"A door was opened in Heaven."
When Dante had written his immortal poems on Hell and Purgatory, the people of Italy used to shrink back from him with awe, and whisper, "see the man who has looked upon Hell." To-day we can in fancy look on the face of the beloved Apostle, who saw Heaven opened, and the things which shall be hereafter. We have summed up the great story of the Gospel, and have trodden the path of salvation from Bethlehem to Calvary. We have seen Jesus, the only Son of God, dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, and ascending into Heaven to plead for us as our eternal great High Priest. We have heard of the coming of God the Holy Ghost, the gift of the Father, sent in the name of the Son. To-day, the Festival of the Blessed Trinity, Three Persons, yet one God, we are permitted to gaze for a moment through the open door, on the Home of God, yes, and the Home of God's people, who are redeemed with the Precious Blood of Christ.
Now, there are many people who never think of Heaven at all, and many who think of it in a wrong way. When we were baptised, the door was opened for us in Heaven, and Jesus said to us, "Behold, I set before you an open door." From that day we were permitted to look with the eye of faith upon those good things which pass man's understanding. But some of us would not look up. We were like travellers going along a muddy road on a starlight night, and who look down on the foul, dirty path, and never upwards to the bright sky above. My brother, turn your eyes from this world's dirty ways, look away from your selfish work, and your selfish pleasure, look up from the things which are seen and are temporal, from the fashion of this world which passeth away, and gaze through the open door of Revelation at the things which shall be hereafter. I said that many people never think of Heaven at all. These are they who love this world too well to think of the world to come, they are of the earth, earthy. "As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy, and as is the Heavenly, such also are they that are Heavenly."
I said, too, that many think of Heaven in a wrong way, as did the lady of fashion, who fancied Heaven would be like the London season, only better, as there would be no disagreeable people. Now, if we are to think rightly of Heaven, we must do as S. John did. He heard a voice saying, "Come up hither, and I will show the things which shall be hereafter. And immediately he was in the Spirit." We must ask for the Holy Spirit to lift our hearts and minds to Heaven; we must try to go up higher in our thoughts, words, and works; we must try to get above the world, above ourselves, so shall we be able to look, though with bowed head and shaded eyes, through the open door. Let us reverently do so now, and see what we can learn of the things which shall be hereafter. First, I think we learn that Heaven and earth are not, as some people fancy, two very different places, very far apart. The Church of Christ is one family, bound together by one faith, one Baptism, one hope, acknowledging one God and Father of us all. This family has one Home; here in earth it dwells in a lower chamber, after death it passes into a higher room of God's great House. The Apostle, speaking of the Church, says, "Ye are come, (not ye will come,) unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
In a word, our Heavenly life should commence when we are baptised, day by day ought we to grow in grace, and when we have grown sufficiently, God takes us to the upper Room above. It is this mistake of separating Heaven and earth which makes people careless of their lives. If you want to dwell with God through all eternity, you must walk humbly with God all the days of your earthly life. Look again through the open door, and learn that in Heaven God is the central figure. So, if we are living here as Christ's people, God will be the central figure in our life, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all our work, our wish, our plan. My brothers, if you feel that with you self is the chief object in your existence, be sure that you are not living the Heavenly life. You have put yourself in the place of God.
Again, as we look through the open door, we see the intense beauty of the Heavenly life. We see gates of pearl, and a throne on which sits one like a jasper and a sardine stone, and the rainbow round about the throne is in sight like unto an emerald. In all ages precious stones have been objects of the greatest value. We are told that Julius Caesar paid a hundred and twenty-five thousand crowns for one pearl, and monarchs have boasted of possessing a diamond of priceless value. You remember that God says of His redeemed ones, "they shall be Mine in that day that I make up My jewels." Well, I think we hear so much of precious stones in the description of Heaven, that we may learn that its great glory and beauty consists in the holiness of those who dwell there. They are the pure and precious pearls which build up the foundation, and they get their brightness from God, who sits enthroned among them, and who is to look upon as a jasper and a sardine stone. And these precious stones are of different colours, as they reflect the light from a different point. So is it with the people of God, they reflect the light from the face of God in various ways, and so have various virtues. One shines with fiery zeal, like the red ruby. Another glitters with the soft beauty of a humble spirit, like the pearl, whilst yet another sparkles with many graces, like the parti-coloured flashes of the diamond. Some lives which here are obscure and neglected, like the precious gem at the bottom of the ocean, shall one day glitter in Heaven, and be among the jewels of the Master.
Ah! my brothers, are our lives such that we can ever hope to adore God's jewel-house above? Can these poor dull characters of ours ever shine as the stars for ever and ever? Think, what makes a gem flash and sparkle? Light. Well, then, let us walk as the children of light, let us look up, and catch the radiance from the face of Jesus, and reflect it in our lives; then will our light shine here before men, and one day shine yet brighter as we draw nearer to the source of all light. And think again that often the brightest and fairest forms come from the least likely materials. Of the same mould are the black coal, and the glittering diamond. The unsightly slag which is thrown away from the iron furnace forms beautiful crystals, and the very mud under foot can, as men of science tell us, be turned into gleaming metal, and sparkling gem. The fair colours which dye our clothing can be formed from defiling pitch, and some of the most exquisite perfumes are distilled from the foulest substances. My brother, the same God who brings beauty out of ugliness, and fair purity from corruption, can so change our vile nature, and our vile body, that they may be made like unto Him. The work of the Blessed Trinity, of the Creator, the Saviour, the Sanctifier, is day by day operating on the children of God, and making all things new in them. And remember that work is gradual. A man can make a sham diamond in a very short time, a real gem must lie for ages buried in the earth. So, if we are really and truly God's people, we must grow gradually, and bear all the cutting and polishing which God sees right, before we are fit for the royal treasury.
The same Divine Hand which changed Mary Magdalene to a loving penitent, and the dying thief to a trusting disciple, and lifted Augustine from the foul grave of lust to be a pillar of the Church, can likewise change us, and make us to shine with the light of a stone most precious. Once again, as we gaze through the open door, we hear of music in Heaven. Those who have wrong ideas of the life to come seem to imagine that the Heavenly existence consists in minstrelsy and nothing else. Surely the song of the redeemed, and the music of the golden harps, are a type of the perfect harmony of Heaven. This life is often full of discords, the life to come is perfectly in tune. Here on earth our lives are very like musical instruments. One plays nothing but dirges of sorrow and discontent. Another life is made up of frivolous dance music; another is hideous with the discord of "sweet bells jangled, out of tune, and harsh." The life to come is one of perfect harmony, for each servant will be in complete accord with the Master's will and pleasure. And I think the vision of those who play upon their harps, and sing their song before the throne, show us that the life to come is one of occupation. There will be, doubtless, growth, progress, experience, work in Heaven. But there we shall be able to do what we so seldom do here -- all to the glory of God. Here we work so selfishly, there all work is worship. Here we struggle for the crown that we may wear it, there they cast down their crowns before the Throne of God. When we speak of resting from our labours after death, and being at peace, we cannot mean, we dare not hope, that we shall be idle. When a famous man of science died, his friends said one to another, "how busy he will be!" We are bidden to be workers together with God, and we may believe that He has new and higher tasks for us all, when we shall have passed through that door in Heaven which Jesus has opened for all believers.