Our Tearless Home!
"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!" Revelation 21:4
Some knowledge of the world of glory is necessary. Without this We could have no desire after it, no sympathy with it, no preparation for it. But our acquaintance with it here is very imperfect and inconsiderable: "it does not yet appear what we shall be." After all the development derived from Scripture and from experience, it is a glory that is yet entered the heart of man to conceive, the things which God has prepared for them that love him."
Our knowledge is circumstantial, rather than essential. It is negative, rather than positive; it tells us what Heaven is not, rather than what it is. In our present state our liveliest conception of good is the absence of evil—of pleasure is the removal of pain—of joy is the termination of grief; and so blended are these things together that it is impossible for us to think of the one without being reminded of the other. Conformably, therefore, to an experience well understood by every son and daughter of Adam, the blessedness of the heavenly world is held forth by the annihilation of every kind and degree of misery from Heaven. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Tears stand here as significant of sorrows. Tears and sorrows are not always inseparable. There are some who seem to have an abundance of tears, who give ample proof that their emotions are neither very deep nor durable. And there are those who rarely weep, and yet they feel much, and feel more on that very account, as their grief lacks vent. People in great anguish are commonly beyond the power of weeping. I have observed this in the unhappy creatures I have attended previous to execution. But in a way sufficiently general, tears are the consequence and the evidence of sorrow, so as to stand significantly for it.
Again—when it is said, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," it is supposed that it is no uncommon thing for the people of God themselves to weep. Divine grace, instead of excluding sensibility, increases sorrow, refines it, sanctifies it; it takes away the heart of stone, and gives us hearts of flesh. God says, "They shall come forth with weeping;" He has said, "Blessed are they that mourn."
Ah, Christian! you well know your religion has already cost you ten thousand tears, in addition to those which you inherited as a man; for "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." We read, therefore, of those who mourn in Zion—that is, in the Church, and not in the world. But they will not mourn always; they will not mourn long; "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Let us not lose ourselves in general declamation, nor perplex you with numberless divisions and particulars; but let us notice some SOURCES of these tears.
1. We will mention those which arise from SECULAR losses. There are some of you who know very well the losses, the anxieties, the vexations, the embarrassments, the difficulties of active life; and you are well prepared to sympathize with those who do. But there are those who are incessantly struggling with hardships, with unfavorable occurrences.
"And day by day some current, wanting force,
Sets them more distant from a prosperous course."
There are those who lie on their beds, endeared even by their sufferings, and ask what shall they eat, and what shall they drink, and wherewithal shall they be clothed—and they feel anxious not only to obtain the necessities of life, but to be able, as professors of religion, to provide things honest in the sight of all men, that the cause of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.
There are those who, by some fatal event, have failed in their resources, and thereby are blasted the fond hopes they had entertained for the education of their children, and settling them in life. How many are there who have been thrown down from the summit of affluence to the very depth of indigence, and whose present distress is embittered by the recollection of former plenty and indulgence. They are now grateful for the alms they once themselves dispensed; they have exchanged the mansion for the contracted room, and the voice of flattery, for the tone of censure or reproof. And is there no female in our day to be found who has realized the substance, if not the circumstances, of the following affecting narrative:
"Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Your servant, my husband, is dead; and you know that your servant did fear the Lord; and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen."
2. Let Us Notice the Tears that arise from SOCIAL losses. Perhaps there is nothing, to a person of a tender spirit, that is more trying and productive of distress than disappointment in friendship: and it is well when the providence of God, as well as the Scripture, says to us, "Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?" We can turn to him, as the Church did in the days of Micah, and say, "Therefore, I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me."
3. Sometimes you lose your friends from infirmity, temper, ignorance, prejudice.Others of them, who are rotten at the very core—these were sure to fail you in the hour of distress. They were friends for prosperity; and, accordingly, as soon as ever David experienced the affliction which arose from the rebellion and treason of his son—when, with his head uncovered, and barefoot, he walked up the side of the Mount of Olives, where afterwards stood the garden of Gethsemane, in which his son and his Lord agonized—one ran to him and said, "Behold, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom;" it was on this occasion that he said, "It was not an enemy that did this, then I could have born it; but it was you, a man of my equal, my guide, and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company."
Then it was that he said, "O that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest! Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness."
Thus it was with JOB. Job therefore says, "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks, they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid; what time they wax warm, they vanish; when it is hot they are consumed out of their place."
Thus it was with PAUL; when he had appealed unto Caesar, and when he was going to Rome, in order to appear before the emperor, the brethren came down from Rome, along the fine Appian way, as far as Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns, fifty-two miles; when Paul saw this, he thanked God, and took courage. Surely he could rely upon these in the evil hour. Not upon one of them; and therefore, says he, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray God, that it may not be laid to their charge." "To him that is afflicted pity should be shown from his friend; but he may forsake the fear of the Almighty." You may meet with cold sympathy—if it deserves the name; and, instead of assisting, vileness may seem to take advantage of your distress.
4. But there are social BEREAVEMENTS, as well as defections. Paul speaks of "the comforts of love;" and he who does not know the comforts of love does not yet know the difference between a brute and a man. The highest pleasures of which our nature is susceptible are derived from social endearments. Ah! you exclaim, and are not a thousand pangs derived from the same source? Do we not pay dearly for all our relative delights? Are they not expensively taxed with the pain of sympathy, the dread of separation, and the anguish of loss? It has been poetically imagined that the roses in paradise had no thorns: however this may be, we well know that our roses are not without them; but, as Dr Watts says, "Our roses grow on thorns, and honey wears the sting!"
Our possessions render us fearful and anxious, and expose us to loss. And all through life, in proportion to our affections will be our afflictions. Therefore we shall always suffer more from friends than from enemies—from our own connection than from strangers.
Alas! what sighs oppress the minds of many. Here has come to the house of God one who formerly had a fellow Christian for a friend. They unbosomed themselves to each other in all their pleasure and griefs. There was but one heart, only it occupied two bosoms. And now he is exclaiming, "Lover and friend you have put far from me, and my acquaintance into darkness." They strengthened each other's hands in God, and found the truth of Solomon's words, "Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so does a man his friend by hearty counsel."
Here is a Rachel, she was viewing the growing charms of her babe, and was saying, "This same shall comfort us;" but the blossom withered into dust; and she has been laying aside its little clothes with her own hand, and sitting by the side of the drawers in the chamber, weeping for her child, and refusing to be comforted. The father viewed the son as his image, his representative, his heir; but he has been at the mouth of the grave, where he sighed, "You destroy the hope of man; childhood and youth are vanished."
Here returns to her place, the widow and the mother. She had a husband—she had children; but she is now saying, "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty."
Here is Martha, at the feet of Jesus, saying, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died."
And here is Jacob, shaking his gray hairs, and saying, "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not! All these things are against me!"
We must notice those sorrows that arise from bodily pains and infirmities. However you may pamper, or adorn, or indulge the body, it is what the apostle calls it, "a vile body" or, as it is in the margin, "the body of our humiliation." And how humble is it in the baseness of its appetites; in the multitude and importunity of its needs; in the frailty of its frame; in the numerous diseases to which it is exposed, the seeds of which are often in the constitution, and, by external circumstances, ripen and bring forth fruit unto death.
How often can an accident dismember or confine you. A few grains of sand, by collecting together in the body, will produce an obstruction that will yield such excruciating torment that the man "chooses strangling and death rather than life."
Dropsy is drowning one;
fever is burning up another;
the palsy is benumbing a third;
the ague is chilling a fourth.
"So am I made to pass months of vanity," says Job, "and wearisome nights are appointed unto men. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? I am full of tossings to and fro, unto the dawning of the day."
Here is another picture (never were there such painters as the sacred writers.) "He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain; so that his life abhors bread, and his soul dainty food. His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out. Yes, his soul draws near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers."
Admitting that this is not the case; allowing his constitution to be ever so vigorous—age impairs it, and loads it with infirmity, so that the man says, I cannot see, I cannot hear; "those that look out of the windows are darkened, the strong men bow themselves, the voice of the grinding is low, there is fear in the way, the grasshopper is a burden, desire fails—because man goes to his long home."
And you will observe here also, that these physical evils often becloud the mind; they often lead us to draw the conclusion that we have no part nor lot in the matter, and that our heart is not right in the sight of God. They frequently induce us to entertain unworthy apprehensions of God himself. They often, also, deprive a Christian of the public means and ordinances of religion—he is truly the Lord's prisoner.
He can say, "When I remember these things I pour out my soul in me; for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day."
Again, why is it that a Christian does not do the things that he would? Has not his soul wings? Is he not concerned to arise and fly? And he often practices his wings too. He is in a cage, a cage of plagues. He "groans, being burdened; not for that he would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."
Let us refer to another class of these tears—those which arise from moral imperfections. And these, to a Christian, are the most painful of all. Paul, who was a great sinner, speaks of these as he does of none of his other imperfections! "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" "When I would do good, evil is present with me." To know that his work is important, and to be unable to pursue it; to know that his progress is necessary, and to feel himself hindered at every step; to feel vain thoughts lodged within him; to be constrained to say,
I have a faithful God, and I cannot trust Him;
I have an infinite Benefactor, and I cannot praise Him;
I have the best of Masters, and He has the worst of servants in me."
to be obliged to say, My sun of experience, like Joshua's, is standing still; or worse—My sun of experience, like Hezekiah's, has even gone back ten degrees! This leads him to inquire—
"Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is that soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His word?"
And by fresh trials administered by the providence of God, he discovers fresh corruptions, looks again into the chambers of imagery, and inquires, "Lord, who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults."
Another source of tears is to be mentioned—those which arise from the wickedness of others. Now I look upon this to be the surest evidence of the renewed mind to which we can refer. You are weeping for the souls of others, not your own, for they do not expose you to condemnation; and therefore, if you mourn over them, it must be from a religious principle.
God knows this, and God is so pleased therefore, that we read in Ezekiel that the executions were stayed until the man with the ink-horn had impressed a mark on the foreheads of all those who mourned and sighed for the abominations that were done in the land at Jerusalem.
Yes, wherever the Christian sees sin, he sees something that dishonors God—something that destroys a soul—something that crucified the Lord of life and glory. He can say with David, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved: rivers of water run down my eyes, because men keep not your law." He cannot see God's law trampled upon—cannot hear God's name blasphemed—cannot witness the contempt thrown upon the sacred day, and upon the glorious gospel of his Lord and Savior—without feeling aggrieved.
The people of the world often reproach Christians with being mopish and melancholy. You ungrateful wretches! do you reproach them for this, when you yourselves are the cause of a great deal of their distress and sorrow? They weep, because you never weep; they mourn, because you never mourn. They know your danger, though you are not aware of it. They see that your destruction slumbers not, and your damnation lingers not; and when these things come near home, when they regard our own immediate connections, how can they help saying with Esther, "How can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?"
I was told this one day:
A young man, now in the ministry, was the only son of his mother. She was more dependent on him than he was on her, he having property by heirship. He was determined to repair to a place of dissipation. She opposed it, but in vain. She besought him with tears and embraces, but he said, I will go, and she could do no more. He went, she saying, as he withdrew from her presence, I shall retire to weep. He went, and conscience went along with him; and, while he was waiting in the place for the commencement of the amusement, he said within himself: My dear mother, perhaps, is at this moment retired weeping and praying for me. The words sounded in his mind: Will you go?—and his answer, I will go. He immediately repented and said, I will go from hence: and he arose immediately, and went away, and returned to the place no more.
Let me mention another anecdote, now that I am upon the subject. In the West of England, a pious man and woman resided, who had a son, a favorite son too, but he was of an infidel turn. A minister, who had some reputation for eloquence, was to preach in the place. They persuaded him to attend; and, as he was fond of good speaking, he complied with their invitation. The subject was like ours this morning—the happiness of the heavenly world. All seemed charming; but when he looked into a corner of the pew, he saw his mother weeping, and when he looked into another corner of the pew, he saw his father weeping.
When they arrived at home they asked him how he liked the preacher. "Oh," he said immediately, "he was a good natural speaking; but what in the world, while all the rest seemed so delighted, could induce you to weep?"
"Oh," said the mother, "I wept not because I feared I should lose this blessedness, but at the thought, my son, of your being deprived of it."
"Ah," said the father," seeing you weep, I wept also at the same thought."
They said no more (and nothing is ever gained by noise and wordiness)—he immediately retired, and, in his chamber, said, "I have made my dear father weep, and I have made my dear mother weep long enough; it is now time to weep for myself; God be merciful to me a sinner!"
Let us pass from the tears, to consider THE REMOVAL OF THEM. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." The deliverance has four characters:
1. It is DIVINE."God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." He alone can do it; and He alone is able to do it; He is the Father of mercies, the God of all grace, the God of all comfort. "When He gives quietness," says Elihu, "who can make trouble? And when He hides His face, who then can behold Him? Whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only." He can pardon the greatest guilt—He can subdue the most fearful corruption—He can make all things new.
2. The deliverance is FUTURE.It is not said, God does, but "God shall, wipe away all tears from your eyes." Earth will always be distinguished from Heaven. Whatever tabernacles you now rear, you will soon have to take them down again: you will soon hear a voice saying, "Arise and depart, this is not your rest, for it is polluted."
There is a difference between the race and the goal. You are now running the race that is set before you; and you are required to run with patience—the crown is suspended on high.
There is a difference between the warfare and the victory. You are now in the conflict; and though it be the good fight of faith in which you are engaged, it is a trying one; and you often say, "So I fight as one that beats the air." It is death that will proclaim the triumph, and say the warfare is accomplished.
There is a difference between the seed-time and the harvest. You are now sowing, and you are sowing in tears.
3. The deliverance is COMPLETE."God shall wipe away all tears." He wipes away some now, and indeed many now. In the course of your history and experience, Christians, how many has He already wiped away! But at what period here can a man say, "Well, now my troubles are all over—now the storm has spent all its fury—now serenity has returned."
Alas! the clouds return after the rain, and deep calls unto deep now. But then, all the sources of distress will be dried; then there will be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain—for the former things are passed away. Nothing shall be seen but joy and gladness—nothing heard but thanksgiving and the voice of melody; for when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away.
4. The deliverance is CERTAIN.You are commanded to rejoice in hope. There are thousands who are doing this, whose hope will issue in the bitterest disappointment. But this cannot be the case with your hope, O believer! Your hope is founded on the word of Him that cannot lie. It is firmer in its basis than the earth or the Heaven: Heaven and earth may pass away, but His word shall not pass away. "God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes."
Christians, in the midst of your trouble, this subject ought to comfort you. You see that the last is the best, not only of some but of all your trials. If life is short, your trouble cannot be long. A few more watchings, a few more fightings, a few more weeping days, and all your tears will be wiped away: there are none beyond the grave. We know not what your last tear will be shed for; I know what it ought to be shed for—that you have done so little for your God and Savior while you are here, who has done so much for you. But whatever the last tear be that shall be shed, it will be wiped away.
Improve your present afflictions, therefore, to endear this blessedness; let it render it more desirable. This will be the effect hereafter; you will look back and be thankful, not only for the deliverances, but for the tears themselves. You will then see that all your sorrows were mercies in disguise—that the thorns which edged up your way only hindered your roving, and turned your feet into the paths of peace—that the storm which beat upon you wrecked you unexpectedly on a happy shore, of which before you were entirely thoughtless and careless, directing your course toward a very different object.
No tears then! None arising from worldly things—no cares in business, no perplexities in trade.
No tears then! None arising from loss and bereavements of friends and relations.
No tears then! None arising from bodily sickness, accident, and infirmity. The heart will heave a sigh no more, nor the head ache again.
No more tears from the imperfection of graces!
No more tears from the sad scene around you. Your righteous soul shall be no more vexed with the filthy conduct of the ungodly. The Canaanite will be no more in the house of the Lord forever.
You will say no more, "Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!" for you will mingle your existence with those of the blessed made perfect, with an innumerable company of angels, with Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and with God the judge of all!