Book 3 - Chapter 14: Of Glorification - by Herman WitsiusThe Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
Check out these works on Covenant Theology.
Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.
This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.
Chapter XIV: Of Glorification
I. As all God’s works tend to his glory, so also to the glorification of his chosen people. This doubtless is the glory of God, to manifest himself in his elect, to be what he is to himself, the fountain of consummate happiness. When he does this, “he is glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe,” 2 Thess. 1:10. Believers exult in this hope of their salvation, which is so connected with the glory of God, that it is called by that very name in the holy Scripture: “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” Rom. 5:2. Our glorification is called the glory of God, not only because it comes from, and is freely bestowed on us by God; but also, because the magnificence of the Divine Majesty displays itself no where more illustriously, than in that glorious happiness which he makes to shine in his beloved people.
II. Some would prove that we are called to this by God, from 2 Peter. 1:3, who hath called us to glory and virtue; but the Greek runs, “διὰ δοξης καὶ ἀρετῆς, by glory and virtue,” which may be understood either of our glory and virtue, or of the glory and virtue of God and of Christ. If we understand it of ours, the meaning will be, that God had called us to communion with himself, by such a clear display of the glory to be revealed in the saints, and by the proposal of true virtue, which is made in the Gospel, that none can be acquainted with it, but must be inflamed with a desire after it. But it will be better to apply them to God, as Peter elsewhere calls them “τας ἀρετὰς τοῦ καλέσαντος ἡμᾶς, the virtues (praises) of him who hath called us,” 1 Peter. 2:9. And some manuscripts have “ἰδίᾳ δόξᾳ καὶ ἀρετῆ, his own glory and virtue;” and then the meaning will be, he hath called us by his own glorious virtue; or, what I take to be fullest, the Lord Jesus hath called us by glory, while he presents unto us a glory in himself, as of the only begotten of the Father, and by virtue, while he discovered a life full of every instance of virtue, which, as they are set forth in a preached Gospel, clearly show, that he was the Son of God and Saviour in the world. And thus we keep to the proper signification of the particle διὰ, which I have not yet seen proved by any example to signify the same as εις, to. Indeed, the venerable Beza adduces Rom. 6:4, where Christ is said to be raised from the dead, διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ Πατρὸς, that is, says he, “to the glory of the Father.” But such an explication is unnecessary; let us say, as the words bear, “by the glory of the Father,” which admits a twofold sense, and both of them very agreeable. As first, by glory to mean the strength and glorious power of God, for sometimes the Greek word δόξα answers to the Hebrew עוז, Isa. 45:24. Thus God is said to “have raised Christ, διὰ τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, by his own power,” 1 Cor. 6:14, in the same sense. Again, if by glory we understand the display of the divine supereminent excellency, we will say, that Christ was raised by the glory of the Father, because it was for the Father’s glory that the only begotten and righteous Son of God should live a glorious life in himself, and a holy life in his members.
III. But whatever be Peter’s meaning, it is evident we are both called and justified, in order to glory; and for that end powerfully preserved by God. Paul speaks of our calling, 1 Thess. 2:12: “Who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory:” of justification he says, Rom. 8:30, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified:” of conservation Peter speaks, 1 Epist. 1:5: “Who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.
IV. GLORIFICATION is the gracious act of God, whereby he actually translates his chosen and redeemed people from an unhappy and base, to a happy and glorious state. And it may be considered, either as begun in this life; or as consummated in the next. “The first-fruits of the Spirit,” Rom. 8:23, who is “the Spirit of glory,” 1 Pet. 4:14, are even in this life granted to the children of God; not only that by these they might comfort themselves in adversity, but also that, from these, they might in some measure infer, what and how great that future happiness is, which is reserved for them in heaven; and that, having had a foretaste of that great reward they expect, they may be the more cheerful in the course of faith and holiness: now these first fruits consist in the following things.
V. First, In that most excellent holiness, which is freely bestowed on the elect, and was described, chap. xii. For, as there is the greatest filthiness in sin, it being contrary to the most just and righteous law of God; so also the greatest vileness and misery, as it makes man most unlike the infinitely glorious and blessed God. Accordingly these two things are conjoined; “they have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23; and sin is called “that shameful thing,” Jer. 3:24. On the contrary, in righteousness and holiness, there is not only some moral goodness, in so far as they agree with the law and with God, the pattern of them; but also an excellent glory, in so far as there is in them a resemblance of the most blessed God; whom Moses represents as נאדר בקדא magnificent, “glorious in holiness,” Exod. 15:11. Accordingly, “the image and glory of God,” 1 Cor. 11:7, are connected. See what we have said, chap. viii. sect. ix. To say nothing now about that incredible sweetness and boldness with God, which the consciousness of sanctification gives those who endeavour after it. On which account David described “the statutes of the Lord to be the rejoicing of the heart, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb,” Psa. 19:8, 10.
VI. Secondly, in that vision of God, with which He honours the saints even in this life. We shall presently hear, that the complete happiness of the life to come consists in the perfect vision of God. That vision, therefore, which is the privilege of believers here, is certainly the beginning of that other. Now God presents himself here to be seen; 1st, By faith, which, indeed, is mere darkness, when compared with the light of glory, and, in that respect, is distinguished from sight, 2 Cor. 5:7, and said to be the evidence of “things not seen,” Heb. 11:1; yet it is a clear and shining light, in comparison of the ignorance of unbelievers, “in whom the god of this world hath blinded their minds,” 2 Cor. 4:4. Hence Moses is said by faith “to have seen him who is invisible,” Heb. 11:27. By faith also “we all with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” 2 Cor. 3:18. Nor does the faith of believers behold the perfections of God only in general, as they are in him, but it likewise beholds them as belonging to them, and become theirs for the sake of Christ. Which certainly has no small influence on our salvation. He that believes, and by faith views God, and that as his own, not only expects, but already has eternal life, and through that very “faith he is saved,” Eph. 2:8; according to that of our Lord, John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.” 2dly, God is also seen by an experimental sense of his goodness, which intimately insinuates itself into the soul, in the holy use of the creatures. So that he not only knows by reasoning that God is good, not only believes it on the authority of infallible testimony, but has the experience of it both by sight, sense, and taste, while God himself, by means of his creatures, wonderfully delights the soul. To this purpose is the invitation of the psalmist, Psa. 34:8: “O! taste and see, that the Lord is good.” 3dly, He is seen still more immediately, when he reveals himself to the soul, while deeply engaged in holy meditation, prayer, and other exercises of devotion, as the fountain of life and the source of light; so as wonderfully to affect it with the immediate darting of his rays into it. This, I imagine, was what David desired, when he sought “to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple,” Psa. 27:4. And this, I am apt to think, he obtained, when he sung, כן בקדש חזיתיך, “to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary,” Psa. 63:3. 4thly, Something peculiar is at times imparted to sick and dying Christians, in whose imagination God sometimes draws so distinctly the brightest images of heavenly things, that they seem to see them before their eyes; nor are they otherwise affected than if the things themselves were present before them. The nearer the soul is to heaven, it is also enlightened with the brighter rays of supercelestial light, flowing from him who, being light itself, dwells in light inaccessible. Of which there are not a few instances in the history of the life and death of godly persons, and very many experiences offer in our daily visitation of the sick. This is a kind of descent of heaven into the soul, before the soul is taken up to heaven.
VII. Maimonides, the wisest among the Jews, seems to have had something to his purpose in his mind, when, in More Nevochim, p. 3, c. 51, towards the end, he speaks thus: “The more the faculties of the body are impaired, and the fire of lust is extinguished, the more is the understanding strengthened, its light increased, the apprehension purified, and the more it rejoices at what it apprehends; so that when the perfect man is arrived at mature age, and just approaching to death, the apprehension, the joy arising from that apprehension, and the love of the thing apprehended, are, in an extraordinary manner, heightened, so that the soul, as it were, is in a state of separation from the body, during the time of that high pleasure. To this our wise men had an eye, while they say that, at the death of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, these three died בנשיקה, in the kiss, or by the kiss. For, say they, what is said, ‘So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab על פי יהוה, at the mouth of the Lord,’ Deut. 34:5, which shows, that he died in the act of kissing, בנשיקה. And so it is said of Aaron, ‘At the mouth of the Lord, and he died there,’ Numb. 33:38. They also affirm of Miriam, that she died נכשיקה, in the act of kissing: but yet the Scripture does not say of her, at the mouth of the Lord, because, being a woman, that parabolical mode of speech was not suitable. But the meaning is, that they died from excessive love, in the pleasure of the apprehension thereof. As to the phrase itself, our wise men borrowed it from the song of songs, where the apprehension of the Creator, conjoined with the supreme love of God, is called נשיקח, ‘kissing, let him kiss me with the love of his mouth,’ Cant. 1:2.” Thus far that learned Jew.
VIII. Thirdly, In the gracious possession and enjoyment of God; when God himself, according to the promise of his covenant, holds communion with them, and gives them not only to see him, but also to possess and enjoy him in the manner we explained, Chap. x. sect. 33; and in this consists salvation. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord,” Psa. 145:15. He may justly glory of riches, who is admitted into the possession of such great happiness. “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage,” Psa. 16:5, 6. But that fruition of God consists in that sweet and frequent delight the soul takes in him as its treasure, Psa. 73:28, in its being enriched with his riches, fed with his plenty, preserved by his power, directed by his wisdom, refreshed by his goodness, and, in fine, filled with his sufficiency; so that he knows of nothing he can desire, besides the perfect fruition of him, of which he has now only the first fruits. “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: he shall be filled with the goodness of thine house, even of thy holy temple.” Psa. 65:4.
IX. Fourthly, Such magnificent beginnings of glory beget “all riches of the full assurance of understanding,” Col. 2:2, and the firmest certainty of consummate happiness to be enjoyed in its appointed time. For when one has obtained the first fruits of the Spirit, and has so many and such evident signs of his communion with God and Christ, why may he not say with Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,” 2 Tim. 1:12: and again, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 8:38, 39. And indeed, I know not, whether any thing more delightful and pleasant can be desired in this life, than that full assurance of our faith, which entirely calms the conscience, and delights it with the ineffable sweetness of consolations.
X. Fifthly, These so many and so great benefits joined together, beget a joy unspeakable and full of glory, whereby Peter testifies, “though now not seeing, yet believing they rejoice,” 1 Pet. 1:8. For that God, with whom they have fellowship as their God, is their exceeding joy אל שמחת נילם “the God of the joy of their exultation,” Psa. 43:4. Nothing exceeds this joy in efficacy, for it penetrates into the inmost soul, and is alone sufficient to sweeten the most grievous of all afflictions, let them be ever so bitter, and easily dispel the greatest anguish of soul: so that the faithful martyrs of Christ, who had tasted the sweetness of it, have gone with joy and songs of praise to the most cruel torments, as to the most sumptuous feasts. Nothing is more pure. It does not discompose the mind, unless in a salutary, wise, and holy manner; that, having no command of itself, but being full of God, and on the very confines of heaven, it both favours and speaks above the capacity of a man. The more plentifully one has drank of this spiritual nectar, though he may appear delirious to others who are unacquainted with those delights, he is the more pure, and wise, and happy. Nothing, in fine, is more constant; “Everlasting joy upon their heads,” Isa. 35:10; “Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you,” John 16:22. If it is not constant as to the second effects, or after acts, as they are called, yet it is so at least, as to the foundation and first act. For though God in this life, according to his infinite wisdom, mixes the communication of his sweetness with much bitterness, yet believers have that in them, which proves the inexhausted fountain of a joy springing forth at times, and of a delight that is afterwards to continue flowing for ever. Nor does God at all times deal out this joy with a sparing hand: he sometimes bestows it in such plenty on his people, that they are almost made to own themselves unable to bear such heavenly delight on earth, and to say with Ephrem Syrus; “Lord, withdraw a little, lest the brittle vial of my heart should burst by the rays of thy favour darting too strongly.” If God does so great things for his people in the prison, what will he not do in the palace? If the first fruits are so plentiful, how abundant will the harvest be?
XI. The glorification of the future life has again its several degrees and periods; and is either of the soul separated from its body, before the last judgment, or of the whole man after the resurrection. We are here to take notice of the gangrene of the Socinian divinity, whose meaning it is hard to come at, these worst of hypocrites are so involved and dark. I shall give their own words, from the compendiolum they themselves drew up, and which the venerable Cloppenburg undertook to refute.
XII. Their sentiments about the state of souls after death are these: That man by death undergoes such a total dissolution, as to be altogether nothing, unless that his spirit (even as the spirit of the beasts) like a kind of wind or breath, returns to God, who gave it, Eccl. 12.——because that breath or spirit is a kind of virtue or efficacy of him, to whom it returns——moreover, they infer from this, that souls after death have no sensation; nay, do not, indeed actually subsist in themselves, as persons do. The whole comes to this: 1st, Since they contend that the soul is not a substance, but a kind of virtue and efficacy, as strength, health, wit, skill, and the like; they deny that it any ways subsists of itself. 2dly, As they say, it returns to God, they ascribe nothing to it, but what it has in common with the spirit of beasts; dreaming, namely, of a kind of divine air or breath, a particle of which every man, and every beast enjoys; by which God inspires, vegetates and moves their bodies, and which, when it is breathed out at death, he receives as a kind of virtue or efficacy of his own. 3dly, However that return to God hinders not man, “after death, from becoming altogether nothing,” as beasts are nothing after death; only with this difference, that the soul of man is rational, and has the hope of eternal life; such as the souls of the righteous who will actually live for ever. But then they mean that eternal life, which begins at the resurrection, by which the soul as well as the body will be again brought into being; while the souls of the wicked will remain in the same condition with those of the beasts, which are not to be reproduced by any resurrection. 4thly. Since they deny the souls, surviving death, to be substances; it is much more evident, that they deny them to be capable of rewards or punishments, which is downright epicurism.
XIII. We are therefore to prove these three things in their order: 1st, That human souls truly survive after death. 2dly. That they live and think; for that life, which is essential to the soul, consists in these; and consequently they either enjoy the beatific communion of God with the highest delight, or are tormented with the gnawing worm of conscience, and the horrible expectation of a future judgment with the utmost pain. 3dly. That the souls of the righteous (for we now treat of their glory) are immediately, upon their quitting the body, received, not only into heavenly joys, but also into heavenly mansions.
XIV. As to the first: that the soul, on being set free from the body, subsists; and that man after death is not reduced into nothing, the Sacred Writings so evidently declare, that scarce any thing can be clearer. The Lord Jesus invincibly proves that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob existed, when, long after their death, God declared that he was their God, Matt. 22:32, compared with Luke 20:38. For, how could he be their God, when themselves had no existence? And if the soul, when separated from the body, could not at all subsist, Paul would have ridiculously doubted, whether he was caught up into the third heaven, in the body or out of the body, 2 Cor. 12:2, 3. His words also had been vain, Phil. 1:23, “I have a desire to be dissolved, or depart, and to be with Christ.” Indeed, he says, to be dissolved, or depart, and not to be extinguished: nor can we refuse that he has a being, who is said to be with Christ. And how, pray, are we come not only to myriads of angels, but also to the spirits of just men made perfect, who are in the heavenly Jerusalem, if none such existed? Heb. 12:23. To what purpose also is that well known parable of the rich man and Lazarus, but to acquaint us with the existence of separate souls, and their different conditions? Luke 16. To what end those prayers of believers, and of Christ himself, by which they commended their departing spirits to God? Psa. 31:5; Acts 7:59. In a word, seeing Christ, whom these men reproach as a mere man, was a true man, and in all things like unto his brethren, I ask, what they think was become of his soul during the three days of his death? Did it also vanish into thin air, and was Christ really annihilated after his death, till his soul was raised together with his body? One or other of these they must say! either that the soul of Christ was of a quite different nature from ours, which, they assert, can no ways subsist, viz. in a state of separation, and so they contradict Paul, who declares that “He was in all things like unto his brethren, yet without sin,” Heb. 2:17, and 4:15: or that Christ was annihilated during the three days of his death; and so they contradict Christ himself, who promised the thief that he should be with him in paradise, immediately upon the death of both, Luke 23:43.
XV. The heretics, in like manner, pervert the meaning of the Preacher, who says, Eccl. 12:7, “then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was; and the spirit shall return God, who gave it:” as if that return was nothing but a resolution into God, of I know not what virtue, which they call a particle of divine breath, proceeding from God; almost in such a manner with God as now received from the body, as it was with him before it removed into the body, which are monstrous opinions! It is contrary as well to the nature of God, as to ours, that either our soul should be any part of God, or God any part of our soul. The meaning of the preacher is no ways obscure. After the death of the man, he says, that the condition of the body is quite different from that of the spirit. The body, when deprived of the soul, he calls dust; because the union of soul with body is the band, and as it were, the cement whereby the parts of the body remain conjoined. After the departure of the soul, the lifeless body, which at first was formed out of the earth, is nothing but a heap of earthy particles, into which also it resolves in process of time. But the condition of the soul is quite different. It dies not, nor is dissolved, as the body; but “goes to God,” as to the judge, who is to assign it its place, either of reward or punishment. Nay, “it returns to God,” not as if it had actually been with God, before it was infused into the body; (for God “formeth the spirit of man within him,” Zech. 12:1,) but because, in order of nature and of efficiency, it was God’s before it was man’s; for God gave it to and made it for man. What Euripides has elegantly said, as quoted by Philo in his book, De Mundi Immortalitate, wonderfully agrees with this saying of the preacher,
Χωρεῖ δʼ ὀπίσω, τὰ μὲν ἐκ γαίας
Φύντʼ εἰς γαῖαυ· τὰ δʼ ἀπʼ αἰθερίου
Βλαστόντα γονῆς, εἰς οὐράνιον
Πύλον ἦλθε πάλιν.
That is, as Grotius explains it.
Retroque meant, quæ terra dedit,
Iterum in terram. Quod ab ætherio
Venerat ortu, cæleste poli
In English thus:
“What springs from earth, goes back to earth again: but what from heaven derives its high pedigree, thither again returns?” Similar to this is that of Epicharmus, apud Plutarch ad Appollon: “Συνεκρίθη καὶ διεκρίθη καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ὅθεν ἧλθε ἧλθε πάλιν• γᾶ μεν εἱς γᾶν, πνεῡμα δʼ ἄνω. They are joined together, and afterwards separated, and return again from whence they came; earth to earth, the spirit to heaven.”
XVI. None should oppose to this testimony, the 19th verse of the 3d chapter; “I said in my heart——that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have one breath, so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is vanity.” For, it is evident, that the comparison between man and beast is only made with respect to what is external and strikes the eye; inasmuch as man equally with the beasts is deprived of that life, whereby he can enjoy the pleasures of this world. He does not here consider the condition of the next world, which is apprehended by faith. And it is plain that these words cannot be understood absolutely, but only relatively, as to the privation of animal life, because, otherwise man and beast would have the same kind of spirit; and that man has no pre-eminence above the beasts, none who is not out of his senses will affirm, and who, by giving up all pretence to solid reason, has willingly turned himself to a beast.
XVII. When the Scripture affirms, that the dead “are no more,” Psa. 39:13, Jer. 31:15, it does by no means say, that nothing of them survives more, including even the soul in the same condition; which the adversaries themselves will scarce venture to affirm: but that they are not to be what they were before, namely, living men, consisting of soul and body united; nor, where they were before, “באדץ החיים in the land of the living;” and because all their converse with the living is cut off, so that with respect to that intercourse it is much the same as if they had no existence: see Gen. 5:24.
XVIII. Now let us proceed to what we undertook to prove in the second place. That the soul not only survives after death, but also lives, understands, and feels either the favour or vengeance of God. Not only Scripture, but even reason should persuade us of this: for the faculty of thinking, in which the life of the soul consists, is so essential thereto, that the soul cannot exist without it. Though we really approve not their way of speaking who affirm that the soul is thought; yet it is evident that thought is so essential to a rational soul, that a soul which cannot think, is not, indeed, to be deemed a soul. And if the soul has lived in the body, without deriving its life from the body; why should it not live, when it is freed from the prison of the body? Will it, when it comes to God, the fountain of life, lose its own life? Nay, on the contrary, it is agreeable to think, that the nearer it comes to God, it will live in a more excellent manner. Some of the heathen philosophers have spoken much more justly of the soul, than those who are the reproach and disgrace of the Christian name. Plato said the soul was “αὐτοκινητος,” self-moving, or endowed with spontaneity: Alcinous, de doctrina Platonis, has best explained the meaning of that word, c. 25: “Αὐτοκίνητον δὲ φησὶ τὴν ψυχὴν· ὅτι σύμφυτον ἔχει τὲν ζωὴν, ἀεὶ ἐνεργουσαν καθʼ αὐτήν. He affirms the soul to be “self-moving, because it has a connate life, ever active in itself.” Aristotle, in like manner, lib. iii. de anima textu septimo: “Τὸ μὲν αἰθητικὸν ουκ ἄνευ σώματος, ὁ δὲ νους χωριστός. The act of sense is not performed without a body; but the mind is separable therefrom. Also, textu decimo novo et vicessimo; “Χωρίσθεὶς δὲ ἐστι μόνον τουθʼ ὅπερ ἐστι, καὶ τουτο μόνον ἀθάνατὸν και ἂϊδιον· the soul alone, whatever that be, is separated, and that alone is immortal and eternal.” See Vossius de Idololat. lib. 1. c. 10. Thus the philosophers ascribe life to the soul, even in the state of separation, and a faculty of acting independent of the body. But nothing, from a mere heathen, can exceed in grandeur those words of Maximus Tyrius: “How then shalt thou be able to emerge out of this sea, and obtain a view of God? Then only, and that perfectly, when thou shalt be called by him, which will soon be the case, only tarry thou, and wait till he call. Old age will presently come, which shall conduct thee thither: death, which cowards, or the faint-hearted deplore, and tremble at its approach, will soon be here. Whoever, on the contrary, longs to be joined to God, expects it with joy, receives it with undaunted resolution.” And again, Dissert. ii. 25: Ὅν γάρ καλουσιν οἱ πολλοὶ θάνατον, αὐτὸ τουτο ἦν άθανασίας ἀρχὴ, και γένεσις μελλοντος βίου· what the generality call death, is the very beginning of immortality, and a birth to a future life; while the body, indeed, perishes by the very law of its nature, and drops in its appointed time; τῆς δὲ ψυχῆς ἐπὶ τον αὐτῆς τόπον καὶ βιον ανακαλουμενης, but souls are recalled to their proper element and life.” See also Dissert. 28. For it would be too tedious to transcribe all.
XIX. But let us take a view of the Scripture testimonies: the Lord Jesus expressly declares, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after death, do all live unto God, Luke 20:38. Which is not only to be understood of that happy life of the entire compound, which they are to obtain by the resurrection from the dead; but of the blessed life of the soul in a state of separation, which our Lord ascribes to them in the present time. In order to prove the resurrection he proceeds in this manner; as first, he concludes, that the soul survives and lives, and then from that infers the resurrection of the body, because God’s covenant was not made with souls, but with entire persons. And what is clearer than that testimony of Paul? Rom. 8:10: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin; but the spirit is life, because of righteousness.” He opposes the spirit to the body; to this last, he attributes death, as the effect of sin; to the former, life, flowing from the life of Christ, even while the body is dead. Add, that not only Elias, who, without death was taken up to heaven; but also Moses, who it is evident died, appeared to the disciples in discourse with Christ, Matt. 17:3, which could not possibly be without the life of the soul. But what kind of body Moses appeared in, is not for us to determine, as the Holy Ghost is silent about it.
XX. And why had Paul a desire “to depart and to be with Christ,” and thought it “far better” for him? Phil. 1:23: why did he judge it “gain to die?” ver. 21; and why are believers actuated by the same spirit, “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” 2 Cor. 5:8; if, after death, they are to be altogether deprived of that most holy and sweet communion with God in Christ, which they enjoy in this life? Can it be imagined, that believers expected no happiness but what they were only to obtain at the last day? as Smalcius impertinently talks. But what should oblige them to wish therefore for death, which was to bring them no nearer to that day? Paul longed for death, and reckoned it gain; believers were willing rather to be absent from the body. Say, Smalcius, tell us, why Paul desired it, why believers rather chose it, if they had nothing to expect before the last day? Certainly, death in that case is not any gain, but an inestimable loss, as it deprives them of so many and great blessings we so lately described, and brings them no manner of advantage.
XXI. But by what cavil will they elude what is asserted, Rev. 14:15: “Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” This testimony contains many things. 1st, That the dead in the Lord are blessed; but, to suppose any blessedness without knowledge or feeling, is only for those to affirm who are destitute of all spiritual knowledge and feeling. 2dly, That the dead are happy ἀπάρτι, from henceforth, which is to be understood either of that time, when John heard that voice from heaven, and was ordered to write these things; or, of that time when believers die in the Lord. But pray, what new change was introduced in the dead from that time in which the revelation was made to John, that the dying should then be happier than those, who, a little before, had died in the Lord? Unless, perhaps, it be intended to show, that at what time the everlasting Gospel shall be again preached, ver. 6, after convicting Antichrist and purging the church, there will from that time, be preached and written in the church, what we contend for concerning the happiness of believers after death, the fiction of a purgatory being quite exploded. But it seems more natural to think, that ἀπάρτι, from thenceforth, denotes the moment of their death; because, from that time the more perfect happiness of their souls shall commence. 3dly, That they then “rest from their labours,” which rest consists not in a sleep that deprives them of all sense; but in a freedom from all vexations, and in the most calm and never to be interrupted participation of the divine glory; and, in a word, in a continued serenity of conscience. 4thly, That “their works follow them:” that is, that they enjoy the free reward of their good actions, which can then, as little as afterwards, be unattended with any sensible feeling of the intelligent soul.
XXII. Nothing more plausible is advanced by our adversaries against this truth, than that reasoning of Paul, by which he proves the resurrection of the dead from this consideration; because otherwise, they who believe in Christ, would to no purpose stand in jeopardy every hour, in vain undergo so many calamities for Christ, and because Christians would of all men be the most miserable, 1 Cor. 15:19, 30, 31, 32. Certainly, they say, this would be false, should the souls of the righteous, immediately upon death, enjoy the happiness of heaven, and of the wicked feel the torments of hell; for the former would not bear their calamity in vain, nor the latter pursue the pleasures of the flesh with impunity; and the pious would be much more happy than the wicked, though their bodies should never rise. But it is to be observed; 1st, That they whom Paul refutes, did not only deny the resurrection of the body, but also the immortality of the soul, just as the Sadducees did, against whom Christ disputed concerning the resurrection. And this is the reason why both our Lord, and his faithful servant, reason in such a manner as to draw both conclusions at once. This appears from the points which the apostle undertook to refute, ver. 18, 19: “They which are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ;” and ver. 32, “let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” All which tended to persuade men, that there was nothing after death either to be feared or hoped for. If that be true, says the apostle, that all who die perish, if our hope be confined to this life, if the soul neither survives, nor the body is to be raised, in vain are so many calamities undergone for Christ, and Christians of all men are the most miserable, which is not a false or deceitful, but a solid way of reasoning, and worthy of an apostle. 2dly, As the dangers and calamities the apostle here speaks of, principally concern the body, he justly argues, that the body seems to have been in vain employed for the Lord, if it also was not to be raised, in its appointed time, to a participation of the reward; so that no inference can be deduced from this against the immortality of the soul.
XXIII. Let us now in the last place show, that when the souls of the godly are separated from the body, they are received not only into heavenly joys, but also into heavenly mansions. The apostles assures us of this, 2 Cor. 5:1: “for we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” He assigns a twofold receptacle for the soul; one earthly, that is, the body, in which it resides during this animal life, and from which it departs at death; the other heavenly, which it possesses immediately on quitting the former. For here he speaks of that eternal receptacle for man, which death makes way for, and which is said to be eternal in the heavens. In the same “heavenly Jerusalem,” he places the “spirits of just men made perfect;” where are “myriads of angels,” and “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,” Heb. 12:22, 24. In like manner also, John saw “a throne set in heaven, and round about the throne four and twenty elders,” who are the patriarchs [or representatives] both of the Old and New Testament church, sitting on so many thrones, Rev. 4:2, 4.
XXIV. Nor are we to doubt, but this was Christ’s meaning, when he said to the penitent thief: “Verily I say unto thee, To-day thou shalt be with me in paradise,” Luke 22:43. These words are an exact answer to the petition of the thief, who prayed that Christ would “remember him:” Christ answers, I will not only remember thee as absent, but promise that thou shall be in my presence in everlasting glory: “thou shalt be with me.” The thief fixed the time in which he desired his petition might be granted, viz., “when thou comest unto thy kingdom.” Christ informed him not only of the place where he was to reign, which he calls “Paradise,” that is, the third heavens, compare 2 Cor. 12:2, 4. A very common way of speaking among the Jews, who place the souls of the godly deceased כנן עדן, in the garden of Eden, but also of the time, in which he was to enter on his kingdom, TO-DAY: “and it was about the sixth hour,” the noon of the day, before the expirations of which, the death of both intervening, that our Lord promised him these joys. But because such a sudden change of condition seemed to be strange and almost incredible, Christ confirms his promise by an asseveration, AMEN, verily.* These things are plain. Whereas, on the other hand, the interpretations of our adversaries are strained and foolish. They imagine the words may be thus pointed or distinguished, “I say unto thee to-day, thou shalt be with me in paradise,” as if Christ did not fix the time when the thief was to be with him in paradise, but only declared the truth of what he promised. And they refer to Deut. 30:11, 15, 17, 18, where Moses says, “I command thee this day,” &c. But how weak is this! For, 1st, The thief could not be ignorant of the time, when Christ said this to him; he did not want that inculcated. 2dly, It is not our Lord’s saying “to-day,” but his saying “Amen, verily,” that declares the truth of the promise. 3dly, To-day denotes a time, and answers to the when,* which was in the petition of the thief. 4thly, Maldonat himself looks upon this exposition as insipid and weak: Bellarmine accounts it ridiculous, from the same arguments almost with ours. See Riveti, Catholicus Orthodoxus, quæst. 60. 5thly, The phraseology of Moses is of a different nature: “I command thee this day;” “I denounce unto you this day;” for, besides, that the words there cannot be otherwise construed, here they both may and ought. Moses there prophesies of things that were to come to pass afterwards, and would have the Israelites mindful of that time, in which he had foretold them in such a pathetical protestation; and therefore, this day or to-day, has a remarkable emphasis in the discourse of Moses, but renders the discourse of Christ, if construed as our adversaries would have it, weak and insipid. Moreover, what they contend for, that the thief understood by Christ’s coming into his kingdom, his coming to judge the quick and the dead, is asserted without any proof, nor will they ever be able to prove it. He had certainly been mistaken, if he imagined that Christ’s kingdom was to be deferred to the last day. Christ had reigned long before, notwithstanding the vain rage of all his enemies. And Christ’s kingdom so far from beginning at the last day, that Paul declares, he will then “deliver up the kingdom to his Father,” 1 Cor. 15:24. But a grosser impiety, than any Christian could well be imagined guilty of, is what the heretic subjoins; that, “from all these things, there is not the least pretence to conclude, that Christ, in any respect, lived after death, or that any other men live after death.” These things are blasphemous, and cannot be either read or heard without horror.
XXV. Let us add Luke 16:22, and Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. It is the general opinion of the Jews that God uses the ministry of angels in carrying home the souls of the pious. Thus they relate concerning Moses, that when the moment of his death was come, God said to Gabriel “צא והנא נשמתו של משח, go and bring me the soul of Moses.” And Christ confirms the opinion about the ministry of angels by his own authority. But whither was the soul of Lazarus conveyed? Into Abraham’s bosom. From which expression it is certainly manifest, that the place and state of the blessed are understood, from the opposition to the place and state of the miserable, in which the rich man was. But the learned are not agreed about the derivation of that metaphor. Some think, that this present life is compared to a tempestuous sea, the condition of the pious soul after death to a calm haven, signified by the term, bosom. Thus in Virgil:
Nunc tantum sinus, et statio malefida carinis.
It is now only a bosom, or bay, and an unsafe harbour.
And James Capellus has observed, that what the Latins called “navem appellere, to bring a ship to land,” the Greeks express by κελλειν· from which Eustathius remarks, is derived κολπος, a bosom, or bay, which is the word that Luke uses here. But Ludov. Capellus thinks, that the bosom of Abraham is an expression borrowed from the custom of parents, who cherish their dear infants in their bosom, in which they also sometimes sweetly rest and sleep: just as the godly are said to sleep, when they die, and to rest from their labours: but where can they be said more properly to rest and sleep, than in the bosom of Abraham, their spiritual father? For confirming this interpretation, we may add, that little ones thus tenderly treated, are called by the Greeks εγκολπίδια βρέφη, children in the bosom; see also John 1:18, “the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father,” that is, who is most intimate and familiar with, and extraordinarily beloved by the Father. But, if I mistake not, they explain that expression best, who think that here, as also Matt. 8:11, and often elsewhere, eternal happiness is represented under the similitude of some splendid and sumptuous feast. For it was customary, that whoever of the guests was allowed to lean on the bosom of the master of the entertainment, was accounted the most honourable person. Thus John 13:23, “there was leaning on his bosom one whom Jesus loved.” Moreover, there is no doubt but the Jews ascribed to Abraham, the father of the Gentiles, the principal place among the righteous. Here then is denoted the very great honour conferred on Lazarus, who, in that blessed abode, was placed next to Abraham. See Cameron and Grotius on the place. I conclude in the words of Augustine, lib. ii. de Origine Animæ, c. 4: “Were you then so very ignorant of this sound and very wholesome article of faith, that souls are judged upon their departure out of the body, before they come to that other judgment, in which they must be judged, at the restitution of their bodies, and that they are either tormented or glorified in that very flesh, in which they lived? Who has with such obstinacy of mind been so deaf to the Gospel, as not to hear, and, upon hearing, not to believe these things, in the instance of that poor man who, after death, was carried into Abraham’s bosom, and in that of the rich man, who was consigned to eternal torment?” What the opinion of the ancients was concerning the bosom of Abraham, Martyr has with great learning, explained at large, Classis Tertia Loc. xvi. §. 7, seq.
XXVI. When we ascribe to separate souls, not only a change of state, but also of place, and new habitations or mansions, we speak agreeable to the Scriptures, which assign mansions and a place to heaven, John 14:2, 3, and everlasting habitations, Luke 16:9, and a house, 2 Cor. 5:1, 2. Yet we do not think that souls are in a place in the same manner that bodies are: nor do we conceive that they consist of some very subtle corpuscles, whose particles are commensurate to the parts of the space, in which they are included. The very learned Parker, de descensu ad inferos, p. 106, 107, has given undoubted testimonies, that a great many of the ancients were of this opinion. But we think that, not only with respect to their external operations, but even as to their substance, they are in that part of the created world, where Christ is bodily present, so as not to be on the earth. We distinguish the essence of the soul, which is a spiritual and immaterial substance, from allits operations whatever, whether internal or external, as an agent is distinguished from its action. Nor do we only inquire about the actions of the soul, in what place they may be exerted, but also about its substance, in what place it may exist. Seeing it ceases not altogether to be, it ought to be somewhere: and as it is not infinite, it cannot be everywhere. It is therefore in some place; for instance, in some part of heaven, or of hell, not indeed locally, as if it had parts commensurate to the parts of space; but in a way suitable to a spiritual nature: so that while it is in this place, it cannot be in another. Nor is it in this place, because it operates therein; but on the contrary, operates in this and in no other place, because it exists in this place. Hence the presence of the soul, as to its substance, is, in order of nature, prior to its presence as to its operation. And when the Scripture asserts that souls are in heaven, we are to understand that of their substance, even secluding every consideration of their external operations. We would rather be content with this plain way of speaking, than to say with some, that “the soul, considered in itself, without any operation ad extra, cannot be conceived to be in any ubi or place,” from which it would follow, that if the soul does not operate without itself, it has no ubi, and is incapable of every change of place after death. But we do not remember that any has explained whether and what it then operates without itself. Of a kin to this, is that inference from the subject relating to the condition of the separated soul, “that by heaven and hell, we are only to understand the states of happiness and misery,” which is crude and indigested.
XXVII. We need not be very solicitous about the place of those separate souls, which were soon to be reunited to their bodies, by a miraculous resurrection: nor here give too great a loose to our curiosity: nor venture to “intrude into those things which we have not seen,” Col. 2:18. The Sacred Writings say nothing distinctly on that subject. The safest course is to commit those souls to the hands of God, who has wisdom abundant to assign them a proper place of rest for that time, and of whose goodness and justice, we need entertain no apprehension that he will do them any injustice. This is their glory, this their salvation, that, in whatever place they are, they are still for the glory of God, and in his favour and grace. This is the language of modesty; to determine any thing peremptorily would be only presumption.
XXVIII. Let us now see what happiness the souls of the righteous enjoy, when they are set free from the body in heaven. And first, It is their happiness that they are “with God and Christ in glory,” John 12:26, “where I am, there shall also my servant be.” John 17:24, “Father, I will, that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Believers even here are with Christ by faith and love: Christ with the Father cometh to them, and manifests himself to them, John 14:21. And they find an incredible rest to their souls, in that gracious presence of God and of Christ. “It is good for me to draw near to God,” Psa. 73:28. But the greatest nearness they are favoured with in this life, is mere distance from God, if compared with the future state of the soul: “whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord,” 2 Cor. 5:6. And hence it was, that Paul “had a desire to depart, and to be with Christ,” Phil 1:23.
XXIX. Secondly, Being in the presence of God, they shall also see him in the light of glory. That is, they shall attain to that knowledge of the most blessed God, which shall be sufficient both to perfect and content the understanding, and with respect to this, that vision of God which is allowed them in this world is mere darkness and blindness, as we have formerly hinted. Of this vision our Lord speaks, Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And they shall see God:—1st, In the works of glory, which are now made known in heaven, wherein his most illustrious perfections will shine forth with far greater clearness, than in the works both of nature and grace. 2dly, In the face of Jesus Christ, whom they will continually contemplate face to face, and very familiarly and intimately know, John 17:24, “That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” 3dly, More immediately, in himself; so far as man is capable to approach to God, in a degree and measure incomprehensible to us.
And love him with the greatest delight.
XXX. Thirdly, This vision of God, who is essential truth, shall be accompanied with the most holy and, at the same time, the most delightful love of the same God, who is also perfect goodness: nor can it otherwise be. For when the understanding beholds, and without interruption, contemplates God himself and his most desirable perfections, not in a fallacious appearance, nor with obscure and confused ideas, as here, but in their native light, the holy will cannot but be inflamed with most ardent love to them. That happy soul, not only in the light of God, beholds God as the fountain of light, but is, on every hand, surrounded with the flames of divine love, by which it continually gives love for love. And that love makes it feel neither weariness nor uneasiness in the presence, contemplation and fruition of God; while new pleasures, one after another, arising from the intimate possession of the chief good, supremely beloved, and its unvaried complacency, charm the soul. For that love is not a love of longing, but of long desired fruition. And this is that love which the apostle, 1 Cor. 13:8, declares abides for ever, when even faith and hope are no more.
XXXI. Fourthly, To perfect love is conjoined the most perfect conformity of the soul to God, in holiness and glory. If Moses were so favoured, that rays of unusual light shone from his face, after his familiar converse with God in the mount, which yet can scarce be compared with that familiarity of intimate access, which the blessed enjoy in heaven; how great, do we think, must that effulgence of divine glory be, which the infinite goodness of God communicates to the souls who are the objects of his love, and who perfectly love him! What the first-born Son of God is, in a most eminent degree, and in a way altogether peculiar to himself, viz. “the brightness of the Father’s glory,” Heb. 1:3, that also they shall be in their measure, even perfectly, according to that state, though only so far as mere creatures can be, that Jesus “may be the first-born among many brethren,” Rom. 8:29.
XXXII. Fifthly, From all these things taken together, a joy arises more than inexpressible, more than glorious, of which that joy we have already described, sect. v., is but a faint and transient image. For as the blessings of grace are infinitely exceeded by those of glory, so the soul also, in a state of glory, is capable of those that are more excellent, is a far better judge of them, and enjoys them much more perfectly: hence also the joy flowing from them must be much more excellent. In Matt. 25:21, it is called “the joy of the Lord.” Because, 1st, It proceeds from, and is freely bestowed by the Lord. 2dly, It has the Lord for its object. Psa. 16:11: “In thy presence is fulness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” 3dly, and lastly, It is the most excellent and worthy of the Lord.
XXXIII. There can be no doubt, but the things we have thus far mentioned, are most excellent: yet they are not the complete fulness of that state; nor do they fully contain that abundance of happiness and glory, which the gospel commands us to hope for. And for this reason, the Sacred Writings frequently put off the consummation of our happiness, till the glorious coming of our Lord; as 2 Tim. 1:12. “I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day;” and ver. 18, “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” 2 Tim. 4:8: “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord shall give me at that day.” 1 Pet. 1:2: “The salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And 1 Pet. 5:4: “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away; add Col. 3:4, and 1 John 3:2. From these testimonies we are by no means to conclude, that the souls of the righteous shall be, till then, without all sense of happiness; but only, that what they have till then been favoured with, is but a kind of prelibation, till the work of salvation shall be in every respect completed. For certainly, it cannot be denied, that there is a great difference between that measure of happiness, which the souls of believers enjoy while they are separated from the body, and that consummation of glory which is to be revealed at the last day; and that because the happiness of a part is not to be compared with the whole; since even that part, which is already received into heaven, has not attained to that perfection which the gospel has promised, as we shall presently more fully show. Hence, also, the ancients said, that the souls of believers have indeed a joy, but it is only enjoyed in part; as sinners have a sorrow and a punishment in part, while they are shut up in prison they are reserved for the coming of the judge, Auctor quæst. et respos. quæst. 20 (who is said to be Athanasius). And Chrysostom, places these souls as in a kind of porch. Bernard called it a hall, Serm. 3, de Sanctis, distinguishing three states of men, or of souls; “the first in the tabernacle, the second in the hall, the third in the house of God.” Which, however, is to be understood with caution, not that the souls of believers are out of heaven, and have not the vision of God, but we are to think that then they will obtain their most perfect happiness, when they shall be reunited to their bodies.
XXXIV. The things, which the last day will contribute to the consummation of happiness, we comprise chiefly under three heads. First, the bodies of believers, when raised in glory, shall be restored to their souls. The apostle has fully treated on this subject, 1 Cor. 15. The bodies, indeed, shall be the same which believers, as was their duty, tenderly cherished in this life, in which, as in temples dedicated to the most holy God, they glorified God, and often underwent so many afflictions for the cause of Christ and religion. For both the justice of God, the comfort of the godly, and the very term, resurrection, which can only be applied to what fell by death, do require them to be the same. But though they are to be the same as to substance, yet they shall be so changed as to qualities, that they will seem to be altogether different: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality: then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory,” 1 Cor. 15:53, 54. Great, therefore, shall be the change of the body, but the same subject shall remain. Which the apostle intimates by the term, this, as if he had pointed to his own body. And to what purpose is the repetition of the same particle, four several times, but to remove all ambiguity, and every cause of hesitation? And in fine, how otherwise can death be said to be “swallowed up in victory?” Ought it not rather to be said, that death swallowed up our bodies ἐις νίκος, or as it is in the Prophet לבצח, which may also be translated for ever, if the same numerical bodies do not rise?
XXXV. Moreover, we cannot here but admire the almost incredible goodness of God. The divine mercy was willing to bless our bodies also with a participation of heavenly felicity. But their present constitution renders them incapable of so great a glory. As herbs and flowers wither and fade by the excessive heat of the radiant sun, so also our bodies, such as we now carry about with us, are unequal to bear the heavenly glory. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 15:50. Where flesh and blood do not denote our nature, corrupted by sin, but the very substance of the human body, with those infirmities of animal life which naturally follow it. Our flesh is from blood; blood from meat and drink; and in blood consists that animal life from which the body is called animal, ver. 44. By flesh and blood, therefore, is signified the nature of the human body, as it is nourished and preserved in this life, by taking in meat and drink, and by the circulation of the blood. But such flesh and blood is incapable of the heavenly glory. What then? Is God to diminish the heavenly glory, that our body may also be admitted to have some participation of it? By no means. He will rather change the qualities of our body, and of terrestrial make it heavenly, and of animal spiritual, so as thus to bear a suitable proportion to the glory wherewith it shall be endowed, ver. 40, 43. But who, while he still remains on this earth, can comprehend this heavenly language? Who can form an idea of such a spiritual body? And yet it is evident from undoubted testimonies of holy writ, that the righteous shall have this granted to them, and we are to look for it from our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, “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. 3:21. that we may shine forth, not as to our soul only, but also as to our body, “as the sun in the kingdom of our Father,” Matt. 13:43.
XXXVI. The second thing, in which the last day shall contribute to the consummation of our happiness, is such a great effulgence of the divine perfections in the works of glory, that a more illustrious neither the understanding can conceive, nor the heart wish for. Undoubtedly the soul of man, immediately upon its reception into heaven, most distinctly sees very many things in and concerning God, which on earth it understood only by the faint glimmering light of faith; but yet God has postponed the full display of his glory to that day. And therefore that vision of God, which we maintain to belong to the separate soul, though more evident than we can now well conceive, is not yet so perfect but a greater measure of new light. For as knowledge depends most of all on the revelation or discovery of the objects, so that knowledge cannot be brought to its perfection, while a great part of the objects lie concealed. But a great part of the objects, in the contemplation of which our mind shall be employed, lie concealed, till a new heaven and a new earth are made, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Indeed, the more illustrious the works of God are with which the blessed find themselves surrounded, the greater is the pleasure with which they contemplate the glory of God therein. But what more illustrious, than to see this vast universe, delivered from the bondage of corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, which this created world, with earnest expectation, waited for? Rom. 8:19, 21. What more noble and divine than that general judgment, in which they shall hear themselves not only acquitted, their enemies not only condemned, but themselves also appointed to judge angels in Christ their head? 1 Cor. 6:3. What more illustrious than that general assembly of all the elect, from the beginning of the world to the last day, who, being clothed with heavenly bodies, shall each of them shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father? And with what pleasing astonishment may we imagine the soul will look upon its body, which it formerly knew to be subject only to very many and great infirmities, but shall then behold it glittering with such a blaze of light, as that it may seem not indeed equal to, but yet greatly resembling the glorious body of Christ? And as, in all these things, it can admire nothing but the effulgence of the divine glory, may it not be said, while it beholds them, to see God himself in a most eminent manner? Hence John says, 1 Epis. 3:2, “But we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” And David, in like manner, promises himself only after the resurrection, that contemplation of God which gives the most full satisfaction. Psa. 17:15; “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” To this also we are to refer that of Paul: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known,” 1 Cor. 13:12. That is, in a manner most perfect and altogether divine, a more excellent than which cannot, it seems, be the portion of any creature. For both the object shall be most clearly represented, as well in its most glorious operations, as in its immediate illapse or entrance into the mind, in a manner which at present we cannot explain; and the subject will be disposed in the best manner, in order to behold and observe in God whatever can complete its happiness.
XXXVII. Thirdly, That day shall bring the blessed to that fruition of God, which shall be much more perfect and immediate, than whatever they had enjoyed before. As long as there are some believers who are still in this miserable life; as long as the bodies of the elect, who are departed out of it, are detained in the prison of death, and lie hid in the dust, the saints in heaven cannot be ignorant, that very many remains of that power which sin had gained over man, must still subsist. And consequently something must be wanting to the full perfection of their joy. And seeing the effects and remains of sin are not yet abolished in their own bodies, and in believers not yet made perfect, who, together with them, are members of the same mystical body, hence God does not communicate himself to them, but by the intervention of a mediator. But by the resurrection, “death itself, which is the last enemy, shall be abolished, 1 Cor. 15:26. and “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone,” Rev. 20:14, never more to have any power but over the enemies of God and of believers. Nor shall there be any member of the whole mystical body of Christ, which shall not be perfectly holy, and absolutely subject to him. And after all the remains and effects of sin shall be entirely destroyed, nothing shall hinder God from communicating himself immediately to men without the intervention of a mediator, as he does to the holy angels. We are of the opinion, with the best interpreters, that this is the meaning of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:28, “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
XXXVIII. To this happiness belongs a boundless and immutable eternity: without which it would in reality be no happiness. For no good, how great soever, that one is possessed of with a fear of losing it, can, by its fruition, yield that perfect and solid joy which is requisite to happiness. Wherefore happiness is called “eternal life,” Matt. 25:46. Rom. 2:7, and “a crown of glory, that fadeth not away,” 1 Pet. 5:4, and “an incorruptible crown,” 1 Cor. 9:25, and the apostle declares concerning the righteous, 1 Thess. 4:17, that they “shall ever be with the Lord”.
XXXIX. Here it is usual to inquire, whether there will be any difference of degrees among the blessed. In this question, indeed, (though we utterly disclaim the proud doctrine of the Romanists concerning the disparity of glory, founded on the inequality of merits) the arguments of those who think, that God will crown the unequal measure of the gifts of grace with a disparity of gifts of glory, seem more probable to us. To this purpose are those Scriptures, Rom. 2:6, “who will render to every one according to his deeds,” and 2 Cor. 5:10, “That every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done.” By which words is not barely signified the quality of the free reward which shall be granted the righteous, according to their works; but also the quantity of that reward, answering in a certain proportion to their works. Which is expressly explained by the apostle, 2 Cor. 9:6, “He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Moreover, that this harvest, and its diversity or different product, is erroneously confined to this life, appears from comparing this place with Gal. 6:8, “He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.” To the same effect is 1 Cor. 3:8, “He that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour.” Where it is clearly enough declared, that the proportion of the reward will be adjusted to that of the labour. Nor unlike to this is the discourse concerning the resurrection of the dead, 1 Cor. 15:40, 41, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory.” Where first, the bodies laid aside at death are compared with those assumed at the resurrection: and then, the celestial bodies are said to differ very much in glory from each other. As the sun, moon, and stars are all truly celestial bodies, but greatly unlike in glory. And to what purpose is that distinct mention of sun, moon, and stars, and of the unequal glory of each, if the apostle only intended to teach us the difference of the terrestrial from the celestial bodies, while all the celestial were notwithstanding to have the same degree of glory?
XL. It cannot, it seems, on any pretence be denied, that at least the principal leaders, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and diligent teachers of the Old and New Testament church, shall have some greater degree of glory assigned them. What was said to the apostles was not said to all, Matt. 19:28, “When the son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The meaning of these words, if I can form any judgment, the illustrious Grotius has best of all explained. It is as if our Lord had said, you shall occupy the next place of honour to me your king. To judge here denotes, to be set over or to preside, by a metalepsis, because general presidents are employed in passing sentence. Whence a presidentship or province is called by the Hebrews סדיכה, Gen. 49:16. Zech. 3:7. The metaphor is taken from the ancient state of the kingdom of Israel, in which the Phylarchæ, or heads of the tribes, stood in the next degree to the royal majesty, and are supposed to have sat by the king’s throne, in chairs of state, in the public assemblies. But to confine this glory of the apostles within the limits of the church militant in such a manner, that in the triumphant, where they have the full reward of their labours, they shall quit their thrones, seems repugnant to reason: nor does it agree with John’s vision, who saw in heaven four and twenty thrones, and twenty-four elders sitting on them, that is, the patriarchs of the Old and New Testament church, “clothed in white raiment, and having on their heads crowns of gold.” Rev. 4:4. And these things are so evident, that those very persons, who in other respects contradict the disparity of celestial glory, own that we are to distinguish between that happiness which shall be the portion of believers, as believers, and the commendation which, in the last day, shall be given to every one, in proportion to the diligence and success he shall have laboured in promoting the kingdom of Christ, and which, it seems, is to be unequally distributed. But because it is a glorious thing to obtain such a commendation from the mouth of Christ, and the memory of that testimony shall for ever abide in the minds of believers; they cannot deny, but in the kingdom of heaven a disparity of degrees in that kind of glory may be admitted to take place among the blessed. For certainly, it is not to be thought, that then there will be many servants of Christ, who may in that respect be compared with the apostle Paul. See Theses Amyraldi de vita æterna, § 34.
XLI. The apostle John seems to have given a check to other things, which are too curiously made the matter of inquiry, concerning the condition or state of the future world, when he said. 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” It is then more prudent and pious to endeavour to become hereafter partakers of that glorious life, than to gratify an itch of curiosity with insipid and vain speculations. This, however, we may look upon as a certain truth, that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9.