Christian Love,
or the Influence of Religion upon Temper

By John Angell James, 1828


"Love never fails."

Permanence is the climax of excellence. How often has the sigh been heaved, and the tear been shed, over the perishable nature of earthly possessions. Their transient duration presented a painful contrast to their great worth, and extorted the sorrowful exclamation, 'Alas! that such excellence should be mortal!' The charm of beauty soon fades, the force of genius is at length exhausted, the monuments of art decay; an incurable taint of corruption has infected everything earthly, and even true religion itself does not confer immortality upon everything that belongs to its sacred economy. One thing there is, which shall remain forever, for "love never fails," and its permanence is the crown and glory of all its other noble qualities. It is a truly immortal virtue—bearing no exclusive relation to earth or to time—but destined to pass away from the world with the souls in which it exists, to dwell in heaven, and flourish through eternity!

When it is said that it never fails, we are not merely to understand, that being once planted in the soul, it remains there as the center and support of all the other practical virtues—that it will so remain, is unquestionable; for its continuance is essential to the existence of personal and social religion. A man may change his opinions on some subjects—he may give up some sentiments once believed by him to be truth; but he cannot give up love, without ceasing to be a Christian.

Nor does the apostle mean that it remains as the spirit of Christianity until the end of time, amid every change of external administration—that it shall so abide is unquestionable. The genius of piety is unchangeable. This was the temper obligatory upon the primitive Christian; it is obligatory upon us; and it will be no less so upon every future generation. A holier and happier age is in reserve for the church of Christ, "compared with which, invisible though it be at present, and hidden behind the clouds which envelope this dark and troubled scene, the brightest day that has yet shone upon the world is midnight, and the highest splendors that have invested it, the shadow of death," but this glory shall consist in a more perfect and conspicuous manifestation of the grace of love.

The apostle's reference is evidently to another world—his eye was upon heaven, and he was looking at the things unseen and eternal, when he said that "love never fails." He was then soaring on the wing of faith, and exploring the scenes of eternity, among which he saw this celestial plant surviving the dissolution of the universe, outliving the earthly state of the church, transplanted into the paradise of God, and flourishing in the spirits of just men made perfect, near the fountain of light and love!

To give still greater emphasis to what he says of its continuance, he contrasts it with some things, which, however highly valued by the Corinthian believers, were of a transient duration, and therefore of greatly inferior value to this.

"Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail." By prophecies here, we are to understand the giving of the inspired Scriptures; all new revelations from God, by oral or written communication, for the instruction and edification of the saints. These, so far from belonging to the heavenly state of the church, did not survive its primitive ages. The gift of inspiration was soon withdrawn, the oracle of prophecy was hushed, and all further responses from heaven were denied.

"Whether there be tongues, they shall cease." This, of course, refers to the miraculous power of speaking any language without previous study. This gift also ceased with the other extraordinary endowments of the primitive ages, and bears no relation to the heavenly world. Whether the communication of ideas in the celestial state will be carried on by speech, is at present unknown to us; if it be so, what the language will be is beyond conjecture.

"Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." This expression most probably refers to what is called, in the preceding chapter, "the word of knowledge," and of which the apostle speaks in the beginning of this chapter—"Though I understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have not love, I am nothing." It means an inspired knowledge of the types, predictions, and mysteries of the Old Testament, and of their accomplishment by the facts of the Christian economy. This, also, was among the signs and wonders which were to vanish away; which, having been granted as attestations to the divine authority of the Word of God, and for the edification of the church, were discontinued when the canon of Scripture was completed and settled.

Some extend the apostle's reasoning so far as to include every kind of our present knowledge; which, as to its imperfect attainments, and inadequate mediums, and present modes of communication, shall be removed, and give place to a more easy and perfect method of acquiring truth, and a more entire comprehension of its nature and relations.

As to the knowledge of the arts, of the practical sciences, and of literature, this shall be lost and forgotten, as utterly useless, and as bearing no relation whatever to the celestial state. You master spirits, you commanding geniuses, you magnificent minds, who exhaust the force of your intellect, and lavish its reasoning upon themes of mere earthly interest—see here the termination of all your labors. Scholars, poets, painters, sculptors, warriors—you who assemble in the temple of fame, amid the mightiest productions of human skill, to pay homage to each other, to receive the admiration of the world, and to immortalize your names—giving to your mighty works the full measure of their value, in reference to earth and to time—admitting that, in this view, they are bright scenes in the history of man; yet still in reference to heaven and to eternity, they are nothing—less than nothing, and vanity. Not an angel would turn to gaze upon the noblest production of human imagination, nor will a plea be put in by a single inhabitant of heaven, to exempt from the destruction of the last fire, the most sublime specimens of human skill. Myriads of volumes have been already lost and forgotten; myriads more are on their way to oblivion; myriads still shall rise—but only to vanish—and of all the accumulations that shall have been made, and which shall have been going on through the longest and the purest age of reason—not one shall be saved from the general conflagration, as worthy to be borne to the heavenly world. "Knowledge shall vanish away."

But not only shall the knowledge contained in the scientific, and literary, and imaginative productions of men vanish, together with the volumes by which it was circulated—but all theological works—our creeds, our catechisms, our articles of faith, our bodies of divinity, our works of Biblical criticism; our valued, and justly valued, commentaries; our sermons, and our treatises—all shall vanish. The imperfect knowledge we gain from these sources is not that which will attend us to the skies, and be sufficient for us when we have arrived at the region of cloudless splendor, the element of wisdom, the native land and dwelling-place of truth.

The introduction of this idea by the apostle has given occasion for one of the most striking digressions from his track of thought which he ever made. His argument only required him to state that love is better than the gift of knowledge, because the latter shall cease; but he proceeds to show why it shall cease, and ascribes its discontinuance to its imperfection—he then takes an opportunity to draw one of the most sublime contrasts to be found in the Word of God, between our knowledge in the present world, and our more perfect comprehension of truth in the world that is to come.

And why shall knowledge vanish away? "Because we know in part, and we prophesy in part." A part only of truth is made known, and therefore a part only is received by us. This may imply that there are many things we do not know at all. Who can doubt this? Upon the supposition that we were perfectly acquainted with all that is proper to be known—all that could be acquired by the aid of reason and the discoveries of revelation—still we would hear a voice saying to us, "Lo, these are a part of his ways—but the thunder of his power who can understand?" There are, doubtless, truths of vast importance and of deep interest, which have never yet approached, and in the present world never will approach, the horizon of the human understanding. There are paths in the region of truth, which the vulture's eye has not seen, and which are hidden from the view of all living.

When on his death-bed, the great Newton was congratulated upon the discoveries he had made, he replied, with the modesty usually attendant on vast attainments, "I have been only walking as a boy on the shores of truth, and have, perhaps, picked up a pebble or two of greater value than others; but the vast ocean itself lies all before me! My profoundest knowledge on the laws of nature may very possibly appear to the Almighty as the merest trifles of a infantile imagination." This is strictly correct in reference to the material universe, to which the remark was intended to apply. Of natural truth, the ocean, with its depths, its islands, and the continents and kingdoms to which it leads, is all before us. We have only looked upon the surface, and seen merely some of the objects passing upon it; we have only seen a few landmarks, on one part of one of its shores; but the infinitude of its extensive space, and the innumerable objects which that space contains, are yet to be explored.

And with respect to the spiritual world, although we possess in the volume of inspiration a revelation of the most sublime, important, and interesting objects of knowledge; yet, probably, there are truths of which, after all that divines and philosophers have written, we can form no more conception than we can of the objects of a sixth sense, or than a blind man can of colors. "We know only in part."

It is implied also, that what we do know, we know but imperfectly. In some cases, our knowledge is uncertainty, and amounts only to opinion; faith is weak and mixed with many doubts. We cannot exultingly exclaim, "I know," we can scarcely say, "I believe." The object sometimes presents itself to our mind, like the sun seen dimly through a mist, now appearing, and then lost again, in the density of the fog—now a truth comes upon us, in a thin and shadowy form; we think we see it—but it is again obscured. We only see 'glimmerings'. We perceive appearances, rather than realities—dark outlines, not perfect pictures.

And where no doubts undermine the certainty of our knowledge, what narrow limits bound its extent! We walk as through a valley shut in on each side by lofty mountains, whose tops are lost amid the clouds, whose shadows add to the obscurity of our situation, and whose mighty masses stand between us and the prospect which lies beyond. How imperfect and limited is our knowledge of the great God—of the spirituality of his nature—of his necessary self-existence from eternity—of his triune essence! How feeble are our conceptions of the complex person of Christ, the God-man Mediator; of the scheme of providence, embracing the history of our world, and of all other worlds; and of the connection between providence and redemption! How have divines and philosophers been perplexed on the subject of the entrance of moral evil; on the agreement between divine predestination—and the freedom of the human will; between moral inability—and human accountability! How much obscurity hangs, in our view, over many of the operations of nature! How soon do we arrive at ultimate laws, which for anything we can tell, may be only effects of causes that are hidden from our observation! In what ignorance do we live of many of the most common occurrences around us! Who has perfect ideas of the essences of things, separate and apart from their qualities—of matter, for instance, or spirit? Who can perfectly conceive how the idea of motion results from that of body, or how the idea of sensation results from that of spirit? On what theme shall we meditate, and not be mortified to find how little progress we can make before we are arrested by insurmountable difficulties? On what eminence shall we take our stand, and to what part of the horizon direct our eye—and not see 'clouds and shadows' resting like a veil upon the prospect? How truly it is said, "We know but in part." Angels must wonder at the limitation of our ideas; and glorified spirits must be astonished at the mighty bound they make, by that one step which conducts them across the threshold of eternity!

The apostle illustrates the present imperfection of our knowledge, compared with its future advancement, by TWO SIMILITUDES. The first is, the difference between the ideas of a child and those of a man. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." The meaning of Paul in this verse is—that our knowledge in the heavenly state will be as different from, and as superior to, anything we gain on earth, as the ideas of an adult in the maturity of his intellectual powers, are to those which he entertained when he was a child. Our knowledge at present is that of children; we are not only in the childhood—but in the infancy, of our minds. Our notions are the opinions of children; our discourses are the lispings of children; our controversies the reasonings of children. The prodigious scientific attainments of those luminaries, Bacon, Milton, Boyle, Locke, Newton; and in the science of theology, of those great divines, Owen, Howe, Charnock, Baxter, Bates, Butler, Hooker—all these are but productions of children, written for the instruction of others less taught than themselves!

Yes, the apostle includes himself and his writings in the description. "We know in part, and we prophesy in part. When I was a child, I spoke as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." He alludes to his own childish conceits, and infantile simplicity, which had given way to the matured knowledge of his riper years; and, by implication, declares his expectation that the knowledge which he should gain in the celestial state, would be as much above his present views, as they were beyond those which he entertained when he was a child! Yes—that greatest of mere men—that illustrious individual who had been in the third heaven—who had explored, as we imagine, some of the secrets of the unseen world—who had fathomed so much of the depth, measured so much of the height, of truth; even he tells us that his knowledge was but in its infancy!

What an idea does it give us of the infinitude of knowledge yet to be obtained, when we are informed that the Bible itself, even the New Testament—that book of books, the work of which it is said, that it had God for its author, truth without any mixture of error for its contents, and salvation for its end—is but a book for children, a work for Christians in their infancy; a mere elementary treatise on the subject of eternal truth, written by the finger of God, for his family, during their beginning education on earth!

The second similitude by which the present imperfection of our knowledge is set forth, is that very partial acquaintance which we gain with material objects by looking at them through a glass. "Now we see through a glass darkly."

Considerable diversity of opinion prevails as to the precise object of the apostle's allusion in the expression which he here employs. It is admitted that the word in the original literally signifies a mirror, and hence most expositors consider that the comparison is to a mirror; and that his meaning is that our knowledge of divine truth in this world, is only of that partial kind which we gain by seeing objects reflected from a mirror. But does this accord with his design, which is to represent the obscurity of our present ideas, compared with what we shall know hereafter, when that which is perfect has come? The knowledge we gain of an object that is reflected from a highly polished surface is too accurate to furnish such a comparison.

Hence some are of opinion, and this is the view I take, that the allusion is to those semi-transparent stones, which were used in windows before glass was known, and through which objects would be but very dimly seen. Nothing could better accord with the apostle's purpose than this. How dim and shadowy do those forms appear, which we discover through such a medium; we discern only the mere outline; everything is seen imperfectly, and many things connected with the object are not seen at all. "We see it through a glass darkly." The term rendered "darkly," signifies an enigma, a riddle, a form of speech in which one thing is put for another—which, though in some respects like it, is but an obscure representation, and calculated to puzzle those who are required to find out the thing which is thus darkly shadowed forth.

Here it may be proper to inquire WHY divine truth is at present involved in so much comparative darkness and obscurity.

It is designed to accord with the analogy of faith. We are to walk by 'faith', which is not only opposed to the testimony of 'sense'—but is distinguished also from the clearness and certainty of perfect knowledge.

It comports also with the purpose of divine revelation. There is no doubt but that some of the clouds which envelope the subjects of revealed truth, could have been dissipated, and many things put in a still clearer light. A studied caution, a designed reserve, is maintained in some places; for as the Bible is given to be a test of moral disposition, the evidence should be sufficient to demand belief, without being enough to compel it. The Bible affords us light enough to assist us in discharging the duties of this world, and to guide us to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life; but it concedes nothing to idle curiosity—nothing to a spirit of restless inquiry. It stands like a way-mark on the high road to eternity, and is intended simply to announce what is truth, and the way to its dwelling place—but not to make known to the traveler all the details of the city to which he is journeying.

And in another view, this obscurity is absolutely necessary. If the disclosure were more obscure, it would be beyond our apprehension; we could know nothing—and in that case true religion could have no existence, or exist only as the blind offspring of ignorance. If it were more cloudy and shadowy, it would have no power to arrest attention, or interest the heart—it might indeed point to a brighter state, where it would throw off the dense covering in which it had enwrapped itself on earth; but too little of the beauty of truth would be seen, to captivate our affections, and to allure us to follow her to that world where she displays her unveiled glories.

But as revelation is now given to us, enough of the beauty of truth is revealed to inspire us with a pure affection—enough is concealed to make us long to see her face to face. And were all the knowledge that it is possible for us to receive, actually communicated to us, who amid such acquisitions could attend to the low pursuits of ordinary affairs? The immediate effect of such a disclosure would be to produce, so far as real Christians are concerned, a total stagnation of the affairs of this life. All the studies and pursuits, the arts and the labors, which now employ the activity of man—which support order or promote happiness—would lie neglected and abandoned. It is necessary that something of the 'magnitude of truth' should be concealed; something of its effulgence softened; something of its beauty veiled—or the holy mind of the Christian, absorbed in such a vision, would find all that is important in earthly life would seem utterly insignificant; and all that is attractive in this world would become tasteless and insipid. Disturbed in his lofty meditations, and interrupted in his ecstasies, by the din of business, and the obtrusion of low, groveling cares; and judging that scenes of secular activity unfitted him for communion with this heavenly visitant—he would retire from the social haunts of men, to converse with truth in the solitude of the hermitage, or the silence of the desert. So necessary is it to hang a veil on the too dazzling brightness of divine subjects.

This partial obscurity is also necessary, on account of the feebleness and limited extent of our faculties. Our minds could no more bear to look upon the unmitigated glory of divine truth, than the eye of an infant could sustain the unsoftened effulgence of the mid-day sun. Our minds cannot grasp in its full extent one single subject out of all the mighty Scriptural subjects. Some 'vague idea' may be formed of the almost illimitable range of the gospel plan of redemption, when we recollect that its development is to employ our understanding in the highest state of intellectual perfection—and to employ it, not for a measured term—but through the countless ages of an endless existence! The study, the discovery, the enjoyment of truth, will form one of the chief felicities of the heavenly state; but what must that knowledge be, which is to afford something new and interesting through eternity? How can this be obtained by man in the infancy of his existence upon earth? There are subjects yet to be known, which would have no less surpassed the understanding of Newton, than his profound discoveries in science would the mind of a child.

No wonder, then, that we walk at present amid 'mere shadows and glimmerings'. But how humbling is this view of the subject to the pride of intellect! "The breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding." Job 32:8. The thinking mind is the glory of our nature; it is the candle of the Lord shining "in the earthly house of our tabernacle," and giving light to all the faculties of our soul, to guide their operations, and to direct them in their appropriate business. To what an immeasurable elevation does the thinking mind raise man above the brute creation! What wonders it has achieved—what stupendous monuments of wisdom and power it has raised! Who can mention the names of the giants of the 'world of mind'—and especially who can survey the productions of their genius, without having high notions of the capacities of the human understanding?

But what are all the works of the greatest theologians, the profoundest philosophers, when compared with the knowledge of the eternal world—but as the ideas of one who "thought as a child, and spoke as a child? "Shall any man—shall the greatest of men—be proud of their 'crumb of knowledge', their vain of 'childish notions', puffed up with their 'poor scantling' of information? Were the lowest and least of all the glorified men, to come down and teach a synod of the greatest divines on earth—how soon would he baffle and confound them—amid their most sagacious discoveries and most celebrated works! What infantile conceptions, what childish compositions, would be found out in their most finished productions! So little reason has man for 'the pride of his knowledge'—so much cause to clothe himself with the 'garment of humility'!


"But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away. NOW we see through a glass darkly—but THEN face to face. NOW I know but in part—but THEN shall I know, even as I am known."

All these expressions refer to the celestial world, and unite to teach us that heaven is a state of perfect knowledge. Here on earth, we know only part of truth—then we shall know the whole. Here on earth, we know everything in a partial manner; there we shall know everything completely. Here on earth, we see truth only as we perceive a dark shadow through a dense medium; there we shall behold truth as clearly as when we see face to face. There we shall know truth with certainty and comprehension.

This last expression has been sometimes explained, as conveying the intimation that we shall recognize each other in the celestial state. "We shall know 'others', even as we are known by them." Many reasons concur to produce the expectation of this mutual recognition. We suppose that we shall somewhat maintain our earthly identity, not only of person but of character, and also the reminiscence of our earthly existence and history. We also suppose that we shall again be mutually known to each other in the heavenly world. This is one of the sentiments which the sacred writers rather take for granted, than stop to prove. But certainly this is not the meaning of the passage now under consideration. The apostle here speaks of our knowledge of things, not of people.

The felicity of the celestial state will, doubtless, include everything that can yield delight to a sensible, social, intellectual, and moral creature. It is eternal life—everlasting existence, attended by everything that can render existence a blessing. It is LIFE in the fullest sense of the term—life in the highest degree of perfection. The glorified body will probably retain the organs of sound and sight—the purest of the senses, which will become the inlet of the most pleasurable sensations; while it will be forever free from the cravings of appetite, the languors of sickness, the distress of pain, the weariness of labor. The social impulse will be gratified by the sublime converse of the "innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect." The moral feelings will all combine in the most unsullied purity; while the intellect will be irradiated by the light of eternal truth. The heart will thus repose in the enjoyment of the chief good—beyond which nothing remains to be enjoyed. And the mind will repose in the contemplation of the truth—beyond which nothing remains to be known.

But we are now considering heaven under the representation of a state of knowledge, and as an intellectual condition. In this viewpoint the Scriptures frequently speak of the glory to be revealed. They call it an inheritance "in light," they describe it as a world where there is NO NIGHT. There "we shall see him as he is," "behold his glory," "see him face to face," expressions which relate more to the "eyes of the mind" than to those of the body. Perhaps we do not sufficiently contemplate heaven in this view of it. The greater part of mankind are taken up with mere sensations, and are but little acquainted with the pure enjoyment connected with the perception and the apprehension of truth. The rapturous exclamation, "I have found it!" is rarely uttered by the multitude over anything but the acquisition of wealth—or the gratification of appetite. But those who have been engaged in any measure in intellectual pursuits, will be able to appreciate 'the pleasures of knowledge'. Knowledge is to the mind, like light to the eye—and the perception of truth, like water to the thirsty.

Even the comparatively barren science of mathematics, which presents nothing to exercise the passions or gratify the imagination—the truths of which derive all their interest from the objective evidence by which they are supported—yes; even these are a source of high and pure enjoyment to the human mind, which is ever seeking to arrive at infallible certainty, and can repose no where else. What exquisite delight has been experienced by some men, when, after a long process of reasoning, or a fatiguing course of experiments, they have at length arrived at a conclusion. If, then, in the present world, where the subjects of our research are often so insignificant, where our knowledge is obtained with such labor, is limited by so much ignorance, and blended with so much error; if amid such circumstances the pleasure of knowledge is so great—what will it be in the heavenly state?

Let us consider what will be the OBJECTS of our knowledge.

If we may be allowed the expression, we shall know all things that are knowable, so far as an acquaintance with them will contribute to our felicity. We shall know everything that is essential to the right performance of duty, or to the most perfect gratification of our intellect—all that lies within our proper sphere or compass as glorified creatures.

We shall perfectly comprehend all the laws which govern the material world. The discovery of these is presently considered to be among the most dignified and gratifying employments of the human understanding. It was his discoveries in natural philosophy which gave to our great Newton his notoriety. What a high station in the records of fame is assigned to those who have explored the secrets, and explained the laws, of nature! They are ranked among the illustrious members and most valuable benefactors of their race. They are looked up to with a kind of semi-idolatry, and their praises are continually chanted for their vast attainments, not only in adding to the stock of knowledge—but in accumulating fresh honors upon human nature. What sublime and astonishing facts are included in the sciences of astronomy, medicine and chemistry! How much of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Divine Architect is displayed in the works of creation! Yet these earthly discoveries are now hidden from a great portion of the redeemed, who by the disadvantages of their education are shut out from these sources of knowledge. But they will be admitted to them in heaven.

Creation will not be destroyed at the judgment day—but only purified. The 'vast and splendid machine' will not then be thrown aside, broken up, and consigned to oblivion. Nothing which the hand of the Creator has framed shall be forgotten. The brilliant scenes which are now passing before our eyes—but on which many even of regenerated minds look without understanding them—are not a 'mere passing pageant'. Beautiful was the remark of the eminently pious Bishop Hall, who, on being told in his old age that his views of astronomy were not quite correct, replied—"Well, it may be so—but I am going to heaven, and as I shall then perfectly understand the stars—I must leave the subject until then, when every mistake will be rectified."

So completely will all the disadvantages of our earthly condition be removed in heaven, whether those disadvantages arise from the Christian being born in an age when knowledge is in its infancy, or amid those privations of poverty which deny him access to the sources of information. In the hour of death, the pious but illiterate tenant of the cottage, on whose mind the orb of science never rose—though the Sun of Righteousness poured upon it the light of a spiritual illumination—ascends above the disadvantages of education, makes a glorious transition from the shadows of ignorance, in which he dwelt upon earth, into the cloudless transparency of the skies on high. His natural faculties, compressed and enfeebled now by the circumstances of his birth, shall then expand to a comprehension, and attain to a vigor, which is unsurpassed by the loftiest intellect of the human race! And he, too, shall know in heaven, the works of the God of nature—as he knew below, and shall still better know above, the works of the God of grace.

PROVIDENCE will form another mighty range of inquiry, and another source of delightful knowledge in heaven. By providence, we mean God's moral government of the universe—the course of the divine administration towards rational and moral creatures—that mighty scheme, which commenced its application before time was born, or the foundations of the earth were laid; which embraces the annals of other worlds besides ours; which includes the history of angels, men, and devils. Providence comprises the whole range of events which have taken place from the formation of the first creature, to the last moment of time, with all the tendencies, reasons, connections, and results of things; the separate existence of each individual, with the continuation and influence of the whole, in one harmonious scheme.

Providence is now full of mysteries. We are puzzled at almost every step. Innumerable are the events over which, after having in vain endeavored to sound their depth with the line of our reason, we must exclaim, "O the depth!" But we shall know all—why sin was permitted, and how it entered, with all the attendant train of now incomprehensible results which followed its introduction into the moral universe. It will then be made apparent to us, why so long a period elapsed between the first promise of a Savior, and his incarnation, sufferings, and death—why, for so many ages, the world was left in ignorance, sin, and misery—why such errors were permitted to enter the church, and so soon and so extensively to corrupt the simplicity and deform the beauty of the Christian profession—why the Man of Sin was allowed to establish his seat in the temple of Christ; to exalt himself above all that is called God; to utter his blasphemy; to shed the blood of the saints; and so long to spread the clouds of superstition, and the shades of death, over Christendom—why the impostor of Mecca was allowed to arise, and for so many ages to render a large portion of the earth inaccessible to the rays of the Sun of Righteousness—why idolatry, with all its murderous deities, and all its bloody and obscene rites, was left so long to insult the heavens, to pollute the earth, and to curse mankind.

What deep, unfathomable mysteries are these! How confounding to our reason, and how utterly beyond our research! What astonishment and delight, what inconceivable emotions, will be produced by the gradual unfolding of the mighty scheme, by the progressive discoveries of the connections and outcomes of things, and the wondrous display of divine glory which will be made by the whole. How shall we be enraptured to find that those events which now so confound us, were dark only by excess of wisdom, and that those facts which so often distressed us upon earth, were but the more somber shades of the perfect picture! What manifestations of Deity will then be made, when God shall admit us to his cabinet, and lay open to us the mysteries of his government!

And, doubtless, we shall not only see the harmony and wisdom of Providence in its general aspect and its more comprehensive combinations and arrangements—but in its particular bearing on our own private and personal history. The most important and interesting chapter in the volume of universal history is, to us, that which contains the record of our life. What clouds and shadows still rest, and in the present state ever must rest, upon our obscure and humble annals! How often is Jehovah, in his dealings with us, a God who hides himself! How often does he wrap himself in clouds, and pursue his path upon the waters, where we can neither see his goings, nor trace his footsteps! How many of his dispensations are inexplicable, and of his judgments how many are unfathomable by the short line of our reason! But whatever we don't know now, we shall know hereafter—the crooked will be made straight, the clouds of darkness will be scattered, and all his conduct towards us placed in the broad day-light of eternity. We shall see the connection which our individual history bears with the general scheme of providence; and perceive how, notwithstanding our personal insignificance—our existence was no less necessary to the perfection of the whole plan than that of the great ones of the earth. We shall see how all the varying, and numerous, and seemingly opposite events of our history, were combined into one gracious purpose of mercy, which was most perfectly wise in all its combinations.

Now we believe that "all things work together for good," then we shall see how this end was accomplished by events, which at the time put us to so much grief, and involved us in so much surprise. Delightful, most delightful, will it be to retrace our winding and often gloomy course, and discern at each change and turning, the reason of the occurrence and the wisdom of God—delightful will it be to discern the influence which all our temporal circumstances, all our disappointments, losses, and perplexities, had upon our permanent and celestial happiness. How much of divine wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness, will our short and simple history present; and what rapturous fervor will the discovery give to the song of praise which we shall utter before the throne of God and the Lamb!

REVELATION, as containing the scheme of human redemption by Jesus Christ, will be another object of our study and source of knowledge. The Bible is given to make God known; and one page of the Bible, yes, one verse, makes known more of God than all the volume of nature. But, after all, how little do we know of God, of his essence, of his triune mode of subsistence, of his natural perfections, of his moral attributes! What an unfathomable mystery is Deity! In what a pavilion of darkness does Jehovah dwell! Who by searching can find out God? In heaven we shall know him, for we shall see him face to face—we shall behold his glory, and see him as he is. We shall have as perfect an acquaintance with the divine character, as a finite mind can attain to; and in this one object, shall find employment and bliss through eternity. We shall never exhaust this theme. Eternity is necessary to study that which is infinite.

We shall there comprehend, so far as it can be done by a finite mind, the complex person of Jesus Christ. We cannot now understand this "great is the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh," but what we know not now, we shall know hereafter. Then will the cross be seen as the central point of the divine administration, bright with ten thousand glories, and sending out its beams to the extremity of the moral system. The ruin of the world by its federal connection with Adam; the election of the Jews, and the long abandonment of the Gentiles; the slow advance of Christianity to its millennial reign and triumph; the bearing of redemption upon other orders of beings besides man; the difficulties which hang like impenetrable clouds upon the doctrines of personal election, regeneration, perseverance, the freedom of the will viewed in connection with divine prescience and predestination—all, all, will be laid open to the view of glorified saints in heaven. Everything in the Scripture which is now dark, shall be made light. A reconciling point shall be found for every seeming contradiction, and the faith and patience of the saints be rewarded, for having received the truth on the credit of him who spoke it, without demanding to see before they believed.

Such shall be the sources of knowledge in heaven. O the bliss of eternally drinking in knowledge from such fountains!

We may now consider THE ADVANTAGES which the heavenly state will possess, for the acquisition of knowledge.

The soul will there be perfect in holiness, and thus the understanding will be delivered from the disturbing and bewildering influence of sin. In our present state of imperfection, the depravity of our nature contracts and misdirects our judgment—the corruptions of the heart send up a mist which veils the luster of truth, and conceals its extent and glory from the mind. The judgment cannot now see spiritual objects in all their range, and order, and beauty, because of sin. But in heaven this contracting and darkening influence will cease forever. No evil bias, no sinful prejudice, will ever warp the judgment—no disease of the soul will dim its eye, or enfeeble its power. With eagle pinion it will soar to the fountain of radiance, and with eagle vision bear the full blaze of its glory.

The natural faculty of the mind will then attain to its full maturity of strength. The mind is here in its infancy, there it will come to its maturity. Even the intellects of the greatest geniuses, while on earth, are but human minds in childhood, as we have already considered, and their most prodigious efforts but as infantile exercises. Here they only tried their powers—but in heaven the mind will put forth, to their full extent, all those wondrous faculties which are now shut up and compressed in our nature, for lack of room and opportunity to expand.

In heaven, we shall not be diverted and called off from the pursuit of truth, by the inferior interests of the body. The soul will not be prevented from making excursions into the regions of light—by the cares, needs, and anxieties which abound in this state of being—but will be left at leisure to pursue her sublime researches. She will have nothing to hinder the acquirement and enjoyment of knowledge.

To crown all, heaven is an eternal state, and everlasting ages will be afforded through which the glorified mind will carry on its pursuits. Were the term of human life again protracted to the antediluvian age, what vast attainments would be made by us all in the discovery of truth! What, then, must it be to have eternity through which to grow in knowledge.

We might notice the CHARACTER of our knowledge.

It will be PERFECT—by which we are not to understand that it will be as complete as the nature of things admits of, for we should then possess a comprehension equal to that of God. We cannot perfectly know everything as it may be known—our ideas of many things must be limited, especially those which relate to the divine nature. By perfection, we mean freedom from error—our knowledge will be free from all admixture of doubt, suspense, and fallacy; our attainments will be bounded only by our capacity; there will, perhaps, be a gradation of mind in heaven, no less obviously marked than that which exists on earth—but all capacities will be filled.

Our knowledge will doubtless be PROGRESSIVE. Increase of ideas is, perhaps, in the case of a creature essential to felicity. We now find more pleasure in receiving a new and important truth, than we experience in all we before possessed. A state in which there remains nothing more to be known, conveys not an idea of happiness so vividly as that where the delight of discovering something new is ever added to the joy of contemplating so much that is old. What a view of heaven!—An eternal advance in the most important knowledge; an everlasting accumulation of ideas; an interminable progression in truth.

"In the march of the mind through intellectual and moral perfection, there is no period set—this perfection of the just is forever carrying on—is carrying on—but shall never come to a close. God shall behold his creation forever beautifying in his eyes, and forever drawing near to himself, yet still infinitely distant from him the fountain of all goodness. There is not in true religion a more joyful and triumphant consideration than this perpetual progress which the soul makes in the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at its ultimate end. Here truth has the advantage of fable. No fiction, however bold, presents to us a conception so elevating and astonishing as this interminable line of heavenly excellence. To look upon the glorified spirit as going on from strength to strength, adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge; making approaches to goodness, which is infinite; forever adorning the heavens with new beauties, and brightening in the splendor of moral glory, through the ages of eternity, has something in it so transcendent, as to satisfy the most unbounded ambition of an immortal spirit. Christian! does not your heart glow at the thought that there is a time marked out in the annals of heaven, when you shall be what the angels now are; when you shall shine with that glory; and when, in full communion with the Most High, you shall see him as he is?"

How our knowledge in heaven will be acquired, whether by testimony, by immediate revelation, or by some method of mental application, it would be idle to speculate. We know that whatever mode is determined upon by God, will promote, and not interrupt our felicity; we shall have nothing of the weariness of study—nothing of the concern of doubt—nothing of the torture of suspense. Ideas will flow into the soul with the same ease and pleasure on our part, as rays of light come to the bodily eye.

Whatever knowledge we gain in heaven will be TRANSFORMING—it will not be 'mere opinion' or 'uninfluential speculations'. All our ideas will be as fuel to feed the flame of love, which will then burn upon the altar of the soul; all will be quickening, penetrating, influential. Our opinions will be principles of action. Everything will lead us to see more of God, to love him with a more intense glow of holy affection, and to be more conformed to him. The light of truth will ever be associated with the warmth of love. "We shall be like God, for we shall see him as he is!"

It is difficult to find in the volume of revelation a stronger internal evidence of its divine original, than the view it gives of the celestial state, combining as it does the perfection of knowledge and of purity. Every other representation which has been given of heaven, bears the mark of an earthly source—the proof of being a human device. As in seeking for a Deity, man found the prototype in his own passions, when he had abandoned the one living and true God; so, in forming a heaven, he collected all the materials from the objects of his own fleshly delights. The Elysium of the Greeks and the Romans; the Hall of the Scandinavians; the sensual Paradise of the Mohammedans; the fantastic abodes of the departed Hindus—are all adapted to their depraved appetites, and were suggested by their corrupt imaginations.

A heaven made up of perfect knowledge, and of perfect love, is a vision entirely and exclusively divine, and which never beamed upon the human understanding, until the splendid image came upon it from the Word of God. How worthy of God is such a representation of celestial bliss! It is an emanation from his own nature, as thus described, "God is light—God is love." The glorious reality is evidently the provision of his own wisdom and grace; and the sublime description of it in the Scriptures, is as evidently the delineation of his own finger.