Page images

must often shed tears, “weeping with those who weep."-Thus have I shortly illustrated the truths respecting the saint's present state, suggested by the figurative language of the text. He is actively engaged in useful employments which have a reference to futurity, and, while thus employed, he frequently exhibits symptoms of distress and sorrow; “He sows in tears.”

II. The future state of the saint is held up in the concluding part of the text, under the corresponding figure of a harvest of joy: They who sow in tears shall reap in joy." The remaining part of the discourse shall be devoted to the illustration of the truths suggested by this beautiful figure. It seems to intimate, that the saint's future state shall be very different from his present state--that it shall be a state of activity—that it shall be a state of enjoyment and that it shall be a state resulting from, and corresponding to, the employments of the present state.

1st, The figurative description of the saint's future state, in the text, intimates, that it is very different from his present state. Here the saint sows, and sows in tears; there he reaps, and reaps in joy. The employments of seed-time and harvest are very different, and sorrow and joy are opposite affections of mind. The great object of all the saint's actions is the same in every stage of his existence the glory of God; and the enjoyment of God, is the principal source of his happiness both here and hereafter : “ Grace is glory begun ; glory is grace perfected." Yet still there is an obvious and important difference between the Christian's present and his future state. Here, he is engaged in a ceaseless round of fatiguing employ. ments ; there, “ he rests from his labours, and his works do follow him.” Here, he is exposed to num. berless inconveniences, from the hostile disposition of the men of the world; there, “ the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” Here, he is constantly contending with his spiritual adversaries“ without are fightings, and within are fears ;" there, all is internal peace and external security. Here, he puts on the helmet, and assumes the shield ; there, he wears the garland, and holds the palm of victory. Here, he wanders along the wild of life, a pilgrim and a sojourner; there, he dwells for ever in the house of his Father. Here, he has no continuing city;" there, he has “a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Here, his “adversary the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seek. ing whom he may devour ;" there, “Satan is bruised under his feet.” Here, he “ sees through a glass darkly;" there, he “ sees face to face.Here he “knows in part;" there, he “knows even as he is known.” Here, he “walks by faith and not by sight;" there, he “ sees God's face in righteousness, and is satisfied with his likeness.” Here he hopes ; there he enjoys. Here he fights; there he triumphs. Here he prays; there he praises. Here he weeps ; there God wipes away all tears from his eyes. Here he dies; there he lives for ever : “ There shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain ; for the former things are passed away."

2d, The figurative representation of the saint's fu. ture state in the text, intimates, that it is a state of activity. He is represented as reaping in joy: a figure which not merely conveys the idea of happiness, but of active exertion on the part of the individual who enjoys it. The happiness of the saint in a future state, is very frequently in scripture described by figures significant of tranquillity and repose : “ The righteous enter into peace, they rest in their beds. There remaineth a rest for the people of God.” These expressions are intended to intimate the complete freedom from weariness and pain which the saints possess, and the immoveable nature of their happiness. But it would certainly be a misinterpretation of the Scripture to conclude from such texts, that the saints in heaven are mere passive recipients of pleasurable feeling, and that they pass the ages of eternity in a state of indolent repose. The rest which they enjoy is opposed, not to action, but to fatigue and uncertainty. The truth is, no one figure is sufficient fully to delineate the celestial blessedness; and of consequence different, and in some points of view inconsistent, metaphors must be employed, to represent its diversified aspects, and transcendent excellence.

That the future state of the saints shall be a state of activity, might be presumed from what we know of the human constitution. Action is absolutely necessary to rational, permanent enjoyment. He who is most actively employed, provided his activity be properly directed, possesses the largest portion of enjoyment. It is true, indeed, that the most wise and dutiful exertions will, in the present state, if pursued to excess, produce fatigue and uneasiness; but that arises from the defects of our nature, either moral or physical, neither of which have any place in heaven, Accordingly we find heaven represented as all energy: “There is no night there ;" for there is no need of relaxation or refreshment. The saints are made like the angels of heaven, who excel in strength, and with unwearied activity execute the purposes of the Most High. They rest not day nor night, but unceasingly sing this anthem, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” And, while these “living creatures," who seem to be the symbolical representatives of the angelic hosts, "give glory and honour, and thanks to God, the four-andtwenty elders,” who are the symbolical representatives of the redeemed from among men, “ fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and worship him who liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power ; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."

With respect to the particular employments of the saints in heaven, the Holy Scriptures do not furnish us with any very definite information. They certainly, however, authorise us to conclude, that all the intellectual and active powers of our nature shall be exerted on their proper objects, with a vigour, and perseverance, and success, of which at present we can form no adequate conception. In the acquisition of knowledge, the love of holiness, and the communication as well as the reception of happiness, the blissful ages of eternity will be delightfully and actively employed.

3d, The figurative representation of the saint's future state, in the text, teaches us, that it is a state of enjoyment. He reaps, and he reaps in joy. Instead of entering on a general account of the happiness of the future state of good men, I shall confine myself to the illustration of the ideas suggested by the metaphor before us. We read in scripture of "the joy of harvest," as a pleasure peculiarly delightful. There are chiefly two things which render the harvest so remarkably pleasing to the husbandman: It is the fulfilment of his desires and hopes, and it furnishes him with a supply for the wants of the coming year. This observation equally applies to the harvest of the Christian husbandman. It must be a season of en.

joyment to him, for it is the accomplishment of his most ardent desires and fondest hopes; and it secures him abundant provision for the unending year of eternity.

In the treasures of harvest, the husbandman obtains the reward of his exertions, and finds that he has not laboured in vain, nor spent his strength for nought. In the celestial blessedness, the saint gains the possession of that happiness which he so highly valued, so eagerly desired, so patiently expecte ed, and for which he so diligently and perseveringly laboured, “ The hope of which he had heard in the word of the truth of the gospel,” now comes to him, and amply compensates for all his toils and sufferings. In the present state he frequently felt, that "hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” but he now feels, that the other part of the proverb is equally true, “when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” He now finds to his eternal joy, that his hope has not been what he often feared it would prove, the hope of the hypocrite, and that it shall never make him ashamed. He now clearly perceives, that all his exertions and sacri. fices were well bestowed ; and, looking back on the events of the seed-time and the summer, in grateful joy his heart blesses the Supreme Ruler, who has ren. dered all their diversified incidents subvervient to the production of so rich a harvest of endless happiness.

Harvest affords pleasure to the husbandman, not only by the retrospect it induces him to take, but also by the anticipations which it naturally excites. He rejoices that he has secured a supply for the wants of the coming year. In this point, too, the figure holds with respect to the Christian husbandman. In his harvest he obtains an abundant supply for the wants. of eternity. Without exposing himself to the charge of folly, he may say, “Soul, take thine ease, thou hast

« PreviousContinue »