by Rufus Wheelwright Clark
It is not our purpose in the following work, to enter upon the discussion of the metaphysical questions which relate to the spiritual world. We propose to view Heaven through some of the scriptural emblems of its beauties, and examine a few of the prominent sources of its enjoyments. We would, in company with the Christian reader, ascend the mountains that are round about the New Jerusalem, and from their summits . . .
obtain glimpses of its splendors,
catch some faint strains of its melody, and
indulge the imagination in visions of its joys.
We would add a ray to the bright hopes of the departing spirit, add a drop to the cup of consolation which Christianity offers to the afflicted, and stimulate all believers to press forward towards the mark for the prize of their high calling.
Were we, indeed, disposed or able to penetrate into the mysteries of the heavenly world, we would encounter, at the outset, an insurmountable difficulty, in the inadequacy of human language to express spiritual ideas. All our conceptions being derived from experience and observation, except, perhaps, those of intuitive truths, we can contemplate spiritual objects only through the medium of images, symbols, or analogies. Even the nicest definitions in theology, and the most abstract terminology, must be presented in figurative language.
It is true that the Deity has power, independently of the agency of human language, to communicate adequate views of spiritual realities. He can cause to pass before the intellectual vision the bright scenes of the celestial world — the splendors and joys of glorified saints. But our faculties, in their present state, are as little prepared for the full effulgence of heavenly scenes, as our organs of sight are to receive the light of the stars blazing upon us with the intensity of the sun's rays. In kindness, therefore, God has placed these glories at an immense distance from us, revealing only enough to excite faith, and inspire the heart with hope.
Should, however, a mind be enriched with adequate conceptions of Heaven, it would have no power to impart its impressions to others.
It is a deeply interesting fact in the history of our race, that one mind has been thus favored — has been admitted to the third Heaven, and there filled with the most glowing and enrapturing views of celestial felicity. But what the apostle Paul saw and heard, it was impossible for him to utter. The scenes he could not describe, though he felt intensely their power. The bright visions floated in his imagination through life, keeping ever alive in his heart "a desire to depart."
To what extent the material world represents the spiritual, we cannot accurately determine, though it is the opinion of some eminent writers that the analogy between the two is very striking. "Holy Scripture," says one, "in fact, is only a gradual unrolling, or spiritualizing to us, of figures and forms that envelop and represent the deeper truths of the spiritual life."
Another has beautifully said, "I have often thought that flowers were the alphabet of angels, whereby they write, on hills and fields, mysterious truths, which it is not given our fallen nature to understand."
Why may we not extend this idea, and regard all the objects around and above us — all that is beautiful in the sky, clouds, verdure and landscape — as constituting a language which teaches us, though imperfectly, spiritual truths, and reveals, though faintly, the glories of the heavenly world? It certainly must aid the devotions of the Christian, and solace him in his pilgrimage, to look up, and see hung around the visible universe, pictures of the invisible — to listen to the stars, as they softly yet eloquently declare the glory of God. It must increase his faith to view the decorations of this great temple, as the types and shadows of a new dispensation, and of a loftier and more spiritual worship.
The duty of studying the intimations of Heaven which have come to us through nature or revelation, rests upon every Christian. Amid the practical schemes and intense activity of the present day, there is but little calm meditation. The spirit is not at rest long enough to reflect with accuracy the mansions and palaces of the celestial city. It is more like a turbulent stream than a smooth lake.
If we are heirs to a vast and splendid inheritance, if we are cherishing the hope of spending an eternity amid the felicities and glories of a spiritual kingdom, it is but reasonable that we meditate upon them before our departure there.
Not content with being in the outer court, we should seek, under the Spirit's guidance, to enter the Holy of holies, and there sweetly commune with our Father, in whose presence "there is fullness of joy," — at whose "right hand there are pleasures forevermore!"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Rainbow Around the Throne
A Heavenly Rest for the People of God
No Night in Heaven
The Likeness of the Redeemed to Christ
No More Sea
The Angelic Inhabitants of Heaven
The Glory of Christ in Heaven
The Throne in Heaven