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live so as to obtain it. And the less we think of it, the less real it will seem, and the less influential it will become. We ought, then, to strive to understand somewhat of our final destiny, and what shall be the end of those who attain unto God.
Now the words of our Lord supply us with the germ of thought out of which may grow expectations that cannot deceive us, aspirations that cannot fail to move us, and which are as truthful as they are inspiriting. It is all summed up in this, to be for "ever with the Lord.” If we can but conceive of what Christ is, and will be, and fully embrace the thought that the Saints will be “joint heirs with Him," all is there. The only heaven made known to us is one of which the “ Lamb is the Light.” The Bible contains no high-flown descriptions of material splendour, but it places Jesus Christ in eternity, and says, " You shall go with Him there. He is destined to live for ever-the man Christ Jesus, King of kings. You shall live with Him, and outlast all
love Him now.” This is at least intelligible, if very simple, and simple because it is Divine.
Now we cannot say that we are unable to form an idea of what a heaven will be an everlasting heaven, of which Jesus Christ is the centre and the light. "The city lieth foursquare,” and on each wall is written one of the Gospels in lines of gold. Those four Evangelists stand as it were upon the border-land amidst the shadows and mysteries which lie between the present and the future, and they point us to Jesus Christ, shining in the endless glory, the Sun of Righteousness, who shall carry with Him this planetary system of redeemed human nature through all space and duration. “They shall shine as the splendour of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever.”
Can we not say at once, Yes, that will be a real heaven ! For happiness depends on persons more than upon places. Home does not consist so much in four walls as in the practice of the four cardinal virtues by people who live within the walls -temperance, truth, justice, and charity.
But some may say, For ever! Will that not be rather wearisome to live for ever with the same person? No, it is the quality of genuine goodness that it never wearies. Beauty which depends on feature rather than expression may pall upon the admiring eye; intelligence which is merely secular is apt to become critical and cynical, and is certain to lose its attractive force in time; but real goodness charms as long as it endures. You are never weary of a thoroughly honest and orderly soulnever weary of a spirit of moderation in outward enjoyments -never weary of a just disposition, which works righteousness in great things and small--and never weary of the radiant sunshine of a loving, forgiving, and compassionate temper. When such persons are thrown into association in a church or a family, they can bear to live with each other through the changes of many years, and never suggest the reciprocal desire for breaking away. Time only strengthens the bond which unites them. Memory always ministers fresh vigour to the respect and affection which binds them together, and even the little defects become fresh causes of endearment and tenderness. Goodness is of the essence of God; it is a sparkle from the ever radiant Sun; and as God himself is never “ faint or weary” with His own eternal Being, so He imparts this unwearying quality to genuine excellence. There is no picture half so satisfying, through years of familiar gazing on it-no work of sculptured beauty half so pleasing, through years of observation, as it stands on its pedestal to "enchant the world ” in a garden of delights under an Italian sky—as simple Virtue. For this shines with an unquenchable lustre. It constitutes an ever-comforting home for the souls that live under its beams. They “sin who tell us love can die," or it can ever cease to please.
Now, if these things are true of the imperfect forms of excellence and holiness which we find on earth, how much more true must they be of our Lord Jesus in the heavens? When He was on the earth, He was " full of grace and truth,” and He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. The chief social charm in the creation must be found in the person of Him who is its Lord. We can conceive of many kings whom it would be small delight to serve, small delight to talk to, of small avail to trust in. There are some rulers whose manner of command is as sharp and cold as a hailstorm; but His service will be perfect freedom. There will be work to do; for God, who has invented this world of occupations, will doubtless find work for all His servants, “ day and night,” in His wide dominions, either in controlling physical nature, or in ministering to and governing inferior souls. And all that work will be wrought under the mastership of Him“ on whose head are many crowns." But every person will find that service of Christ an enduring delight. There are governors on earth who have the art of winning the hearts of those who obey them; masters and mistresses who sweeten labour with praise, and smiles, and sympathy, and thereby win the unpurchaseable service of a thorough devotion. Such was Jesus on earth. He taught His disciples to be enthusiasts in His cause.
He was no Egyptian task-master, requiring bricks without straw, or compelling task-work by violence. He drew forth the energies of affectionate hearts and hands, because He had “first loved them.” And so it will be for ever. To be well commanded is one of the chief blessings of life, in a home, a church, a ship, or a nation : and the Lord has given this most
admirable of “Commanders to His people” for ever. They will all run in the path of His commandments. The zeal of David's three heroes at the well-spring of Bethlehem only represents the zeal and love with which we shall be able to serve this most loving and self-sacrificing Lord for ever. All forms of selfsacrificing affection on earth are but types of that devotion. When the maiden plies her ornamental handywork for her lover, or the good wife her plainer industry for the husband whom she thinks worthy of ceaseless service, or the mother toils far away into the night for her little ones, or the father labours from year's end to year's end for those who are dearer to him than life-all these beautiful forms of labour and self-sacrifice are but emblems of a loftier devotion yet to come—that with which the “Bride of the Lamb" shall lavish her affectionate and dutiful obedience upon the feet of the Lord and Bridegroom of all holy souls in heaven, washing them with her tears of “everlasting joy," and "wiping them with the hairs of her head." And this it will be to be “ for ever with the Lord.”
But we can form still other tangible ideas of the heaven which awaits us. Not only will it be a life of most happy work -of work rendered happy by the gracious, radiant spirit of the Master who appoints, and directs, and rewards it, so that the soul will feel that while it submits to the most rightful authority, that authority appeals to its affections as strongly as to its will -but Jesus Christ will stand in the relation to each individual Christian of a personal lover and friend. “He loved me, and gave himself for me." There are some genial and gentle natures with which all who know them wish to be friends, and all who know them best wish to be more intimate still. Jesus will be such a luminary of love and friendship in the midst of the Church. In times of great trouble God sometimes raises up remarkable helpers, who are able to individualise an immense number of cases of distress, to remember names, stories, specialities of sorrow; and it is beautiful to see them moving about among the suffering throngs, with a nod of sympathy or of recognition for this and that and the other member of the stricken community. Such cases were seen more than once in the great Lancashire distress—in the example of good men who seem to take the infirmities and bear the sorrows of entire populations. Alexander the Great, again, is said to have known the names of all the soldiers in his army, and to have carried his army list and war-office calendar in his own memory. Something analogous to this, then, there will be in the heaven of Jesus Christ. No one will be quite lost in the crowd. There will be no “masses," no unanalysed “millions”-the innumerable multitude of people will not be able to “ tread one upon another,” much less to tread one another out of sight. There will be One there who will bear on His breastplate the names of the whole congregation, who will carry in a "Book of Life" in His bosom every name which has been written since the foundation of the world. Each individual will bear the value of a king, the sanctity of a priest, and the dignity of a son or daughter of the Lord Almighty. Each soul will expand itself like a full opening flower in the pleasant sunbeams of a Divine sympathy and love. None will need to say, I am too low down for notice, too insignificant for aught except to shine like an atom of the gold on the pavement of Jerusalem. Each one will be drawn to Christ as a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. And herein is a certain and permanent source of "everlasting joy." To be loved and cared for, and noticed and sympathised with, and understood and acknowledged, by the good and the great and the powerful, and that by One whose smile confers eternal life, and whose word gives impulse to the spheres, must be a permanent spring of happiness.
Especially when we think of the quality of the companionship there. Association with the blessed Redeemer will make everybody more and more like Him, and it is to be considered what that state of existence must be in which there are living in close association, in work, and thought, and worship, a vast number of persons conformed to the moral image of Jesus Christ. Here there are usually too many remainders of infirmity to enable us to form a vivid conception of what pleasures a society of good men is capable of conferring—and, unfortunately, the worst qualities are usually on the surface—so that men derive a worse idea of Christian discipleship than is its due. But even here, if there are none who are without fault," there are some who shine with a lustre of grace so beautiful, that we learn from them to believe in the possibility of the general diffusion of a form of character which shall spread happiness around, as infallibly as the sun spreads daylight. Those whom we are able most deeply to love on earth are precisely those rare persons who bear the most striking likeness to Jesus Christ, in His “fulness of grace and truth.” What, then, must, and will, that society be, where the common character is Christ-like, where every person you meet will be as truthful as God, as just in thought, word, and deed as God, as loving and sympathetic as Almighty Godwhere the beauty of the Lord shines on every countenance, and glisters over the outlines of every form in glory? Why, it will be perpetual Paradise, for such society will be an eternal home, and never can grow wearisome. The true greatness of each soul will then have worked out all the littlenesses which at present seem to diminish individual worth-the reigning honesty
will have vanquished the last traces of subterfuge and insincerity, and all the small crookednesses of imperfect grace—the reigning love will have obliterated the petty self-seekings that marred the goodness of earthly saintship, and a permanent loftiness of tone, kindred with the Infinite Realms, will cause each character to remind all others of the Majesty on High.
“That where I am, there ye may be also.” Have we exhausted the meaning of these words, so far as our minds are capable of comprehending them, when we have spoken of active service, of social communion, and of personal character? There is yet another, and it is the chief conceivable result of dwelling for ever with the Lord Jesus-weintend the relations with God himself which must ensue. “ God himself shall dwell with them and be their God.” When Jesus was on earth, He said to Philip,
i Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? Believest thou not that I ans in the Father and the Father in me; he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Was this true of the earthly manifestation, and will it not be still more fully true of the heavenly? Yes, the wonderful blessedness of that eternal state will arise from the fact that in the face of Jesus Christ will shine for ever the manifestation of the glory of God. Those who are “ with Him,” and one with Him, will be with, and are with, God. And this will be the principal source of the endless joy, to see His face, no longer by reflection darkly, but near at hand and by a direct intuition, will inspire the soul with a rapture unspeakable and full of glory.” It can issue in nothing less than filling the soul with a perpetual sense of infinite satisfaction. For God is Light, and God is Love, and Light and Love are the aliments of the soul's deepest, and most durable life. Man shall eat angels' food. The mind shall rejoice in real knowledge. Here we are shadows, and our thoughts are but shadows. But close and intimate communion with God must needs raise the understanding into a capacity for enjoyment of which here we have but the very faintest beginnings. The soul shall then see truth in the light of God; all that it beholds shall be beheld in the clear mirror of the Divine consciousness. This will transform the whole current of its thoughts. God beaming in upon the spirit must render all its thinking valuable, and connected, and progressive. Here we are visited with a few lucid intervals. After a lifetime of study we attain only to the power of redeeming a short space occasionally from vain dreaming, when the ideas are clear, and coloured, and consecutive. The rest of life is a sort of vegetation; so that we should be ashamed to be asked what we are thinking of, and in what style, perhaps twenty-one or two hours out of the twenty-four. But when the Divine intelligence has formed an