Timothy Shay Arthur, 1858
I listened while he talked in a low, serious, tender voice. He was speaking of the home in Heaven towards which his heart aspired.
"There will be no more night there, nor chilling winter," he said; "no more sorrow, no more toil, no more pain; for God is the light of that world, and He will wipe away all tears from our eyes. How often do I find myself crying out with the Psalmist, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest!' I grow weary with waiting every day. This world has no attractions to offer my soul. Its atmosphere oppresses me; its ways are rough to my feet; its touch chills me. I pray continually, O Lord, hide me under the shadow of your wings, until the storms of life are over; shelter me from the burning heats; cover me from the winter's cold."
And then he sang in a sweet, impressive way —
"Jerusalem, my happy home!
Oh, how I long for thee.
When will my sorrows have an end?
Your joys when shall I see?"
"How heavenly-minded!" I heard spoken from one to another, in a hushed whisper.
"He is ripe for the kingdom," was answered back.
"The world hangs loosely upon him, as a worn-out garment, ready to be cast aside when the Master summons him away. God has endowed him with a double portion of his Spirit."
I walked thoughtfully away when the little company separated. "Is it indeed so?" I questioned with myself. 'Heavenly-minded?' 'Ripe for the kingdom?' 'A double portion of God's Spirit resting upon him?' "What is it to be heavenly minded? How is a man ripened for the kingdom of God?"
I knew a little of the man's past, and present. He had not been an earnest worker in the world; but, rather, an idler and a dreamer. He was something of an enthusiast, and had the reputation of being "gifted in prayer." He talked much on the subject of religion, and spent a great deal of time in preparing himself for Heaven. This preparation consisted, mainly, in pious observances, the reading of religious books, fasting and prayer. In business, he had not succeeded, because he lacked earnestness, prudence, and industry. There was, to his perception, a spirit of worldly-mindedness in these, opposed to religion. It was a letting of himself down into carnal things, which were death to the spirit. Ad so he was very poor, and could sing, and did sing, with feeling —
"No foot of land do I possess,
Nor cottage in the wilderness!
A poor, way-faring man.
I lodge, awhile, in tents below,
Or gladly wander to and fro,
Till I my Canaan gain."
And he rather took merit to himself for his poverty; regarding it almost as one of the Christian graces.
I need hardly say, that the wife of this man was a toiler beyond her strength, and that his children had not received the natural and moral advantages that their father might have procured for them, if he had been a worker in the world, instead of an enthusiastic dreamer. The burdens of others were made heavier — because he had failed to bear his own allotment; and evil had crept in at the door he was appointed to guard, because he had slept at his post. And yet he was called 'heavenly-minded,' and 'ripe for the kingdom'.
As I mused, reason and feeling both demurred. I could see nothing of the spirit of Heaven in this; but only the delusion of an unprofitable servant. To be heavenly-minded, is to be in the love of good deeds; and every man who, from a religious principle, acts justly and faithfully in all his relations in life, is a doer of good deeds. This man alone, can become heavenly-minded — he alone, can worship God in spirit and in truth. Praying and singing are of no avail — without acting. They may lift the thoughts heavenward; but only as our feet move are we borne thitherward.
We are in the world for work and duty; and we cannot be righteous, unless we act right towards our fellow-men. Belief in God, and an acknowledgment of his holy precepts, are only as the inception of spiritual life; true vitality and Christian manhood are the results of right living. It is the good and faithful servant who alone enters into the joy of his Lord; only he who performs good acts to others, is accepted.
It is easier to pray — than to work; easier to believe a certain doctrine — than to practice self-denial; easier to permit the feelings to lapse sweetly away under the influence of tranquillizing music — than to compel self-love to give up its darling scheme. But only in the degree that we overcome our sinful selfishness, which is ever prompting to a disregard of others — do we grow in true spiritual life, and advance in the ways of God. To rest a hope of Heaven on any other ground, is a most fatal delusion.