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the children that thou hast given us. Here we are with our ancestors, and our offspring, and our kindred around us, adoring thy rich grace together, and entering together into the state of perfect glory which thou hast prepared."
It remains only that I should propose some reflections on the last head of discourse for the ineditation of this whole assembly, and especially for those that are engaged in the spiritual warfare, and proceed to daily conquests.
Shall death, with all its attendants, be destroyed for ever? And are these the blessings that shall succeed? Then enter into this joy before-hand by a lively faith, and begin the song of triumph-0 death, where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Cor. xv. 55. Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, when I fall I shall arise; Mic. vii. 8.
After you have fought many battles with Satan, subdued many sins, and encountered a thousand temptations with success, perhaps you find new adversaries still arising ; look forward then to this joyful hour, and say, “ But I shall one day be for ever free from all these toils and labours of war, for all my enemies shall be overcome, since death the last of them shall be subdued.” When you feel the infirmities of this mortal body hang heavy upon your spirits, and damp your devotion, read the words of this promise, and rejoice; " These pains and these langours of nature shall one day vanish and be no more; for death, with all its train, inust be destroyed.”
When some of your dearest friends are seized by this tyrant, and led away to the grave in his chains, while you are wounded to the very soul, remember, that Christ your Captain, and your Saviour, shall revenge this quarrel upon your last enemy; for he has appointed the hour of his destruction. Mourn not therefore' for the dead, as those that sorrow without hope, for those that sleep in Jesus, the Lord shall bring with him when he comes; 1 Thess. iv. 13. And he shall join you together in a blessed and durable friendship where it shall be eternally impossible for enemies to break in upon your peace; for death, the last of them, shall be then destroyed. And the Lord has left us this comfort in the end of his sacred writings, Surely I come quickly. Let each of us with a chearful heart reply, even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen,
The Happiness of Separate Spirits, &c.
Attempted in a Funeral Discourse in Memory of Sir John Hartopp, Bart
It is a solemn and mournful occasion that has brought me to this place this day*. Divine Providence, and the will of surviving relatives, call me to pay the last sacred and pious respect to the memory of the deceased ; a worthy gentleman, and an excellent christian, who has lately left our world in a good old age.
It is soinething more than ten years since I was engaged in the same service to the memory of his honoured and pious lady, when by a double and painful stroke the mother and daughter were joined in death ; when the two kindred families were smitten in the tenderest part, and each of them sustained a loss that could never be repairedt.
This town was the place which they had all honoured with their habitation, and spent the largest parts of their lives amongst you ; but they are now become inhabitants of the beavenly city, they dwell in the world of blessed spirits, and I would lead your devouetst thoughts to follow them thither. Come then, let our meditations take their rise from those words of the great apostle, in
HEB. xii. 23. -The Spirits of just men made perfect. It is a much sweeter employment to trace the souls of o’r departed friends into those upper and brighter regions, than to be ever dwelling upon the dark prospect, and fixing our eyes upon death, and dust, and the grave : and that not only because it gives us a comfortable view of the persons whom we mourn, and thus it relieves our most weighty and smarting sorrows ; but because it leads us to consider our own best interest, and our highest Iropes, and puts us in mind of the communion that we have with those blessed spirits in heaven, while we belong to the church on earth. We are come, says the apostle, ver. 22. We in the gospel state, are come to mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem. to the innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men mude perfect. What sort of communion it is that good men here below maintain with those exalted spirits, is not my present busi
* Sir John Hartopp died April 1, 1722, in the 85th year of his age ; and the substance of this discourse was delivered briefly at Stoke-Newington, April 15, following:
+ See a particwar account, p. 371 of the foregoing discourse in the margia...
ness to describe ; therefore I apply myself immediately to the words of my text, and confine myself to them only. And here I shall consider these four things :
I. Who are particularly designed by the spirits of the just ; and here I shall make it evident the apostle intends not mere!y the spirits of good men, but such good spirits as are dismissed from their mortal bodies.-II. We shall enquire, wherein consists the perfection to which they have arrived, and what are the excellencies in which they are made perfect. --III. What sort of perfectiou it is they enjoy, and what are the peculiar characters of it. -IV. How they arrive at this perfect state, and what influence the dismission from their bodies has towards their attainment of it.
-And then conclude with a few remarks for our instruction and practice suitable to the present providence.
Sect. I.–Of the spirils of the just.--Our first enquiry is, whow are we to understand by the spirits of the just here spoken of? The name of just or righteous mèn, taken in a large and general sense, as it is often used in scripture, signifies all those who fear and love God, and are accepted of him. In the New Testament they are frequently called saints, believers, or children of God: but in both parts of the bible they are often described by the name of just or righteous, and they are properly called so upon these three accounts :
I. Their persons are made righteous in the sight of God, having their sins forgiven, and their souls justified through the death and righteousness of Jesus Christ. So the word is used ; Rom. v. 19. By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. They have seen themselves all guilty and exposed to the wrath of God, they have fled to lay hold on the hope set before them, they have mourned before God, and been weary of sin, they have received the great atonement, they have committed their case by a living faith to Jesus the righteous, the surety and the Saviour of perishing sinners ; and that God hath received them into his favour, and has imputed righteousness to them, even that God who is just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus. Now tiis sense cannot reasonably be excluded from the character of a saint, though the word righteous is more frequently taken in the following senses.
II. Their natures are made righteous, and sanctified by the Spirit of grace.
grace. They have a principle of grace and holiness, wrought in them; so the word signifies; Eph. iv. 21. The new man, which is created after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness. They were once sinners, disobedient and unholy. as they were born into this world ; but they are born again, and made new creatures by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Their underStandings are enlightened to see the dreadful evil of sin, and a divine beauty of holiness. Their wills are turned from folly and va
nity, from the love of earth, and sense, and sin, to a holy contempt of the world, ad a hatred of all that is sinful ; from a neglect of religion to desires after God, and a delight in him ; from a mere formal profession of the gospel, to the faith and love of Christ, and a zealous pursuit of holiness ; and they place their bighest hopes and their joys in things divine, spiritual, and eternal.
III. Their lives are righteous, and conformable to the will of God revealed in his word. So the term righteous signifies, I John iii. 7. He that doth righteousness is righteous. The just man makes it the business of his life to do works of righteousness, taken in the largest sense ; to worship God, to seek his glory, to obey his will, which is the rule of righteousness ; to do him all the service on earth that his station and circumstances admit of, and to deal faithfully and justly among men, and do them all the good that lies in his power.
These are the just men whose spirits are spoken of in my text. Now it is evident the apostle here means their spirits which are in heaven, and departed from these mortal bodies, because the train of blessed companions, which he describes just before, leads our thoughts to the invisible world.
If we can suppose any part of these two verses to refer to earth, and our present state, it must be when he says, ye are come to mount Zion, to the city of the living God, that is, to the visible church of Christ, under the gospel dispensation. But then he adds, you are come also to the heavenly Jerusalem, which may probably include all the inhabitants of heaven in general ; and descending to particulars, he adds, to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first born who are written in heaven: whereby we must understand the whole invisible church of God among men, if we do not confine it to those who are already of the church triumphant. And next he leads us to God the Judge of All, and to the spirits of just men made perfect ; that is, spirits released from flesh and blood, who have stood before God their judge, and are determined to a state of perfection in heaven.
Besides, when St. Paul speaks of fellow-christians here on earth, it is not his manner to call them spirits, but men, or brethren, or saints, &c. therefore by the naked and single term spirits, he distinguishes these persons from those who dwell in mortal bodies and raises our thoughts to the world of blessed souls, released from the wretched ties and bondage of flesh and blood, the spirits of good men departed from this earth, and dwelling in the better regions of heaven.
I would here take notice also, that the apostle perhaps in this place chuses rather to call them just or righteous men, which is a term used frequently both in the Old and New Testament, that he might include the partriarchs and the Jewish saints as well as the souls of departed christians. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Noah, Daniel, and David, Job, Moses and Elijah, dwell in that happy world, with a thousand other spirits of renown in the ancient church, as well as the spirits of those that have seen the Messiah, and believed in Jesus of Nazareth. What a noble and wondrous assembly! What an amazing and blissful society of buman souls, gathered from various nations, and from all ages, and joined together in the heavenly Jerusalem, the family of God above!
I shall proceed now to the second thing I proposed.
Sect. II.–Of their perfection in knowledge, holiness, and joy, -The second enquiry is this, wherein consists the perfection at which these spirits are arrived ? The word perfect cannot be taken here, in its most extensive, absolute, and sublime sense, for in that sense it can belong only to God; he is and must be the sum and centre of all perfection for eyer ; all excellency and all blessedness in a supreme degree ineet in him ; none besides him can pretend to absolute perfection, Nor is the word used here in its most sublime sense, in which it may be applied to a creagure ; for when the spirits of just men are made never so perfect, the blessed soul of our Lord Jesus Christ will be more perç fect than they; for in all things he must have the pre-eminence ; Col. i. 18.
Perfection therefore is taken in a comparative sense bere, as in many other places of scripture. So St. Paul calls those christians on earth perfect, who are advanced in knowledge and chris. tianity far above their fellows ; as in 1 Cor. ii. 6. I speak wisdom among them that are perfect. Phil. iii. 15. Let as many as are perfect be thus minded. So that blessed souls above are only perfect in a comparative sense. They are advanced in every excellency of nature, and every divine privilege, far above all their fellow saints here on carth.
I desire it also to bę observed here. That the word perfection doth not generally imply another sort of charaeter than what a man possessed before; but a far more exalted degree of the same character which he was before possessed of. The perfection then of the spirits of the just in hiçaven, is a glorious and transcendant degree of those spiritual and heavenly qualifications and blessings which they enjoyed here on earth in a lower measure ; implying also, a freedom from all the defects and disorders to which they were here exposed, and which are iuconsistent with their present felicity.
If I were to branch it into particulars, I would name but these three, viz. 1. A great increase of knowledge without the mixture of error, 2. A glorious degree of holiness without the mixture of the least sin. 3. Constant peace and joy without the mixture of any sorrow or uneasiness. Let us consider them dis