Our Heavenly Homes
By Timothy Shay Arthur, 1868
"A little while longer" — and the speaker lifted her eyes upwards with a pious air — "only a little while longer, and then I shall put off this vile body, and go upwards to my home!"
"Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." The response came from a sad-looking person, on whose face discontent and weariness of life were strongly written. "Only a little while longer," she added, repeating the words of her who had first spoken. "There are some of us who would bless God if our feet were as near their journey's end, as yours. The ordeal of this life, is not an easy one. Toil, sorrow, weariness, disappointments — from cradle to grave! The path is rugged; and out of the depths of its pain and darkness, the soul cries out, 'Lord, shorten the way!'"
"Yes, shorten the way," groaned a third of the group which had surrounded the bed of a sick sister. "We have no permanent house here on earth — no abiding place — no continuing city. Open, Lord, the pearly gates of the new Jerusalem, and let our feet move down the golden streets."
Pious responses fell from tremulous lips, and pious eyes went upwards.
"Going home." One who had not, till now, spoken, let her voice steal out in a low, but firm utterance. She was a woman who had passed the summit of life, and was now stepping downwards on the grave-ward side. Her face was placid, though pain marks were on her forehead, and pain shadows on her lips. "Going home. Home is a sweet word, my sisters! But to what kind of homes are we going? That is worth a thought."
"To heavenly homes," was answered by one. "To the paradise of God."
"In my Father's house, are many mansions," said another, repeating the sweet assurance of our Lord.
"We are in exile — wanderers from home — waiting and longing for the time of our return," sighed out a third.
"Did it never occur to you," said the one who had asked as to the kind of homes to which they were going, "that our dwelling-places in the other life — will be just what we make them in this life?"
Eyes full of questions and doubts, were turned upon the speaker.
"I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also." It was the sick sister's answer. "The Lord prepares and makes beautiful, our heavenly homes. The mansions are ready and waiting our arrival."
"And we do nothing towards the work?" asked the last speaker.
'We must be fit for the habitation of angels."
"All vague, my sisters," was answered. "Let us look inward, and study the movements and results of our own lives. We build, each for himself, our eternal dwelling-places, and when we come into their manifest occupation, we shall find them beautiful or deformed, according as we have made them. It is so in this life; and the order will not be changed. As we feel and think, and thence act — so are our surroundings here; and such will be the law of our surroundings in the life to come. Can it be otherwise? We should be indeed strangers and aliens, if the homes in which we dwelt, did not correspond with our states of thought and feeling. The mind makes for itself a habitation, and peoples it with companions, among which it loves to abide. This is its home. Death cannot change these companionships; but, by the removal of external and intervening things, renders them closer and more intimate. Turn your thoughts inward; think calmly, closely, seriously; and your convictions will assent to what I have said."
A few moments of silence, but no reply. The speaker went on.
"We are too much inclined to look at death as the producer of some great change in our inner lives. We talk as though we expected to put off discontent and selfishness; hardness towards the neighbor; jealousies and anger — all the evil things we nourish in our minds — and to rise into some vaguely conceived slates of celestial blessedness, purity and peace. My sisters, this is all a vain delusion. Simply and nakedly as we are when we die — shall we rise in the eternal world.
No one ventured a reply, for the sister's words had penetrated the region of conviction.
"And so, my sisters, let us not turn our eyes longingly away to an imaginary home beyond the grave, which we can never find; but inwardly upon ourselves, in careful examination. Let us look well to the home we are building, and to the companions with whom, in our hidden hearts, we most delight to associate. If the feelings of pride, indolence, murmuring, impatience, self-indulgence, envy, disregard of the neighbor, vaunting esteem, and conceit of personal goodness, dwell with us here — we shall go home to them when we pass to the other world. But if patience, meekness, love of the neighbor and forgetfulness of self, endurance, humble-mindedness, and the delight of serving others, abide in our souls — then we shall enter the heavenly mansions and dwell forever with the Lord. Let us then no longer keep looking away and longing for the time of going home, but rather set ourselves diligently to the work of furnishing the homes which are to be our eternal abiding-place; for, as we make them, so will they be found when we come to enter and dwell in them. May that time be far away, for we cannot have too many years in which to build our heavenly homes."
The silence that followed was broken by the sick woman, who, with clasped hands and tearful eyes raised heavenward, thus prayed audibly —
"Lord, give your servant patience to wait — and diligence to work."
And the murmuring responses that met her prayer, showed that the lesson was understood.