“Would You Be Happy In Heaven?”
ABOUT three years ago, as nearly as I can remember, I was travelling on the Great Western Railway to a town at some distance, where I hoped to spend a happy and profitable week in conference with Christian friends. At Gloucester Station, I was joined by some of these from other parts, who were destined to the same town and for the same purpose. Just as the guard's whistle gave the signal for the start, the door opened, and two gaily-dressed young ladies entered and took their seats opposite each other. Upon the train slowly steaming out of the station those new-comers took each a scrutinizing glance at the occupants of the carriage, which consisted of two gentlemen friends of mine, myself, and two elderly gentlemen, strangers to me; one of these latter sitting next to the elder and more giddy of the two young ladies. Having satisfied their curiosity apparently on the character of their travelling companions, each took out a railway novel of the sensational type and attempted to bury herself in its contents; while my friends and myself convened on our anticipated conference, and by degrees, got enthusiastically engaged in the subject of God's grace, God's truth, and God's Son. During this, our animated conversation, in which all present, with the exception of the ladies, took part and seemed to enjoy; we had produced our Bibles, and were making frequent reference to Holy Writ.
Presently the novels were found incapable of absorbing the mind as completely as was desirable, and the conversation above referred to seemed to break in upon the enjoyment of the readers, when one of the young ladies said to her companion, in tones sufficiently loud for all in the compartment to hear, and which was evidently the intention of the speaker, "Maud, isn't it positively abominable to think we must be bored to death with this religious nonsense wherever we are? This is the third carriage we have got into, hoping to escape it and have ourselves let alone, and here we have it again, worse than ever. I declare, it’s positively a nuisance.''
"Yes," said her companion, "gentlemen, if they were gentlemen, would surely consider the presence of two ladies, and not monopolize the entire carriage by their religion, as though we hadn't enough of it at church on Sundays."
The elderly gentleman, who was then and is now quite unknown to me, turning to the last speaker, said, "Pardon me, miss, but I am not aware there has been anything objectionable in the conversation you so strongly speak against. We have merely been speaking of some very great blessings and joys which are ours through the love of our heavenly Father. Surely to speak of these precious things ought not to be distasteful to you."
"Oh, yes, they are," replied the haughty girl; "there are times for all things, and surely a railway carriage is not the place for such things. We surely ought to have our ears spared from being dinned by religion on week-days; we get enough on Sundays."
"Do you hope to go to Heaven some day?" asked the stranger.
"Of course I do. We all do, I should think; but we don't want to die just yet, or to be constantly told of it in one way or another," was the young lady's answer.
"You will excuse my asking another question. I am an old man and have seen a little of life —more than you have. We shall probably never meet again on earth, but let me ask you this, If a few minutes' conversation about Jesus and His love is so abhorrent to you, how could you be happy in Heaven, where for endless ages, the same theme is continued?"
The words. seemed to have a wondrous power. They were calmly, quietly, kindly spoken, and therein was the secret of the effect they produced. The young lady couldn't reply; her tongue seemed chained, and, turning ashy pale, she remained as a statue till the train stopped at the next station, when without a word, but a sad, sad look at the gentlemen in the compartment she was leaving, she and her friend passed through the doorway, and was seen no more.
But never till my dying day, if I am called upon to have one, shall I forget that look of untold sadness, of emptiness and woe, as depicted on her countenance. Yet is she not a sample of thousands besides? Is not the name of Jesus distasteful to vast numbers? It may be the one who reads these lines, may often have felt as this young lady felt, although the feelings may not have expressed themselves in so many words. If so, let me ask you, Is it not evident from that fact, ere Heaven could be a heaven to you, a great change must take place in your desires, your tastes and feelings—a radical change of nature? This change so needful is what the Scripture terms the new birth. And does it not appear clear, that "except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God?" (John iii. 3-5.)
Imagine a vagrant from the back slums of East London being placed, in his rags and filth, within the drawing-room of Windsor Castle, in the presence of Her Majesty and the nobility of the land. Imagine his feelings of shame if you can. How would he shrink back, how cower under the blaze of the lights, and be tortured by the answering reflections of his shame in the glittering mirrors around him! How by very contrast would he loathe himself, how long to escape and hide himself—his very shame! Then think that that cowering being is a little picture of what you would be, if taken to Heaven without being "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." But you say, "I am doing my best to make myself fit." As well may that street vagabond qualify himself for royalty and palace society by borrowing the left-off clothing of some nobleman as you or I, by any efforts of our own. There can possibly be no means at our command; for we are by nature enemies, and as enemies, "far off,'' "condemned already;" yes, even more if more can be said, "Dead in trespasses and sins, having no hope." Then what is to be done?
"Is there no hope?" said a lady at a meeting, a little while ago, to a servant of God.
"No and yes," he replied. "There is positively no hope whatever in yourself, but there is abundant reason for hope in God."
God has "devised means whereby His banished, be not expelled from Him." (2 Sam. xiv. 14.) The mighty gulf between sinful man and a holy, sin-hating God, He has bridged Himself, "in sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemning sin in the flesh." "He died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter iii. 18); so that now, by virtue of that way made by the death of Jesus Christ for sin, any sinner who trusts his sinful, guilty soul to the merits of that atoning death, shall receive the reconciliation. Not pardon merely, but favour, divine life and eternal inheritance, made "accepted in the Beloved.”
The abandoned wretch of the slums of vice and evil may now enjoy the pleasures of the King's banqueting hall; for the banner which floats over it tells him of the precious blood of Jesus, which has washed his crimson sins away; of the loving heart of the Father, which receives him as His child; and of the Holy Spirit within, the gift of the Father, which testifies that all, though it seem so incredible, is nevertheless blessedly true; for "the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. viii. 16.).
The matter stands just here. God declares you are guilty and condemned, and need a change of heart and nature, before ever you can have a title to Heaven. While He does this, He likewise proves to you that you are helpless to produce this change yourself, but that He is able and willing to do it for you alone on the ground of His sovereign grace for Jesus' sake.
Are you willing to agree to God's terms and end the struggle, submitting to His righteousness? I pray you accept His proffered love and grace, and you shall know what by grace, thousands have known before, that—
"Tis heaven below to feel His love flow,
'Tis life everlasting this Saviour to know.”
Then, whenever life shall end and eternity begin, it will be your joy to know that Heaven, with all its glory, its songs and its service, will be a home for you, purchased by the precious blood of Jesus, and you made meet to inherit it by His grace and His everlasting love.
But on what are your hopes of Heaven now resting? Think not lightly of the matter. Be assured you need a change of heart, and this can only be effected by the Holy Spirit of God. (John i. 13; iii. 5.) While this is true, it is also true that the Holy Spirit works this change on the heart by the Word of God. (See 1 Peter i. 22-24.) "And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you." Believe it, rest upon it, and the blessing shall be yours.
"Nothing to do, sinner, only believe,
God gives salvation, come now and receive;
Jesus has suffered for sin on the tree,
There is the way, sinner, open for thee
"Oh, hear His voice, sinner, time hurries on!
Soon will thy short day of mercy be gone;
Life's narrow way will close, death shuts the gate,
Then, oh, thy bitter cry, “Lost! Lost! too late! ' "
“The Gospel Watchman” 1884