And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.…
I. THE CHRISTIAN IN THE EXERCISE OF LIVELY FAITH PRACTICALLY REGARDS HEAVEN AS A REALITY. AS faith in man's testimony can make us act as if there was such a place as London, so faith in God's testimony can make us think, and feel, and act, as if there was such a place as heaven. The mind can bring itself under the same conviction that there is a God as that there are such beings as men; the same conviction that God has testified of the invisible realities of another world, as we have that men tell us of things we have never seen; and the same conviction that what God says is reality as we have that what men say is real. When we give up the mind. to God's testimony, as we give it up to man's testimony, then we have faith in God — the faith that gives reality to what He testifies. Faith, then, brings heaven to view, opens its gates, and looks in upon its glories. It sees the order, the harmony, the purity, and the joys of blessed spirits made perfect; it sees the Redeemer of men in exaltation there, and God in that fulness of His glory which imparts to heaven its raptures. Earth with heaven thus realised to the mind retires into the background of contemplation, and sinks away into comparative obscurity.
II. FAITH LEADS THE CHRISTIAN TO REGARD HEAVEN AS A SATISFYING PORTION. The man of the world looks not beyond this life for happiness. Exclusively devoted to schemes, s of earthly enjoyment, his cares and desires and efforts centre in their accomplishment. Not so with the Christian. By faith he is led to see by contrast with heaven how vain this world is, and to abandon it as his portion. True, he does not refuse — he gratefully receives — the blessings which Divine goodness provides for him. But then he does not regard them as essential to his happiness. He habitually looks beyond these, and regards his treasure as laid up in another world. The same principle leads him to form a just estimate of the trials of life. Shocks severe to nature may be received; and though not without emotion, yet not with despair, not with repining. He does not feel under the sorest bereavement that all is lost. His sufferings are but the chastisement of a paternal hand, and anything that promotes his fitness for the world of his hopes can be welcomed as a blessing. He seeks a better country. There will be no disappointment. Heaven will afford all the happiness his soul desires. "Already he kens its hills of salvation, where reigns eternal day, and where everlasting spring abides." Gird thyself, then, O my soul! and hold on thy course. Heaven will make ample amends for all the toils and sufferings of the way to it.
III. FAITH LEADS TO ARDENT DESIRES AND CHEERFUL EXPECTATIONS OF HEAVENLY HAPPINESS. Amid all the hopes of heavenly happiness cherished in this world, there is but little just conception of the nature of that happiness. All hope to go to heaven when they die, and to be happy there. But few inquire what heaven is, in what its happiness consists, and what qualifies for its enjoyment. Their hope is a vague, undefined hope of deliverance from dreaded evil. It has no warrant but their own wishes — wishes fixed, to say the least, with equal strength on continuance in sin as on exemption from its punishment. Not so with the Christian. Between his taste and the nature of heavenly happiness there is a holy correspondence. Heaven is just such a heaven as he desires and loves to think of. His soul in its affections and tastes accords with the pure and holy joys of that world, and his meditations of them are sweet. The Christian desires heaven as a place of perfect freedom from sin and of perfection in holiness. He looks to it as the place where the rays of the Deity will be softened to his inspection, where, surrounded with His glory, every desire will expire in the bosom of his God, and where, in the triumphs of perfect holiness, God's own blessedness will become the portion of his soul. Inseparable from all this are the desires of the Christian for the society and the employments of heaven with its more particular sources of happiness. The society of that world will be made up of an innumerable company of angels, and of redeemed men from "all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues." Of this bright host of happy spirits he hopes to be one. There, too, he expects to meet all the pious, redeemed from among men — those with whom he has prayed, and suffered, and taken sweet counsel in this vale of tears. There he hopes to be re-united to those pious friends, if such he had — a husband, wife, parent, child — who have gone before or shall come after him; all those who, as labourers together with God, are accomplishing His designs of mercy in this guilty world — all these he hopes to meet as friends and companions for ever. Not less delightful to him is the anticipation of the employments of heaven. These consist in active beneficence and in the pure and perfect worship of God. Remarks"
1. What support under the trials of life has the Christian in the exercise of lively faith? What if the world deceives and disappoints his hopes, heaven is a reality. What if poverty with its evils afflicts and depresses, a rich and a heavenly inheritance is his portion. What if the world afflicts in any shape, how light must appear all its trials with the prospect of eternal glory ever dawning on the soul!
2. We may see why Christians derive so little present consolation from the prospect of future happiness which the Bible reveals. It is not that the reality of such a world is not sufficiently evinced to their understandings — it is not that there is not enough in it as an anticipated possession to gladden every step of their earthly pilgrimage. It is that their affections are still so strongly fixed on the world that their conceptions of happiness are in such a degree confined to the enjoyments which earth can give. With such a state of mind it is impossible that they should see heaven in that aspect of reality, and of course with those desires and expectations which elevate the soul above this world.
3. The Christian desires heaven as the world in which God's glory — His capacity to bless His moral creation — will be fully displayed. There all that is comprehensive in the wisdom of God shall be revealed, without a cloud to obscure it, in the view of the happy beings assembled to behold it. There the glory of His power is seen in removing every evil — in creating every good — in enlarging the capacity of creatures for purer and higher joys — in lavishing to bless, the wonders of Omnipotence upon them. There the glories of His justice shall shine as the pledge and security of the everlasting perfection of the holy. There the holiness of God in all its lustre will beam forth to illuminate every mind and transform it into His own image from glory to glory. There will be seen the glory of His goodness, telling all in the ecstasies of heaven that " God is love." In a word, there all the attributes of the Deity are fully expressed; the glory scattered throughout the universe will be collected as in a sun, making that world the scene of His glories. And there, with an emphasis which the reality only can give to the inspired thought, it will be seen and felt by all in heaven that "God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city."
(N. W. Taylor, 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.