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Good Words 1860
Concerning the Better Country


No. VI.

"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, he with me where I am; that they may behold my glory."—John xvii. 24.

"Lo! He beckons from on high!
Fearless to His presence fly.
Thine the merit of His blood,
Thine the righteousness of God!
Angels, joyful to attend,
Hovering round thy pillow bend;
Wait to catch the signal given,
And escort thee quick to heaven."

An emigrant is about to sail for a distant land. His family are gathered on the shore, to take a sorrowful farewell. As the vessel weighs anchor, the last words which fall on their ear are to remind them that it is but a temporary separation—that in a few brief years, by a favouring Providence, he will be back again, to take them along with him to his adopted home. Or, a father gathers his children around his death-bed, to give them his last blessing. "With his eye looking upwards to the glorious world on which his spirit is about to enter, he tells them, in faltering accents, to dry their tears; for in a little while they will be reunited in that "better land" which knows no parting.

Here is the utterance of a departing Saviour to His orphaned children. It forms a petition in His last intercessory prayer, when about to leave the world, and return to the Father. "Oh," says Richard Baxter, speaking of this verse in his "Saint's Rest,"—'"Oh, the full joys offered to a believer in this one sentence of Christ! Every word full of life and joy!"

The verse brings before us these two thoughts in connexion with a state of future bliss:—

I. The Saviour's joy in Heaven in being with His people.
II. His people's joy in Heaven in being with their Saviour.

I. The Saviour here speaks of His own joy in having His saints with Him in glory.

The language is that of a conqueror claiming a stipulated reward. God seems to say to Him, ''Ask of me, and I will give thee." "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." And what does He ask 1 He had Heaven at His command—"thrones and dominions, and principalities and powers." But He prefers the request to be crowned as "Lord of all," in the midst of His saints;—that redeemed sinners, like celestial planets, might through eternity circle and constellate around Him, their central Sun. "He will rest in his love; he will joy over them with singing." (Zeph. iii. 17.)

On earth a man likes to live and die among those he venerates. The old village patriarch desires to be laid where his fathers sleep, in his native churchyard. The Jew will travel back from the most distant region of the earth that his bones may be laid in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, under the shadow of Olivet, and within hearing of the Kedron. "Where thou diest," said Ruth to the one she loved best on earth, "I shall die, and there shall I be buried."

So speaks also an ever-living Saviour of His ever-living, ever-loving people. "Where I live," He says, "there ye are to live also; eternity shall not separate between you and me." The tomb of a great earthly Architect is placed immediately under the dome of the vast temple his genius had reared. With reverence we say it, Jesus is through eternity to be enshrined in the Temple of His saints, the living stones rising tier on tier around, each glowing with the inscription, ''He loved me, and gave Himself for me."

"What joy thus to behold around Him the travail of His soul, the purchase of His agony! If we value great results generally in proportion to the labour and toil bestowed on them;—if the philosopher, in arriving at some brilliant achievement in science, has all the greater joy when he thinks of it as the result of months and years of patient and unwearied application;—if the artist or sculptor has all the greater joy in contemplating his completed work by retraversing in thought his years of incessant labour, the line by line, and stroke by stroke, until he worked it up to the now breathing marble;—if the Great God Himself, in resting from the work of creation, when He contemplated its magnitude, had delight when He pronounced it "very good,"—oh, what must be the transcendent joy with which the adorable Redeemer beholds the completion of an undertaking which involved in it so unparalleled a cost of humiliation and pain and woe! What shall be the complacency with which He, the mighty Architect, contemplates the finished Temple of grace,—gazing around Him on the living, breathing forms of immortal life which, by His own and His Spirit's work, were chiselled and fashioned after the image of Christ!

Here was "the joy" we read of "that was set before Him."The joy of seeing" a multitude which no man can number "who had'' washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." If the courageous mariner has joy, who has, at the risk of his life, bravely dashed into the water, and rescued some struggling castaway from the weltering waves;—if Wilberforce could with joy stand in thought amid the grateful millions whose fetters he had struck off, and into whose lips he had put the music of freedom;—if the honoured minister has joy, who, on his death-bed, can say, at the retrospect of a lifetime of self-sacrificing devoted-ness in his Master's cause, ''Blessed be God, my work is done," [Rev. Edward Bickersteth.]—what shall we say (if we can compare the earthly with the heavenly—the finite with the Infinite) of that everlasting joy which shall fill the bosom of the Saviour as He sees those once bound with the fetters of sin, struggling in the waves of despair, now saved with a great salvation, exulting in ''the glorious liberty of the sons of God!"

If Ho had joy—as we believe He had—when in the depths of a bypast eternity He said, "Lo, I come," though in that coming He had all the appalling prospect of ignominy and shame;—if "Wisdom," had "delights with the sons of men, and rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth," when the solitary treading of its wine-press had yet to be borne;—if He had joy when He stretched forth His hands over His ''Church in the wilderness," and said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,"—what intenser and holier joy must that be, when, every woe and pang and sorrow at an end, His people shall be with Him "where He is;" earth's battle, with its "confused noise and garments rolled in blood," terminated; and the everlasting triumphal procession of eternity begun, immortal palm-branches strewed in the way, and the streets of the new Jerusalem echoing to the cry, "Hosannah to the Son of David,"—"Alleluia! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!"

Behold, then, Heaven as a place where the Saviour Himself shall rejoice over His ransomed ones. They are "glorified together." They are glorified in Him, and He is glorified in them. "Heaven would not be enough for Jesus without His people. It seems as if their presence were essential, not to His Deity, (this cannot be,) but to His mediatorial happiness," [Harington Evans.] The joy in that happy world would seem to begin at the centre, and to be deepest there, but sending out its waves to the circumference of glory.


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