« PreviousContinue »
AFFLICTION TERMINATING IN HEAVEN.
Hear what God the Lord hath spoken :
O my people, faint and few,
Fair abodes I build for you ;
Shall no more perplex your ways,
And your gates shall all be praise.
Ye no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see,
Find eternal noon in me.
Change to day the gloom of night ;
God your everlasting light.
THOU WILT SHEW ME THE PATH OF LIFE ; IN THY PRESENCE IS FULNESS OF JOY; AT THY RIGHT HAND ARE PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE.”
PSALM XVI., XI.
It was said of Socrates, that he brought down philosophy from heaven to earth, because he drew men from the immoderate contemplation of the heavenly bodies, and directed their attention to the nature and end of man, and to his appropriate duties and relations in the present world. But Jesus Christ draws men from earth to heaven. He teaches them a divine philosophy, and elevates them from things seen, and temporal, and earthly, to things spiritual, and heavenly, and eternal. Indeed, there is no subject to which the scriptures more frequently invite our attention than this. Whatever be our coudition in the world, whether we are in prosperity or adversity, in health or sickness, they constantly call upon us to consider the connexion of the life that now is with that life of blessedness in heaven which is the ultimate design of the Almighty concerning his rational offspring And how fitted is the revelation of such a state to awaken bis attention, and enkindle the desire of every one that is an heir of immortality; and how well calculated to support and animate the mind beneath the pressure of pain and suffering ! By it the first christians were encouraged to endure all those trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments, of tortures and death, to which they were called for the sake of Christ. Indeed, what are the trials of life, or the terrors of death, when compared with the “exceeding weight of glory” which is to be revealed. Shall we sink or falter by the way when we know that we are journeying to a land of everlasting rest, and shall soon reach our eternal home? Shall the dark valley affright us, when we see beyond it the fields of immortality smiling in the beauty of an eternal spring? Destined as we are for heaven, shall we grieve or murmur that earth is not found to be a suitable resting place, and that God checks every tendency to rest here by sharp afflictions and severe disappointments? Nay, not only should the hope of heaven prevent us from complaining of the afflictions of life, but the thought that these afflictions are preparing for that blessed state,—that they are ordained as necessary and useful means of discipline to promote our progress towards it,—that they are the furnace by which the dross is to be purged away, and we are to be purified for the master's use, should induce cheerful submission, and grateful acknowledgment; and lead us to pray earnestly that in due time we may be presented faultless and blameless before the presence of God's glory with exceeding joy. It concerns the suffering and dying christian to be much engaged in meditating on the prospect of a blessed immortality. The hope of heaven, either directly or indirectly, is the chief source of his consola tion and joy. Here the saints of God, in every age, have found comfort. David indulged the sublimities of christian hope, and exclaimed, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord fer ever." Habbakuk says, “although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls ; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” The author of the seventy-third Psalm, appealing to Jehovah, declares, “ thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.” Paul says,
“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." All believers “ rejoice in hope,” and are patient, and may “glory in tribulation,” knowing that their “ light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for thena a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" whilst they look not at the things seen, which are temporal, but at the things not seen, which are eternal. Heaven is the perfect state of the christian, both in respect of happiness and character ;-the consummation of all his toils,—the recompense of all bis sufferings,—the realization of all his hopes ;—and, surely, it is well that he who has begun the race, should keep his eye
fixed on the goal;—that he who has begun the combat, should encourage himself by the glory of the coming triumph ;-that he who is struggling with the storm, should anticipate the haven of repose, the welcome of friends, and
the comforts of home. Suffering christian! have you the prospect opened before you of future and eternal blessedness? then let me call upon you to "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Let not any distressing anxieties, or gloomy forebodings, mar your joy. Whatever are, or may be, your sufferings here, you shall be happy through all eternity. Look forward to your final destination, and let the glory that awaits you
fill your minds, and animate your hearts. If Cato and Cleombratus, two heathens, after reading Plato's book on the immortality of the soul, voluntarily put an end to their existence, the one falling on his sword, and the other throwing himself from a precipice, that they might the sooner partake of the joys of futurity ; what a shame is it for christians, who have life and immortality brought to light by the gospel, to be found shrinking from suffering, or even death itself, with heaven fully in their view. Let me aid you, then, in your meditations, and direct your attention to some of the leading features of this most delightful topic. Heaven is to be regarded as a state of perfect blessedness. To this three conditions are essential :—there must be an exemption from all evils,—there must be the concurrence of all positive excellencies,-and there must be attached to these permanent duration of existence.
An exemption from all evils is the first condition of perfect blessedness. This world is justly styled a vale of tears." Distress awaits us here in a thousand forms. Within us it dwells, without it assails. - Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” To all, even to the happiest, human life is tribulation and conflict. No man is thoroughly at ease in his condition. Our bodies are subjected to the evils of hunger and thirst, of cold and heat, of weariness and languor, of sickness and pain, of disease and death. Our pursuits are attended by disappointment, vexation, and distress. Our friends and families are in want, pain, and sorrow; they sicken and
die; their sins disgrace them, and wound us, and awaken many anxieties respecting their future destiny. Our fellow men often harass and distress us by their injustice, their falsehood, and their oppressions. To beings habituated to a state of existence so extensively formed of these distressing materials, how welcome must be the heavenly state. In that peaceful rest, no sensation of thirst, of hunger, of languor, of poverty, shall trouble us more. Disease and pain shall no more put us to the torture ;-there shall be no complaining of the treachery of false friends, or of the wickedness, the calumnies, the injustice, of avowed enemies ;-the relation will no more weep for the relation, for all tears shall be wiped away from all eyes. Now this will be no trifling attainment; to have blessings without change, health without sickness, and pleasure without pain ;-the bloom without the blight, the sunshine without the cloud, peace that nothing can disturb, happiness that nothing can alloy. How delightful, how exhilirating the prospect!
“ With joy the sailor, long by ocean tost,
Spreads all his canvass for the distant coast.
And if the sailor thus joys, though the tempest must be again braved; and the labourer, though the morrow's sun must awaken him to new toils; and the slave, though for a time he must still wear the galling chain; what is that joy that must be felt, when the howl of the last tempest has died away ; when the last labour is completed; when the last pang of misery has escaped the heart; and the last tear is dried up? O, happy, happy day! when there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."