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Good Words 1860
Meditations on Heaven III

No. III.

"They rest not day and night."—Rev. iv. 8.

"Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act that each to-morrow
Finds us further than to-day."

We have already regarded this description of the redeemed in Heaven—"They rest not"—as denoting a condition of ceaseless employment in the service of God.

We may consider it now as suggesting a state of continual progress.

If we have found activity to be a law of our nature, we may assert the same, with equal truth, with reference to progress. The mind is ever aspiring after advancement. "Not as though I had already attained," is the utterance, not merely of the renewed spiritual nature—it is the voice of man's restless spirit in all the varied phases and ' conditions of humanity. It is exemplified in every-. day life. Without the consciousness of advancement we have not a perfect idea of happiness.

Who does not feel, for example, a ceaseless and ever-increasing aspiration after more knowledge? This is all the more remarkable, too, in the case of those who have made the largest acquisitions in human learning. [See Whately's " Revelations on a Future State."] The range of their acquirements, instead of satisfying, seems rather to whet their appetite for more; so that the noblest and most gifted of the human species,—our Lockes, and Bacons, and Newtons,—are those who are alike most conscious of the limited range of present knowledge, and most ardently desirous of adding to their intellectual wealth.

Transfer this to Heaven. There there will be a constant aspiration after increased knowledge, and holiness, and love, and resemblance to God. All our present mental capacities will doubtless be indefinitely expanded on our entrance into glory; but this will be only a fresh starting-point for loftier acquisitions. The soul and its glorified aspirations will be like the sun " coming forth from his chambers, and rejoicing like a strong man to run his race;" ever climbing the firmament, yet never reaching the meridian; coming nearer and nearer "the excellent glory," and yet still speaking of it as "light inaccessible!"

We have some pledge or foretaste given us of this advancement, even in our present spiritual state. The renewed man goes "from strength to strength;" he advances in the divine life; he becomes more and more "meet," by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, for the heavenly inheritance. May we not warrantably infer from analogy that this advancement will not be arrested, but rather increased and carried on in a mightier ratio? "If grace," says the author of the "Saint's Rest," "makes a Christian differ so much from what he was, as to say, 'I am not the man I was;' how much more will glory make us differ! Doubtless as God advanceth our senses and enlargeth our capacity, so will He advance the happiness of those senses, and fill up with Himself all that capacity."

Add to all this—this element of progression will be in one direction. Not as on earth, where there was also a law of perpetual progress, but it was often a downward progress;—when the aphorism, "Knowledge is power," had, alas! too often the fatal interpretation attached to it of a power for evil; not bringing the heart nearer God, but assimilating it more with the fiend, enlarging the intellect only for its degradation. But the advancement of the soul, in all the future phases of its moral and spiritual being, will be entirely God-wards.—It will be the eagle's flight, soaring ever upward, nearer the sun, till lost in the blaze of " the excellent glory."

God is alone of all beings unchangeable. He is as incapable of any addition to His essential glory and happiness, as these are incapable of detraction. —"He is without variableness or the least shadow of turning," (James i. 17.) The devils in a lost state are subject to a continual and progressive change, but it is a downward and progressive deterioration; with the sainted spirit it will be entirely amelioration. While the others are sinking deeper and deeper in the abyss of woe, or retreating into wider and more eccentric orbits from the great central Sun of all light and happiness, the redeemed will ever be narrowing their orbits, coming nearer and nearer the great central throne.

Reader, you are lisping here only the alphabet of knowledge; you know nothing as you are yet to know. Heaven will be, in a nobler sense than ever was realised on earth, a student life. The angels, we read, "desire to look into" the mysteries of salvation. They " stoop over" (as the word literally means) this vast volume in the archives of eternity. You will then unite with these principalities and powers in tasking your immortal intellect with fresh discoveries of "the manifold wisdom of God." We know that those saints on earth who have attained most knowledge of God, are those who have longed with greatest ardour to know more of Him. Though Moses had seen more of His glory than others, his prayer is, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory," (Exodus xxxiii. 18.) David, whose thirst had been quenched more than most at the fountain of infinite love and excellence, is heard exclaiming, "My soul thirsteth for God," (Ps. xlii. 2.) Paul, who had soared to the third heaven, and who "counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," (Phil. iii. 8,) still prays, like a lisping learner, "that I may know Him," (Phil. iii. 10.)

Nor will it be one theme only that will engross and engage the saint's glorified powers and activities. We must not think of Heaven as some startling and violent revolution of present tastes, and studies, and occupations; as if we shall then be no longer the beings we once were, and be able to find no traces of personal identity. Our feelings, our tastes, our studies, may possibly and will possibly continue the same as they were, only glorified, and sanctified, and purified from the dross of sin ! May we not there possibly delight still to unravel the mysteries of science, the laws which govern a renovated creation; or to ponder the story of Providence past,—this, too, not confined to one atom-world, but as unfolded in God's works and ways in other provinces of His empire? The very feelings and affections, too, of our present nature (the best, at least, and noblest of them) will not be quenched or annihilated; they will, on the contrary, have vaster objects and loftier spheres for their exercise. Take, for example, apparently the most airy and visionary of all our present emotions, Hope. Hope will not perish with the present preliminary state. Poetry has truthfully represented her, under a beautiful impersonation, as "relighting her torch at nature's funeral pile." It is, in one sense indeed, true, that Hope will then be changed into fruition; all distracting fears and misgivings will cease—the hope of eternal life, the hope full of immortality, the hope of being with God and His Christ, which in our moments of depression and faithlessness was clouded here, that hope will be "swallowed up" in complete fulfilment. But many of the present joyous elements of hope will still remain,—the hope of reaching higher degrees of perfection, the hope of acquiring deeper and yet deeper views of the character and glory of Him who is past finding out; the hope of becoming more and more assimilated to His holy image, climbing higher and higher the altitudes of bliss, and obtaining a wider and still wider sweep of the moral landscape that grows upon our view with the widening horizon.

I love that beautiful description of Heaven, as the "rest" of God's people; when the clarion of battle is hushed, every storm-cloud passed, every weary night-watch at an end, the spirit cradled in perfect peace—the Sabbath of eternity ! But more elevating and glorious still seems the description of heaven as a place of endless and ceaseless progression ; the spirit making giant advances in all that is pure, and lovely, and godlike; ever adding to the domain of knowledge; having new and more wondrous revelations of the Divine character and attributes;—comprehending more and more the mysteries and secrets of redeeming love, and yet these mysteries growing with every fresh discovery; still speaking of its "heights and depths," its "lengths and breadths," and these as "passing understanding!"

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