1 Tim: 1:11.
As we pass through wilderness circumstances on our way (often so painful and trying) to the rest of God, there is nothing that so braces the soul and cheers the heart, imparting a fresh spring of life and energy and joy, as the sense of what God Himself is, and, we may add, of what He must of very necessity be, in the deep perfections of His Being. We feel the trials of the way - sorrow, suffering, pressure, need; but the soul that knows God - is acquainted with Him, well knows that of these things He is but the origin and source because it is His joy to bless, His nature to do good; and thus that only what is good, and worthy therefore of Himself, can ever flow from the heart of the blessed God. No taint of sin, no seed of suffering or sorrow, was there to mar that fair and wondrous scene of a completed creation when the Creator, as He looked on the work of His hands, pronounced it all very good. And as we look at the ruin and the desolation, and feel its sad effects, whether in us or without us, we can only say, "An enemy hath done this;" while we look forward to that blessed and unending rest, the rest of God Himself, in which all shall be the eternal witness, the everlasting display of goodness supreme that must expend, but can never exhaust, itself in the blessing of all within its sway.
And who would not dwell even here in heaven's own atmosphere, and live in the cloudless light of that sun that never sets - those rays of divine love that finds its delight and satisfaction in diffusing blessedness untold on all around? Truly has it been said that heaven is the scene not only of displayed glories, but of gratified affections, and these last are surely the far richer portion of our eternal inheritance. Even here it is not display that gratifies the heart; its deepest joys are not found in what is outward and visible to others, but it is when its longings are satisfied, its yearnings stilled, its affections gratified - then, and then only, the heart rests. But there - there - it will be the prerogative of the blessed God to pour out a wealth of love, a flood-tide of infinite joy, a river of unutterable gladness flowing from the exhaustless ocean of His own fulness. There will He find His eternal delight in giving, and as we range those fields of glory, and scene after scene of inconceivable blessedness opens out before our gaze, enhanced as all will be by the sense of the depth of the ruin from which we have been brought, and the infinite price paid for our redemption, how shall we bow down in rapturous wonder before our God, and adore the love that has satisfied itself in the accomplishment of our full eternal blessing - the everlasting gratification of every holy affection of which we shall be capable. Then in a fuller, deeper way than in millennial days, will it be true that God "will rest in His love."
There may be some that may be disposed to feel almost tantalised as they think of the contrast between their present circumstances and their future blessedness; but may I venture to remind you, my reader, if you are a child of God, that the blessed God is the same today that He will be in glory, and that you as much and as truly stand in His favour today as you will when you reach His immediate presence. His thoughts about you, His love towards you, are just the same now as they will be then. His nature - love - is unchanged and unchangeable, and He delights as much in the blessing of His saints today, as He will in that day when neither evil nor enemy shall ever again be known. When the great apostle was stoned and beaten, and hunted from city to city, was he not in the fulness of divine favour? And when a far greater than he had to say, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head," was He not as much the object of the Father's delight as now when seated on the throne of glory?
But while love gives and serves and expends and pours out, it longs to be known, and returned, and confided in; nor can it otherwise be satisfied. If in the Old Testament we read, "My son, give me thy heart," the New tells us of how the returning prodigal was seen when a long way off, and how the father ran to embrace him while his heart was filled with gladness, and the house resounded with joy. If all the gracious activities of love have failed to awaken a true response, it will not cease until it has been heard. And the blessed God, who is love itself, and who knows with what a wealth of blessing and of joy He can enrich the objects of His heart, is waiting in patient love upon you, His child, that you may turn aside for a moment from the busy crowd of earthly circumstances, and taste in spirit now something of the unspeakable blessedness of His presence.
Reader, there are those that can tell you that, when pressed by earthly trial or bodily suffering, they have known such nearness, such communion with the blessed God, as has filled their souls with an incommunicable sense of blessedness. Were these then some peculiarly favoured children? He has none. In His family, His heart, His love, His blessing and His blessedness, are for each and all alike, and if some but dimly apprehend these things, it is because they value Him too little to make Him their great object; while others, having set their hearts upon God Himself, will be satisfied with nothing less than the most intimate communion, the deepest enjoyment. Each one, let it ever be remembered, has just as much of the Lord as he really desires.
The tendency with each is to suppose his own trials to be either peculiar in their nature or exceptional in their extent; but granting even that they are so, do they not then afford to our God that occasion and opportunity that His love desires, to show how rich is the grace that will not only stoop in tenderest sympathy to walk with us in our trial, but that will lift us above it in spirit to taste the satisfaction and blessedness of His own presence? Many, no doubt, there are who feel it would be such a relief if they might only tell out their trials to some fellow-saint; but do we not well know that the heart of Him that sits upon the throne, and that once walked this earth in humiliation, is a heart that can enter, as no other can do, into every detail of our suffering or sorrow, and that there is something more blessed and more divine than even the tenderest sympathy, sweet and grateful though it be, and that is when, instead of bringing Christ down, as it were, into our circumstances, we rise into His, and there in that bright and blessed scene let our hearts expand in the liberty and joy of love.
Reader, it is no dream of the night, no fancy of the imagination, I seek to bring before you, but substantial realities that lie within the reach, and are made known as the proper portion, of each soul that is brought to God. He wants to be known, to be enjoyed; and being what He is, how could it be otherwise?
Heaven itself is no scene of mere negations; it is not the absence of sin and sorrow and suffering that gives it its character, neither is it indeed the light and the glory and the many mansions of the Father's house. We may be permitted to speak of these things as its scenery and circumstances; but that which will give it its character, which will constitute its essential blessedness, will be the presence of that Saviour who there is waiting for us - of God Himself too, our Father, who will find His everlasting delight in the eternal joy and blessing of the whole redeemed family.
The scenery and circumstances here are altogether different from what they will be there, but God Himself, the Sun and Centre of that vast universe of bliss, is the same now as He will be then, and is as really to be known and enjoyed now as in that day of glory. And if through infinite grace we have been brought into a place of eternal favour, into relationship with the blessed God, do we not well to ask whether we answer to the desires of His heart by our finding now our home in His presence, our portion and joy in His ineffable love, and thus knowing in wilderness circumstances something of that which will constitute the eternal blessedness of heaven? "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3.)
F. S. M.