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Good Words 1860
Meditations on Heaven

Concerning the better country.
No. IV.

"He shall swallow up death in victory."—ISA. xxv. 8.
"See the haven full in view,
Love divine shall bear thee through.
Saints in glory, perfect made,
Wait thy passage through the shade.
Ardent for thy coming o'er,
See, they throng the blissful shore!"

Victory is a cheering word! Joyous is the return to their own land of a band of warriors after a long and triumphant campaign. Inspiriting are the hosannas of welcome poured upon them by an applauding country, and sweeter still the music of home-voices. To those who, it may be, dreamt themselves widowed and fatherless, the memory of past toil and suffering is forgotten, or remembered only to enhance the gladness of reunion!

What shall it be when the Christian, freed from the last conflict, enters the gates of the heavenly city, the hosannas of angels and saints resounding through the streets of the New Jerusalem! Each toil-worn warrior bathing his wounds in the river of the water of life—death-divided friends gathered to welcome him to his everlasting home!

Looking back from the heights of glory on earth's long battle-field, it is a gloomy and chequered retrospect of stern foes, stubborn temptations, mountains of difficulties that had to be climbed, valleys of humiliation that had to be descended—ay, and the sadder memory of unwatchfulness and betrayal, temporary defeat and disaster. But all is now crowned with "victory," and the last and most recent foe—death itself—disarmed. How great the contrast NOW and then! Now, alas! he is the unsparing invader of every household; all our precautions, all our wisest human expedients in vain are employed to disarm him of his power, and arrest his advancing footsteps. He reigns on earth with a terrible ubiquity! He comes in the hour least expected—often just when the fondest visions of earthly joy are being realised.

Ah! do we think of it—we who may be living all careless and thoughtless, lulled by the dream of prosperity, presuming on our present cloudless horizon—that each moment, with sleepless vigilance, the stealthy foe is creeping nearer and nearer ?—-that the smooth current is gliding slowly but surely onward, and still onward, towards the brink of the cataract, where all at once the irrevocable leap will and must be taken?

Reader, perchance you can even now tell the tale! You may at present be reading it, or you may have recently done so, with tearful eyes and a breaking heart! You may be marking the vacant seat at your table, missing the accents of some well-known voice, or the sound of some well-remembered footfall; a beaming eye in your daily walk may be gone, and gone forth for ever of time! What other antidote for hearts—smitten down by these simoom-blasts which leave earth a blackened wilderness—but a look beyond, to that better land, where this enemy's power is neither felt nor feared? In that glorious resurrection morning, the sceptre which he has wielded for 6000 years will be wrested from his grasp, and that chorus will begin for which centuries of suffering hearts have been wistfully longing, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Sounding trumpets commenced the song of the Lord in the temple of old, (2 Chron. xxix. 27.) It was a type of a mightier festival in the temple of glory. "The trump of God" is to sound first. Slumbering millions will start at the summons, "Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust!" (Isa. xxvi. 19.) Believer! seek to contemplate death from the heavenward side, as a foe doomed and conquered! If you are now in Jesus, victory over death is yours by anticipation. You cannot sing the song of victory completed; but you can be weaving the garlands of triumph, and tuning your harp for the prophetic strain! Safe in Christ! then, indeed, is death disarmed of its real terrors. It becomes a stupendous triumphal arch, through which God's redeemed legions pass into glory! A dark valley, but bridged by the bow of promise, with its radiant hues of love, and joy, and peace! Live on the promises now; they alone will support you in the hour of death, and prove to you, like Elijah's horses and chariot, of fire ! Living now near to Jesus, you will have nothing to do when the last, solemn hour does arrive, but to step into these chariots, and be upborne by angels to your Father's house!

Oh, blissful consummation! once across that threshold, and every remembrance of sadness which death generates here, and which often makes life one valley of Baca, and one vale of weeping, will be obliterated, and that for ever! No sun going down while it is yet day; no glory of manhood suddenly eclipsed; no early blossoms nipped in the bud; no venerable trees—trees under whose shadow we have long reposed—succumbing to the axe of the destroyer. Viewing death from the earthly side, it seems the mournful "exodus of life," the fatal extinguisher of being, the dread annihilator of fondest hopes and purest happiness. Taking the heavenward view, it is what Matthew Henry significantly calls "the parenthesis of being." It is the bridge from the finite to the infinite; the birthday of immortality; the momentary rushing of the shallows in entering the quiet haven; the day which, while it terminates the joys of the worldling, only truly begins those of the believer!

Suffering saints of God! ye who may have been tossed about with a great fight of afflictions, long out on the stormy sea, neither sun nor star appearing, and, like the seamen in Adria of old, ''wistfully looking for the day,"—be comforted. Each day is bringing you nearer and nearer these peaceful shores. You may even now be discovering indications that you cannot be far from the desired port!

It is beautifully recorded by the biographer of Columbus, that, as he was approaching the hitherto unknown shores of the new world, "one day, at sunrise, some rushes, recently torn up, were seen near the vessel; a plank, evidently hewn by an axe; a stick, skilfully carved by some cutting instrument; a bough of hawthorn in blossom; and, lastly, a bird's neat-built nest on a branch which the wind had broken, and full of eggs, on which the parent bird was sitting amidst the gently rolling waves, were seen floating past upon the waters ! The sailors brought on board these living and inanimate witnesses of their approach to land. They were a voice from the shore confirming the assurances of Columbus. The pilots and seamen clinging about the masts, yards, and shrouds, each tried to keep the best place, and the closest watch, to get the earliest sight of the new hemisphere. . . . Delicious and unknown perfumes reached the vessels from the dim outlines of the shore, with the roar of the waves upon the reefs, and the soft land breeze. In a few hours his foot trod the sands of a new world!"—(See Lamartine's "Columbus.") Beautiful picture of a nearing heaven! afflicted, tempest-tossed, and not comforted! "Lift up your heads with joy, for your redemption draweth nigh!" Yet a little while and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Every new sorrow that visits you; every new season which passes over you; every friend taken from you;—these are so many silent messengers from the shores of glory, whispering, "Nearer eternity!" Time itself seems not to be without significant monitors—signals scattered on its ocean that the day is at hand! Prophecy is fast fulfilling. There are those who, from the shrouds and rigging, can descry, in the hazy distance, the dim outline of a more glorious hemisphere than that of earth—"the new world" —even "the new heaven and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness!" Let no scriptural mariner trifle at his post, or relax his vigilance; "it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is your salvation nearer than when you believed!"

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