The Heavenly Rest!
How welcome to the aged Christian, is the thought of Heaven! As the toil-worn laborer hails the hour of rest with gladness; as the wave-tossed mariner sees the haven of safety with thankfulness; as the weary exile approaches his native country with feelings of rapture — so does the believer rejoice in the immediate prospect of eternal glory! He loves to think of that moment when he shall be absent from the body, and present with the Lord — when the cares, the conflicts, and the corruptions which surround him here, will be exchanged for the peace and purity which pervade the everlasting abode of the redeemed. Varied are the attractions which draw his thoughts and affections there. Deliverance from trouble, freedom from sin, increase of knowledge, separation from the ungodly, fellowship with the holy, communion with his Savior — these and other delineations of the Heavenly state make him ready, willing, eager to depart from the present life, and to enter upon that new and noble existence!
"My chief conception of Heaven," said Robert Hall, who was an almost constant sufferer from acute bodily pain, "is rest." And many sons and daughters of affliction can respond to his remark. They have so much to do and to suffer, they see so much misery and discord around them, their spiritual foes are so powerful and persevering — that the sigh of the Psalmist is often heard from their lips: "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest!" Rest! Where? In Heaven! There the weary are at
They rest from toil. From physical exertion and from mental labor. The hand no longer has to procure bread for the sustenance of life, and to provide things honest in the sight of all men; the head no longer has to plan for avoiding difficulties and distress, and to strive after a temporary relief from some of the cares of daily life. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more." "They rest from their labors." All fatigue and anxiety are forever ended.
They rest from pain. The inhabitant of that Heavenly city shall never say, "I am sick; neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
"I shall soon be at home now," said an aged Christian woman, who had been for many years afflicted with a painful disease, "and then all suffering will be over! I hope I am not impatient; I am willing to bear whatever God sends, and as long as he sends it. I know he is love. But it is very sweet sometimes, when my poor body is racked with pain and I cannot get a minute's relief — to think that I am every day nearer to Heaven, and to feel that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed. What a change it will be!"
They rest from sorrow. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying." Yes; God himself shall wipe away their tears! The days of their mourning will be forever ended, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Need, disappointment, care, unkindness, injustice, bereavement, and every other source of earthly distress — are unknown in Heaven.
The waves of grief cannot pass the confines of eternity!
The clouds of sadness cannot float in the clear atmosphere of Heaven!
The voice of lamentation and weeping can never mingle with the songs of the redeemed!
They rest from spiritual
conflict. Life is a period of warfare and trial. The foes
of the Christian are many and they are mighty:
1. the flesh — his own unsubdued passions,
2. the world — with its temptations on the one hand and its reproaches on the other, and
3. the great adversary of mankind going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
All these foes are continually arrayed against him; and he must be always upon his guard, always ready for the encounter. Nor does he, except in occasional moments of discomposure and depression, shrink from the battle-field. It is his earnest desire to fight the good fight of faith, and to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. To ask for victory and rest, from a mere love of selfish ease — is inconsistent with his principles and feelings. God has called him to the contest, and when he sees fit — will call him to his reward; until then he is willing to wait and toil and struggle on.
His prayer is that when his Lord comes he may find him
watching. This is a right spirit. We ought not to grow weary in well-doing.
We ought not to wish for our crown before our conflict is
ended. But at the same time, we may look forward to our rest with
hope and gladness. In the midst of our conflict with evil — we may soothe
and refresh our spirits with the thought of final victory. As we press
forward in our Heavenward journey, encompassed by difficulties and beset
with dangers, we may rejoice in the consideration that,
"We nightly fix our moving tent
A day's march nearer home!"
Yes, our warfare will soon be over — our rest attained.
And how cheering is the reflection thatHOLINESS as well as rest, is linked with our anticipations of Heaven! Nothing that defiles can enter there. The Church above is "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but holy and without blemish." The Christian, it is true, is already sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Sin has no longer dominion over him; for the grace of God, which brings salvation, teaches him to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. His heart is purified by faith. He has put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. He has been adopted into God's family, renewed in his image, and made a partaker of his holiness.
But as yet, how imperfect is the resemblance which he bears! how feeble are the attainments which he has made! While he delights in the law of God after the inward man, he sees another law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin, so that in the anguish of his spirit he exclaims with the apostle, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death!"
Day by day he presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus — but he is often sorely hindered in running the race that is set before him. Sometimes he stumbles and falls; and sometimes he wanders into some by-path which leads him into distress and danger; and although he never gives up, although each revival of the sin which so easily besets him — each temptation to which through unwatchfulness and self-dependence he yields — only prompts him to more prayerful and vigorous efforts for the future — can we wonder if he anticipates with eagerness and delight, the moment when he shall be freed from the defilement and imperfection of his present condition, and be perfectly conformed to the image of his Savior!
Oh, to have his will entirely absorbed in God's will; to have every thought in unison with his mind; to have self forever lost sight of — in the radiance of his glory; to be holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in his presence! How delightful is this prospect! How all-sustaining is this hope!
And as years increase, as life declines — his desire after perfected holiness grows stronger and stronger, until it overcomes his fear of death and weakens the fondest ties which link him to earth. He is ready to leave all around him, and to press through all before him, in order that he may be separated from sin and be completely assimilated to the likeness of Christ. "We shall be like him!" is the thought — the glorious thought — which makes Heaven so precious in his estimation. He longs more for purity — than he does for rest. He wants to be holy, sinless, perfected!
His desire will soon be granted, his hope realized. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled." Filled? Satisfied? Yes. When? In part now, in completeness hereafter. In Heaven they hunger no more, neither thirst any more — they are restored to the image of their God, and are faultless before his throne.
And then how delightful to the thoughtful and inquiring Christian — and every Christian ought to sustain this character — is the assurance that in a future state, ourKNOWLEDGE will be greatly increased! In this world, how limited are our highest acquirements! We are like children playing on the sea-shore, and diverting ourselves, now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary — while the great ocean of truth lies all undiscovered before us! But what we don't know now — we shall know hereafter. Now we see through a glass darkly; now we know but in part — but then we shall see face to face, and know even as we are known.
Many deeply interesting and important questions which are unanswered now — will be solved then. Many difficulties which perplex us now — will be explained then. How numerous are the mysteries in Providence, both in connection with our own history and with the history of others — which will then be unraveled! How varied are the mysteries in Scripture — which will then be clear to us as the light of noonday! And our knowledge will be ever-increasing. The first glance into eternity will not reveal to us all that it has to unfold. We shall be always learning something new — continually making fresh discoveries of the wisdom and power and goodness of God. And this without weariness, without effort, without disappointment.
Associated with the perfected development and probable augmentation of our intellectual powers — is the noble and uninterruptedSERVICE in which we shall be engaged above. Alas! how feeble and how poor are our best attempts now for the fulfillment of God's will and the promotion of his glory! How little, comparatively have we done; how little can we do to make him known and loved among our fellow-men! Frequently we mourn over our weakness and apparent uselessness, and feel that we are indeed unprofitable servants. But in Heaven our service will be vigorous, perpetual, and untiring! There the weary will be at rest, not because they cease to labor — but because labor brings no fatigue; and they that "have entered into rest" will find this to be their rest — that "they rest not day and night."
Each glorified servant will doubtless be occupied in the manner which is most accordant with his individual bias and qualification. As the cherubim and seraphim are supposed to have their separate and appropriate offices, though all worship around the throne, so may we expect that holy engagements will be distributed in amazing diversity among the white-robed saints. But this will be the delight, that each one occupies his own, his proper, his favorite employment — that for which his being is made; no nerve strained; no part burdened; no power taxed — but all easy, enjoyable, delightful — the very part he would have chosen; the part he loves; the part he can do best, assigned to him forever and ever!
And in this, his own proper province — each one will exercise his whole perfected being. Whatever he loves — he will understand, and whatever he understands — he will love. And all will take effect through the instrumentality of a body which is in complete unison with his spirit; never cumbering it, never darkening it — but instant and capable to do everything which the thought desires or the heart suggests; so that it will be a perfectly intelligent affection, performing without diminution and without delay — all that it thinks and all that it feels. Then shall we understand the meaning of that service of which Christ spoke, when he said, "God is a Spirit; and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
And as we think of all the high functions and happy services of those in glory — shall we not remember those loved ones among their number who were once co-workers with us here, and rejoice in the thought that we shall before long, share in their holy occupations and participate in their fadeless joys? TheCOMMUNION OF SAINTS on earth is sweet — but what will it be in Heaven? Here there is much to mar and interrupt it; there it will be perfect and perpetual. We shall be associated with "the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, and the noble army of martyrs;" we shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God. We shall share in the high and holy converse of those esteemed by us on earth for the beautiful graces and gifts which adorned their character. We shall also become intimately acquainted with others long endeared to us by their labors and their worth — but who, through time or varied circumstances, were personally unknown to us. And there will be no discord, no prejudices, no rivalry — to disturb the harmony of our fellowship! We shall dwell together as the children of one Father, as the brethren of one family, as the loved and loving inhabitants of one eternal home!
But dearer, far dearer, than the thought of this complete and tender sympathy with all the redeemed in glory — is the prospect of that perfect and constantCOMMUNION WITH OUR SAVIOR which his promises now unfold to our view. "I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also!" "Father, I will that they also whom you have given me — be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which you have given me!" Well might one of Christ's tried and honored servants (Mrs. Isabella Graham), in the simple meditations which she penned as she waited for her summons to pass over the river, write: "To be where you are, to see you as you are, and to be made like unto you — the last sinful motion forever past; no more opposition; no more weariness, listlessness, dryness, or deadness — but conformed to my blessed Savior, every way capacitated to serve him, to enjoy him — this is Heaven!"
Yes, to be with Christ, to see him as he is — that indeed is Heaven. In our converse with him now by faith, we rejoice with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory; what, then, will be our emotions when that glory is realized and his presence is attained!
Reader, is this happy, this heart-cheering anticipation yours? What proof can you give of your title to mansions in the skies? Is "Christ in you, the hope of glory?" Have you "the pledge of the Spirit?" Are you "made fit to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light?"
Then, "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Your warfare will soon be accomplished, your labors ended, your rest begun! Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed. In a little while, you shall tread the golden streets of the holy city! You shall eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God, and drink of the pure crystal river which proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. A crown of glory shall be yours, and the waving palm of victory! You shall hear the voice of harpers harping with their harps, and you shall join in their ever-new and triumphant song: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!" "In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore!"
Therefore , beloved, seeing that you look for such things — be diligent that you may be found of him in peace. "Walk worthy of God, who has called you unto his kingdom and glory." Remember, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." And the well-grounded hope of future blessedness, necessarily leads to present sanctification. "Every man that has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as He is pure." The "exceeding great and precious promises" are given to us, not only that we may be gladdened and comforted by them — but also that we may be made partakers of the divine nature, and escape "the corruption that is in the world through lust." "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear — then shall you also appear with him in glory! Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth."
Weary and sorrowful pilgrim, the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed! Let the radiance of coming joys — illumine the clouds of present grief; let the melody of Heaven-breathed songs — soothe the agitation of your troubled spirit. Oh, your "light affliction is but for a moment," and it "works for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while you look not at the things which are seen — but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal!"
Aged Christian, the time of your departure is at hand. The sunset of life and the night of death usher in the dawn of immortality! The earthly house of your tabernacle is about to be dissolved — but you have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens. "We have a priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4
Listen to the words of your ascended and glorified Savior: "Surely I come quickly!" What is your earnest and heartfelt response? "Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
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