Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.…
I. HEAVEN IS THE HOUSE OF OUR FATHER AND UNITES ALL THE ASSOCIATIONS OF FILIAL HAPPINESS AND REVERENT DEVOTION. The relationship of family is supposed by the scheme of our redemption. Sin is alienating; but we are made nigh by the blood of Christ, and our consequent fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. A childlike title and a child-like temper are the results: "Now are we the sons of God," and home is the abode of children. Touching are the thoughts of home: what is the home of heaven?
1. Quiet and repose. We are wanderers on earth. "With. out are fightings, within are fears." But soon shall we toil no more. The days of our mourning shall be ended. We shall come to our Father's house in peace.
2. Confidence. Look at the home-born child. When danger threatens, home is the bulwark: when affliction weeps, this is the asylum. It is this assuredness which is the secret of all earthly satisfaction and peace. Yet is it not always to be cherished, it may not be invariably justified. Suspicion coils like a serpent about each flower of existence; or, like a lurking poison, taints all its springs. But with what strictest security does all the happiness of heaven rise on our view! Nothing maketh a lie. Thieves do not break through and steal. There is no more death.
3. Concord. Nevertheless a house may be divided against itself. But the inhabitants of that house are "made perfect in one." They have one heart. They see eye to eye. If we too much forget to ask each other while here below, "Have we not all one Father?" — the remembrance of that truth will ever be vivid and efficacious in our "Father's house."
5. Improvement. This is the true sphere of education. But during our moral state, however matured our powers and enlarged our attainments, we "speak as a child," etc. In heaven we "shall put away childish things." In that light we shall see light.
6. Content and happiness.
7. But it is not only our Father's house in the associations of a home, it is the consecrated receptacle of His worship. And these ideas are not incompatible. For, to the Christian's perception and taste, what can make heaven more delightful, in addition to its illustration as a home, than that this home shall be devoted, with the family which fills it, to the high praises of our Father in heaven? The votary is the child! The child is the votary! Pilgrim never touched more reverently the dreadful shrine: son never more joyously bounded upon the paternal threshold. With this double intention, of resting in a home and of ministering in a sanctuary, he exclaims: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
II. IN THIS HOUSE OF HOME AND TEMPLE THERE ARE MANY MANSIONS. And thus are we taught that the greatest amplitude consists with the strictest unity, that though the mansions are numerous the house is one. And thus, also, we learn that there is no monotony in that blessed state. There is order in the harmony of difference, and the distribution of the mansions completes the identity of the house. Meditating, then, on this multiform glory, what do we ascertain of the blessed immortals?
1. The immensity of their number. Heaven once suffered a vast depopulation. The influence of the catastrophe we cannot determine. There was a strange vacancy amidst those groves: untrodden paths and ungathered fruits. But that heaven might not always remain thus diminished, it was arranged that beings who had themselves lapsed, and whom a most stupendous salvation should rescue from all their guilt and rebelliousness and ruin, should constitute an incomputable augmentation over the deficiency and loss. There was a wonder in heaven. Meek and humble, there bent before the Divine Majesty a solitary human spirit. It sung, but it was a lonely song. It gazed, but its eye rested upon nothing like itself. Up from this world another and another sprung. He the solitary was set in a family. The question of preponderance, in the number of the saved over that of the lost, might now be properly argued.
(1) The proportion of infant death, the certainty of infant salvation, furnish us with most pleasant grounds on which to rest the argument.
(2) The design of punishment comprehends warning, and we may presume without irreverence, this purpose being revealed, that the good of the majority is sought, and that they who perish form a very inferior proportion to those who are saved.
(3) There are certain implications concerning these ratios which we cannot overlook. Sometimes they are equal. "Five of them were wise and five were foolish." In other instances there is an encouraging difference. Two of the servants, among three, are "good and faithful:" the third alone is "wicked and unprofitable." Still higher is placed that relative state: "the wedding is furnished with guests," all duly apparelled and royally approved, and only one is without the qualifying badge.
(4) Christianity, as the reign of grace, asserts its purpose and pledges its supremacy. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Shall sin predominate and proclaim more victims than this grace can enumerate subjects?
(5) Models of prayer are instituted for us. "Let all the people praise Thee." "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." These anticipations are, then, assured possibilities: we are taught to seek them with believing expectation.
(6) A glorious sequel to our earth's dark history is foretold. "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ."
2. The inequality of their glory. Where there are rewards, there must be differences. They suppose adaptation and adjustment to every form and habit of excellence. "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly," etc. This man has been like a continued sigh and aspiration and panting after holiness. That man, truly sincere, has pursued a far less devoted course. These could not enjoy the same portion. Nor is there a supposeable alternative, save that all were forcibly, mechanically, conformed to one standard. There would be, then, a necessity to lower as well as to raise, to repress as well as to expand. The first process would be unjust, however the second might be gracious. The speed of a zealous life would give no advantage in the immortal race. Yet if these inequalities exist, some think they must engender envy. Is it necessarily thus even in this imperfect state of ours? Charity envieth not, etc. In heaven nothing is loved but holiness, and the highest holiness is loved the most.
3. The diversity of their character. The modifications of the regenerated soul are not fewer and less notable than those of the soul unrenewed. And who does not rejoice in this difference of mental powers and habits, this diversity of gifts and graces, during the earthly exhibition? In heaven our nature has not perished: our being is only fulfilled. All of it is brought out and glorified. What pleasure to search through these "many mansions" and to find every form of worth and might, every species of intellectual activity and spiritual perfection, all endlessly, as actually, Variegated, multiplied, and combined!
4. The transition of their employment. One investigation, unchequered and unrelieved, strains the mind. One enjoyment, unvaried, and undiverted, cloys. The glorified spirit may, therefore, not only find its mansion, but be free of the many mansions. Thus may it renew its youth and recreate its immortality. Now shall it offer praise. It bends in adoring contemplation. It sees the King in His beauty. It exercises itself in the research of wonder and mystery. It cultivates communion with all other heavenly spirits. What may not angels, who have ministered to the heirs of salvation, tell of their knowledge and their experience? What saints are there, and we shall recognize them. And are we not then to be still more filled with the love of God, more delineated with the image of Christ, more imbued with love for all saints? and then each effort brings its repose. "They rest not," and in that ceaselessness of activity is their rest.
6. The regularity of their arrangement. In this "great house," every "vessel," all "sanctified and meet for the Master's use," has its valuation and its function. There is the mansion —
(1) Of the patriarchs, their thoughts still full of sacrifice.
(2) Of the prophets, singing still as in their choir!
(3) Of the apostles, pointing still to the atoning Lamb!
(4) Of the martyrs, as new baptised from the flames!
(5) Of faithful ministers, discriminating among the throng those who are their glory and their crown!
(6) Of pious parents, their solicitudes fulfilled and their prayers answered in the conversion of their offspring!
(7) Of self-sacrificing missionaries, as on set thrones, surrounded by their converts. "Yet there is room." But there is in these orders nothing repulsive, arrogant, or humiliating; all is one; one happy family!
6. The series of their progression. The tendencies and yearnings of the human mind are towards an indefinite life and advancement. These keep us restless and dissatisfied while we are in our sins: these excite us to follow on to know the Lord, when we receive the grace of God. If there was a point in our existence beyond which we could learn nothing further and enjoy nothing more, that would be the limit of well-being. Our misery, instead of being lessened by what we had acquired, would be unspeakably aggravated. It would be like an ascent to some everlasting hill to gaze for first and for last our full of the glorious land, not then to die amidst the rapture, but to be doomed to life beneath the sudden fall of an endless night. The stretch for these progressions is the duration of eternity!
(R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.