; because, whilst they continue here, they have the Spirit of God given to them, as an earnest of that felicity which they will most certainly obtain hereafter P.
We must not, however, with the Church of Rome, pray to departed saints ; nor address them as medias • Heb. xii. 22-25.
* Eph. i. 10. P2 Cor, i. 21. 22. Eph. i. 13, 14.
tors, nor offer them religious worship, which is an error, as dangerous in itself, as it is affronting to God, whose authority is dishonoured by ito.
Yet we are exhorted to respect the memory of i pious Christians who have died in the faith and fear 9 of God, and to imitate most closely the bright and holy example which they have left us : “ And,
we I desire that every one of you do shew the same dili
gence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end ; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises”.”
The saints in glory above most probably hold cominunion with the Church of true believers on earth, by sympathizing with them in the sorrows of their pilgrimage state, and by expressing the inost fervent wishes that they may finish their course with joy, and receive the crown of glory which will be given to all who endure unto the end.
At least, St. Paul calls on the saints below to consider themselves as "
encompassed about with witnesses” as innumerable as the drops of water in a
cloud; who bear a most decided testimony to the 5 fidelity of God, and the efficacio:18 power of faith'.
This great multitude seems to look down from heaven; nay, to come from thence, and to surround is, in order that they may bear testimony to the righteous cause in which we are engaged, and, as spectators of our conduct, animate us to persevere in the same arduous, perilous, and honourable combat in which they themselves have gained so blessed a victory.
Let us, then, realize the presence of the Church triumphant as spectators of our conflict, and as calling upon us “to be faithful unto death ;” that
? Deut. vi. 13. Matt.iv. 10. Heb.vi. 11, 12. ib.xii.),
we may share in the bliss of their exalted state, and join with them in everlasting anthems of praise for our redemption". And, above all, let us not forget “to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith ; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right-hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied, and faint in your minds*:
3. Further; the saints on earth have not only communion with those possessing the same nature, but also with those Divine Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who are more infinitely exalted above the highest saints, than they are above the unbelieving world in which they live. As all who truly received the doctrines of the Apostles held communion with them, and as their fellowship was with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, it follows that all the Saints of God, in every age under the Gospel dispensation, have likewise a real communion with God the Father, and with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, however despised the Children of God may be by the rest of men, or however humble and
poor their lot may be in this life, yet they enjoy honours with which others have no manner of concern. Their communion with the Father of Lights is a privilege which words cannot adequately express. • Their communion with God commences at the time of their regeneration, which holy state qualifies them to hold intercourse with him. “Being made pártakers of the Divine nature*,” He regards them as his spiritual children, and grants them the spirit of * Rev.v.9-13./
! Heb xii. 2-4. Gal. iv. 6,7.
*' 2 Pet.i.4.
adoption; and henceforth they become “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ of the glory which shall be revealedy.” “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God?!” A sacred union subsists betwixt God and his people, to whom he allows free access and intercourse with himself. He dwells in them by the Holy Ghost, who communicates his will to their minds“. He pays the greatest attention to their wants, and supplies them with wisdom and strength suited to their trials. He comforts them in trouble, delivers them in the hour of danger, and makes all things, even the most adverse and afflictive, work together for their good". He hears their prayers, accepts their services, and gives them the sweetest tokens of his loving-kindness. He assures them of his favour while on earth; and promises to receive them at death into the mansions of blessedness, which he has prepared for them.
On the other hand, the Children of God maintain a delightful communion with their heavenly Father, by means of his own appointment. Divine ordinances are instituted to refresh and invigorate their souls. They " wait for his loving-kindness in the midst of his temple;" there they sit under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to their taste"; there he displays the riches of his grace,
and they commune with him as their everlasting friend. They pour out their souls before him, tell him of all their sorrows, and obtain the requisite consolation. So long as they act conformably to his will, and seek their felicity in his favour, he confirms his love towards thein, by causing them to "walk in the light " Rom. viii. 17-19. * 1 John iii. 1. * 1 Cor. ii. 10-16. Rom. viii. 28. John xiv.1-4. Song of Solomon, ii. 3.
of his countenance:” “ but if his Children forsake his law, and walk not in his judgments; if they break his statutes, and keep not his commandments; then will he visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to faile."
4. The saints have communion with Christ. Believers, having been broken off from the common stock of corrupt nature, are grafted into Christ, the true vine, of which they are branches. And, as the branches of a tree derive sap and nourishment from the stock to which they are joined, so do Christians receive life from Christ, whose spirit quickens, and whose word supports them continually ee. Being conformed to his image, “they take up his cross, deny themselves, and follow him in theregeneration," And he forms an union with them, as real as it is remarkable. He has taken upon himn our nature; he has taken upon him our sins, and the curse due unto them; while we all have received, of His fulness, grace for grace'. By faith we obtain an interest in his salvation, and are strengthened to go on our way rejoicing in hope unto the end. He sympathizes with his saints in affliction, assuring them that “ his grace shall be sufficient for them, and that his strength shall be made perfect in their weakness 5." Finally, he promises that “ they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand", Whoever, therefore, abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son, “And our Saviour prays, that all who shall believe in him ma be one, as the Father is one in him, and he in the Psalm lxxxix. 15-234. John xv.4, 5.
i Johni. 16. * 2 Cor. xii. 9.
John x. 27-30. 2 John 9.