"Our heavenly society": reflecting on a phrase from Richard Baxter

A commonality in late 17th and 18th century funeral sermons is the mention of the saints—often a few by name, usually the more famous figures of Protestant history with a few ‘local’ figures—with whom the deceased is now enjoying heaven. Richard Baxter captures the centrality of this thought in a remark he makes in a letter to Richard Sargeant on March 17, 1672: “Oh, for a seeing faith to behold the glory of our Father’s presence, and our heavenly society” [cited N.H. Keeble, A Subject Index to the Calendar of the Correspondence of Richard Baxter with another Baxter letter (Dr. Williams’s Library Occasional Papers, no.13; London: Dr. Williams’s Trust, 1994), 19].

A “seeing faith” is the paradox of the Christian walk is it not? It speaks of the certainty and assurance that faith needs. The “glory of our Father’s presence”—Baxter would not wish to exclude the Son and the Spirit, for surely the Son is the glory of the Father and the Spirit their mutual love. But my focus here is “our heavenly society”: in addition to the glory of the Triune God, surely the next greatest joy in heaven are the redeemed saints. To revel in them, their joy and redemption: why, ‘tis glory!