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And what will take place hereafter with respect to our Lord and his apostles, may be concluded of all others who have been fellow-actors together upon the stage of this world.
If it be asked, Why our knowledge of each other hereafter is thus only indirectly pointed out, and never expressly asserted, the reason seems to be, that it was a thing of itself to be presumed, that if mankind were to be raised from the dead, and live together again, which is frequently declared, none could doubt but that they would know each other. It was not to be supposed, if the same persons were brought together again, that the memory of the scenes they had passed through, and the persons with whom they had lived, would be obliterated and lost.
I would now propose some reflections to you, upon a subject which will be of such concernment and importance to us for ever, And,
1. We shall then have a remembrance and recollection of persons and things ; of what has. passed in this our beginning state, so far as may be beneficial to us, through the progressive stages of our being.
And although affection will be widened and extended to the whole community of mankind, in a way of which we can now have no conception, and we shall most probably be brought acquainted with, and introduced to, all the wise and good that have ever lived, we have no ground to conclude, that particular personal attachments and grateful regards will be done away.
It may be useful to us at times, in our journey through the present life, to anticipate and reflect on the unutterable joy and satisfaction which will arise hereafter on beholding again those of our kindred or acquaintance by whose timely care, assistance and direction, our minds were formed to piety and goodness, or by whose prudent and seasonable lessons and counsels we have at any time escaped the dangerous alluring snares of vice and the world ; and to be able to perceive the hand of God distinctly in every thing relating to us; the time and place of our birth, and our different connexions in life, and his leading us from the beginning to the end of our course.
It may serve to correct much of what is wrong in us at present to consider, that then will vanish those little unworthy competitions
and narrow prejudices, that kept men asunder and divided here :
That there we shail meet many of those whom perhaps we little expected to take up their abodes in the heavenly mansions, and blush for our former misjudging and want of charity and candour, when we shall see them high advanced in his favour who is the only judge of real worth and desert.
As there is thus to be a general reassembling of the virtuous and approved of God of the human race ; and every good and useful quality and disposition, especially of the moral kind, which we lay in here, will be preparatory and fitting us for the future part we are to act ; perhaps it will be found that we shall much more naturally and easily than many imaginé, fall into the employment of that other state.
And most probably we shall still continue (those that shall be found meet for those abodes of virtue) in that other world, to assist in our turns, and be assisted by others, in carrying forward what was only begun and imperfect here; in the further purification of our affections, and in being excited to greater diligence and activity in the promotion of the
designs designs of our Maker, and the service of our fellow-beings.
For it is a vain however common thought, among christians, that as soon as those who shall be accepted of God enter upon their future state, they straightway become finished and perfect beings, and have nothing more to do but to sit down, as it were, and enjoy the happiness provided for them, whatever it be. But there is nothing whatsoever to lead us to such conclusions. Our chief excellence here consists in action, and in strenuous exertions for our own benefit, and that of others; and so, may we presume, it will consist for ever.
Besides, not to mention that imperfection will ever cleave to greated beings, there will be many
defects and faults, though none wil. fully persisted in, among those who depart in humble well grounded hope of the divine favour, which will call for correction and amendment in the future world. And the state and system of things there will unquestionably be fitted to produce this salutary change in them.
Nor will the labour and discipline of growing more virtuous be inconsistent with the descriptions given us of heaven's happiness. For
to become wiser and better, in whatever way, however toilsome, is, and ever will be, to a good mind, the highest gratification. And the promised future felicity, stript of that genet al metaphorical language in which it comes necessarily clothed to us, is this : that those who shall be admitted to it at the great day, shall never more fall away from truth and virtue, but go on secure of the divine favour
Thus, then, those who shall be found worthy, will pass into heaven, or wherever it is that the virtuous and good are to reside, with all their acquired habits and right dispositions, especially of the benevolent kind, in the exercise of which is the way to our highest perfection and happiness. And with this stock and furniture, as it were, they will begin their new and happy existence after death.
But those who continue through life slaves to vice and the world, actuated entirely by à principle of selfishness, and go out of life with these dispositions fixed in them, are utterly unqualified for the company of the virtuous and the good, and indeed have no relish for any society but that of
persons resembling themselves : a sight which we sometimes be