"You have not yet reached the resting place and the
inheritance the Lord your God is giving you." Deut. 12:9
And is it so, that at the close of this lonely and weary
pilgrimage there is rest above? And that after this earthly fleeting
existence there is an inheritance reserved? May I unhesitatingly believe
this assurance, and hopefully clasp it to my heart? Then with what a firm
tread, and with what a buoyant spirit may I press my foot upon the
mysterious threshold of the year now opening upon me--even as the morning's
sun peers above the horizon, and as the early flower expands to the warm
influence of its genial beams. Whether, like that sun, this new born year
shall in its course be wreathed with storm-clouds--or whether, like that
opening floweret, its earthly loves and joys and hopes shall pale and droop
and die, I cannot tell nor wish to know. Enough that God is my Father, my
Sun, and Shield; that He will give grace and glory, and will withhold no
good and needed thing. Enough that Christ is my Portion, my Advocate, my
Friend, and that whatever else may pass away, his sympathy will not cease,
his sufficiency will not fail, nor his love die. Enough that the everlasting
covenant is mine, and that that covenant, made with me, is ordered in all
things and sure. Enough that heaven is my rest, that towards it I am
journeying, and that I am one year nearer its blessed and endless enjoyment.
Thus may each Christian pilgrim commune with his own
heart while standing beneath the shadowy portal of another cycle of time.
Before yet we meet its new and sacred claims, its duties, its
responsibilities, and its trials--it may be our wisdom to remember, that we
are "not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the
Lord our God gives us." Our path, pointing homewards, lies across a long and
dreary desert. We have, as yet, many a milestone to pass--many a stage to
travel--many a foe to confront--many a battle to win. We cannot exult as
those who put off the armor and wave the palm. And yet we are going home.
Going home! what a soothing reflection! what an ecstatic prospect! The heart
throbs quicker--the eye beams brighter--the spirit grows elastic--the whole
soul uplifts its soaring pinion, eager for its flight, at the very thought
of heaven. "I go to prepare a place for you," was one of the last and
sweetest assurances that breathed from the lips of the departing Savior; and
though uttered eighteen hundred years ago, those words come stealing upon
the memory like the echoes of by-gone music, thrilling the heart with holy
and indescribable transport. Yes! He has passed within the veil as our
forerunner; He has prepared heaven for us, and by His gentle, wise,
and loving discipline, he is preparing us for heaven.
Amid the perpetually changing scenes of earth, it is
refreshing to think of heaven as our CERTAIN hope. "In hope of
eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began."
This is no quicksand basis for faith--no mirage of hope. Heaven is a
promised "rest"--exquisitely expressive image!--and that promise is the word
of Him who cannot lie. Nothing can surpass, nothing can compare with this!
Human confidences--the strong and beautiful--have bent and broken beneath
us. Hopes--bright and favorable--we too fondly fed, have, like evening
clouds of summer, faded away, draping the landscape they had painted with a
thousand variegated hues, in the somber pall of night. But heaven is true!
God has promised it--Christ has secured it--the Holy Spirit is its
pledge--and the joys we now feel are its pledges and "first-fruits."
Christian, consider this new epoch of time; unfold a new page of your yet
unwritten history with the full, unwavering conviction that God is
faithful--that in all the negotiations, transactions, and events of the
unknown future--in all the diversified and fluctuating phases of experience
through which you may pass, it will be your mercy to do with Him of whom it
is said, "It is impossible for God to lie." Oh, take this precious truth
into your heart, and it will shed a warm sunlight over all the landscape of
your yet shadowy existence. "He abides faithful, He cannot deny Himself."
Receive the promise, and confide in the veracity of the Promiser, and He
will make good to its utmost the word upon which He has caused you to hope.
Standing yet within the solemn vestibule of this new and exciting year,
could our fluttering hearts find repose in a more appropriate or sweeter
truth than the Divine faithfulness of Him "with whom there is no
variableness, neither the shadow of a turning?"
The Home to which we aspire, and for which we pant, is
not only a promised, it is also a PERFECT and a PERMANENT
Home. The mixed character of those seasons we now call repose, and the
shifting places and changing dwellings we here call home, should perpetually
remind us that we are not, as yet, come to the perfect rest and the
permanent home of heaven. Most true, indeed, God is the believer's present
home, and Jesus his present rest. Beneath the shadow of the cross, by the
side of the mercy-seat, within the pavilion of a Father's love there is true
mental repose, a real heart's ease, a peace that passes all understanding,
found even here, where all things else are fleeting as a cloud, and
unsubstantial as a dream. "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest."
But it is to heaven we look for the soul's perfect and
changeless happiness. With what imagery shall I portray it? How shall I
describe it? Think of all the ills of your present condition--not one exists
in heaven! Bereaved one!--death enters not, slays not, sunders not
there. Sick one!--disease pales not, enfeebles not, wastes not there.
Afflicted one!--sorrow chafes not, saddens not, shades not there.
Oppressed one!--cruelty injures not, wounds not, crushes not there.
Forsaken one!--inconstancy disappoints not, chills not, mocks not
there. Penitent one!--sin exists not, burdens not, embitters not
there. Weeping one!--tears spring not, scald not, dim not there. "The
former things are passed away." There rests not upon that smooth brow, there
lingers not upon those serene features a furrow, or line, or shade of former
sadness, languor, or suffering--not a trace of wishes unfulfilled, of fond
hopes blighted. The desert is passed, the ocean is crossed, the home is
reached, and the soul finds itself in heaven, where all is the perfection of
purity and the plenitude of bliss. Ages move on in endless succession, and
still all is bright, new, and eternal. Oh, who would not live to win and
enjoy a heaven so fair, so holy, and so changeless as this? He who has
Christ in his heart enshrines there the inextinguishable, deathless hope of
It is a richly instructive and deeply sanctifying
thought--the FUTURITY of the heavenly rest. When told that we are not
as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord our God
gives us, we are gently reminded that we have each one a niche in life to
occupy, a sphere to fill, a mission to perform. The idea of personal
responsibility, of individual influence, and of untiring action instantly
starts up before the mind, "Not yet in heaven--then for what am I here?
Surely it is for an object in harmony with my intellectual and spiritual
being, and worthy of Him who still detains me on earth. It must be that I
have something to do, or something to endure for Christ--an active or a
passive part to fill. Lord, what will you have me to do or suffer for You?"
Oh, there is a fathomless depth of Divine wisdom in the arrangement that
keeps us so long out of heaven. The world needs us, and we need the world.
It needs us to illumine and sanctify it; we need it as the field of our
conflict, and as the school of our graces. We need the world, not as a
hermit's cell, but as a vast theater where before angels and men our
Christianity is developed in the achievements of prayer, in the triumphs of
faith, in the labors of love, and in the endurance of suffering.
Not yet at home--then we would remember that it is
"through much tribulation we are to enter the kingdom." As a new period of
time slowly rises from the depths of the unknown and mysterious future, its
form, half-shadowy, half-brightness, seeming to say,
"Cold is my greeting: but when we part
You shall find I have crept around your heart.
Ah! vainly then would'st you bid me stay,
And sigh to recall me when I am away."
Shrink we from its stern and solemn duties, its bosomed
sorrows, its deep and impenetrable decrees? Why shrink we? Infinite
resources unveil their treasures upon its threshold. Christ's atoning merits
confront our vast demerit. Christ's boundless grace confronts our deep
necessities. Christ's promised presence confronts our sad and gloomy
loneliness. Jesus thus filled with grace so overflowing, with love so
tender, with sympathy so exquisite, with power so illimitable, with
resources so boundless, with a nature so changeless, stands before us and
says to each trembling heart, "Fear not!" We commence a new march under His
convoy. We prepare for a new conflict with His armor. We renew our
pilgrimage with fresh supplies of "angels' food," affording nourishment for
the present and pledges for the future. For that future, be not
heedlessly, unbelievingly anxious. It is all in God's hands. He desires that
you should live each day upon Him as a little child--simple in your faith,
unshaken in your confidence, clinging in your love. Let each morning's
petition be--ever linking it with the precious name of Jesus, that name
which is above every name--"My Father! give me this day my daily bread."
Then, Oh, yes, then shall the promise be fulfilled, and its fulfillment
shall be the immediate answer to your prayer--"As your days, so shall your
Inspired by the prospect of going home, we shall be
watchful that nothing hides it from our view, or hinders our growing fitness
for its enjoyment. "Arise, and depart, this is not your rest," is the yet
impressive voice uttered by each drooping flower, and dying spring, and
fading beam of earth-born good. Each moment we leave the desert behind us.
We lose nothing, but we gain much; each night we pitch our tent "a day's
march nearer home." The hope of the man whose portion is in this life is
continually darkening and deteriorating. Each revolving year brings him
nearer to the end and the loss of all his treasures. Unconverted reader,
ponder this! But the hope of a believer in Jesus is rendered all the more
lively, more precious, and more bright as time approaches eternity. Growing
more intense, it becomes more sanctifying. Like the highland stream, dashing
from the rock, and purifying itself as it courses its way to the ocean,
Christian hope purifies the heart in which it dwells. Gently disentwining
its thoughts, affections, and desires from a too clinging attachment to
terrestrial objects, it bears them onward to the sea of glory towards
which it flows.
Forward, then, with firmer tread, and with swifter wing
to the hope laid up for us in heaven. Animated by such a hope, with a home
before us so alluring and so near, shall we linger on our way to pluck the
blighted flower, to admire the receding landscape, or even to build our
tabernacle upon the mount all glowing with the Savior's presence? We are
leaving behind us all present scenes of sadness and of joy. An Arabian
prince, on approaching the city of Damascus, was so overwhelmed by the
splendor of the city, that he paused at its entrance and said, "I expect to
enter one paradise; but if I enter this city I shall be so caught by its
blandishments, as to lose sight of the paradise in which I hope to enter."
We are journeying to a heaven infinitely surpassing a
Mohammedan paradise--a heaven of perfect knowledge, of perfect holiness, of
perfect love--shall we allow the dazzle of earthly blandishments to blind
our eye to the glory so soon to be revealed? "Here we have no continuing
city, we seek one to come."
Not yet come to the heavenly rest, we still are
approaching it, and oh, ecstatic thought! we shall reach it at last!
Everything in our present course reminds us that we are nearing home, as the
seaweed washed from the rocks, and as the land-birds venturing from their
bowers and floating by the vessel, are indices to the voyager that he is
nearing his port. Are you bereaved?--weep not! earth has one tie less, and
heaven has one tie more. Are you impoverished of earthly substance?--grieve
not! your imperishable treasure is in heaven. Are you sailing over dark and
stormy waters?--fear not! the rising flood but lifts your ark the higher and
nearer the mount of perfect safety and endless rest. Are you battling with
disease, conscious that life is ebbing and eternity is nearing?--tremble
not! there is light and music in your lonely and shaded chamber--the dawn
and the chimings of your heavenly home. "I am going home! Transporting
thought!--true, I leave an earthly one, all so sweet and attractive, but I
exchange it for a heavenly one infinitely brighter, more sacred and
precious. I am going to Jesus--to the Church Triumphant--to Apostles,
Prophets, and Martyrs--to the dear ones who line the shore on the other
side, prepared to welcome me there. Death, from which I have so often
recoiled, is but the triumphal arch--oh, how bright a risen Christ has made
it!--through which I pass into my Father's house."
"I'm fading, slowly, slowly as the day
Fades into even, and the quiet night;
But with the body's sinking and decay,
The spirit gathers new and holy light.
A brief, brief time, and I shall be at rest,
Forever sheltered on the Savior's breast."
Let us, on this birthday of the year, renew each his
personal and solemn dedication to God; supplicating forgiveness for the
past, and invoking grace to help in every time of need for the future. The
atoning blood of Jesus! how solemn and how precious is it at this moment!
Bathed in it afresh, we will more supremely, unreservedly, and submissively
yield ourselves unto God as those who are alive from the dead. It is only as
we commence with the atoning blood that we commence aright. It is this that
purifies the conscience, allays legal fears, dissolves the heart, embitters
sin, and gives a loftier elevation to motives, principles, and actions. We
begin, then, with the Cross. To it, poor and vile, worthless and faithless
though we are, we are yet welcome. Oh! let us not carry the burden of the
Old Year's sins and backslidings, failures and shortcomings, into the New.
We will travel to the open fountain, wash, and be clean. Christ loves us to
come as we are. We may approach all clothed with shame for the past, but not
a reproving look will dart from His eye, nor an upbraiding word will breathe
from His lips. The very fact of our coming penitent, humble, and trusting
will, so to speak, wake every feeling of love in His heart, and move Him to
the tenderest and most forgiving compassion. Nor shall abuse and
ill-requited mercies past, seal our lips from supplicating blessings for the
future. "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it," is still the Divine
promise. And He who gave it has added a supplementary one, if possible, yet
ampler and richer, "Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great
and mighty things which you know not." For what, then, shall we supplicate
of Him, who is thus prepared to bestow more than we are able to ask or
think? Lord! hearken to my petition--
I ask for a power to plead with men,
With a might like that of an angel's pen;
To bid them turn to their only rest,
And in their blessing to make me blest!
The plaudits I want are a silent voice,
Which shall bid my inner soul rejoice!
I ask in my bosom a wealth to secure
That shall make the whole world's riches poor.
I ask for a wisdom that brings to naught
The hoarded years of experience and thought.
I ask for a love which with rapture and light
Shall fill up my being's infinite;
Which cannot change with a changing lot;
Which endures, and oh! disappointeth not!--
Loveliest and brightest, when all earth can borrow
Is dark, and touched by the gloom of sorrow;
Which soothes with unfailing sympathy
When all human founts of feeling are dry;
Which wipes a tear in secret shed;
And cradles the sick and weary head;
True, where all else is but shadow and dream--
Perfect, immortal, celestial, supreme.
And now, beloved, let us arise and depart. "You have
dwelt long enough in this place." "Let us pass over unto the other side."
The cloud moves! 'Tis the heavenly signal for our advance. A greater than
Moses is our Leader; a mightier than Joshua is our Savior. A fairer,
sunnier, richer land than an earthly Canaan invites and woos us to its
serene and peaceful coast. Trooping around and bending over us is a great
cloud of witnesses, sister spirits, who seem to say, "Imitate our example,
and yours will be our reward. Will you linger where we hastened? flee where
we fought? fall where we stood? surrender where we conquered? Oh! be not
slothful, but followers of us, who through faith and patience, are
inheriting the promises." Blessed Savior! you shall guide me with your
counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.
I'M GOING HOME!
A poor and aged Christian, who had passed upwards of
seventy years on earth, seeing her friends weeping around her death-bed,
exclaimed, "Mourn not, I'm going home."
I'm going home--prepare the bridal wreath!
My Savior bids my happy spirit come:
Damp not with tears the Christian's bed of death,
Rejoice!--I'm going home!
Earth has its cares; for threescore years and ten
My lot has been 'midst thorny paths to roam;
I would not track those desert scenes again;
'Tis past--I'm going home!
The dove has found her nest, the storm-tossed found
A place of rest beyond the dashing foam
Of griefs wild billows--there am I bound.
Joy, joy!--I'm going home.
Earth's flowers all fade--there fadeless roses blow:
Earth's sunniest light is shaded by the tomb;
Earth's loves all slumber in the vault below--
Death dwells not in that home.
I see the city of the blest on high,
With the freed spirit's range. I come! I come!
You calling voices! catch my heart's reply;
Home! home!--I'm going home.
OH! TO BE READY!
Oh! to be ready, when death shall come!
Oh! to be ready to hasten home!
No earthward clinging, no lingering gaze,
No strife at parting, no sore amaze;
No chains to sever what earth has twined;
No spell to loosen what love would bind;
No flitting shadows to dim the light
Of the angel pinions winged for flight;
No cloud-like phantom to fling a gloom
'Twixt heaven's bright portals and earth's dark tomb.
But sweetly, gently to pass away
From the world's dim twilight into day.
To list the music of angels' lyres;
To catch the rapture of seraph fires;
To lean in trust on the Risen One;
Until borne away to a fadeless throne.
Oh! to be ready, when death shall come!
Oh! to be ready to hasten home!