And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
Four elements enter into the Christian conception of the blessed life.
1. That of rest from the anxiety and care, the strife and pain of our present existence; but, as Baxter says, not "the rest of a stone," or as a later theologian, Dr. Strong, writes, "A rest consistent with service, an activity without weariness, a service which is perfect freedom." This is one of the earliest and is also one of the most current modes of representing heaven.
2. Next comes the idea of fellowship with and conformity to Christ, and all that is Christly; the actualising of the ideal of life and character, involving a progress in knowledge, in goodness, in gentleness, in purity, and in love. Paul and Bernard, Luther and Wesley were gladdened and sustained in heroic and self-sacrificing service by the anticipation of such an eternal life.
3. Emerson tells the story of a woman coming from a midland town to the sea, and exclaiming, "Thank God, at last I have seen something of which there is enough." A similar gratitude seems to have been inspired by the visions of the endless life given to men. At its best our earthly life is partial, fragmentary, broken and splintered; but that is a perfect whole, a complete unity, a joy-giving harmony. The apostles John and Paul, and the Puritan, John Howe, represent hosts of yearning spirits that have felt the spell of the complete life of the heavenly world.
4. But no statement of Christian opinion concerning heaven would be true that left out the expectation of service, "His servants do Him service." Pascal did not hesitate to assert that the want of occupation for our moral energies in the future would turn heaven into hell. Maurice, on being told his lifework was ended, said, "If I may not preach here I may preach in other worlds." On Mr. Dobney's tombstone is the affirmation, "He hath obtained a better ministry." One phase of that manifold service is illustrated in the history of the doctrine of Christ's descent into Hades. Christian interpreters of the second and nineteenth centuries have clung to the idea that the activities of Christians in the eternal state will be directed to the revelation of Christ to those who have passed out of this life without enjoying the privilege of attaining to that highest knowledge. Peter, Irenaeus, Martensen, Delitzsch, Luckock, and many others might be cited in support of this position. I only mention this as one item in the evidence, showing that the dominant conception of eternity amongst enlightened Christians is not that of " idleness and uselessness."
(J. Clifford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.