The Glorious Prospects of the Believer
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Cor. 2:9
The believer in Christ must of necessity be a happy man. Though like the Master whom he loves- and loving, he serves- his path in some places may be paved with flint, or fenced with briar, yet amid it all, fed from the fullness of Christ and living upon the supply of the covenant, yes, upon the God of the covenant, he is, and he must be, a truly happy man. Beloved reader, we live below, far below our spiritual privileges. We claim not all the blessings of our birth-right, which, in this present time-state, are ours to enjoy. And if we rise not to the experience of what God has provided and promised for us now, what marvel that we so faintly imagine, and yet more faintly realize, the glories prepared for us hereafter. To a brief meditation upon these future glories this chapter invites you. And may the Eternal Spirit so cause us to see them with the glass of faith- the believer's telescope- as they are revealed in the word, as to fill our souls with heavenly and ardent desire for them.
What animating words are those which suggest the theme of our present reflections! It would, however, be doing violence to the text, and injustice to the Holy Spirit of truth, not to remark that there is undoubtedly a reference to the present blessedness as well as to the future prospects of believers. The Apostle primarily alludes to the doctrines of grace and to the mysteries of the Gospel, as inconceivable by, and as veiled to, the 'princes of this world:' and then adds, "But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." But as the present blessings and the future blessedness of believers are so closely connected, not only with each other, but in the experience of the child of God, we cannot well contemplate the one without carrying forward our thoughts to the other. It is with the glorious prospects of the saints of God we at present have especially to do. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him."
It is of the greatest moment that we clearly understand FOR WHOM THIS FUTURE GLORY IS PREPARED. "Those who love Him." To such only does heaven unfold its gates of pearl. What, reader, are your pretensions to this character? Those who in reality love God form but a small portion of the human family. The great mass are lovers of self, lovers of pleasure, lovers of sin, rather than lovers of God. The fearful and universal characteristic of the unrenewed mind is enmity, and not love, to God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." The word of God makes no exception in favor of those who say that they love God, or who profess that they love him, or whose creed is orthodox, or whose lives are fair, or who, according to the world's estimate, are deemed 'religious.' If there be lacking this essential element, this crowning grace of true religion- love to God- all is lacking. "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
But what an expressive and honorable designation is this- a designation belonging to all the people of God- "those who love him!" In this quality are merged all other and inferior distinctions of birth, and wealth, and learning, and power; and the one character, the one badge, the one style and title of all is- love to God. This is the one soul; animating, pervading, and assimilating the members of the one body, the children of the one family.
Love to God is a Divine emotion, implanted in the human heart, corresponding in its nature and quality with its Divine and holy Object. It is a moral affection inspired by the perfection of moral beauty. God is a perfect Being. "In him is no darkness at all"- neither intellectual nor spiritual. "There is no unrighteousness in him." He is the perfection of all perfection. Who can set forth the Almighty to perfection? He must be infinite in his powers of conception and description who can do it. All finite imagination droops, and thought expires, and language fails, and imagery fades, in the attempt to describe what God is. And yet He is sufficiently revealed in the word, and embodied in Jesus, to be known, and known to be loved. Love to Him constitutes the essence of true godliness. A religion that has not love to God as its great principle, its grand requirement, its supreme end, is, and must be, false. It supposes another and a higher object of affection. It enthrones upon the heart a sovereign, and recognizes a government antagonist to Jehovah's. It, in fact, supposes the existence of another God- for whatever object supplants Him in the affections of the creature, whatever divides the heart with, and alienates it from, Himself, is in direct opposition to the Divine law, and 'as God sits in the temple of God, showing itself that it is God.' "You shall have no other God but me."
In nothing has God acted more worthily of His nature than in constituting love as the soul and essence of religion, and Himself its supreme Object. In doing so, He has as much consulted the happiness of the creature as His own honor; as much our benefit as His glory. Indeed it would seem as if, in enjoining the obligation, in issuing the requirement, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," He had a view to our happiness beyond every other end. Apart from the honor which accrues to Him from our obedience to this precept, what advantage can He derive from our affection? Himself the infinite sea of love, full to the eternal satisfaction of His own nature, what good could arise to Him from the tribute of affection poured from every heart? But He would bring us to a more perfect enjoyment of Himself by bringing us to love Him with a supreme affection. He who loves God, walks with God, dwells with God, is like God. He has not far to travel in order to find God. Let him look within upon his own tranquil conscience, let him wander through the illuminated chambers of his own soul, and there, in finding love, he finds God. If love is not there, neither is God there; for where love is, there is God enthroned upon the heart. "God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him."
It is, then, the great characteristic of true believers that they love God. Their love embraces each person in the Godhead. They love the father- for to Him they are indebted for His unspeakable gift. They love the Son- for to Him they owe their redemption. They love the Spirit- for, having renewed them, He dwells in them forever as His temple. Such are all the children of God. O the blessedness they feel in loving God in Christ! O the happiness that springs from this divine, this heavenly emotion, expanding, purifying, and ennobling the soul! They ascribe its possession to no motive existing in themselves, but with the Apostle are ever ready to acknowledge, "We love him because he first loved us."
It is true, their love to God, the Triune God, is at best but an imperfect emotion, mingling with a thousand frailties, an affection unworthy of themselves, still more deeply unworthy of Him yet they love Him sincerely; He has drawn their hearts, has overcome them by His grace, and they are enabled to say, "Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth whom I desire in comparison of you."
The deathlessness of love to God is a beautiful idea of Scripture. Every other grace will cease but that of love. Faith! that precious grace which has been as the sheet-anchor of our soul in the wildest storms; which, as our compass, has steered us through the deep billows and brought us in safety to the port; which, amid all the trials, needs, and perils of the way, was so great and so sweet a solace- when we reach the world of glory we shall need it no more, for faith must then give place to sight.
Hope! that pole-star of the soul, which cheered us with its mild luster many a weary step of our desolate journey, gilding the dark pictures of our earthly pilgrimage with its heavenly brightness, and alluring us on to the heaven from where it shone- when we reach the world of glory we shall need it no more, for hope will terminate in full fruition.
But Love will live forever! It will tread with us the dark valley, and will cross with us the swelling river, and enter with us into the realms of eternal blessedness- its home, from where it came, and where it again returns. "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away"- but 'love never fails,' but lives forever.
We proceed now to a rapid glance at the "things which God has prepared for those who love him." And first, there is the PRESENT blessedness of the saints. And, O, how sweet is this, what tongue of man or angel can describe? They are inconceivably great. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." Contemplate what He has prepared for us in the everlasting covenant of grace. "I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David," says God. This covenant, made with Christ, who is both its Mediator and Surety, secures to the believer all the mercies appropriate to his present state of conflict and of trial. They are 'sure mercies.' None others are so. The mercies of the worldling are as uncertain as the wind, as unstable as the sea. 'Passing away' is written upon them all. But the present blessings of the covenant child of God are 'sure.' Redemption, 'sure;' regeneration, 'sure;' salvation, 'sure;' the promises, 'sure;' a present God, 'sure;' a full Savior, 'sure;' eternal life, 'sure;'- all as 'sure' to the 'house of David' as Christ the spiritual David can make them.
Saints of God! what a sweet encouraging truth is this as you tread the vale of tears towards the mount of God! The world knows us not; the saints but imperfectly understand us. Tender and sympathizing as some are, how often are we compelled to say to them- "There are depths of sorrow in my soul, there are secret recesses in my heart, which you cannot reach. No one can touch those springs but Jesus. None can enter into and illumine the orbit but the Sun of Righteousness." Turning from the ignorance of the world, from the false judgment, the wrong interpretation, the misplaced confidence, the unkind rebukes of the saints, what a reviving cordial and what a soothing balm to the faint and wounded spirit is this truth- "the things which God has prepared for those who love him;" even the "sure mercies of ]David!"
But especially in the Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the covenant, are all great and glorious blessings prepared and treasured up. No conception can fully grasp the greatness of that declaration, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." Fulness of justification, so that the most guilty may be accepted. Fulness of pardon, so that the vilest may be forgiven. Fulness of grace, so that the most unholy may be sanctified. Fulness of strength, and consolation, and sympathy, so that the most feeble, afflicted, and tried, may be sustained, succored, and comforted. O how imperfectly are we acquainted with the things which God has prepared in Jesus for those who love Him! He would seem to have laid all His treasures at our feet. We go to Pharaoh, and he sends us to Joseph. We travel to the Father and sweet it is to go to Him!- but we forget that having made Christ the, "Head over all things to the Church." He sends us to Jesus. "Go unto Joseph." Precious words! Every need has the voice of the Father in it, saying, "Go to Jesus." Every perplexity is the Father's voice- "Go to Jesus." Every trial is the Father's voice- "Go to Jesus." If it pleased the Father to prepare in Christ all these spiritual things for those who love Him, surely it must be equally pleasing to Him that I, a poor, needy, ignorant, guilty creature, should draw from this supply to the utmost extent of my need. I will, then, arise with my burden, with my sorrow, with my need, and go to Christ, and prove if His infinite willingness to give, is not equal to His infinite ability to provide for me all that I need.
But let us turn to the contemplation of the FUTURE PROSPECTS of believers- of all contemplations perhaps the most sanctifying that can interest the feelings or engage the soul of man. In this sense of the passage it may in truth be said, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." We at present dwell but in the suburban parts of heaven. We tread here below its lower streets- the mere outskirts of glory. Now and then we catch a view of what is passing within the celestial city. We gaze for a moment upon its glittering spires, its star-paved streets, its walls of jasper, and its dome of light. An occasional strain of its music floating upon fragrant breezes, falls upon our ear, soothing the spirit and awakening desires to be there. But the glorious vision is not of long continuance. Pisgah's summit is again capped with clouds, and we descend to the valley beneath, to battle once more with sin and sorrow, and learn that heaven, though it soon will be, is not yet come.
I have remarked, that the contemplation of the coming glory is, of all meditative themes, the most deeply sanctifying. Heaven is revealed, and not as a state merely, but as a place, "I go," says Jesus, "to prepare a place for you." And upon the ear of the expiring malefactor He poured these enchanting words, "This day shall you be with me in Paradise." We have sufficient data given to us upon which to found some correct idea of what awaits us in the upper world. We glean from the sacred Scriptures enough knowledge of its nature and society, of its employments and blessedness, to awaken the most intense desire for its fitness and its enjoyment. It thus becomes the focal point upon which the believer's eye loves to fix its longing gaze.
In the race, he views it as his goal; in the warfare, he anticipates it as his prize; in the pilgrimage, he looks forward to it as his rest; and amid the toil of the pilgrimage and the battle of life he is often heard to betray the inward longings of his soul, "O that I had wings like a dove! then would I fly away and be at rest."
How blessed the prospect of attaining in heaven to a state of perfect holiness! This is its most glorious beatitude. Think of possessing a nature as pure and holy as the nature of God. Think of the soul being as a mirror concentrating upon its unsullied bosom all the moral perfections of Jehovah, nothing intercepting or dimming their rays, and returning the image of the Divine and glorious Object it reflects- each sparkling beam presenting a perfect resemblance of God. This is heaven. It is no picture of the fancy, it is no ideal conception of the imagination, but a real, and tangible, and scriptural delineation of the holy state awaiting every believer. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
In heaven we shall be freed from the indwelling of evil, and be delivered from the tyranny of corruption. Sin, now our thrall, our torment, and our burden, will then enslave, and distress, and oppress us no more. The chain which now binds us to the dead, loathsome body of our humiliation will be broken, and we shall be forever free! To you who cry, "O wretched man that I am," who know the inward plague, and feel that there is not one moment of the day in which you do not come short of the Divine glory, whose heaviest burden, whose bitterest sorrow, whose deepest humiliation springs from the consciousness of sin- what a glorious prospect is this! "It does not yet appear 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."
The absence of all evil, and the presence of all good, constitute elements of the heavenly state, which place its blessedness beyond the conception of the human mind. Assure me that in glory all the effects and consequences of the curse are done away- that the heart bleeds no more, that the eye weeps no more, that the spirit grieves no more, that temptation assails no more, that sickness, and bereavement, and separation, and disappointment are forms of suffering forever unknown, and let the Spirit bear his witness with my spirit- that I am a child of God, and a door is open to me in heaven, through which a tide of, "joy unspeakable and full of glory," rushes in upon my soul. And this is heaven. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
But heaven is not a place of negative blessedness merely. There is the positive presence of all good. "In your presence is fulness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." The soul is with Christ, in the presence of God, and in the complete enjoyment of all that He has from eternity prepared for those who love Him. All soul, all intellect, all purity, all love- 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard' the inconceivable blessedness in the full ocean of which it now bathes. Its society is genial, its employments are delightful, its joys are ever new. How deeply does it now drink of God's everlasting love, with what wondering delight it now surveys the glory of Immanuel, how clearly it reads the mysterious volume of all the Divine conduct below, and how loud its deep songs of praise, as each new page unfolds the 'height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of Christ,' which even then 'passes knowledge!' Truly we may call upon the "saints to be joyful in glory." Sing aloud, for you are now with Christ, you see God, and are beyond the region of sin, of pain, of tears, of death- "forever with the Lord!"
But we cannot conceive, still less describe, the glorious prospects of believers, for, "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." We shall soon go 'home', and experience it all. Then the eye will have seen, and the ear will have heard, and the heart will have realized the things which from eternity God has laid up in Jesus, and prepared in the everlasting covenant for the poorest, lowest, feeblest child, whose heart faintly, yet sincerely, thrilled in a response of holy love to His.