« PreviousContinue »
that of mothers to their children; and every one of them being so perfect and worthy to be beloved; and every one enjoying the sight of the same God, how comfortable must be their conversation! Seneca said, that the possession of what good soever, was not pleasing without a partner: the possession, then, of the chief good, must be much more delightful with the society of such excellent companions. If a man were to remain alone for many years in some beautiful palace, it would not please him so well as a desert with company; but the city of God is full of most noble citizens, who are all sharers of the same blessedness. This conversation, also, being with wise and holy personages, shall much increase their joy; for if one of the greatest troubles of human life be, to suffer the ill conditions, follies, and impertinences of rude and ill-bred people; and the greatest content, to converse with sweet, pious, and learned friends; what shall that Divine conversation be in heaven, where there is none ill-conditioned, none impious, none froward, but at peace, piety, love, and sweetness! Every one shall then rejoice, as much in the felicity of another, as in his own ineffable joy; and shall possess as many joys as he shall find companions. There are all things which are necessary or delightful, all riches, ease, and comfort. Where God is, nothing is wanting; all there know God without error, behold him without end, praise him without weariness, love him without tediousness, and in this love repose themselves in God. Besides all this, the security which the will shall have, in the eternal possession of this felicity, is an unspeakable joy. The fear, that the good things which we enjoy are to end, or at least may end, mingle wormwood with our joys; and pleasures do not relish where there is danger: but this celestial happiness being eternal, neither shall nor can end, diminish, or be endangered; but, with this security, adds a new joy unto those others of the saints.
Besides the powers of the soul, the senses also shall live, nourished with the food of most proportionable and delightful ́objects; the eyes shall ever be recreated with the light of the most glorious and beautiful bodies of the saints: one sun suffices to cheer up the whole world; what joy, then, shall one of the blessed conceive, in beholding as many suns as there are saints, and in seeing himself one of them?
But, above all, with what content and admiration shall we behold the glorious body of Christ, our Redeemer; in comparison of whose splendour, that of all the saints shall be as darkness; from whose wounds shall issue forth rays of a particular brightness! Besides all this, the glory and greatness of the empyreal heaven, and the lustre of that celestial city, shall infinitely delight the blessed citizens: the ears shall be filled with most harmonious music, as may be gathered from many places of the Scripture. If the harp of David delighted Saul so much, as it assuaged the fury of his passions, cast forth devils, and freed him of that melancholy, whereof the wicked spirit made use; and that the lyre of Orpheus wrought such wonders, both with men and beasts; what shall the harmony of heaven do! What delight then will it be, not only to hear the voice of one instrument played upon by an angel, but all the voices of thousands of angels, together with the admirable melody of musical instruments! What sweetness will it be, to hear so many heavenly musicians, those millions of angels, which will be sounding forth their hallelujahs, unto the great God of heaven and earth! O how I desire to be freed from this body, that I might hear and enjoy it! Happy were I, and for ever happy, if, after death, I might hear the melody of those hymns and hallelujahs, which the citizens of that celestial habitation, and the squadrons of those blessed spirits, sing in praise of the eternal King. This is that sweet music, which St. John heard in the Apocalypse, when the inhabitants of heaven sang, “Let all the world bless thee, O Lord! to thee be given all honour and dominion, for a world of worlds. Amen."
The smell shall be feasted with the odour, which issues from those beautiful bodies, more sweet than music or amber; and from the whole heaven, more fragrant than jessamines or
The taste, also, in that blessed country, shall not want the delight of its proper object; for although the saints shall not there feed, which were to necessitate that happy state unto something besides itself; yet they shall have the delight of meat, without the trouble of eating, by reason of the great delicacy of this celestial taste. The glory of the saints is often signified in holy Scripture, under the names of a supper, banquet, manna. It cannot be expressed, how great shall be
the delight and sweetness of taste, which eternally shall be found in heaven. If Esau sold his birth-right for a dish of lentil-pottage, well may we mortify our taste here upon earth, that we may enjoy that perfect and incomparable one in heaven.
The touch, also, shall there receive a most delightful entertainment; all they tread upon, shall seem unto the just to be flowers; and the whole dispositions of their bodies shall be ordered with a most exquisite temperature: for as the torments of the damned in hell are most expressed in that sense, so the bodies of the blessed in heaven shall, in that sense, receive a special joy and refreshment. And as the heat of that infernal fire, without light, is to penetrate even to the entrails of those miserable persons; so the brightness of the celestial light is to penetrate the bodies of the blessed, and fill them with an incomparable delight and sweetness; all and every part of the body, in general and particular, shall be sensible of a most admirable pleasure and content.
The humanity of Christ, our Redeemer, is to be the chief and principal joy of all the senses; and, therefore, as the intellectual knowledge of the divinity of Christ, is the joy and essential reward of the soul; so the sensitive knowledge of the humanity of Christ, is the chief and essential joy of the senses, and the utmost end and felicity whereunto they can aspire. This, it seems, was meant by our Saviour, in St. John; where, speaking unto the Father, he said, "This is life eternal," that is, essential blessedness, "that they know thee, the only true God," (in which is included the essential glory of the soul,) ❝ and Him, whom thou hast sent," Jesus Christ; in which is included the essential blessedness of the
It is also much to be observed, that the blessed souls shall be crowned with some particular joys, which the very angels are not capable of; for they only shall receive the crown of martyrdom, since no angel can have the glory to have shed his blood, and died for Christ; neither to have overcome the flesh, and by combats and wrestlings subjected it unto reason. Men shall have the glory of their bodies, and joy of their senses, which the angels cannot; for, as they want the one joy of the Spirit, which is the flesh, so they must want the glory of the victory. Neither shall they have
this great joy of mankind, in being redeemed by Christ from sin, and from as many damnations into hell, as they have committed sins; and to see themselves now freed and secure from that horrid evil; and so many enemies of the soul, which they had, which must needs produce a most unspeakable joy.
The souls of the blessed shall not only be glorious, but their very bodies shall be filled with glory, and invested with a light seven times brighter than that of the sun; for, although it be said in the Gospel, "That the just shall shine as the sun;" yet Isaiah, the prophet, says, "That the sun, in those days, shall shine seven times more than it now doth." This light being the most beautiful and excellent of corporeal qualities, shall clothe the just, as with a garment of most exceeding lustre and glory. What emperor was ever clad in such a purple? What human majesty ever cast forth beams. of such splendour?
Herod, upon the day of his greatest magnificence, could only clothe himself in a robe of silver, admirably wrought, which did not shine of itself, but by reflection of the sunbeams, which then, in his rising, cast his rays upon it; and yet this little glittering was sufficient to make the people to salute him as a god. What admiration shall it then cause, to behold the glorious body of a saint, not clothed in gold and purple, not adorned with diamonds or rubies, but more resplendent than the sun itself! Put all the brightest diamonds together, all the fairest rubies, all the most beautiful carbuncles; let an imperial robe be embroidered with them all; all this will be no more than as coals, in respect of a glorious body, which shall be all transparent, bright, and resplendent, far more than if it were set with diamonds. The garments which we wear here, how rich soever, are rather an affront and disgrace unto us, than an ornament; since they argue an imperfection, and a necessity of our bodies, which we are forced to supply with something of another nature. Besides, our clothes were given as a mark of Adam's fall in Paradise, and we wear them as a penance enjoined for his sin. What fool is so sottish, as to bestow precious trimming upon a penitential garment?
But such are not the ornaments of the saints in heaven; their lustre is their own, not borrowed from their garments,
but within themselves; each part of them being more transparent than crystal, and brighter than the sun. It is recounted in the Apocalypse, as a great wonder, "That a woman was seen clothed with the sun, and crowned with twelve stars." This, indeed, was far more glorious than any ornament upon earth; yet this is short of the ornament of the saints, whose lustre is proper to themselves, intrinsically their own, not taken and borrowed from something without them, as was that of the woman's. The state and majesty with which this gift of splendour shall adorn the saints, shall be incomparably greater than that of the mightiest kings. It were a great majesty in a prince, when he issues forth of his palace by night, to be attended by a thousand pages, each having a lighted torch; but were those torches stars, it were nothing to the state and glory of a saint in heaven, who carries with him a light equal to that of the sun seven times doubled; and what greater glory, than not to need the sun, which the whole world needs? Where the just is, there shall be no night; for wheresoever he goes, he carries the day along with him. St. Paul, beholding the gift of clarity in the humanity of Christ, remained for some days without sense or motion. St. John, only beholding it in the face of our Saviour, fell down as if dead; his mortal eyes being not able to endure the lustre of so great a majesty. St. Peter, because he saw something of it in the transfiguration of Christ, was so transported with the glory of the place, that he had a desire to have continued there for ever. What sight more glorious, than to behold so many saints, like so many suns, to shine with so incomparable lustre and beauty!
What light, then, will that of heaven be, proceeding from so many lights; or, to speak more properly, from so many suns! How great, then, shall the clarity of that holy city be, where many suns do inhabit! And if, by the sight of every one in particular, their joy shall be more augmented; by the sight of a number without number, what measure can that joy have which results from so beautiful a spectacle!
The bodies of the saints, endowed with this light, which they receive from the gift of clarity, are impassible, and cannot suffer from any thing. They have an agility to move from place to place with speed and subtilty, like light; to