Bishop J. C. Ryle
Reader, There is a glorious dwelling place provided by Jesus Christ for all His believing people. The world that now is, is not their rest: they are pilgrims and strangers in it. Heaven is their home.
There will be a place in heaven for all sinners who have fled to Christ by faith, and trusted in Him: for the least as well as the greatest. Abraham took care to provide for all his children, and God takes care to provide for His. None will be disinherited; none will be cast out; none will be cut off. Each shall stand in his lot, and have a portion in the day when the Lord brings many sons to glory. In our Father’s house are many mansions.
Reader, I want you to go to heaven after this life is over. I want heaven to be very full, and I want you to be one of its inhabitants. Listen to me for a few moments, while I tell you something about the manner of the place.
I can tell you a little of the blessedness of heaven, but not all. What mortal man can explain the full nature of the inheritance of the saints in light? Who can describe the glory which is yet to be revealed and given to the children of God? Words fail, language falls short. Mind cannot conceive fully, and tongue cannot express perfectly, the things which are comprised in the glory yet to come upon the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Oh, it is indeed a true saying of the Apostle John: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John iii. 2).
The very Bible itself only lifts the veil a little, which hangs over this subject. How could it do more? We could not thoroughly understand more, if more had been told us. Our constitution is as yet too earthly. Our understanding is as yet too carnal to appreciate more if we had it. The Bible generally deals with the subject in negative terms, and not in positive assertions. It describes what there will not be in the glorious inheritance, that thus we may get some faint idea of what there will be. It paints the absence of certain things, in order that we may drink in a little the blessedness of the things present. It tells us that the inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away.
It tells us that the devil is to be bound,—that there shall be no more night and no more curse,—that death shall be cast into the lake of fire,—that all tears shall be wiped away, and that the inhabitant shall no more say, “I am sick.” And these are glorious things indeed! No corruption!—No fading!—No withering!—No devil!—No curse of sin!—No sorrow!—No tears!—No sickness!—No death! Surely the cup of the children of God will indeed run over!
But reader, there are positive things told us about the glory yet to come upon the heirs of God, which ought not to be kept back. There are many sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comforts in their future inheritance, which all true Christians would do well to consider. There are cordials for fainting pilgrims in many words and expressions of Scripture, which you and I ought to lay up against the time of need.
Is knowledge pleasant to us now? Is the little that we know of God, and Christ, and in the Bible, precious to our souls, and do we long for more? We shall have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture?—Then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. xiii. 12). Blessed be God, there will be no more disagreements among believers! Episcopalians and Presbyterians, Calvinists and Arminians, Millenarians and Anti-Millenarians, friends of Establishments and friends of the Voluntary system, advocates of infant baptism and advocates of adult baptism,—all will at length be of one mind. The former ignorance will have passed away. We shall marvel to find how childish and blind we have been.
Is holiness pleasant to us now? Is sin the burden and bitterness of our lives? Do we long for entire conformity to the image of God? We shall have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture?—“Christ gave Himself for the Church, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. v. 27). Oh, the blessedness of an eternal good-bye to sin! Oh, how little the best of us do at present! Oh, what unutterable corruption sticks, like birdlime, to all our motives, all our thoughts, all our words, all our actions! Oh, how many of us, like Naphtali, are godly in our words, but, like Reuben, unstable in our works! Thank God, all this shall be changed!
Is rest pleasant to us now? Do we often feel faint though pursuing? Do we long for a world in which we need not be always watching and warring? We shall have it perfectly in glory. What saith the Scripture?—“There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God” (Heb. iv. 9). The daily, hourly conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil, shall at length be at an end: the enemy shall be bound; the warfare shall be over; the wicked shall at last cease from troubling; the weary shall at length be at rest. There shall be a great calm.
Is service pleasant to us now? Do we find it sweet to work for Christ, and yet groan, being burdened by a feeble body? Is our spirit often willing, but hampered and clogged by the poor weak flesh? Have our hearts burned within us when we have been allowed to give a cup of cold water for Christ’s sake; and have we sighed to think what unprofitable servants we are? Let us take comfort. We shall be able to serve perfectly in glory, and without weariness. What saith the Scripture?—“They serve Him day and night in His temple” (Rev. vii. 15).
Is satisfaction pleasant to us now? Do we find the world empty? Do we long for the filling up of every void place and gap in our hearts? We shall have it perfectly in glory. We shall no longer have to mourn over cracks in all our earthen vessels, and thorns in all our roses, and bitter dregs in all our sweet cups. We shall no longer lament, with Jonah, over withered gourds. We shall no longer say, with Solomon, “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” We shall no longer cry, with aged David, “I have seen an end of all perfection.” What saith the Scripture?—“I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (Psalm xvii. 15).
Is communion with the saints pleasant to us now? Do we feel that we are never so happy as when we are with the excellent of the earth? Are we never so much at home as in their company? We shall have it perfectly in glory. What saith the Scripture?—“The Son of man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which work iniquity.” “He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds” (Matt. xiii. 41; xxiv. 31). Praised be God, we shall see all the saints of whom we have read in the Bible, and in whose steps we have tried to walk.
We shall see apostles, prophets, patriarchs, martyrs, reformers, missionaries, and ministers, of whom the world was not worthy. We shall see the faces of those we have known and loved in Christ on earth, and over whose departure we shed bitter tears.We shall see them more bright and glorious than they ever were before. And, best of all, we shall see them without hurry and anxiety, and without feeling that we only meet to part again. In glory there is no death, no parting, no farewell!
Is communion with Christ pleasant to us now? Do we find His name precious to us? Do we feel our hearts burn within us at the thought of His dying love? We shall have perfect communion with Him in glory. “We shall ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. iv. 17). We shall be with Him in paradise: we shall see His face in the kingdom. These eyes of ours will behold those hands and feet which were pierced with nails, and that head which was crowned with thorns.
Where He is, there will the sons of God be. When He comes, they will come with Him: when He sits down in His glory, they shall sit down by His side. Blessed prospects indeed! I am a dying man in a dying world; all before me is unseen: the world to come is a harbour unknown! But Christ is there, and that is enough. Surely if there is rest and peace in following Him by faith on earth, there will be far more rest and peace when you see Him face to face. If we have found it good to follow the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness, we shall find it a thousand times better to sit down in our eternal inheritance with our Joshua, in the promised land.
Ah, reader, if you are not yet among the heirs of glory, I do pity you with all my heart. How much you are missing! How little true comfort you are enjoying! There you are, struggling on, and toiling in the fire, and wearying yourself for mere earthly ends,—seeking rest and finding none,— chasing shadows and never catching them—wondering why you are not happy, and yet refusing to see the cause,—hungry, and thirsty, and empty, and yet blind to the plenty within your reach,—your expectations all perishing, and none to look forward to beyond the grave. Oh, that you were wise! Oh, that you would hear the voice of Jesus, and learn of Him.
Reader, if you are one of those who are heirs of glory, you may well rejoice and be happy. You may well wait, like the boy Patience in Pilgrim’s Progress: your best things are as yet to come.—You may well bear crosses without murmuring: your light affliction is but for a moment; the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which is to be revealed. When Christ our life appears, then you also shall appear with Him in glory.—You may well not envy the transgressor and his prosperity: you are the truly rich.
Well said a dying believer, in my own parish, “I am more rich than I ever was in my life.” You may say, as Mephibosheth said to David, “Let the world take all: my King is coming again in peace.” You may say, as Alexander said when he gave all his riches away, and was asked what he kept for himself: “I have hope.” You may well not be cast down by sickness: the eternal part of you is safe, and provided for, whatever happens to your body.
You may well look calmly on death: it opens a door between you and your inheritance. You may well not sorrow excessively over the things of the world,—over partings and bereavements,—over losses and crosses: the day of gathering is before you; your treasure is beyond reach of harm. Heaven is becoming every year more full of those you love, and earth more empty. Glory in your inheritance. It is all yours by faith, if you are a son of God: it shall soon be yours in possession.
I’m going to leave all my sadness,
I’m going to change earth for heaven;
There, there all is peace, all is gladness,
There pureness and glory are given.
Friends, weep not in sorrow of spirit,
But joy that my time here is o’er;
I go, the good part to inherit,
Where sorrow and sin are no more.
The shadows of evening are fleeing,
Morn breaks from the city of light;
This moment day starts into being,
Eternity bursts on my sight:
The first-born redeemed from all trouble,
The lamb that was slain in the throng,
Their ardour in praising redouble:
Breaks not on the ear the new song?
I’m going to tell their glad story,
To share in their transports of praise:
I’m going, in garments of glory,
My voice to unite with their lays.
Ye fetters corrupted, then leave me;
Thou body of sin, droop and die;
Pains of earth, cease ye ever to grieve me,
From you ´tis for ever I fly.
J. C. Ryle Tracts
Some of these rare, short “Helmingham Series” tracts, not published since the 19th Century, have come into my possession, and I offer you this tract exactly word for word as it was first published when J. C. Ryle was a Rector at Helmingham, Suffolk.