The Course of Faith, or
The Practical Believer Delineated

By John Angell James, 1852


There are three questions which every considerate man will propose to himself in reference to his present state of being. What am I? Where did I come? What is my purpose here on earth? And there are three more which he cannot help sometimes asking concerning the future. Where am I going? What will I be there? How shall I prepare for eternity? There, before us, at no great distance, is the grave—into the solemn and mysterious obscurity of which, neither sense nor reason can dart one illuminating ray; nor can either of them extort from its sullen silence one whisper of information. Oh, that dreadful future! Into what will that one first step from the ‘stage of earthly existence’ plunge us? To unaided human reason, the future is an unbounded, mystifying, starless, midnight darkness—without one luminous point through infinite space.

What shall we be in eternity? How easy is the question asked. But who shall reply? Think how profoundly this question, this mystery, concerns us—and in comparison with this, what are to us all questions of all sciences? What to us, are all the researches into the constitution and laws of material nature? What to us, are all the investigation into the history of past ages? What to us, are all the future career of events in the progress of states and empires? What to us, what shall become of this globe itself, or of all the systems of the universe? What, where, shall WE be ourselves—is the matter of surpassing, infinite interest. There is in the contemplation a magnitude, a solemnity, which transcends and overwhelms our utmost faculty of thought!

But where shall we gain information about this mysterious future? All men, except a few tribes of the lowest savages, have desired immortality. Man is in existence, loves life, and covets it forever; he cannot endure the thought of throwing it off, and wants to know whether he shall die out at last, or live forever. He is a creature capable of happiness or misery, and tastes much of each on earth, and is anxious to know which, or whether either, will be his lot beyond the grave. He is conscious of sin, and feels solicitous to be informed whether the consequences of transgression will pursue him into an invisible state. He is capable of indefinite growth in intelligence, virtue, bliss; and he would be informed if he is to be cut off in the infancy of his being, his faculties, and his acquisitions—or is to enter upon an endless career of improvement. How is he to be satisfied on these momentous points?

The world by wisdom knew not God—nor immortality—nor heaven. Unaided human reason, we repeat, never did, never can, assure us that there is a future state at all. If it could ascertain this, it could not tell us whether it is a limited or an endless duration. If this could be proved, and it were certain that there is to be everlasting consciousness, it would be at a loss to tell us whether it were a state of unmixed bliss, or misery, or a mixture of both. This ascertained, it would still be unable to inform us how eternal felicity is to be obtained, and eternal misery avoided, through our eternity of being. And even if all this were demonstrated, it could not tell us whether immortality were a gift bestowed on the nobler spirits of our race, or were the common endowment of all humanity.

Unaided human reason fails at every step! Neither Plato, Cicero, Socrates—nor Aristotle, could settle these questions. The sages, after uttering their speculations and their hopes, followed them with their gloomy doubts and fearful misgivings. "The earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God." The whole heathen world "groans and travails in pain together until now," longing for an immortality to relieve them from the burden of their sufferings, their cares, and their labors.

When Edwin, the Saxon monarch, embraced Christianity, he convoked the heads of the nation and laid before the assembly the motive of his change of religion, and asked them what they thought of this, to them, new doctrine. After others had given their opinion, a chief of the warriors rose and spoke in these terms—

"You may recollect, O king, a thing which sometimes happens in the days of winter, when you are seated at the table, with your captains and your men-at-arms, when a good fire is blazing, when it is warm in your hall—but rain, snow, and storms are without. Then comes a little bird and darts across the hall, flying in at one door and out at the other. The instant of this transit is sweet to him, for then he feels neither rain nor hurricane. But that instant is short; the bird is gone in the twinkling of an eye; and from winter he passes forth to the winter again. Such to me seems the life of man on this earth; such is the momentary course compared with the length of time that precedes and follows it. That eternity is dark and comfortless to us; tormenting us by the impossibility of comprehending it. If then this new doctrine can teach us anything respecting it, it is fit that we should follow it."

Such was the beautiful and picturesque confession of Paganism through the lips of this aged warrior, all up to that point, its devoted votary. Yes, the soul of man, apart from the discovery made to us by the revelation of God, like this little bird, seems to flit from darkness across the abodes of the living in this world into darkness again, and to wander, nobody knows where, without shelter, in the regions of wintry storms, snows, and hurricanes.

What oracle then is to settle this tremendous question, and to tell us what we shall be, where, and how—when we die? What is to relieve the conscious heart, brooding in solemn silence over the darkness of the sepulcher? Hearken to the music—the heavenly music of those thrilling words– "And now he has made all of this plain to us by the coming of Christ Jesus, our Savior, who broke the power of death and showed us the way to everlasting life through the GOSPEL!" 2 Tim 1:10. What are all the volumes which philosophy ever wrote, compared for value to these few golden sentences. By the cross of Christ, the dark screen that blocked our view, and hid the realms of glory from our sight, is rent asunder, and the vista of heaven and eternal ages is laid open to the eye of faith! Immortality, seen only as a dim object of hope, amid the midnight darkness of Paganism, and only as a dim object of faith amid the twilight of Judaism, is beheld amid the noontide splendor of Christianity in its magnitude and grandeur, as at once the object of a strong and steady faith and a lively and a saving hope.

The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and a future state of rewards and punishment beyond the grave, all are matters of pure revelation. We do not say there are no presumptive evidences, or rather we should say, suggestions of these things, apart from revelation—but they are only suggestions, which never did, and never could satisfy any anxious mind. Immortality itself is so vast, so wondrous a thing, as to seem applicable, when we come to reflect upon it, only to the Great Eternal himself. To conceive that I, or any human being, born after the manner of the brute creation; and like them sustained by the earth; a poor, frail, feeble creature of yesterday, and crushed before the moth—who, after a few fleeting years at most, shall return to the earth from which I sprang, and seem to be utterly blotted out from existence—shall continue to exist in some mode, and in some scene of existence, for millions of ages, and that these will be as nothing in comparison with what will yet follow! That a duration, passing away beyond all reach of the stupendous power of numbers, will be as nothing! and that it will still be myself—my very same being! And that it will be a perfectly specific manner of being—with a full consciousness of what it is—an internal world of thought and emotion—a perfect sense of relations to the system in which I shall find myself placed—and this a continual succession of distinct sentiments and experiences, and with the constant certainty of the train going on forever! How utterly surpassing all this to reason, and almost incredible to faith, when it contrasts this wondrous—all but deified man—with the present little, insignificant, momentary creature, who flutters out his tiny being in this temporal, earthly—and as compared with the universe, little world!

Yes, and this immortality too, is the destiny and the portion of all that swarm of ignorant, debased, and to all appearance, utterly insignificant, useless, sinful creatures—which populate a large portion of our earth. Could anything short of a Divine revelation establish such a fact? Could anything short of God's testimony lead me to embrace it? Not that there is anything in it contrary to reason—no! But everlasting felicity is something so vast, so wondrous, so magnificent--that unaided human reason never could have concluded that this gift, so rich, so splendid, so extraordinary, could be bestowed on a sinful child of dust!

And does not even faith, I say again, sometimes shrink from it as a huge improbability? Nothing short of all those irrefutable evidences which accredit the mission of the Son of God, could ever make me believe that I am the wondrous being which immortality makes me. To believe this in reality—this is faith—strong faith—mighty faith.

The great mass even in this Christian land, and also among those who frequent our sanctuaries, do not really believe in eternal felicity. Their conduct is utterly at variance with such a belief. Is the impress of immortality upon their character? Is there anything that bears resemblance to the mighty idea in their conduct? Are they not infinitely more swayed by the present time, than a future eternity? Has not earth infinitely greater attractions for them than heaven? Is not all their labor bestowed upon the present, while the endless future is neglected and forgotten? No, no! Immortality is not believed by the multitude. It is a mere name, an opinion, a speculation; any thing but a deep practical conviction.

Still God has testified it. There, in characters radiant with the light of heaven—there, written as with the beams of the Sun of Righteousness upon the page of inspiration, is the mighty word, IMMORTALITY—the gift of God—the hope of a dying world—the portion of the righteous! The mind even of the omniscient God himself never conceived anything greater; nor his words, which are not as our words, ever expressed anything nobler than that matchless sentence– "To those who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honor, immortality—eternal life." O, most precious volume, if only for this one verse! I can never come to it without stopping to gaze, to wonder, and adore. Glory! Honor! Immortality! Eternal life! What subjects of thought! Compared with their brightness—the sun at noon is dark! Compared with their grandeur—the ocean is insignificant! Compared with their beauty—the choicest scenes of nature are dull!

How have heroes panted for glory! How have the ambitious panted for honor! How have the living panted for immortality! How have the dying panted for life! Here, in this one verse, are all these in their essence, divested of the shadow and the sham with which pretense and illusion have invested them! Here, in this one verse, are all these in their purity, divested of everything that ignorance and falsehood have attached to them! Here, in this one verse, are all these in their perfection, comprehending all that in the Word of God belongs to them. Philosophers, orators, poets, historians—all, find for me if you can—quote for me if it be possible—from the whole range of human literature, a sentence so weighty in terms, so lofty in subject, so worthy of God to utter or man to hear—as this which fell from the pen of the blessed apostle.

It would seem as if, when he wrote that wonderful sentence, he had in view the whole race of aspirants after what is illustrious; the multitude of every age and every country who have lifted their heads above their fellows; and looking round with exploring eye, have sought to find some adequate and permanent good for the soul; as if he saw their eager hope, their laborious pursuit, their panting bosoms, after what they thought to be glory, honor, and immortality; and knowing how they were deceived, said to them– "Here it is—revealed by the gospel, and proposed to all who live according to its precepts!"

But it is time, after this long introduction, to dwell upon the subject of this chapter, which is, Faith in reference to heaven. Faith also believes in hell. Yes—it believes all those dark threatenings—those dreadful descriptions of punishment that will come upon the wicked. Faith stands sometimes—not that it loves to do so—but because God requires it—upon the borders of the flaming pit, to hear the groans of the lost, and see the smoke of their torment ascend up forever and ever! Perfect love casts out a servile fear—but not a filial fear. There are seasons when a contemplation even of the place of punishment may be beneficial even to a child of God. HOPE and FEAR are the two scales in the soul of the Christian which regulate each other—as one sinks, the other rises—and faith holds and adjusts the balance. And it is well, that if we sink into a frame where the objects which appeal to our hope are but feebly influential—that we should be roused by those addressing themselves to our fears.

The awe produced on the soul of the believer by the representation of the miseries of the lost, is beneficial and even necessary. And it has been conjectured by some, that as the continued and certain security of saints in glory will be effected by moral means—the contemplation of divine justice as it appears in the eternal punishment of the wicked—will be among those things which will accomplish the eternal preservation of the righteous in heaven. But we have now to do with heaven—and the following are the exercises of the believer's mind in reference to it.

1. The true Christian believes the CERTAINTY of heaven. It is an assured fact that there is a heaven—a state of ineffable bliss, beyond the grave, for the righteous. He holds it not as a mere opinion—a speculation—a something that reason renders probable—but believes it as that which revelation makes certain. Heaven is one of the chief subjects of the New Testament. Though of necessity invisible, it is in his view—a grand reality. True he has sometimes his gloomy seasons, when the unseen, unknown world, appears to him, as an uncertain world. Doubts, fears, difficulties, and objections rise up before him—or are injected into his mind like so many fiery darts of the wicked one. Distressing at times are these conflicts between his reason and his faith—bitter his feelings—agonizing his state. This is what Bunyan calls the Dark Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is however only for a while. He takes up the shield of faith, which receives the burning missiles and quenches them all. He lays hold of the Word of God, recovers his confidence, rejoices in hope, and exultingly exclaims– "Yes, it is all true. All the evidences of Christianity sustain my hope of heaven."

To all the suggestions of unbelief—to all the logic of skepticism—to all the difficulties of imagination—to all the surmises of his own suspicious fears, he opposes the testimony of God. He knows what man can say against it; but he also knows what God has said for it. He has studied the historic evidences of the gospel; and if not, he has in the power of the gospel in his own heart, the inward witness in himself. He can stake his soul upon the gospel testimony for eternity. "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, until that day."

2. The Christian understands, believes, and approves the true NATURE of heaven. Heaven with him is not a mere name—an unintelligible sound—an undefinable thing. He has learned from his own experience what kind of heaven he wants, and from the Bible what heaven God has provided for him. There is much that God has not revealed—much that he could not reveal—much that if revealed, we could no more understand, than a newborn babe old could comprehend Raphael's picture of the Transfiguration if it were shown him, or Handel's Messiah if it were performed in his hearing. "It does not yet appear what we shall be." No, we cannot know it! We must have some other faculties, or else those we already possess must be otherwise than they are to understand it. Heaven is too great to be fully made known. We must trust God for our hereafter, as we trust him for our present state. And we may trust him. He has undertaken to provide for our perfect bliss, and we may be sure he will do nothing unworthy of himself.

"The glories that compose his name,
Stand all engaged to make us blessed."

He treats us as parents sometimes do their children, who promise them some good thing, and require them to trust their wisdom and goodness not to disappoint them. It is beautifully said, God has "prepared for his people a city—therefore he is not ashamed to be called their God." Wonderful implication! It shall be something worthy not of their acceptance merely—but of his bestowment! A prince would be ashamed to give a present, which was only suitable for a peasant. God would be ashamed to bestow a heaven less than that which accorded with himself. With such an assurance, we may be content to walk by faith amid much present ignorance of heaven. Our hope will never make us ashamed. It will not utterly fail us, and will not fall below our expectation. When the Queen of Sheba saw Solomon's glory, she almost fainted under the display, and exclaimed– "The half had not been told me." We shall say the same when the veil shall be drawn aside, and eternal glory blaze out before us! Or rather shall say, the millionth part had not been—and could not be—made known to us!

But heaven is not all unknown. Something is revealed. We can here only refer to, without stopping to explain, certain passages of Scripture which describe it, and give the substance of them. Heaven will consist of the moral perfection of the soul—its perfect knowledge—1 Cor. 13:12—perfect holiness—Ephes. 5:27—perfect love—1 John 4:17—perfect likeness to Christ—1 John 3:2. The physical perfection of the body in incorruptibility, immortality, glory, and spirituality. 1 Cor. 15:42-44. The presence of God in the full manifestation of his glory. Rev. 22:4. The beatific vision of Christ. John 17:24. 1 Thess. 4:17, 18. The fellowship of angels and all the redeemed. Heb. 12:22-24. The joint worship of the heavenly multitudes. Rev. 4:5. The perfect service of Christ, without interruption, imperfection, or cessation. Rev. 22:3. Complete freedom from pain, toil, hunger, thirst, anxiety, fear, sorrow, and death. Rev. 7:15-17. 21:4. Such are the substance of heavenly felicity. Take any one of them by itself, and each is a heaven. Add them altogether, and what a heaven! How pure! How elevated! How felicitous!

The description of heaven, as given us in the New Testament, is one of the most striking and convincing internal evidences of the Divine origin of the Word of God. How unlike the Elysium of the Romans, or the Paradise of the Muhammadans, or the Eden of the Swedenborgians, which in fact are but 'earth transferred to the skies'.

Here, in the true heaven—all is unearthly, divine, god-like. It is such as the corrupt heart and imagination of man never would or could have devised. It may be truly said, this New Jerusalem must have descended from heaven. Man never would or could have conceived of such a heaven as that which the Bible makes known. But even of this true heaven—how little can we now understand? How faint and feeble are our conceptions of these things. To believe them is nearly all we can do, and wait for their meaning hereafter. Now it is the province of faith to believe in this heaven—the heaven of the Bible—the heaven that God has promised and provided—to believe in this—just this—all this, and nothing more. It confines itself to the testimony; it does not speculate—but takes the matter just as it is revealed.

3. The Christian believes in the possession of this heaven, so far as relates to the soul—immediately after death. There is a great mystery, no doubt, concerning the intermediate state of the redeemed between death and the resurrection. The condition of disembodied spirits is a subject which neither the profoundest philosophy nor theology can comprehend—or even discuss. Nor is this at all surprising, when we consider how little we can understand of the very nature of spirits as distinct from matter, or the link by which they are united. We may therefore be well content to be in ignorance of their separate state, and it is no part of the business of faith to explain the mystery. It believes—but does not know. It receives the fact, without presuming it understands all about it. The 'godly dead' are with Jesus. Paul desired to depart and 'be with Christ,' evidently importing that he should be with him when and as soon as he departed. He speaks of our "being absent from the body and present with the Lord." The Christian often adopts the words of our poets,

"In vain my fancy strives to paint
The moment after death;
The glories that surround the saint
When he resigns his breath!

"Oh, the hour when this material
Shall have vanished like a cloud;
When amid the wide ethereal,
All the invisible shall crowd;

"And the naked soul, surrounded
With realities unknown,
Triumph in the view unbounded
Feel herself with God alone.

"In that sudden, strange transition,
By what new and finer sense,
Shall she grasp the mighty vision,
And receive its influence?"

4. It is the part of faith to regard the grace of God, in bestowing heaven, the very same grace as is displayed through the mediation of our Lord Jesus. No cross, no crown, is a phrase susceptible of a double meaning. It may refer to the experience of the Christian himself, and signify that he must for Christ's sake be content to bear a cross on earth—if he would wear a crown in heaven. But it may be also applied to Christ, without whose cross we had received no crown. The believer neither asks, expects—nor hardly wishes, a heaven which is not obtained for him by Christ. Everything Christ was and did for us as a Savior, has a reference to heaven. It is beautiful to see how Manton applies the whole of Christ's different states to the procuration of our heavenly felicity. His coming from heaven was to show heaven to us; his going again there was to prepare a place for us; his sitting at the right hand of God is to promote our interest in heaven; his coming to judgment is to take us back with him to heaven.

Christ in his humiliation was appareled with our flesh—that we in our exaltation might be clothed with his glory. If he was crucified—it was that we might be crowned; and his grave—was the way to our throne! In his exaltation he is not only carrying on his intercession—but wielding his scepter of power, to bring us, as the Captain of our Salvation, to glory. There the saints in glory are represented as gathering round the throne of the Lamb—worshiping the Lamb—and ascribing their salvation to the blood of the Lamb. This is their anthem, when surrounded with all the glories of the city founded upon precious stones and paved with gold– "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, for you have redeemed us unto God by your blood."

5. Nor does the faith of the Christian leave out the necessary FITNESS for heaven, accomplished in and by the work of the Holy Spirit. For every state, and for all circumstances in which man is placed, whether it is a condition of duty or of enjoyment, there must be an appropriate preparation. The apostle's language shows that this is as true in reference to heaven as to anything else– "Giving thanks unto the Father, who has made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Col. 1:12. This fitness is as necessary as the title. A farmer just taken from the plough would not be fit for the splendor of a court. He would enjoy no happiness in such a situation—but find it only a 'splendid prison,' and he would pine amid the blaze of royalty—for the humble scenes of his hamlet and his cottage. As little could the great bulk of mankind be happy in their present state of mind amid the honors and felicities of the celestial world. Heaven is a state of service as well as of bliss—for there "his servants shall serve him," and we are taught to pray that "God's will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven." It is the combination of obedience and enjoyment; for the former there must be the preparation of a devoted heart, and for the latter of a spiritual taste. But what devotedness to Christ, or what taste for his delights, have the multitude around us? In heaven they would be as strangers and aliens; among a people whose language they could not talk, all whose customs were strange to them, and with whose enjoyments they could hold no sympathy.

Or to change the illustration, they would be like men in a fever amid the delicacies of a feast—they could do nothing—taste nothing—enjoy nothing. There must be an education—a discipline—a probation—a preparation for Paradise, or it could be no Paradise at all. This fitness must be acquired upon earth, or it never will be acquired anywhere. Without pardon, a sinner would be the more miserable the nearer he was brought to the throne of an offended God; and without holiness he would feel an indescribable irksomeness in that state, where there is nothing but what is holy. And where are pardon and holiness acquired but on earth?

The believer realizes this fact, and as long and as much as he acts in character, he is seeking by the work of God's Spirit upon his soul to gain this fitness. He feels that he is educating for heaven; and labors that the means of grace, the dispensations of Providence, and his own hope of eternal life—may prepare him for the glory to be revealed. He believes in the fact of different measures of reward and punishment in the eternal world; and that the higher degrees of grace here on earth, fit him for the higher degrees of glory in eternity. Heaven is a state of order, arrangement, and gradation; and the higher posts of service will be there awarded to those who by diligent spiritual cultivation have prepared for them upon earth. A holy ambition for large service in the celestial state is one of the legitimate exercises of faith. A right-minded Christian would do much for Christ here—that he might do proportionately for him hereafter. Perhaps this may constitute the differences in glory—the various degrees of rank and elevation in the heavenly city. This is the believer's business then on earth, to be ever educating for his Father's house and home under the influence of the Divine Spirit. How delightful an aspect does this give to this world—as the schoolhouse for heaven. What a dignity does it impart to man amid all his seeming littleness—he is a student for immortality. What an air of importance does it throw over the seeming trivialities of human life—they furnish the lessons of holiness, patience, and benevolence—which the Christian is learning for the formation of his eternal character. What an incentive does it supply to his diligence, self-denial, and perseverance—he is contending for some post of honor and glory in the kingdom of his Father!

6. We have partly anticipated what comes next; and that is, faith realizes the believer's own personal interest in I

heaven. It is a glory for him. Heaven is not a vast domain which is to enrich some other heir, at which he may look with admiration of its magnificence, and with congratulation to the happy individual who is to call it all his own. Heaven is his! He himself is the heir of all this vast estate. It is for the righteous and he is one of the number. He is not satisfied merely with singing,

"When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I bid farewell to every fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes,"

for he gains a clear evidence of his title. He has the Spirit bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. He could not let a matter of such infinite consequence, as whether he is going on to heaven or hell, remain uncertain. He has gone down into the depths of his own soul with the Word of God in his hand, and examined his state by a comparison of the one with the other, and by the aid of his own consciousness, has come to the conclusion that it is all safe with him for eternity. He sees there the work of the Spirit in the soul, tallying with the word of the Spirit in the Bible; and he says– "Yes, I, this individual self—this poor, sinful, yet renewed creature; I, who now am so little thought of by others, and still less thought of by myself; I, who am so soon to die, be buried, and forgotten, I, am to inherit everlasting glory. The I AM a child of God now, is to be the everlasting I am in heaven. I am to be one of 'the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven!' I am to be one of 'the spirits of just men made perfect.' The greater the glory, the more miserable I would be—if I had not a well-founded persuasion that it would be mine."

7. The Christian is favored with a foretaste of heaven's bliss, even on earth. What a mystery, as we have said, is heaven to the multitude. Talk to them of the enjoyments of heaven upon earth, and you would appear to them as one who dreams. Yet is it absolutely certain that heaven in its commencement is known upon earth; and to use the beautiful language of Lady Powerscourt– "a Christian should be not one who looks up from earth to heaven—but one who looks down from heaven upon earth. His citizenship is in heaven. He is an immortal, and should have the demeanor, the consciousness, and the feeling of one. He knows what heaven means, for he feels it. Faith gives to him a foretaste now. The very belief of such a state is its beginning. Is it not so with all our future joys? Who that looks forward to some promised and expected joy, does not in the very anticipation, commence the reality?" What thoughts and imaginations are awakened! The soul throws itself forward into the very midst of the expected delight. Its hopes out-travel itself, and are already there before it takes full possession. Watts has truly said,

"The men of grace have found
Glory begun below;
Celestial fruits on earthly ground,
From faith and hope may grow"

Or if they do not grow on earthly ground, then like the spies who went into Canaan and brought back the grapes of Eshcol—faith and hope go up into heaven, and plucking off some of the fruits of the tree of life, bring them down to the believer upon earth. The contemplation of heaven is like the sight of a feast to a hungry appetite—the first relish of it. Just think what these graces do for their possessor; what a sense of peace with God and of his love to us; what a feeling of our love to him; what a quietness of conscience; what an admiration of the glory of Christ, with an intense sense of gratitude and affection to him; what a consciousness of the power of holiness and its unspeakable enjoyment; what a delight in God's people, and what a benevolence to all God's creatures; what a stillness of the passions, and a regularity of the affections; what an elevation above the base cares and pursuits of the world; how independent is the soul for happiness of all the possessions of this world; how seemingly rich in all the materials of true felicity; how free from all the agitations of this tumultuous scene of things; how near to God, the fountain of life—when really and powerfully under the influence of faith. And what is heaven as to its great essentials—its eternal felicities—its unfading delights—but feelings such as these?

Here on earth then, if there be a heaven at all, is its bud. Can we imagine—can we wish for—a heaven higher, purer, sweeter than the absolute perfection of such a state of mind as this? Let any rational mind, any renewed heart, yield itself up to the full enjoyment by an intelligent faith, of the truths of God's precious Bible—let him thus plunge into the depths of God's glorious nature, Christ's wondrous work, and the revelations of the unseen world—and can he be ignorant of what heaven is? If we know nothing of heaven, it is because we know nothing of our Bibles; and if we feel nothing of it, it is because we have not a stronger faith in them. God has set the door of glory ajar, and in part its windows, in the Bible—that we may look in and see; and has sent out by the hand of the sacred writers some small portions of the celestial feast, that we may taste and long to go in, and partake fully of the celestial banquet!

And now what INFLUENCE should this faith have upon us, in reference to the heavenly state?

Should it not raise our MEDITATIONS upon it? If worldly men in the state of their youth, look onward with such delight to their coming of adulthood—when the title, and the mansion, and the domain, shall all be theirs—when their honors, their riches, and their enjoyment shall be ripe, gathered, and feasted upon; shall we, who are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—who are expecting an inheritance which incorruptible, undefiled, and which fades not away—be forgetful of ours? With heaven expanding its glories above us—giving us the beginning of them within us—and spreading them out in eternal perspective before us—shall we be so taken up with the base, earthly, and dusky objects of this world—as to turn aside and not see this great sight? Shall we be pleased with candles—while the glorious sun is blazing above us, and pouring a flood of radiance over the earth, and covering the face of nature with smiles? Shall the pictures of children engross and amuse our attention—when the snow-clad mountains—and the great ocean—and the boundless prospect of river, forest, and valley, are spread out before us?

Or to go back again to the case of the youth, shall the mind of the future prince be so taken up with the games and sports of youth—as to forget the regalia, the honors, and the gratifications of royalty, which are just ahead of him? All this is rational, compared with that strange oblivion of heavenly glory which characterizes the conduct of the professing Christian. O man, renounce the hope of heaven—or think more about it. Be consistent, and if heaven is so base in your esteem as not to be deemed worth thinking about—give up the belief in it.

Let the expectation of heaven be fruitful of CONSOLATION. If heaven is truly believed in, it must be so. Is heaven such a trifle that the expectation of it should have no effect in moderating our grief amid the troubles of life? What said the apostle, when speaking of this glorious inheritance– "Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold trials." 1 Peter 1:6. Why, if all the trials of all the men on earth could by possibility be cast into one of the scales of any individual's lot, and heaven placed in the other, the apostle's words would be true, where he says– "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

The first view of heaven when we reach it, will in a moment cause us to forget all the trials of earth—and the first thought of heaven now, should have the same effect in measure. Christian, why do you weep? Look up! Heaven is smiling above you. Look ahead! Heaven is opening before you. Let your tears, if they must fall, be as the drops of rain which fall in the sunshine and reflect the colors of the rainbow. The last tear of earth will soon be wiped away amid the first smile of heaven; and that smile will be eternal!

Let us in the exercise of faith, be content with our remaining ignorance of the celestial state. We have already said there are many things of which we necessarily must be ignorant. Much as we do know—there is more we do not know. There is a curiosity in us all to know as much as we can about the vast, mysterious, eternal future. Over that future hangs a thick, impenetrable veil—oh that it were altogether drawn aside—or only a little way; or if not altogether transparent as glass, yet that it were semi-clear. No! nothing more than what the Scripture has said, can be told us. Is it not enough? Can we trust God for nothing? Would we walk to heaven by 'sight'? No, we must wait and be contented. We are sure when the curtain is drawn up, instead of querulously asking in the language and tone of disappointment– "Is THIS ALL!" we shall exclaim, I repeat, with delighted surprise as did the Queen of Sheba when she stood before Solomon– "The half had not been told me!" Since God has promised us a heaven worthy of himself to bestow, we should now be contented in shades far deeper than those amid which we dwell, assured that we shall never be ashamed of our hope. Without a single star to relieve the darkness of the night, we could wait for the rising of the sun—how much more so with the skies over our head, studded with constellations of promise and description.

Out of faith in the reality of heaven, comes patience also—that calm and quiet grace—that serene and waiting state of mind. It is true that the greatness of an expected and delayed blessing is of itself, too apt to produce impatience. Yet when that blessing is certain, the mind can control its eagerness—by the assurance that it will come, and that its greatness will infinitely compensate for any little delay. As regards the great bulk of professors, we have no need to speak of patience to them. Their danger lies in the opposite extreme of a too great eagerness to remain—but think of such a Christian as I have at this moment before my mind's eye; one who in early life was living in great respectability of circumstances—but is now more than fourscore years of age—suffering constant pain, and sometimes extreme anguish—dependent upon charity not only for comforts—but necessaries—often apparently on the verge of death, and then sent back again to more suffering, like a vessel just entering the haven, and then driven out to sea again. What need of patience is there here? To groan, and weep, and agonize at the very door of heaven; and that door not open year after year to the poor sufferer. But even in such a case, how powerful is the thought– "Heaven is worth waiting forever so long, even in my melancholy circumstances." The night is long, and dark, and stormy—but the morning must come—and O, what a sunrise will it be!

What is so powerful to overcome the FEAR OF DEATH as the promise and the prospect of eternal glory? Why, why, O Christian, tremble at the thought of dying? What is death to him who has faith in Christ, but a dark passage to the regions of immortality—to the realms of ineffable light and glory? Beyond that dark valley lies "the inheritance of the saints in light." And can you not enter with boldness, the gloomy valley, for the sake of the sunny plains beyond—especially when you are to be accompanied through it by him who brought life and immortality to light? Cleombrutus, a Pagan, on hearing Plato discourse of the immortality of the soul, ran and leaped into the sea, that he might immediately be in that blessed state. Cicero represents Cato as saying– "If God should grant me to become a child again, to send forth a second time my infant will from my cradle, and having even run out my course, to begin it again, I would most earnestly refuse it, for what profit has this life "and how much toil—yet I do not repent that I have lived, because I hope that I have not lived in vain. And now I go out of this life, not as out of my dwelling-house—but from my inn. O blessed day! when I shall enter that council and assembly of souls, and depart from this crude and disorderly rabble." Shall a heathen have such longing desires after future glory, though only possessing such faint evidence of its reality, and such ignorance of its nature, as to commit suicide to reach it—and you, with all the light of revelation shining upon the subject, be unwilling to go when God calls you to it? The Christian's unwillingness to die, is the taunt and stumbling-block of infidels! May it be overcome in us!

Christians, I now in conclusion solemnly call upon you to consider your heavenly calling. Consider the end and purpose of your redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ. He was sent from heaven to tell you of that glorious state—to open a way for you to enter it—to show you in his own person, and to assist you by your own experience, to see and feel how much of heaven may be enjoyed on earth, and then to conduct you there. And lo! now the God of all grace is calling you by Jesus Christ unto his eternal glory. It is your calling to forsake this present world—and set your mind and affections on the eternal world. Make haste then, to leave your entanglements of all earthly mindedness and earthly affections. Learn to live in this world as those who are not of it.

Consider that futurity is the greatness of man, and the glorious hereafter is the grand scene for the attainment of the fullness of your existence. "O get then the lovely image of the future glory into your minds. Keep it ever before your eyes. Make it familiar to your thoughts. Imprint daily there these words, 'I shall behold your face, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.' And see that your souls be enriched with that righteousness, have inwrought into them that holy rectitude, that may dispose them to that blessed state. Then will you die with your own consent, and go away, not driven—but allured and drawn. You will go, as the redeemed of the Lord, with everlasting joy upon their heads—as those that know where you go, even to a state infinitely worthy of your desires and choice, and where it is best for you to be. You will part with your souls, not by a forcible separation—but a joyful surrender and resignation. They will dislodge from this earthly tabernacle, rather as putting it off than having it torn away. Loosen yourselves from this body by degrees, as we do anything we would remove from a place where it sticks fast. Gather up your spirits into themselves. Teach them to look upon themselves as a distinct thing. Accustom them to the thoughts of death. Be continually, as one ready to depart. Cross and disprove the common maxim, and let your hearts, which they use to say are accustomed to die last, die first. Often contemplate death, and be mortified towards every earthly thing beforehand, that death may have nothing to kill but your body; and that you may not die a double death in one hour—and suffer the death of your body and of your love to it both at once. Much less that this should survive to your greater, and even incurable misery.

Shake off your hands and fetters, the earthly affections that so closely confine you to your body—the house of your bondage. And lift up your heads in expectation of the approaching jubilee, the day of your redemption; when you are to go out free, and enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; when you shall toil, and groan, and complain no longer. Let it be your continual song, and the matter of your daily praise, that the time of your happy deliverance is hastening on; that before long you shall be absent from the body—and present with the Lord. That he has not doomed you to an everlasting imprisonment within those 'confining and clayey walls,' wherein you have been so long shut up from the beholding of his sight and glory.

In the thoughts of this, while the outward man is sensibly perishing, let the inward man revive and be renewed day by day. 'What prisoner would be sorry to see the walls of his prison house (so a heathen speaks) moldering down, and the hopes arriving to him of being delivered out of that darkness that had buried him—of recovering his liberty, and enjoying the free air and light.' Rejoice that it is the gracious pleasure of your good God, that you shall not always inhabit a dungeon—nor be amid so impure and disconsolate darkness; that he will shortly exchange your filthy garments for those of salvation and praise! The end approaches! As you turn over these pages, so are your days turned over. And as you are now arrived to the end of this book, God will shortly write 'finis' to the book of your life on earth, and show you your names written in heaven, in the book of that life which shall never end!