The Believer’s Glad Prospects
WITHOUT a sentence of introduction, I invite you, Beloved, to see herein,
- A BLESSED SEASON HERE ANTICIPATED!–A time when the day shall break and the shadows shall flee away.
It is not every man who can count upon such a time as that, for to some there is no prospect of the day breaking. They are now in the shade and that shade will grow darker and darker with them till, in the hour of death, their sun will go down forever in a tenfold night–a night not gladdened by a solitary star–a night that shall never have an ending–a night of glooms more terrible than imagination itself could picture! I fear there are some in this place for whom we might utter such forebodings! The world is dark enough to them, now, but they have no hope of the Lord as though it would be brightness to them. Conscience tells them–and if conscience is not enlightened enough to do so–the Word of God tells them that the day of the Lord shall be darkness and not light to them. But, to every soul in this house that believes in Jesus, there is the delightful anticipation of the hour spoken of in the text–when the day shall break and the shadows shall flee away!
Let us take each expression and muse on it. “ Until the day breaks.” In a certain sense the Christian is now in thelight, for he is a child of light and he walks in the light. And he may walk in the light as God is in the light, and so have fellowship with the Father and feel that the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses him from all sin. But Paul, in some pages, calls this present estate darkness. “For,” he says, “the night is far spent, the day is at hand,” meaning thereby this present state of life to the Believer, which is far spent, and the daylight, the glorious daylight of eternity, is near at hand!
“The daybreak.” Why, this represents to the most of us, probably, the moment of death. To as many as shall be alive and remain at the coming of the Lord, it represents the coming of the Lord and the Glory of His people. “The daybreak!” It is the hour of joy. During the night the earth seems sad. She has covered herself with sackcloth, her eyes are full of the drops of the night. There is silence over the plains. The woods send not forth their grateful music. There is only heard the hooting of the owl, with, perhaps, now and then a stray note from the nightingale as though she remembered the day. Night is the time of the world’s gloom, but daybreak is the time of her festival! Then is her splendor abroad. Then–
“Morn, her rosy step in the eastern clime
Advancing, sows the earth with orient pearl.”
Ten thousand winged songsters of the grove waking up from their slumber begin to pour forth incessant streams of music! Every creature, beholding the light of the sun, wakes itself up and is full of joy! Such will the daybreak be to us. This is not our time of fullest joy. We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened. We have trials without. We have conflicts within. The daybreak is coming when we who are not of the night, nor of darkness, though compelled to pass through it, shall emerge into our proper element–the Light of God–and our spirits shall bathe themselves in all that they can desire, being satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord! “I shall be satisfied,” says David, “when I awake in Your likeness.” We are looking for a time of ineffable delight! All the attempts that have ever been made to describe the joy and glory of Heaven have necessarily been failures–and if we were to attempt again, we should fall far below that which God has revealed to us by His Spirit–for eye has not seen, nor ear heard that which He has prepared for them that love Him! Thank God, our joy is coming nearer every time the tick of the clock is heard. Behold, on flying wings it comes! Every day of winter’s sorrow or of summer’s joy brings it nearer. We said last Sunday evening, “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,” and we often sing–
“We nightly pitch our moving tent
A day’s march nearer home.”
This is one of the choicest consolations of the present–that we are getting nearer to the daybreak!
“The daybreak!” It is a summons to activity. The creatures waking up prepare themselves for their day’s work. AllNature is astir. She was lethargic before, as it were, frostbitten under the raven wing of night, but now that the bright beams of the sun have brought the light, they have also brought restoration to vitality! Now the workman girds up his loins and goes forth to his labor. Ah, Brothers and Sisters, those of us who are helped to do most for God on earth are not satisfied with what we can do. This seems to be a world of trying rather than of accomplishing. We are straining to be able to serve God. I feel myself constantly, if I can imagine such an experience, like the chick within the shell–chipping it, wanting to get out of it, doing all it can–no, not do all it can–but doing something and desiring to do more, feeling its circle to be circumscribed and itself to be cribbed, cabined and confined! But what a glorious thing it will be when the young eaglets hatch themselves, leave the nest and try their wings! Such is the happiness we are looking forward to at the daybreak–that we shall serve God day and night in His Temple without any weariness–that we shall serve Him without any sin! That we shall adore Him without any wandering thoughts! That we shall be dedicated to Him without anything that can stir the jealousy of His holy mind! We shall then move forward in the path of duty with as straight a persistency and as Divine a perseverance as the thunderbolt when it is launched from the hand of the Almighty! We shall neither turn to the right hand nor to the left. We shall be swift as seraphs and strong as cherubs in the course of service–and that service shall be to us the Heaven of our delight! Oh, we may well long for the daybreak, because it will help His servants to serve Him!
“The daybreak!” Is it not, likewise, the time of clear discovery? At night we peep about. We spy out the forms of themountains. We can trace, by the moonbeams, the course of the rivers, and we may know something, more or less according to the measure of our discernment, or the inferences we may draw of what there is round about us. Still, the night is the time of gloom. Nor can all the tapers and lamps that men kindle turn night into day! So here–this is the time of our ignorance. We know something of the Truth as God has taught us and, blessed be His name, it is such dear knowledge that we would not give it up for all the world! But still, we only see as in a glass darkly–we have not yet come to the face-to-face vision. We read like children spell at school–syllable by syllable–and we do not quite understand what we read. We are like a boy when he first begins to spell out his Horace–he does not comprehend the elegance of the style or the poetry of the language–but just spells it out and sees something of the literal meaning, but that is all that he can get. Ah, I suppose that the greatest Divine that ever lived did not know as much, before he died, as a child knows when he has been in Heaven five minutes! All that we are able to discover here seems to be little, indeed. We know in part, we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away with! The daybreak no sooner comes to the world than you discern everything in its natural hue and its just proportion! You see color where before everything was black! You perceive the beauty of the landscape, the mountain rises before you, the river rolls on mightily towards the sea–even the tiny flowers challenge your notice! You mark all on earth, for by the sun God has painted all the world with the colors of the rainbow! And oh, what a glorious discovery our admission into the next world will bring to us!–
“Then shall we see, and hear, and know
All we desired or wished below!
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy!”
I often get confused over doctrines that puzzle me. I see this to be true, and that to be true, but how to reconcile the two, I know not. Then the thought of the daybreak comes in so comfortably. “What you know not now, you shall know hereafter.” Here it is not good for us to know all things. In some respects, it is the Glory of God to conceal Himself and He may well say to us–“I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” But there it will be the Glory of God to reveal Himself and it will also be to our benefit, our minds being then fortified and strengthened to receive what we could not comprehend here below! Perhaps the glare of the Divine Light, if it comes to us here, even though tempered by the Mediator, Himself, might be too much for these poor eyes of ours. All the Prophets, or nearly all when he saw the Master in Patmos, writes these very instructive words–“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” Now, the Lord has work for us to do, but He does not want us to be always lying at His feet as dead! Consequently, He withholds from us the full radiance of His Glory. But there we shall be able to endure much! And there we shall be privileged to enjoy much–
“These eyes shall see Him in that day–
The Christ who died for me!
And all my rising bones shall say,
‘Lord, who is like unto Thee?’”
So, you see, we look forward to a time of perfect joy, of wonderful activity and of full discovery.
What a blessing that we are able to look forward to this and to talk about it as a matter of certainty. “Until the day breaks.” Why, there are dear aged Brothers and Sisters here who, in the Providence of God, cannot be with us very long–and how are they accustomed to speak of their departure? I hear them speak constantly with holy confidence and not at all with any reluctance. There have been some people so foolish as not to like to be thought old! Some who have seemed to altogether regret that the gray hairs were apparent on their heads. But I do not find it so among the Lord’s people with whom I associate! I find them thankful that this life is not all their portion, blessing God that they do not expect to be here forever–and longing for evening to undress that they may rest with God, with holy expectation anticipating the blissful moment when the day shall break! And we who are younger need not think that because we still have strength in our loins, that we shall therefore live long. Oh, how many younger than ourselves have we seen taken away during the past year! Some of our fathers will outlive us–our grandparents will follow us to the tomb, for youth preserves not man! Well, we, too, will join with the reverend seigneurs and we will anticipate the daybreak and talk with them of it tonight!
The other expression of the text is also instructive–“Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.” What arethese shadows? They are of many sorts. They abound. This is the valley of shadows. Surely every man walks in a vain shadow and disquiets himself in vain! Some shadows we have that are precious. There are the shadows of the ordinances–Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. I speak of them with the highest reverence, yet they are but shadows in themselves. But we need them because we are in the shadow land. He that is immersed in water is not, therefore, buried with Christ–the burial with Christ is the reality, the burial in water is but the shadow! He that eats and drinks at the Table of the Master does not, therefore, eat His flesh and drink His blood–the bread and the wine, though they look substantial, are but the shadows. The real flesh and blood of Jesus–these are the inner substance–and only to faith is it given to feed upon these celestial viands! These things are only intended to last until the day breaks, for note, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show forth the Lord’s death until He comes.” Then when He comes, the day breaks and the shadow, even that blessed shadow, must flee away!
Other shadows we have that we shall be more glad to lose–shadows of frightful things which haunt us–especially the timid, nervous and faint-hearted people of God. Some of the Lord’s people spend their lives in fighting shadows! They make troubles. They sit down and imagine disasters which cannot occur. They bind heavy burdens and put them upon their own shoulders–burdens which God never intended them to bear–and burdens which, in fact, do not exist! And some of them even create actual trouble by foolish anxiety to escape from an imaginary trouble! Well, poor trembler, poor Mr. Fearing, and you, Miss Much-afraid and Miss Despondency, the shadows will soon flee away! Though you generally go limping to Heaven with weak hands and feeble knees, and as many sighs as breaths, and as many tears as seconds, there is an end coming to all these and you shall be as merry as any of them by-and-by! You shall be as near the eternal Throne of God as the Apostles, themselves, and have as much of the Divine Love and enjoyment as the strongest Believers in Christ ever had! Be of good courage. Strive against those fears! They weaken you. They dishonor our Master! Repent of ever having indulged them, for they are wicked! Still, let this encourage you–they shall all flee away at the daybreak! Do not, therefore, dread dying when with that comes the daybreak! Expect it, even long for it, since then the shadows which oppress you from morn till night shall flee away!
So, too, those doubts and fears which are made of sterner stuff, the deeper shadows and heavier glooms, shall all flee away! There may be some men who never have a doubt about their acceptance in Christ, but I am afraid I cannot count myself as one of them. For the most part I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day. But sometimes when it comes to close heart-work and self-examination, I cannot give up Cowper’s hymn–
“‘Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought!
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I His, or am I not?
If I love, why am I thus?
Why this cold and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, could they be worse
Who have never known His name?”
Not that it is of any use having such a hymn as that in the hymnbook, for you never ought to sing it! It is not a thing to sing, but to groan out all alone before our God. I think the most of us are compelled to do that sometimes. Well, blessed be God, at the daybreak, all these fears will be gone! We shall never be able, then, to doubt our interest in Christ because we shall be with Him where He is–and shall behold His Glory! Then we shall never have any fear lest after having preached to others we, ourselves, should be cast away. We shall not be afraid lest we should be shipwrecked, for though it may be but on boards and broken pieces, yet we shall then have come safely to land–all these fears will have vanished forever!
May not these shadows represent to some of us that daily sense of sin which comes upon us and drives us to the Cross?Oh, the somber shade which a tender conscience feels under a sense of sin! Some men have not any such tenderness. They can make a profession and be easy in living inconsistent lives. Not so a heart that lives near to Christ–the more pure it is, the more it mourns over its spots! If you are in the dark, you will not see the filth upon your garments, but the brighter the light the more you will see every spot–and the more you will mourn over it. I believe that the more sanctified a man becomes by the work of the Holy Spirit within, the more heavy the burden of sin becomes to him. It is not that he has more sin, but that he feels that he has more. And in the light of the love of Christ, which he enjoys in the secret placesof communion, he sees more of the abomination of sin and, therefore, is more humbled under it. Oh, but it shall all flee away presently! They are without fault before the Throne of God! He shall present us, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing! Oh, what a blessed presentation! At the daybreak, truly, the shadows will flee away!
Do you not think that the text might have a still more extensive meaning and take in everything here below? Thingsterrestrial, after all, are but shadows. The things which are seen are temporal–only the things which are not seen are eternal. The things which are seen, all these things which are round about us, are but shadowy things–they are passing before us and they will soon be gone like the dissolving view upon the sheet. But the eternal things that men think so shadowy and dreamy–these are the only realities, since they will last forever! Well, the shadows will flee away! That means this poor flesh-and-blood body full of sickness which declines as the shadow. That house, those lands. Oh, you rich men! your shadows will all flee away! If you are Believers you will not be sorry for that. And, oh, you poor people! Your one room, cold and cheerless, the toil of every day, the needle, the stitching long for little pay–all shadows and very dark shadows! And they seem very real to you now–well, they will soon be over–so soon! They will flee away and all be gone and–
“Leaving all you loved below,
Up to your Father you will go!”
We will not tarry longer on these two causes, “Until the day breaks”–we expect a daybreak–“and the shadows flee away”–we expect that shadows will flee away. We know they will! We rejoice that they will! Here we sit, looking out into the future, not knowing what may befall us, but singing to our souls this song–“Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”
But while the season of joyful release is anticipated, there is also,
II. A PRAYER PRESENTED. “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be You like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.”
Till Heaven shall come to us and we to Heaven, sweet Lord Jesus be with us! Let us have Your company. But a difficulty arises. There is so much between us and Christ to keep Him away. Hence the prayer, “Come, Lord, be like some hart or roe–like the chamois of the Alps that leaps from crag to crag–come over all these mountains of Bether and come to us when we cannot come to You.”
Remember, Beloved, that our sins were once like these mountain of Bether. Christ has come over them. Our daily sins sometimes seem to our unbelief to be mountains of separation. Christ will come over these. He will bring us again unto the cleansing fountain! He will give us the kiss of reconciliation! He will imprint the seal of peace upon our foreheads. He will kiss us with the kisses of His lips and He will send us away rejoicing that He has come over the mountains.
One great mountain that separates us from our Lord is our need of sight of Him. You know it is not easy to love oneyou never saw–to love one you have heard of, but have not seen at all. But faith gets over this difficulty with regard to Christ, for faith has a pictorial power–and it pictures Christ! Faith has a realizing power–and it grasps Christ. Faith has an appropriating power and it claims Christ! Faith has a power of wing that takes the spirit right away to Christ in holy imagination, sacred fancy and blessed meditation–and so it overcomes the difficulty! But still it is a difficulty and hence the delightful power and force of expression of the Apostle–“Whom, having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with unspeakable joy and full of glory.” The prayer is, then, “Oh, Savior, not only come over my sin, but come over this great difficulty that I never saw You, never heard Your voice and never touched Your hands! Yet come to me over these separating mountains and make Yourself real to my spirit every day I live.”
Ah, Brothers and Sisters, there are many mountains. I shall not mention them all, but I will name one more–the mountain of our natural coldness, lethargy and indifference–and piled on the top of these are our cares and ourworldliness! I wish I could keep my heart red hot for Christ, but everything seems chilled. You cannot even live in God’s service as I do, but in serving Christ, Himself, you get as Martha did–cumbered with much serving. Oh, that the heart were always on the mountain with Christ–no, I won’t say that–were it even in the garden, as long as it were but with Him–in Gethsemane, or on Tabor–it would matter little as long as we could stay with Him! But we have many things to do and many beings to think of more oftentimes than we need, and then we get away from Christ and we cannot get back as quickly as we want and so we have to sing with Dr. Watts–
“Our souls can neither fly, nor go
To reach eternal joys.”
Well, then, He comes to us! He kindles a flame of sacred love and that kindles ours. Oh, great Lord, until the day breaks often come in this way to us! Until the shadows flee away, oh, come to our hearts again and again, leaping over the mountains and revealing Yourself to us!
Here is a blessed thing to think of all the year round. Do not ask the Lord to take away the shadows. Do not ask that you may feel this world to be a bright place to your hearts, but turn your thoughts to this–“Lord, whether it is bright or not to my soul, come to me! Oh, come to me! Be near to me! Let me walk in the conscious enjoyment of Your daily Presence. To your will I leave everything else, only stay near to me!” Do you ask when may this prayer be used? I think it is a very delightful prayer every night when we go to bed. “Lord, until the day breaks and the shadows flee away literally in the morning, come and be with me.”–
“If in the night I wakeful lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply.”
If I toss to and fro on my bed, may I have to say, as Your Spouse did, “By night, upon my bed, I sought Him whom my soul loves”? May I cry with the Psalmist, “When I awake I am still with You”? I think you may put your head upon the pillow each night very delightfully with that as your prayer!
Then you may pray this prayer whenever any trouble has come upon you. Now you may say, “Lord, I see the day hasnot broke with me yet. The shadows have not fled away. There is this heavy loss in business. There is that dear child ill. There is the wife sickening. There is this disease in my own body. But, Lord, until this trouble is removed, come near, come near and still nearer!” If there is one child in the family the mother cares most about, it is the one that is the most sickly. You are sitting here tonight and you are thinking about one of your children, but it is not about the one that is 21 and grown up–it is the little one you left in the cradle. The more helpless it is, the more thought you give it. And so does God consider you, poor helpless, troubled ones! Pray, then, as you are entering into the cloud, “Lord Jesus, abide with me in the thick and dark night, till the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”
This prayer will do whenever the affairs of the Church of God or of the nation seem to be in a bad state. There are times with every Church when it does not prosper as we would desire. There are times in this nation when we see error very rife and true religion at a discount. Well, then, Christian, instead of your fretting yourself about the Ark of the Lord which you can no more keep right than Uzza could, say, “Lord, I would walk with You! I will say as Joshua did, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ Only come, be near to my heart, and keep my heart near to You.”
And what a blessed petition this would be when we are coming to die! We feel within ourselves that the machinery of life must come to a stop. There are certain indications which mark that the last mortal strife is drawing near. Oh, now to bend the knee at the bedside, or if unable through weakness or faintness to do that, to stay one’s self upon the bed and say, “Until the day breaks, so now near to these poor failing eyes, till the shadows flee away and this poor, crumbling body is changed for Glory and Immortality, come, my Beloved, be You like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” It were blessed to fall asleep in Jesus with that prayer upon one’s lips! Well, you are sure to die with it on your lips if you always live with it on your lips! If it is always in your heart, it will be in your heart at the last. So I commend it to you for daily use and for every special crisis. The Lord make it to be a blessing to your souls!
Only, again I say, I wish with all my heart–it is my heart’s desire and prayer–that all of you may have a daybreak to look forward to! It is so sad a thing that so many live as if they were to always live here. They live as if they were to die like dogs and that would be as much an end of them as of the bull that is struck with the pole-axe in the shambles. But, as you will live forever, I must again remind you that there remains for you nothing but a fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation! Would you have a daybreak? Jesus Christ is the Sun! Trust Him! He has told us that he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. To believe is to trust. Now, leaving all your sins–it is time you left them! Now, abhorring all those things in which you once took delight–and you may well abhor them, for they are damnable! They are serpents–fair are their scales but deadly are their fangs! Leaving all these, come to Jesus! He died for sinners, for the very worst of sinners–and whoever trusts Him shall have everlasting life!
Oh, that you just now might end your service of the devil and forthwith commence your service of the Lord Jesus! The Master grant it by the power of His Holy Spirit and His shall be the praise!