Henry Law, 1858
"Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah." Deut. 34:1.
PISGAH is crowded with instructive thoughts. The scene is solemn, because death appears, and a wondrous life finds here a wondrous end. It is holy, for God Himself attends the dying saint, and closes the dying eyes. But its main interest is the marvel of the distant prospects thence discerned. Moses ascends the mount. God meets His faithful servant. All the beauties of the promised land are spread, as a map, before him. And then he is translated to the heavenly reality. What annals record similar events!
My soul, with reverence open this treasure-house of profit. Great Spirit of all light descend, for without Your rays, even Pisgah must be dark!
Moses lived long. He passed a spacious sea of trial. He trod a tedious course of trouble. His sighs were many. His spirit was often pained. But the last step came, and landed him in glory!
Believer, mark this, and gird up your loins. You, too, may experience a stormy voyage through many billows. But each wave wafts you nearer to your haven. The last will break—soon—very soon. And then, where will your sufferings be? Behind—immeasurably distant. What will be around—before you? Peace—joy—glory. Live, then, assured, that the end approaches. The hope of rest makes all disquietudes to fade away. Burdens seem light, when borne for a brief space. Earth's longest sorrow cannot be long.
Moses goes up with ready step to die. God cheers him with an outspread prospect. With telescopic glance he is enabled to survey all the extent of Canaan's lovely land. "And the Lord said unto him, This is the land, which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto your seed. I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." Deut. 34:4.
As we thus read, two thoughts arise.
1. God's promises are stable as Himself. His word must be. He said, "I will give it:" and hands now take the gift.
Believer, watch against UNBELIEF. Hew it to pieces. Tread it to powder. Give it to the winds. Let no shred survive. It is shame, and it is folly. It mars your peace. It keeps out floods of joy. Place your foot firmly on the Word, and rise above all doubts. God's promise, surely, steadily advances towards fulfillment, as the sun to its appointed rising.
Add Pisgah to the many proofs. The goodly land, so often pledged, lies at its base. The happy tribes now reach their lots. So, too, a rest is promised to the saints of God. There was no failure to Israel. There will be no failure unto us. Jesus has entered as the forerunner. He holds possession in His people's name. The keys are in His hands. He beckons forward. He soon will give the welcome. The prize is sure to faith.
2. But Moses may not cross the borders. Why? Thoughts of the heritage had often cheered his heart. His mind with eager wing had often speeded towards this Canaan. It would have been sweet joy to have reposed, after long journeyings, in this land. His lips would have been loud in praise, while witnessing the people settled in their expected homes. But this cannot be granted. He may behold from Pisgah's summit. But his feet may not enter.
Why? Sin is the cause. If there be misery, and shame, and disappointment, these bitter streams may all be traced to sin, as the sad source. At Meribah his faith had failed. Provoked, he spoke and acted in unholy haste. His angry words—his blows inflicted on the rock—dishonored God. He erred in presence of the host. And God must manifest displeasure. Moses is loved—pardoned—saved. But he suffers. His death on Pisgah stands as a beacon, warning of sin's precipice.
Children of God, beware. Be ever on your guard. Watch prayerfully your spirit, thoughts, and words. We move in midst of wide-spread nets. Our feet soon are entangled. And then there must be injury. We may repent, and bitter tears may flow. We may be mercifully snatched from everlasting pains. We may gain heaven. But still there always is a sorrow in sin's trail. Let this example settle deeply in your minds. Moses through sin may not cross Jordan.
This fact is perhaps expressive of another truth. The hands of Moses brought the tables of the Law. He was its mediating channel. But this covenant can never convoy souls to heaven. It is weak to open those bright gates. It is feeble to ascend that lofty hill. Be taught, all you, who seek acceptance through the code of Sinai. The effort to fulfill these terms is fool's play. It cannot prosper. It will surely fail. None enter, with one stain of guilt. None enter, without righteousness, as pure as God is pure. But the Law never can remove stains. It never gives a covering for offence. It therefore admits not to God's presence. It never leads to the celestial rest.
Reader, whatever be your age or state, whatever be your privilege, one thing is surely true, you are black with countless sins. Turn, then, from the broken staff of moral guiltlessness to Jesus. He meets your every need. Leaning on His arm, you may pass Jordan's waves. Safe by His side you may attain true Canaan's joys. Pure in His righteousness, you may stand welcome before God.
But Moses on Pisgah not only warns—he also encourages to rapturous meditation; he leads us by the hand to precious thoughts. His eye thence traverses a wondrous circuit. Aided by superhuman power, he roams along the grand expanse of Israel's portion. From plain to plain—from valley to valley—from hill to hill, he wanders in entranced delight. What beauty—what fertility—enchant him! He sees the earthly home, so worthy of God's chosen sons.
Believer, is there no Pisgah, from which you, too, may gaze? There is. It is the Gospel record. You should by frequent step ascend this hill. You should release your mind from the poor grovelings of earthly things. You should seek elevation for your heart in this chart and picture of the coming bliss.
Jesus invites you to this Pisgah. Without Him, indeed, your daily walk must be in a squalid marsh. Apart from Him, your horizon is confined—and hope has no watchtower of survey. But join yourself to Him. He will conduct you to a lofty seat, and open out a clear prospective of your sure heritage. Seated by Him, your eye may feast on promised mansions. He has indeed bought a rich country for you. And He gives the Gospel as the graphic map.
The Spirit, too, delights to meet you with enlightening aid. He will give power to apprehend this new Jerusalem; to count the towers; to go round the buttresses; to mark the palaces. He will confer that telescopic eye of faith, which scans the valleys, the plains, the mountains, of your Canaan.
Bright, indeed, is the prospect. It reveals that glorious home, which is the recompense of Jesus' blood. But what can be a recompense for divine merit? We estimate things by their price. The price, which He presents, is infinite. The equivalent, which He wins, is heaven. This, then, must be a treasure beyond thought.
Again, think by whom these mansions are prepared. Eternal love suggests their plan. Infinite power executes. Therefore they must be infinitely perfect. Nothing can be absent, which can contribute to pure ecstasy.
But Jesus dwells there now, intent on their completion. They are wondrous words, "I go to prepare a place for you." His grace is an ocean without shore. Here it flows out in ceaseless employ. His might is boundless. Here it finds full exercise. Heaven, then, must be the concentrated blaze of all the happiness, which Jehovah can contrive and form. My soul, may you reach heaven! Cling to Jesus, and you cannot fail. Reader, may you reach heaven! Cling to Jesus, and you cannot fail.
Neglect not, then, the truth, that in the Gospel we are led to a Pisgah, whence we may survey this home. Let no one say, the prospect is so dazzling that mortal gaze cannot rest on it. True! the reality cannot be known by flesh and blood. Bodies, until transformed into the likeness of the Lord, cannot become inhabitants. True! heaven in all its blessedness exceeds our present thought. To know it fully, we must enjoy it for eternal ages. But still we are encouraged to look forward from our Pisgah's heights.
Believer, strain, then, the eye of faith. Look, look again. No, never cease to look. There you behold a flood of glory upon glory. There cannot be improvement. Sin is outside. Temptations have no place. Tears no more flow. Sighs are no longer heaved. Satan and his legion are afar in utter darkness. The world has passed away. There is no longer any fear of grieving God, or falling short, or bringing shame to Christ's all-glorious name. Righteousness and peace are the streets and highways. Eternal safety forms the battlements. Eternal praises sound from all the inhabitants. Eternal glory sparkles on each brow. Eternal pleasure breathes around. Each happy saint drinks a cup—so full, that it can hold no more—so pure, that it cannot be purer—so deep, that everlasting ages cannot exhaust it. My soul, may you reach heaven! Cling to Jesus, and you cannot fail. Reader, may you reach heaven! Cling to Jesus, and you cannot fail.
But when you thus contemplate heaven, especially observe what is its chief joy. It is God—all—God—everywhere—God manifest, and gazed on with undazzled eye. It is Jesus ever near—and seen without an intervening cloud. Here on earth, ofttimes He is hidden, because sin interposes, and distrust brings mist, and other scenes attract, and indolence deadens the soul. In heaven there is no darkening medium. It is eternal vision, and eternal adoration, of Jehovah, clearly displayed—intensely and entirely loved.
Believer, will you not, then, mount Pisgah, and let thought revel in anticipating views? Such meditation is heaven on the path to heaven. It is a foretaste, before earth be left.
Close not this humble volume, without deep resolve. Vow in the spirit, to consecrate some portion of each day to searchings for heaven in the Gospel-page. Become knowledgeable of your sure estate. Be not a stranger to your near country. Often go in, perusing your own Canaan. And may God meet you, as He met Moses! May He enlarge your sight to see—your heart to love!
It is true wisdom to cultivate this Pisgah-meditation. Thus strength is revived, and muscles are nerved to fight and persevere. The combatant gains vigor, the racer presses on, when he beholds the crown of victory almost reached. Think much of heaven, and you will soon be there.
Thus sanctity progresses. Can he love sin, whose soul is ever conversant with purity? Can he be won by siren-notes of earthly pleasure, whose ears are ever drinking in the hallelujahs of the saved?
Thus cares grow light. Can his head hang down, or his breast sigh, who is by constant thought an inhabitant of the realms of bliss?
Thus death is welcomed as the friend, who comes to change long-cherished hope into reality. Thus Jesus more and more is prized and loved. We bless Him in proportion as we feel, that heaven is the purchase of His grace, His work, His blood. When we say, He earned it—He bestows it. Then we add, 'To Him be hourly praise—for Him let every moment toil.'
Happy they, who gather such rich harvest on Pisgah's summit! Spirit of God, strengthen my sight for such delightful gaze! Spirit of God, use these poor pages to attract pilgrims to this mount!