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THE SAINTS KNOW EACH OTHER IN HEAVEN.
1 THESSALONIANS ii. 19, 20.
What is our hope or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are
not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ? for ye are our glory and joy.
It is natural for those who are travelling to an unknown land, in which they are about to make their residence, to inquire frequently concerning its manners, its customs, its modes of intercourse: and it is therefore not surprising that Christians, pilgrims on earth, travellers to the kingdom of God, frequently endeavour to lift the veil which covers futurity, and to learn what are the holy delights of that heavenly world in which they hope to dwell for ever, These endeavours are made especially in those seasons when, bereft of the friends who formed their felicity on earth, they are left in solitude and affliction. They look with anxiety at the pale bodies of these friends, and solicitously inquire whether they shall know them no more: whether their intercourse has ceased for ever?
To these inquiries the gospel gives an answer that affords the most precious consolation: it teaches that the friendship founded on piety is imperishable; it teaches that those who were friends to the Redeemer, as well as to each other, shall have mutual knowledge and recollection in the future world, and shall have an intercourse with each other, and with the whole church triumphant. It is this single idea to which, as we judge from the context and connexion of his words, the apostle alludes in our text, that we propose to illustrate and apply in this discourse.
That the holy and happy inhabitants of heaven will recollect and know each other, is a point which appears to me to rest upon such firm foundations, that I am surprised that it has been disputed by any Christians. Though I would not say with Irenæus, , one of the earliest fathers of the church, that “ separate souls retain the likeness and figure of their bodies, so that they may be still known thereby in the other world;" though I would not even assert, that at the resurrection itself, our remembrance of the face and features of our friends will enable us to recognise them, because I know not the nature of the changes which will then be made in our bodies; though I cannot tell the precise manner whereby the glorified immortals will attain a knowledge of each other: whether by revelation, by information, by recollection, or by mutual discourse : yet still I am confident they will obtain this knowledge, in that mode which infinite wisdom shall prescribe.
Let us open our scriptures : we shall every where find intimations of this cheering truth.
1. The enjoyments and occupations of heaven are uniformly represented as social : but where is the charm of society, without mutual knowledge ?
2. Heaven is uniformly represented as perfecting all our faculties: is it then probable that it will diminish, nay, entirely abolish, memory, one of the most important of them?
3. The chief grace that will be exercised in the regions of the blest, next to love to God, will be, love to our companions in glory. But what kind of love is that which is felt for an object which we know not?
4. In the general judgment which is appointed to vindicate the ways of God to man, it is certain that every individual will be known to the vast assembly, as distinct from all other persons. Is it probable that God, after thus making the blessed acquainted with each other, should, immediately afterwards, obliterate this knowledge ?
5. It is certain that we shall see and know the glorious manhood of our blessed Saviour, elevated above all the heavenly powers; and if we shall know one body, why not more? If our elder brother, why not the rest of the heavenly fraternity?
6. It is promised to the twelve apostles that they shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and if these thrones be conspicuous, shall we not know these apostles ? And if them, why not more?
7. During our Saviour's abode on earth, he afforded to three favoured disciples, a glimpse of the heavenly glory: he himself was transfigured, and Moses and Elias descended in celestial brilliancy: the disciples immediately knew Moses and Elias as distinct from the Saviour, and each as distinct
from the other : and if the disciples knew them upon Tabor, why do they not know them in the New Jerusalem?
8. Our Saviour, in one of the most impressive of his parables, represents the rich man in torments, knowing Lazarus and Abraham in glory: though it be a parable, yet parables convey no ideas inconsistent with truth; and we may therefore safely conclude, that if the accursed can know the blessed, much more shall the blessed know one another.
9. And, finally, we find the apostle Paul very frequently consoling himself under the sufferings and persecutions which he had to endure, by the prospect of meeting in heaven those who had been converted by his ministry on earth.
These are some of the reasons which lead me to suppose that, in heaven, the saints shall know each other. I might add many other similar considerations, but your own knowledge of the scriptures will supply them. Perhaps no single one of the arguments which have been offered, when taken separately, is conclusive; but when they are united, they present a mass of evidence not easy to be resisted.
I know but one plausible objection that can be urged against this sentiment. It is this: Heaven is a state of perfect happiness; but how can he, whose heart was bound to another by the tenderest cords of affection, be happy, when he sees this person whom he loved consigned to wo? How can the bosom of a father be calm, when he beholds his son loaded with the chains of darkness ? How can the friend be satisfied with a happiness which he does not divide with his friend ?'
In answer to this objection, I make three reflections :
1. It proves too much : for it is precisely as strong to show that we shall not know each other at the day of judgment, as to show that we shall not know each other in heaven. Yet it is certain that we shall know each other in the day of judgment; that we shall then be assured that this object of our affections, that this son, that this friend, shall be for ever severed from us; and that, nevertheless, we shall be perfectly happy. Even then, if we can find no answer to this difficulty, it ought not to shake our belief in the sentiment I am illustrating, since it is a difficulty which lies with equal force against a fact which the scriptures place beyond dispute. But,
2. We find a solution to this difficulty in the consideration, that in heaven our wills will be perfectly accordant with the will of God; we shall no longer have separate desires and inclinations from him ; we shall see that all which he does is wisest and best, and deserving of our full approbation. On earth, we sometimes revolt against his appointments, because we bear within us the remains of depravity; or because we do not perfectly comprehend his designs ; or because in our hearts the affection for God has not that superiority over our affection for the objects of earth which it ought to have. But in heaven, where not only the dominion, but even the existence of depravity, shalļ be destroyed in our souls; in heaven, where we shall so far comprehend the reason of God's conduct as to perceive that his attributes must be destroyed if he acted otherwise; in heaven, where love to the creature will justly be subordinated to love to the Creator, our wills will be so absorbed and swallowed up in God's, as to form but one will with it; and, of course, no murmur