"The storm's black wing
Is never spread athwart celestial skies;
Its wailings blend not with the voice of spring,
As some too tender flowret fades and dies.
"With Hope our guide,
White-robed and innocent, to tread the way,
Why fear to plunge in Jordan's rolling tide,
And find the haven of eternal day?"
"For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."—Rom.
Thus does a master-hand strike the balance between
present sufferings and future glory. "I reckon" (I make the
calculation, and the deliberate result is), that the trials of earth are not
to be named in contrast or companion with the peerless joys of Heaven.
The great Apostle was one specially fitted to make such a
calculation. He himself was abundantly acquainted in the school of
suffering, and well able therefore to cast up the balance-sheet. Few
pilgrims that ever trod the lower valley, were more honored than he; but few
had greater weights to carry. He felt, however, that all these earthly
weights added together and combined, were far outweighed by one
other, and that was the "weight of glory."
His language here is remarkable. He institutes a
comparison between present suffering and future bliss—two things which we
may think cannot well be compared. May not the following have been a few
points of antithesis which suggested themselves, as His mind made the
All present sufferings have intervals of release.
There are lulls in the storm. The fevered patient may have his snatches of
repose, fitful and unrefreshing though they be. But in the glory that is to
follow, there are no intervals, no lulls, no ebbings in the ever-advancing
tide of happiness and joy.
In the sufferings of this life there are many
alleviations. The bitterest cup is mingled with some sweet
drops—the most aching soul is seldom without some supporting solaces. But
the glory which follows knows no modifications. The golden vessels there are
indeed always filling—always increasing, but they are always full. The "just
made perfect," though ever aspiring after fresh draughts of the living
fountain, will never be heard uttering the voice of complaint—"Oh, that it
were with me as in months past!" The glory is a progressive glory—the joy a
progressive joy—their change is a change for the better, never for the
The sufferings of the present, in the case of the
believer, much as they may cloud and darken his earthly and outward
happiness, cannot affect the unassailable bliss of his inner life.
But the heavenly glory will interpenetrate alike his outer and his inner
being. He will be steeped in bliss! He will have around and on every
side of him a glory which imagination has never ventured to conceive—while
his glorified spirit will reflect, without speck or stain, the image of an
"The sufferings of the present!" Go up to that bright
and glorious multitude harping with their harps, and crowding the shores of
the glassy sea. Hear their one, united testimony. It is, that but for their
trials they would never have been there. Every page in their history bears
the signet-mark of "much tribulation." It is endorsed with the words, "So
He brought them to their desired haven!" "So!" It was by a way not of
their own choosing. "So!" It was through winds, and waves, and
buffeting elements—the ship tacking about—"neither sun nor stars for many
days appeared, and no small tempest lay upon them." They love now to trace
all the mystic windings in that untoward voyage; the "deep calling to
deep"—the wave responding to wave. They love to think, "It was thus
He brought me!" There was a time when I was prone to question His wisdom—to
arraign His faithfulness; but now, I realize that could not have lacked one
thorn, one bitter drop, one tear.
As the contrary winds which carry high the migratory
birds are found in reality to assist their flight, so with the soul; when
the winds are contrary—the storm beating fiercely—it only leads it to soar
higher and higher—upwards and heavenwards—further from earth—nearer its God!
Oh, if we only saw our trials, not through the misty haze of this world, but
in the light of eternity; the reckoning would not be this, how little
they have been, but how precious they have been! How all (yes,
all) were needed to effect the desired end, all were composite parts of
one way, and that way was love! It is with the believer as with the
diamond; the more facets there are, the brighter it sparkles; so, the more
the tools of sanctified affliction have been on him, the brighter and more
gloriously will he shine in heaven!
Let me seek, then, to look beyond these portals of
sadness, and repose on the glory that is to be revealed. Soon the
curfew-bell of time will toll, telling that the fires of affliction and
trial are extinguished forever, and that the weary and jaded citizens—the
weary Church—may now retire to the rest which remains for the people of God!
"Live in Christ," says Rutherford, "and you are in the suburbs of heaven.
There is but a thin wall between you and the land of praises. You are within
one hour's sailing of the shore of the new Canaan."
It is a mighty procession that is sweeping onwards to the
Land of Promise. A sainted writer has beautifully compared it to the vast
host of Israel entering the earthly Canaan. Some had crossed Jordan; their
footsteps were treading the covenanted soil, the land of the
patriarchs—others were passing through the river-channel, the waters
standing up to make a way "for the ransomed to pass over;"—others were
patiently occupying their allotted place in the rear, until those that
preceded them had traversed the dry bed of the border river. But all were
moving on; and those furthest behind knew that every tread of their footstep
was bringing them nearer the moment when their desert trials and privations
would be at an end, and their voices too would blend in the song of victory.
And so it is with the Church of God on earth. Some are already in heaven—the
glorified, safe on the Canaan side. Some are at this moment crossing the
Jordan of death—the dark river separating the wilderness from the heavenly
land. Some are still in the pilgrim rear, amid the smouldering fires and
ashes of their encampment, casting a longing glance towards those who have
already begun their everlasting ascription of praise. But the mighty mass
moves on! The desert is retreating and the heavenly shores are nearing.
Thousands on thousands of the ransomed Israel of God are already safe
landed—"clean escaped," and their triumphant song should only inspire us
with fresh ardor to follow their steps and share their crowns! The true
Joshua-Jesus, the Heavenly Precursor, is even now standing on the celestial
shore, and to every faint and toil-worn traveler proclaiming, "These
sufferings are not to be compared with the glory about to be revealed!"
How the thought of that blessed Heaven of eternal respite
and rest, should reconcile me to any trial the Lord may see meet to lay upon
me here! It was the prospect of future glory which led this heavenly
reckoner to make so little of his earthly trials. He called that a "light
affliction," which he had borne for thirty years!
Let me often school myself in the devout arithmetic
of the tried Apostle—putting all my trials into one scale, and all the
blessings, from grace to glory, which my God bestows, into the other, and
then dare I murmur?
Lord! it is my prayer that my trial (my peculiar trial),
be what it may, may be sanctified. It is a "muffled drum" in the march of
life; but it is beating "Home, brothers! home!" Let every promise of
Scripture seem as if a bright angel hung out from the skies a guiding
signal, saying, "The darkness will soon be past, and the true light will
shine!" "Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not
tarry," and then, the reckonings of earthly trial will give
way to the reckonings of unending bliss. The voice of the Beloved will thus
be heard calling on His weeping Bride to dry every tear and prepare for a
tearless home—"Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the
flowers appear on the earth. The time of the singing of birds has come, and
the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land. Arise, my love, my fair
one, and come away!"—(Song of Sol. 2:12.)
"Wherever my path
On earth shall lead, I'll keep a nesting bough
For Hope, the song-bird, and with cheerful step
Hold on my pilgrimage, remembering where
Flowers have no autumn-languor, Eden's gate
No flaming sword, to guard the tree of life."