“Brief life is here our portion,
Brief sorrow, short-lived care:
The life that knows no ending,
The tearless life, is there.
There, glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas—
An endless Sabbath-day.”—Bernard
“Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.” —1 Cor. 13:12.
What an extension in the domain of knowledge on that blessed morning when “the day shall break,” and earth’s twilight shadows shall “flee away forever.” The mysteries in Providence, the “deep things” in Scripture, the apparent discrepancies in God’s moral government, all unfolded, vindicated, explained. “In your light,” O God, we shall “see light,” (Ps. 36:9.)
How this new illumination will be effected we cannot say. We can only venture a few dim conjectures on a great problem which the future itself alone can solve.
Much of our curtailed and partial knowledge here, is owing to the limited range of our present faculties. It is quite possible to conceive in a future world a vast and indefinite extension and amplification of our present mental and bodily powers; such an amplification as the man born blind experiences when his eyes are opened for the first time, on a world of whole glories he has only been previously cognizant by hearing about them. We can quite well imagine some faculty which either we do not now possess, or which hitherto, like the sight of the blind man we have supposed, has been lying sealed and dormant, all at once imparted—”eyes of our understanding” opened, which are now closed—new powers, shall we say, of thought and reasoning, taking in knowledge by intuition, which now requires years of laborious thought.
Even in the case of the lower animals, we see powers and instincts which we do not possess, but which, if we did possess them, would add incalculably to our capacities. Instance, as familiar examples, the flight of the migratory birds, or that of the bee winging its way to a vast distance from its hive; yet, notwithstanding its tortuous aerial journey, finding, with unerring precision, its way back to the hidden nook where it started.
The present limited range alike of our physical and moral powers of observation may have been, as an able writer surmises, the reason why Paul, when he was caught up into the third heavens, tells us he saw things which it is not “possible for a man to utter.” Why not possible? Simply because he was not gifted with earthly powers or faculties or language capable of giving expression to what he saw. The phenomena of heavenly glory (if I might so call them) were alike, in kind and degree, so diverse from all he had been conversant with here, that he would have needed another dialect and vocabulary to unfold his meaning.
“But THEN shall I know!” All enigma and difficulty will then vanish—all will be made plain to ennobled, refined, and purified powers. Here on earth, a passing breath from a carnal world dims my glass, and obscures my spiritual vision. There in heaven, there will be no taint of sin to mar or blight my lofty contemplations. Here, amid the twilight shadows of an imperfect state there is much to cause doubt, and, alas! disagreement among God’s children. There, all shall see “eye to eye;” they will only wonder that trifles should have been allowed so sadly to divide and estrange. Here, we are in the gloomy crypt, walking amid the humiliating wrecks of sin and death, reading the mysterious records of mortality. There, it will be in the “cathedral aisles” of light and love, harmony and peace—the noon-day splendor of eternity. Glorious prospect! all made bright before that Sapphire Throne.
That mysterious PROVIDENCE, that desolating bereavement which, like a sweeping avalanche, tore up by the roots the fibers of affection, then I shall know, and see, and acknowledge it to have been all for good. Then I shall understand, (what my aching heart cannot now,) that the child I wept over—the parent I laid prematurely in the grave—the friend, early severed from my side—were all thereby taken from much evil to come, and invested with an earlier bliss. I shall wonder how I could ever have sorrowed on their behalf.
Meanwhile let me bow submissive to my Righteous Father’s will, however dark and startling sometimes it may be. In infancy, the child takes much on trust; in after life, he gets his difficulties explained. Let this be my position regarding the “deep things” of providence and grace. Wait patiently the explanation of my Father in heaven. I shall see in the completed plan that all events had their end and mission—the Lord bringing glory to Himself from all. At present I behold only one or a few links, while He has the whole chain in His hands. Then, in retracing that long line of unbroken kindness, I shall feel satisfied that not only all was for the best, but really the best. The whole bypast wilderness, as seen from the hills of glory, will appear carpeted with love. Like a traveler after a dark night, I shall look back along the region I have traversed; and noting the perils which by His gracious guidance I had escaped, wonder at the way by which God has led me.
Above all, I shall grow in the knowledge of HIMSELF; and have amazing views—such as I have never had here—of His glory as the great end of life and being. Our present knowledge of God, even revealed knowledge, is but like the prattling of infancy, a mere attempt at a spoken language, most of which is still unintelligible. But then I shall be “filled with all the fullness of God.” Not by any means that my knowledge of Him can be perfect. There will always be depths in that ocean-fullness, beyond the fathoming of any finite mind. No, further, the more I know, the more I shall feel that I have to know. When I know most, my befitting exclamation will be, “Oh the depth!” “It PASSES knowledge!” (Eph. 3:19.)
“This is eternal life—to know You.” God, by His varied discipline, is meanwhile training me in this knowledge. And, as a sainted writer has well said, “we must wait until we get entirely home to have lesson-books put by forever. But what ever are the gradations in our books, or in whatever shape the lesson comes to us, this is the one grand blessed object aimed at by our wondrous Teacher in all, Acquaint yourself now with HIM, and be at peace.” (Miss Plumptre.)
“No disappointments shroud
The angel-bowers of joy;
Our knowledge has no cloud,
Our pleasures no alloy.
“The fearful word, to part,
Is never breathed above;
Heaven has no broken heart
Throughout her realms of love.”