Page images

on them by the wrath of God which abideth upon them, represented unto us by a lake of fire. That their


shall continue for ever in this remediless condition, under an everlasting pain of loss, because there is no hope of heaven, under an eternal pain of sense, because there is no means to appease the wrath of God which abideth on them. Thus the Athanasian Creed, They that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.'

The next relation of this Article to the former, is in reference to the resurrection of the just; and then the life everlasting is not to be taken in a vulgar and ordinary sense,* but raised to the constant language of the Scriptures, in which it signifieth all which God hath promised, which Christ hath purchased, and with which man shall be rewarded in the world to come.

Now this life eternal may be looked upon under three considerations; as initial, as partial, and as perfectional. I call that eternal life initial, which is obtained in this life, and is as it were an earnest of that which is to follow : of which our Saviour spake," he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John v. 24.) I call that partial, which belongeth, though to the nobler, yet but a part of man, that is, the soul of the just separated from the body. I dispute not whether the joys be partial as to the soul, I am sure they are but partial as to the man. For that life consisteth in the happiness wliich is conferred on the soul departed in the fear, and admitted to the presence, of God. St. Paul had a " desire to depart and to be with Christ;'

" (Phil. i. 23.) he was “ willing rather to travel and be absent from the body, and to be present and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 8.) And certainly where St. Paul desired to be when he departed, there he then was, and there now is, and that not alone, but with all them which ever departed in the same faith with him, and that is with Christ who sitteth at the right hand of God. This happiness which the Saints enjoy between the hour of their death and the last day, is the partial life eternal. Thirdly, I call that perfectional, which shall be conferred upon the elect immediately after the blessing pronounced by Christ, “ Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. xxv. 34.)

• Eam quippe vitam æternam dicimus, ubi est sine fine felicitas. Nam si anima in pænis vivit æternis, quibus et ipsi spiritus cruciabuntur immundi, mors illa potius æterna dicenda est, quam vita. Nulla quippe major et pejor est mors, quam ubi non moritur mors.' S. August. de Civit. Dei, I. vi. c. 12. •Quia vita æter. na ab his, qui familiaritatem non habent cum Scripturis sanctis, potest accipi etiam pro malorum vita; vel secundum quos

dam etiam philosophos, propter animæ immortalitatem ; vel etiam secundum fidem nostram, propter pænas interminabiles impiorum, qui utique in æternum cruciari non poterunt, visi etiam vixerint in æternum; profecto finis Civitatis bujus, in quo summum babebit bonum, vel pax in vita æterna, vel vita æterna in pace dicendus est, ut facilius ab omnibus possit intelligi.' Idem, l. xix. c. 11.

This eternal life is to be considered in the possession, and in the duration : in the first, as it is life; in the second, as it is eternal. Now this life is not only natural, that is, the union of the soul to the body, which is the life of the reprobate ; but spiritual, which consisteth in the union of the soul to God,* as our Saviour speaks, “ He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” (1 John v. 12.) And it is called after an especial manner life, because of the happiness which attendeth it up and therefore to understand that life is to know, so far as it is revealed, in what that happiness doth consist.

To begin with that which is most intelligible; the bodies of the Saints, after the resurrection, shall be transformed into spiritual and incorruptible bodies. The flesh “is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonour, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritunl body.” (1 Cor. xv. 42–44.) This perfective alteration shall be made by the Son of God, “who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil, iii. 21.) Thus, when we come into that other world, the world of spirits, even our bodies shall be spiritual.

As for the better part of man, the soul, it shall be highly

• Duæ vitæ sunt, una corporis, altera that seek God." And St. Paul, 1 Thess. anima ; sicut vita corporis anima, ita vita iii. 8. "Οτι νύν ζωμεν, εάν υμείς στέκετε εν animæ Deus. Quo modo si anima de- Kugiw. Thus life of itself is often taken in serat, moritur corpus : sic anima moritur, the Scriptures for a happy and glorious si deserat Deus.' S. August. in Psal. 70. life, even that which is eternal, as St. Serm. ii. f. 3.

Augustin observeth upon these words of + For life is taken for happiness, and the Psalmist : Veniant mihi miserationes to live for being happy.

Among the

tuæ et vivam: Tunc enim vere viram, Greeks and Latins, Liv and vivere were quando nihil potero timere ne moriar. taken for living a cheerful and merry life, Ipsa enim et sine ullo additamento dici. as • Vivamus, inea Lesbia,' in Catullus, tur vita, nec intelligitur nisi æterna et Carm. v. 1. and in Martial. l. i, epigr. beata, tanquam sola dicenda sit vita, in 16, ver. 12.

cujus comparatione ista quam ducimus, • Sera nimis vita est crastina, vive holie.' mors potius sit appellanda quam vita ; And as it is an old inscription, AMICI quale illud est in evangelio, Si ris tenire DUM VIVIMUS VIVAMUS, and in the con- ad vitam, serta mandata. Nunquid addivivial wish, Zńcelas, mentioned by Dio in dit, æternam vel beatam ? Item de resurthe life of Commodus, I. Ixxii. so in the rectione carnis cum loqueretur, Qui bene language of the Scriptures, and a reli- fecerunt, inquit, in resurrectionem tita; gious notion, they signify a happy and a neque hic ait, æternæ vel beata. Sic et blessed life: as 1 Sam. X. 24. 75027 bic, Veniant, inquit, mihi miscrationes tue, Let the king live, is translated by the et vivam : Neque hic ait, in æternum vi. ,

vam, vel beate vivam ; quasi aliud non sit king prosper. And when David sent unto vivere quain sine ullo fine, et sine ulla Nabal, he said, "Thus shall ye say to

miseria vivere. In Psal. 118. serm, 19. him that liveth in prosperity,” which is in $. 4. Thus St. Augustin. And again. the original (1 Sam. xxv. 6.) nothing but Non est vera vita, nisi ubi feliciter ri. 75. So the Psalmist is to be understood, vitur; nec vera incorruptio, nisi ubi salus Psal. Ixix. 32. The humble shall see nullo dolore corrumpitur.' Enchir. de this and be glad, and your heart shall live

Fid. ad Laurent. c. 92.

Let the יצלח מלכא ,Chaldee paraphrast

[ocr errors]


exalted to the utmost perfection in all the parts or faculties thereof. The understanding shall be raised to the utmost capacity, and that capacity completely filled.

· Now we through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now we know but in part, but then shall we know even as also we are known." (1 Cor. xiii. 12.) And this even now “we know, that when God shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John iii. 2.) Our first temptation was, that we should be like unto God in knowledge, and by that we fell; but being raised by Christ, we come to be truly like him, by knowing him as we are known, and by seeing him as he is. Our wills shall be perfected with absolute and indefective holiness, with exact conformity to the will of God, and perfect liberty from all servitude of sin: they shall be troubled with no doubtful choice, but with their radical and fundamental freedom shall fully embrace the greatest good.* Our affections shall be all set right by an unalterable regulation, and in that regularity shall receive absolute satisfaction; and all this shall be effected, that we may be thereby made capable, and then happy by a full fruition.

To this internal perfection is added a proportionately happy condition, consisting in an absolute freedom from all pain, misery, labour, and want; an impossibility of sinning and offending God; an hereditary possession of all good, with an unspeakable complacency and joy flowing from it, and all this redounding from the vision and fruition of God: this is the life.

And now the duration of this life is as necessary as the life itself, because to make all already mentioned amount unto a true felicity, there must be added an absolute security of the enjoyment, void of all fear of losing it, or being deprived of it. And this is added to complete our happiness, by the adjection of eternity. Now that this life shall be eternal, we are assured who have not yet obtained it, and they much more who do enjoy it. He which hath purchased it for us, and promised it unto us, often calleth it eternal life; it is described as a "continuing city;" (Heb. xiii. 14.) as “everlasting habitations,” (Luke xvi. 9.) as a “house eternal in the heavens;" (2 Cor. v. I.) it is expressed by "eternal glory,” (1 Pet. v. 10.)“ eternal salvation," (Heb. v. 9.) by an "eternal inheritance,” (Ibid. ix. 15.) “incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away;” (1 Pet. i.4.) by “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. i. 11.) And lest we should be discouraged by any short or lame interpretation of eternity, it is farther explained in such terms as are liable to no mistake. For our Saviour hath said, “if any man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John viii. 51.). And " whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall not die.” (Ibid. xi. 26.) When “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, there shall be no more death ;” (Rev. xxi. 4.) and where there is life and no death, there must be everlasting life : which is expressed by St. Paul by way of opposition, calling it “ life and immortality," and that together with the abolition of death, saying that “our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. i. 10.)

'Sicut prima immortalitas fuit, quam peccando Adam perdidit, posse non mori, novissima erit non posse mori; ita primum liberum arbitrium posse non peccare,

novissimum pon posse peccare. Sic enim erit inamissibilis voluntas pietatis et æquitatis, quomodo est felicitatis. Nam utique peccando nec pietatem nec felicitatem tenuimus, voluntatem vero felicitatis nec perdita felicitate perdidimus. Certe Deus i¡ se numquid quoniam peccare non potest, ideo liberum arbitri.

um habere negandus est ? Erit ergo illius civitatis et una in omnibus et inseparabilis in singulis voluntas libera, ab omni malo liberata, et impleta omni bono, fruens indeficienter ætemorum jucunditate gaudiorum, oblita culparum, oblita pænarum, nec tamen ideo sua liberationis oblita, ut liberatori suo non sit ingrata.' S. August. de Civit. Dei, l. xxii, c. 30. Vide eundem Tractatu de Epicuris et Stoicis, prope finem.

The belief of this Article is necessary (as to the eternity of torment) to deter us from committing sin, and to quicken us to holiness of life, and a speedy repentance for sin committed. “ For the wages of sin is death ;” (Rom. vi. 23.) nothing can bring us to those everlasting Aames but sin, no sin but that which is unrepented of; nothing can save that man from the never-dying worm, who dieth in his sins; and no other reason can bring him thither, but because he sinned and repented not. They which imagine the pains inflicted for sin to be either small or short,* have but a slender motive to innocence or repentance; but such as firmly believe them sharp and endless, have by virtue of that faith within themselves a proper and natural spur and incitement to avoid them: for who can “dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. xxxiii. 14.)

Secondly, The belief of eternal pains after death is necessary to breed in us a fear and awe of the great God, a jealous God, a consuming fire, a God that will not be mocked; and to teach us to tremble at his word, to consider the infinity of his justice, and the fierceness of his wrath, to meditate on the power of his menaces, the validity of his threats, to follow that direction, to embrace that reduplicated advice of our Saviour, “I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear; fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.” (Luke xii. 5.) And that exclusively of such fear as concerns the greatest pains of this life, which the martyrs undervalued out of a belief of eternal torments.*

* Tertullian recounting the advantages culatore dispungimur, quique æternam ab of the Christians towards innocence and eo panam providemus, merito soli innoholiness of life, which the heathens had centiæ occurrimus, et pro scientire pleninot : • Recogitate etiam pro brevitate tudine, et pro latebrarum difficultate, et supplicii cujuslibet, non tamen ultra mor- pro magnitudine cruciatus, non diuturni, tem remansuri. Sic et Epicurus omnem verum sempiterni, eum timentes, quem cruciatum doloremque depretiat, modi- timere debebit et ipse qui timentes judicum quidem contemptibilem pronunci. cat, Deum, non Proconsulem, timentes.' ando, magnum

non diuturnum. Apolog. c. 45. Enimvero nos qui sub Deo omnium spe- + So Polycarpus the Martyr answered


Thirdly, This belief is necessary to teach us to make a fit estimate of the price of Christ's blood, to value sufficiently the work of our redemption, to acknowledge and admire the love of God to us in Christ. For he which believeth not the eternity of torments to come, can never sufficiently value that ransom by which we were redeemed from them, or be proportionately thankful to his Redeemer, by whose intervention we have escaped them. Whereas he who is sensible of the loss of heaven and the everlasting privation of the presence of God, of the torments of fire, the company of the devil and his angels, the vials of the wrath of an angry and never-to-be-appeased God, and hopeth to escape all these by virtue of the death of bis Redeemer, cannot but highly value the price of that blood, and be proportionably thankful for so“plenteous a redemption." (Psal. cxxx. 7.)

Again, As this Article followeth upon the resurrection of the just, and containeth in it an eternal duration of infinite felicity belonging to them, it is necessary to stir us up to an earnest desire of the kingdom of heaven, and that righteousness to which such a life is promised, “ I will now turn aside and see this great sight,” said Moses, (Exod. iii. 3.) when he saw the burning bush. “It is good for us to be here," said St. Peter, (Matt. xvii. 4.) when he saw our Saviour transfigured in the mount; how much more ought we to be inflamed with a desire of the joys of heaven, and that length of days which only satisfieth by its eternity, * to a careful and constant performance of those commands to which such a reward is graciously promised! For as all our happiness proceedeth from the vision of God, so we are certain that without holiness no man shall see him.

Secondly, This belief is necessary to take off our inclinations and desires from the pleasures and profits of this life ; to breed in us a contempt of the world,t and to teach us to despise all things on this side heaven; to “set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth, considering we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. iii. 2, 3.)

the Proconsul threatening to consume him with fire: Πύρ απειλείς το προς ώραν καιόμενον και μετ' ολίγον σβεννύμενον. 'Αγνοείς γάρ το της μελλούσης κρίσεως και αιωνίου κολάσεως τους ασεβέσι τηρούμενον πύρ. Εpist. ad Smyrn. Eccles. c. 11.

• So St. Augustin upon those words, Longitudine dierum replebo eum, in the 91st Psalm : 'Quæ est longitudo dierum? Vita æterna. Fratres, nolite putare longitudinem dierum dici, sicut sunt byeme dies minores, æstate

dies majores. Tales dies nobis habet dare ? Longitudo illa est quæ non habet finem, æterna vita quæ nobis promittitur in diebus longis. El vere, quia sufficit, non sine causa dix.

it, replebo eum. Non nobis sufficit quicquid longum est in tempore, si habet finem ; et ideo nec longum dicendum est. Et si avari sumus, vitæ æternæ debemus esse avari : talem vitam desiderate, quæ non habet finem. Ecce ubi extendatur avaritia vestra. Argentum vis sine fine ? Vitam æternam desidera sine fine. Non vis ut habeat finem possessio tua ? Vitam æternam desidera.' In Psal. 90. Serm. 2. $. 12.

Nemo vitam æternam, incorruptibilem immortalemque desiderat, nisi eum vitæ hujus temporalis, corruptibilis, mortalisque, pæniteat. S. August. Hom. 50. al. Serm. 351. Ģ. 3.

« PreviousContinue »