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company of the redeemed,—there are few who have not fixed upon a chosen circle of just men made perfect, from whose society they expect more particular pleasure. The
INTRODUCTION—HIS EARLY LIFE.
Amongst the most delightful associations connected with the world of spirits, is that idea which originates in our belief in the communion of saints, and which represents to us the children of God, who have lived upon earth at various periods of time, as forming one fold under the one great shepherd.
The Scriptures countenance and warrant this interesting notion, for in them we find our blessed Saviour himself holding out to his followers the prospect of being in Abraham's bosom, and of sitting down in the company of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and encouraging his disciples, both by the tenor of his prayers and his promises, to expect that after death they should be assembled together, and thus, once more united, should be with Him, and behold his glory and partake of his joy for ever.
Of those who, in humbly pursuing the paths of faith and holiness, are looking forward to be introduced to this company of the redeemed,—there are few who have not fixed upon a chosen circle of just men made perfect, from whose society they expect more particular pleasure. The idea is so natural, so intimately blended with all our better feelings, and really forms so beautiful and strong a tie to the invisible world, that it is one which it cannot be wrong to entertain.
This chosen circle, doubtless, consists in the first place of those, whom having seen, we have known and loved. Kindred and friends who have died in the Lord attach us to the citizens of heaven, and cause us to remember Zion with a more vivid interest.
"'Tis sweet, as year by year we lose
But it includes others also, belonging to distant countries or times, whose hands we have never clasped, whose voices we have never heard, whose bodily presence we have never seen, but with whose minds and characters we have become intimately acquainted and strongly attached. The simple-minded christians of primitive times—the confessors who, being faithful unto death, went to receive a crown of life—the staunch defenders of the faith, especially when their conscientious firmness and boldness in their Lord's behalf was associated with gentleness of spirit—these claim and possess the affection of the sincere christian; they are even admired and revered by those who have no very deeply-rooted sentiments of religion. But still that company comprises others, perhaps even more beloved than these, whose lives may not have been distinguished by any very remarkable incidents, yet to whom we are linked in the closest union. They are those to whom we owe the thoughts and impressions from which we derive the greatest satisfaction; —those who, in bequeathing to us wholesome counsel, have inscribed in their holy pages a picture of their own