(Choice selections on Heaven, 1879)
J. L. Harris
Did you ever try to imagine the soul's impressions when it first enters Heaven? I remember distinctly my impressions when entering the city of New York for the first time. It was on the evening of a beautiful May day. The soft strains of music from the band which had accompanied us on our journey were wafted out on the evening air, and fell sweetly on many a listening ear. The sun was just setting. His departing rays hung lingeringly upon the distant hill-tops, as if reluctant to bid the city adieu.
The noble steamer which had borne us down the Hudson was rounding to the pier. I had heard and thought much about this great city, of its bustling throng, its crowded Broadway, its shaded avenues, its enchanting parks, its stately mansions, and magnificent churches; and now it lies just before me in all its reality. There were its forests of ship-masts, its domes and lofty spires glittering in the evening sunlight. I could hear the hum of voices, the roll of wheels, and the tramp of hurrying footsteps, while from a passing band there came notes of sweetest music. In a few moments I was to mingle with that human throng, and look with my own eyes upon the wonders of the great metropolis. I shall never forget the impressions of that hour.
If earthly scenes so impress us — how then must it be with the saint when first entering the great metropolis of Heaven? The old ship upon which he has crossed the swelling sea is just gliding into the quiet harbor, and rounding to the Heavenly pier. The eternal city is just before him; the sunlight of glory floods all its streets, and bathes its "many mansions" and beautiful landscapes in mellow splendor. The God-built stories of the New Jerusalem rise before him in all their matchless grandeur. He sees the golden streets, the gates of pearl, the sea of glass, the river of life, and the throne of God!
The song of angels mingling with the harps of Heaven, now fall upon his ear. Never has he heard such music. He may have heard the loud swell of the rich-toned organ, and the majestic burst of praise which has gone up from a thousand well-trained voices. But now, when he hears even the first notes of the ransomed throng, the thoughts of all earthly music are forgotten. John says, "I heard a great voice of many people in Heaven saying: Alleluia! Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns!" As this mighty chorus comes swelling up the valleys, trembling along the hills, and echoing over the plains — his enraptured spirit is filled with an intensity of bliss known only to Heavenly hearts.
Friends who had preceded him to glory now meet him. Angels come and bid him welcome to the skies, while those who had borne him from earth to his home in Heaven, lead him to the Lamb. He sees now, not "through a glass darkly," but face to face. He sees the Savior "as He is." The veil has been removed, and he looks with undimmed vision upon the "King in his beauty!"
He stands transfixed, and gazes with silent and inexpressible wonder. Gushing streams of bliss come pouring in upon him, flooding every avenue of his wonder-stricken soul. The Savior, rising, addresses him, saying, "Well, done, good and faithful servant!" and then places a crown upon his head.
O, bliss of bliss! O, joys of joys! Heaven itself has no language to express the rapture which a blood-washed soul will experience when Jesus shall place the crown of life upon its brow, and a harp within its hand.
See him now as the Lamb leads him out into green pastures, and beside the still waters. He stands upon the banks of the crystal stream which flows from the throne of God; as he gazes upon its placid surface, the songs and harpings of saints and angels come trembling along the shore. Their sweet vibrations strike every chord of his immortal heart, tuning it to sing in unison with the Heavenly choir, when, for the first time, he joins with the blood-washed throng in singing, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing. Glory and honor, and power be unto Him who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever!"
Surely one such moment of bliss, would more than balance all the woes and sorrows of earth. It is more than language can express, or imagination conceive! "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man — the things which God has prepared for them that love Him!" I wait in joyous hope to see the day that crowns me at His side. I long to feel the unutterable bliss; to experience the consciousness of the first full draught from the fountain of immortality!
We are all very busy — busy writing epitaphs. We do not let a day pass without doing something in this line, and we are all busy, not in writing epitaphs for others — but in writing our own. And we are making it very sure that people will read what we have written when we are gone. Shall we not be remembered? If not by many, we certainly shall by a few, and that remembrance we are making sure of, by the tenor of our lives. Our characters are the inscriptions we are making on the hearts of those who know, and who will survive us. We do not leave this office to others. We are doing it ourselves. Others might falsify and deceive by what they might say of us — but we are telling the truth. The actions of our passing life are facts visible, plain, undeniable. We engrave them on the mind of all observers. How interesting the question: What kind of epitaphs are we writing? Will they be read with joy or sorrow? Remember the epitaphs we write are not for the marble that tells where we lie — but for the memory of every one that knew us.
True Christian living in the world, is like a ship sailing on the ocean. It is not the ship being in the water which will sink it — but the water getting into the ship!
So, in like manner, the Christian is not ruined by living in the world, which he must needs do while he remains in the body — but by the world living in him! The world in the heart, has ruined millions of immortal souls.
How careful is the mariner to guard against leakage, lest the water entering into the vessel should, by imperceptible degrees, cause the vessel to sink. And ought not the Christian to watch and pray, lest Satan and the world should find some unguarded inlet to his heart? (Anonymous)
Young Men Leaving Home
The critical period in a young man's life is when he leaves home, the presence and influence of his parents, his instructors and early associates — to start in life for himself, and to make new companions and acquaintances. A large majority leave the country and settle in our large cities. They are drawn to these centers supposing the chances of success are more favorable, and the sphere of operation much larger. They come with their ambition on fire, and with visions of wealth before them. They come with a mother's prayers, youthful purity and vigor — inexperienced in crime, ignorant of the devices of wicked men, unsuspicious, and consequently easily entrapped. Soon they find themselves among strangers, and with entirely new surroundings. The quiet of their country home, is exchanged for the din and bustle of business. Instead of spending their evenings around the bright and pleasant hearthstone of the old homestead — they find themselves in the crowded street, amid the glare of temptations. It is a great disadvantage, in fact, a misfortune, for a young man to be a stranger. The devil is sure to tempt him when lonely!
How weak we all are when alone. How little we seem when among absolute strangers. How much of life is wrapped up in our hearts. How love strengthens character and surrounds it with bulwarks. All this, the young man forfeits when he leaves home and takes the risk of unfavorable surroundings in a strange city.
A young man without a home, or some special friends whom he can visit in their own private homes, in a large city — is to be pitied.
For a whole year young men in our cities never sit down in quiet conversation with a family group. They know no families. They are only acquainted with those like themselves, whose chief attraction is the street or the theater. Society, in the higher sense of the term, they know nothing about. They are not at ease in the company of the refined and religious. Their taste is gross and sensual; their conversation has the ring of coarseness; their manners are rough; their ease and grace in virtuous company are gone. Such society becomes distasteful. They prefer the club-room — to the parlor, the ball — to the private circle at home, the boisterous crowd of the street — to the intelligent society of ladies or the elevating influence of music.
Thus we see hundreds and thousands of young men slowly going down to ruin! One restraint after another is broken; old friendships lose their power; early recollections fade slowly away; home is forgotten, or seldom visited; church is neglected; the old Bible, the mother's gift, is unread and unstudied; and deeper and deeper they plunge for sensual gratification! To silence conscience, they benumb their feelings with strong drink. To bury thoughts of former innocence and of home, they rush into all kinds of amusements and excitements. Reflection, self-examination, thoughts of accountability to God, these become painful to the soul — hence, they must be thoughtless, indifferent, and even scoffers at religion. They soon destroy health, blast character, and come down to a sick and dying bed. They break a mother's heart, fill an untimely grave, and lose their souls!
How sad and heartrending this scene. O, God! pity and save these straying lambs, lost in our city vices, and on the road to Hell! Christian young men, unite, combine, organize, pray, work, and turn their feet into the royal highway of God's redeemed people. Church-members, welcome them to your churches, invite them to come again. Be kind to them, and pluck a jewel from the mire to shine in Christ's coronet. in saving one soul, set in motion a wave of influence and good that shall roll on through the ages, and never cease!
The Apostle John's Idea of Heaven
James W. Alexander
"We know not what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is."
This is the apostle John's idea of Heaven: "We shall see Him as He is." This will be enough. Here we have seen by glimpses, cloudily, in an enigma, "through a glass darkly." But then clearly, nearly, fully, "face to face." And the object so seen is of all in the universe the most worthy of being contemplated. God shines in Him. "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." To see Him, in the fullness of his unvaried excellence, will be a celestial pleasure, well worth dying for.
Paul's Estimate of Heaven
"I reckon," Paul says, like a man skilled in spiritual arithmetic. "I reckon," after a due estimate of their comparative value, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed."
No man was ever so well qualified to make this estimate. Of the sufferings of the present world, he had shared more largely than any other man. Of the glory that shall be revealed, he had a glimpse granted to no other man. He had heard the words of God, and seen the vision of the Almighty, and the result of this privileged experience was, he "desired to depart and be with Christ!" He desired to escape from this valley of tears; he was impatient to recover the celestial vision, eager to perpetuate the momentary foretaste of the glories of immortality.
Heaven, a Home
Home! oh, how sweet is 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 old age feel young again, rouses apathy into energy, sustains the sailor in his midnight watch, inspires the soldier with courage on the field of battle, and imparts patient endurance to the worn-out sons of toil.
The thought of home has proved a seven-fold shield to virtue; the very name of it has 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 imagination 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 Heaven. Thus, while lately bending over a dying saint, and expressing our sorrow to see him lay 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!"
We are warranted in ascribing to that blessed state, all that is most genial and ennobling in occupation; all that is most enduring and satisfying in possession; all that is most pure and excellent in character.
The occupations of Heaven are endless praise, triumph, and joy.
The possessions of Heaven are infinite glory, riches, and knowledge.
The character of Heaven is perfect love, holiness, and peace. These things we can at present know only in part, and the word of divine revelation itself must of necessity tell us much of what Heaven is — by telling us what it is not. With all our studies and all deepest experience, we shall never fathom the full meaning of the one word Heaven.
Heaven a City!
Heaven is a city never built with hands, nor hoary with the years of time. Heaven is a city whose inhabitants no census has numbered; a city through whose streets rush no tide of business, nor nodding hearse creeps slowly with its burden to the tomb. Heaven is a city without griefs or graves, without sins or sorrows, without births or burials, without marriages or mournings. Heaven is a city which glories in having Jesus for its king, angels for its guards, saints for citizens; whose walls are salvation, and whose gates are praise!
The Heavenly Place
"I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:3
We are accustomed to say that space and time are only conditions of our finite and composite natures, and that to unfettered spirits there would be recognition of neither space nor time. Whether this be so or not, no man can tell. It is a transcendentalism that it is folly to talk about. Time and space are absolute necessities to our thinking. Every conception of our mind is formed on them as a foundation; and we can have no idea of God himself, except as in time and space. Hence we must (whether we will or not), take the word "place" of our text literally. Even if it be not literally a place, we think of it as a, place, for we cannot think of it in any other way. We are not up to this. And, moreover, from the words being used when our Savior might have said simply, "I go to prepare a place for you," we may infer that it is actually a place (as we understand the word) that is meant here. Farther than that perhaps, would be only imagination, and in that region of imagination we cannot find it profitable to wander.
But that on which we may dwell with profit is, first, that the place is prepared by our Lord; and, secondly, that it is prepared for us. What a place that must be which Christ prepares, which His almighty power and infinite love combined make ready for our abode! It must be a place where every purified desire of the heart shall have perpetual satisfaction, and where Christ's own happiness shall be shared by those for whom he died. If these are to be the characteristics of that future home, it makes very little difference what the special forms of occupation, or the objective elements beheld by the soul in that better world may be. The inner soul longs for happiness, it is only the outward and changeable sense that would dictate its form. That it is pure and holy, and that it has Christ, our Lord and Savior — in it this is enough. We know the delicious contents of the vessel, if we do not know the shape and color of the vessel containing.
Imagery may be valuable as a help, provided we do not rest our hope and affections and desires upon the images — but upon the ineffable and indescribable beyond. The Christians of the earliest age were always looking forward. Christ's coming was the controlling and encouraging thought of their daily life. The patriarchs and holy saints of the other dispensation were always looking forward toward the Heavenly country. In different ways, the Spirit of God led them to anticipate the developments of God's saving grace, in the enjoyment of glory. This lifted them above earthly despondences and saved them from a thousand snares.
As God's people, that should be our position, and looking unto Jesus, unto him preparing our place, our eternal place. Our citizenship is in Heaven. Our treasures are there. Our hearts should be there. God's consolations are not like men's, mere soothers of the troubled mind — but seeds of positive and independent joy. God's grace comes with a set-off that belittles the earthly care and sorrow. If a soldier in the ranks is wounded — it is one thing to apply soothing plasters to stop the pain — but it is a grander thing and a better thing for his general to come to him and bestow upon him the title, rank and insignia of a high officer. Just so does our God give us in the Heavenly title and its pledges — the possession of a divine and eternal joy as against all the aches and pains of this little day of earth. Yes, he makes the aches subserve the glory and work directly into it. "This light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." We have had those who are very dear to us pass beyond this narrow world, out of our sight. How the Lord stays our tears by these words of our text!
They are in the place prepared for them and for us, by Jesus. "To depart" is "to be with Christ." This is the "far better" of Paul, which those dear ones now know all about. And still the place with its many abodes, is being prepared by the same Jesus; and you and I, conducted by Him, will one after another enter into the joy of our Lord.
When I get to Heaven, I shall see three wonders there.
The first wonder will be to see people there that I did not expect.
The second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see.
And the third and greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there!
"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10
Our Friends in Heaven
How beautiful is the belief of man's immortality! The dead alive again, and forever. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust," is only spoken over the body, when consigned to "the house appointed for all the living." Not such, the requiem of the soul. A refrain of immortality concludes earth's history — and announces eternity's beginnings.
"Not lost — but gone before." Such is the cherished and beautiful faith of man in all ages and lands — and only a power and a joy when God's voice audibly falls upon the ear in words of counsel and prophecy.
The sainted dead dwell in life; beholding "the king in his beauty;" shining "as the brightness of the sky, and as the stars forever and ever." They fade no more, nor realize pain; a wealth of love is theirs, a heritage of goodness, a celestial habitation; and in them thoughts, hopes, feelings expand and move forward in ceaseless progressions! We may feel sad because they are lost to us; but while we weep and wonder — they are wrapped in garments of light and warble songs of celestial joy! They will return to us no more; but we shall go to them; share their pleasures; emulate their sympathies; and reign with them in the path of endless development. We would not call them back. In the homes above — they are great, and well-employed and blessed. Shadows fall upon them no more; nor is life ruffled with anxious cares; love rules their life and thoughts; and eternal hopes beckon them forever to the pursuit of infinite good.
To whom are these thoughts strange and dull? He who has no treasure in Heaven — no well-remembered forms hallowed by separation and distance — no stars of hope illumining with ever increasing beauty life's utmost horizon. What family circle has remained unbroken — no empty chair — no cherished mementoes — voices and footsteps returning no more — no members transferred to the illimitable beyond? Where is he who has stood unhurt amid the chill blasts, who has blighted mortal hopes, and withered mortal loves? Alas! the steps of death are everywhere; his voice murmuring in every sweep of the wind; his ruins visible on towering hill and in sequestered valley. We all have felt or seen his power. Beneath the cypress we weep — our hearts riven with memories of the loved and lost; and yet hope springing eternal from earth's mausoleums to penetrate and possess the future.
Heaven is ours; for is it not occupied by our godly dead? Heaven and earth lay near together in the myths of the ancients; and shall it be otherwise in the institutions of Christianity? We need faith. Our paths are surrounded by the departed; our lives bettered by their ministries. From beneath night shadows, we look forward into the approaching day; and while we gaze, the beams of the morning spread light and loveliness over the earth. It is likewise, as from beneath the night of time — we peer anxiously after the pure day of Heaven.
Faith penetrates the veil, and bids the invisible to stand disclosed; while its magic wand wakens into life, forms well-known — but holier and lovelier far, than we knew them here. Such thoughts make us better, purer, gentler. We cannot keep society with the sainted dead, and with the great God in whose presence they dwell — without feeling a nobler life throbbing through us. They draw us upward. We grow less earthly — and more Heavenly; and God-like aspirations come to us, as we wander along the border land where dwell the sainted dead.
Our time is so absorbed with perishable and unsatisfying forms of good; and so we lose the image of the Heavenly, and grow carnal. The beauty of our life fades; and we are left to hanker after passing shadows and unsubstantial dreams. Let us tear away oftener from these earthly moorings; let us walk more steadily in the light of celestial companionship; and so attain to the true and the good, as those who attained, who roam the hills of immortality.
Focusing on the immortal, cannot fail to strengthen us for the stern conflicts of life. At once this earthly existence is seen in its true light — the opening of a day that shall never close; the spring-time of a year that will know no end, the initial chapter in a volume whose records shall find no final page. When life is thus truly gauged, we learn to place a proper estimate upon its passing pomps and pleasures; and we grow less sensitive to the world's smiles and frowns — and more careful to seek after the eternal good. The example of the sainted dead, who toiled and endured until they now reign, affects us; and we feel strong for like conflicts, and ready for equal labors, until in us too the mortal shall put on the immortal. Divine ties spring up, and last forever, binding the heart to the good, the beautiful, the true, and making it strong for the work and trials of life.
And meditation upon the dead, whom we have known and loved on earth, will make Heaven more real and attractive to us; dissipating the vagueness of the notion with which it is too often regarded; begetting within us abiding attachments for celestial seats. God, who created the world, and whose providence is everywhere visible in promoting our welfare, is there; and Jesus, who died for us, and with whom we have grown familiar in his earthly history; and the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier of the church, and whose gentle influences we have felt within us. And our godly friends are there, changeless, loving spirits now, yet with familiar lineaments and well-remembered forms. The homes of the glorified are no longer vague, indistinct, poorly defined. We see them — the beautiful city, the outlined hills of immortality, the on-flowing river making glad the palaces of God. And we can have an idea of what they must be — how substantial in their foundations, how vast in their proportions, how rich in their furnishings — to be fitting habitations for the immortals. Heaven comes nearer to us, and grows more attractive — as we think of the loved ones who dwell there!
The beautiful have gone with their bloom, from the gaze of human eyes. Soft eyes that made it springtime to our hearts, are seen no more. We have loved the light of many a smile, which has faded from us now; and in our hearts have lingered sweet voices that now are hushed in the silence of death. Seats are left vacant in our earthly homes, which none again can fill. Kindred and friends, loved ones, have passed away one by one — our hearts are left desolate; we are lonely without them. They have passed with their love to "that land, from which no traveler returns." Shall we never see them again? Memory turns with lingering regret, to recall those smiles and the beloved tones of those dear familiar voices. In imagination, they are often by our side — but their home is on a brighter shore. They visit us in our dreams, floating over our memory like shadows over moonlit waters. When the heart is weary with anguish, and the soul is bowed with grief, do they not come and whisper thoughts of comfort and hope? Yes, sweet memory brings them to us, and the love we bore them lifts the heart from earthly aspirations and we long to join them in that better land.
And this bright vision of the blessed, dissolves the tumult of life's jarring scenes; they fade in air, and then we glory in the thought that we are heirs of immortality.
We have, amid all changes, three unchangeables — an unchangeable covenant, an unchangeable God, and an unchangeable Heaven; and while these three remain "the same yesterday, today, and forever," welcome the will of our Heavenly Father in all events that may happen to us. Come what will, nothing can come amiss. — Matthew Henry.
At Home in Heaven
Will any soul that reaches Heaven feel strange there? Will it seem a foreign country? Will all its sights, and sounds, and suggestions be totally unfamiliar? Will they make no responsive note on any chord of the harp of memory? Will they shed no ray of light on the lens of hope?
There are many of us who are looking forward to a residence in Heaven. Will it be more than a residence? Will it be a home? We know the difference between the two, when applied to places upon earth. There are many kinds of residences; there is but one home. A lunatic asylum, a penitentiary, the place where we must live — but do not want to live, is a residence. The only real home a man has upon earth, is the spot in which he would rather be than in any other. The place in which he gets most rest, most comfort, most solace, most satisfaction to every craving of his nature — that is home.
How do we look forward toward Heaven? Is it simply the termination of the journey, where, in the natural course of things, the pilgrimage ceases? Such a state of affairs may occur to a man who has gone from his home, and whose business or duty has taken him across the ocean to a foreign port. There he may have to stay all the days of his life, and behind him leave wife and children, father and mother. He looks forward with interest to his arrival. He would rather be there, than on the stormy ocean. But it is not home.
Now, how do we feel toward Heaven? Is it simply the end of the road we must travel as Christians, and which we must terminate somewhere, sometime; or have we longings for it? Does it come into our dreams? Do thoughts of it often lift our souls as the tides lift up the seas? Do we feel that every other residence is a tent — but Heaven is our mansion; that we go to every other place because we must — but are stretching ourselves to be in Heaven because we would? Are we Heavenly-minded and Heavenly-hearted? If so, we shall be at home in Heaven.
It may be so sweet, so delicious, so satisfactory, so fulfilling, as to come in sudden and sublime contrast, with all our previous experience. In this sense it may, for a brief season, be startling and somewhat strange; but if we have been spiritually-minded upon earth, each new moment of Heaven will bring us the fulfillment of some hope, or the completion, in shouts of laughter, of some song which we had begun upon earth, and which had been drowned in sobs. It will be the being "forever with the Lord" that will make our Heaven.
"Forever with the Lord?" Why not now with the Lord? Is not our present life a part of "forever?" If now with the Lord, if our communion be with Him, if we are learning His ways and walking in His companionship here, and are to be learning His ways and walking in His companionship in Heaven — then why should we not be at home in Heaven?
The angels come down to earth. They have their mission of ministry. Their duties probably take them, sometimes, into places where they feel very strange; but there must be other spots amid the circumstances of which even angels must feel very much at home. Where a family is consecrated to God, where perfect love prevails, where Jesus reigns, where the Father's will is done in earth as it is in Heaven — oh! surely there the good angels must feel at home.
How blessed is the work of the angels and the men who are striving more and more to make earth like Heaven, so that the denizens of the one shall be the citizens of the other.
Fitness for Heaven
In visiting an art gallery or conservatory of music, our enjoyment will be in the ratio of the previous training and development of our tastes and sympathies in this direction. As those entertainments would be to the blind or deaf, so would the joys of Heaven be to the lost sinner. Place him under the very shadow of the tree of life, and he would say, "I don't want to be here!"
Heaven must be begun upon earth. We must carry its bud in our hearts here — or we can never see its full blossom hereafter. Entrance into Heaven is not the result of a foreign force lifting as into an unknown sphere. It is the result of a process begun in time. The Church is God's training school, where the appetites and affections for the joys of Heaven are developed. Our great work is not merely to get men into Heaven — but to prepare them for it. When they are ready, they will be there soon enough.
Our characters are now catching colors which will survive the judgment day. What gigantic importance this gives to time! During our brief years on earth, our characters are impressed for eternity. Death will be the artist closing the watch, and announcing the process completed, and the impression then made cannot be altered. The soldiers used to say when a comrade fell, "Poor fellow, he has received his discharge." But death is not a discharge. It is only a transfer. It takes us to the judgment seat, and leaves us as it found us. The direction which the main current of our affections and aspirations has taken upon earth, will there become fixed. Let us not lose the opportunities now passing, or we lose the inheritance. Let us not miss the tide, or it will be forever too late!
No Sorrow There!
This earthly life has been fitly characterized as a pilgrimage through a valley of tears. In the language of poetry, man himself has been called a pendulum between a smile and a tear. Everything in this world is characterized by imperfection. The best people, have many faults. The clearest mind, only sees through a glass darkly. The purest heart, is not without spot. All the interaction of society, all the transactions of business, all our estimates of human conduct and motive — must be based upon the sad assumption that we cannot wholly trust either ourselves or our fellow-men.
Every heart has its grief,
every house has its skeleton,
every character is marred with weakness and imperfection.
And all these aimless conflicts of our minds, and unanswered longings of our hearts — should lead us to rejoice the more in the divine assurance that a time is coming when night shall melt into noon, and the mystery shall be clothed with glory.
Have you, my dear reader, thought seriously of the end? The end of this day — the end of this month — the end of this year — the end of this life? Indeed, the end of all earthly things?
The end is surely coming! It may be near!
The end will soon come! This life is short and uncertain at the best. A few more rising and setting suns — and we shall be gone numbered with the dead.
The end may come when you are not looking for it! You hope for long life, many days yet. You may be saying, "Tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." But God may say to you, as he did to the rich man of old, "You fool! You will die this very night! Then who will get everything you worked for?"
The end may come suddenly, like the flash of the lightning, or stealthily as a thief in the night. "For in such an hour as you think not — the Son of man will come."
The end may come when you are not prepared for it — not prepared at all, or poorly prepared for it. Are you prepared for it now? What assurance have you that you would be in the future? "Procrastination is the thief of time."
O, what shall the end of all earthly things be to you? Would sudden death — be sudden glory? "And if the righteous are scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" "But sin, when it is finished, brings forth death." "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."