I was visiting the other day a dying woman of middle age. She was a widow; her husband having died, leaving behind him clear evidence of his being a child of God, only some three or four years previously. We had some very interesting conversation together, even though it cost her a good deal of effort to speak to me.
She had been for many years a true believer, and had lived a consistent Christian life. The end had now come; but pleasant it was to hear her closing testimony to the saving grace of God. One sentence escaped her lips which struck me very forcibly. She told me that a neighbour had called in, and, by way of comforting her, had said, “You will soon meet your husband in heaven.”
The dying woman replied, “I long to see the Lord, yes, I long to see the Lord!”
What the neighbour may have thought I can’t say.
Perhaps the reader may incline to question whether there had been much affection between the husband and wife in former days. That question is set at rest, however, by the fact that she said, “I loved my husband, I loved my father and mother, and I believe they have all gone to heaven, but I long to see the Lord.”
In four short days she passed away, as “absent from the body and present with the Lord.”
Now, I confess to you, dear reader, that I have pondered a great deal over these words of this dying widow, and I feel that they are worthy of being recorded. You will notice that there was no lack of natural affection. She was not under the influence of a morbid religious sentiment. No, she admitted true natural affection, and gave it a proper place.
But she was governed by a stronger love than that of nature. She had found in the Lord a centre of affection greater and deeper and stronger than the nearest earthly tie.
Again, it was not the mere desire to reach heaven for heaven’s sake; nor was it just resting by faith on the blessed work of the cross. No, it was not heaven, nor salvation, nor any personal gain, it was the Lord Himself!
Here I must pause. We reach the goal of goals when we reach “the Lord Himself.”
I would affirm, a thousand times over, that there is no means of approach to God but the blood of Jesus Christ His Son. “Other foundation can no man lay.” That, and that alone, forms the around of approach.
It is God’s gracious provision, and the sinner’s perfect plea.
The blood of Christ needs no addition nor supplement. “By one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). It is done! A “continuation” or an “extension” of that Sacrifice is an absolute impossibility. The bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper are a memorial of a thing done—the Lord’s death—not a thing doing! It is a remembrance; but, if the Bread were a “continuation of Christ’s humanity” it would be actual sight, and no remembrance at all. Such a theory won’t do. The one offering is of such intrinsic value that it perfects the conscience for ever. The virtue is all in the offering—that is, in the precious blood of Christ.
Then, is there no value in repentance and faith? No saving value, though I need hardly say that they are necessary to salvation.
Feelings furnish no firmer ground than sins. You are living in sin until you believe God apart from every internal evidence.
If you told me a fact, and I replied that I could not believe you until I felt what you said was true, I should practically call you a liar to your face!
And, is God not to be believed until we have the evidence of our senses as to the truth of His statement. How awful!
“He that believes not God has made Him a liar” (1 John 5:10).
“It is not praying, and yet pray you will,
It is not feeling, and yet you’ll feel,
It is not works, although you deem them good,
It is Christ, through faith in His most precious blood.
It is the Object upon whom you rest,
That brings contentment to your longing breast.”
Yes; and thus, dear reader, we must be driven away from every refuge in self, from all that belongs to the first and fallen man, in order to rest on Christ alone. That is certain.
But, that done—His blood having tranquillized the conscience, and placed the soul in God’s presence in perfect peace—what then? Then the knowledge, the excellency of the knowledge, of Christ Jesus the Lord!
Faith in His finished work opens the door to the surpassingness of this knowledge.
It is one thing to know the value of His work, and another to know Himself. And what is that? Is it to know His various relations as Son of God, as Son of Man, as the Christ, as the High Priest, the Advocate, the King? Yes, all that indeed—and a lovely and sacred theme of meditation is each of these relations. But I rather mean a heart acquaintance, a deep, personal intimacy with the Lord; that you should get to know Him as your own; that you should realize the blessedness of the link that binds you personally to Him who fills all these relations. Thus Paul could say near the end of his path, “I know whom I have believed.” That was no superficial or second-hand knowledge, one picked up from reports or writings, but the result of years of companionship, in summer or winter, in good report or in ill—such a companionship as enabled him to speak of “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
Observe he said, “my Lord!” It was conscious personal possession. There were the power and joy of a mighty link, and the intense realization of an individual grasp. There was the surpassingness of a blessed ken, even “the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Oh, how far this transcends all other knowledge! It stands alone. No link in nature, however precious and honourable, can compare with it. And this, my dear fellow Christian, is our happy portion now.
We rest, thank God, for eternity on the perfect work of His Son. We learn daily a little more of the tender heart that loved us in death, that loves us still and for ever. May He delineate before our soul His own supreme personal glory and love, so that we may ever sing:
“Jesus, make Thyself to me
A living bright reality,
More present to faith’s vision keen,
Than any outward object seen;
More close, more intimately nigh,
Than e’en the dearest earthly tie.”