AUTHOR: Edwards, Jonathan
PUBLISHED ON: March 31, 2003

Absent from the Body, by Jonathan Edwards
Scanned and edited by Harry Plantinga, planting@cs.pitt.edu
This text is in the public domain.

                        SERMON VI.[1]


                      Jonathan Edwards

    2 CORINTHIANS v. 3.–We are confident, I say, and willing
rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the

    THE apostle in this place is giving a reason why he went on
with so much boldness and immovable steadfastness, through such
labors, sufferings, and dangers of his life, in the service of his
Lord; for which his enemies, the false teachers among the
Corinthians, sometimes reproached him as being beside himself, and
driven on by a kind of madness. In the latter part of the
preceding chapter, the apostle informs the Christian Corinthians,
that the reason why he did thus, was, that he firmly believed the
promises that Christ had made to his faithful servants of a
glorious future eternal reward, and knew that these present
afflictions were light, and but for a moment, in comparison of
that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The same
discourse is continued in this chapter; wherein the apostle
further insists on the reason he had given of his constancy in
suffering, and exposing himself to death in the work of the
ministry, even the more happy state he expected after death. And
this is the subject of the text; wherein may be observed,
    1. The great future privilege, which the apostle hoped for;
that of being present with Christ. The words, in the original,
properly signify dwelling with Christ, as in the same country or
city, or making a home with Christ.
    2. When the apostle looked for this privilege, viz., when he
should be absent from the body. Not to wait for it till the
resurrection, when soul and body should be united again. He
signifies the same thing in his epistle to the Philippians, chap.
i. 22, 23: “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my
labor. Yet what I shall choose, I wot not. For I am in a strait
between two; having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.”
    3. The value the apostle set on this privilege. It was such,
that for the sake of it, he chose to be absent from the body. He
was willing rather, or (as the word properly signifies) it were
more pleasing to him, to part with the present life, and all its
enjoyments, and be possessed of this great benefit, than to
continue here.
    4. The present benefit, which the apostle had by his faith
and hope of this future privilege, and of his great value for it,
viz., that hence he received courage, assurance, and constancy of
mind, agreeable to the proper import of the word that is rendered,
we are confident. The apostle is now giving a reason of that
fortitude and immovable stability of mind, with which he went
through those extreme labors, hardships and dangers, which he
mentions in this discourse; so that, in the midst of all, he did
not faint, was not discouraged, but had constant light, and inward
support, strength, and comfort in the midst of all: agreeable to
the 10th verse of the foregoing chapter, “For which cause, we
faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man
is renewed day by day.” And the same is expressed more
particularly in the 8th, 9th, and 10th verses, of that chapter:
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast
down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body, the
dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made
manifest in our mortal flesh.” And in the next chapter, verses 4-
10: “In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in
much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in
stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in
fastings, by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by
kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of
truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the
right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report
and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet
well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not
killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making
many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
    Among the many useful observations there might be raised from
the text, I shall at this time only insist on that which lies most
plainly before us in the
words, viz., this:

    The souls of true saints, when they leave their bodies at
death, go to be with Christ.

    Departed souls of saints go to be with Christ, in the
following respects:
    I. They go to dwell in the same blessed abode with the
glorified human nature of Christ.
    The human nature of Christ is yet in being. He still
continues, and will continue to all eternity, to be both God and
man. His whole human nature remains: not only his human soul, but
also his human body. His dead body rose from the dead; and the
same that was raised from the dead, is exalted and glorified at
God’s right hand; that which was dead is now alive, and lives for
    And therefore there is a certain place, a particular part of
the external creation, to which Christ is gone, and where he
remains. And this place is that which we call the highest heaven,
or the heaven of heavens; a place beyond all the visible heavens.
Eph. iv. 9, 10, “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also
descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that
descended, is the same also that ascended up far above all
heavens.” This is the same which the apostle calls the third
heaven, 2 Cor. xii. 2, reckoning the aerial heaven as the first,
the starry heaven as the second, and the highest heaven as the
third. This is the abode of the holy angels; they are called “the
angels of heaven,” Matt. xxiv. 36; “The angels which are in
heaven,” Mark xiii. 32; “The angels of God in heaven,” Matt. xxii.
30, and Mark xii. 25. They are said “always to behold the face of
the Father which is in heaven,” Matt. xviii, 10. And they are
elsewhere often represented as before the throne of God, or
surrounding his throne in heaven, and sent from thence, and
descending from thence on messages to this world. And thither it
is that the souls of departed saints are conducted, when they die.
They are not reserved in some abode distinct from the highest
heaven; a place of rest, which they are kept in, till the day of
judgment; such as some imagine, which they call the hades of the
happy: but they go directly to heaven itself. This is the saints’
home, being their Father’s house: they are pilgrims and strangers
on the earth, and this is the other and better country that they
are travelling to, Heb. xi. 13Ñ26. This is the city they belong
to: Philip. iii. 20, “Our conversation or (as the word properly
signifies) citizenship, is in heaven.” Therefore this undoubtedly
is the place the apostle has respect to in my text, when he
says,”We are willing to forsake our former house, the body, and to
dwell in the same house, city or country, wherein Christ dwells;”
which is the proper import of the words of the original. What can
this house, or city, or country be, but that house, which is
elsewhere spoken of, as their proper home, and their Father’s
house, and the city and country to which they properly belong, and
whither they are travelling all the while they continue in this
world, and the house, city, and country where we know the human
nature of Christ is? This is the saints’ rest; here their hearts
are while they live; and here their treasure is. “The inheritance
incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, that is
designed for them, is reserved in heaven,” 1 Pet. i. 4; and
therefore they never can have their proper and full rest till they
come here. So that undoubtedly their souls, when absent from their
bodies (when the Scriptures represent them as in a state of
perfect rest), arrive hither. Those two saints, that left this
world, to go to their rest in another world, without dying, viz.,
Enoch and Elijah, went to heaven. Elijah was seen ascending up to
heaven, as Christ was. And to the same resting place, is there all
reason to think, that those saints go, that leave the world, to go
to their rest, by death. Moses, when he died in the top of the
mount, ascended to the same glorious abode with Elias, who
ascended without dying. They are companions in another world; as
they appeared together at Christ’s transfiguration. They were
together at that time with Christ in the mount, when there was a
specimen or sample of his glorification in heaven. And doubtless
they were also together afterwards, with him, when he was,
actually, fully glorified in heaven. And thither undoubtedly it
was, that the soul of Stephen ascended, when he expired. The
circumstances of his death demonstrate it, as we have an account
of it, Acts vii. 55, etc. : “He, being full of the Holy Ghost,
looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and
Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see
the heavens opened, and the Son of man (i.e. Jesus, in his human
nature) standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out
with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with
one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him. And they
stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive
my spirit.” Before his death he had an extraordinary view of the
glory that his Saviour had received in heaven, not only for
himself, but for him, and all his faithful followers; that he
might be encouraged, by the hopes of this glory, cheerfully to lay
down his life for his sake. Accordingly he dies in the hope of
this, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” By which doubtless
he meant, “receive my spirit to be with thee, in that glory,
wherein I have now seen thee, in heaven, at the right hand of
God.” And thither it was that the soul of the penitent thief on
the cross ascended. Christ said to him, “To-day shalt thou be with
me in paradise.” Paradise is the same with the third heaven; as
appears by 2 Cor. xii. 2, 3, 4. There that which is called the
third heaven in the 2d verse, in the 4th verse is called paradise.
The departed souls of the apostles and prophets are in heaven; as
is manifest from Rev. xviii. 20: “Rejoice over her, thou heaven,
and ye holy apostles and prophets.”
    The church of God is distinguished in Scripture, from time to
time, into these two parts; that part of it that is in heaven, and
that which is in earth; Eph. iii. 14, 15, “Jesus Christ, of whom
the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Col. i. 20, “And
having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to
reconcile all things to himself, by him, I say, whether they be
things in earth or things in heaven.” Now what things in heaven
are they for whom peace has been made by the blood of Christ’s
cross, and who have by him been reconciled to God, but the saints
in heaven? In like manner we read, Eph. i. 10, of God’s gathering
together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven,
and which are on earth, even in him.” The spirits of just men made
perfect are in the same city of the living God, and heavenly
Jerusalem, with the innumerable company of angels, and Jesus the
Mediator of the new covenant; as is manifest by Heb. xii. 22, 23,
24. The church of God is often in Scripture called by the name
Jerusalem; and the apostle speaks of the Jerusalem which is above,
or which is in heaven, as the mother of us all; but if no part of
the church be in heaven, or none but Enoch and Elias, it is not
likely that the church would be called the Jerusalem which is in
    II. The souls of true saints, when they leave their bodies at
death, go to be with Christ, as they go to dwell in the immediate,
full and constant sight or view of him.
    When we are absent from our dear friends, they are out of
sight; but when we are with them, we have the opportunity and
satisfaction of seeing them. So while the saints are in the body,
and are absent from the Lord, HE is in several respects out of
sight: 1 Pet. i. 8, “Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom,
though now ye see him not, yet believing,” etc. They have indeed,
in this world, a spiritual sight of Christ; but they see through a
glass darkly, and with great interruption; but in heaven they see
him face to face, 1 Cor. xiii. 12; “The pure in heart are blessed;
for they shall see God,” Matt. v. 8. Their beatifical vision of
God is in Christ, who is that brightness or effulgence of God’s
glory, by which his glory shines forth in heaven, to the view of
saints and angels there, as well as here on earth. This is the Sun
of righteousness, that is not only the light of this world, but is
also the sun that enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem; by whose
bright beams it is that the glory of God shines forth there, to
the enlightening and making happy all the glorious inhabitants.
“The Lamb is the light thereof; and so the glory of God doth
lighten it,” Rev. xxi. 23. None sees God the Father immediately,
who is the King eternal, immortal, invisible; Christ is the image
of that invisible God, by which he is seen by all elect creatures.
The only begotten Son that is in the bosom of the Father, he hath
declared him, and manifested him. None has ever immediately seen
the Father, but the Son; and none else sees the Father any other
way, than by the Son’s revealing him. And in heaven, the spirits
of just men made perfect do see him as he is. They behold his
glory. They see the glory of his divine nature, consisting in all
the glory of the Godhead, the beauty of all his perfections; his
great majesty, almighty power, his infinite wisdom, holiness, and
grace, and they see the beauty of his glorified human nature, and
the glory which the Father hath given him, as God-man and
Mediator. For this end, Christ desired that his saints might “be
with him, that they might behold his glory,” John xvii. 24. And
when the souls of the saints leave their bodies, to go to be with
Christ, they behold the marvellous glory of that great work of
his, the work of redemption, and of the glorious way of salvation
by him; desire to look into. They have a most clear view of the
unfathomable depths of the manifold wisdom and knowledge of God;
and the most bright displays of the infinite purity and holiness
of God, that do appear in that way and work; and see in a much
clearer manner than the saints do here, what is the breadth and
length, and depth and height of the grace and love of Christ,
appearing in his redemption. And as they see the unspeakable
riches and glory of the attribute of God’s grace, so they most
clearly behold and understand Christ’s eternal and unmeasurable
dying love to them in particular. And in short, they see every
thing in Christ that tends to kindle and inflame love, and every
thing that tends to gratify love, and every thing that tends to
satisfy them: and that in the most clear and glorious manner,
without any darkness or delusion, without any impediment or
interruption. Now the saints, while in the body, see something of
Christ’s glory and love; as we, in the dawning of the morning, see
something of the reflected light of the sun mingled with darkness;
but when separated from the body, they see their glorious and
loving Redeemer, as we see the sun when risen, and showing his
whole disk above the horizon, by his direct beams, in a clear
hemisphere, and with perfect day.
    III. The souls of true saints, when absent from the body go
to be with Jesus Christ, as they are brought into a most perfect
conformity to and union with him. Their spiritual conformity is
begun while they are in the hotly; here beholding, as in a glass,
the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image; but
when they come to see him as he is, in heaven, then they become
like him in another manner. That perfect sight will abolish all
remains of deformity, disagreement, and sinful unlikeness; as all
darkness is abolished before the full blaze of the sun’s meridian
light: it is impossible that the least degree of obscurity should
remain before such light; so it is impossible the least degree of
sin and spiritual deformity should remain, in such a view of the
spiritual beauty and glory of Christ, as the saints enjoy in
heaven; when they see that Sun of righteousness without a cloud,
they themselves shine forth as the sun, and shall be as little
suns, without a spot. For then is come the time when Christ
presents his saints to himself, in glorious beauty; “not having
spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;” and having holiness without
a blemish. And then the saints’ union with Christ is perfected.
This also is begun in this world. The relative union is both begun
and perfected at once, when the soul first closes with Christ by
faith: the real union, consisting in the union of hearts and
affections, and in the vital union, is begun in this world and
perfected in the next. The union of the heart of a believer to
Christ, is begun when his heart is drawn to Christ, by the first
discovery of divine excellency, at conversion; and consequent on
this drawing and closing of his heart with Christ, is established
a vital union with Christ; whereby the believer becomes a living
branch of the true vine, living by a communication of the sap and
vital juice of the stock and root; and a member of Christ’s
mystical body, living by a communication of spiritual and vital
influences from the head, and by a kind of participation of
Christ’s own life. But while the saints are in the body, there is
much remaining distance between Christ and them: there are
remainders of alienation, and the vital union is very imperfect;
and so consequently is the communication of spiritual life and
vital influences: there is much between Christ and believers to
keep them asunder, much indwelling sin, much temptation, a world
of carnal objects, to keep off the soul from Christ, and hinder a
perfect coalescence.
    But when the soul leaves the body, all these clogs and
hinderances shall be removed, every separating wall shall be
broken down, and every impediment taken out of the way, and all
distance shall cease; the heart shall be wholly and forever
attached and bound to him, by a perfect view of his glory. And the
vital union shall then be brought to perfection; the soul shall
live perfectly in and upon Christ, being perfectly filled with his
spirit, and animated by his vital influences; living, as it were,
only by Christ’s life, without any remainder of spiritual death,
or carnal life.
    IV. Departed souls of saints are with Christ, as they enjoy a
glorious and immediate intercourse and converse with him.
    While we are present with our friends, we have opportunity
for that free and immediate conversation with them, which we
cannot have in absence from them. And therefore, by reason of the
vastly more free, perfect, and immediate intercourse with Christ,
which the saints enjoy when absent from the body, they are fitly
represented as present with him.
    The most intimate intercourse becomes that relation that the
saints stand in to Jesus Christ; and especially becomes that most
perfect and glorious union they shall be brought into with him in
heaven. They are not merely Christ’s servants, but his friends,
John xv. 15. His brethren and companions, Psalm cxxii. 8; “yea,
they are the spouse of Christ.” They are espoused or betrothed to
Christ while in the body; but when they go to heaven, they enter
into the king’s palace, their marriage with him is come, and the
king brings them into his chambers indeed. They then go to dwell
with Christ constantly, to enjoy the most perfect converse with
him. Christ conversed in the most friendly manner with his
disciples on earth; he admitted one of them to lean on his bosom:
but they are admitted much more fully and freely to converse with
him in heaven. Though Christ be there in a state of glorious
exaltation, reigning in the majesty and glory of the sovereign
Lord and God of heaven and earth, angels and men; yet this will
not hinder intimacy and freedom of intercourse, but rather promote
it. For he is thus exalted, not only for himself, but for them; he
is instated in this glory of head over all things for their sakes,
that they might be exalted and glorified; and when they go to
heaven where he is, they are exalted and glorified with him; and
shall not be kept at a more awful distance from Christ, but shall
be admitted nearer, and to a greater intimacy. For they shall be
unspeakably more fit for it, and Christ in more fit circumstances
to bestow on them this blessedness. Their seeing the great glory
of their friend and Redeemer, will not awe them to a distance, and
make them afraid of a near approach; but on the contrary, will
most powerfully draw them near, and encourage and engage them to
holy freedom. For they will know that it is he that is their own
Redeemer, and beloved friend and bridegroom; the very same that
loved them with a dying love, and redeemed them to God by his
blood; Matt. xiv. 27, “It is I; be not afraid.” Rev. i. 17, 18,”
Fear not:–I am he that liveth, and was dead.” And the nature of
this glory of Christ that they shall see, will be such as will
draw and encourage them; for they will not only see infinite
majesty and greatness, but infinite grace, condescension, and
mildness, and gentleness and sweetness, equal to his majesty. For
he appears in heaven, not only as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
but as the Lamb, and the Lamb in the midst of the throne, “Rev. v.
5, 6; and this Lamb in the midst of the throne shall be their
shepherd, to” feed them, and lead them to living fountains of
water,” Rev. vii. 17; so that the sight of Christ’s great kingly
majesty will be no terror to them; but will only serve the more to
heighten their pleasure and surprise. When Mary was about to
embrace Christ, being full of joy at the sight of him again alive
after his crucifixion, Christ forbids her to do it for the ended:
John xx. 16, 17, “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself,
and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master. Jesus saith
unto her, Touch me not: for I am not yet ascended to my Father:
but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father,
and your Father, and to my God and your God.” As if he had said,
“This is not the time and place for that freedom your love to me
desires: this is appointed in heaven after my ascension. I am
going thither; and you that are my true disciples, shall, as my
brethren and companions, soon be there with me in my glory. And
then there shall be no restraint. That is the place appointed for
the most perfect expressions of complacence and endearment, and
full enjoyment of mutual love.” And accordingly the souls of
departed saints with Christ in heaven, shall have Christ as it
were unbosomed unto them, manifesting those infinite riches of
love towards them, that have been there from eternity; and they
shall be enabled to express their love to him, in an infinitely
better manner than ever they could while in the body. Thus they
shall eat and drink abundantly, and swim in the ocean of love, and
be eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright, and infinitely
mild and sweet beams of divine love; eternally receiving that
light, eternally full of it, and eternally compassed round with
it, and everlastingly reflecting it back again to the fountain of
    V. The souls of the saints, when they leave their bodies at
death, go to be with Christ, as they are received to a glorious
fellowship with Christ in his blessedness.
    As the wife is received to a joint possession of her
husband’s estate, and as the wife of a prince partakes with him in
his princely possessions and honors; so the church, the spouse of
Christ, when the marriage comes, and she is received to dwell with
him in heaven, shall partake with him in his glory. When Christ
rose from the dead, and took possession of eternal life; this was
not as a private person, but as the public head of all his
redeemed people. He took possession of it for them, as well as for
himself; and “they are quickened together with him, and raised up
together.” And so when he ascended into heaven, and was exalted to
great glory there, this also was as a public person. He took
possession of heaven, not only for himself, but his people, as
their forerunner and head, that they might ascend also, “and sit
together in heavenly places with him,” Eph. ii. 5, 6. “Christ
writes upon them his new name,” Rev. iii. 12; i.e., he makes them
partakers of his own glory and exaltation in heaven. His new name
is that new honor and glory that the Father invested him with,
when he set him on his own right hand. As a prince, when he
advances any one to new dignity in his kingdom, gives him a new
title. Christ and his saints shall be glorified together, Rom.
viii. 17.
    The saints in heaven have communion, or a joint participation
with Christ in his glory and blessedness in heaven, in the
following respects more especially.
    1. They partake with him in the ineffable delights he has in
heaven, in the enjoyment of his Father.
    When Christ ascended into heaven, he was received to a
glorious and peculiar joy and blessedness in the enjoyment of his
Father, who, in his passion, hid his face from him; such an
enjoyment as became the relation he stood in to the Father, and
such as was a meet reward for the great and hard service he had
performed on earth. Then “God showed him the path of life, and
brought him into his presence, where is fulness of joy, and to sit
on his right hand, where there are pleasures for evermore,” as is
said of Christ, Psalm xvi. 11. Then the Father “made him most
blessed forever. He made him exceeding glad with his countenance;”
as in Psalm xxi. 6. The saints, by virtue of their union with
Christ, and being his members, do, in some sort partake of his
childlike relation to the Father; and so are heirs with him of his
happiness in the enjoyment of his Father; as seems to be intimated
by the apostle, in Gal. iv. 4–7. The spouse of Christ, by virtue
of her espousals to that only begotten Son of God, is, as it were,
a partaker of his filial relation to God, and becomes the king’s
daughter, Psalm xiv. 13, and so partakes with her divine husband
in his enjoyment of his Father and her Father, his God and her
God.” A promise of this seems to be implied in those words of
Christ to Mary, John xx. 17. Thus Christ’s faithful servants
“enter into the joy of their Lord,” Matt. xxv. 21, 23, and
“Christ’s joy remains in them;” agreeably to those words of
Christ, John xv. 11. Christ from eternity is, as it were, in the
bosom of the Father, as the object of his infinite complacence. In
him is the Father’s eternal happiness. Before the world was, he
was with the Father, in the enjoyment of his infinite love; and
had infinite delight and blessedness in that enjoyment; as he
declares of himself in Prov. viii. 30: “Then I was by him as one
brought up with him. And I was daily his delight, rejoicing always
before him.” And when Christ ascended to the Father after his
passion, he went to him, to the enjoyment of the same glory and
blessedness in the enjoyment of his love; agreeably to his prayer
the evening before his crucifixion, John xvii. 5: “And now, O
Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glory I had with
thee before the world was.” And in the same prayer, he manifests
it to be his will, that his true disciples should be with him in
the enjoyment of that joy and glory, which he then asked for
himself, verse 13: “That my joy might be fulfilled in themselves:”
verse 22, “And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them.”
This glory of Christ, which the saints are to enjoy with him, is
that which he has in the enjoyment of the Father’s infinite love
to him; as appears by the last words of that prayer of our Lord,
verse 26: “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in
them, and I in them.” The love which the Father has to his Son is
great indeed: the Deity does, as it were, wholly and entirely flow
out in a stream of love to Christ; and the joy and pleasure of
Christ is proportionably great. This is the stream of Christ’s
delights, the river of his infinite pleasure; which he will make
his saints to drink of with him, agreeably to Psal. xxxvi. 8, 9:
“They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house.
Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with
thee is the fountain of life. In thy light shall we see light.”
The saints shall have pleasure in partaking with Christ in his
pleasure, and shall see light in his light. They shall partake
with Christ of the same river of pleasure, shall drink of the same
water of life, and of the same new wine in Christ’s Father’s
kingdom, Matt. xxvi. 29. That new wine is especially that joy and
happiness that Christ and his true disciples shall partake of
together in glory, which is the purchase of Christ’s blood, or the
reward of his obedience unto death. Christ, at his ascension into
heaven, received everlasting pleasures at his Father’s right hand,
and in the enjoyment of his Father’s love, as the reward of his
own death, or obedience unto death. But the same righteousness is
reckoned to both head and members; and both shall have fellowship
in the same reward, each according to their distinct capacity.
    That the saints in heaven have such a communion with Christ
in his joy, and do so partake with him in his own enjoyment of the
Father, does greatly manifest the transcendent excellency of their
happiness, and their being admitted to a vastly higher privilege
in glory than the angels.
    2. The saints in heaven are received to a fellowship or
participation with Christ in the glory of that dominion to which
the Father hath exalted him.
    The saints, when they ascend to heaven as Christ ascended,
and are made to sit together with him in heavenly places, and are
partakers of the glory of his exaltation, are exalted to reign
with him. They are through him made kings and priests, and reign
with him, and in him, over the same kingdom. As the Father hath
appointed unto him a kingdom, so he has appointed to them. The
Father has appointed the Son to reign over his own kingdom, and
the Son appoints his saints to reign in his. The Father has given
to Christ to sit with him on his throne, and Christ gives to the
saints to sit with him on his throne, agreeably to Christ’s
promise, Rev. iii. 21. Christ, as God’s Son, is the heir of his
kingdom, and the saints are joint heirs with Christ: which
implies, that they are heirs of the same inheritance, to possess
the same kingdom, in and with him, according to their capacity.
Christ, in his kingdom, reigns over heaven and earth; he is
appointed the heir of all things; and so all things are the
saints’; “whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or
life, or death, or things present, or things to come,” all are
theirs; because they are Christ’s, and united to him, 1 Cor. iii.
21, 22, 23. The angels are given to Christ as a part of his
dominion: they are all given to wait upon him as ministering
spirits to him. So also they are all, even the highest and most
dignified of them, ministering spirits, to minister to them who
are the heirs of salvation. They are Christ’s angels, and they are
also their angels. Such is the saints’ union with Christ, and
their interest in him, that what he possesses, they possess, in a
much more perfect and blessed manner than if all things were given
to them separately, and by themselves, to be disposed of according
to their discretion. They are now disposed of so as, in every
respect, to be most for their blessedness, by an infinitely better
discretion than their own; and in being disposed of by their head
and husband, between whom and them there is the most perfect union
of hearts, and so the most perfect union of wills, and who are
most perfectly each other’s.
    As the glorified spouse of this great King reigns with and in
him, in his dominion over the universe, so more especially does
she partake with him in the joy and glory of his reign in his
kingdom of grace; which is more peculiarly the kingdom that he
possesses as Head of the church, and is that kingdom wherein she
is more especially interested. It was especially to reign in this
kingdom, that God the Father exalted him to his throne in heaven:
he set his King on his holy hill of Zion, especially that he might
reign over Zion, or over his church, in his kingdom of grace; and
that he might be under the best advantages to carry on the designs
of his love in this lower world. And therefore undoubtedly the
saints in heaven are partakers with Christ in the joy and glory of
the advancement and prosperity of his kingdom of grace on earth,
and success of his gospel here, which he looks on as the peculiar
glory of his reign.
    The good shepherd rejoices when he finds but one sheep that
was lost; and his friends and neighbors in heaven rejoice with him
on that occasion. That part of the family that is in heaven is
surely not unacquainted with the affairs of that part of the same
family that is on earth. They that are with the King and are next
to him, the royal family, that dwell in his palace, are not kept
in ignorance of the affairs of his kingdom. The saints in heaven
are with the angels, the King’s ministers, by which he manages the
affairs of his kingdom, and who are continually ascending and
descending from heaven to the earth, and one or other of them
daily employed as ministering spirits to each individual member of
the church below: besides the continual ascending of the souls of
departed saints from all parts of the militant church. On these
accounts the saints in heaven must needs be under a thousand times
greater advantage than we here for a full view of the state of the
church on earth, and a speedy, direct, and certain acquaintance
with all its affairs in every part. And that which gives them much
greater advantage for such an acquaintance than the things already
mentioned, is their being constantly in the immediate presence of
Christ, and in the enjoyment of the most perfect intercourse with
him, who is the King who manages all these affairs, and has an
absolutely perfect knowledge of them. Christ is the head of the
whole glorified assembly; they are mystically his glorified body:
and what the head sees, it sees for the information of the whole
body, according to its capacity: and what the head enjoys, is for
the joy of the whole body.
    The saints, in leaving this world, and ascending to heaven,
do not go out of sight of things appertaining to Christ’s kingdom
on earth; but, on the contrary, they go out of a state of
obscurity, and ascend above the mists and clouds into the clearest
light: to a pinnacle in the very centre of light, where every
thing appears in clear view. They have as much greater advantage
to view the state of Christ’s kingdom, and the works of the new
creation here, than while they were in this world, as a man that
ascends to the top of a high mountain has a greater advantage to
view the face of the earth, than he had while he was in a deep
valley, or thick forest below, surrounded on every side with those
things that impeded and limited his sight. Nor do they view as
indifferent or unconcerned spectators, any more than Christ
himself is an unconcerned spectator.
    The happiness of the saints in heaven consists very much in
beholding the glory of God appearing in the work of redemption:
for it is by this chiefly that God manifests his glory, the glory
of his wisdom, holiness, grace, and other perfections, to both
saints and angels; as is apparent by many Scriptures. And
therefore undoubtedly their happiness consists very much in
beholding the progress of this work in its application and
success, and the steps by which infinite power and wisdom bring it
to its consummation. And the saints in heaven are under
unspeakably greater advantage to take the pleasure of beholding
the progress of this work on earth than we are that are here; as
they are under greater advantages to see and understand the
marvellous steps that Divine Wisdom takes in all that is done, and
the glorious ends he obtains, the opposition Satan makes, and how
he is baffled and overthrown. They can better see the connection
of one event with another, and the beautiful order of all things
that come to pass in the church in different ages that to us
appear like confusion. Nor do they only view these things, and
rejoice in them, as a glorious and beautiful sight, but as persons
interested, as Christ is interested; as possessing these things in
Christ, and reigning with him, in this kingdom. Christ’s success
in his work of redemption, in bringing home souls to himself,
applying his saving benefits by his Spirit, and the advancement of
the kingdom of grace in the world, is the reward especially
promised to him by his Father in the covenant of redemption, for
the hard and difficult service he performed while in the form of a
servant; as is manifest by Isai. liii. 10, 11, 12. But the saints
shall be rewarded with him: they shall partake with him in the joy
of this reward; for this obedience that is thus rewarded is
reckoned to them as they are his members, as was before observed.
This was especially the joy that was set before Christ, for the
sake of which he endured the cross and despised the shame. And his
joy is the joy of all heaven. They that are with him in heaven are
under much the greatest advantages to partake with him in this
joy; for they have a perfect communion with him through whom, and
in fellowship with whom, they enjoy and possess their whole
inheritance, all their heavenly happiness; as much as the whole
body has all its pleasure of music by the ear, and all the
pleasure of its food by the mouth and stomach; and all the benefit
and refreshment of the air by the lungs. The saints while on earth
pray and labor for the same thing that Christ labored for, viz.,
the advancement of the kingdom of God among men, the promoting of
the prosperity of Zion, and flourishing of religion in this world;
and most of them have suffered for that end as Christ did, have
been made partakers with their head in his sufferings, and “filled
up (as the apostle expresses it) that which is behind of the
sufferings of Christ:” and therefore they shall partake with him
of the glory and joy of the end obtained. Rom. viii. 17, “We are
joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we
may be also glorified together.” 2 Tim. ii. 12, “If we suffer with
him, we shall also reign with him.” Christ, when his sufferings
were past, and he left the earth and ascended into heaven, was so
far from having done with kingdom in this world, that it was as it
were but then begun: and he ascended for that very end, that he
might more fully possess and enjoy this kingdom, that he might
reign in it, and be under the best advantages for it; as much as a
king ascends a throne in order to reign over his people, and
receive the honor and glory of his dominion. No more have the
saints done with Christ’s kingdom on earth, when they leave the
earth and ascend into heaven. “Christ came (i.e., ascended) with
clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and was brought
near before him, to the very end, that he might receive dominion,
and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages,
should serve him,” Dan. vii. 13, 14. Which shall be eminently
fulfilled after the ruin of Antichrist, which is especially the
time of Christ’s kingdom. And the same is the time when “the
kingdom and dominion, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole
heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most
High God;” as verse 27, in the same chapter. It is because they
shall reign in and with Christ, the Most High, as seems intimated
in the words that follow; “whose kingdom is an everlasting
kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” This verse
is true, not only of the saints on earth, but also the saints in
heaven. Hence the saints in heaven, having respect to this time,
do sing, in Rev. v. 10, “We shall reign on the earth.” And
agreeably hereto, it is afterwards represented, that when the
forementioned time comes, the souls of them that in former ages
had suffered with Christ do reign with Christ; having as it were
given to them new life and joy, in that spiritual blessed
resurrection, which shall then be of the church of God on earth;
and thus it is that it is said, Matt. v. 5, “The meek (those that
meekly and patiently suffer with Christ, and for his sake) shall
inherit the earth:” they shall inherit it, and reign on earth with
Christ. Christ is the heir of the world; and when the appointed
time of his kingdom comes, his inheritance shall be given him, and
then the meek, who are joint heirs, shall inherit the earth. The
place in the Old Testament whence the words are taken, leads to a
true interpretation of them. Psal. xxxvii. 11, “The meek shall
inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance
of peace.” That there is reference in these latter words, “the
abundance of peace,” to the peace and blessedness of the latter
days, we may be satisfied by comparing these words with Psal.
lxxii. 7,” In his days shall be abundance of peace so long as the
moon endureth:” and Jer. xxxiii. 6, “I will reveal to them the
abundance of peace and truth:” also Isai. ii. 4, Micah iv. 3,
Isai. xi. 6–9, and many other parallel places. The saints in
heaven will be as much with Christ in reigning over the nations,
and in the glory of his dominion at that time, as they will he
with him in the honor of judging the world at the last day. That
promise of Christ to his disciples, Matt. xix. 28, 29, seems to
have a special respect to the former of these. In verse 28, Christ
promises to the disciples, that hereafter, “when the Son of Man
shall sit on the throne of his glory, they shall sit on twelve
thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The saints in
heaven reigning on earth in the glorious latter day, is described
in language accommodated to this promise of Christ, Rev. xx. 4:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them; and judgment was given
them. And they reigned with Christ.” And the promise in the next
verse, in that xixth of Matthew, seems to have its fulfillment at
the same time: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or
brethren, or sisters, or fathers, or wife, or children, or lands,
for my name’s sake shall receive a hundred fold, and shall inherit
everlasting life;” i.e., in the time when the saints shall inherit
the earth and reign on earth, the earth, with all its blessings
and good things, shall be given in great abundance to the church,
to be possessed by the saints. This shall they receive in this
present world, and in the time to come everlasting life. The
saints in heaven shall partake with Christ in the triumph and
glory of those victories that he shall obtain in that future
glorious time, over the kings and nations of the world, that are
sometimes represented by his ruling them with a rod of iron, and
dashing them in pieces as a potter’s vessel. Which doubtless there
is respect to in Rev. ii. 26, 27: “He that overcometh, and keepeth
my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
(and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessel of a
potter shall they be broken to shivers:) even as I received of my
Father.” And Psal. cxlix. 5, to the end: “Let the saints be joyful
in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds;” i.e., in their
separate state after death; compare Isai. lvii. 1, 2. Let the high
praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their
hand: to execute vengeance upon the Heathen, and punishments upon
the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with
fetters of iron, to execute upon them the judgment written: this
honor have all the saints.” Accordingly when Christ appears riding
forth to his victory over Antichrist, Rev. xix., the hosts of
heaven appear going forth with him in robes of triumph, verse 14.
And when Antichrist is destroyed, the inhabitants of heaven, and
the holy apostles and prophets, are called upon to rejoice, chap.
xviii. 20. And accordingly the whole multitude of the inhabitants
of heaven, on that occasion, do appear to exult and praise God
with exceeding joy, chap. xix. 1Ñ8, and chap. xi. 15; and are also
represented as greatly rejoicing on occasion of the ruin of the
heathen empire, in the days of Constantine, chap xii. 10.
    And it is observable all along in the visions of that book,
the hosts of heaven appear as much concerned and interested in the
events appertaining to the kingdom of Christ here below, as the
saints on earth. The day of the commencement of the church’s
latter day glory is eminently “the day of Christ’s espousals; the
day of the gladness of his heart, when as the bridegroom rejoiceth
over the bride, so he will rejoice over his church.” And then will
all heaven exceedingly rejoice with him. And therefore they say at
that time, Rev. xix. 7, “Let us be glad, and rejoice, and give
glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come.”
    Thus Abraham enjoys these things when they come to pass, that
were of old promised to him, and that he saw beforehand, and
rejoiced in. He will enjoy the fulfilment of the promise of all
the families of the earth being blessed in his seed, when it shall
be accomplished. And all the ancient patriarchs, who died in faith
of promises of glorious things that should be accomplished in this
world, “who had not received the promises, but saw them afar off,
and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,” do actually enjoy
them when fulfilled. David actually saw and enjoyed the fulfilment
of that promise, in its due time, which was made to him many
hundred years before, and was all his salvation and all his
desire. Thus Daniel shall stand in his lot at the end of the days
pointed out by his own prophecy. Thus the saints of old that died
in faith, not having received the promises, are made perfect, and
have their faith crowned by the better things accomplished in
these latter days of the gospel, Heb. xi. 39, 40, which they see
and enjoy in their time.
    3. The departed souls of saints have fellowship with Christ,
in his blessed and eternal employment of glorifying the Father.
    The happiness of heaven consists not only in contemplation,
and a mere passive enjoyment, but consists very much in action.
And particularly in actively serving and glorifying God. This is
expressly mentioned as a great part of the blessedness of the
saints in their most perfect state, Rev. xxii. 3: “And there shall
be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be
in it; and his servants shall serve him.” The angels are as a
flame of fire in their ardor and activity in God’s service: the
four animals, Rev. iv. (which are generally supposed to signify
the angels), are represented as continually giving praise and
glory to God, and are said not to rest day nor night, verse 8. The
souls of departed saints are, doubtless, become as the angels of
God in heaven in this respect. And Jesus Christ is the head of the
whole glorious assembly; as in other things appertaining to their
blessed state, so in this of their praising and glorifying the
Father. When Christ, the night before he was crucified, prayed for
his exaltation to glory, it was that he might glorify the Father:
John xvii. 1, “These words spake Jesus, and lift up his eyes to
heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that
thy Son also may glorify thee.” And this he doubtless does, now he
is in heaven; not only in fulfilling the Father’s will, in what he
does as head of the church and ruler of the universe, but also in
leading the heavenly assembly in their praises. When Christ
instituted the Supper, and ate and drank with his disciples at his
table (giving them therein a representation and pledge of their
future feasting with him, and drinking new wine in his heavenly
Father’s kingdom), he at that time led them in their praises to
God, in that hymn that they sang. And so doubtless he leads his
glorified disciples in heaven. David was the sweet psalmist of
Israel, and he led the great congregation of God’s people in their
songs of praise. Herein, as well as in innumerable other things,
he was a type of Christ, who is often spoken of in Scripture by
the name of David. And many of the psalms that David penned, were
songs of praise, that he, by the spirit of prophecy, uttered in
the name of Christ, as Head of the church, and leading the saints
in their praises. Christ in heaven leads the glorious assembly in
their praises to God, as Moses did the congregation of Israel at
the Red Sea; which is implied in its being said, that “they sing
the song of Moses and the Lamb,” Rev. xv. 2, 3. In Rev. xix. 5,
John tells us, that “he heard a voice come out of the throne,
saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him,
both small and great.” Who can it be that utters this voice out of
the throne, but the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne,
calling on the glorious assembly of saints to praise his Father
and their Father, his God and their God? And what the consequence
of this voice is, we have an account in the next words: “And I
heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice
of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying,
Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”


    The use that I would make of what has been said on this
subject is of EXHORTATION. Let us all be exhorted hence earnestly
seek after that great privilege that has been spoken of, that when
“we are absent from the body, we may be present with the Lord.” We
cannot continue always in these earthly tabernacles: they are very
frail, and will soon decay and fall; and are continually liable to
be overthrown by innumerable means: our souls must soon leave
them, and go into the eternal world. O, how infinitely great will
the privilege and happiness of such be, who at that time shall go
to be with Christ in his glory, in the manner that has been
represented! The privilege of the twelve disciples was great, in
being so constantly with Christ as his family, in his state of
humiliation. The privilege of those three disciples was great, who
were with him in the mount of his transfiguration; where was
exhibited to them some little semblance of his future glory in
heaven, such as they might behold in the present frail, feeble,
and sinful state: they were greatly entertained and delighted with
what they saw; and were for making tabernacles to dwell there, and
return no more down the mount. And great was the privilege of
Moses when he was with Christ in Mount Sinai, and besought him to
show him his glory, and he saw his back parts as he passed by, and
proclaimed his name. But is not that privilege infinitely greater,
that has now been spoken of, the privilege of being with Christ in
heaven, where he sits on the right hand of God, in the glory of
the King and God of angels, and of the whole universe, shining
forth as the great light, the bright sun of that world of glory;
there to dwell in the full, constant and everlasting view of his
beauty and brightness; there most freely and intimately to
converse with him, and fully to enjoy his love, as his friends and
spouse; there to have fellowship with him in the infinite pleasure
and joy he has in the enjoyment of his Father; there to sit with
him on his throne, and reign with him in the possession of all
things, and partake with him in the joy and glory of his victory
over his enemies, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world,
and to join with him in joyful songs of praise to his Father and
their Father, to his God and their God, forever and ever? Is not
such a privilege worth the seeking after?
    But here, as a special enforcement of this exhortation, I
would improve that dispensation of God’s holy providence, that is
the sorrowful occasion of our coming together at this time, viz.,
the death of that eminent servant of Jesus Christ, in the work of
the gospel ministry, whose funeral is this day to be attended;
together with what was observable in him, living and dying.
    In this dispensation of Providence, God puts us in mind of
our mortality, and forewarns us that the time is approaching when
we must be absent from the body, and “must all appear (as the
apostle observes in the next verse but one to my text) before the
judgment seat of Christ, that every one of us may receive the
things done in the body, according to what we have done, whether
it be good or bad.”
    And in him, whose death we are now called to consider and
improve, we have not only an instance of mortality, but an
instance of one that, being absent from the body, is present with
the Lord; as we have all imaginable reason to conclude. And that,
whether we consider the nature of the operations he was under,
about the time whence he dates his conversion, or the nature and
course of his inward exercises from that time forward, or his
outward conversation and long space wherein he looked death in the
    His convictions of sin, preceding his first consolations in
Christ (as appears by a written account he has left of his inward
exercises and experiences), were exceeding deep and thorough: his
trouble and exercise of mind, through a sense of guilt and misery,
very great and long continued, but yet sound and solid; consisting
in no unsteady, violent and unaccountable hurries and frights, and
strange perturbations of mind; but arising from the most serious
consideration, and proper illumination of the conscience to
discern and consider the true state of things. And the light let
into his mind at conversion, and the influences and exercises that
his mind was subject to at that time, appear very agreeable to
reason and the gospel of Jesus Christ; the change very great and
remarkable, without any appearance of strong impressions on the
imagination, sudden flights and pangs of the affections, and
vehement emotions in animal nature; but attended with proper
intellectual views of the supreme glory of the divine Being,
consisting in the infinite dignity and beauty of the perfections
of his nature, and of the transcendent excellency of the way of
salvation by Christ. This was about eight years ago, when he was
about twenty-one years of age.
    Thus God sanctified and made meet for his use, that vessel
that he intended to make eminently a vessel of honor in his house,
and which he had made of large capacity, having endowed him with
very uncommon abilities and gifts of nature. He was a singular
instance of a ready invention, natural eloquence, easy flowing
expression, sprightly apprehension, quick discerning, and a very
strong memory; and yet of a very penetrating genius, close and
clear thought, and piercing judgment. He had an exact taste: his
understanding was (if I may so express it) of a quick, strong and
distinguishing scent.
    His learning was very considerable: he had a great taste for
learning; and applied himself to his studies in so close a manner
when he was at college, that he much injured his health; and was
obliged on that account for a while to leave the college, throw by
his studies and return home. He was esteemed one that excelled in
learning in that society.
    He had an extraordinary knowledge of men, as well as things.
Had a great insight into human nature, and excelled most that ever
I knew in a communicative faculty: he had a peculiar talent at
accommodating himself to the capacities, tempers and
circumstances, of those that he would instruct or counsel.
    He had extraordinary gifts for the pulpit: I never had
opportunity to hear him preach, but have often heard him pray: and
I think his manner of addressing himself to God, and expressing
himself before him, in that duty, almost inimitable; such (so far
as I may judge) as I have very rarely known equalled. He expressed
himself with that exact propriety and pertinency, in such
significant, weighty, pungent expressions; with that decent
appearance of sincerity, reverence, and solemnity, and great
distance from all affectation, as forgetting the presence of men,
and as being in the immediate presence of a great and holy God,
that I have scarcely ever known paralleled. And his manner of
preaching, by what I have often heard of it from good judges, was
no less excellent; being clear and instructive, natural, nervous,
forcible, and moving, and very searching and convincing. He
nauseated an affected noisiness, and violent boisterousness in the
pulpit; and yet much disrelished a flat, cold delivery, when the
subject of discourse, and matter delivered, required affection and
    Not only had he excellent talents for the study and the
pulpit, but also for conversation. He was of a sociable
disposition; and was remarkably free, entertaining, and profitable
in ordinary discourse; and had much of a faculty of disputing,
defending truth and confuting error.
    As he excelled in his judgment and knowledge of things in
general, so especially in divinity. He was truly, for one of his
standing, an extraordinary divine. But above all, in matters
relating to experimental religion. In this, I know I have the
concurring opinion of some that have had a name for persons of the
best judgment. And according to what ability I have to judge
things of this nature, and according to my opportunities, which of
late have been very great, I never knew his equal, of his age and
standing, for clear, accurate notions of the nature and essence of
true religion, and its distinctions from its various false
appearances; which I suppose to be owing to these three things
meeting together in him;–the strength of his natural genius, and
the great opportunities he had of observation of others, in
various parts, both white people and Indians, and his own great
    His experiences of the holy influences of God’s Spirit were
not only great at his first conversion, but they were so, in a
continued course, from that time forward; as appears by a record,
or private journal, he kept of his daily inward exercises, from
the time of his conversion, until he was disabled by the failing
of his strength, a few days before his death. The change which he
looked upon as his conversion, was not only a great change of the
present views, affections, and frame of his mind; but was
evidently the beginning of that work of God on his heart, which
God carried on, in a very wonderful manner, from that time to his
dying day. He greatly abhorred the way of such, as live on their
first work, as though they had now got through their work, and are
thence forward, by degrees, settled in a cold, lifeless,
negligent, worldly frame; he had an ill opinion of such persons’
    Oh that the things that were seen and heard in this
extraordinary person, his holiness, heavenliness, labor and self-
denial in life, his so remarkably devoting himself and his all, in
heart and practice, to the glory of God, and the wonderful frame
of mind manifested, in so steadfast a manner, under the
expectation of death, and the pains and agonies that brought it
on, may excite in us all, both ministers and people, a due sense
of the greatness of the work we have to do in the world, the
excellency and amiableness of thorough religion in experience and
practice, and the blessedness of the end of such, whose death
finishes such a life, and the infinite value of their eternal
reward, when absent from the body and present with the Lord; and
effectually stir us up to endeavors, that in the way of such a
holy life we may at least come to so blessed an end.  AMEN.


[1] Preached on the day of the funeral of the Rev. Mr. David
Brainerd, Missionary to the Indians, from the Honorable Society in
Scotland for the propagation of Christian Knowledge, and Pastor of
a Church of Christian Indians in New Jersey; who died at
Northampton, in New England, October 9, 1747, in the 30th year of
his age, and was interred on the l2th following.

[2] We have ormtted a few pages which follow here of this
discourse, because what the author communicates, respecting Mr.
Brainerd, is to be found almost in the same words in the Memoirs
of his life, and in his Reflections upon it, which he afterwards

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