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MEDITATION XLVI

THE DESIRE FOR ETERNAL LIFE

Always Look Upward, O My Soul

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

O DEVOUT soul, thou shouldest not set thy heart upon this fleeting life, but rather upon that life that shall endure forever and ever. Let thy desires ascend to that blessed place where there is perpetual youth without the infirmities of old age; where life shall never more be followed by death; where blissful joy is unalloyed with sorrow, and where there is a kingdom unchangeable and unending. If beauty here has any charms for thee, remember that “the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. xiii. 43). If activity and strength delight thee, bear in mind that the elect “are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matt. xxii. 30). If a long and healthful life seems especially desirable to thee, there thou shalt rejoice in eternal health. If thou longest for full satisfaction here, then rejoice, for the elect shall be satisfied when they awake with the likeness of the Lord (Ps. xvii. 15). If music charms thee, there the angelic choir shall chant the praises of God forever and ever. If thy heart turns to pure and holy pleasures, there God shall make thee drink of the river of His pleasures (Ps. xxxvi. 8). If wisdom attract thee, there the infinite wisdom of God will be revealed to thee. If friendship is delightful to thee here, there thou wilt love God far more than thou lovest thyself, and God will love thee more than thou lovest thyself. If Christian fellowship and concord please thee, there among all the hosts of heaven there will be but one heart and mind. If power, there all things shall be easy to thee, as thou shalt share in the very power of God; desiring nothing that shall be beyond thy power of attainment, but desiring nothing that is not in perfect accord with God’s holy will. If honor and riches possess attractions for thee, there God shall make His faithful servants rulers over many things (Matt. xxv. 23). If thou longest for true security be comforted; for in heaven it is just as certain that eternal happiness will never fail thee, as it is that thou wouldst never lose it of thine own will and choice, or that God, thy loving heavenly Father, will ever deprive thee of it, or that there is any power in the universe greater than God that can separate thee from God, against thine own will. Whatever the elect can possibly long for, there they shall find to their infinite satisfaction, for then shall they see Him face to face (1 Cor. xiii. 12), who is all and in all. The blessings thou shalt there enjoy shall be immeasurable, without number, and inconceivably precious. There we shall rejoice in eternal health of body, the greatest purity of soul, the riches of divine glory and pleasure, the perpetual companionship of angels and saints, whilst our bodies shall shine in the splendor of the glory of God. Oh! how the redeemed shall rejoice in the delights of their heavenly home, in the blessed society of that celestial kingdom, in the glorification of their bodies. Oh! how they shall exult as they think of the world, that for their love of Christ they despised, and of the awful torments of the hell they have escaped. The most insignificant crown of eternal life shall be far preferable to a thousand worlds, because that is infinite, whilst these are but finite. Nor need we fear that different degrees of glory in heaven will ever occasion envy in the hearts of the redeemed, for unity of love will reign in all. And because of this supreme love the joy of one will be the joy of all. There is no greater good in heaven or in earth than God. And so there can be no greater, no more perfect joy conceived of than to see God, and to possess Him; and to feast the eyes upon God, even for a single moment only, will far surpass all the joys of earth; for we shall see Him as He is, and God shall be in us and we in God.

On this life’s journey we have Christ with us constantly; but veiled to our sight under the Word and Sacraments. We cannot here know Him by actual sight and touch of His blessed body; but in that future life we shall see Him face to face, when at His own table in the heavenly kingdom He distributes to us that bread of life that shall perfectly satisfy our hungry souls –- just as the two disciples knew Him, not by the way, but recognized Him as He sat at meat and brake bread with them (Luke xiv. 31). The heavenly city, the holy Jerusalem, has within it no temple made with hands, nor has it need of the sun or of the moon, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. xxi. 22), “and the glory of the Lord did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. xxi. 23). There glorious vision shall succeed faith, actual enjoyment shall succeed hope, and perfect fruition shall succeed love. In the building of Solomon’s temple “there was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard” (1 Kings vi. 7); so in the heavenly Jerusalem, neither pain nor tribulation shall be experienced, because the materials for this temple, that is, its spiritual stones (1 Pet. ii. 5), have all been prepared beforehand in the world through sorrow and tribulation. The visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon (1 Kings x. 1, 2) may set forth a redeemed soul’s hastening towards Christ in the heavenly Jerusalem; it comes with a great train of holy angels, with diverse virtues as its gifts of gold and precious stones. It wonders at the wisdom of Christ the King; at the ranks of His servants, that is, the angels and redeemed saints; at the food of His table, that is, the abundance of that eternal repast He spreads before them; at their glorious apparel, that is, the beauty and grace of their glorified bodies; at the splendor of His house, that is, the magnitude and magnificence of the heavenly palace; at the sacrifices offered up, that is, the unceasing ascriptions of praise that rise to Him; and in amazement the soul will confess that it could not have believed as possible what its eyes now behold.

Take courage, then, O faithful soul, and turn thy thought to those good things that are laid up in heaven for thee; thy spirit ought even now direct itself whither thou wilt by and by go. In time we must strive towards that place where we are to abide through all eternity. Be assured he will not enter into the glory of his Lord who has no desire for it. Thou hopest some time to appear in the presence of God; strive after holiness, then, for He Himself is holy (Lev. xi. 45). Thou art looking forward to the companionship of the angels in heaven; see to it, then, that thou repel not their gentle ministries now by thy sin. Thou hopest to enjoy eternal blessedness after awhile, why then desire so ardently the good things of this life now? Thou art seeking citizenship in heaven; why then desire so greatly “a continuing city here” (Heb. xiii. 14)? Thou art longing to see thy Saviour Christ, why then fear death? He rightly fears death who fears to go into the presence of Christ. Thou art also to enter the heavenly Jerusalem; oh, why then dost thou so defile thyself with sin when it is plainly written, “that there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth” (Rev. xxi. 27)? Thou desirest to eat of the fruit of the tree of life (Rev. xxii. 14); “that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. xxii. 14); “without are dogs and sorcerers” (Rev. xxii. 15); beware then of impurity and unchastity; without also are “murderers,” beware then of excessive anger; without are “idolaters,” beware then of avarice and of making an idol of any worldly object; “without are liars,” beware then of every cunning artifice of sin, of all that savors of falsehood. If thou art longing to be admitted to the marriage supper of the Lamb, long also for the coming of Christ, thy Bridegroom. “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!” But if thou hast not the earnest of the Spirit, through which thou mayst call, “The Lord cometh!” never will Christ, the Bridegroom, admit thee to His heavenly nuptials. Thou art not a true bride if thou desirest not the coming of thy Bridegroom. Wouldst thou have a name and a place in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. xxi. 1); why then set thy heart so fondly on the perishing things of this life? Wouldst thou be made a partaker of the divine nature; why then cling so tenaciously to these empty creature comforts? Dost thou look forward to that “building of God, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. v. 1); why then shouldst thou not desire this earthly house of thy habitation to be dissolved? Dost thou, indeed, “desire to be clothed upon with thy house which is from heaven” (2 Cro. v. 2); why not then provide for it, so that thou mayst not be found naked?

If the adorable Trinity dwell not in thy heart by faith in this life, never in the future life will that Trinity dwell in thee to thine unspeakable glory; if thou dost not enjoy the beginnings of eternal life in thy soul here, thou wilt never rejoice in its full fruition there.



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