OUR FATHER?S HOUSE
by Octavius Winslow
“My Father’s house.”—John 14:2.
Our adorable Lord came down to earth to allure
us up to heaven. In all His delineations of that happy, holy place, He sought to
present it to the believing eye clad in its richest beauty, and invested with
its sweetest and most winning attractions. Its hope was to sanctify us, its
prospect was to animate us, and its foretastes were to comfort us. Nothing,
therefore, was wanting in the imagery with which He pictured its character, and
in the coloring with which He painted its glory, to invite and attract us to its
peaceful, blissful coasts. It may, indeed, be said that Christ’s allusions to
heaven were not frequent, and that His revelations of its state were but
partial. Be it so. Sufficient, however, of the vail was uplifted to reveal the
fact of its existence, to awaken the desire and to inspire the hope of its
possession. We cite, as illustrating this, the words at the head of this
chapter. They are few, but how expressive! Heaven is portrayed as our FATHER’S
HOUSE. What a precious, endearing, attractive view does this give us of our
future and final rest—our eternal abode! “My Father’s house!” How touching the
words! How many hallowed associations, sunny memories, and precious thoughts
cluster around the image! If there is one earthly spot dearer, sweeter, brighter
than another, it is the home of our childhood. Around it, when years and oceans
and continents have long and far severed us from its hearth, our fondest,
warmest thoughts and recollections still cling. And we think, when sickness and
loneliness and want steal upon us, could we but return to that home again, and
again feel the warm embrace of a mother’s love, and find ourselves beneath a
father’s sheltering roof, life would be a pleasant thing. Thus Christ portrays
our HEAVEN. He tells us it is a house—a Father’s dwelling and that within its
walls there are many mansions, one of which awaits each of us; and then, He bids
us not to be troubled in heart by reason of the sorrow and privation of our
present exile, since ere long He would come and take us home.
The FATHERHOOD of God is the first truth our Lord propounds in connexion with this picture of heaven. It was a natural and befitting introduction to His attractive theme. In speaking of the Father’s house, He would first reveal to us the parental relation of God. We could never have given to this truth the grasp of faith it demands had not Christ revealed and explained it. It was He who first taught our lips to say, “Our Father!” In asserting His own relation as an Elder Brother, He flung around the entire brotherhood the filial bond that linked both Himself and them to the same God and Father. Oh, how dimly and imperfectly we realize to what dignity and privilege and glory a sinner’s union with the Lord Jesus exalts him!—it is a relation to God but one remove from His own. Who would not be willing to forego all the righteousness of man, all the purity of saints, all the holiness of angels, to stand in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ? Now, it must be acknowledged that in asserting the Fatherhood of God in reference to Himself, our Lord adopted, as the “first-born among many brethren,” the most effectual mode of instructing us in a knowledge of the same filial relation. In claiming God as His Father, He claimed Him as ours too. How beautifully and touchingly were the traits of that filial relation exhibited in His own personal spirit and demeanor! Each act of His brief but eventful life was imprinted with filial confidence and love, and his whole career was a continuous recognition of the Fatherhood of God. Let us cite a few examples. Speak we of prayer? Hear Him cry, “O righteous FATHER, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee. I know, FATHER, that thou hearest me alway.” Speak we of duty? Hear Him exclaim, “Wist ye not that I must be about my FATHER’S business?” Speak we of reverence! Hear Him say, “Even so FATHER, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Speak we of submisson? Listen to His words, “Not my will, O my FATHER, but thine, be done.” Approach we the solemn scene of His death? Hear Him exclaim, amidst the maddening tortures of the cross, the thunders of God’s anger, the lightning of God’s justice rolling and flashing above and around Him, “FATHER, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Do we track His footsteps to the mount from the summit of which He went back to glory? Hear His parting words, “I ascend unto my FATHER, and unto your FATHER.” And as we return from these hallowed scenes, we ask ourselves, Is it any marvel that He, the Elder Brother, who could so embosom Himself in the Fatherhood of God, should teach our faltering lips, when we prostrate ourselves before the Divine Majesty of heaven and earth, to breathe the prayer, “Our FATHER, which art in heaven?” O beloved, allow your heart no repose, and the Holy Spirit no rest, until He seal ABBA, FATHER, upon your heart! It would be impossible to compute or exaggerate the results that would follow from the blessing. What a mighty impetus would it give you heavenward! With what new-born power would it clothe your prayers! What soothing would it impart in suffering, what submission in trial, what sweetness to obedience! With what increased beauty and charm would it invest the whole landscape of life—its chequered scenes of joy and sorrow, sunshine and shade!—and in what a glow of golden light would it bathe the distant vision of the Father’s unseen home to which Christ is conducting you! See! the Heavenly Dove flutters over you, waiting to descend, as upon the baptized Son of God, testifying to your Divine sonship, turning your darkness into light, your sorrow into joy, your distrust into confidence, your fears into hope, and the condemnation you dread into a heaven assured. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Turn we our attention now from the Father to the FATHER’S HOUSE.
We have alluded to the hallowed attractions and the sunny memories which cluster around the paternal home. Transfer your thoughts, my reader, from the earthly to the heavenly,— take the purest, the fondest, the most poetic conception you can form of the one, and blend it with the other,—and still you have but the faintest analogy of heaven! And yet you have made some approximation to the idea. You have entwined around your heart the image and hope of heaven as your HOME. Earth has some foreshadowings of this truth. If “now are we the children of God,” then ours is not a state of dreary orphanage—we are not fatherless and homeless. Christ reminded His disciples of this. “I will not leave you comfortless,”—margin, ORPHANS. If, then, we are not fatherless, there is a sense in which we are not homeless: but that the lower rooms, the outer courts, the vestibules of the heavenly Home, are found on earth, in which we meet and hold communion with our heavenly Father. What is the sanctuary, filled with His glory,—the closet, hallowed with His presence,—the chamber of sickness, soothed with His love,—the hill-side, where at even-tide we go to meditate, sanctified with His fellowship, but our Father’s Home coming down out of heaven to dwell a while with His children on earth? Where my Father is, there is my Father’s house. It may be remarked of many of the ungodly that they go through a hell to hell; with equal truth it may be affirmed of the children of God that they pass through a heaven to heaven. Our Father’s house is a house of “many mansions,” and EARTH is one of them. The universe is His abode,—every sun and star His dwelling-place,—why should we exclude Him from this our own planet, though the smallest, yet, in its history, the greatest, the grandest of all? “The whole family on earth and in heaven” claim Him as the one Father and earth and heaven are but parts of the one Home. And oh, if earth—the vestibule, the portico of heaven— is so radiant with glory, what must be heaven itself!
“Since o’er Thy footstool, here below,
Such radiant gems are strewn,
Oh, what magnificence must glow,
My God, about Thy throne!
So brilliant here those drops of light—
There the full ocean rolls—how bright!
“If Night’s blue curtain of the sky,
With thousand stars inwrought,
Hung like a royal canopy,
With glittering diamonds fraught,
Be, Lord, Thy temple’s outer vail—
What splendour at the shrine must dwell!
“The dazzling sun, at noontide hour,
Forth from his flaming vase,
Flinging o’er earth the golden shower
Till vale and mountain blaze,
But shews, O Lord, one beam of Thine;
What, then, the day where Thou dost shine!
“Ah, how shall these dim eyes endure
That noon of living rays,
Or how my spirit, so impure,
Upon Thy glory gaze;
Anoint, O Lord, anoint my sight,
And robe me for that world of light.”
While, therefore, we would not exclude earth as one of the mansions of the Father’s abode, seeing it is the temporary dwelling-place of so great a portion of the family, we must still view it as but one of the lower rooms, hallowed and radiant, indeed, with the Father’s presence, yet, by service and discipline, designed but to prepare us for the state-rooms above, the higher and nobler mansions, to which, ere long, we shall be summoned. Now, let us transfer our thoughts to the Father’s house above, and endeavor to portray its spiritual architecture and its domestic privileges, not trespassing upon the region of the fanciful and ideal, but keeping soberly and strictly within the teaching of God’s Word.
“In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” Guided by these words, the first view which it presents to the mind is its appointed and prepared state. We go to no uncertain home. It is the family mansion, eternally ordained and prepared for the dwelling of the saints. The everlasting love which chose us to salvation, the predestination which appointed us to be sons, provided the home we were eternally to occupy. What a sweet truth, beloved, is this! Do we not, when after a long exile we turn our face homewards, delight to think that we shall find our home all ready for our welcome? Such is our heavenly abode. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a HOUSE not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (2 Cor. 5:1.) The apostle, too, reminds us that it is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, RESERVED in heaven for you.” And did not our blessed Lord declare the same truth when He said, “I go to PREPARE a place for you.” We go, then, to a home all appointed and prepared, all garnished and made ready for our coming. And oh, if, with regard to an earthly home,
“’Tis sweet to think there is an eye will watch
Our coming, and look brighter when we come,”
infinitely more delightful is the thought that not one alone, but many eyes are now looking and watching for our coming to glory, and will gleam with deeper lustre when we come! Ah yes! we shall find all prepared, anticipating our arrival, when we reach that blessed abode. It is even now ready: the crown glitters—the palm waves—the white robe flutters—and the harp is all strung and tuned by Christ’s own hands. This suggests another thought.
The solemn hour of death once passed, the spirit, upborne by angels, finds itself at once ushered into the RECEPTION-ROOM of heaven, the first of the “many mansions.” There we shall see Jesus, not seated, but standing,—as when He rose to receive His first martyr,—to welcome us home, encircled by the general assembly and church of the first-born, the spirits of just men made perfect, and an innumerable company of angels, waiting to greet our arrival. In advance, and more eager than all the rest of that blessed throng, will be the loved ones from whom we parted on the margin of the river across which they passed to the Celestial City. Oh, what a reception! what greetings! what joy-wishings then! “Welcome, husband! welcome, wife! welcome, child! welcome, parent, brother, sister, pastor, friend!” will burst from ten thousand times ten thousand lips, louder than the voice of many waters. But the Saviour’s welcome will be the crowning one of all! With what ineffable joy will He receive home the fruit of His long and weary travail!—the sheep that often wandered from His side, and had as often been restored, but now will wander no more! the disciple that often wounded the bosom that sheltered him, had as often been forgiven, but now will wound it no more! Oh, who can imagine the infinite joy of that Saviour when the celestial convoy ushers into His presence the sinner He ransomed by His blood, called by His grace, kept by His power, and in spite of all, through all, and out of all, at last brought home to His Father’s house? Blessed Lord! not one, the purchase of Thine agony,—not a sheep straying from Thy fold, not a lamb sheltering in its weakness at Thy side, not a sinner, stricken, wounded, raising its penitent and believing eye to Thy cross,—shall be wanting then to complete the number of Thine elect, the roll-call of Thy redeemed Church. All—all shall be there! “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward RECEIVE ME TO GLORY.”
The Heavenly Repast, which succeeds the reception, will introduce us into the BANQUET-HALL of heaven, another mansion of the Father’s house. We have remarked that there are bright gleams of heaven falling upon earth’s shadows. Among the most resplendent of these are the foretastes of the banquet which awaits us on high. The Church of Christ thus joyously records her experience of this truth—“He brought me to the BANQUETING-HOUSE, and his banner over me was love,” (Song of Solomon 2:4.) What a chord in your heart do these words touch, O believer! It was JESUS who brought you! By the drawings of His love, the leadings of His sovereign grace, having sought and found, separated and called you, He led you gently and persuasively to His Church, richly stored with all blessings, where He made you to sit in heavenly places. He brought you, too, in a stately manner—His all-conquering standard floating above you, upon which His name of LOVE was inscribed. Oh, admire and glorify the grace that brought you into this house of wine, to banquet with the King! and forget not that whatever may be the Lord’s dealings with you, that all-shielding and overshadowing banner of love still floats above you! The gospel banquet is another foretaste of the heavenly. It is thus described by the evangelical Isaiah: “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a FEAST of fat things, a FEAST of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” How full and rich is the gospel of Christ! How divine the provision—how ample the supply—how free the invitation! The forgiveness of all and every sin,—your reconciliation with the offended Majesty of heaven,—peace in your soul so divine, so great, that it “passeth all understanding,”—life and immortality, the consummation and crown of its blessings! Oh, pray for and cherish a spiritual zest for this banquet! Bring to it your soul’s craving, your spirit’s weariness, your heart’s sadness, your sin-woundings, your worst and lowest frames; there is enough in its unfoldings of Jesus to “satiate every weary soul, and to replenish every sorrowful soul.” There Christ will nourish you with the finest of the wheat; with honey from the rock will He satisfy you. Never forget that such is the fulness of the gospel of Christ, such its variety of blessings, such the sufficiency of its supply, and such the freeness of its bestowment, that it meets every case, every trial, every phase, and every want of our humanity! What a banquet, too, is the Lord’s Supper, where, perhaps, the brightest gleams of glory fall, since that, of all other institutions of Christ, the most closely unites and blends the atoning death and the millennial glory of Christ. “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s DEATH till HE COME.” How strangely, yet appropriately, are the CROSS and the CROWN of Jesus entwined in this sacred festival! Both are associated with our sweetest exercise of faith, hope, and love. Faith, with undimmed and steady eye, looks at the cross,—hope, with expanded and untiring wing, soars onward to the crown,—and love prostrates itself before both in adoring gratitude and praise. Such are some of the foretastes,—let us now consider the Heavenly Banquet itself. Our Lord thus distinctly and emphatically refers to it: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may EAT AND DRINK AT MY TABLE IN MY KINGDOM, (Luke 22:29, 30.) And in a gospel parable He yet more graphically portrays the festival, in the narrative of a certain king who prepared a sumptuous banquet in honour of his son, and sent forth his servants to invite them that were ready. It was on this occasion the memorable scene of the intruder without the wedding-garment is introduced. The door of the banquet-hall is thrown open, and the king, arrayed in royal apparel, and with ineffable delight beaming in his countenance, enters the chamber,—all resplendent with the purest light, and redolent of sweetest odours,—to survey and welcome the guests. It is at this moment the discovery is made of the stranger; and the man who refused the appropriate garment provided by the king, and presumed to enter attired in his own, is expostulated with, sentenced, and removed from the scene of splendour and festivity into outer and eternal darkness! The great and momentous truth our Lord sought to illustrate and enforce is, my reader, essentially connected with your future and endless well-being—viz., the absolute, the indispensable necessity of being invested with the imputed righteousness of Christ, as giving us a title and a fitness for the heavenly banquet. Without the wedding-garment you cannot appear with acceptance at the wedding-supper. Without the investiture of Christ’s justifying righteousness,—your own utterly, entirely, unreservedly, and forever abjured, renounced, and forsaken,—you appear at the banquet-hall of glory but to confront and sustain a doom all the more confounding, overwhelming, and dire, from the presumptuous hope you had vainly cherished. Oh, it is a fearful plunge as from the very door of heaven into the abyss of hell; as from the streaming light of glory into the outer darkness of the bottomless pit! Oh, come away from your doings and your failings, from your merit and demerit, FROM the things you have done and the things you have not done, FROM the keeping of religious days and fasts and festivals, from all the fond conceits of goodness, holiness, and righteousness in yourself, from all self-approval, self-justification, self-trusting, and as a SINNER betake you to the righteousness of Christ, accept it as a free gift, put it on in faith; and from that moment you shall be found complete in Christ, and robed for the banquet of heaven.
Of the BANQUET we know but little. Our blessed Lord was studiously partial and reserved in His revelations of heaven. It would seem as if He would deepen our surprise and enhance our joy by the present concealment He carefully observed. And yet He has told us sufficient, and revealed enough, to intensify our panting to be there. This much we know, that heaven is not a state, but a PLACE; not boundless space, but a LOCALITY; not the dwelling of a host, where we shall sojourn a while as guests, but our FATHER’S HOUSE, where we shall be CHILDREN at HOME for ever. We are assured, too, that its nature, its employments and pleasures, will, in all respects, be genial to the condition, and will comport with the capacity, dignity, and immortality of our unclothed and glorified nature. The soul, divested of all that is material and gross, will be fitted to enter into all that is spiritual and pure. The Banquet that your redeeming God will have prepared for you will be in consonance with the nature He had fitted for the banquet. And, oh, what imagination can adequately conceive the costliness, the richness, the variety, the ever-augmenting material of that heavenly repast with which the glorified will regale themselves through eternity? How will the mind revel amid the ever-unfolding wonders of God’s mind! how will the heart feast upon the ever-unfolding depths of Christ’s heart! how will the soul dilate and repose in its ever-deepening, ever-growing happiness! Dim as our views of heaven are, surely it were enough to satisfy our most intense aspirations—the assurance that we shall be PERFECTLY HOLY. Advance me to a condition of sinlessness, to a place where HOLINESS sanctifies every heart, beams in every eye, breathes from every lip, sparkles in every action,—of which every thought, and word, and look, and act, is its expression and embodiment,—and you have placed me at the richest banquet God can provide, or my heart desire. “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Lord! number us among the blessed who shall eat bread in Thy kingdom, and who shall be called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb, at Thine appearing and glory.
The Father’s house has also its MUSIC-MANSION. Adoration and praise would seem to constitute the principal employment of the redeemed in heaven. The visions of glory which floated before the eye of John were all associated with music. To his sea-girt isle were wafted the strains of the song sung by the hundred and forty and four thousand who stood on Mount Zion. In his lonely exile he heard the harpers harping with their harps. And of whom was that celestial choir composed?—the redeemed from among men. And who and what are the subjects of their song?—Jesus and His Redemption? “Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Blended with the song of Redemption will be the song of PROVIDENCE. Retracing all the way thy God led thee through the wilderness, thou shalt gather material from each mercy and from each trial, from each joy and from each sorrow, for an eternal hymn of praise to His great and glorious name. Beloved, you are learning these songs now in the house of your pilgrimage. As you cross the desert sands, or break your lone footsteps through the depth of the wilderness, or stand within the sacred shadow of the cross, God is preparing you for the Music-mansion of glory. All His dealings with you in providence and in grace are but to train and attune the powers, affections, and sympathies of your soul to the sweet harmony of the spheres. Every sunbeam of mercy that gilds your path, and every cloud-vail of judgment that shades it, every heavy footstep of the giant storm, every gentle wavelet dimpling the calm surface of the soul, every soft zephyr that lulls it to repose, is designed by God to instruct and mature you for the music of the celestial state. A harp of gold, strung by angels, and attuned by Christ’s own hands, awaits you in the Music-mansion above, and soon you will sweep its chords to the high praises of the TRIUNE JEHOVAH, and all heaven will ring with its melody.
“Arise, my soul, arise,
Unfold thy heaven-born wings;
Thy home is in the skies,
Where lofty Gabriel sings;
And loud, through all the spacious plain,
Is heard—‘The Lamb, the Lamb was slain!’
“Oh, may my bosom glow
With melody like this!
Oh, may my spirit bow,
When musing on their bliss!
Ah! didst Thou die, dear Lamb, for me?
He bled—He groan’d—He died for thee.
“Oh, teach me that new song
Which occupies their time;
And say, will it be long
Ere I shall reach that clime?
I’ll wait till Thou shalt call me home;
Yet come, Lord Jesus, quickly come.
“Is there a harp for me?
(Oh, gently chide my fears!)
Is there a throne for me
Beyond the rolling spheres,
Where joys unchanging ceaseless flow,
And sin or death shall no one know!”
The THRONE-ROOM of heaven is not one of the least appropriate and gorgeous mansions of the Father’s house. The saints of God are a kingdom of priests—a royal priesthood—the heirs of a kingdom. And no character in their glorified state will be more visible and distinct than their regal one. The expectation of an earthly kingdom—the dream of the early Christians—our Lord dispelled by announcing that His kingdom was not of this world. But while He thus sought to inculcate more spiritual views of the nature of His Church, He at the same time broadly declared the fact of their present royalty and of their future reign. “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the THRONE of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve THRONES, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” (Matt. 19:28.) The apocalyptic vision of the seer confirmed this statement “And I saw THRONES, and they sat upon them; . . . and they lived and REIGNED with Christ,” (Rev. 20:4.) Our glorified Lord again referred to the enthronement of the saints in His cheering words addressed to the Christian combatant: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my THRONE, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his THRONE.” “Be thou faithful unto death, and ye shall receive a CROWN of life.” Such, believer, are your royal and resplendent expectations. A public and glorious enthronement and coronation awaits you. A royal priest, you will ere long be made like Christ, a “priest upon His THRONE.” Emerging from your present incognito—the ignorance of the world and the cold neglect of the Church—you will be ushered into the THRONE-ROOM of glory, saints and angels will escort you to your seat, and, amidst the halleujah chorus of countless myriads, Christ will CROWN you a KING and a PRIEST unto God, and you shall REIGN with Jesus for ever and ever. Oh, whatever obscurity may now vail your relation as belonging to the seed-royal, let your demeanor be such as to stamp you with the character once ascribed to Gideon’s brethren, of whom it was said, that “each one resembled the CHILDREN of a KING!”
We are trespassing not upon the region of Imagination when, in depicting the spiritual architecture and appointments of the Father’s house, we refer to the PICTURE-GALLERY as constituting one of its most appropriate and attractive mansions. It is not materializing heaven to transfer to its spiritual descriptions the expressive imagery of the material. In so doing we but imitate the Holy Ghost, who, in all His spiritual delineations of glory, hesitates not to dip His divine pencil in the bright, gorgeous colors with which God has tinted and enamelled this beautiful world. Painting, as a historic art is universally and practically acknowledged. As the handmaid to history, her aid and achievements have won the gratitude and admiration of ages. Transfer the illustration to heaven. Upon the walls of that magnificent gallery, depicted in color of living light, will be seen all the marvellous events of God’s moral and providential government in the history of the universe, separately, visibly, and eternally traced. Nor this only. What will be our astonishment and marvel, when we gaze upon the walls of that gallery, to behold our individual history, from our entrance into this world of woe, to our entrance into the world of glory,—each event, each epoch, each step delineated with a life-like truthfulness, a depth of tint, and a transparency of color which shall reveal all the past with startling vividness, overpowering the mind with wonder, and expanding the heart with praise! Incidents which we had failed to note, events which we had totally forgotten, providences which we had blindly seen, and circumstances which we had strangely misunderstood, will then form a series of pictures, presenting a complete and perfect history of our individual life, illustrating the infinite wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, and love of our Father throughout the whole. It is recorded of Elizabeth that, ignorant of the laws of painting, she commanded her portrait to be taken without a shadow upon the canvas. With an ignorance of the laws of moral painting equally as profound, and infinitely more serious, how often would we have obliterated from our history those sombre pencillings of life’s picture—the dark background and blended shadows—which the Divine Artist knew to be essential to the fidelity, harmony, and perfection of the whole! We would have life without its moral discipline. We would efface from the portrait all the shadings of sorrow and sickness, suffering, poverty, and bereavement—leaving nothing but the bright and sunny hues of unmingled, unclouded happiness! But when we wander through the interminable Picture-gallery of our Father’s house, and gaze upon the carvings, the paintings, and frescoes of our whole life, each epoch, event, and incident—the lights and shadows beautifully and exquisitely blended—looking down upon us with startling fidelity from its jasper walls,—we shall then see the infinite rectitude of our heavenly Father in all His present dealings with us, both of sorrow and of joy. With what vividness shall we then see the necessity, as much for the cold, dark pencilings, as for the warm, roseate tints of the picture; and for both the lights and shadows, the joys and sorrows of life, we shall laud and adore His great and glorious name!
Among the many mansions there will not be wanting one which will especially recognize heaven as a place of study. What a LIBRARY of knowledge, therefore, awaits us in our Father’s house! Heaven is a place of thought, of expanded intellect, of matured and ever-enlarging and enriching mind. Our minds are but in the infancy of their being; and the themes of reflection and subjects of research which they grasp are necessarily graduated to our present infantine and limited powers. What an infinite sea of knowledge, upon whose shores we now but stand, is reserved for our higher life in glory! The Library of Heaven! How vast! how rich! What volumes for study will be the histories of the universe—of our world—of man—of redemption—of our individual life! What exalted and sublime themes of thought, the being and character of God,—the love, grace, and glory of Christ,—the work, power, and gentleness of the Holy Ghost! In a word, what volumes for our study and research will be the Book of PROVIDENCE and the Book of GRACE! And will THE BOOK have no place in that library? Verily, I believe that it will. I do not think that in the archives of heaven, the Sacred Scroll of God’s Revealed Truth will be missing. That most marvellous of all wonderful books, the BIBLE,—the parent, and source, and foundation of all that was accurate in history, true in philosophy, profound in science, rich in poetry, sound in ethics, and real in religion,—will then unclasp its lids and unfold its leaves; and in a light that will explain every truth, elucidate every mystery, harmonize every discrepance, we shall read the Bible as we never studied its wondrous contents before. Not a truth will be lost. It is recorded of a late historian that, had every copy of “Paradise Lost” been destroyed, such was the marvellous tenacity of his memory, he would have been able to have reproduced every sentence of that poem. Is it too much to affirm that, so engraved, engrafted, and inlaid is the precious Word of God in the souls of the regenerate, when every material copy of the Bible shall, with all that is merely human, have passed away, each truth of that Divine revelation shall be reproduced, read, studied, and preserved for ever in the Library of our Father’s House?
The subject which this chapter has but imperfectly discussed is most consolatory and sanctifying. Is it not a soothing reflection, that all those who depart this life in the faith of Christ we shall find again in the House of the one family? When we met their last look of love, and caught their last words of blessing, and then laid their dust to rest until the trumpet of the archangel sound, we were ready to ask, “Shall we see them again?” Oh yes! the gospel of Christ illumines the believer’s grave with a living hope. On our arrival in the Father’s house, we shall find them all again,—not one absent who on earth possessed the first-fruits of the Spirit.
How promotive is this truth of Christian union and brotherly love in the Church of God! In cultivating home feelings, domestic affections, and sympathies, in our anticipation of heaven, we shall instinctively feel drawn by a bond of irresistible attraction towards all who evidence their relation to the family of God. We shall prove our filial relation to God by our fraternal affection for His people; “Every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of Him.” Have we not all one Father? Are we not all brethren? Do we not sit at one board? And are we not all journeying to the same home? Why should we then fall out by the way? Why allow differences of judgment, or denominational distinctions, or party heats, suspicion, envy, and jealousy—those wretched fruits of the flesh—to sunder and alienate us the one from the other? Must not a want of love like this be grieving to the heart and dishonoring to the name of our one Father? Let us no longer speak of tolerating a child of God, or deem it condescension to fraternize with one of the Lord’s saints, because he belongs to another branch of God’s family. Away with such spurious Christianity! Rather let us, in the meek and loving spirit of the Elder Brother, feel ourselves honored in ministering to him in the lowliest office of Christian service, everywhere and on all occasions recognizing and loving him as a brother beloved of God, and thus recognize, love, and honor the Father in His child. Oh for more Christ-like LOVE in the family of God! This I consider to be the great, the chief want in the professing Church of Christ in the present day. I speak not of differences of judgment, or modes of worship, or of denominational branches—these have existed, do exist, and will exist until Christ comes to unite all His people in one body, and blend all in one worship, and behold the answer to His prayer and the consummation of His desire—“THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE.” But I speak of a lamentable deficiency of that LOVE which may and should exist despite of ecclesiastical position, which derives not its inspiration, form, and tint from a denominational source or mould, but which proceeds pure and holy from God, and in its influence on the Church binds and assimilates in oneness of spirit, in fellowship of heart, and in unity of service all who are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Let us aim to model and to mould our earthly homes after the heavenly. There righteousness dwells, holiness sanctifies, love reigns, perfect confidence and sympathy and concord exist. Why should not the earthly homes of the righteous be types of this? The domestic constitution is a most marvellous and benevolent appointment of God, and is designed, among other ends, to unite, strengthen, and sanctify the different relations of life, and thus secure and promote the mutual happiness and well-being of each and all. Thus God would make the FAMILY relation a type of His Church on earth and in heaven. But, alas! how has sin perverted this! What places of misery are some homes on earth, even where RELIGION is supposed to have found a temple and a shrine! Discord, where there should be harmony,—suspicion, where there should be confidence,—jealousy, where there should be delight,—coldness, distance, and alienation, where there should, be the warmest, closest and most endearing intercourse,—harsh, abrupt expressions, where there should be nought but pleasant words,—indifference and neglect, where there should be the profoundest interest and sympathy,—in a word, hatred, where there should be LOVE. But, beloved in the Lord, this should not be so with you! And with you it is an individual matter for our homes are just what the individual mothers of the family make them. One unhappy temper, one unbending will, one unloving, unsympathizing heart may becloud and imbitter the sunniest sweetest home on earth. Oh, cultivate the affections, the sympathies, and the intercourse you hope to perpetuate in heaven! By mutual forbearance, gentleness confidence and love; by offices of kindness, delicate attention, and graceful demeanor seek to transfer as much of the purity, love, and sunshine of your FATHER’S HOUSE above as you can to your Father’s house below. And then, when you ascend from the earthly to the heavenly, it will be but the transfer of home affection, intercourse and happiness cherished, cultivated, and sanctified here, to a higher and nobler sphere—holy as God, enduring as eternity.
Let us cherish domestic thoughts and anticipations of heaven. This will make us long to be there. How confirmatory of this the dying testimony of some! Listen to their glowing language. “Almost well, and nearly at home,” said the dying Baxter, when asked by a friend how he was. A martyr when approaching the stake, being questioned as to how he felt, answered, “Never better; for now I know that I am almost at home.” Then, looking over the meadows between him and the place where he was to be immediately burned, he said, “Only two more stiles to get over, and I am at my Father’s house.” “Dying,” said the Rev. S. Medely, “is sweet work, sweet work; home! home!” Another on his death-bed said, “I am going home as fast as I can, and I bless God that I have a good home to go to.” What sweet and powerful attraction has it to quicken our pulse and to speed us onward to its blessed abode! Heaven is to some richer in love than earth. With many there are no relatives so close, no friends so dear, no hearts so loving, no minds so congenial as those in heaven. And still it grows richer! Earth’s ties are loosening, life’s relations are lessening, sacred friendships are narrowing, the purple clouds of our pilgrimage are disappearing, and soon we ourselves will be the last shadow that shall melt into eternity! But these holy ties, these hallowed relations, these sacred friendships, these heaven-enkindled loves, will all be found again in OUR FATHER’S HOUSE.
“World, farewell! my soul is weary;
I would here no longer stay,
In thy desert wild and dreary;
Heavenward will I wend my way.
World! in thee is war and strife,
Pride and vanity are rife,
But in heaven there ever is
Peace, and rest, and perfect bliss.
“On that blessed shore arriving,
Pain and sadness at an end,
Done all anxious care and striving,
Resting with my dearest Friend!
In the world is need and woe,
And at last death’s bitter throe;
But in heaven above shall be
Peace, and joy, and purity.
“What are earthly joy and pleasure?
Cloud and mist and empty wind.
What are worldly wealth and treasure?
Burdens for the weary mind.
World! in thee is war and strife,
Pride and vanity are rife;
But in heaven is perfect peace,
Rest, and all-enduring bliss.
“Oh, what glorious songs are pealing
From that chosen, spotless throng;
O’er the plains of heaven stealing,
‘Holy, holy,’ still their song!
World! in thee are scoffs and jeers,
Hatred, woe, and bitter tears;
While in heaven there ever is
Peace, and rest, and perfect bliss.
“Here is weeping and repining,
Earthly joy not long endures;
If a while the sun is shining,
Soon dark night his beams obscures.
World! deep anguish is in thee,
And the final agony;
But in heaven above there is
Peace, and rest, and perfect bliss.
“There my Lord unvails His glory,
I shall see Him face to face.
And repeat the wondrous story
Of a sinner saved by grace.
When the woes of earth are past,
And death’s bitter pang at last,
Then in heaven above will be
Peace, and joy, and purity.
“Oh to join the thrilling voices
Of that happy, sainted choir!
Each in Jesus Christ rejoices,
All their thoughts to Him aspire
In the world is war and strife,
Pride and vanity are rife;
But in heaven will ever be
Peace, and rest, and purity.
“Cheer, my soul, the time is nearing
Thou thy Saviour’s face shalt see;
Lovest thou thy Lord’s appearing?
Joyful shall that moment be.
World! thou hast but storm and strife,
Fear and sadness, death in life;
While in heaven there ever is
Peace, and rest, and perfect bliss.
“Now, in love without dissembling,
Saviour, school my willing heart,
That when worlds are round me trembling,
‘Come,’ I hear, and not, ‘Depart.’
World! in thee is fear and care,
Sin and sadness everywhere;
But at HOME there ever is
Peace, and rest, and perfect bliss.”
“FATHER, I WILL THAT THEY ALSO, WHOM THOU HAST GIVEN ME, BE WITH ME WHERE I AM; THAT THEY MAY BEHOLD MY GLORY.”
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