John Dagg, 1794-1884
This poor world is not such a habitation as a wise man would desire to live in forever. The young and thoughtless expect to find happiness in it; but experience teaches that the expectation is vain and delusive.
Disappointment, care, and sorrow form a large part of human life; and as men approach the end of their course, they can adopt the language of the patriarch Jacob: "Few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage." (Gen 47:9) This sad experience results from the fact, that God's curse rests on the world, because it is full of sin — and what wise man would wish to live forever in a habitation that God has cursed?
If this were the only world, it would be well for us to make the best of it. But we have abundant proof that another world exists; and a revelation from it has been made, by which we may learn how to obtain a portion there, that will be full of unmixed happiness, and will endure forever. We are called on to relinquish our delusive hope of earthly good, and lay hold on the hope set before us, that is sure and certain. We are called on to give up our pursuit of the unsatisfying and short-lived pleasures of the present life, and to seek the substantial and eternal joys of the life to come. It is certainly the part of wisdom to obey this call.
Another fact needs to be considered. Whether we will or not, we are compelled to leave this world, and take up our eternal abode in another habitation — either of joy or woe. If we had all possible enjoyment here, it would be but momentary, and would not deserve a thought in comparison with eternal happiness and misery. We are rapidly passing through this world, to our eternal home. Whether, in this lodging place of wayfaring men, our comforts shall be few or many, is a matter of very little importance, and unworthy of anxious care. But it is extreme folly to be unconcerned about the eternal world to which we are hastening, and where our condition will be fixed forever.
There are some things in religion which are hard to be understood, and about which some persons are inclined to be skeptical. But is there any other thing so incredible, as that intelligent and immortal beings should make the things of this fleeting world their chief care, and give themselves no concern about eternity? If the fact were not daily before our eyes, who could believe it? Were the Bible to inform us that there are intelligent immortals in a remote planet who thus act — the skeptic would appear almost excusable who should doubt the truth of the statement. But that book tells us of men, intelligent and immortal men, who are blinded by the god of this world, and led captive by him at his will, and who do not consider their latter end, but rush on to destruction, as the ox goes to the slaughter!
This testimony, than which the Bible contains nothing more incredible, is verified by the whole history of mankind. From this reigning folly, even Christian men are but partly delivered. Even they perpetually need the exhortation, "Be not conformed to this world!" (Rom 12:2) To preserve them from the fascinating power of "the things seen, which are temporal," they should look habitually at "the things which are unseen and eternal." For this purpose, the doctrine concerning the future world is to them very important. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4) And faith, being "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," (Heb 11:1) must lay hold on the realities of the invisible and future world.
The doctrine concerning the future world, teaches us to set a proper value on earthly good.
If the honors of the world tempt us — let us remember that, in the grave, the king and the poorest of his subjects will lie on the same level, and mingle with the same dust; and that, in the resurrection, the noble of the earth, who have not sought the honor that comes from God, will rise to shame and everlasting contempt.
If the pleasures of the world bewitch us — let us conceive of them as the bait with which Satan would ensnare our souls, and lead them into everlasting torments.
If our hearts incline, at any time, to covetousness — let us contemplate the rich man in Hell, stripped of all his possessions, and unable to procure a drop of water to cool his parched tongue.
So let us keep eternity directly in view; and, in its light, the honors, pleasures, and wealth of this world will lose their luster, and cease to charm.
This doctrine concerning the future world, teaches us how to bear the afflictions of life. The heaviest affliction that can crush the spirit here — is far lighter than the weight of wrath which falls on the wicked in the world to come. Why, then, should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins (Lam 3:39)? So long as he still lives, out of torment, out of Hell — his suffering, however severe, is inconceivably less than his sins deserve.
Moreover, his afflictions, if endured with humble resignation to God, are conducing to his holiness. Though light and momentary, they work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17). With eternity in view, the heaviest and, most enduring anguish of this life appears light and momentary. We can rejoice to endure it, because of the glorious effects which it will produce in the eternal world.
This doctrine concerning the future world teaches the value of religion. Learning and talent, agreeable manners and amiable disposition, are all worthy to be prized — but they do not secure eternal blessedness. True religion is the one thing needful, the good part that will never be taken from us (Luke 10:42). Let sinners despise religion and curl the lip with scorn, when you speak of its claim on their regard: but even they, when eternity is near in prospect, learn the value of what once they despised. With eternity in view, how precious is religion! How precious the Bible which teaches it!
This doctrine endears Christ to believers. He is precious, for what he is in himself; but this preciousness is enhanced by the consideration, that it is he who delivers us from the wrath to come, who is preparing a place for us in the world of bliss, who will come and take us to himself, and forever lead us to the fountains of living waters, in that land of ever-flowing delight!
This doctrine consoles us under the loss of Christian friends. We follow them to the tomb, and our tears flow freely — but we sorrow not as those who have no hope. They are not lost to us — but have only gone home before us; and we are waiting to be sent for, when it shall be the pleasure of our heavenly Father. Our separation from them is short, for we are fast approaching our journey's end, and then we shall join them again, never more to part!
This doctrine, if received in lively faith, enables the Christian to meet death with joy. When a man repents of sin, and believes in Christ, he is prepared to die safely; but he may nevertheless, through the weakness of his faith, be afraid to die. To meet death without fear, requires strong faith in Christ, as the Savior of sinners. To meet death with joy, requires strong faith in the doctrine concerning the future world. When we can stand, like Moses on Pisgah's top, and view the good land in all its beauty — our hearts leap forward, with strong desire, to go over Jordan, and possess it. We long to join the happy company who dwell forever in the presence of our God. O to be free from sin, as they are; to behold the face of Jesus — as they do; to partake of their bliss, and unite in their everlasting hallelujahs!
Reader, what are your prospects in the future world? Have you received the love of the truth, that you may be saved? Does the truth as it is in Jesus enter your heart, with sanctifying power? Are you daily striving, by a holy life, to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things?