Geerhardus Vos on Heavenly-Mindedness

Geerhardus Vos has a wonderful sermon on “Heavenly-Mindedness,” based on Hebrews 11:9-10, in Grace and Glory that is worth reading in full. This extract should whet the appetite for more:

The other-worldliness of the patriarchs showed itself in this, that they confessed to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth. It found its visible expression in their dwelling in tents. Not strangers and pilgrims outside of Canaan, but strangers and pilgrims in the earth. The writer places all the emphasis on this, that they pursued their tent-life in the very land of promise, which was their own, as in a land not their own. Only in this way is a clear connection be tween the staying in tents and the looking for ward to heaven obtained. For otherwise the tents might have signified merely that they considered themselves not at home when away from the holy land. If even in Canaan they carried within themselves the consciousness of pilgrim age then it becomes strikingly evident that it was a question of fundamental, comprehensive choice between earth and heaven. The adherence to the tent-life in the sight and amidst the scenes of the promised land fixes the aspiration of the patriarchs as aiming at the highest conceivable heavenly goal. It has in it somewhat of the scorn of the relative and of compromise. He who knows that for him a palace is in building does not dally with desires for improvement on a lower scale. Contentment with the lowest becomes in such a case profession of the highest, a badge of spiritual aristocracy with its proud insistence upon the ideal. Only the predestined inhabitants of the eternal city know how to conduct themselves in a simple tent as kings and princes of God.

Do you see your family as a religious institution, and heaven as its model? If not, read Erastus Hopkins.

Erastus Hopkins (1810-1872) was a Princeton Seminary graduate, and a Presbyterian pastor in South Carolina, New York, and Connecticut. His book The Family A Religious Institution: or Heaven the Model of the Christian Family is much needed reading for Christian families today, for in it he reminds us that the family is as truly a religious institution as is the church. After establishing this fact from the Scriptures, and showing how heaven is the model of the family, he examines the family from several different aspects: childhood piety, the habits of childhood, parental duties, the season of parental effort, the culture of childhood obedience, on guiding the affections to God, and the covenantal sign and seal of baptism. How we need to be reminded of these things today - and sometimes hearing it from a voice of a different century is just what we need to be awakened to our duties anew. 

Note: This post was originally published on September 12, 2017, and has been very slightly edited.

"Return Unto Thy Rest": A Sermon by Charles Wadsworth

George Burrowes once said of Charles Wadsworth (1814-1882)known particularly today to students of the life of Emily Dickinson — in his book Impressions of Dr. Wadsworth as a preacher that “His preaching is eminently practical. It shows great shrewdness and penetration into the heart and into the motives operating in daily life.” There are many examples of this in his four volumes of Sermons. One such practical example appears in the fourth volume, posthumously published in 1905: “Return Unto Thy Rest.”

The Psalmist in Psalm 116:7 wrote “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.” To return home after a long and hard journey is joyous and serves as cause for thanksgiving. After a season of adversity, how welcome is rest and peace? Although there is, as Wadsworth notes, no permanent rest for the Christian on this earth, there are times given to us during this pilgrimage that allow us to reflect, take note of and give God the glory for his mercies, and to renew our strength for the days ahead. We rest so that we can continue to go forward in life.

Physical rest is precious indeed, but spiritual rest in God is of the utmost value. Thus, the Psalmist primarily refers “to Jehovah, the soul’s great refuge and rest.” As we journey through this world to our heavenly abode, it is right to meditate upon the place of our eternal rest. There is a symbolism in the return from the captivity of Babylon to which this Psalm may have reference. After the great struggle of Christian life, heavenly rest awaits the saint, which is a great encouragement to our souls.

”In its reference unto God's own dear children it is altogether comforting and enrapturing. Oh ! blessed homegoing! when the rest is in God! And as emblemized in this record, such a home-going is mortal life. Every Christian is on the returnward to the Heavenly Zion, and the significant and joyous emblem is to-day all around us….And so setting himself to bring all the ineffable glories of heaven into conditions of sweet familiar life, so that death might seem a home-going, a ‘return to our rest.’…Here we are only pilgrims; there we shall be at home. And good as may seem these mortal dwellings, so that from all the grandeurs of broader landscapes and princelier mansions we come back to them gladly, yet for each redeemed spirit there is a brighter home in heaven.”

This is a sermon worth reading if you are a weary Christian who longs to see the light at the end of a tunnel, or if you have climbed to the top of a mountain after a time in the valley of the shadow. Take heart, then, dear Christian. God has rest in store for his faithful ones. And he gives us a taste of that rest in the seasons of life when we need to feel it. The Lord has been good and gracious. So give thanks to God and keep your eyes heavenward.

It's Never Night in Heaven

Louis FitzGerald Benson was not only, as a scholar and an historian, "America's foremost hymnologist," he was also a poet in his own right. This composition is from his 1897 volume titled Hymns and Verses. It is a sweet meditation on Revelation 22:5. 

"And There Shall Be No Night There"

THERE'S a red burst of dawn, and a white light of noon,
[And the hues of the rainbow are seven;]
But the best thing of all, when the dark comes so soon,
Is to know that it's ne'er night in Heaven.

There's a break in the clouds, and a sheen on the rain,
[And the hues of the rainbow are seven;]
But the sweetest of lights that can brighten our pain
Is to know that it's ne'er night in Heaven.

There's a calm' of the heart through the long after- noon,
[And the gifts of the Spirit are seven,]
When there floats on the dusk, like a leaf-whispered tune,
"Did you know that it's ne'er night in Heaven?"

There's a gleam through the night of a throne set afar,
[And the hues of its rainbow are seven;]
But it stands not so sure as God's promises are. Who has said,
"There is no night in Heaven."