« PreviousContinue »
else could have so delighted him; for with no one else in heaven had he enjoyed such sweet communion on earth. He had not only leaned on the Saviour's bosom at the Last Supper, he had also been singled out on Calvary, as the best Guardian of the Holy Virgin, and had been from the first, emphatically, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." We do not, therefore, wonder that he was chiefly delighted with seeing him whom his soul loved so enthroned, adored, and obeyed in heaven. That vision was a full-orbed form of the place which Christ held in John's heart. He thus saw, in heaven, the perfection of what he himself felt on earth.
Does, then, the prominence given to the glory of the Lamb, in the visions of Eternity, delight us chiefly? Would we have been satisfied with less about Christ, if there had been more about heaven itself? When we think of it, either as a state or a place, many questions spring up in our minds, and some of them are very interesting as well as very curious: such as, How do spirits communicate their ideas to each other?-by what tokens can those who knew each other only in the body recognise each other when disembodied? What kind of interchange of confidence and love takes place between human and angelic spirits in the mansions of glory?-and especially what kind and degree of fellowship with God is permitted at the eternal throne? Will it be frequent, or so full as to solve all mysteries, and satisfy all curiosity, and leave nothing to wish for, for ever? Such questions may be useless now, but they are not unnatural. Who can help wishing to know what intimacy he may expect to enjoy with his own family in heaven? What relation he will stand in to the original inhabitants of the place? What facilities will be afforded to him for acquainting himself with the past history of that world; with its natural history as the paradise of God, and with its moral connexion with all the worlds in the universe? I suggest these questions, just that we may see whether a revelation of heaven, which
should have enabled us to answer them satisfactorily, would have pleased us more than one, in which the glory of Christ, as the Lamb slain is the chief thing. Now, however we may feel on this subject, there are many who would have preferred to know more about the native spirits, than about the glory of Christ: more about the forms of heavenly language, than about the worship that is conducted in it; more about the aspects of nature, as they will appear in Heaven, than about the New Song of saints or angels. Any thing in heaven is more interesting to the world at large, than the Saviour.
Now, this is just the reason why nothing else is so much shown to the world in the visions of heaven. The great tendency of man is to overlook or underrate the Saviour, and therefore the great characteristic of the apocalypse of immortality is to make him "all and all." It is, therefore, although in another sense, as much adapted to the real wants of the world, as it was to the wishes of John. It suited him, because it fell in so completely with all his desires and taste; and it is equally suited to our chief dangers. Nothing in heaven could save or sanctify on earth, but the blood of the Lamb; and therefore, nothing is so much shown or celebrated there.
This is a fine arrangement; equally wise and kind. Christ crucified is the first sight that meets our eyes, whenever we look into heaven by the light of revelation. If we look to the throne, there he is in the midst of it, as a Lamb that has been slain: if we look to the altar-there he is, as interceding by his own blood; if we look on the green pastures and the still waters of Paradise-there he is, as a Lamb leading the whole flock: even when we look at the armies of heaven, as they are the imbodied hosts of Providence for mercy or judgment—there he is at their head "in a vesture dipped in blood." Thus, no man can get a sight of heaven by that door which God has opened, without seeing Christ as an atoning sacrifice every where, and every where the glory of the place and of all the peo
ple. So in listening at that door, the sounds, as well as the sights, are all full of Christ crucified. Even when there is "silence in heaven," the angels are all looking unto "the sufferings of Christ." And when they sing together, in vain we listen for a newer song than the New Song: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" is their ever new and everlasting anthem. Nothing new in creation, whatever worlds or wonders may be springing into being in the spaces of infinity-nothing new in providence, whatever events may be transpiring on earth or throughout the universe, stops or lowers this song. It swells in all, and over all their other shouts and songs. And as to any man hearing any thing from the lips of the human spirits he tries to look or listen for, but " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us," it is impossible.
"Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
And this is their everlasting melody: "To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory for ever."
This then, is the leading characteristic of both the enjoyments and the engagements of heaven. The first design of the New Song is, therefore, to arrest and rivet our attention, by the peculiarities of heaven. We see nothing, hear nothing, when the veil is drawn aside, but what centres in the Saviour. He is all and all, in all things there.
Now this is not the heaven that man naturally expects or desires. There is indeed much in it that any and every man must love. No man can dislike its scenes or its society, its rest or its rapture, its exemption from all evil, or its immortality of all good. In vain, however, do we try to look at these things by themselves, or apart from Christ, whilst we look at heaven in the glass of revelation. We are not using that glass, when we hope for a better world, because we wish for a better world. It is not the heaven of the Bible we are thinking about, when we think of future hap
piness, of which Christ is not both the source and centre. The Mahometan paradise may be a grosser fancy, but it is not a greater fiction, than the better world which they look for who overlook the person or the work of Christ. Those who are not seeking heaven by his atonement and in his presence, are as arrant dreamers as the American Indian who expects an island where
His faithful dog shall bear him company.”
It is necessary to be thus plain, even if the plainness be deemed vulgarity, in connexion with this subject. The popular heaven, or the hereafter of which the generality think and speak, is only just such another refinement upon British ideas of happiness, as the paradise of Mahomet is upon Asiatic, or the hunting-groves of the Indian upon savage life. The popular heaven has indeed a distinct reference to goodness, and some reference to holiness, on the part of its expectants; and so far, it is more spiritual than a heathen or an oriental heaven. Christ is named too in connexion with it. But, in general, he is only named, even when his "merits" are mentioned as a ground of hope. This is a mere phrase, or form of speech, in the lips of the multitude. Thousands and tens of thousands use it who never paused to consider or ask what it meant. All that they mean by it is, merely a hope that the merit of the Saviour will make up for the defects of their own virtue. And even that hope is prayerless, until they are becoming speechless or afraid of death. In a word, nothing is so little thought about, in connexion with the popular heaven, as the Lamb slain; and therefore nothing is so much spoken about in the revelation of the real heaven as the Lamb slain. It makes him the chief object, and the charm of all heavenly things, because we are naturally inclined to make him the least or the last source of our expected happiness.
Accordingly, when we first sit down to consider the heaven of the Bible, for the express purpose of making
sure of it as our own eternal home-we are struck with the fact, that all the visions of glory are full of Christ. We cannot help feeling that there must be more of Christ in our religion, than there ever has been in it, if we would make sure of heaven. We see clearly, that a slight reference to him at the close of our prayers, or an occasional remembrance of him at the sacrament, or a partial dependance on him at any time, will not do. Indeed, they will not bear looking at, whilst we look into the New Jerusalem. For, at whichever of its "twelve gates of pearl," we place ourselves as spectators, the great sight is the atoning Lamb; the great song is the atoning Lamb. If we recognise angels as students, they are all studying the sufferings of Christ; if as worshippers, they are all adoring him as the Lamb slain. If we realize to ourselves any spirit, in any class of the general assembly of the spirits of just men made perfect, its crown is at his feet, its harp ringing with his praise, its palm waving his honour, as the Lamb slain. In the presence of such facts, it is impossible to think that mere morality, however eminent, is religion; or that repeating the creed is faith; or that complimenting the merits of Christ is love. Even a child, if shown all that is done and said in heaven, and then referred to his prayer," Thy will be done on earth as it is in heav en,” would tell us at once, that " to be good is to love the Saviour for dying for us."
Another design of the New Song is evidently to show us the perfect harmony there is between the leading truths of the Bible, and the prevailing sentiments of heaven. The heaven of the Apocalypse is the Bible in action; the Bible is heaven in principle. Any man who will read attentively all the "lively oracles" which precede the visions of Patmos, will find nothing when he comes to study the latter, but just what might be expected from the prominent place which the atoning Saviour holds in the former. And in like manner, were any man to read the Apocalyptic visions of heaven first, and then to go through the canon of Scrip