No Condemnation in Christ Jesus by Octavius Winslow, 1852
Present Suffering Weighed with Future Glory
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18
"Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later." Romans 8:18
How forcible are the words, and how powerful is the influence, of an experienced man of God! In listening to his testimony, we feel the deep conviction that he believes and therefore speaks; that he testifies, not from what others have described, but from what he has himself felt. Such is the testimony of Paul. Who, of mere men, could so well expatiate upon suffering—its varied forms, its appropriate soothings, and its hallowed results, as he? "I will show him how great things he shall suffer for my name's sake," were the words of the Savior as he predicted his future history, dating it from his miraculous conversion, to his glorious martyrdom. Having affirmed of the Christian's sufferings—that they were endured in alliance with the Savior, and would be succeeded by a glory again to be shared with him, the Apostle proceeds to contrast those sufferings with that glory, and concludes by summing up the vast disproportion of the one to the other—"I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Dismissing any further minute reference to the sufferings of the believer, he contents himself, in the present instance, with simply alluding to their temporary existence. He characterizes them as the "sufferings of this present time." That the sufferings of the believer are bounded by the limits of the present state, is a truth replete with soothing to the Christian mind. Earth is the "house of our pilgrimage." The present life is the "time of our sojourning." "Here we have no continuing city." Alas! how we forget that we are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth; that we are journeying to our home, and will soon be there! And yet we would not pen a sentence tending to lessen the dignity and importance of our present existence, or calculated to engender a spirit of dissatisfaction and distrust with our present allotment. There is much folly, no, much infidelity in a remark common to many—"It will be all the same a hundred years hence." Not so. The relation of the present to the future is causal; it is a relation of the closest character, and of the most solemn results. Time is the infant of eternity. It is its commencement; and is, in a sense, its most momentous part. Shaded with grief, linked with suffering, and transient in its stay, yet all the future receives its complexion and its character from the present. The life that now is, casts its light or its shade upon the life that is to come. Eternity will be bright or gloomy, joyous or sad, happy or miserable, as time shall impart to it its complexion and its shape. Each individual of the human race is training for the future; and as a man sows so shall he reap. Will you, then, my reader, in view of this statement of truth, persist in believing that, regarding any given act of your life, when that life shall have passed away, with it will have passed all the accountability, and all the traces of that act; and that a century hence it will be as though it had not been? Away with the fatal fallacy! If it be true, as philosophers assert, that sounds once awakened, vibrate through eternity, what shall be said of the moral actions of a rational, responsible, and accountable being, but that they form links in an interminable chain, each quivering with indescribable agony, or thrilling with unspeakable pleasure through an endless existence!
And still the sufferings of the children of God are but the sufferings of the present time. That world where Satan's seat is, and overshadowed by his gloomy reign, must be a world of suffering. "Satan, where have you come from?" was the inquiry of God. "Then Satan answered the Lord and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." The world where not a spot is found unscathed by the curse must be a world of suffering. The world where sin holds its universal empire, tainting every object, and beclouding every scene, must be a world of suffering. The world where the spirit is wounded, and the heart is broken, and reason is dethroned, and hope languishes, and the eye weeps, and the nerve trembles, and sickness wastes, and death reigns, must needs be a world of suffering. From none of these forms of woe does Christianity exempt its believers. But with this truth, on the other hand, it soothes and reconciles—they are the sufferings of the present time. They are but momentary, will soon be over—and forever. We live in a dying world—a world that is passing away. Time is short—is ever on the wing—and we are ever on the wing of time, borne each moment by its sweeping pinion nearer and still nearer our Father's house; of whose occupants it is said, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither, shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Oh, how gentle is the admonition—"Arise, and depart, for this is not your rest, it is polluted."
Then comes the glory—"The glory which shall be revealed in us." What word could more appropriately express the future condition of the saints? The world claims the title, but has no claim to the reality. What is the glory of science—of learning—of rank—of wealth, but a tinseled pageant, a meteor blazing for a moment, and then disappearing in eternal night? But the glory that awaits the suffering Christian, is a real, a substantial glory. At present it is veiled. The world sees it not; the believer only beholds it through faith's telescope. But the day of its full, unclouded revelation awaits us. It draws near. It will be a glory revealed in us. This truth may be startling to some. "What!" they exclaim, "a glory to be revealed in me? In me, who can scarcely reflect a solitary ray of light! In me, so dark, so sinful, living at so remote a distance from communion with the Father of lights? Can it be that in me this glory will be revealed?" Yes! So affirms the word of our God. If a child of the light, dwelling it may be, in the world's shade, and often called to walk in great darkness, you shall one day outshine the brightness of the firmament, and the stars forever and ever.
But in what respects will it be a glory revealed in us? It will be the glory of perfect knowledge. "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Oh, what an orb of intellectual light will be each glorified mind! What capacity of understanding will it develop—what range of thought will it compass—what perfection of knowledge will it attain! How will all mysteries then be unraveled, and all problems then be solved, and all discrepancies then be reconciled; and every truth of God's revelation, and every event of God's providence, and every decision of God's government, stand out more transparent and resplendent than ten thousand suns! Do you, in your present search for spiritual knowledge, deplore the darkness of your mind, the feebleness of your memory—the energy of your mental faculties impaired, dimmed, and exhausted? Oh, rejoice in hope of the glory that is to be revealed in you, when all your intellectual powers will be renewed as the eagle's strength; developed, sanctified, and perfected, to a degree outvying the mightiest angel in heaven. Then shall we know God, and Christ, and truth, and providence, and ourselves, even as now we are known.
It will also be a glory in us of perfect holiness. The kingdom within us will then be complete. The good work of grace will then be perfected. It will be the consummation of holiness, the perfection of purity. No more sin! The conscience no more sullied—the thoughts no more defiled—the affections no more ensnared—but a glory of holiness, dazzling and resplendent, beyond an angel's, revealed in us. "It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him."
The glory of perfect happiness will be the certain effect of perfect sanctity. The completeness of Christ is the completeness of moral purity. With reverence be it spoken, "God himself could not be a perfectly happy, were he not a perfectly holy Being." The radiance of the glorified countenance of the saints will be the reflection of holy thoughts and holy feelings glowing within. Joy, and peace, and full satifaction will beam in every feature, because every faculty, and feeling, and emotion of the soul will be in perfect unison with the will, and in perfect assimilation to the image of God. Who can paint the happiness of that world from where everything is banished that could sully its purity, disturb its harmony, and ruffle its repose? Where everything is included that comports with its sanctity, harmonizes with its grandeur, and heightens its bliss. Oh, yes! it will be a glory revealed in us. The glory of the Father's adoption—the glory of Christ's atonement—the glory of the Spirit's regeneration, radiating from a poor, fallen son of Adam—a sinner redeemed, renewed, and saved! And what is each present ray of heavenly light—and each thrill of Divine love—and each victory of indwelling grace—and each glimpse of the upper world, but the foreshadowings of the glory yet to be revealed in us?
Suffering and glory thus placed side by side, thus contrasted and weighed, to what conclusion does our Apostle arrive? "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." No, not worthy of a comparison! Do we measure their relative duration? Then, "our light affliction is but for a moment," while our glory is a "far more exceeding and eternal weight." Before long all suffering and sorrow will forever have passed away—a thing of history and of memory only—while glory will deepen and expand as eternity rolls on its endless ages. Do we compare them? What comparison has the weight of the cross, with the weight of the crown? Place in the scales the present "light affliction," and the future "exceeding and eternal weight of glory," which is the lightest? are they worthy to be compared? Oh, no! One second of glory will extinguish a lifetime of suffering. What were long years of toil, of sickness, of battle with poverty, and persecution, and sorrow in every form, and closing even with a martyr's death, compared with one draught of the river of pleasure at Christ's right hand—with one breath of Paradise—with one wave of heaven's glory—with one embrace of Jesus, with one sight of God?
Oh, what are the pangs of present separation, in comparison with the joy of future reunion? What the pinchings of poverty now, with the untold riches then? What the suffering, and gloom, and contempt of the present time, with the glory that is to be revealed in us? We can go no further. Tell us, you spirits of just men made perfect, if it be lawful, if it be possible—what the glory that awaits us is! Tell us what it is to be an unclothed spirit—to dwell in the bosom of Jesus to see God—to be perfectly holy—to be supremely happy! Wait, my soul! before long it will be all revealed!