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Good Words 1860
Meditations on Heaven


No. VIII.

"In my Father's house there are many mansions."— John xiv. 2.

"All our earthly journey past,
Every tear and pain gone by,
Here together met at last,
In the mansions of the sky,
Each the welcome "Come" awaits,
Conquerors over death and sin;
Lift your heads, ye golden gates,
Let the ransom'd travellers in!"

"Mansions"—"many mansions"—"a house" —"my Father's house." How many reflections are crowded into this one brief utterance of our gracious Redeemer! With what a homelike aspect do they invest our every thought of Heaven! They were among His last words ; He himself was on His way to that peaceful " homestead" of which He speaks. Let us gather around Him, with the house of His Father in sight, and extract some of the comfort with which His declaration is replete.

The verse speaks of Multiplicity"many mansions."

Had He been addressing His own disciples alone, the assurance would have been sufficient, "There will be a home for each of you." But He is discoursing for all time. His omniscient eye discerned at that moment the unborn myriads whom this chapter and this verse were to console and cheer. He would, therefore, certify that there is abundant provision made for all—patriarchs, prophets, saints, martyrs;—from the time that righteous Abel bent alone, a solitary redeemed saint, before the throne, the first sheaf of a mighty harvest, until the garners be filled, and the song of the ransomed become ''as the sound of much people, the noise of many waters, and the roar of mighty thunderings." He is to bring "many sons unto glory." There is grace for all—crowns for all—mansions for all! Heaven has been filling for six thousand years, and still there is room. How different its "recompense of reward" from worldly crowns and worldly honours! In the earthly race "many run, but one (only) receiveth the prize."* In heaven the competition is open to "whosoever will." There is no jarring of interests in this loftier arena. The glorification of one is not attained there at the expense of another's downfall or exclusion. The mansions are many. The candidates are a mighty multitude which no man can number. Believer! "so run that you may obtain."

The verse speaks of Permanency — they are "mansions."

The word in the original is not a tent or temporary tabernacle, but a durable residence, never to be altered or demolished. The most graphic of Eastern travellers thus gives a description of tent-life, which, by contrast, affords the best illustration of the mansion-life of heaven: "When the cold, sullen morning dawned, and my people began to load the camels, I always felt loth to give back to the waste this little spot of ground, that had glowed for a while with the cheerfulness of a human dwelling. My tent was spared to the last, but when all else was ready for the start, then came its fall. The pegs were drawn, the canvas shivered, and in less than a minute there was nothing that remained of my genial home, but only a pole and a bundle."

"The tents of the East," says another, "seldom remain long in the same place. The traveller erects his temporary abode for the night, takes it down in the morning, and journeys onward. The shepherds of the country are also always moving from one place to another. The brook fails on which they relied for water, or the grass required for the support of their flocks is consumed, and they wander on to a new station."

How strikingly illustrative is this of the Bible figure, "the house of our earthly tabernacle "being dissolved" (or taken down). The framework of mortality, like the Arab tent, is upreared for a time, but, after subserving its temporary purpose, it is, pin by pin, demolished, and the place that once knew it knows it no more.

Not so the ever-during mansions of our Father's house. They are "incorruptible" and "eternal in the heavens." No fading of brooks there! No joys withered and smitten there, like the grass of the wilderness. "The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains of water." Ah! it is the saddest, the most humiliating feature of the joys of earth, that, however pure, noble, elevating they may be at the moment, there is no calculating on their permanency. The mind will, in spite of itself, be haunted with the dark possibility of the ruthless invader of all happiness coming and dashing the full cup in a thousand fragments on the ground. In heaven no shadow of vicissitude or change can ever enter to dim an ever-brightening future. Once within that heavenly fold, we are in the fold for ever. On the lintels of the eternal mansion are inscribed the words, "Ye shall go no more out." Our happiness and joy will be as immutable and stable as everlasting love and power and faithfulness can make them.

The verse speaks of Diversity.

There are "many mansions"—not only many in number, but manifold in their degrees of glory. All will be happy. A halo of unutterable bliss and glory will encircle each separate dwelling, beyond what eye hath seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived. But as one star differeth from another star in glory, so, also, we have reason to believe, there will be gradations in the scale of future blessedness.

The allusion in our verse is evidently to the different courts of the Jewish temple. These were diverse in name and character. The outer and inner court, the court of the Gentiles, the courts of the priests, the Holy of Holies. All these were consecrated as portions of the same "House of the Lord." The lowliest Israelite was within sight of the altar, and within hearing of the high priest's benediction. But there were some courts more hallowed and glorious than others—their sacredness increasing the nearer the worshipper approached the place where dwelt the mystic Shekinah. It will be the same with the many mansions of the heavenly temple. All the vast multitude in the new Jerusalem will be within range of the benediction of the great High Priest, and as such they must be blessed. But there will be inner courts and enclosures of greater honour and glory. The more intense and exalted his love and devotedness on earth, the nearer will the believer be permitted to approach the Holiest of all, the nearer admission will he have to the Father's presence, and receive the more distinguishing badges of the Father's love. There will be one mansion for him whose pound hath gained five pounds, and another mansion for him whose pound hath gained ten pounds. Each, too, will be apportioned according to some earthly antecedents. There will be the special mansion of the martyr, who was borne from his earthly tent in his chariot of fire. There will be the special mansion of the missionary, who surrendered home, ease, worldly honour, in his noble embassy, and stood alone and unbefriended on Pagan shores, witnessing for a despised Saviour. There will be the mansion for the minister of Christ, who boldly proclaimed the message of life and death. There will be the mansion for the Sabbath-school teacher, who toiled to bring youthful trophies to the foot of the cross. There will be the mansion for the pining sufferer, who glorified God by patience and unmurmuring resignation. For the child, that fell on earth a withered blossom, whose tent was taken down while it was yet day, but reconstructed into a building of God eternal in the heavens. There will be a mansion for the old veteran of the cross, the champion in a hundred battles of the faith, and for the youthful soldier, who was only buckling on his armour when summoned from the earthly struggle.

The least in the kingdom, I repeat, will have a blessedness to the full—a glory and a joy which leaves no void or vacuum. As in the terrestrial, so in the celestial firmament. Though every planet circling round the Sun of Deity will shine with a borrowed splendour, yet the larger the planet, and the nearer its orbit is to its grand centre, the greater will be its radiance and glory. Though every flower will in itself be perfect, reflecting the lovely hues and tints of heaven, yet they will be of diverse form and colour. Some will diffuse a sweeter fragrance, or cluster in larger and richer groups than others. But all, large and small, the saint a hundred years old and the child translated in infancy, will (notwithstanding this diversity) have the same quality of bliss. The planet at the outskirts of the heavenly sphere and that nearest the centre will be bathed in one and the same rays of ineffable glory.

But while the verse speaks of Diversity, it speaks also of Unity.

There will be diversity in unity, and unity in diversity. The Church triumphant is one house. The Church on earth, alas ! is a house divided against itself—church divided against church— Christian against Christian. Nominally the children of one Father, but dwelling in separate tabernacles. One saying, "I am of Paul," and another, "I of Apollos." Nominally pilgrims on one road, traversing the same wilderness, but each keeping his own peculiar and separate pathway, journeying on often with no look of kindly recognition exchanged, as if they were aliens and foreigners, instead of brethren and sisters in a common Lord.

But in yonder bright and happy home, discord, division, separation will be known no more. Once within that sacred portal, the exclamation will pass from tongue to tongue, ''What! so long together on the pilgrimage, and maintaining a cold and chilling reserve and alienation! Alas! is it only now we are to begin to know what we should have known ages ago, 'how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'"

Ye who are mourning over these sad estrangements in the Church of God, rejoice at this glorious prospect. All shall be one then! One house—one home—one Father—one Elder-brother—-one motive for praise—one theme for eternal song—a united Church under its one glorious and glorified Head!

Then add to this—the verse speaks of Safety.

Where can a child be so safe as in his Father's house? Trials, buffetings, discouragements, un-kindness he may experience elsewhere, here at least he is safe and happy.

What music is there even on earth in that word "home!" The garner of happiness—the haunt of tender affections—the cherisher of bright hope —the hallowed spot where the spent spirit's weary wing folds itself to rest—the glad retreat in the dark and cloudy day. What must be the home of heaven? With what surpassing tenderness does that one word invest these many mansions, "My Father's house!" and how does it link us to the Saviour, when He thus addresses each heavenward and homeward bound pilgrim—"My Father and your Father, my God and your God !"

To enter heaven, the dwelling-place of the great Jehovah—to be ushered into the presence-chamber of the High and Lofty One who inhabiteth eternity ! There might be much to awe and overwhelm the spirit in such a contemplation. But this beauteous home-word divests it of all its awful-ness, and invests it with all that is winning and captivating. Each believer in the prospect of these bright mansions, may, without irreverence, adopt the words of his great Redeemer, and say, "If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said I go unto 'my Father.'"

Would that we oftener realised heaven as such, and, amid earth's troubles and vicissitudes and sorrows, were led to regard every new trial, every new epoch of existence, every returning week and month and anniversary, as fresh chimes of celestial music floating from the towers of glory, and sounding in our ears, "Nearer home, nearer home!" Our Lord has taught us, while we "desire" in our daily prayer "a better country," to make it a filial aspiration, "Our Father, which art in heaven, thy kingdom come." Heaven, in the noblest sense, is "the Church in the House."

The verse still further speaks of Honour.

It speaks of admission into God's presence, and to stand in that presence in the relation of children to a father. Even to be laid, like Lazarus, at the portals of heaven, and fed with the crumbs falling from the table, would have been more than what, as sinners, we deserve. What will it be to be "within the house," honoured with a place at the "King's own banquet!

There are two Greek words used in the New Testament to describe the believer's relation to God. Both are significant. The former literally means a slave, and such His redeemed child really is. He is the willing slave of righteousness, "bought with a price" by a gracious Master. He feels it to be alike his highest honour and obligation to be called "the servant of God." The other word, though translated by the same term (servant), has a higher meaning. It has rather reference to the believer's heavenly calling. It speaks of His lofty designation and employment in His Father's house, when He becomes a "ministering one." His earthly service is over, ''Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends."

"In my Father's House!" "Yes," said a dying believer, as he quoted these words, "Our Lord tells me, You have been an out-door servant long enough, I will now make you an in-door servant, and take you out of the wind and rain to give you a glorified body and better wages and a better mansion, "What a wondrous transition from the clay tenement to the everlasting mansions ! Well may the poet exclaim, apostrophising the emancipated spirit:—

"O change! O wondrous change!
Burst are the prison bars—
This moment there—so low,
In mortal prayer—and now,
Beyond the stars!

"O change! stupendous change!
There lies the senseless clod—
The soul from bondage breaks,
The new immortal awakes,
Awakes with God !"

Finally, the verse tells us that all these wondrous home-mansions Jesus has gone to make ready for us.

"I go to prepare a place for you." Nay, more, He confers them as a right. He speaks as the "Heir of all things." Observe, it is not "your Father's house," but "my Father's house." "As the Son of the everlasting God," He seems to say, "I am not ashamed to call you brethren, and for my sake He will not be ashamed to own and welcome you as sons and daughters. My name, as 'the Beloved of the Father,' and my work, as the surety Redeemer, will form a passport and title to every room in these paternal halls! "

The value of a gift is enhanced by the character and worth of the donor. The gift of an earthly sovereign would be highly prized. Here is a gift bestowed by the "Prince of the kings of the earth," purchased by blood and toil and agony. These blood-bought mansions form the crown and consummation of all His other gifts. " This is the gift that God has given us, eternal life, and that life is in His Son." "Everything else that He 'did and taught and suffered,' had a reference to the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers. His coming from heaven was to shew heaven to us. His going again there was to prepare a place for us. His sitting at the right hand of God is to promote our interest in heaven. His coming in judgment is to take us back with Him to it."

If He be gone to prepare this place for us, be it ours to endeavour to be prepared for the place, seeking every returning morning to have our tent pitched "a day's march nearer home," nearer the house of our Father. "Yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry." "He will not stay," says Goodwin, "a minute longer than needs must. He tarries only till He hath, throughout all ages, by His intercession, prepared every room for each saint, that He may entertain them altogether, and have them all about Him."

And shall we pause to ask where is that glorious home ? Where these sparkling waters, these palms ever green, these robes ever bright? Does the spirit at the hour of death wing its arrowy flight to some distant province of creation? Or may heaven be some mysterious impalpable spirit-world around us? Though we hear no gush of the crystal waters, and gaze on no city of the crystal sea, may it not be that angel-wings are hovering over us, and that it is only these dull senses of ours that hide from us the celestial vision?

But what though we can descry no dim outline of the everlasting hills? What though we look in vain for the lights gleaming in the distant windows of these "many mansions?" It is enough to know that One has gone to prepare them for us. And when completed, His voice will be heard, saying, ''Come, for all things are ready!" "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."


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