The CELESTIAL Spirit of
the Lord's Prayer.
"Our Father, which art in heaven." Matthew 6:9
There are three points of view in which the invocation of
the Lord's Prayer may be considered. I have already considered the first
two--the PATERNAL and the BROTHERLY. It remains that we consider the third
one--the CELESTIAL. "Our Father, which art in heaven." It was
to heaven, where God is, and from whence He came, that Christ sought to
uplift the hearts of His disciples. The earthward tendency of the renewed
mind, even amid the solemn engagement of prayer, He, from whom no thought of
the heart is concealed, perfectly knew. Who among the most
spiritually-minded has not complained of the undevoutness of heart, the
vagrancy of mind, the foolish imaginations, and probably skeptical thoughts
which so often obtrude upon the believer when he would sincerely enter his
closet and shut the door about him and be alone with God? At the very moment
when, unclasping and uplifting the pinions of his soul, he would sincerely
rise in faith and love and fellowship, he finds himself encompassed and
assailed by a legion of mundane, atheistical, graceless thoughts and
affections, which fetter the soul, stifle its aspirations, distract its
meditations, and arrest its flight.
What an impediment, also, to real, spiritual prayer does
the believer find in the tendency of his mind to lose sight of God's
Dwelling. True, solemnly true, God's presence is everywhere; yet, while
earth is His footstool, heaven is His dwelling-place. And where He
is, there would He have the heart and mind of His supplicating child travel
and repose. Hence the emphatic declaration of our Lord--"Our Father, which
art in HEAVEN." Let this be the truth which now engages our study.
In ascribing location to God--in portraying heaven as His
dwelling--we must not forget, as I have just remarked, one of the most
solemn and, to the Christian mind, most sanctifying and consolatory truths,
that there is not a place nor a spot in the vast universe where God is not.
His presence pervades all space, engirdles the globe, brightens the bowers
of heaven, darkens the caverns of hell. Who can hide himself from God? What
mountain can cover, what rock conceal, what darkness veil the soul from His
sight? "Where shall I go from Your Spirit? or where shall I flee from Your
presence?" Saint of God! can you not in truth exclaim, "Lord! where would I
flee from Your presence? Flee from Your presence! it is my heaven below, and
it is all the heaven I expect or wish for above! If I take the wings of the
morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Your
hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me." Child of God! take the
divine consolation of this truth. Where can you be where Christ will not be
with you? Are you anticipating a new and untried stage of life? Are you
about to relinquish the ties of home, perhaps of country, for a distant
climate, to be exiled amid strangers, to battle with a new position of toil,
temptation, and peril? Oh, let your child--like faith now grasp this great
and precious truth, which shall be for your stay, strength, and comfort in
all places where God conducts you--"Even there shall Your hand lead me, and
Your right hand hold me." The promise is, "My presence shall go with you,
and I will give you rest." Go, then, beloved, leaning upon this divine
staff, and it shall be well with you for time and for eternity. Other
staffs, the beautiful and strong, may break; other props, the near and
loved, may fail; but your covenant God in Christ will never leave nor
forsake you. Go, then, where He leads you; pitch your tent in India or in
China, in Australia, or in America, within that tent He will dwell, above
and around it He will spread the wings of His power and love; and in all
your engagements and difficulties, loneliness and want, temptations and
sorrows you shall be enabled to exclaim, "Nevertheless I am continually with
you--You have held me by my right hand. You shall guide me with Your
counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You."
And yet our Father has His FIXED and appropriate
dwelling-place. The Scriptures of truth represent heaven as His abode. At
the dedication of the temple, Solomon uses this language, "But will God
indeed dwell on earth? behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens, cannot
contain You." And we have the prayer of the prophet Isaiah confirming this
truth--"Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation
of Your holiness and of Your glory." And to crown these statements we have
the declaration of Jehovah himself--"Heaven is My throne, and earth is My
We must suppose, then, that the highest
heavens--sometimes called the "heaven of heavens," and "the third
heaven"--is the place of God's dwelling. The "third heaven," into which the
apostle in his rapture ascended, is a remarkable expression. The Jews were
used to speak of the lower world, the middle world, and the supreme world.
The lower heaven includes the aerial world immediately over us--the
clouds and the atmosphere. The central heaven embraces the skies
above it--the sun, the moon, and the stars. The supreme or third
heaven is the highest of all, the supposed seat of the Divine Majesty, the
region where God dwells, where Christ, seated at the right hand of the
Father, conducts His intercessory work, and where the glorified saints are
gathered--whose wonders Paul saw, whose music he heard, whose joy he felt
but who, on returning to earth, was forbidden by God to communicate what he
had seen and heard and felt of the invisible world.
Surely if God had permitted any knowledge to be conveyed
to man of the place and condition of the departed spirits; if communion had
been allowed between the dead and the living, we might suppose that this
occasion would have demonstrated the fact. And yet the veil was not
uplifted, and the silence of the apostle's lips was unbroken. Not one of the
countless millions who have been received up into heaven have ever been
permitted to revisit earth with communications concerning its glories. So
fixed is the law, so settled the principle that has ever, on this point,
regulated the Divine conduct. It would seem as if God would anticipate and
confound the daring imposture of Mohammed, and of every other
pseudo-prophet, and forever demonstrate the essential difference between
true and false inspiration; causing to stand out in bold relief the
dignified silence of the great apostle of the Gentiles, in contrast with the
contemptible puerilities of the profane prophet of Mecca.
The inquiry which, doubtless, arises in many minds WHY
Paul was forbidden to make known what he had seen in heaven, may be more
speculative than profitable to pursue. My own conviction, however, is, that
God would allow nothing to transpire calculated to lessen the dignity,
sufficiency, and importance of His written Word in the eyes of men. A
revelation other than that which, by Divine Inspiration, He had already
given, would he most assuredly attended with this inevitable result. "But
surely," you reply, "to have known more of heaven, more of the glories of
paradise, more of what awaits the righteous, would have been useful in
solving the doubts, confirming the faith, animating the hope, and soothing
the trials, affliction, and sorrow of the saints on their way through much
darkness and tribulation, to the celestial world."
Not so! Let God be the judge. If the present
divine revelations of the heavenly world sometimes dazzle and confound us,
how should we, in this imperfect state, be able to compass a fuller and more
overpowering discovery? And if the doubt will sometimes arise, though the
revelations are divine, what would be our unbelief of revelations predicated
only upon the human? Enough, also, is made known of heaven to give us a
clear and intelligent idea of its negative and its positive bliss. It
suffices us to be assured that sin is annihilated, that tears are dried,
that disease is banished, that pain is unfelt, that death is destroyed, that
parting is unknown, that rest is enjoyed, and that peace, fellowship, and
love reign universally and forever. In addition to these 'negative aspects'
of heaven, there are the 'positive elements' of bliss.
With Jesus, forever beholding His glory. Blessed with the
"glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets,
the noble army of martyrs," encircled by time "spirits of just men made
perfect," and reunited to all that we loved on earth and parted in death in
the hope of eternal life. Is not this enough to support us in trial, to
soothe us in sorrow, to animate us in duty, and to fortify us against
temptation and sin? Will not this suffice to endure suffering patiently, to
hear the cross cheerfully, and to mitigate the grief of parting; remembering
that, "our light affliction which is but for a moment, works for us a far
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?"
Once more, in anticipation of the eternal heaven, this
everlasting rest, our Father would have us live a life of FAITH. The
sight, the fullness is to come; until then we are to take God at His word,
believe all that He has revealed and promised, and live and die as did the
worthies of old, of whom it is written, that, "not having received the
promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and
embraced them, confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the
Soon heaven will be entirely revealed and fully known.
Before the sun, which ascended upon us in rosy beams in the morning, shall
set in a flood of gold and purple at night, we may fall asleep in Jesus, and
wake up amid heaven's unclouded and eternal splendor. Ecstatic thought!
entrancing prospect! Absent from flesh, forever with the Lord! What! shall I
soon see Jesus? Will the great, the solemn, the glorious mystery which so
long absorbed my affections, awakened my desires, engaged my earnest
thoughts, and occupied my dearest study, be all explained? Will the grand
secret be soon revealed? Oh, for the pinions of the dove, that I might fly
into His presence, fall at His feet, wake my harp to His praise, and repose
in that ineffable bosom on which I have so often sobbed my griefs, and which
once sobbed and bled for me.
"Why should I shrink at pain or woe,
Or feel at death, dismay?
I've Canaan's goodly land in view,
And realms of endless day.
"Apostles, martyrs, prophets there
Around my Savior stand;
And soon my friends in Christ beloved
Will join the glorious band.
"Jerusalem! my happy home!
My soul still pants for thee;
When shall my labor have an end
In joy, and peace, and thee!"
How appropriate, then, the third or the supreme heaven as
the dwelling-place of Jehovah. Let me briefly illustrate this thought.
Heaven is a GLORIOUS place--the place of glory.
The glory of God, indeed, is everywhere. There is no place in the universe
unreached, nor spot unillumined, by its splendor. The constellations reflect
it, the earth exhibits it, man illustrates it. "The earth is full of His
glory." But heaven is especially the place of glory, because it is
God's dwelling. The palace of the Sovereign of earth and heaven should be
worthy of the Divine Majesty that occupies it. But what heaven can contain
God? What palace can, in its magnificence and dimensions, be commensurate
with the glory and greatness of the eternal, the uncreated One?
How profound was this conviction and how reverential the
feeling in the mind of Solomon at the dedication of the temple he built for
God "Will God in very deed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven
of heavens cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built
for You?" Where, then, on earth shall we travel for the temple worthy of the
Deity? Shall we repair to the Gothic cathedral, to the ancient abbey, to the
costly sanctuary raised by human hands? Most true, all who worship God
within these sacred structures "in spirit and in truth" shall find Him
there, shall feel His presence, hear His word, and receive His blessing.
But God has a more befitting, a more sacred, and a more
Divine temple upon earth than this--it is the heart of the humble, and the
soul of the contrite. His own words can alone convey this marvelous truth.
Had He not spoken it, who would have believed it? and because He has spoken
it, who will dare deny it? "Thus says the Lord, The heaven is my throne and
the earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you build unto me, and
where is the place of my rest? For all these things has my hand made, and
all these things have been, says the Lord; but to this man will I look, even
to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word."
A truth more marvelous, words more precious, an assurance
more comforting, cannot be found in God's revelation. While heaven, the
third heaven, the heaven of heavens, cannot contain Him, He finds a home and
raises a temple for Himself within the heart of a poor sinner, who, lying in
the dust, penitent, contrite, humble, confesses and deplores his sins. Is
your heart this temple, my reader? Is mine? Vital and solemn question! Its
answer, as in the sight of the Searcher of hearts, decides our conversion,
sets to rest the fact of our being the temple of God through the Spirit. And
is it so that, with Job you exclaim, "I have heard of You with the hearing
of the ear--but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in
dust and ashes"? Is it so that, with David you exclaim, "I acknowledge my
transgressions--and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I
sinned, and done this evil in Your sight?" Is it so that, with the
tax-collector you smite upon your breast and exclaim, "God be merciful to me
Oh, divine and blessed evidence, that "the high and the
holy One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy," also dwells within the
compass of your heart, and finds there His beloved and sacred and eternal
dwelling. Thus fragrant to God is the "sacrifice of a broken and a
contrite heart;" thus precious is the humble and the penitent mind;
thus glorious in His eye is the temple of the soul draped and
shrouded with the emblems of holy, spiritual mourning, lamentation, and woe
for sin. Lord! make my heart Your home--my body Your temple!
Our Father dwells in heaven, also, because it is a
HOLY place. "Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity,
whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place." Essential Holiness
can alone dwell in a holy atmosphere. Sin can never enter the abode of God.
In the heaven of heavens, where Jehovah dwells, iniquity has no existence,
there in no way enters anything that defiles. Every thought, and word, and
feeling, and aspiration there is in harmony with divine and infinite purity.
Is not this the chief perfection, the strong attraction
of heaven to you, beloved, that there you will be SINLESS as Christ is
sinless, HOLY as God is holy? What is this fond anticipation of your heart,
but an offshoot of that divine and holy nature into which you are begotten
of God? A stronger evidence of your conversion does not exist than this
hunger and thirst of your soul after holiness, this longing desire, this
joyous expectation of perfect freedom from the taint and thraldom of sin.
There is nothing in the flesh in sympathy with Divine purity; for, "in me,
that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." If, then, you find, amid much
that is contradictory, much that would negate the validity of such a
state--a real, earnest, though often feeble and fluctuating desire after
conformity to God's holiness, a true loathing of sin, a sincere and
prayerful resistance of its promptings and its power, you may, with all
assurance, write yourself as a humble child of God, a true disciple of the
Lord Jesus Christ.
The breathing after sanctification is sanctification. The
thirst for holiness is holiness, just as the vital heaving of the lungs is
life. Oh, may the Holy Spirit increase this desire, strengthen this
breathing of the new nature within us! May we be content with nothing short
of an intense and supreme panting of the soul after God! There is the very
element of heaven--heaven in its first fruits, its early dawn, its
pledge--in the real earnest, though often thwarted effort, of the renewed
soul after the holiness that is perfect in heaven.
This state of mind may be attended, yes, even be
produced, by deeper discoveries of the depravity and corruption within; you
may appear to yourself to be more unholy, to be at a further remove from
sanctification than ever; nevertheless, hold fast your confidence, for the
Holy Spirit is employing this deeper ploughing for your deeper
sanctification, for your more matured fitness for the holiness of glory.
Yes; heaven, with all its favored blessings, its sweet attractions, its
sparkling glories, its treasured ties inviting us to its pleasant coast,
would be no heaven to a saint of God were he doomed still to wear the chains
of corruption, still to trail along its starry pavement and through its
sylvan borders, this wretched "body of sin and of death."
But, oh, entrancing thought! the moment my spirit rends
the last fetter, and crosses the threshold of glory, it floats in an
atmosphere congenial with its heavenly nature, breathes the air of its
native climate, and is as complete in holiness--the state often
sighed, and wept, and prayed for--as God is complete. Let this assurance
nerve your arm in the conflict with sin, let this prospect animate you in
your strivings after sanctification, and let the end of all God's corrective
discipline reconcile you to the cup your Father gave you, even to make you a
partaker of His holiness!
Our Father dwells in heaven, as the abode of perfect
HAPPINESS. God is perfectly happy because He is perfectly holy. The two
states are inseparable; holiness and happiness are correlative terms, they
are kindred truths. Sanctification is the essential element of peace, joy,
and assurance. God--I speak it reverentially--can only restore fallen man to
happiness by restoring him to holiness. Sin and happiness are more
antagonistic and irreconcilable, in the experience of the believer, than any
elements in nature of opposite qualities. By some ingenious process of
science, the alchemist may so change the properties of opposite elements, as
to effect either amalgamation or fusion; but God, infinite as is His nature,
vast and exhaustless as are His resources, possesses no secret by which He
can unite and harmonize, in the salvation of man, sin and holiness; no moral
process by which He can make the sinner happy, peaceful, hopeful, and still
leave him the vassal of Satan and the slave of concupiscence.
Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, both in
the world and in the soul of man. God's plan, therefore, in the restoration
of man to happiness, is not to reconcile the two opposite and
antagonistic forces of sin and holiness, but to dethrone and destroy sin,
and upon its ruins, raise the fabric of righteousness, the temple of the
Holy Spirit, to the eternal praise of the glory of His grace. This He does
in the conversion of the soul, by which the children of adoption become
partakers of the Divine nature; and through the sanctification of the
Spirit; and the hallowed discipline of affliction, by which they become more
and more partakers of their Father's image.
But God is happy. He would have remained so, infinitely,
independently, supremely happy, had He never created an intelligent being to
whom He would display, and with whom He would share it. He might have
remained in His own solitary grandeur, ineffably, supremely happy, in the
eternal contemplation of His own glory, dwelling in light, which no man has
seen or can see. And even after His creation of intelligent beings, He might
have hurled every angel from heaven, and have swept every creature from the
earth, and not a drop had diminished the fullness, nor a cloud had shaded
the luster of His own essential felicity.
It is true that the redemption of His Church has made
such a revelation of Himself as will command the admiration, homage, and
love of countless millions of intelligent beings throughout eternity; but,
since it was God's happiness to save man--and infinity can neither
be lessened or increased--the salvation of the Church has not
made God more happy than He was from everlasting. To this happiness our
Father who is in heaven admits His children. Having given them Himself to be
their Father, He intends that they shall share the happiness of which He
is the infinite ocean and the illimitable supply.
What a provision He has made for our participation of
this happiness through Christ! He is the sole medium, the divinely-appointed
channel. "There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus."
All the outflow of God's love, all the distillings of His compassion, all
the sunbeams of His happiness, come to us through Jesus. And, oh, what a
happiness to know Jesus, to possess Jesus, to stand in Jesus, to commune
with Jesus, and to possess the blessed hope of coming with Jesus in the
clouds of heaven when He shall appear in His glory! Is not this happiness?
You may pass through deep trial; be the subject of
constant suffering; eat the bread and drink the water of affliction; feel
lonely, desolate, and forlorn; nevertheless, if Christ is yours, your
Savior, your Friend, your Brother, your Portion, and you are looking forward
to the prospect of being with, and of enjoying Him forever, no bird within
its cage can sing more sweetly than your imprisoned heart its note of
happiness, its psalm of praise. Possessing Christ as your portion, with His
boundless, pure, inexhaustible resources; changeless love; deep, tender
compassion; as all your own, you may boldly challenge every foe, and
confidently confront every difficulty and trial in the language of the
patriarch, "When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?"
Heaven, then, as the home of the Father, defines
the home, final and eternal, of the family. Home! what marvelous magic is in
that word! Home! what magic power does that thought possess! Home! around
what spot do our holiest associations, our fondest memories cluster? To what
shrine do our warmest affections travel--across oceans, and mountains, and
deserts, and continents--is it not the home and the hearth of our childhood?
Home! it is the circle of the purest affections, the core of essential
happiness, the hive in which the sweetest sweets of life are found. It is
youth's temple, manhood's shrine, the sanctuary of age, the archive of the
past, and the ark of the future.
The human heart has many dwelling-places, but only one
home. No exile can efface its memories, no distance can dissever its ties;
no prosperity can eclipse its luster, no crime, no shame, no suffering, can
tear its portraits from the picture-gallery of the soul. Perhaps the most
true and touching illustration of this feeling is, when we are for the first
time, and it may be forever, leaving home. We were never so sensible of our
home attachment as at that moment. The simplest object, the most trifling
association, enchains us to the spot–
"We do not know how much we love,
Until we come to leave;
An aged tree, a common flower,
Are things o'er which we grieve.
We linger while we turn away,
We cling while we depart;
And memories, unmasked until then,
Come crowding round the heart.
Let what will lure us on our way,
Farewell's a bitter word to say."
"I know of no passage in classical literature," says an
eloquent writer, "more beautiful or affecting than that where Xenophon
describes the effect produced on the remnant of the ten thousand Greeks,
when, after passing through dangers without number, they at length ascended
a sacred mountain, and from its peak and summit caught sight of the sea.
Dashing their shields with a hymn of joy, they rushed tumultuously forward.
Some wept with the fullness of their delicious pleasure, others laughed, and
more fell on their knees and blessed that broad ocean. Across its blue
waters, like floating sea-birds, the memorials of their happy homes
came and fanned their weary souls. All the perils they had encountered, all
the companions they had lost, all the miseries they had endured, were in an
instant forgotten, and nothing was with them but the gentle phantoms of past
and future joys. O home, magical spell, all-powerful home! how strong
must have been your influences when your faintest memory could cause these
hungered heroes of a thousand fights to weep like tearful women! With the
cooling freshness of a desert fountain, with the sweet fragrance of a flower
found in winter, you came across the great waters to these wandering men,
and beneath the peaceful shadow of your wings their souls found rest!"
Graphic and glowing as is this picture of the magic
influence of home upon the returning exile, it pales before the
believer's eye as he catches, from some Pisgah height, a view of the New
Jerusalem, the happy home where he is forever to dwell--its walls of jasper,
its gates of pearl, its sunlight dome, its golden streets, its crystal
waters, its tree of life, its central throne, the Lamb seated thereon, its
countless multitude of holy, happy beings, all united in adoration of the
Lamb who was slain. And when the soul has actually crossed the flood, and
planted its foot, weary and sore, upon the golden sands, what its ecstasy,
what its transport to find itself in heaven at last! Heaven was the
starting-point of our race, and heaven will be the final home of its
The exquisite story of the younger brother who exchanged
his home for exile, poverty, and need; but who, in penitence and faith, with
confession and supplication, returned to its sacred shelter and met a
father's welcome, is the true position of redeemed humanity. The sinner
saved by grace, the wanderer restored by love, retraces his steps back to
God, and home to the heaven from whence he originally departed. Heaven is
the family home of all the children of God. It is the Father's home. There,
day by day, hour by hour, the Father is bringing His sons and daughters--the
adoption of grace. He Himself is there, and where should the children be but
with the Father?
Not one of that REDEEMED family shall be absent from the
domestic circle. The white-haired parent, whose sun had run a long
and holy course and then set in a flood of golden light--is there! The
youth of manliness and beauty, the flower and hope of the family, whose
sun went down while it was yet day--is there! The child of prattle
and of song, the sunbeam and the cherub of the house, whose brightness and
music death has in a moment darkened and hushed--is there! The infant
of a day, just opening its languid eyes upon the world of sin, then closing
them, as if saddened by the scene it beheld--is there! Yes, enriched and
domesticated by the countless number of the family who have departed with
'FAITH in Jesus', heaven is daily growing more enchanting and endeared to
faith's far-seeing eye as the Father's house.
And is not OUR RECORD on high? "Rather rejoice," said
Christ to His disciples when they reported to Him the subjection of demons
to their power--"rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Oh, what a remarkable and precious mercy to have a name written in heaven!
Better, infinitely better, to have it enrolled there than emblazoned on the
page of historic fame, engraved in brass, sculptured in marble, or set in
diamonds upon a mother's heart! But ALL the names of the family of God are
written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and written there from the foundation of
the world. Rejoice in this!
You ask, "How may I know it?" The Lord has not left you
without evidence. Is the name of Jesus engraved upon your heart? Has the
Holy Spirit shown to you in measure, the evil of your heart, and brought you
to see its darkness, its vileness, and its treachery? Has the discovery led
to a renunciation of your own righteousness, to an abandonment of all hope
based upon the law, to a believing, simple, loving acceptance of the Lord
Jesus? Have you been led by the Spirit as a poor, empty sinner to the blood
and righteousness of the Redeemer, looking only to Jesus, trusting only in
Jesus, clinging only to Jesus as the limpet clings to the rock, as the
shipwrecked mariner clings to the plank, as the dying man clings to the last
hope of life? Are you combating with sin, hating the garment spotted by the
flesh, striving after and, in some degree, attaining unto holiness?
Then, be you assured that your name is written in heaven.
If the Spirit of Christ has written the name of Christ, and pencilled the
image of Christ, however faintly traced and dimly seen, upon your softened,
believing, loving heart, doubt not the fact that your name is enrolled in
glory on the pages of that volume in which divine love wrote it from
eternity, and from which Christ our Captain will pronounce it when the great
muster-roll is read in the last great day. Oh, mercy of mercies, to have a
name written in heaven! Lord! write Your own precious name upon my heart,
and I will sing aloud of Your righteousness all the day long!
Heaven, also, is the residence of Jesus,
the Elder Brother, and must therefore be the final home of all His brethren.
How often, and with what emphasis of meaning, did Jesus associate Himself
with His brethren in glory. "That where I am, there you may be also."
"Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am,
that they might behold my glory." "With Christ,"--"present with the
Lord,"--"forever with the Lord," were modes of expression by which Jesus and
the sacred writers instructed and comforted the saints in the prospect of
The return of Christ to heaven, His entrance within the
veil, was as the Representative of His Church, as the First Born of His
brethren. When He had found the "pearl of great price,"--His Church--for the
discovery and rescue of which He purchased the "field"--in this sense, and
in this sense only, becoming the Savior of the world--He returned in triumph
to heaven, claiming and possessing it as the just reward of His sufferings,
and as the fittest cabinet of the ransomed and priceless jewel.
From Christ his Elder Brother not one of the
brethren--the lowest and unworthiest--shall be separated. The family would
be broken, the home circle would be incomplete, were a place vacant at the
banquet which shall celebrate the return of every wanderer home to God. Oh,
the rejoicing, oh, the merriment when all shall safely arrive at heaven!
What blissful reunions, what joyful recognitions, what fond greetings, what
mutual congratulations, what entrancing music will resound through the
bowers, and reverberate through the high arches of heaven, when the whole
family on earth and in heaven shall meet in glory!
Is not this prospect worth living for, worth dying for?
Is it not worth the struggle with sin, the battle with the world, the
endurance of suffering, the light affliction, the cross, the moral, even the
physical martyrdom which the gospel of Jesus involves? Yes! Christ our Elder
Brother took the veritable nature of His brethren, wore it in poverty,
suffering, and humiliation on earth; and then bore it to heaven as the
first-fruits of that redeemed nature to be gathered home by the angel
reapers at His coming. How did Joseph's soul yearn to have his
brethren with him in Egypt, that they might see his greatness and be
nourished at his side! Listen to the language of Joseph's spiritual
Prototype. "Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me
where I am, that they might behold my glory." What yearning of soul is here!
what breathing of love! what power of will! That petition shall be answered!
Until then how incessantly and intently is the Elder
Brother occupied in our behalf. Every moment, every thought, every
affection is engaged upon, and entwined with, our present and future
well-being. For us Christ is praying, for us He is governing, for us He is
waiting, and with us He is sympathizing until His brethren are complete, and
the last and least--the Benjamin of the family--is brought home to
see His greatness, to share His glory, and to celebrate His praise.
Who, with any true, experimental knowledge of Him, would
not love with the intensest affection of his heart, serve with every power
of his ransomed being, make any sacrifice, and die, if need be, a martyr's
death for such a Brother? Are we wearing His nature, as He still wears ours?
Are we growing more divine, as He is changelessly human? Are we not ashamed
of Him, as He is not ashamed of us? Are we living a Christ-imitating, a
Christ-exalting life, even as He once lived a man-abased, yet a man-saving
I can only further remark, that the expression, "Our
Father, which are in heaven," clearly describes heaven to be the
only befitting abode of the saints in glory. Earth is not the proper
realm for the holy ones. This world is indeed a school for the culture of
our Christian graces, and a sphere for the exercise of Christian service,
but here we have no abiding place. The moment a sinner is by grace
transformed into a child of God he becomes a stranger here, an alien and a
pilgrim. Heaven, henceforth, is the goal, the aspiration, the home of his
spirit. God has provided and furnished a heavenly abode for the heavenly
mind--a pure dwelling for the "pure in heart," a beauteous world for the
beautiful in holiness. For this He is daily preparing you. All His
providential dealings, and gracious operations; all your mental and
spiritual exercises--every tempest, every furnace, every temptation--God is
employing to prepare YOU for the prepared place. Accept every stroke of His
rod, every discipline of His hand, as bent on this mission of love. Blend
every trial, every affliction, every rebuke of your Father with a sweet,
sunny thought of heaven.
SUFFERING and GLORY are united in golden links in the
history of the saints. Peter speaks of himself as a "witness of the
sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory which
shall be revealed." And again, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also
reign with Him." Look, then, beyond the dark waters and the leaden
skies which lie between you and the holy, peaceful coasts of glory; and let
faith's eye often peer within the door opened in heaven, and behold the
place where your weary spirit, before long, will fold its drooping wing,
smooth its ruffled plumage, lie down and rest upon the ineffable bosom of
your glorified Lord. There they have arrived, and there they repose, who
have out-sped us in the race, have reached the goal, and anticipate our
coming. We mourn them not as lost, but as saved; not as far-sundered from
us, but as nearer now than ever; not as wearing the sin-tainted and
disfigured robe of the flesh, enfolded with the belt of suffering;
but as clad with the holy, beautiful vestments of the Father's house, the
glory-robe of heaven, all encircling and worshiping the Lamb that was slain.
"Thus heaven is gathering, one by one, in its capacious
All that is pure and permanent, the beautiful and blest;
The family is scattered yet, though of one home and heart,
Part militant, in earthly gloom, in heavenly glory part.
But who can speak the rapture when the circle is complete,
And all the children, sundered now, before their Father meet?
One fold, one Shepherd, one employ, one everlasting home,
'Lo, I come quickly.' Even so, amen, Lord Jesus, come!"
This view of the celestial spirit of the Lord's Prayer is
suggestive of many PRACTICAL LESSONS. We are instructed in the first place
to look up in prayer. The proper attitude of the mind in approaching
God is a heaven-bent attitude. The whole soul should be in the ascent. When
we draw near to our heavenly Father we must remember that, He is in heaven.
Earth with its cares and ties, its sins and sorrows, must be left below. For
the time being we professedly have exchanged, in our mental and spiritual
flight, the terrestrial for the celestial--the communion of the saints who
are on earth, for the higher communion of our Father who is in heaven. How
consonant with this the experience of the psalmist! "My voice shall you hear
in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto you, and
will look UP."
Alas! how little is there in our experience of this
looking up to God in trial, in trouble, in sin. We look down, we look to the
right hand and to the left, and there is none to help, none to deliver, and
we despond and despair. It is just because our eyes are earthward and not
heavenward, man-ward and not Godwards. What a tendency, also, is there to
look within ourselves, and not from ourselves, through Jesus, up to
our Father who is in heaven! We look at the darkness, at the vileness, at
the barrenness, at the deadness of our hearts--absorbed in the profound
contemplation of our own poverty, vileness, and unworthiness--rather than up
to the loving, gracious, forgiving, paternal heart of God.
But our whole Christian course must be a looking up. The
more we look to God, and the less to our own selves and to man, the holier
and the happier shall we be. The memorable intercessory prayer of our Great
High Priest when on earth is thus introduced, "And Jesus lifted UP his eyes
unto heaven, and said, Father." Such, also, has been the attitude of the
Lord's people in all ages. "My eyes," says David, "are ever toward the
Lord." Thus, also, prayed Jehoshaphat, "O our God, will you not judge them?
for we have no might against this great company that comes against us;
neither know we what to do--but our eyes are upon you." Then again the
psalmist, "Unto You lift I UP mine eyes, O You that dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look into the hand of their masters, and as
the eye of a maiden into the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the
Lord our God until that he have mercy upon us."
Look up, then, tried believer! Look up, then,
tempted saint! Look up, then, suffering child! Your help comes
from where your trouble came--from above. Affliction springs not out of the
ground, but is a Heaven-sent discipline; and from hence comes the divine
strength that will sustain, and the grace that will sanctify, and the love
that will soothe. Oh, look up! Look up to Jesus, your Elder Brother, now
appearing in the presence of God for you. Look up to the sun shining behind
the clouds, to the rock towering above the billows; to Jesus, the Author,
the Sustainer, the Finisher, and who, holding out the diadem,
waits to be the Crowner, of your faith.
Another lesson we are taught by the celestial spirit of
the Lord's Prayer is, to seek heavenly blessings. Our Father is in
heaven. Nothing but heavenly blessings should satisfy our desires. Earth's
choicest, are poor; its sweetest, unsatisfying; its loveliest, fading; its
fondest, passing away. If born again, God has given you a spiritual nature,
which will be content only with spiritual things. The nutriment which
nourishes the divine nature must be divine; the good which satisfies the
heavenly nature must be heavenly. Our Father is in heaven, where our heart's
treasure is, and from heaven our dearest blessings flow. "If you then are
risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at
the right hand of God." Oh, let us be earnest after heavenly blessings!
Deeply do we need them! The needs of the soul are infinitely greater, and
more important than those of the body. Yet, how we pamper and gratify the
body, and how we starve and neglect the soul. How eager our pursuit of the
earthly!--how languid our desires for the heavenly!--as though the body, so
soon to return to its original dust, were of greater moment than the soul,
which never ceases to exist.
Great is our need of heavenly blessings. We need more
love to God, more conformity to Christ, more of the anointing of the Spirit;
a fuller assurance of our conversion, and a higher enjoyment of a present
salvation. We need more personal, heart-religion; more spiritual life; a
walking in closer fellowship with the unseen and the eternal; and a more
filial and confidential converse with God. Since, then, our Father is in
heaven, prepared to send down from above every good and perfect gift; and
since Christ, our Elder Brother, is at His right hand, prepared to endorse
every petition, and to urge every request, let us look up through the blood
of Christ, and importune God for that grace, and strength, and help, which
will promote our heavenliness, and fit us all the more perfectly for heaven
What, my reader, is the real state of your soul? What is
your hope for the future? Which the destiny that awaits you--heaven or hell?
In the one or the other you must spend your eternity. Nothing will be
admitted into heaven but the heavenly, the holy, the pure.
None enter its holy gate but those who have washed in the Lamb's blood, and
are robed in the vestment of His righteousness. None enter there but those
who love God, and have union with Christ, and are the temples of the Holy
Spirit. Oh, decide the question now! Heaven and Hell begin upon earth. So
real is their commencement, so unmistakable their evidence, every individual
may arrive at a moral certainty as to which of the two he is speeding his
Think of the joys of heaven, of the sorrows of hell!
Think of the eternal glory, of the endless woe! Happy with Christ and the
saints forever, or forever the companion and the associate of demons and the
damned! Throw down the weapons of your enmity against God, repent and
believe in Jesus, and henceforth you will become a child of the heavenly
parent; your conversation in heaven; shedding around you the reflected
purity and luster of that world of holiness and glory in which the Father
dwells, and into which, before long, will be gathered and assembled, in
domesticated union and eternal fellowship, the one family of God.
Children of the kingdom! repose, amid the weariness of
your pilgrimage, upon the slopes of glory! Soon heaven will be reached--soon
its golden spires, and cloudless dome, and towering turrets will burst upon
your view--soon the portal will appear, and the pearl gate will open upon
its golden hinges to admit you to an innumerable company of angels, and to
the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator, and to God
the Judge of all. Your path through death's lonely valley will be all light,
shining with increasing effulgence unto the perfect day. It was a
strangely-beautiful remark of a child, when asked how his little sister, who
had lately died, went up to heaven, replied, "She put her foot upon the sun,
and went up." Thus will ascend to glory every child of the light. Perhaps
the spirit, in its celestial flight, will make the sun in the natural skies
a stepping-stone, from which it will spring into higher regions of glory.
But, beyond all doubt, it will stand upon, and be clothed with, the divine
"Sun of Righteousness," borne upon whose wings, and radiant with whose
luster, it will float away into the world of light and song, of bliss and
immortality--and so shall it be forever with the Lord!
"What is a scene of glory? I would say,
A Christian standing on the verge of heaven,
One foot on earth, another on the sun,
Standing sublime on Pisgah's lofty mount,
Spreading his wings, and ready for his flight;
Leaving earth's dim and shadowy things behind,
Catching already on his heaven-bound soul
The beams of that bright land to which he goes.
Done with the world, its sorrows, and its cares,
Its empty joys, and vain delusive hopes.
Done with the world, its sufferings, and its sins,
Its follies, and its frailties, and its fears.
Done with the world, and entering upon heaven,
With all its bright realities unseen
By mortal eye, full opening to the gaze
Of faith, so soon to be matured in sight.
"The sight of Jesus bursting on the eye,
The songs of angels floating on his ear;
The palm of victory, the spotless robe,
The crown of glory, and the golden harp,
Unfolding to the eyes, that close on earth
To open on the glorious things of heaven.
Around him waving the celestial wings
Of the angelic band, that waits to bear
His parting spirit to its heavenly home.
This is a scene of glory, in whose light
The brightest scenes of earth grow dim and fade;
The beams of this world's glory cease to shine,
E'en as the morning sun puts out the stars."