« PreviousContinue »
THE HEAVENLY STATE.
REVELATIONS VII. 16, 17.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more,
neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their
eyes. In this text and context we are presented with a delightful view of the real disciples of Christ, as delivered from their sufferings and sorrows, from pains and from shame; and with a view of their exaltation to honour and happiness. This I called a delightful view. It is an animated description of that felicity which awaits the followers of the Lamb. Without, however, making many preliminary re· marks, I shall proceed to consider the words as containing,
A description, both negatively and positively, of the blessedness of the saints in the heavenly state, Here is, first, their negative blessedness, and it is thus described, They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
They shall hunger no more; they shall thirst no more. The hunger and the thirst here mentioned seem to denote extreme poverty, either produced by the power of persecutors, or endured in the common course of Providence. From these, says the text, they shall be delivered; they shall never be again exercised in those ways. Then it is added, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. The sun and the heat, in this passage, are to be understood figuratively of persecution suffered for the sake of a good conscience, and in obedience to the divine law. Our Lord, you know, in his parable of the sower, when describing one part of the seed as falling upon stony ground, represents that seed as quickly springing up, and making a flourishing appearance for a while; but, when the sun arises with his burning heat, it withers away. In his own explanation of that part of the parable which we have in Matt, xiji. 21. he teaches us to consider the sun in the parable as expressive of persecution for, the sake of the truth. The sun, in the hot eastern countries, sheds a prodigious heat; so that to be exposed to fierce persecution, is comparable to being exposed to the fiery beams of the sun at noon-day, in those very hot climates. But now, says this negative part of the blessedness described in the text, the sun shall not light on them; not strike them with its burning beams, nor with any degree of painful heat, in future. They shall be free from persecution, with all its attending distresses : they shall be delivered from the insults and frowns of men, and from all the consequences of human , enmity against them. Then it follows, - in- more general, but admirable language, And God shall. wipe away all tears from their eyes. That is, he shall absolutely stop up all the sources and sluices of sorrow. They shall no more see or feel any reason for sorrowful complaints, or for sighs and groans. This is a general expression, which extends itself to every kind of sorrow, and to every thing that has the least tendency to produce grief. : Now, my brethren,-though all the people of God do not suffer the violence of persecution; nor do they all suffer the inconveniences of deep poverty; yet they all have many causes of real sorrow. There are indeed many sorrows felt in our breasts, which express themselves in tears; or, if not in tears, yet in expressions of a mournful kind; which sorrows may be called, the sorrows of depravity and folly. There are a thousand instances in the life of
every individual, of that individual having sorrows, which for a certain time are very painful; which, were it not for his own abominable depravity, camal pride, ignorance, and unbelief, would scarcely affect him. Various worldly sorrows are of this kind; which sorrows, as an apostle tells, work death. But there are many other sorrows, which are in a great measure peculiar to the disciples of Christ : those sorrows which are of a spiritual kind, arising from a keen sense of their own depravity, from the workings of unbelief, from pride and carnal-mindedness, in various ways. These are common to the people of God in the present state; and the more any one's heart is set upon things that are spiritual, the more sensible will he be of remaining carnality and worldly mindedness.
Loose carnal professors of the gospel, perhaps, feel but little of these, sorrows. The reason is, because they are not in earnest; because their cone sciences are not under the influence of divine authority; because they are not aiming to imitate the example of Christ. Yes, it is because they do not think much about the heavenly state, and are not sensible of the great degree of depravity which there is in their hearts, and of the direct and strong opposition there is in that depravity to their present peace and future happiness. Those, however, who are sensible of their depravity, as they ought to be, and are watching against it;—they have causes of sorrow, and of mourning every day of their lives.
Repentance, or godly sorrow for sin, is not the work of an hour, or of a few days, as first conversion; but it is the work of their lives. Those persons who are not exercising repentance towards God every day, are either so holy, as to be near sinless perfection; or else their consciences are asleep. I wish this to be regarded by all my fellow professors. You may depend upon it, my friends, that if you are living as becomes the gospel of Christ, you will bave such a sense of your own imperfections in all your religious duties; such a sense of the carnal turn of your minds, in transacting your lawful affairs ; such a sense of your want of attention to spiritual things, and so on; as will every day of your lives suggest matter for sorrow, for complaint, and for self-accusation before God.
Now it is no small matter to be delivered from all the causes of this sorrow. It is no small part of celestial blessedness to be forever freed from a possibility of being attacked by the causes of these
And, blessed be God, this negative part of celestial felicity is happily described in our text, and presented to the faith and hope of believers, to animate them in their christian course; that so, however várious or great their sorrows at present be, they may not be cast down as if there were no relief provided, or intended for them.
We now proceed, secondly, to the positive part of this blessedness: For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water. You see, my brethren, this is all figurative language; but highly beautiful and expressive. Figurative language, when properly applied, is generally more expressive, and conveys stronger and bolder ideas than such language as is literally to be understood.
By the term lamb, you all readily conclude, we are to understand Jesus Christ. The very frequent use of that word, as applied to Jesus Christ in this book of the Revelation, is extremely remarkable. If I mistake not, our Lord is so denominated upwards of twenty times. The grand reason of the denomination seems to be suggested in John i. 29. where we find the venerable baptist said to the surrounding multitude, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
The allusion, when our Lord is called a lamb, seems to be principally to those lambs which so frequently bled on the Jewish altar; to the daily sacrifice, a lamb in the morning and a lamb in the evening. And, on the Jewish Sabbath, two lambs in the morning, and two lambs in the evening. It was a standing sacrifice (typical of our Lord's atonement) which was offered to the God of Israel, from day to day, and from year to year successively, When therefore we read of our Lord Jesus Christ