« PreviousContinue »
property of those between whom and them there existed no acquaintanceship, nor friendship, nor fellowship; for whom, in fact, they entertained no regard while they lived, and whose memory they neither cherish in warm hearts, nor preserve in cold brass or marble. But it. is by no such obscure connection or remote relationship, that " the inheritance of the saints in light" becomes ours. We are constituted its heirs by virtue of sonship; we, who were once afar off—the seed of the serpent, the children of the devil, the children of wrath even as others—becoming sons by that act of grace, which has led many to exclaim with John, "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."
Thus heaven, presenting itself to us in one of its most engaging aspects, is not only an inheritance, but a home. Oh! how sweet that word! What beautiful and tender associations cluster thick around it! Compared with it, house, mansion, palace, are cold heartless terms. But home! that word quickens the pulse, warms the heart, stirs the soul to its depths, makes age feel young again, rouses apathy into energy, sustains the sailor on his midnight watch, inspires the soldier with courage on the field of battle, and imparts patient endurance to the worn-down sons of toil! The thought of it has proved a sevenfold shield to virtue; the very name of it has been a spell to call back the wanderer from the paths of vice; and, far away, where myrtles bloom and palm trees wave, and the ocean sleeps upon coral strands, to the exile's fond fancy it clothes the naked rock or stormy shore, or barren moor, or wild Highland mountain, with charms he weeps to think of, and longs once more to see. Grace sanctifies these lovely affections, and imparts a sacredness to the homes of earth by making them types of heaven. As a home the believer delights to think of it. Thus when, lately bending over a dying saint, and expressing our sorrow to see him laid so low, with the radiant countenance rather of one who had just left heaven, than of one about to enter it, he raised and clasped his hands, and exclaimed in ecstasy, "I am going home." Happy the family of which God is the father, Jesus the elder brother, and all the "saints in light" are brethren— brethren born of one Spirit; nursed at the full breast of the same promises; trained in the same high school of heavenly discipline; seated at the same table; and gathered all where the innocent loves of earth are not quenched, but purified; not destroyed, but refined! To that family circle every accession forms a subject of gratitude and praise ; and every new-comer receives such welcome as a mother, while she falls on his manly breast, gives her son, or as sisters, locked in his arms, with theirs entwined around him, give the brother whom they have got safe back from wreck and storm, or the bloody fields of war. So when, on returning home after weary journeys and a tedious absence, we have found that the whole household was moved, and that all, down even to the tottering babe, with outstretched hands, and beaming faces, and joyful welcomes, were at the door to meet us, we have thought, it shall be thus at the gates of glory. What a meeting there of parents and children, brothers and sisters, and death-divided friends! What mutual gratulations! What overflowing joy! And, when they have led our spirit up through the long line of loving angels to the throne, what happiness to see Jesus, and get our warm, est welcome from the lips of him who redeemed us by his blood, and, in the agonies of his cross, suffered for us more than a mother's pangs—"the travail of his soul."
Heir of grace! thy estate lies there. Child of God! thy Father, and Saviour, and brethren, and sisters, are there. Pilgrim to Sion, be ever pressing on and ever looking up! thy true home is there; a home above these blue skies, above sun and stars; a sweet, saintly, glorious home—whose rest shall be all the sweeter for the pelting of the storm, thy rugged path, the sorrows and the tears of earth—and whose light shall be all the brighter for that " valley of the shadow of death," from which thou shalt pass into the blaze of everlasting day. Believer! 1 congratulate thee on thy prospects. Lift up thy cast-down head; let thy port, man, be worthy of thy coming fortunes. Bear thyself as one who shall wear a holy crown; as one who, however humble thy present lot, is training for the highest society. Cultivate the temper, and acquire the manners, and learn the language of heaven; nor let the wealth or poverty, the joys or sorrows, the shame or honors of thy earthly state, ever make thee forget " the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you."
III. The heirs of heaven require to be made meet for the inheritance.
I knew a man who had amassed great wealth, but had no children to inherit it. He lost the opportunity, which one would think good men would more frequently embrace, of leaving Christ his heir, and bequeathing to the cause of religion what he could not carry away. Smitten, however, with the vain and strange propensity to found a house, or make a family, as it is called, he ieft his riches to a distant relative. His successor found himself suddenly raised from poverty to affluence, and thrown into a position which he had not been trained to fill. He was cast into the society of those to whose tastes, and habits, and accomplishments he was an utter and an awkward stranger. Did many envy this child of fortune? They might have spared their envy. Left in his original obscurity he had been a happy peasant, whistling his way home from the plough to a thatch-roofed cottage, or on winter nights, and around the blazing faggots, laughing loud and merry among unpolished boors. Child of misfortune! he buried his happiness in the grave of his benefactor. Neither qualified by nature, nor fitted by education, for his position, he was separated from his old, only to be despised by his new associates. And how bitterly was he disappointed to find, that, in exchanging poverty for opulence, daily toil for luxurious indolence, humble friends for more distinguished companions, a hard bed for one of down, this turn in his fortunes had flung him on a couch, not of roses, but of thorns! In his case, the hopes of the living and the intentions of the dead were alike frustrated. The prize had proved a blank; a necessary result of this fatal oversight, that the heir had not been made meet for the inheritance.
Is such training needful for an earthly estate? How much more for the "inheritance of the saints in light!" "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." No change to a condition however lofty—no elevation from the lowest obscurity to the highest honor, from abject poverty to the greatest affluence, adequately represents the difference between the state of sin in which grace finds us, and the state of glory to which it raises us. The most ignorant and debased of our city outcasts, the most wretched and loathsome wanderer of these streets, is not so unfit to be received into the holy bosom of a Christian family, as you are, by nature, to be received into the kingdom of heaven. A sinner there were more out of place than a ragged beggar in a royal palace, where, all gazing at his appearance with astonishment, and shrinking back from his defiling touch, he rudely thrusts himself within the brilliant circle. Compared with the difference between a man, as grace finds him, and heaven gets him, how feeble are all earthly distinctions! They sink into nothing. So unheavenly, in truth, is our nature, that unless we were made meet for the inheritance, we were no honor to it, nor were it any happiness to us.
What, for instance, were the most tempting banquet, to one without appetite, sick, loathing the very sight and smell of food? To a man stone-deaf, what the boldest blast of trumpet, the roll of drums, stirring the soldier's soul to deeds of daring valor, or the finest music that ever fell on charmed ear, and seemed to bear the spirit on its waves of sound up to the gates of heaven? Or what, to one stone-blind, a scene to which beauty has lent its charms, and sublimity its grandeur—the valley clad in a many-colored robe of flowers, the gleaming lake, the flashing cascade, the foaming torrent, the dark-climbing forest, the brave trees that cling to the frowning crags, the rocky pinnacles, and, high over all, hoary winter looking down on summer from her throne on the Alps' untrodden snows? Just what heaven would be to man with his ruined nature, his low passions, and his dark guilty conscience. Incapable of appreciating its holy beauties, of enjoying its holy happiness, he would find nothing there to delight his senses. How he would wonder in