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son, still we are only upon the surface of knowledge. “ We know only in part.” And if this is the case with visible objects, as unquestionably it is, how much more so must it be in regard to things invisible,
to the remote and undiscovered objects of the spiritual world! With respect to them, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” We have no idea—no adequate conception-of the existence of spirit separate and distinct from the body. Our experience and observation are conversant with material objects only, such as we become acquainted with through the medium of the senses :--and it is impossible, in the present constitution of our nature, that we should penetrate through the veil that hides from our view the loftier objects of intelligence. The only intimations we have of them are shrouded, in the pages of Revelation, under comparisons or notions borrowed from visible objects ; but these, we know, are by no means commensurate with the things themselves : so that we may be said, with the strictest propriety, to see them only “ as through a glass, darkly," or indistinctly.
How grave a lesson does the Apostle here read to us, against that affectation of knowledge which forms so large an article of human pride! Knowledge, as distinguished from instinct, is peculiar to man, who is born the most helpless of all earthly creatures : and as he makes advances in it, and one generation (so to speak) stands on the shoulders of another, no wonder that, unless a principle of religion guides him, he should feel some pride in his acquirements, particu
larly when they conduct him to some of those objects which seem above the sphere of his natural powers. There is nothing that so commonly prompts one man to set himself up above another as his superiority of knowledge. And, certainly, there is a great, a very great difference in the mental acquirements of different persons. In some cases, the difference is so great, that the individuals, as compared with each other in this respect, might seem scarcely to belong to the same species. Knowledge, we must all co fess, is a good and useful thing, when it is properly applied ;-when it is devoted to benevolent and religious purposes, and to the obvious interests of the community. If it is unemployed, it is like a diamond hidden in the mine, or a treasure sunk in the depths of the sea. No one is the better for it,not even the individual who possesses it; except as far as it gratifies his taste, and enables him to pass away and beguile the hours that might otherwise hang heavily on his hands. We may venture to assert also, that religious knowledge, invaluable as it is when rightly exerted, does not differ from other knowledge, in uselessness and vanity, if it is suffered to terminate in itself without being applied to any
But, admitting that our knowledge be ever so correct and enlarged, or ever so well applied, still it is but as the ignorance of childhood, or the unsubstantial image in the mirror, when compared with that perfect knowledge which we hope to attain in our
future state. There are many things, and particularly with regard to religion, of which we are, in the present life, necessarily ignorant ;-for they are above our comprehension. The precepts of Scripture are so plain and clear, that every person possessing the common faculties of our species may easily understand them ;—and this has been wisely ordered, because they are the laws by which we are expected and required to regulate our minds and our actions. With the doctrines that are purely matter of faith, the case is different. Here we find mysteries claiming our assent on the authority of God who has propounded them to us; but which are, in themselves, too high and abstruse for the scope of our narrow capacities in this mortal state of being. Such, for instance, are the doctrines of the Atonement, the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, the Resurrection of the body, and
As to all these, we see “ darkly :” but we join with the Apostle in hoping, that when this imperfect state of knowledge “shall be done away,” we shall enjoy that effulgent light, that full and exact intelligence, which he attempts to describe when he styles it “ seeing face to face.” Here we suppose him to mean, what we naturally collect from his words, that we shall see God face to face,--not through the dim and reflected medium of his “lowliest works” as they appear in created things,-but with an immediate vision, without any shadow or obstruction intervening.
All the knowledge, whether religious or otherwise,
that we collect during our stay on earth, is only preparatory and instrumental (and as such alone we should value it) to that glorious manifestation which shall be revealed to God's accepted servants in the life to come. It is rightly employed, and then only, when we use it for the due regulation of our own hearts and minds, for the increase of charity to our brethren, and for the increase of piety and reverence towards God. It is given to us in the nature of a trust ; and, if we faithfully employ it, we shall be rewarded, with a proportionate degree of advancement, in those regions where all gifts are perfect, unalienable, and everlasting.
Who, indeed, can describe, in adequate terms, the happiness that is contemplated under the idea of “ seeing God face to face ?” It is a privilege with which no mortal ever was honoured during his earthly
It is reserved for those only, who, at the resurrection of the just, shall be admitted to the joys of heaven. It is far removed from the hope and expectation of the wicked ; for they will be for ever excluded from all communication with the blissful rewards of the righteous. It is a happiness perpetual, consisting of the enjoyment of such things as “ eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither bath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.” We can better imagine what it is not, than what it is. It is free from sin,—that parent of ignorance and sorrow. It is void of care and anxiety,—those heavy weights that oppress us so frequently and so grievously here on earth. It is unaccompanied by fear or uncertainty ; -for, when once in our possession, nothing can deprive us of it. It is unmixed with doubt or suspicion ; and is attended with no misgivings or cause of repentance. It is full and perfect, so as to be free from all apprehension of losing it or of having it diininished. It is eternal; so that neither time nor accident can have any effect upon it.
In our present state, all things are imperfect and uncertain. We can neither assure nor promise ourselves what a day may bring forth. Our faculties are, in themselves, limited ; and they are liable to be impaired, and to be interrupted in their calm and effectual exercise, by anxious cares that continually intrude, -by bodily sufferings that can neither be prevented nor cured, -by languor, and sorrow, and adversity, which, in this state of trial, visit all men in their turn, and come, either early or late, without bringing with them a remedy.
But in the world to come, it will not be so. - There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” And there, the absence of all sorrow, and uncertainty, and weakness, enables the soul to enjoy to the full the happiness that has been prepared for it.
for it. We shall be enabled, without distraction or interruption, to contemplate the perfections and to enjoy the immediate presence of God himself. We shall view Him, not through the faint and dark mirror of created things, as we view Him here on earth; but in the pure and bright effulgence