"The whole creation groans,
And waits to hear that voice,
That shall restore her loveliness,
And make her wastes rejoice.
Come, Lord, and wipe away
The curse, the sin, the stain,
And make this blighted world of ours
Your own fair world again!"

"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness."—2 Peter 3:13.

Little has been said in Scripture fitted to gratify an idle curiosity regarding the circumstantials of future bliss. The extreme and studied reserve, indeed, of the sacred writers on this subject forms one of the striking indirect evidences that they were neither impostors nor enthusiasts—neither pleasers of men, nor compilers of cunningly-devised fables. Had they been so, they would doubtless have appealed more than they have done to the imaginations and passions of their readers, expatiating on the scenery and splendors of the world to come.

While, however, the statements are brief and fragmentary regarding the locality and characteristics of Heaven, it becomes us, with a modest precaution, to be "wise up to what is written." The verse of the apostle Peter offers us two themes for meditation on a future state of bliss—two Grapes to be gleaned from the Eschol clusters.

1st, We are to look for "new heavens and a new earth."
The present globe on which we dwell is to undergo a purifying process by fire. When the day of the Lord comes "as a thief in the night," "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up," (2 Peter 3:10.) Although, however, a conflagration be here spoken of, we have strong reason to conjecture that this planet, over which "the morning stars sang together," and which the Almighty Creator Himself pronounced to be "very good," is not to be annihilated—not to be expunged from the "records of creation"—but rather only remolded and reconstructed into a "new earth," nobler and more beautiful than when the Sons of God shouted over it their lofty anthems. Again, (although we have no positive authority in assigning a special locality for the future home of the glorified,) we can affirm, with strong grounds of certainty, that that home—be it where it may—must consist of a material habitation of some kind, suited to material bodies. Whatever change may take place hereafter on our physical frames—however refined and even spiritual in one sense they may be—we know that a glorified body cannot, in the nature of things, be an ethereal, angelic, spiritual essence; floating, in dreamy, shadowy form, through the regions of space. It must assume a substantial, visible, tangible shape. It is to be "fashioned" like unto the glorious resurrection-body of Jesus, (Phil. 3:21.)

Much of our present corporeal organism, as we may afterwards more particularly note, may, and most probably will, be retained and restored; only their functions vastly augmented, and the sphere of activity vastly enlarged. If, then, for these glorified bodies some local material habitation must necessarily be provided, another step leads to the probable (the natural) inference, that their old abode, purified and renovated, would form the most befitting locality for their eternal residence.

We have seen, in a previous Meditation, that the Great Being, at whose feet they are to cast their crowns, is most frequently spoken of and adored by them under His suffering title, "The Lamb." If He delights to remember earth as the scene of His humiliation—if He delighted to dwell in its "habitable parts" in eras long antecedent to the Incarnation, and before the millions He was to save were called into existence—how much more will He delight to traverse it, when—"His blood, His pain, His toils" all past—it becomes the monument and trophy of His unspeakable grace and love! Is it not reasonable to infer that the theater on which His redemption-work was achieved, so far from being erased from the universe, will rather be retained—in restored and renovated beauty—a lustrous point on which principalities and powers will delight to fix their wondering gaze, and get from its memories fresh matter and motive for praise? Will not the song listened to by Isaiah in the old Jerusalem temple—when he heard "one cry to another"—rise to its full cadence, in the ingathered Church of the Redeemed, when, on the platform of "the new earth," and under the dome of "the new heavens," the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands will be heard rolling in the threefold ascription—"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts! The whole EARTH is full of His glory?" (Isa. 6:3.)

If we are forbidden to hazard stronger assertion, we may, at all events, speak of all this as substantial conjecture. Earth (our own present sin-stricken, woe-worn earth) may only have to put off these her ashen robes of guilt and woe, to become a heavenly and eternal home for her ransomed children—beautiful amid "a sisterhood of worlds." Scripture significantly speaks, not of the renewing or remodeling of all things, but of "the restitution of all things," (Acts 3:21.) It is the building of the old fabric which the earthquake had shattered—the disentangling of stone by stone from the matting weeds and ivy, and chiseling them afresh for the heavenly Temple. All that sin has left uncorrupted may remain as it is. We may have the same glorious sky for a canopy—the same everlasting mountains to gaze upon—the same grateful vicissitude of seasons, the same winds to chant—the same waves to chime, "Glory to God in the highest!"

The eye may be charmed, as now, with harmonious coloring—the ear delighted, as now, with music and song. The senses may be as susceptible (or more susceptible) than they now are of the sublime and beautiful in nature—art may vindicate, under nobler auspices, her claim to be the handmaid of all that is pure and lovely and of good report—the harpers, harping on a glassy sea, undimmed and unfretted by a ripple of sin or sorrow—the very words which are now at times attuned to our sinful lips in a sinful world, may be set to the higher music and melodies of a world of purity and love—"O Lord, how manifold are your works! in wisdom have you made them all! THE EARTH is full of your riches!" (Ps. 104:24.)

The 2nd statement in the words of Peter, is the special characteristic of these "new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness."

This brings us again to the great truth, that it is the moral aspect and character of heaven, and not its locality, which most concerns us. If the Bible descriptions and pictures of a future state teach us anything, it is this—not to indulge in fanciful theories about the accessories of heavenly bliss, but to keep our minds focused on this great truth—that holiness characterizes that kingdom! It matters comparatively little where we shall be, but it matters much, and it concerns us much, to know what we shall be. We may not be able categorically to pronounce whether Heaven is on some distant, and as yet untraversed nook in creation; or whether it may be this very earth, consecrated by so many mingled memories of sin, suffering, and glory. But this we do know, that Righteousness will be the great law of that blissful empire. We repeat the great truth dwelt upon in the previous chapter—"It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be LIKE Him."

It is SIN which forms the foul curse and blot on the "present evil world." In itself, our earth is all one could wish as a beauteous and befitting habitation for glorified natures. Take sin away, which has blighted and blasted whatever is fair within it, and you transmute it at once into a "Paradise restored." Yes! imagine this world—this very world—purged of its evils—its selfishness—its profligacy—its covetousness—its jealousies—its backbitings—each heart a transparent fountain of pure and holy thought—each household a little Bethel—every life within it an incense-breathing altar—each nation linked with its fellow in everlasting brotherhood—the curse of Babel removed, and the one universal tongue the language of love!

Then, following the expulsion of sin, picture the expulsion of SUFFERING. The cries of infancy—the pains of sickness—the pangs of disease—the ashen cheek (the sad premonitory symptom of coming dissolution)—the bitter bereavement—the tolling of the funeral bell—the crowded grave-yard—the weeds of mourning, and deeper yawning chasms of bitterness in the soul which no human plummet can gauge—imagine all these unknown—these "former things passed away."

Moreover, add to this negative, the POSITIVE view of a world of bliss—the presence of God—the personal love of an ever-present Savior—fellowship with angels—communion with all that is holy and happy! Oh, I need not go and make the sun my chariot, and sweep the azure skies—I need not traverse the nightly plains, and make every star a resting-place in my search for a happy heaven—I have it wherever God and righteousness is! He might erect for me in infinite space some gigantic palace, glittering with coruscations of unearthly splendor—its halls gleaming with the ransacked treasures of the universe—resplendent with beauty, resonant with song. But if sin were there—Heaven it could not be! "Blessed are the pure in heart; they alone can see"—they alone can enjoy "God!" (Matt. 5:8.)

Is my mind and character now, in any feeble measure, fitted for this sinless abode? No unrenewed, unregenerate man could be happy there. Take a peasant from the plough, and set him on a throne; how ill at ease would he feel at the strange transition!—how ill qualified to cope with the duties and cares and responsibilities of empire! Take a deaf man to listen to melodious music—or a blind man to gaze on the glories of a landscape, both would fail to imbibe one pleasurable emotion, seeing they are destitute of the requisite inlets of enjoyment. The objects of pleasure are, in both cases, locked to their senses.

So likewise in Heaven. Without holiness, I could have no relish for communion with God. I must have a moral vision to render me capable of appreciating the moral loveliness of its scenery—I must have spiritual tastes and likings to render its holy society congenial. As little could an inhabitant of our earth, with his present bodily organization, be able to sustain life on a planet nearer the sun, (such as Mercury,) as the sinner, with his spiritual organization unchanged, be able to bear the blaze of that heaven of unsullied purity!

O happy time! when alike the world without and the world within will be purified—hallowed—"made fit for the Master's use." Every sinful passion quelled—every usurper overthrown—when from this creation, now "groaning and travailing in pain," shall arise a perpetual hymn of praise and love—when sin, which like a vast avalanche has been crushing it down, shall have melted away forever! And more than this, when my own heart—regenerated, glorified—will become a consecrated altar, on which the sacrifices of righteousness will be offered continually—self, sin, corruption, no longer burning their defiled incense and strange fire, but all shall "grow" into a "holy temple in the Lord."

Lord! I would seek to have this Heaven begun! Let me not only see the Eschol clusters—let me taste them. Give me grace to become more and more holy. Let the power of evil wax weaker and weaker, and the power of holiness wax stronger and stronger. It has been beautifully said, "The upper streets of glory are on earth." Let it be so with me. Let my heart become now a miniature heaven. Let me know, in my blissful experience, the truth of the Savior's words, "The kingdom of God is WITHIN you."

"Many a joyful sight was given,
Many a lovely vision here,
Hill, and valley, and starry heaven,
Friendship's smile, affection's tear;
These were shadows, sent in love,
Of realities above!

"Here were sweet and varied tones,
Bird, and breeze, and fountain's fall;
Yet Creation's travail-groans
Ever sadly sighed through all.
There no discord jars the air,
Harmony is perfect there!

"Here devotion's healing balm
Oft came to soothe my breast,
Hours of deep and holy calm,
Pledges of eternal rest.
But the glory was unknown,
Which shall there be all my own!"