Monday, April 03, 2006

Beatific Vision II

Much could be written on this topic - and maybe these posts will provoke some fruitful journal articles. Edwards has a fascinating aside re the Beatific Vision in "Miscellanies" No. 442 where he comments that:

"So I believe the saints in heaven are made perfectly holy and impeccable by means, viz. by the beatific vision of God in Christ in glory, by experiencing so much the happiness of holiness, its happy nature and issue, by seeing the wrath of God on wicked men, etc." (Works, 13, 490-491)

This is interesting at a number of levels. First, that JE thinks in terms of means of grace in the glorified state - the means now being immediate rather than intermediate. Of course, this dovetails with the other point, that the saints increase in perfection - even in the glorified state. This may seems counterintuitive but it fits nicely with his Christology: Christ is made perfect throughout the time of his earthly sojourn, yet without sin - the saints, though perfect, experience an increase of perfection in heaven.

In The Pure in Heart Blessed, sermon No. 150 (Matthew 5:8), Edwards sets out the main reason for this increase:

'But the fountain that supplies that joy and delight which the soul has in seeing God is sufficient to fill the vessel, because it is infinite. He that sees the glory of God, he in his measure beholds that that there is no end of. The understanding may extend itself as far [as] it will; it doth but take its flight out into an endless expanse and dive into a bottomless ocean. It may discover more and more of the beauty and loveliness of God, but it never will exhaust the fountain. Men may as well swallow up the ocean as he can extend his faculties to the utmost of God's excellency.' (Works, 17, 72).

In sermon No. 373, on Romans 2:10, JE reflects at some length on the vision of Christ and God in the glorified state (You can find the sermon in Hickman 1834, Volume Two, 888-905) . He notes that the saints will see Christ with both 'bodily eyes' and with the 'eye of the soul.' (899). Edwards then develops a really remarkable section on the visio Dei - which begins (900) with the simple yet rhetorically striking statement: 'The saints in heaven shall see God.' He continues:

'This is that which is called by divines, the 'beatific vision' because this is that in which the blessedness of the saints in glory does chiefly consist. This is the fountain, the infinite fountain of their blessedness. The sight of Christ, which has already been spoken of, is not here to be excluded, for he is a divine person; the sight of him in his divine nature therefore belongs to the beatifical vision. This vision of God is the chief bliss of heaven, and therefore I would speak of it a little more particularly.' (900)


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