"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
This World a Wilderness, and the Christian a Pilgrim
By David Harsha, 1856
For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. 1 Chron. 29:15
We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon without a trace. 1 Chron. 29:15
We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 1 Chron. 29:15
Beyond this darksome valley of tears and death there lies a bright and joyous region of immortality, where weary pilgrims meet to stray no more. In that happy land their wanderings will have forever terminated, and they shall sit down in everlasting repose under the delightful shadow of the Tree of Life, in the midst of the paradise of God, and enjoy, through the blissful ages of glory, the presence and smiles of that Friend and Savior who, in the tenderest love for them, once poured out his own most precious blood on Calvary, that he might present them, faultless, before the throne of Heaven!
O how transcendently glorious must be the future eternal home of the Christian pilgrim! On those golden plains beyond the river of death, rays of divine glory are beaming in full effulgence. There, the Sun of Righteousness is shining in all his meridian splendor, making eternity one constant noontide of untold and indescribable glory and blessedness– a day without clouds. There, our Immanuel shall be as the "light of the morning when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds."
Eternal day will dawn without a cloud. No gloom or darkness will ever overspread those blissful realms beyond the shores of time. The celestial world will always be irradiated by the glory of God and the Lamb, and the redeemed shall forever bask in the gladsome sunshine of Infinite Love. In that bright home of pilgrims, the Savior will conduct his ransomed ones to living fountains of waters– streams of immortal joys, and God shall wipe away all tears. In the presence of Jesus there is fullness of joy; at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has the human heart ever conceived those things which God has prepared for those who love him.
An exceeding and eternal weight of glory will crown every pilgrim who has found the happy shores of Immanuel's Land. In the Palace of the King of kings, all will be perfectly blessed, and from that "building of God, that house not made with hands," there shall be no more going out; but we shall forever be with the Lord, beholding his glory and enjoying the soul-ravishing manifestations of his endearing love. O, happy abode of Zion's pilgrims! O, sweet and pleasant world, where the balmy zephyrs of Heaven refresh the weary soul; where there flows not a tear; where there enters not a pain; where death itself shall be swallowed up in victory! This is the heritage of those who fear the Lord.
But before our feet stand on the blissful shores of the heavenly Canaan, we have to pass through a WILDERNESS scene. This world is that wilderness, where Zion's pilgrims wander until they are taken home to glory. It is a thorny pathway that leads to the realms of eternal day; but, by the grace of God, the Christian is enabled to hold on the good way with joy, until he passes through the wilderness and over Jordan, more than a conqueror through Jesus, and takes up his seraphic song of triumph amid the undying splendors of immortality.
In this little volume it is our design, as has been stated. to contemplate the Christian in his pilgrimage to the promised land- the happy home of all the true followers of Jesus. In this chapter there are two prominent ideas which recur in our mind, and which deserve our serious consideration.
First, This world is a wilderness.
Second, The Christian is a pilgrim here.
I. THIS WORLD IS A WILDERNESS
To every child of God this world, with all its conceived pleasures, is nothing but a wilderness– far from his Father's House; far from that goodly land which he so ardently longs to see and to possess. This is the view which every saint takes of earth; and it is a just one. What the wilderness was to the children of Israel in their journey to the promised land, this decaying scene is to the believer in his progress heavenward. It is not his rest; it is not his home. On the contrary, it is a wilderness world of trouble, from which he is coming up out of, and traveling to the mansions above. The dark, rugged pathway lies through imminent dangers and difficulties, which sometimes rise like mountains before the Christian pilgrim, and threaten to retard his march to the land of immortality.
But it is a blessed consolation to know that Jesus guards the way to Mount Zion; that he will allow no evil to befall us; that even here, in this valley of tears, all things shall work together for our good. The sorrows and bereavements of life render this earth a trying wilderness world to the child of God. Here, the winds of adversity and floods of sorrow sweep along our path, making us long to reach the blissful hill Of Zion, where "no chilling blasts annoy," where all is blooming with immortal love and peace. Here on earth, we are almost constantly distressed with difficulties, cares, pains, and griefs, which render this a weary land– "a land of deserts and of pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death."
It is SIN that makes this world a wilderness to the saint. On account of the sin in his heart, he often faints, and is ready to die; he feels that this is indeed a valley of weeping, and longs to arrive at the borders of the wilderness, that he may cross into Canaan. Besides all this, he has to encounter, in his journey, violent opposition from an ungodly, persecuting world. This makes him cry out, with the Psalmist, "How I suffer among these scoundrels of Meshech! It pains me to live with these people from Kedar! I am tired of living here among people who hate peace." In the world, there are fightings without, and fears within. How unlike this dark abode of sin and misery are those radiant mansions far beyond the starry sky! There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest.
2. THE CHRISTIAN IS A PILGRIM HERE
He has only a temporary residence in this valley of tears; his abiding home is in that world "where momentary ages are no more." Now he is on his journey to those tearless, blissful regions where he is to spend the ceaseless, revolving ages of eternity. When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they had no permanent residence, but were continually roving about from place to place; journeying to that goodly land which flowed with milk and honey, and which was then the glory of all lands; "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with springs that gush forth in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley, of grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking."
So the believer is a pilgrim on earth, with no continuing city, nor certain place of abode, traveling through a dreary wilderness to that city which shines in the highest noon of glory; to that land of blessedness and immortality, where perennial streams of bliss issue from the eternal Fountain of Life to refresh the weary soul, and where we may freely eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, in the midst of the paradise of God. How impressive is the language of Moses to Hobab, in the wilderness: "We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you." The hosts of Israel, instead of making their abode in the waste howling wilderness, were marching forward to obtain possession of that land which the Lord "swore unto their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them."
Like those ancient pilgrims, we have a promised land in view, and onward is our motto. Instead of seeking our home and our happiness in a perishing world, we are pressing on to that glorious kingdom which Jesus, in his boundless love, has gone to prepare for our reception, and which he has promised to bestow on all those who love him; for he says: "I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." And again; "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." So the Christian pilgrim, animated by such precious promises, has good hope, through grace, of gaining the happy shores of Canaan; of possessing the heavenly inheritance– of making his eternal abode in the courts of Paradise; and of sitting down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, at the banquet of redeeming love, in the kingdom of God.
With such glorious prospects in view, no wonder that he should look upon earth as a barren, homeless world; that he should feel like a stranger and sojourner in it. No wonder that he should speed his earthly flight to reach the blissful skies. We are entreated by a compassionate Savior to seek the better country. In the wilderness, the divine injunction to the children of Israel was to march forward to the land of promise land. The Lord said to Moses, "Now that you have brought these people out of Egypt, lead them to the land I solemnly promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them long ago that I would give this land to their descendants."
The same solemn command, reminding us of our short pilgrimage on earth, is sounding in our ears. It is the entreating voice of the Savior, calling upon us to forsake this present evil world, and seek our portion in the fair realms of eternal day. It is a voice of compassion and love that says to us, "Arise, and depart; for this present world is not your rest. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." The Christian pilgrim obeys the divine injunction; sets forward on his journey; leaves the world, looks beyond this dying scene, gazes on the celestial Canaan, until its glories beam upon his soul, until he breathes the pure atmosphere of the upper world, until his ear hears the glorious melody of heaven and his eye catches a glimpse of the king in his beauty, and of the land that is afar off.
O says the weary pilgrim, as onward he journeys with his eye directed towards the heavenly Canaan. In yonder glorious world is my rest and abiding home. Yes–
"There is my house and portion fair;
My treasure and my heart are there,
And my abiding home;
For me my elder brethren stay,
And angels beckon me away,
And Jesus bids me come!"
The Christian confesses that he is a pilgrim here. All the children of Zion- all who have ever traveled to the Canaan on high, have acknowledged that they were strangers and pilgrims in this wilderness world. Of those ancient worthies who died in faith- in the bright hope of a blessed immortality beyond the darksome grave, and who are held up in the precious volume of inspiration, for our imitation in the Christian life– it is said, they "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." To this land of shadows and of death, their views were not confined. No. They looked higher than earth. "They were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a heavenly city for them." Of Abraham, it is said, "And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise. Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God."
The earthly Canaan was but a type of the heavenly; and therefore the patriarchs, overlooking the passing scenes of a sublunary world, elevated their views to the true land of promise beyond the skies. In contemplating his present state, each child of God is ready to exclaim with the Psalmist, when addressing his Heavenly Father in earnest prayer, "Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cries for help! Don't ignore my tears. For I am a stranger with you—a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me." His feelings with regard to earthly objects are beautifully expressed in the glowing language of the Christian poet–
"Nothing on earth I call my own;
A stranger to the world, unknown,
I all their goods despise
I trample on their whole delight,
And seek a city out of sight,
A city in the skies!
Not a foot of land do I possess;
No cottage in this wilderness:
A poor, wayfaring man;
I lodge awhile in tents below,
Or gladly wander to and fro,
Till I my Canaan gain!"
Thus the Christian pursues his journey and pitches his tent nearer and nearer Canaan, until he reaches the banks of Jordan, where some appointed herald of glory is ready to conduct his happy spirit to the bosom of Abraham- to the mansions of rest- to the paradise of God.
The believer's life is a PROGRESSIVE one. All the true followers of Jesus are daily advancing in their journey towards the realms of peace. They go on, from strength to strength, through this wilderness scene, until every one of them appears before God in the celestial Zion. Their earnest and continued endeavors are to get nearer Heaven, to become ripe for glory; hence, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, they press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. They are not satisfied with their present life in the wilderness. It has but little attractions for them. They are not conformed to the world. They do not think of making their abode in this valley of weeping; but onward they travel towards the land of Canaan- that pleasant region which lies beyond the Jordan of death. Their course is upward.
"All Christians," says the pious McCheyne, "are coming up out of the wilderness. Sabbath days are like milestones- marking our way. Every real Christian is making progress. If the sheep are on the shoulder of the shepherd, they are always getting nearer the fold. With some, the shepherd takes long steps. Dear friends, you should be advancing, getting higher, nearer to Canaan, riper for glory. In the south of Russia, the country is of vast plains, rising by steppes. Dear friends, you should get on to a higher place, up another step every Sabbath day. In traveling, you never think of making a house in the wilderness. So, dear friends, do not take up your rest here; we are journeying. Let all your endeavors be to get on in your journey."
We would earnestly invite you, gentle reader, to accompany us in our pilgrimage to the heavenly country. We would beseech you, with the utmost compassion for your immortal soul, to forsake the path of death, and follow the way of life- the way to undying glory and felicity. In a word, we would most affectionately say to you as Moses did to Hobab, "We are on our way to the Promised Land. Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has given wonderful promises to Israel!" Numbers 10:29