2 Samuel 12:23
But now he is dead, why should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
The question very often rises to the mind, whether the intercourse of Christian friends separated by death, shall be renewed in heaven — whether there will be any recollection of past attachments, and of their attendant circumstances. This is an enquiry which flows from the warmest feelings of the heart, and frequently presents itself at seasons when the individual is iii fitted to answer it for himself. You know it has always been held that the concurrence of general opinion among mankind is entitled to considerable weight. If Socrates delighted himself in the prospect of conversation with Hesiod and Homer; if Cicero anticipated an interview with Cato amid the assembly of the gods; if the Greeks and Romans peopled their Tartarus and Elysium with spirits retaining all their ancient remembrances; if untutored heathens entertain sentiments in unison with this at the present day (and does not the mother in the Islands of the Pacific, mourning over her child, comfort herself with the belief that after her own death she shall rejoin it? — why does the Gentoo widow burn upon the funeral pile, but that she may be replaced with her husband? — why does the Indian of North America stretch his hands with joy towards the world beyond the summits of the blue mountains; is it not because he is confident that he shall renew his present existence in the society of cotemporary and kindred chieftains, and in conjunction with the spirits of his fathers?) may we not then suppose that one of the earliest presumptions of reason respecting futurity, would be, that Christian friendship should be revived beyond the grave, and with the endearing consciousness that the attachment had commenced on earth? But I will dismiss the considerations arising from reason; because it must be admitted that the suggestions of reason, well founded as they may appear, are not enough of themselves, to satisfy the mind of the believer in the revealed will of God, upon this momentous subject.
I. THE DECLARATION OF SCRIPTURE: —
1. Now, may we not consider this an averment of David's conviction that he should regain, and recognize his child in a future world?
2. The next passage to which I shall refer you, is in the fifteenth chapter of St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians, and the fifty-fourth verse: "So when this corruptible," etc. Now mark it is here declared that the consequences of sin, constitute the sting of death, one of these consequences is the separation of relative from relative, and friend from friend. Now, if the victory of our Redeemer is to be complete, as undoubtedly it will be, must not all the consequences of sin be terminated and annihilated? Must not the associations of human friendship, with all their endearing consciousness and recollection, be replaced on that basis on which they would have rested for ever, if the ruin of man by the fall had not taken place?
3. Let me next point you to a few passages illustrative of the great interest which the holy angels have ever taken, and will continue to take in the welfare of man, and the permanent and blessed association which is to subsist in heaven between the angels and the righteous. "We are made," says the apostle, "a spectacle to angels." "I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God." "Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels." "Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels." Is it not, then, in the highest degree probable that in heaven there shall be intercourse between particular angels, and those to whom they have ministered: that the righteous shall be able to know, that those angels have been their unseen guardians and protectors through all the trials and dangers of mortality; that the gratitude on the one side, and increased attachment on both sides, shall thus be an augmentation of bliss throughout eternity?
4. Our next quotations shall be from the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. First, from the eighth chapter of St. Matthew: "And I say unto you that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." And in the thirteenth chapter of St. Luke, "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Now, is it compatible with the lowest degree of probability to suppose that when Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, are sitting together in the kingdom of heaven, Abraham shall have no conscious recollection that he is actually beholding his beloved Isaac, the child of promise, the ancestor of the Messiah in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed; — that Isaac shall have no consciousness that he is dwelling in glory with his, revered earthly father; — that Jacob shall have no knowledge of his own parent, nor of "the father of the faithful," but that the three patriarchs shall be each to the other, as three individuals accidentally brought together from different countries, or from different planets?
5. The next passage bearing on this subject is connected with the transfiguration of our Lord: "And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias; who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." The discourse of our Lord indicated to the three apostles, who the gracious visitants were whom they beheld; and it tends, I think, to show, not merely that at the resurrection mutual recollection and consciousness will be revived, but that they experience no interruption from death; that memory suffers no fall.
6. Turn to the fourth chapter of St. Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians, from the thirteenth to the eighteenth verse: "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Why were the Thessalonians not to sorrow as those who had no hope? Because they were fully warranted in having hope — but hope, not merely that their departed friends would rise again, or that holy men whom they had lost would be happy in a future existence — for on these points neither instruction nor consolation was required; but this was the question which depressed their hearts, whether at the resurrection they should regain their lost relations, whether friend should be restored to friend with retained remembrance and conscious affection.
II. And if we carry forward our thoughts to THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, we shall find a very strong argument arising out of the details of that great day — an argument of immense importance in our present investigation.
1. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account of the things done in the body." Now can it be supposed that we shall not at the time of judgment, possess a clear and comprehensive recollection of the actions, the motives, and the principles, of which an account is then to be rendered, and upon which the sentence is then to be pronounced? And must not the recollection of our personal deeds and desires necessarily involve a recollection of other individuals? It is incontestably true that the recollection will be perfect, and the recognition complete, before the throne of judgment; and I come to this conclusion, that if they are not to be prolonged into eternity, they must be extinguished subsequently to the day of judgment by a special act of Omnipotence, that when a man remembers on that day he shall forget immediately after. And where is our warrant for expecting, that all which is in our remembrance at the final day of judgment, shall be forgotten in the day that succeeds it — in that eternal day?
2. There remains only one more passage illustrative of the interesting point now under consideration, and it shall be from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. —
(R. C. Dillon, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.