« הקודםהמשך »
listen to the music of the skies ! The highest created intellects, with organs exquisitely tuned, will be employed in the song above; and though designed as an ascription of praise to the great Eternal, its melodious sounds will thrill through the souls of th shippers themselves, and fill them with unutterable delight.
ON THE GRADATIONS WHICH SHALL EXIST AMONG THE
RIGHTEOUS IN THE HEAVENLY STATE.
From the cursory survey which we have taken of the heavenly state, of the pursuits which shall engage the attention of redeemed men, and of the numerous and varied sources of enjoyment to which they shall have perpetual access, we may safely conclude, that they will all be perfectly happy, and that not one of them will have a single desire ungratified. But, in such a vast multitude gathered out of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, and composed of individuals whose intellectual powers were endlessly diversified, and whose habits, as well as their circumstances in society, were all in some respects different; it is reasonable to suppose, although the scriptures were silent upon the subject, that their capabilities of enjoyment will be as varied as they are upon earth, and that some of them will be raised to higher honours, and exhibit a greater degree of glory than others. That, however, will not be the effect of a mere arbitrary appointment on the part of God, it will be the necessary result of their principles and conduct, and of the circumstances in which they
were placed in this probationary state. The gradations which will exist in the heavenly state will not be such as to produce envy in any mind—to interrupt the harmony which will universally prevail, or, in the smallest degree, to operate as a barrier to the delightful intercourse which the whole community of redeemed men will have with each other. Such gradations, instead of being unfavourable to happiness, or of indicating any imperfection in the society where they exist, are of a directly opposite character; and, unless the principles of human nature, and the wise arrangements of providence, and the rules by which the divine Being is guided in all his procedure towards men were completely changed, a community in which there was no variety of intellect among members, and no difference in their capability of enjoyment, or in their outward circumstances, could not be a permanently happy one. It is questionable, indeed, if perfect happiness could be enjoyed in such a society at all.
The state of society upon earth which approximates nearest to perfection, which seems to be best adapted to our nature, and is productive of the greatest amount of happiness, is that in which there are gradations. It requires no legislative enactments nor any exercise of authority to bring a community into that state ; it naturally tends to it in the ordinary course of things. The moment that intellectual superiority begins to be felt and acknowledged, and a proper stimulus is given to industry, the principle which leads to it comes into operation ; and it is developed in so many ways, that lines of demarcation speedily and prominently appear to distinguish one class from another. Such a state of society affords the amplest opportunity for the exercise of the diversified powers of the human mind; it opens a channel in which virtuous emulation may safely and beneficially flow; and it furnishes appropriate rewards to the diligent and the enterprizing.
Nor is it at all to be wondered at that such is the case, when we consider that that is the principle upon which the arrangements in the kingdom of providence are formed. Some are elevated in society, others are depressed; some revel in affluence, others are in the deepest poverty ; some enjoy almost unin. terrupted prosperity, others are doomed to constant adversity ; some pass the greater part of their days comparative strangers to pain and affliction, whilst others are subjected to perpetual irritation and suffering. Yet these arrangements of the Most High, it is generally allowed—and universal experience seems to bear testimony to the fact-are better fitted than any other to call into operation and bring to perfection the virtues of the christian character. And if that important end be gained, it cannot be doubted that human happiness is greatly promoted. It is true, the present is a state of trial; but if gradations are visible in all the departments of human society, and are so well fitted to promote the highest interests of men, the fact affords something like presumptive
evidence, that the same great principles which produce these results upon earth, will operate in heaven.
Another, and perhaps a more striking exemplification of the principle is furnished by the church upon earth. The most attentive observer cannot fail to see that there are great diversities not only in the faith and holiness of its members, but also in the nature and measure of the gifts they possess, the stations which they occupy, and the duties they have to perform :-"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think ; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”“ But urto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. And he gave some, apostles ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." These passages clearly show what was the state of the church in primitive times; but it is questionable if the difference in the characters and circumstances of its members as indicated by the diversified gifts which they possessed, was greater than it now is when the extraordinary influences of the Spirit are withdrawn. Talents of every description, and intellects of every