W. Landells, 1865
"In my Father's house are many mansions." John 14:2
The Scriptures give us no information which enables us to determine with certainty what the "many mansions" are, so that we are left exclusively to our own conjectures. I do not think, however, that, if our conjectures be not formed in utter regardlessness of what we know, they are likely to be very far wrong; and while we do not wish to invest them with an air of certainty, or induce you to receive them as the truth, they may nevertheless tend to exalt your conceptions of, and increase your interest in, Heaven, by showing you what, so far as man can judge, Heaven may be.
From the changing position of our sun in relation to the fixed stars, as they are called, the supposition has been entertained and expressed by astronomers, that as the earth with its moon, and other planets with their satellites, move round the sun, so the sun with his planets, and other suns with their planets, are moving round some other world which is the center of the universe.
If there is such a world, it must be incomparably vast in its dimensions to sustain the revolution of so many suns and systems many times larger, in all probability, than all the worlds combined; and it has been suggested that this may be Heaven that there the glorified body of the Savior may have taken up its station as the head of all principalities and powers; that there the grandeur of the Deity, the glory of His natural and moral perfections, may strike the mind with more bright effulgence, and excite more elevated emotions of admiration and rapture than in any other province of universal nature; that this vast and splendid central world may constitute that august mansion referred to in Scripture under the designation of the third Heaven, the throne of the Eternal, the Heaven of heavens, the light that is inaccessible and full of glory.
Now, supposing this suggestion to be true, it would afford a good interpretation of the language, "In my Father's house are many mansions." Regarding that world as the Father's house of which the Savior speaks, within its vast limits there would be space enough to admit of mansions sufficient for a number of inhabitants far beyond the power of arithmetic to compute a number more than equal to what the boldest mind and the largest heart have thought of as constituting the population of Heaven.
But while this would admit of a fair interpretation of the words, I see no reason for regarding Heaven as confined to one locality or one world, however vast, and however glorious. There appears to me good reason for supposing that Heaven will extend throughout the universe of holy worlds, that is, every world into which sin has not entered, or from which it has been expelled.
Prior to the entrance of sin into this world man enjoyed during the brief morning of his life something like Heaven upon earth. We always speak of the paradisiacal state as something closely akin to Heaven, as a first lower stage of heavenly enjoyment, and of the garden in which the first pair dwelt as a kind of outward heavenly temple; else why speak of them as dwelling in "paradise," when the Savior applies that term to the glory into which He entered and to which He raises the believer after death?
Now, on the supposition, which we do not think unreasonable, that other worlds are peopled with sinless intelligences, the conclusion cannot be easily avoided that they experience a similar or a superior happiness to that which Adam enjoyed in his state of innocence; that as in Eden, so throughout the different provinces of God's dominions, around whatever suns they move, and in whatever relations they stand the light of Heaven shines there, the calm of Heaven prevails there, and the happiness of Heaven is experienced there.
The very magnitude of creation appears to me to demand this conclusion. When we think of the thousands of worlds, some of them so immense in magnitude, which the naked eye sees sparkling in our own heavens; when we consider that these are but a fraction, compared with those which the telescope reveals, and that even these dwindle into insignificance compared with the myriads which people those fields of immensity into which the eye never penetrated; when we think that, as compared with the universe, this earth is but a single leaf compared to the multitudes that cover the trees of the forest, or as one grain of sand compared to the vast accumulations that belt the ocean waves; when we consider that were the space that lies within the limits of our solar system to become one mass of light, there are parts of creation so distant that, to a spectator placed there, that immense mass of light would be no greater than some of the least brilliant stars appear to us yes, that there are worlds in which, though that mass of light were suddenly extinguished, the event would be unnoticed and unknown; when we think of this, it is difficult to conceive, I think, that that immense creation is a desolate waste; that those numberless worlds are so many unpeopled solitudes, that they have been created for no higher purpose than to roam in silent grandeur through the spheres, at best splendid toys for the gratification of a few favored creatures, or as a home of beings who can render God no intelligent adoration, or to people regions which lie far beyond the range of creature's cognizance.
I find it difficult, yes, I may say impossible, to entertain such a thought as that, and accordingly, I must either conclude, contrary to all presumptive evidence, that they have been, and are still, under the dominion of sin, or that they are designed to form so many provinces of that Heaven which God's holy creatures shall inherit, so many separate "mansions" in the house of my Father. I prefer the latter conclusion it is a more glorious one, and commends itself more to the instincts of my heart.
But, further than this: I am confirmed and strengthened in this conclusion when I consider that in so far as we can form a conception of the scenery and appearance of other worlds, some of them at least are not unworthy of such a destiny. We see one planet, for example, attended by seven moons, and surrounded with two rings of great magnificence. Now, what variety of agreeable lights and shades may these occasion, and how gloriously must they diversify the scenery of its sky! Then there are stars of various colors, which are suns to different worlds, every object in which is bathed in their glorious light. But these things only serve to suggest the thought of other aspects of magnificence, and other places of glory which may fairly be supposed to distinguish more distant worlds, rendering them fit to be the habitation of those whom God delights to honor, and justifying the splendid imagery which the Bible employs to describe our heavenly home.
As I said before, I do not contend that these considerations give certainty to my conjecture; but even as a probability, I think it deserves to be entertained. To every large-hearted and thoughtful man it must be a grateful supposition, that the worlds are "mansions" in his Father's house, to no one of which he will be confined exclusively, to any and to every one of which he will be welcomed, and in all of them be at home; from one to another of which he is to pass, levying glory from them all, making them all contribute to his stores of knowledge, finding in them all new accessions to his joy, receiving from them all new illustrations of the divine perfections.
As we indulge the supposition, we feel as if standing on the summit of a great rock which lifts us above ourselves, and above this little ball of earth, and raises us into a higher region, where we breath a new atmosphere; floods of new life come pulsing through our veins, the breath of Heaven fans our face, new vigor is imparted to our frame, new light comes to clarify our mental vision, so that we form a more definite conception of the destiny which awaits us, while it kindles within us a more intense longing for its enjoyment.
Whatever you may think, however, of all that has been said of the many mansions in our Father's house, there is this thought that must appear clear enough to you all that Heaven is something vast. They are altogether mistaken in their conception of it, and have no sympathy with its spirit, with what the Bible says of it, who look upon it as the meeting place of a sect, a sort of little room where a small party are to be gathered together. Oh no! There is a "great multitude" there, "which no man can number," and they come from no land in particular, but from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tribe, and tongue, "a great multitude which no man can number."
It has nothing in harmony with those little feelings which we are sometimes apt to have. I am grieved when I hear men quote the passage, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" quoting it, not because it contains a blessed promise for those to whom it applies, not rejoicing in the promise, but rejoicing because God's flock is a "little flock." I hold that it is a spirit altogether unchristian. God has His own people in the earth that is true; but let us rather cherish that expansive benevolence which will rejoice in the thought that there may be many more who are His people than we are prone to suppose; that in that better land we shall find many whom we did not expect to see; that from various nations they will come and will form a great multitude.
That is the feeling we ought to cherish. If it be the case that few get to Heaven, that many perish, it is not a thing to be rejoiced in, but a thing to be mourned over; and instead of contending with a paltry pettiness for the littleness of the number who shall appear there, let us rather labor that we may be among that great number, and labor to bring many more with us, who, in the day of the Savior's coming, will hail us as those to whose instrumentality they have been indebted for their salvation, through whom they have been brought to swell the ranks of the redeemed.
And now, in conclusion, some will say that such a subject as this is not practical. Well, in one sense it is not and yet I think it has a very practical tendency. Is it not practical to show you something of the attractions of Heaven . . .
so that you may desire it very powerfully;
so that you may daily live in cultivating a fitness for its enjoyment;
so that you may seek to lay up for yourselves a treasure there?
Surely that is practical enough. I tell you what I think: anything is practical which will . . .
make you think less of this poor world,
make you think more of the world which is to come,
wean your affections from earth,
lead you to long after Heaven.
At all events this is practical: that Heaven, as vast as it is, will not receive you should you knock at its door, and it be found that you have come there with an unholy heart. In it "nothing shall enter which defiles, neither whatever works abomination or makes a lie, but those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life."
Let me say to those who have good reason to think that their names are there: Oh! look upon that Heaven as your home; try to get your affections weaned from earth, and set them on things that are above. Remember, this is not your rest; your rest is there.
Habitually think of Heaven as your home, and when you contemplate death, it will have no terrors for you, and when you die you will be able to look upon your death as a going home, and to rejoice with one who said, as she lay in her dying agonies: "I'm going home! I'm going home!"