Heaven, Our Home
E. M. Bounds
December 23, 1890
MODERN PROGRESSIVE RELIGION
One of the efforts of modern progressive religion is to center Christian thought and hope mainly on this life, and to make as little as possible of the life to come. Heaven in the new creed is to have little or no place as an inspiration, a solace, or an end. It talks glibly with force and much truth of the necessity of work for humanity and Earth and of the Christian demands of this life. All this has a show of good, but the tendency, if not the aim, is to materialize religion, and so harden and deform it that it will be fit neither for Earth nor Heaven.
VISION FOR SERVICE ON EARTH
A vision of the spirit of Heaven, of the hopes of Heaven, its purity and inspiration, must permeate our service for Earth. The full force of this heavenly stimulant must replenish our souls and sublime them or our labors for Earth and men will exhaust and vitiate all solid principles.
The idea of Heaven and its prospect kept constantly before the mind are necessary to hold men to religion. God is in Heaven, Christ is there, enthroned and glorious, and our affections must be fixed on that center. He that has but little of Heaven in his religion will have but little of God and Christ in it, for Christ and God and Heaven in this age are one. Heaven has always been to the pious the most alluring and powerful motive. The earnest of Heaven, its foretaste and promise, are put into the heart by the Holy Ghost at conversion and its presence and realization grows stronger and more engaging as the years increase.
RESPONSIVE HARMONY IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
The Christian’s life and effort should be in responsive harmony to the desire of Christ, who said, and is ever saying to His Father, “I will that they also whom thou has given me be with me where I am that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me” (John:17:24). The Christian heart ought to be a constant Amen to that prayer. This is not to deprave service in the interest of a sentiment, but it is the preparation for the highest service. No activity however important must be allowed as the substitute for love. Sinful is the churchly activity that alienates or enfeebles desire for Heaven. Worldly and idolatrous are those attachments that clip the wings for Heaven; earthly are those treasures that turn the soul’s strong gaze from the City of our God. Feeble and cloudy is the faith that does not anticipate God’s decree and goes to Heaven by love and not by law.
THE CITY WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD
This is not to surrender the practical to the sentimental. This is not substituting the poetry of Christian feeling for the prose of Christian work. God’s most practical saints have the largest share of this heavenly flavor. Christ’s most valiant soldiers and most laborious servants have luxuriated in the poetry of Heaven. It has relieved the tedium and heaviness of their daily crosses. It has given energy, courage, and endurance to their exhaustless efforts. Abraham, the father and the pioneer of us all, looked always for this city whose builder and maker is God. Jerusalem, the mother of us all, has caught her pattern spirit, melody, and name from Heaven. Christ endured the Cross, despised the shame under the full vision of these heavenly joys. Stephen, under the charms of its open vision, fell under the deadly stones of his murderers as to a gentle, prayerful sleep. Paul, the worker of all workers, the most practical of men, ever had Heaven in his eye and heart. His commission as an apostle was not more authoritative nor more inspiring than his visions of Heaven.
MEDITATION ON HEAVEN BRINGS SOLACE AND STRENGTH
When Moses was balancing Egypt’s crown with the reproach of Christ, his hope of Heaven relieved the present desperate conditions and nerved him for the sacrifice and its conflict. Paul labored under the constant inspiration of Heaven. The visions he had of it made him restless for its fruition and he died supported and enlivened by its crown. Christ braved the Cross and endured its shame with the prospect of Heaven in full view. Heaven has come into the faith and thought of God’s people with increased force and brightness to soothe their sorrows or increase their fortitude. When sorrow and despair were oppressing the disciples, Christ pointed to His Father’s house with its many mansions, and their entrance into it as a solace of strength for their trouble and fainting. It is said of the saints of old, “They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that in heaven they had a more enduring substance” (Hebrews:10:34). What relief and ectasy those words from Christ carried to the dying thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke:23:43). How the incorruptible crown and the house not made with hands, which the apostle brought before the gaze of the Corinthian saints, served to allure, to inspire, to strengthen for trial, for denial, and for the most strenuous efforts!
OUR CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN
Our hearts must be in Heaven, our eyes fixed there, our citizenship enrolled there; we must own its allegiance. Its language must be on our lips, its music on our ears, its purity in our hearts, our hands busy about its work, our feet ready and eager to enter its gate and press its soil. We cannot make too much of Heaven, cannot think too often of it, cannot long too greatly for it, cannot labor too hard for it. We must stay away from this songless, heartless materialism that makes sentiment earthly, blots out Heaven in the name of religion, seemingly in the interest of piety, but really stabbing piety to the heart.
The truth is, the Christian cannot do his full duty to man till Heaven is imaged in his heart; he is not ready to work well for Earth till his name is written on its jeweled columns and the visions of the third Heaven are in his heart and oppress his tongue. No man can work for God in true measure whose longings do not reach to Heaven. No man can be truly loyal to Christ on Earth till his desires are inflamed to depart and be with Christ in Heaven.
Instead of eliminating Heaven from our creed and work and life, we need a greater infusion of its power, a clearer experience of its reality, a more confident apprehension and a growing appreciation of our title to its incorruptible and fadeless inheritance. Instead of expunging it, we need a fuller inflow.
O would he more of heaven bestow, and let the vessels break,
And let our ransomed spirits go, to grasp the God we seek
In rapturous awe on Him to gaze who bought the sight for me,
And shout and wonder at His grace to all eternity.
Something similar to this heavenly experience would freshen us for work and strengthen us to bear and persevere. Instead of Heaven being an initial principle and motive only belonging to our childish spiritual state, it coexists with our whole Christian career, increases with our advance, and grows with our growth.
The fact of Heaven is an imperishable element in Christian character. The whole matter lies in the nutshell of common sense. The Bible being true, our religion real, Heaven is better, far better, than Earth; better people, a better country, better clime. Happy are they who have exchanged the pains, the sickness, the crying, the chill, and the graves of Earth for Heaven.