« ElőzőTovább »
may indulge a wish that we could be informed how happy they are, in order that we might be stirred up to enlarge our desires after the same blessed portion. But this is not necessary; for the word of God tells us sufficient concerning the miseries of the lost, and the joys of the saved; and the same Divine record which makes known to us the character of the people of God, affords us also many particulars respecting their heritage of " rest."
1. It is a cessation from all care and labour.
The sabbath and the promised land were both emblems of the heavenly rest. The former was an interval of repose from daily toil, appointed by God Himself for all the children of men; the latter was a pleasing contrast to the fatigues and trials which His own people in particular had endured in the wilderness. The people of God encounter now all the cares and labours which fall to the lot of mankind in general. Man is doomed to live on earth by the sweat of his brow, and no earthly good can be obtained without much exertion. But cares and anxieties spring up of themselves, like the weeds which grow without, or in spite of, the culture of the husbandman. Some persons are subject to care on account of their destitution, while others encounter no less anxiety from the very abundance of their possessions. Troubles arise from
our worldly circumstances, from our earthly connections, from the disorders of our bodies, and the griefs of our minds. Now, all these will have vanished for ever when we have crossed the threshold of the eternal world. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters ; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
But besides the cares and troubles which Christians now share in common with mankind in general, they have others peculiar to their own condition as the people of God. They are to labour diligently for the LORD, and, in so doing, are often required to withstand the ridicule and opposition of the ungodly. Their principles are misunderstood, and therefore their motives are frequently misinterpreted. Moreover, they have fears within, as well as fightings without; they have anxieties for others as well as for themselves; and the spiritual state of their relatives and friends is sometimes a subject of great grief to their minds, and calls forth many an importunate prayer to God on their behalf. But when they have passed the Jordan of death, none of these occasions of trouble will exist: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”
2. It is a freedom from sin and temptation.
The life of a Christian on the earth is well described as an incessant and arduous conflict. He has a constant warfare to maintain against a spiritual foe, who is powerful and experienced, as well as watchful and malignant. He possesses an evil nature, always ready to concur with the suggestions of Satan. Though delivered from the dominion of sin, he is not freed from its assaults. “The flesh" is indeed crucified, but not yet dead, and, in expiring, often makes desperate struggles for existence. The temptations to which he is exposed on every side, combined with the depravity of his own heart, so harass and distress him in the exercises of prayer and meditation, and the discharge of his various duties, that he is often constrained to long ardently for rest. Now, to have this warfare accomplished; to enjoy the same freedom from conflicting passions and assaulting enemies which God enjoys; to love Him without any inconstancy, and serve Him without any interruption ; to be perfectly restored to His image, and not to have a disposition which does not accord with His holy mind;—this is a state of happiness which surpasses our conceptions : it is “the rest of God" himself.
3. It consists in communion with God.
There is something exquisitely tranquillizing in the description of the heavenly state, with which the last chapter of the Word of God opens: “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse : for the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads." We know little concerning the positive nature of the condition of the redeemed after death, except that they are “ with Christ.” They behold His glory; delight in His presence; are gladdened by the endearments of His love; and hold constant intercourse with Him. Their rest consists in “not resting day or night,” in adoring His person, and fulfilling His will. The word translated “rest” in the text, is more literally rendered in the margin of the authorized version of the Bible, “keeping of a sabbath.” And this is the best account which can be given of the heavenly state: 'It is one long, unbroken sabbath; an eternity of successive sabbath
hours.' It is a change, not in kind, but only in degree, from the communion with God our Saviour, which believers cultivate on earth : it is a translation of the worshipper from the outer court to the innermost sanctuary; the purifying of his services from all defilement; while strength is imparted, sufficient to deprive incessant service of the power to weary; and capacity is bestowed, sufficient to prevent the soul from being satiated with the abundant fulness of enjoyment.
4. Another element of this “rest” will be communion with other holy beings.
The human heart is formed to love society; and the existence of a fellowship with others gives scope for the exercises of affection and sympathy, which are the source of a great portion of the pleasures we enjoy in this present world. It is, in part, this natural love of social intercourse that causes us to feel so acutely the separation from those we love, which death occasions. And doubtless the fact that in heaven we shall hold communion with “an innumerable multitude of angels,” as well as with a multitude of the redeemed which no man can number, will contribute greatly to augment the happiness of the eternal world. "Shall we deem it nothing,' asks a pious writer, “to be with those saints of the living God, who are gone before us into His presence—the righteous Abel; the honoured Abraham ;