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tions from the words of the text, taken in connection with the context, endeavour to illustrate, in some imperfect degree, the prospect which is here afforded us of a state of future felicity ; and then shall make practical improvement of the subject.
1. What the words of the text most obviously suggest is, that heaven is to be considered as a state of blessed society. A multitude, a numerous assembly, are here represented as sharing together the same felicity and honour. Without society, it is impossible for man to be happy. Place him in a region where he was surrounded with every pleasure; yet there, if he found himself a solitary individual, he would pine and languish. They are not merely our wants, and our mutual dependence, but our native instincts also, which impel us to associate together. The intercourse we here maintain with our fellows, is a source of our chief enjoyments. But, alas ! how much are these allayed by a variety of disagreeable circumstances that enter into all our connections! Sometimes we suffer from the distresses of those whom we love ; and sometimes from their vices or frailties. Where friendship is cordial, it is exposed to the wounds of painful sympathy, and to the an
guish of violent separation. Where it is so cool as not to occasion sympathetic pains, it is never productive of much pleasure. The ordinary commerce of the world consists in a circulation of frivolous intercourse, in which the heart has no concern. It is generally insipid, and often soured by the 'slightest difference in humour, or opposition of interest. We fly to company, in order to be relieved from wearisome correspondence with ourselves; and the vexations which we meet with in society, drive us back again into solitude. Even among the virtuous, dissensions arise ; and disagreement of opinion too often produces alienation of heart. We form new connections where somewhat does not occur to disappoint our hopes. The beginnings are often pleasing. We flatter ourselves with having found those who will never give us any disgust. But weaknesses are too soon discovered. Suspicions arise; and love waxes cold. We are jealous of one another, and accustomed to live in disguise. A studied civility assumes the name, without the pleastire, of friendship; and secret animosity and envy are often concealed under the caresses of dissembled affection.
Hence the pleasure of earthly society, like all our other pleasures, is extremely imperfect;
and can give us a very faint conception of the joy that must arise from the society of perfect spirits in a happier world. Here, it is with difficulty that we can select from the corrupted crowd a few with whom we wish to associate in strict union. There, are assembled all the wise, the holy, and the just, who ever existed in the universe of God; without any distress to trouble their mutual bliss, or any source of disagreement to interrupt their
perpetual harmony. Artifice and concealment are unknown there. There, no competitors struggle, no factions contend; no rivals supplant each other. The voice of discord never rises, the whisper of suspicion never circulates, among those innocent and benevolent spirits. Each, happy in himself, participates in the happiness of all the rest ; and, by reciprocal communications of love and friendship, at once receives from, and adds to the sum of general felicity. Renew the memory of the most affectionate friends with whom you were blest in any period of your life. Divest them of all those infirmities which adhere to the human character. Recall the most pleasing and tender moments which you ever enjoyed in their society; and the remembrance of those sensations
in conceiving that felicity which is possessed by the saints
above. The happiness of brethren dwelling together in unity, is, with great justice and beauty, compared by the Psalmist to such things as are most refreshing to the heart of man; to the fragrancy of the richest odours, and to the reviving influence of soft dews. It is like the precious ointment poured on the head of Aaron ; and like the dew of Hermon, even the dew that descendeth on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commandeth the blessing, even life for evermore.
Besides the felicity which springs from perfect love, there are two circumstances which particularly enhance the blessedness of that multitude who standeth before the throne ; these are, access to the most exalted society, and renewal of the most tender connections. The former is pointed out in the Scripture by joining the innumerable company of angels, and the general assembly and church of the first-born ; by sitting down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven ;ť a promise which opens the sublimest "prospects to the human mind. It allows good men to entertain the hope, that, separated from all the dregs. of the human mass, from that mixed and pol
* Psalm cxxxiii. 2. of Heb. xii. 22, 23. Matth. viii. 12
luted crowd in the midst of which they now dwell, they shall be permitted to mingle with prophets, patriarchs, and apostles, with legislators and heroes, with all those great and illustrious spirits, who have shone in former ages as the servants of God, or the benefactors of men ; whose deeds we are accustomed to celebrate ; whose steps we now follow at a distance; and whose names we pronounce with veneration.
United to this high assembly, the blessed at the same time renew those ancient connections with virtuous friends which had been dissolved by death. The prospect of this awakens in the heart the most pleasing and tender sentiment which perhaps can fill ii in this mortal state, For, of all the sorrows which we are here doomed to endure, none is so bitter as that occasioned by the fatal stroke which separates us, in appearance, for ever, from those to whom either nature or friendship had intimately joined our hearts. Memory, from time to time, renews the anguish; opens the wound which seemed once to have been closed ; and, by recalling joys that are past and gone, touches every spring of painful sensibility. In these agonizing moments, how relieving the thought, that the separation is only temporary, not eternal ; that there