The Heavenly Rest
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
How welcome to the aged Christian is the thought of heaven ! As the toil-worn labourer hails with gladness the hour of rest; as the wave-tossed mariner discerns with thankfulness the haven of safety ; as the weary exile approaches with feelings of rapture his native country; so does the believer rejoice in the immediate prospect of eternal gory. He oves 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 thither. Deliverance from trouble, freedom from sin, increase of knowledge, separation from the ungodly, intercourse with the holy, communion with his Saviour,—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 rest.
They rest from toil. From physical exertion and from mental labour. The hand no onger has to procure bread for the sustenance of life, and to pro-vide 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 labours ; and their works do follow them." All fatigue and anxiety are for ever ended.
They rest from pain. The inhabitant of that heavenly city shall not 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 ong as he sends it; I know he is ove. 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 heaven, and to feel that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the gory 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 for ever ended, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Want, 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 couds 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. His own unsubdued passions, the world, with its temptations on the one hand and its reproaches on the other, and the great adversary of mankind going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 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 discomfiture and depression, shrink from the battlefield. 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 ; till 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 heaven-ward journey, encompassed by difficulties and beset with dangers, we may rejoice in the consideration that
"We nightly fix our moving tent
Yes: our warfare will soon be over—our rest attained.
And how cheering is the reflection that holiness as well as rest is linked with our anticipations of heaven ! Nothing that defileth 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 Ghost. Sin has no longer dominion over him ; for the grace of God, which bringeth 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 resem blance 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, " 0 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 sore let and 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 Saviour? Oh, to have his will entirely absorbed in God's will; to have every thought in unison with his mind ; to have self for ever ost sight of in the radiance of his gory ; 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 they which do 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 our knowledge 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, whilst the great ocean of truth lies all undiscovered before us. But what we know not 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 unravelled ! How varied are the mysteries in religion 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 uninterrupted service in which we shall be engaged above. Alas ! how feeble and how poor are our best attempts now for the fulfilment of God's will and the promotion of his gory ! How little, comparatively have we done ; how little can we do to make him known and loved among our felow-men ! Frequently do 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, untiring. There the weary will be at rest, not because they cease to labour, but because labour 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 stand round 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 favourite employment—that for which his being is made ; no nerve strained ; no part burdened ; no power taxed ; but all easy, enjoyable, delicious, the very part he would have chosen ; the part he oves ; the part he can do best, assigned to him for ever 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 both his mind and his will 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 it thinks and all it feels. Then shall we understand, in that entire concurrence of all the properties which make the creature, what is. the meaning of that service of which Christ spoke, when he said, "God is a Spirit; and they that 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 gory, shall we not remember those oved ones among their number who were once co-workers with us here, and rejoice in the thought that we shall ere long share in their holy occupations and participate in their fadeless joys ? The communion 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 felowship 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, and become intimately acquainted with others long endeared to us by their labours 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 intercourse. We shall dwell together as the children of one Father, as. the brethren of one family, as the loved and oving 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 constant communion with our Saviour which his promises now unfold to our view. " I will come again and receive you unto myself ; that where I am, there ye may be also;" " Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am ; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me." Well might one of Christ's tried and he poured servants, in the simple meditations which she penned as she waited for her summons to pass over the river, write : " To be where thou art, to see thee as thou art, and to be made like unto thee ; the last sinful motion for ever past; no more opposition; no more weariness, listlessness, dryness, or deadness; but conformed to my blessed Saviour, every way capacitated to serve him, to enjoy him,—this is heaven." And well might her gowing words animate the faith and hope of that devoted missionary of the cross who was called, when at the foot of Mount Lebanon, to encounter the last enemy. His friends having proposed to pray with him, he replied, " Yes ; but first I wish you to read some passages from ' Mrs. Graham"s Provision for Passing over Jordan ;' " and on hearing the words, " To be where thou art, to see thee as thou art, to be made like unto thee," he anticipated the conclusion, and said, with an expressive emphasis, " That 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?
"Not all things else are half so dear
"But how will his celestial voice
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 earnest of the Spirit ?" Are you "made meet 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 labours ended, your rest begun. Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed. A little while and 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 honour, and glory, and blessing."* " In thy presence is fulness of joy ; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace. " Walk worthy of God, who hath 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 hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as Ile 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 ye 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 couds 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 " worketh for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of gory ; while you ook 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. " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time : wherein ye greatly rejoice !"
Listen to the words of your ascended and glorified Saviour: " Surely I come quickly! " What is your earnest and heartfelt response? "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"