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gates of this city were, as St. John says, one entire pearl, and the foundation of the walls jasper, sapphire, calcedon, emerald, topaz, jacinth, amethyst, and other most precious stones: the streets of fine gold, so pure as it seemed crystal, joining in one substance the firmness of gold and transparency of crystal; and the beauty both of one and the other if all England were of sapphire, how would it amaze the world? How marvellous then will the holy city be, which, though extended over so many millions of leagues, is all of gold, pearl, and precious stones; or, to say better, of a matter of far more value, and peopled with such a multitude of beautiful citizens, who are as far above any imaginable number, as the capacity of the city is above any imaginable measure.
Of those incomparable riches, the blessed are not only to be lords, but kings; neither is this celestial measure, or this kingdom of heaven, less or poorer by having so many lords and kings; it is not like the kingdoms on earth, which permit but one king at once; and if divided, become of less power and majesty; but is of such condition, that it is wholly possessed by all in general, and by each one in particular; like the sun, which warms all and every one, and not one less because it warms many: the effects of riches are much greater and more noble in heaven, than they can be upon earth wealth may serve us here to maintain our power, honours, and delights: but all the gold in the world cannot free us from weakness, infamy, or pain; it cannot make a calenture not to afflict us, or that the pains of the head or gout do not molest us, or that cares and fears shall not break our sleep this only is to be had in heaven; where their power is so free from weakness, that one only angel, without army, guns, swords, or lance, could destroy at once one hundred and eighty thousand.
Besides, it is to be considered, that the great riches of the saints are not like those of the kings of the earth, drawn from the tributes imposed upon their vassals, which, though just, yet are not free from this ill condition; that what enricheth the prince, impoverishes the subject: the riches in heaven have no such blemish, they are burdensome to none; and what is given unto the servants of Christ, who reign in heaven, is not taken from any.
b Reg. iv. 19.
If all the earth were of gold, and all the rivers of balsam, and all the rocks of precious stones, wouldst thou not say, that this is a great treasure? Know, that a treasure, which exceeds gold as far as gold doth dirt,-balsam, water,-or precious stones, pebbles,-remains as a reward for the just.
Wherefore we ought to lift up our souls, and alienate our affections from the frail felicity of these temporal goods of the earth, and say, with David," Glorious things are said of thee, thou city of God; whatsoever pains and poverty we suffer here, we shall receive in glory so much the greater riches."
How poor and narrow a heart must that Christian have, who confines his love to things present, sweating and toiling for a small part of the goods of this world, which itself is so little! Why doth he content himself with some patch of the earth, when he may be lord of the whole heavens! Let us not, therefore, who are to die to-morrow, afflict ourselves for that which may perish sooner than we : let us not toil to enjoy that which we are shortly to leave, but let us lay up our treasures in heaven, that kingdom of the blessed, where the riches, joys, and comforts are eternal, and can never be taken from us : I will, therefore, study to use this world with indifference, and shall not be puffed up when things succeed happily; nor dejected, when they fall out crossly, but shall bless God in all conditions; whether I abound or want, whether rich or poor, I will bless the Lord at all times; his praises shall be ever in my mouth: I shall never complain of the necessities of this life, since, though all things fail me, the means of my salvation will not fail me; for even that want may be a means to obtain it.
Of the Greatness of Eternal Pleasures.
HONOUR, profit, and pleasures, are distinct goods upon earth, and are rarely found together; honour is seldom a companion of profit, or profit of pleasure; and so the sick man drinks his purge, because it is profitable, how bitter soever; the pleasures of the world are, for the most part,
mixed with some shame, and oftentimes with infamy; they are costly and expensive, we cannot entertain our pleasures without diminishing our wealth; it is not so in eternal goods, in which to be honest is to be profitable, and to be profitable delectable; eternal honours are accompanied with immense riches, and they are both attended by pleasures without end. All this is signified by the Lord, when he received the faithful servant into glory, when he said, "Well done, good servant and true; because thou hast been faithful in few things, I will place thee over many; enter into the joy of thy Lord:" first he honours him, commending him for a good and faithful servant; then enriches him, delivering many things into his hands; and so admits him into the joy and pleasure of his Lord; thereby signifying the greatness of this joy, not saying that this joy should enter into him, but that he should enter into joy, and into no other but that of his Lord so great is the joy of that celestial Paradise, that it wholly fills and embraces the blessed souls, which enter into heaven, as into an immense sea of pleasure and delight. The joys of the earth enter into the hearts of those who possess them, but fill them not; because the capacity of man's heart is greater than they can satisfy; but the joys of heaven in the blessed enter into themselves, and fill and overflow them in all parts.
The multitude of joys in heaven is joined with their greatness; and so great they are, that the very least of them is sufficient to make us forget the greatest contents of the earth; and so many they are, as that though a thousand times shorter, yet they would exceed all temporal pleasures, though a thousand times longer; but joining the abundance of those eternal joys with their immense greatness, that eternal bliss becomes ineffable: so great are the joys of heaven, that all the arithmeticians of the earth cannot number them; the geometricians cannot measure them; nor the most learned in the world explicate them: the just shall rejoice in what is above them, which is the vision of God; in what is below them, which is the beauty of heaven, and the blessed souls; in what is within them, which is the glorification of their bodies; in what is with them, which is the company of
a 1 Cor. ii. Isaiah, Ixiv.
angels, and men made perfect: God shall feast all their senses with unspeakable delight, for he shall be their object; and shall be a mirror to the sight, music to the ear, sweetness to the taste, balsam to the smell, flowers to the touch; there shall be the clear light of summer, the pleasantness of the spring, the abundance of autumn, and the repose of winter.
The principal joy of the blessed is in the possession of God, whom they behold clearly as he is in himself; for as honourable, profitable, and delectable, are not divided in heaven, so the blessed souls have three gifts, essential and inseparable from that happy state, which correspond to those three kinds of blessings, which the learned call vision, comprehension, and fruition: the first consists in the clear and distinct sight of God, which is given to the just, by which he receives an incomparable honour, since his works and virtues are rewarded in the presence of the angels with no less a crown and recompense than is God himself: the second is the possession which the soul hath of God, as of his riches and inheritance; the third is the ineffable joy which accompanies this sight and possession; which is so great, that neither the blessed themselves, who have experience of it, nor the angels in heaven, are able to declare it. This joy hath two singular qualities, by which we may, in some sort, conceive the immensity of it; the first, that it is so powerful that it excludes all evil, pains, and grief: this only is so great a good, that many of the philosophers held it for the chief felicity of man; but herein was their error, that they judged that to be good, itself, which was but an effect or consequence of it: for so powerful is that love and joy which springs from the clear vision of God, that it is sufficient to convert hell into glory; insomuch as, if to the most tormented soul in hell were added all the torments of the rest of the damned, both men and devils, and that God should vouchsafe him but one glimpse of his knowledge, that only clear vision, though in the lowest degree, were sufficient to free him from all those evils, both of sin and pain; there is no joy in this world so intense, which can suspend the grief we suffer from a finger that is sawing off; griefs do more easily bereave us of the sense of pleasures, than pleasures do of pains; yet such is the greatness of that
sovereign joy in heaven, that it alone is sufficient to drown all the grief and torments, both in earth and hell: and there is no pain in the world able to diminish the least part of it.
All those joys of the blessed, both in soul and body, which are innumerable, have their source and original from that unspeakable joy of the clear vision of God.
And how can the joy be less which proceeds from such a cause, who gives himself to be possessed by man; that joy being the very same which God enjoys, and which suffices to make God himself blessed, with a blessedness equal to himself. Therefore, not without great mystery, it is said, "Enter into the joy of thy Lord." It is not said, simply, into joy; but to determine the greatness of it, it was his own joy, that joy by which he himself becomes happy.
We are to consider, that there is nothing in this world, which hath not for its end some manner of perfection. And that those things which are capable of reason and knowledge, have, in that perfection, a particular joy and complacency; which joy is greater or lesser, according as that end is more or less perfect. Since, therefore, the Divine perfection is infinitely greater than that of all the creatures, the joy of God, which is in himself, (for he hath no end or perfection. distinct from himself,) is infinitely greater than that of all things besides this joy, out of his infinite goodness, he hath been pleased to make the holy angels and blessed souls partakers of, communicating unto the just his own felicity. Therefore, the joy of saints, which is that of the beatifical vision, wherein consists the joy and happiness of God, must needs be infinite and ineffable; and all the happiness and contents of this world, in respect of it, are bitter as aloes or wormwood. By how much a delectable object is more nearly and straitly united to the faculty, by so much greater is the joy and delight which it produces: therefore God, who is the most excellent and delightful object, being, in the beatifical vision, united to the soul with the most intimate union that can be in a pure creature, must necessarily cause a most inexplicable joy, incomparably greater than all the joys, real or imaginable, which can be produced by the creatures now existent, or possible. For as the Divine perfection encloseth within itself all the perfections