"But anguish no more fetters you,
For now you are awake and free;
And as on your enraptured sight
Bursts that new world of living light,
Through every nerve what rapture thrills,
And all your inmost being fills!"
—Tholuck's "Hours of Devotion."

"The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick."—Isaiah 33:24.

Suffering believers, laid on beds of languishing, can alone appreciate the sweetness of this gleaning from the Eschol-clusters. How many of God's children are at this moment tossed on couches of distress, shut out from the light and sunshine of a busy world, their experience that of the afflicted patriarch of Uz—"I am made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed unto me. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day," (Job 7:3, 4.)

But in yonder bright world of purity and love, "there shall be no more pain," (Rev. 21:4.) How often on the earthly sick-bed is the patient grateful for a single hour's release from oppressive suffering! What will it be in that glorious land where not so much as one pang shall ever be experienced! Here, how much is present happiness clouded by real or imaginary apprehensions. How often are the strong and robust and vigorous haunted with the dread that their strength may be prostrated. Even when life's sun is shining most brightly, the intrusive thought will steal across the spirit, that this lease of long health may not always last. How often, too, have these foreshadowings been too truthfully verified; either we ourselves laid low with sickness, or else brought to watch with agonizing anxiety by the couch of some beloved relative! Oh, the blessedness of a world where the fear of fearful things will be unknown—where nothing shall ruffle our deep, everlasting repose! No Lazarus can be laid at Heaven's gate, "full of sores." No sunny countenance in a moment shrouded with paleness. No elastic step arrested with the spoiler's touch, and the brightness of morning changed into the shadow of death. The suffering caused by accident, the infirmities of age, the decay of intellectual vigor, the oppression on the spirit by sudden bereavement—all will be strange in that unsuffering state.

We know that sickness, in addition to its own attendant pain and uneasiness, unfits both mind and body for active duty and service. The emaciated, languid invalid is like the wounded bird struggling with disabled wing in the furrow, and attempting, in vain, its former joyous soaring. But in Heaven nothing can weaken or impair the immortal energies. No longer will the renovated framework be the prey of disease, or subject to decay. No longer will there arise feverish anxieties about others; those moments of dread suspense that seem more like hours, when life, and all that life counts dear, is "balanced in a breath." Over the earthly portals is written, "We have the sentence of death in ourselves," (2 Cor. 1:9.) Over the gate of heaven, "Neither shall they die any more," (Luke 20:36.)

And how will this exemption from present experiences of suffering and pain be secured? How will the new heavens and the new earth give forth no longer, as here, a plaintive "miserere?" Let the words following our motto-verse explain, "The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity." It is Sin which has made this world of ours dim with weeping. The glimmering lamp in every sufferer's chamber reads, in its sickly hue, the sad tale of transgression. It is sin that is forcing from his lips the plaintive soliloquy, "Would God it were evening! would God it were morning!" (Deut. 28:67.) Here, and by reason of sin, the body is, in its every pore and muscle, susceptible of pain. Its nervous fibers can, in a moment, become chords of anguish. Science may be profuse of her inventions to mitigate disease in its thousand insidious forms, but still "the head will be sick," "the heart faint," the body bowed down with suffering, the healthy cheek furrowed with age; "the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves," (Eccles. 12:3.)

All the marvels and mysteries of the healing arts in vain can stem the tide of distress, quicken the ebbing pulses of life, ward off the bitter parting, or reanimate the silent ashes. Gourds are still withering; buds of promise are still drooping to decay; the wail of anguished humanity is as loud as ever. Not until the morning of a sinless immortality dawn, will the tongue of the sufferer be tuned to the better melody—"The days of our mourning are forever ended."

Happy, happy prospect! "The inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick." You who are now laid on beds of languishing and pain, listen to this. Now, as the shadows of each returning evening begin to fall, you may have nothing but gloomy anticipations. The morrow's light, which brings health and joy to a busy world, may bring nothing to you but fresh prostration and anguish. Sabbath comes round, but its once joyous bells ring only in your ears the memory of forfeited joys—the lonely bird, still pining in its earthly cage, wailing, in muffled notes, "Oh that I could flee away from this weary prison-house of sorrow and pain, and be at rest!"

Yes! but that rest is at hand. Soon will you mount on eagle's wings to these golden gates. Pilgrims, now often pacing along the wilderness-path with bleeding feet and fevered brow, the thorny path will soon be over. No more pain to harass you. No more "archers" to wound you. No more languor to depress you. "The former things shall have passed away." How will one moment in that sorrowless heaven lead you to forget your present long experience of prostration and suffering! It will appear in the retrospect only as the shadow of a passing cloud—a dream of the night which the morning light has dispelled—voices on all sides sounding in your ears, "There shall be no more curse," (Rev. 22:3.)

Meanwhile, as you lie tossing on your sickbed, do not ask—"Am I getting the better of my pain?" But ask—"Am I made the better for it? Is it executing the great mission for which it has been sent of God? Is it sanctifying me, purging away the dross, and fitting me for glory?" He has some wise end in view in laying you upon the bed of languishing. Sickness is one of His own chosen messengers—one of the arrows of His quiver. As the mother lavishes her tenderest affection on her invalid child, so may it be truthfully said regarding the suffering believer, "Lord, he whom you love is sick," (John 11:3.) He takes you apart by yourself—secludes you from the world, that through the rips of your shattered earthly tabernacle He may give you glimpses of coming glory. When your tongue is "failing you for thirst," He brings grapes, plucked by His own hand, from Canaan. Your soul, like that of aged Jacob, revives!

How often has the couch of suffering thus been made as the very gate of heaven. Be assured you will yet come to acknowledge infinite mercy in this very discipline. In preparing to transplant His own tree to paradise—instead of cutting you down, or wrenching you up by the roots, hurrying you away without a note of warning into an unprovided-for eternity—He is pruning branch by branch, that you may fall gently. He is "purging you, that you may bring forth more fruit," (John 15:2.) Seek to exhibit the grace of patience under your trial. This is one of the few Christian virtues which can only be manifested on earth. In Heaven there is no suffering to call forth its exercise. "Let patience" now therefore "have its perfect work."

Seek to feel that the end your God has in these "light afflictions" is to work out for you "a far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory," (2 Cor. 4:17.) Tossed on this troubled sea, let the eye and the longings of faith frequently rest on the quiet haven. "Oh, the blessed tranquillity of that region," says Richard Baxter, Himself no stranger to a couch of prolonged distress—"where there is nothing but sweet, continued peace! O healthful place where none are sick! O happy land, where all are kings! O holy assembly, where all are priests! How free a state, where none are servants but to their supreme Monarch! O my soul, bear with the infirmities of your earthly tabernacle! It will be thus but a little while. The sound of my Redeemer's feet is even at the door."

"And heaven has rest—the Sabbath of the sky!
No weary feet shall walk the world on high;
No tear of trouble falls
Within those jasper walls—
To gain this rest for me did Jesus die."