I have felt of late a desire to write again a communication for the SIGNS, but have felt my own inability to write in comparison with the many able communications contained from time to time in its columns. Among the numerous evidences of life experienced by those who are born of God, perhaps there are none more conclusive than are those earnest desires, those longings of mind, that hungering and thirsting after the unclouded glory of the Eternal God beyond the verge of time, where sin, sorrow, sickness and death can not enter. I have thought of this in connection with the words of the apostle Peter: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” – 1 Peter i. 6.
The inspired apostle, in the connection wherein the quoted words stand, presents to us the unfading inheritance of the saints, reserved beyond the fading things of time. “Blessed,” says He, “be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; which according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” The unclouded state of eternal felicity and immortal glory is stated, or rather declared, here to be an inheritance. He does not tell us, according to the popular religious theories of this day, that it is offered for sale to all or any of Adam’s fallen race, to be bought by their own unrighteous works. No; but that it is an inheritance made sure and certain by the power of the Eternal God to the “elect according to His foreknowledge.” They are the class to whom the pronoun “you” refers in the phrase, “reserved in heaven for you,” – verse 4. (Read the connection with the text.) They receive [not accept] the earnest of this inheritance while sojourning in time, but must pass beyond the scenes of mortality before realizing the complete fruition of it. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” – 2 Corinthians v. 1-4. The sovereign power of our God is displayed not only in reserving in heaven this inheritance, but also in keeping for it those for whom it is reserved through the trials, conflicts and changing scenes of time; “reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” “To this inheritance,” says Peter, “He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This hope abides within them through all of their mortal journey as a sure and steadfast anchor of their souls, “which entereth into that within the vail.” It pierces through the thickest darkness of the night, of doubts and fears, into the blazing glory of the eternal day beyond, pointing forward to the bright joys of that incorruptible inheritance that remains for the people of God. Truly it is a lively hope, a hope full of life, for it is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” And “when He who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.” His resurrection from the dead is the surety of the bodily resurrection of all His people, for He is their resurrection and their life. This hope abides within them as a day-star from on high, the sure harbinger of that bright day when our vile bodies shall be changed, and “fashioned like unto His own glorious body,” and we shall rest forever with the Lord. It is the complete fruition of this hope, the unending state of uninterrupted felicity, the incorruptible inheritance of the saints, to which the apostle refers in the clause of the text: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice.” It is indeed a great rejoicing in the spirit. In another verse of this chapter he speaks of rejoicing IN Christ “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” When one is begotten and born of God, the spiritual emotions or desires begotten of that birth will pant for their heavenly home and Author, “as the hart panteth for the water-brooks.” The joys of this incorruptible inheritance loom up before and are felt within us from time to time, to soothe and solace us in our journey through time, and we are led to look “not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal;” and to realize in our experience that the “sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Amidst the busy hum, the weary toil of this mortal state, when sorely tried by its numerous perplexing cares, when
“Trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gathered thick and thundered loud,”
And the crushing weight of our mortal depravity causes us to groan, “being heavily burdened,” we turn under the influence of this spirit of rejoicing, to that
“Home of sweet repose,
Where storms assail no more.”
Beyond the dark billows of time, by faith we see the bright light of the Father’s house, and rejoice “in hope of the glory of God.” There is in time no lasting enjoyment, no enduring rest, save that into which we enter by faith in Christ. Sin, sorrow and sickness are found in every place throughout the christian’s mortal travel.
“O could I find some peaceful bower
Where sin has neither place nor power;
This traitor vile I fain would shun,
But cannot from its presence run.
“Where’er I roam, where’er I rest,
I feel him working in my breast.
“Lord, free me from this deadly foe,
Which keeps my faith and hope so low;
I long to dwell in heaven, my home,
Where not one sinful thought can come.”
Perhaps in almost, if not in every instance, the believer in the morning of his experience of a hope in Christ supposes that after a while he will attain to some perfection in the flesh [referred to as “progressive sanctification”.] This false supposition may not assume that form in his mind; it comes in the hope that after a while he will be more free from sin, that as he grows older in years he will grow better in the flesh; but instead of this he is made to feel the hidden evils of his Adamic nature and deceitful heart. He grows apparently more sensitive to sin as the weeping willow: its branches grow downward instead of upward. Apparently to him he grows in sin, becomes daily more depraved and filled fuller with corruption. How applicable to him is this condition is the language of the 107th number of your collection of hymns. Sin enters into his every thought, word and action, it is mixed with all that he does, and like Paul, he cries for deliverance from “the body of this death.” From this there is no complete deliverance until our “vile bodies are changed, and fashioned like unto His glorious body.” His daily and continued experience confirms the fact that there is no perfection in the flesh. The natural man remains a natural man still, unchanged, corrupt and corruptible. Wearied with indwelling sin, sorrow and heart-sickness, tribulation worketh patience, and he realizes the power of Job’s words, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come;” which change is scheduled by divine appointment in the bodily resurrection of the dead, as Paul declared: “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” His thoughts are turned heavenward, and he is filled with joy and comfort in sure prospect of deliverance through the change that awaits him. By faith he comes into the presence of God, and “dwells in the light which falls from His throne.” He feels within the heavenly strains of that undying song which rolls around the throne of God, and fills all heaven with its immortal melody. Truly it is a great rejoicing, a “rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” thus to rise as on a seraph’s wings, “beyond the verge of mortal things.”
“Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” Notice the wording of this quotation: The word “though” is synonymous with the word “although,” the apostle presupposing or admitting the fact. Slowly the hope of a progressive sanctification fades with experience, and the diligent expectation of a glorious change matures. The word “now” is an adverb of time – the present time. Paul has a similar expression in the words “the sufferings of this present time,” that is, the lifetime of the saints, the now of the apostle Peter. He qualifies this word with the phrase, “for a season.” Again we refer to a similar expression of Paul’s, our “light afflictions, which is but for a moment.” From the beginning to the end of time is but a “moment,” comparative to eternity, and we have but a small fraction of that “moment” to endure our sufferings here. “For a season, if need be.” With what sweetness of comfort do these words fall in our experience, “if need be.” Depend upon it, my brethren, never a temptation or sorrow yet through which we pass, but what there is a “need be” for it. “No good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly.” Among the good things dealt out to us here are temptations, tribulation and sorrow, to separate us from the world, that we may seek our all in Him.
“In this, dear Lord, that thorny road
Which leads us to the mount of God;
Are these the toils Thy people know,
While in the wilderness below?”
“‘Tis even so; Thy faithful love
Doth all Thy children’s graces prove.
‘Tis thus our pride and self must fall,
That Jesus may be all in all.”
How comforting, when faith assures us that the everlasting arms of His love are underneath us, and that from His love He “every trouble sends.” Not a groan or a sigh is made in vain; there is a “need be” for them all.
“If need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The word “temptation” here is synonymous with the word “trials.” In the next verse he tells us what those trials or temptations are for: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” In the verse preceding the text he tells us that we are kept by the power of God “through faith,” which He gives, and now temptations are experienced for the trial of that faith. The apostle that these temptations are manifold; they come in a variety of ways, are many in number, and yet they all agree in one purpose and effect, for by them we are brought “through the fire, refined as silver and tried as gold.” “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians x. 13. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” – James i. 12. In the text the word is in the plural, in the last three quotations it is in the singular, yet I believe it points to the same thing: the continued trials and tribulations daily experienced by the redeemed, through which they are crucified unto the world and the world’s opposition unto them, and are made to cleave unto Christ as their only hope of salvation from sin, and of enduring rest in the world to come. “But who may abide,” says Malachi, “the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.” The refiner’s fire consumers the dross, that the gold may shine forth in its purity; and nothing but the faith of the Son of God will endure the severe test, the crucifying ordeal, the manifold temptations, through which the believer is called to pass in his mortal journey. When trials and temptations come, and fill our souls with gloom and sorrow, Christ’s faith in us takes of the things of Jesus and shows them unto us, revealing in our experience the bright glory of the world to come. “I am crucified WITH Christ,” says Paul” “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but by the faith of the Son of God,” not by Paul’s faith, “who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” It is a daily crucifixion through which we pass, Christ’s faith in us continually assures us of an interest in Christ, and points forward to the joys of the incorruptible inheritance beyond time. We are made to lean upon God as our only place of refuge and comfort; helpless we come to Him for life, for health, for every temporal and spiritual good.
“Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.”
The natural mind is satisfied with the things of nature: give him health, and surround him with temporal favors, and he cares for nothing more. Heaven would be no enjoyment to him. He is not qualified through a Spiritual birth to partake of its joys. How soon he grows weary in listening to the praises of God in time; much more would he grow weary of them through an unending eternity. Not so with one born of the Spirit: surround him with all of the riches and honors of time, and they will not satisfy the hungering and thirsting for righteousness and the incorruptible inheritance of the saints. The desire is to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. It is not death that we desire; it is that which is beyond death to which those spiritual desires point. The dark valley of the shadow of death lies between us and our final entrance into the joys of that inheritance. Faith as a light from on high points us to the haven of rest and joy beyond those gloomy shadows. Many of our brethren have crossed over, telling the triumphs of their King, and are resting in the shadow of the Tree of Life. What tongue can tell the joys of that state! It requires immortal lungs and immortal tongues to do justice to such a subject. The blazing glory of the eternal God meets our view in every place. The loud, exultant anthems of praise roll unceasingly around the throne of God and of the Lamb. Here seas of joy eternal flow without a taint of mortal woe. Death, sorrow, pain and sickness cannot enter. Sin, death and hell forever gone, no more they gird their armor on. The battle is fought, the victory won, and now with robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, they come before the throne of God, to serve Him in His temple. “And he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 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 to living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
Yours in love and gospel fellowship,
Wm. M. SMOOT
Signs of the Times
Dec. 15, 1875