By Adam Clarke
THE state of eternal glory implies three
things:—1. An absence of all suffering, pain, sin, and evil. 2. The
presence of all good, both of the purest and most exalted kind. And,
3. The complete satisfaction of all the desires of the soul, at all
times, and through eternity, without the possibility of decrease on
the one hand, or of satiety on the other, or of any termination of
the existence of the receiver or the received. This is ineffably
great and glorious, but the apostle exceeds all this by saying, "an
heir of God." It is therefore not heaven merely; it is not the place
where no ill can enter, and where pure and spiritual good is
eternally present; it is not merely a state of endless blessedness
in the regions of glory; it is GOD HIMSELF ;—God in his plenitude of
glories; God, who, by the eternal communications of his glories,
meets every wish and satisfies every desire of a deathless and
imperishable spirit, which he has created for himself, and of which
himself is the only portion. To a soul composed of infinite desires,
what would the place or state called "heaven" be, if God were not
there? God, then, is the portion of the soul, and the only portion
with which its infinite powers can be satisfied. How wonderful is
his lot! A child of corruption, lately a slave of sin and heir of
perdition; tossed about with every storm of life; in afflictions
many and privations oft; having perhaps scarcely where to lay his
head; and at last prostrated by death, and mingled with the dust of
the earth; but now, how changed! The soul is renewed in glory; the
body fashioned after the glorious human nature of Jesus Christ; and
both joined together in an indestructible bond, clearer than the
indestructible moon, brighter than the sun, and more resplendent
than all the heavenly spheres; for having conquered and triumphed in
the church militant, it is now set down with Jesus on his throne, as
he, having overcome, is set down with the Father on the Father's
throne. Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! And his
children, his followers and confessors, shall reign with him for
ever and ever! Amen. Eternal life is the proper object of an
immortal spirit's hope, the only sphere where the human intellect
can rest, and be happy in the place and state where God is; where he
is seen AS HE IS ; and where he can be enjoyed without interruption
in an eternal progression of knowledge and beatitude.
It is neither an earthly portion nor a heavenly portion, but God himself who is to be their portion. It is not heaven they are to inherit; it is GOD who is infinitely greater and more glorious than heaven itself. With such powers has God created the soul of man, that nothing less than himself can be a sufficient and satisfactory portion for the mind of this most astonishing creature.
The song of praise to God, through Christ, begun on earth, and protracted through all the generations of men, till the end of time, shall be continued in heaven by those who, having here received the salvation of God, and continued faithful unto death, in the resurrection of the just are taken to that ineffable glory, where, being like him, they shall see him as he is; and being raised to his right hand, have fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore: in which state, eras, limits, and periods are absorbed in one eternal duration.
It is in vain to attempt to describe this state: when we say that in it there is no sin, we at once see that in it there can be no pain, no misery, no death. From it all evil is absent, and in it all good is present. There the introduction of evil is impossible; and there the loss of good is equally so. The time of probation is only on earth: the day of trial with the blessed is for ever ended; and now they are in that state in reference to which their probation existed. This duration we often express by "world without end," that is, the world or state that has no end; sometimes by "for ever and ever," that is, one EVER or duration that is endless, succeeding one that is ended. And sometimes by a yet more forcible expression, "for evermore," that is, for ever—through the whole lapse of time; and more, the unlimited duration that shall succeed it. All these are phrases which labour to express what is at once both ineffable and inconceivable.
God never removes any of his servants till they have accomplished the work he has given them to do. Extraordinary talents are not given merely in reference to this world. They refer also to eternity; and shall there have their consummation and plenitude of employ. Far be it from God to light up such tapers to burn only for a moment in the dark night of life, and then to extinguish them for ever in the damps of death. Heaven is the region where the spirits of just men made perfect live, thrive, and eternally expand their powers in the service and to the glory of Him from whom they have derived their being.
So the truly wise man is but in his twilight here below; but he is in a state of glorious preparation for the realms of everlasting light; till at last, emerging from darkness and the shadow of death, he is ushered into the full blaze of endless felicity.
An unholy man cannot enter into heaven; and were he in it, it would be no enjoyment to him, because it is not suited to him. The nature of the resident must be suited to the place of residence. The fishes live not on the elms, and the cattle browse not in the depths of the sea. Hell is for demons and wicked men; heaven for holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect. There is a fellowship among devils, and those who are partakers of a diabolic nature; for aught we know, "Devil with devil damn'd firm concord holds;" and we know that the holy inhabitants of heaven are brethren with holy souls.
By these perpetual fountains we are to understand endless sources of comfort and happiness, which Jesus Christ will open out of his own infinite plenitude to all glorified souls. These eternal living fountains will make an infinite variety in the enjoyments of the blessed. There will be no sameness, and consequently no cloying with the perpetual enjoyment of the same things; every moment will open a new source of pleasure, instruction, and improvement; they shall make an eternal progression into the fulness of God. And as God is infinite, so his attributes are infinite; and throughout infinity more and more of those attributes will be discovered; and the discovery of each will be a new fountain or source of pleasure and enjoyment. These sources must be opening through all eternity; and yet, through all eternity, there will still remain, in the absolute perfections of the Godhead, an infinity of them to be opened! This is one of the finest images in the Bible.
Every holy soul has, throughout eternity, the beatific vision; that is, it sees God as he is, because it is like him. It drinks in beatification from the presence of the eternal Trinity.
"Pleasures for evermore," onwardly, perpetually, continually, well expressed by our translation, "ever and more," an eternal progression. Think of duration in the most extended and unlimited manner, and there is still more; more to be suffered in hell, and more to be enjoyed in heaven. Great God! grant that my readers may have this beatific sight! this eternal progression in unadulterated, unchangeable, and unlimited happiness. Hear this prayer, for His sake who found out the path of life, and who by his blood purchased an entrance into the holiest! Amen and Amen.