Great Texts of the Bible
A Promised Inheritance
But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days.—Daniel 12:13.
1. Daniel was one of the favoured ones under the Old Testament dispensation. Like Enoch, who walked with God and was not found, for God took him; like Elijah, who went up in the chariot of fire to heaven; like Moses, whom God buried, and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day; like Job, who found the latter end of the Lord to be mercy—so Daniel was one of those few who had their special reward assigned them at the end of life.
Of other saints we read chiefly of the great things God did for them in their lives. Our eyes are fixed on their lives, and on what they did, on what they went through, on what they were saved from. Abraham and Samuel and David and the other prophets we think of as in the midst of trial, or in the thick of life; we do not turn our thoughts much towards their end or to what accompanied it. But of Daniel there is nothing that we read about in his life so striking as that which belonged to its close. He had, no doubt, a most remarkable life. He, as much as any, had gone through strange changes; he had been a proof of the strength of faith and of the power of God to protect and reward it. To him had been shown, in awful mixture of clearness and mystery, the things that were to be on the earth after him. He was most remarkable as a witness to the truth—remarkable as a prophet, remarkable as a living saint of God. But all these things he shares, more or less, with others. The thing which he has alone, the thing which will always come upon the readers of his awful book with the most solemn force, is the promise made to him individually with which it ends—the clear promise of rest beyond the grave. Daniel was one to whom it was given without any uncertainty to know what was to become of him when this world was over. He is marked out among his fellow-servants in the company of the prophets by the privilege of his death. The light of the other world shines on him while he is yet in this. He knows, before he goes, while death is yet at a distance, that he is to “stand in his lot at the end of the days.” He is one to whom death seems scarcely death, so surely does he still live beyond it.
The following letter to Lydia Maria Child was written upon Mr. Whittiers return from the Yearly Meeting of Friends, held in Portland, in June 1879:—
“Returning from our Yearly Meeting, I was glad to welcome once more thy handwriting. I did not see thee at our dear Garrisons funeral. Was thee there? It was a most impressive occasion. Phillips outdid himself, and Theodore Weld, under the stress of powerful emotion, renewed that marvellous eloquence which, in the early days of anti-slavery, shamed the church and silenced the mob. I never heard anything more beautiful and more moving. Garrisons faith in the continuity of life was very positive. He trusted more to the phenomena of spiritualism than I can, however. My faith is not helped by them, and yet I wish I could see truth in them. I do believe, apart from all outward signs, in the future life, and that the happiness of that life, as of this, will consist in labour and self-sacrifice. In this sense, as thee say, there is no death. ”1 [Note: Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier, ii. 649.]
2. Daniel was a man greatly beloved, and many secrets were revealed to him. He had seen many visions of coming events in the history of the Church and of the world; but the time came when he was to receive no further communications, and he was told to shut up the words and seal the Book, even to the time of the end. He had received much general information regarding the coming ages. He was told that there would be days of trouble, such as never were since there was a nation; he was told of a time when sleepers in the dust should awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt; he was told that at that time they who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. But when he did not understand what was said as to the time of these great events, and asked for further information, saying, “O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things?” the answer he received was this, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end.” He was to get no more light at that time regarding the great events of the future. He had to be satisfied with the thought that, if the wicked should still do wickedly, many should be purified and made white; and that those should be blessed who should wait and come to the predicted period of glory. And as for the prophet himself, if he should end his days long ere the ages have run their course, and the blessed era has arrived, he is assured that all will be well with him, and that, amid the bright glory of the future, he will not be overlooked or forgotten by the Master whom he loved so well and served so devotedly. He was relieved of his work, and dismissed from service, in these cheering words, “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days.”
Daniel reminds us of John. The one was the “man greatly beloved,” the other “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The one had frequent revelations and visions, especially of the times and seasons, so had the other. The one fainted and was without strength at the sight of Messiahs glory; the other fell at Christs feet as one dead. Both were comforted by the hand of Jesus laid upon them. Both were exiles in a Gentile land. Both were very aged men. We are reminded of the last words of our Lord to John, “Follow me.” To Daniel it is, Go thy way till the end.1 [Note: Horatius Bonar.]
The text brings to the prophet a comforting message of—
“Go thou thy way.”
These words are frequently supposed to refer to Daniels dismissal from life. “Depart,” they are supposed to mean, “thy work is over, thy time is done; take thy journey across the dim borderland that separates between seen and unseen, temporal and eternal; go thy way, and may the valley be bright, the passage be easy, the entrance be full.” One might draw various good lessons from this reading. But it labours under a fatal objection. It implies that the end is immediate, just overshadowing, just impending; whereas the end is future. “Go thou thy way,” says the speaker, “till the end be.” The way, then, that Daniel must go is the way of life, not the way of death, life with its business, life with its duties, life with its work. Death and the things that follow death—these come afterwards.
1. The words, then, while they imply release from the prophetic office, are a direct encouragement to persevere with the common duties of life. Daniels had been a wonderful career. From being cup-bearer to the Babylonian king, he had mounted to be liberator of Gods people and recipient of Gods revelations. But in both aspects now his work was complete. There were no more people to be liberated. There were no more revelations to be received. There were just two things which Daniel in all probability desired. One was to return with the people to Jerusalem, to see their good, and rejoice with them in their great joy. It could not well have been otherwise. Daniel at the return to Canaan, like Moses at the entrance, must have longed and prayed to go over and see the good land beyond Jordan. “No,” is the answer of God, “I have another place for thee, I have another task for thee. As cup-bearer in Babylon thou didst begin, and notwithstanding all that has happened in the interval, as cup-bearer, or at any rate as State official, thou shalt end. Back then to the kings service! Back to the kings business! Arrange in his household. Advise in his court. Return to thy post then, and where life occupies thee, there let death find thee, waiting, working, ready. Go thy way till the end be.”
Like St. Paul, Daniel had been in the third heaven in the presence of God. He had been carried forward into the marvellous events of the latter day. He needed a calming word. And here it is, “Go thy way till the end be.” Do thy ordinary work; walk in the simple way of common life. In the midst of this ages convulsions, and storms, and heat; in the prospect of what is coming on the earth in the last days, we need calming words too. Let us listen to the calm, holy voice that ever speaks to us from heaven, “Be still and know that I am God;” “Let not your hearts be troubled;” “Keep your selves in the love of God;” “What is that to thee? Follow me.”
“This do in remembrance of me” has turned many meals into the Lords meals. How indeed shall we find Christ, how live by Him, if we search only the heights of heaven and know Him not as He meets us every day? It is beautiful to note how, after the resurrection, He revealed Himself in unsuspected, because too common, ways. Mary turns from the sepulchre, where she sought the Lord, to meet Him whom she thought to be only the gardener; the disciples knew Him, not as He told them of deep mysteries, but as He broke the bread for the wayfarers evening meal. Our everyday activities, our common meals must be brought into conscious relation with Christ, we must see the absolute necessity of being in touch with the Divine source of life, if we are to understand either ourselves or Him.1 [Note: Joan Mary Fry, The Way of Peace.]
2. But there was another thing which Daniel wished, and it was this. Not only had he parted with his kinsmen, and seen them return without him; he had received an announcement in figure of their future history. It was not all clear, this announcement, very far from it. It was mysterious, it was vague. One thing alone was clear, one thing alone was certain. The future was to be a time of trial, a time of distress. Daniel wished to know the meaning. He wished to know the termination. He was curious, anxious, perplexed. “No,” is the answer of Jehovah again, “follow your own path. And follow it not only independent of your peoples company, but independent of your peoples future. Leave problems alone. Put difficulties to the side. It is not for you to know the times and the seasons. The secret things belong to the Lord, the revealed things to you—for you to accept, and for you to practise. And the main revealed thing is this—your duty to your kings interests, your engagement in the kings service, till the call comes to stop. Will you have this question answered? Will you have that riddle solved? Desist from them all. Be satisfied with the fact that your own weal is cared for. Be satisfied with the fact that your own safety is ensured. Go thou thy way till the end be. All will be well when that comes. Thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days. ”
In the life and experience of most of us there is much that is perplexing and strange, and not a little that appears to be unjust; and we are often impatient to learn the secrets of Divine providence and the wherefore of Gods working as He does; hearts become angry or fretful, sometimes faith fails, and the soul is in a state of insurrection. But it must be remembered that the present is for us a waiting time. God, when the hour of His appointment has fully come, will make clear His hidden purposes, will resolve the doubts that trouble us, and fully answer all the hard questions of life; so that we eventually shall see that, however strange the manner of His working may have seemed to be, He has really wrought in love, and has done all things well. But the time for these explanations is not yet; and man must win lifes battle by faith, not by sight. Meanwhile a blessing is promised to him who can wait patiently, trusting God where he cannot trace the way of His working or fathom the mystery of His plan.
It is not for the workmen who are engaged in the construction of a magnificent pile which is to be the wonder and admiration of the ages to have a clear knowledge of the architectural ideal. All they need know is how to use the tools that have been placed in their hands; all they need be anxious about is the particular piece of wall given them to build. They labour necessarily in the dark. All they need be assured of is that they are working under the guidance and inspiration of the great Master-Builder. Be true, be honest, be diligent, be faithful, fill the particular position into which Providence hath introduced you as well as it can be filled by the grace of God, and the great Architect under whose superintendence the vast structure is being upreared will take care of the congruities and harmonies. Do not agitate yourself with questions which are beyond your capacity to understand. Do not permit the inexplicable and the perplexing in human phenomena to disquiet you. Do not obtrude into the domain of the Infinite. “Go thou thy way.”1 [Note: B. D. Thomas.]
In sorrow and in nakedness of soul
I look into the street,
If haply there mine eye may meet
As up and down it ranges,
The servants of my father bearing changes
Of raiment sweet—
Seven changes sweet with violet and moly,
Seven changes pure and holy.
But nowhere mid the thick entangled throng
Mark I their proud sad paces,
Nowhere the light upon their faces
Serene with that great beauty
Wherein the singly meditated duty
Its empire traces:—
Only the fretful merchants stand and cry—
“Come buy! come buy! come buy!”
And the big bales are drunk with all the purple
That wells in vats of Tyre,
And unrolled damasks stream with golden fire,
And broideries of Ind,
And, piled on Polar furs, are braveries winned
From far Gadire.
And I am waiting, abject, cold, and numb,
Yet sure that they will come.
O naked soul, be patient in this stead!
Thrice blest are they that wait.
O Father of my soul, the gate
Will open soon, and they
Who minister to Thee and Thine alway
Will enter straight,
And speak to me that I shall understand
The speech of Thy great land.
And I will rise, and wash, and they will dress me
As Thou wouldst have me dressed;
And I shall stand confest
Thy son; and men shall falter—
“Behold the ephod of the unseen altar!
Thy raiment is not from the looms of earth,
But has a Heavenly birth.”1 [Note: T. E. Brown, Old John and Other Poems, 152.]
3. The time of every mans service comes to an end. Some work for a longer and others for a shorter time in the vineyard, but with each one the night comes when no man can work. One just begins his labours when he is cut down in the midst of his days, and hurried away to give in his account. Another has to bear the burden and heat of the day, and is spared to be an old disciple, that his matured piety may shine as a heavenly light in a dark world. But with all, the dismission time comes at last. “Our fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?” Surely the thought should solemnize us all, and especially when we consider that the time is not only short, but very uncertain. Surely what we are to do for the salvation of our own souls, we should do now, giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure. And what we are to do for the good of our fellow-men, and for the glory of our Lord, we should do earnestly, as we have opportunity from day to day. To-day only is ours. To-morrow we may never see. The call is emphatic: “Go work to-day in my vineyard”—not to-morrow, or at any future time, but to-day, now, at this present hour, while opportunity offers and life lasts.
How earnestly he now set himself to make the most of life in a religious sense appears from a sort of aphorism on conduct which he wrote down originally for his own use, and afterwards communicated as a parting gift to his friend Farrar [afterwards Dean of Canterbury], who was about to become a master at Marlborough School. As a record of the spirit in which Maxwell entered at three-and-twenty on his independent career, this fragment is of extraordinary value.
“He that would enjoy life and act with freedom must have the work of the day continually before his eyes. Not yesterdays work, lest he fall into despair, nor to-morrows, lest he become a visionary,—not that which ends with the day, which is a worldly work, nor yet that only which remains to eternity, for by it he cannot shape his actions.
“Happy is the man who can recognize in the work of To-day a connected portion of the work of life, and an embodiment of the work of Eternity. The foundations of his confidence are unchangeable, for he has been made a partaker of Infinity. He strenuously works out his daily enterprises, because the present is given him for a possession.
“Thus ought Man to be an impersonation of the Divine process of nature, and to show forth the union of the infinite with the finite, not slighting his temporal existence, remembering that in it only is individual action possible, nor yet shutting out from his view that which is eternal, knowing that Time is a mystery which man cannot endure to contemplate until eternal Truth enlighten it.”1 [Note: L. Campbell and W. Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, 200.]
4. God says not only to individuals—to each of His own servants, when he has done his work—“Go thou thy way.” He says it to communities of men and witnesses for the truth. He says it to churches. He says it to generations. He says it to worlds—to one world after another: “Go thou thy way.” What power of will and thought is His which can develop itself in fulness only through all the worlds and along all the ages! How great is His patience, which waits and is never weary, until the evil is vanquished and the good is triumphant at last! And how vast is His providence, by which the whole is wrought out! All thoughts and plans and systems of man, all passions, all pursuits, all births and deaths of individuals and of nations, all histories of races,—everything is in the providence and plan of God. Some things are inserted and sustained directly by Himself, some things by the exercise of the free choice of His creatures; but everything is ruled and used for the accomplishment of His ultimate and perfect will.
The patience and long-suffering of God should be another subject of continual thanksgiving. Is it not wonderful how He has borne with us, and we so miserably perverse the while? What a miracle of patience God has been! Can we not enter into the spirit of that Spanish lady of whom Father Rho speaks, who said, “That if she had to build a church in honour of the attributes of God, she would dedicate it to the Divine Patience”? Even the heathen Emperor Antoninus thanked God for the occasions of sin to which he had never been exposed. This, then, is another personal blessing for which we must always be giving thanks. St. Chrysostom, also, would have us remember with special gratitude the hidden and unknown blessings which God has heaped upon us. “God,” he says, “is an over-running fountain of clemency, flowing upon us, and round about us, even when we know it not.” In this matter Father Peter Faber was remarkable. He used to say there were hardly any blessings we ought more scrupulously to thank God for than those we never asked, and those which come to us without our knowing it. It is not unlikely, in the case of many of us, that these hidden blessings may turn out at the Last Day to have been the very hinges on which our lives turned, and that through them our Predestination has been worked out, and our Eternal Rest secured.1 [Note: The Spirit of Father Faber (1914), 148.]
“For thou shalt rest.”
1. In the circumstances in which he was placed Daniel needed this word of comfort. He was made aware that the Church would pass through many trials and have a chequered history, before the glory of the latter day should be ushered in. He was led to believe that a long period would intervene between his own day and the end to which he was told to look forward. He could not be otherwise than full of anxiety regarding the future, and the promise of the text was given him for his consolation. He was to receive no further information as to the coming events, but he was assured that he need have no anxiety concerning his own safety, for he should rest and stand in his lot at the end of the days.
Desire for rest is not at any time the mere desire for the cessation of fatigue; all true rest means the consciousness of a growing renewal of the powers exhausted by fatigue, and the shrinking with which old age regards the heavy burdens of life is not in the least a quailing of the mind, but solely a yearning of the body for what it needs more and more every day, and yet gains less and less—true renovation. The desire for rest is the desire for more life, though in disguise,—the belief that more life is, under some great change of conditions, actually before us.2 [Note: R. H. Hutton, Criticisms on Contemporary Thought and Thinkers, ii. 142.]
2. The gospel holds out a present rest, real and wonderful, to men believing. There is rest, indeed, in receiving the reconciliation, the redemption through Christs blood, even the forgiveness of all trespasses. There is a rest also, that arises in the new order and harmony of the soul brought home to God. The believer in Christ has reached a foundation that cannot be shaken; he has found a spring in which is resource enough for all service, and consolation enough against all sorrow. God is with him; Christ is with him; the Spirit of all grace is with him. Therefore there must be in his state an element of rest. This faith lies at the root of all that a believer is and does.
And so it comes to pass that, as the servants of God go through this world, whatever toil befalls them is in a very emphatic manner mingled with actual ministries of rest, imparted to them by their Lord. These fall in, in time of need, fitly and effectually; the heart is calmed and cheered, the feeling of strength and resource revives, the man draws breath and looks around, his courage rises to set forth again. Indeed, it is part of Gods common bounty towards men; and men must take no common pains in sin, to deprive themselves of a large experience of it. No man runs the race of life all in one heat. There are innumerable breaks in life from which, in some sense, new beginnings offer themselves. Morning succeeds morning, and season follows season. And ever between come soothing influences that persuade the relentless past to relax its grasp a little, so that rest renews the man. Thus it is in human life generally. But in Christian life it takes place in a quite peculiar manner; for in Christian lives grace and providence join together to care for this interest of rest with a wise and loving completeness. A Christian may be exercised with hard and perplexing trial. But yet he must have, and he has, such a measure of rest mingled and infused as a Father sees to be most meet for him.
It is a good saying of Edgar Quinet, born of much trying experience, “The unknown very often saves us. It is probable that what one fears will not happen, and that we find blessings we never thought of.” But that is only a fragment of that vaster faith which saintly souls have reached, souls that have penetrated life to its centre and found God there. Has any finer prescription for inner rest been given than this? It is from the Imitatio, “When a man cometh to that estate that he seeketh not his comfort from any creature. then first doth God begin to be altogether sweet to him. Then shall he be contented with whatsoever doth befall him in this world. Then shall he neither rejoice in great matters, nor be sorrowful in small, but entirely and confidently committeth himself to God, who is unto him all in all.”
Assuredly there is the secret and the centre of rest. At home with God, we are at home in His world, in His universe. No part in it, no realities of it, will be to us strange or terrifying. Under all circumstances we shall discern His laws, which are His holy will. And they are all our friends. This central rest, which He invites us to, is the ground and condition of all fine achievement.1 [Note: J. Brierley, Faiths Certainties (1914), 250.]
3. Then there is the final rest—the rest after toil, when the days work is done. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours.” Even the earthly part rests in the grave, where the “weary” are “at rest.” But the better part, “sleeping in Jesus,” is carried to Paradise, to the stillness of the blessed dead, to the waiting yet happy and restful company of sainted souls.
Take the earthly analogy. What is so welcome to a tired worker from the fields, when night falls, as rest? Or to a traveller who has come over the mountains, and been on the way since the sun rose, until now that he has set? Would you propose to such weary men some new enterprises, asking them to join you at once in some new endeavour? They would say “No, we are tired now—let the night be gone, we will speak with you in the morning.” Such, and so welcome, is the rest of the grave, and the sleep of death to Gods children when they are weary.
Rest, weary soul!
The penalty is borne, the ransom paid,
For all thy sins, full satisfaction made,—
Strive not to do thyself, what Christ has done,
Claim the free gift, and make the joy thine own!
No more by pangs of guilt and fear distrest,
Rest, sweetly rest!
Rest, weary heart!
From all thy silent griefs, and secret pain,
Thy profitless regrets, and longings vain,—
Wisdom and love have ordered all the past,
All shall be blessedness and light, at last!
Cast off the cares that have so long opprest,
Rest, sweetly rest!
Rest, weary head!
Lie down to slumber, in the peaceful tomb,
Light from above has broken through its gloom,—
Here in the place, where once thy Saviour lay,
Where He shall wake thee, on a future day,
Like a tired child upon its mothers breast,
Rest, sweetly rest!
Rest, spirit free!
In the green pastures of the heavenly shore,
Where sin and sorrow can approach no more,—
With all the flock by the Good Shepherd fed,
Beside the streams of life eternal led,
For ever with thy God and Saviour blest,
Rest, sweetly rest!
“Thou shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”
1. The form into which the closing word of the Divine message falls at once brings up before our mental vision a picture of the Hebrew newly put into possession of his inheritance in the Promised Land, and rising to survey the allotment which is now his own. Freed from the toil of wandering in the dreary way of the desert, he has attained what in the old days he had dreamed of as his “rest.” But it is a sphere, not of idleness, but of work, that he has found. His allotment will henceforth require care, and only as he brings to bear upon it his best efforts and utmost skill will the owner realize all its possibilities of enrichment and of blessing. The whole conditions are, however, completely changed, and between the present happy service upon his own inheritance and his former weary toiling in the way of the desert comparison is not even possible.
After the weariness of life man may well need rest, and such rest will be bestowed. But that is not Gods last word to man, not in that does the fulness of the great inheritance of the followers of Christ lie. The Divine promise looks beyond the rest to glorious activity; and, with spirit and body wholly restored and altogether whole and strong, there is opened up before the eye of faith a vista of the noblest and most exultant service that can be conceived, and reaching away into the eternal future further than even faith can see. To His weary children everywhere the Great Father says, “Thou shalt rest”; but He goes on to add the last word, which is of service, not of rest, and as such rounds off and completes what is in deed and in truth a message of hope to every child of man.
Ward and Faber delighted in the imaginative picturing of the supernatural world with the simple directness of the ages of faith, and in startling contrast to the vague atmosphere of modern thought on matters of dogma. The Oratorian fathers who remember that time recall Wards presence during the recreation hour after dinner, at Old Hall, when he and Faber, eager talkers alike, both “of mighty presence,” with immense vocabularies, with equal positiveness of logic and superlativeness of rhetoric, sat opposite each other capping epigrams and anecdotes, while the other fathers were gathered round in a ring. One point of debate—parallel to the mediæval questions as to the habitual occupations of the angels—was the nature of our future employments in the next world. Of what kind is the daily life in heaven? “Take Stewart for example,” asks Ward, referring to the well-known and kind-hearted theological bookseller, “what can he find to do there?” Various suggestions are made. “Bind the Book of Life,” Ward proposes. “But that wont last for ever!” Faber replies. “He and St. Jerome will talk without ceasing.”—“Ah, but he will never be happy without work.” Other plans are suggested till Faber hits on the best. “I have it—he should catalogue the angels.”1 [Note: William George Ward and the Catholic Revival, 64.]
2. It is an individual lot—thy lot. God is the true inheritance. Each man has his own portion of the common possession; or, to put it into plainer words, in that perfect land each individual has precisely as much of God as he is capable of possessing. “Thou shalt stand in thy lot.” And what determines the lot is how we wend our way till that other end, the end of life. “The end of the days” is a period far beyond the end of the life of Daniel. And as the course that terminated in repose has been, so the possession of “the portion of the inheritance of the saints in light” shall be, for which that course has made men meet. Destiny is character worked out. A man will be where he is fit to be, and have what he is fit for. Time is the lackey of eternity. His life here settles how much of God a man shall be able to hold when he stands in his lot at the “end of the days.” And his allotted portion, as it stretches around him, will be but the issue and the outcome of his life here on earth.
The faithful servant may have been disappointed with the results of his efforts in this life, but at the end of the days he shall find the work in which he bore a part perfected. In the wisdom of God the great result shall emerge fully achieved, bearing no trace of imperfection.
And he shall find his own labour in it. His works follow him. Every effort made in faith and humility has its recognized and honourable place. It was not thrown away; it was not a failure after all. So, when God subjects His servants to that discipline which the most eminent of them, and those that have served most faithfully, have experienced, He is not sending them away as useless servants. Not so. Only the manifestation of the grace with which He gladdens them is delayed till all can rejoice together. They are lost to our view for a while. When they reappear, they come “bringing their sheaves with them.” Yes, they come, not with sheaves only, as labourers whose work abides, but with wreaths also, as conquerors who have overcome, partakers in a victory that has become complete and eternal. “Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days.”
Geologists used to be divided into two schools, one of whom explained everything by invoking great convulsions, the other by appealing to the uniform action of laws. There are no convulsions in life. To-morrow is the child of to-day, and yesterday was the father of this day. What we are springs from what we have been, and settles what we shall be. The road leads some-whither, and we follow it step by step. As the old nursery rhyme has it—
One foot up and one foot down,
Thats the way to London Town.1 [Note: Alexander Maclaren, The Beatitudes, 256.]
3. Of this lot no one can dispossess us. The term “stand” suggests the completeness and permanence of the new life. It is no longer, “Go thy way” as a changing, dying creature; no longer “Thou shalt rest,” after labour, in some repeated friendly sleep, as of a new death, while other battles are fought, while earth and heaven go surging through another trial, and hell opens once more. “Thou shalt stand.” Here at last is fixity of tenure. Here is possession of the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance. Here is the life begun, which has only to develop, and blossom, and shine in the light of God for ever.
“Thou shalt stand,” no one dislodging thee, no one evicting thee, no one threatening thee, through the endless ages of eternity. Of how many settlements here upon earth can the same thing be said? We take our place in these settlements, and we speak of them as our lot, saying, “Soul, take thine ease and be satisfied.” But the settlement becomes unsettled. The lot is broken up. Here have we no continuing city. Our homes, our estates, they abide not. They abide not because of change. They abide not because of death. And the wind whistles, and the rain drips, and the icicles hang in many a pleasant bower where once the roses bloomed, and once the sweet birds sang. And wilt thou set thy heart upon that which fades? “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” For “the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” May such be our attitude, may such be our position, as those whom no charge can impugn, no convulsion shake, no temptation overthrow, no vicissitude assail, but who stand in the end of the days—ay, and beyond the end—secure and irrevocable in their eternal lot.
One day when Andrew Hichens sat beside him while he rested in his niche, they talked of Paradise Lost and its first small market value; and Signor quoted a contemporary of Miltons who wrote, “The old blind school-master hath writ a book, which, if it hath not the merit of length, it hath none other,” and added that now, perhaps, it was the second book of the world. “It shows,” he went on, “that the most unreal, the spiritual portion of man, is the most real and lasting.” Whatever doubts he may have had about the ultimate place his work should be given, of the dignity of his calling and of his aims he was absolutely certain. Professor Gilbert Murrays words, “There seems to be in human effort a part that is progressive and transient, and another that is stationary and eternal,” are words he would have answered to with his whole being.
The true question to ask is this, “Has it helped any human soul?”—Signors own word—and he continued: “It is said of literature, but is equally applicable to art. I think the great sculptor of the Parthenon must have done so. Gothic cathedrals certainly have. Yet these which conferred actual and immortal life were, to the masses of the nation intent upon eating, drinking, fighting, and getting rich, but vague and visionary complements to the more material and important considerations of everyday life. Paradox as it may seem to be, it is safe to assert that the most visionary manifestations of human activity have ever proved to be the most solidly based, and are the most permanent.”1 [Note: George Frederic Watts, ii. 275.]
A Promised Inheritance
Bonar (H.), Light and Truth: Old Testament, 325.
Church (R. W.), Village Sermons, iii. 332.
Grant (W.), Christ Our Hope, 32.
Laird (J.), Sermons, 78.
Maclaren (A.), The Beatitudes and other Sermons, 253.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Ezekiel to Malachi, 84.
Rainy (R.), Sojourning with God, 37.
Raleigh (A.), From Dawn to the Perfect Day, 401.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), viii. (1871), No. 747.
Wilkes (H.), The Bright and Morning Star, 62.
Christian World Pulpit, lxxii. 277 (W. E. Beet).
Churchmans Pulpit: Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, xiii. 190 (W. A. Gray), 193 (D. Moore).
Homiletic Review, xliii. 43 (B. D. Thomas); li. 53 (A. Maclaren).