Are You an Heir?
Adapted from a Sermon by J.C. Ryle
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17
Having heard and read the verses of Scripture before our eyes, I invite you to consider a very solemn question,—Are you an heir of glory?
Mark well what I am asking. I am not speaking of matters which only concern the rich, the great, and the noble. I do not ask whether you are an heir to money or lands. I only want to ask, Are you an heir of glory?
The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance really worth having. All others are unsatisfying and disappointing. They bring with them many cares. They cannot cure an aching heart. They cannot lighten a heavy conscience. They cannot keep off family troubles. They cannot prevent sicknesses, bereavements, separations, and deaths. But there is no disappointment among the heirs of glory.
The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance which can be kept forever. All others must be left in the hour of death, if they have not been taken away before. The owners of billions of dollars can carry nothing with them beyond the grave. But it is not so with the heirs of glory. Their inheritance is eternal.
The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance which is within everybody’s reach. Most men can never obtain riches and greatness, though they labour hard for them all their lives. But glory, honour, and eternal life, are offered to every man freely, who is willing to accept them on God’s terms. “The one who desires” (Rev 22:17) may be an heir of glory.
Now, if you wish to have a portion of this inheritance, you must be a member of that one family on earth to which it belongs, and that is the family of all true Christians. You must become one of God’s children on earth, if you desire to have glory in heaven.
I want to persuade you to become a child of God this day, if you are not one already. I want to persuade you to make sure that you are one, if for now you only have a vague hope, and nothing more. None but true Christians are the children of God. None but the children of God are heirs of glory. Give me your attention, while I try to unfold to you these things, and to show you the lessons which the verses we have read contain.
I. Let me show you the relation of all true Christians to God. They are “sons of God.”
II. Let me show you the special evidences of this relation. True Christians are “led by the Spirit.” They have “the Spirit of adoption.” They have the “witness of the Spirit.” They “suffer with Christ.”
III. Let me show you the privileges of this relation. True Christians are “heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.”
I. First let me show you the true relation of all true Christians to God. They are God’s sons.
There is no higher and more encouraging word that could have been chosen. To be servants of God,—to be subjects, soldiers, disciples, friends,—all these are excellent titles. But to be the sons of God, is a step higher still. What says the Scripture? “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” (John 8:35.)
To be son of the rich and noble in this world,—to be son of the princes and kings of the earth,—this is considered a privilege. But to be a son of the King of kings, and Lord of lords,—to be a son of the High and Holy One who inhabits eternity,—this is something higher still. And yet this is the portion of every true Christian.
The son of an earthly parent looks naturally to his father for affection, protection, provision, and education. There is a home always open to him. There is a love which no bad conduct can completely extinguish. All these are things belonging even to the sonship of this world. Think then how great is the privilege of that poor sinner of mankind, who can say of God, “He is my Father.”
But how can sinful men like you and me become sons of God? When do they enter into this glorious relationship? We are not the sons of God by nature. We are not born so when we come into the world. No man has a natural right to look to God as his Father. It is a vile heresy to say that he has. Men are said to be born poets and painters,—but men are never born sons of God. The Epistle to the Ephesians tells us, we “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephes. 2:3.) The first epistle of the apostle John says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.” (1 John 3:10.) We are all rather children of the devil, than children of God. Sin is indeed hereditary, and runs in the family of Adam. Grace is anything but hereditary. How then and when does this mighty change and translation come upon men? When and in what way do sinners become the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty?
Men become sons of God in the day that the Spirit leads them to believe on Jesus Christ for salvation, and not before. What says the epistle to the Galatians? “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal. 3:26.) What says the epistle to the Corinthians? “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 1:30.) What says the Gospel of John? “To all who did receive Christ, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12).
Faith unites the sinner to the Son of God, and makes him one of his members. Faith makes him one of those in whom the Father sees no spot, and is well-pleased. Faith marries him to the beloved Son of God, and entitles him to be counted among the sons. Faith gives him fellowship with the Father and the Son. Faith grafts him into the Father’s family, and opens up to him a room in the Father’s house. Faith gives him life instead of death, and makes him instead of being a servant, a son.
This is one of those points we should never forget. We can say nothing of a man’s sonship until he believes. No doubt the sons of God are foreknown and chosen from all eternity, and predestined for adoption. But, remember, it is not until they are called in due time, and believe,—it is not until then that anyone can be certain they are sons. It is not until they repent and believe, that the angels of God rejoice over them. The angels cannot read the book of God’s election. They do not know who are His hidden ones in the earth. They rejoice over no man until he believes. But when they see some poor sinner repenting and believing, then there is joy among them, joy that one more brand is plucked from the fire, and one more son and heir born again to the Father in heaven. But no one can be certain about a man’s sonship to God until he believes on Christ.
And so beware of the delusive notion, that all men and women are alike children of God, whether they have faith in Christ or not. It is a wild theory which many are clinging to in these days, but one which cannot be proved out of the word of God. It is a perilous dream, with which many are trying to soothe themselves, but one from which there will be a fearful waking up at the last day.
That God in a certain sense is the universal Father of all mankind is no doubt true. He is the Great First Cause of all things. He is the Creator of all mankind, and in Him alone, all men, whether Christians or heathens, live and move and have their being. All this is unquestionably true. In this sense Paul told the Athenians, a poet of their own had truly said, “we are indeed his offspring.” (Acts 17:28.) But this sonship gives no man a title to heaven. The sonship which we have by creation, is one which belongs to stones, trees, beasts, or even to the devils, as much as to us.
That God loves all mankind with a love of pity and compassion, is again no doubt true. His tender mercies are over all His works. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He has no pleasure in the death of anyone. All this is true. In this sense our Lord Jesus tells us, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16.)
But that God is a reconciled and pardoning Father to any but the members of His Son Jesus Christ, and that any are members of Jesus Christ who do not believe on Him for salvation,—this is a false doctrine. The holiness and justice of God are both against the doctrine. They make it impossible for sinful men to approach God, except through a mediator. They tell us that God, out of Christ, is a consuming fire. The whole system of the New Testament is against the doctrine. That system teaches that no man can claim an interest in Christ, unless he will receive Him as his Mediator, and believe on Him as his Lord and Saviour. Where there is no faith in Christ, it is nonsense to say that a man may take comfort in God as his Father. God is a reconciled Father to none but the members of Christ.
It is senseless to talk of the view now being upheld, as being narrow-minded and harsh. The Gospel sets an open door before every man. Its promises are wide and full. Its invitations are earnest and kind. Its requirements are simple and clear. “Only believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and, whoever you are, you will be saved.” But to say that proud men, who will not bow their necks to the easy yoke of Christ, and worldly men who are determined to have their own way and their sins,—to say that such men have a right to claim an interest in Christ, and a right to call themselves sons of God, can really hold no water.
God offers to be their Father; but He does it on certain distinct terms:—they must draw near to Him through Christ. Christ offers to be their Saviour; but in doing it He makes one simple requirement:—they must commit their souls to Him, and give Him their hearts.
They refuse the terms, and yet dare to call God their Father! They scorn the requirement, and yet dare to hope that Christ will save them! God is to be their Father,—but on their own terms! Christ is to be their Saviour,—but on their own conditions! What can be more unreasonable? What can be more proud? What can be more unholy, than such a doctrine as this?
Beware of it, if you value your soul, for it is a common doctrine in these last days. Beware of it, for it is often deceptively put forward, and sounds beautiful and charitable in the mouth of poets, novelists, sentimentalists,. Beware of it, unless you mean to throw aside your Bible altogether, and set yourself up to be wiser than God. Stand fast on the old Scriptural ground.—No sonship to God without Christ! No interest in Christ without faith!
These warnings need to be given clearly and unmistakably. There is a school of theology which has risen up in our day, which appears to be most eminently calculated to promote infidelity, to help the devil, and to ruin souls. It comes to us like Joab to Amasa, with the highest professions of charity, liberality, and love. God is all mercy and love, according to this theology:—His holiness and justice are completely left out of sight! Hell is never spoken of in this theology:—its talk is all of heaven! Damnation is never mentioned: —it is treated as an impossible thing:—all men and women are to be saved! Faith, and the work of the Spirit, are refined away into nothing at all! Everybody who believes anything has faith! Everybody who thinks anything has the Spirit! Everybody is right! Nobody is wrong! Nobody is to blame for any action he may commit! It is the result of his environment! It is the effect of circumstances! He is not accountable for his opinions, any more than for the colour of his skin! He must be what he is! The Bible of course is a very imperfect book! It is old-fashioned! It is obsolete! We may believe just as much of it as we please, and no more!
Of all this theology, I warn you solemnly to beware. In spite of big swelling words about “liberality,” and “charity,” and “open mindedness,” and “new lights,” and “freedom from legalism,” and so forth, it is a theology that leads to hell.
Facts are directly against the teachers of this theology. Let them climb to the tops of mountains, and mark the traces of Noah’s flood. Let them go to the shores of the Dead Sea, and look down into its mysterious bitter waters. Let them observe the history of the Jews. And then let them tell us, if they dare, that God is so entirely a God of mercy and love, that he never does and never will punish sin.
Every reasonable conception that we can form of a future state is directly against these teachers. Imagine a heaven which should contain all mankind! Imagine a heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure, good and bad, would be all gathered together in one confused mass! What point of union would there be in such a company? What common bond of harmony and brotherhood? What common delight in a common service? What concord, what harmony, what peace, what oneness of spirit could exist?
Surely the mind revolts from the idea of a heaven in which there would be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked,—between Pharaoh and Moses, between Abraham and the Sodomites, between Paul and Nero, between Peter and Judas Iscariot, between the man who dies in the act of murder or drunkenness and men like Baxter, Wilberforce, and Doddridge! Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely such a heaven would be no better than hell!
The Bible is against these teachers all through. Hundreds of texts might be quoted which are diametrically opposed to their theories. These texts must be rejected summarily, if the Bible is to square with their views. There may be no reason why they should be rejected,—but to suit this false theology they must be thrown away. At this rate, the authority of the whole Bible is soon at an end. And what do they give us in its place? Nothing,—nothing at all! They rob us of the bread of life, and do not give us in its stead so much as a stone.
Beware of this theology. Remember what has been said, and never let it go. No inheritance of glory without sonship to God! No sonship to God without an interest in Christ! No interest in Christ without your own personal faith! This is God’s truth. Take firm hold of it in your own mind.
Who now among us this morning desires to know whether he is a son of God? Ask yourself this day, and ask it as in God’s sight, whether you have repented and believed. Ask yourself whether you are experimentally acquainted with Christ, and united to Him in heart. If not, you may be very sure you are no son of God. You are not yet born again. You are yet in your sins. Your Father in creation God may be, but your reconciled and pardoning Father, God is not. Yes! though church and world may agree to tell you the contrary,—though ministers and friends unite in flattering you,—your sonship is worth little or nothing in the sight of God. Let God be true and every man a liar. Without faith in Christ you are no son of God,—you are not born again.
Who is there among us this morning who desires to become a son of God? Let that person see his sin, and flee to Christ for salvation, and this day he will be placed among the children. Only acknowledge your iniquity, and lay hold on the hand that Jesus holds out to you this day, and sonship, with all its privileges, is your own. Only confess your sins, and bring them to Christ, and God is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
This very day, old things will pass away and all things become new. This very day, you will be forgiven, pardoned, accepted in the beloved. This very day, you will have a new name given to you in heaven. You entered this room a child of wrath. You will leave it a child of God. Mark this, if your professed desire after sonship is sincere,—if you are truly weary of your sins, and have really something more than a lazy wish to be free,—there is real comfort for you. It is all true. It is all written in Scripture, even as I have laid it out. I dare not raise barriers between you and God. This day, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be a son, and be saved.
Who is there among us this morning that is a son of God indeed? Rejoice and be exceeding glad of your privileges! Rejoice, for you have good cause to be thankful. Remember the words of the beloved apostle: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1.) How wonderful that heaven should look down on earth,—that the holy God should set His affections on sinful man, and admit him into His family!
What though the world does not understand you! What though the men of this world laugh at you, and cast out your name as evil! Let them laugh, if they will. God is your Father. You have no need to be ashamed. The Queen can create a nobleman. The bishops can ordain clergymen. But Queen, Lords, and Commons,—bishops, priests, and deacons,—all together, cannot, of their own power, make one son of God, or one of greater dignity than a son of God. The man that can call God his Father, and Christ his elder Brother,—that man may be poor and lowly in this world, yet he never need be ashamed.
II. Let me show you, in the second place, the special evidences of the true Christian’s relation to God.
How can a man be sure of his own sonship? How can he find out whether he is one that has come to Christ by faith and been born again? What are the marks, and signs, and tokens, by which the sons of God may be known? This is a question which all who love eternal life ought to ask. This is a question to which the verses of Scripture I am asking you to consider, like many others, supply an answer.
1. The sons of God, for one thing, are all led by His Spirit. What do the Scriptures say? “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14.)
They are all under the leading and teaching of a power which is almighty, though unseen,—even the power of the Holy Spirit. They no longer turn every man his own way, and walk every man in the light of his own eyes, and follow every man his own natural heart’s desire. The Spirit leads them. The Spirit guides them. There is a movement in their hearts, lives, and affections, which they feel, though they may not be able to explain, and a movement which is always more or less in the same direction.
They are led away from sin,—away from self-righteousness,—away from the world. This is the road by which the Spirit leads God’s children. Those whom God adopts He teaches and trains. He shows to them their own hearts. He makes them weary of their own ways. He makes them long for inward peace.
They are led to Christ. They are led to the Bible. They are led to prayer. They are led to holiness. This is the beaten path along which the Spirit makes them travel. Those whom God adopts He always sanctifies. He makes sin very bitter to them. He makes holiness very sweet.
It is the Spirit who leads them to Sinai, and first shows them the law, that their hearts may be broken. It is He who leads them to the cross, that their hearts may be bound up and healed. It is He who leads them to Pisgah, and gives them distant views of the promised land, that their hearts may be cheered. When they are taken into the wilderness, and taught to see their own emptiness, it is the leading of the Spirit. When they are carried up to Tabor, and lifted up with glimpses of the glory to come, it is the leading of the Spirit. Each and all of God’s sons is the subject of these leadings. Each and all yields himself willingly to them. And each and all is lead by the right way, to bring him to a city to dwell in.
And so let it be a settled matter in your heart, and do not let it go. The sons of God are a people led by the Spirit of God, and always led more or less in the same way. Their experience will tally wonderfully when they compare notes in heaven. This is one mark of sonship.
2. Furthermore, all the sons of God have the feelings of adopted children towards their Father in heaven. What do the Scriptures say? “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father.” (Rom. 8:15.)
The sons of God are delivered from that slavish fear of God, which sin creates in the natural heart. They are redeemed from that feeling of guilt, which made Adam hide himself in the trees of the garden, and Cain go out from the presence of the Lord. They are no longer afraid of God’s holiness, and justice, and majesty. They no longer feel as if there was a great gulf and barrier between themselves and God,—and as if God was angry with them, and must be angry with them, because of their sins. From these chains and fetters of soul the sons of God are delivered.
Their feelings towards God are now those of peace and confidence. They see Him as a Father reconciled in Christ Jesus. They look on Him as a God whose attributes are all satisfied by their great Mediator and peacemaker, the Lord Jesus,—as a God who is just, and yet the justifier of every one that believes on Jesus. As a Father, they draw near to Him with boldness. As a Father, they can speak to Him with freedom. They have exchanged the spirit of bondage for that of liberty, and the spirit of fear for that of love. They know that God is holy, but they are not afraid. They know that they are sinners, but they are not afraid. Though holy, they believe that God is completely reconciled. Though sinners, they believe they are clothed all over with Jesus Christ. Such is the feeling of the sons of God.
No doubt some of them have this feeling more vividly than others. Some of them carry about scraps and remnants of the old spirit of bondage to their dying day. Many of them have fits and spasms of the old man’s complaint of fear flaring up periodically. But very few of the sons of God could be found who would not say, if cross-examined, that since they knew Christ they have had very different feelings towards God, from what they ever had before. They feel as if something like the old Roman form of adoption had taken place between themselves and their Father in heaven. They feel as if He had said to each one of them, “Will you be my son?” and as if their hearts had replied, “I will.”
Try to grasp this also, and hold it fast. The sons of God are a people who feel towards God in a way that the children of the world do not. They feel no more slavish fear towards Him. They feel towards Him as a reconciled parent. This then is another mark of sonship.
3. But again, the, sons of God have the witness of the Spirit in their consciences.—What do the Scriptures say? “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom. 8:16.)
They have all got something within their hearts, which tells them there is a relationship between themselves and God. They feel something which tells them that old things are passed away, and all things become new, —that guilt is gone,—that peace is restored, that heaven’s door is open, and hell’s door is shut. They have, in short, what the children of the world do not have,—a felt, positive, reasonable hope. They have what Paul calls the “seal” and “guarantee” of the Spirit. (2 Cor. 1:22. Ephes.1:13-14)
This is not to deny for a moment that this witness of the Spirit is exceedingly various in the extent to which the sons of God possess it. With some it is a loud, clear, ringing, distinct testimony of conscience:—“I am Christ’s, and Christ is mine.” With others it is a little, feeble, stammering whisper, which the devil and the flesh often prevent being heard. Some of the children of God speed on their course towards heaven under the full sails of assurance. Others are tossed to and fro all their voyage, and will scarce believe they have got faith.
But take the least and lowest of the sons of God. Ask him if he will give up the little bit of religious hope which he has attained? Ask him if he will exchange his heart, with all its doubts and conflicts, its fightings and fears,—ask him if he will exchange that heart for the heart of the downright worldly and careless man? Ask him if he would be content to turn round and throw down the things he has got hold of, and go back to the world? Who can doubt what the answer would be? “I cannot do that,” he would reply, “I do not know whether I have faith: I do not feel sure I have got grace: but I have got something within me I do not want to part with.” And what is that “something?” I will tell you: It is the witness of the Spirit.
Try to understand this also. The sons of God have the witness of the Spirit in their consciences. This is another mark of sonship.
4. One thing more let me add. All the sons of God take part in suffering with Christ. What say the Scriptures? “if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him.” (Rom. 8:17.)
All the children of God have a cross to carry. They have trials, troubles, and afflictions to go through for the Gospel’s sake. They have trials from the world,—trials from the flesh,—and trials from the devil. They have trials of feeling from relations and friends,—hard words, hard conduct, and hard judgment. They have trials in the matter of character;—slander, misrepresentation, mockery, insinuation of false motives,—all these often rain thick upon them. They have trials in the matter of worldly interest. They have often to choose whether they will please man, and lose glory, or gain glory, and offend man. They have trials from their own hearts. They have each generally their own thorn in the flesh,—their own home-devil, who is their worst foe. This is the experience of the sons of God.
Some of them suffer more, and some less. Some of them suffer in one way, and some in another. God measures out their portions like a wise physician, and cannot err. But never was there one child of God who reached paradise without a cross.
Suffering is the diet of the Lord’s family. “the Lord disciplines the one he loves.” “If you are left without discipline … then you are illegitimate children.” (Heb 12:6,8) “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
Suffering is a part of the process by which the sons of God are sanctified. They are chastened to wean them from the world, and make them partakers of God’s holiness. The Captain of their salvation was made perfect through sufferings, and so are they. There never yet was a great saint who had not either great afflictions or great corruptions.
And so try to settle this down into your heart also. The sons of God all have to bear a cross. A suffering Saviour generally has suffering disciples. The Bridegroom was a man of sorrows. The bride must not be a woman of pleasures, and unacquainted with grief. Blessed are they that morn. Let us not murmur at the cross. This also is a sign of sonship.
I warn you never to suppose that you are a son of God except you have the scriptural marks of sonship. Beware of a sonship without evidences. Beware! When a man has no leading of the Spirit to show,—no spirit of adoption to tell of,—no witness of the Spirit in his conscience,—no cross in his experience,—is this man a son of God? God forbid that any should say he is! His marks are not the marks of God’s children. He is no heir of Glory.
Do not think that because you are a member of Christ’s Church, you must be a son. The sons of the church are not necessarily the sons of God. Such sonship is not the sonship of the eighth chapter of Romans. That is the sonship you must have, if you are to be saved.
And now, there may be some who will wonder, if they may not be saved after all without the witness of the Spirit.
If by the witness of the Spirit, what is meant is the full assurance of hope, you may be so saved without question. But if you want to know whether a man can be saved without any inward sense, or knowledge, or hope of salvation, the answer is surely that ordinarily he cannot. I warn you plainly to cast away all indecision as to your state before God, and to make your calling sure. Clear up your position and relationship. Do not think there is anything praiseworthy in always doubting. Do not imagine it wise to be ever living in doubt. “Assurance,” said one old the puritan, “may be attained, and what have we been doing all our lives since we became Christians if we have not attained it?”
No doubt some true Christians who hear these things will think their evidence of sonship is too small to be good, and will write bitter things against themselves. Here is a word of encouragement for them. Who gave you the feelings you possess? Who made you hate sin? Who made you love Christ? Who made you long and labour to be holy? Where did these feelings come from? Did they come from nature? There are no such products in a natural man’s heart. Did they come from the devil? He would gladly stifle such feelings altogether. Cheer up, then, and take courage. Fear not, neither be cast down. Press forward, and go on. There is hope for you after all. Strive. Labour. Seek. Ask. Knock. Follow on. You will yet see that you are sons of God.
III. Let me show you, in the last place, the privileges of the true Christian’s relation to God.
Nothing can be conceived more glorious than the prospects of the sons of God. The words of Scripture of our text this morning contain a rich mine of good and comfortable things. If we are children, says Paul, we are heirs, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, … that we may … be glorified with him.” (Rom. 8:17.)
True Christians then are “heirs.”—Something is prepared for them all which is yet to be revealed.
They are “heirs of God.”—To be heirs of the rich on earth is something. How much more then is it to be son and heir of the King of kings!
They are “fellow heirs with Christ.” They will share in His majesty, and take part in His glory. They will be glorified together with Him.
And this, remember, is for all the children. Abraham took care to provide for all his children, and God takes care to provide for His. None of them are disinherited. None will be cast out. None will be cut off. Each will stand in his lot, and have a portion, in the day when the Lord brings many sons to glory.
And who can tell 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 us. Language falls short. Mind cannot conceive fully, and tongue cannot express perfectly, the things which are included in the glory yet to come upon the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. It is indeed a true saying of the apostle John, “what we will be has not yet appeared.” (1 John 3:2.)
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, so that 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 which it contains. It tells us that the inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and will not fade away. It tells us of an unfading crown of glory. It tells us that the devil is to be bound, that there will be no more night and no more curse, that death will be cast into the lake of fire, that all tears will be wiped away, and that the inhabitant will 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 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 encouragements for fainting pilgrims in many words and expressions of Scripture, which you and I ought to lay up against time of need.
Is knowledge pleasant to us now? Is the little that we know of God and Christ, and the Bible precious to our souls, and do we long for more? We will have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture? “then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12.) Blessed be God, there will be no more disagreements among believers! Calvinists and Arminians; Millennarians and Anti-Millennarians; advocates of infant baptism and advocates of adult baptism; all will at length see eye to eye. The former ignorance will have passed away. We will wonder 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 will have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture? Christ gave himself up for the church that “he might present it to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Ephes. 5:27.) What will be the blessedness of an eternal goodbye to sin? How little the best of us attain to it at present! What unutterable corruption sticks, like tar, to all our motives, all our thoughts, all our words, all our actions! Thanks be to God, all this will be changed!
Is rest pleasant to us now? Do we often feel exhausted though pursuing? (Judges 8:4) Do we long for a world in which we need not be always watching and warring? We will have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture? “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:9.) The daily, hourly conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil, will at length be at an end. The enemy will be bound. The warfare will be over. The wicked will at last cease from troubling. The weary will at length be at rest. There will 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 will be able to serve perfectly in glory, and without weariness. What says the Scripture? They “serve him day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:15.)
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 will have it perfectly in glory. We will no longer have to mourn over cracks in all our earthen vessels, and thorns in all our roses, and bitter residue in all our sweet cups. We will no longer lament with Jonah over withered plants. We will no longer say with Solomon, “all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Eccl 1:14) We will no longer cry with aged David, “I have seen an end of all perfection.” (Ps 119:96) What says the Scripture? “When I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” (Psalm. 17:15.)
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 will have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture? “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers.” “He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds.” (Matt. 13:41., 24:31.) Praised be God! We will see all the saints of whom we have read in the Bible, and in whose steps we have tried to walk. We will see apostles, prophets, patriarchs, martyrs, reformers, missionaries, and ministers, of whom the world was not worthy. We will see the faces of those we have known and loved in Christ on earth, and over whose departure we shed bitter tears. We will see them more bright and glorious than they ever were before. And best of all, we will 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 will have perfect communion with Him in glory. “We will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thes. 4:17.) We will be with him in Paradise. We will 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 will sit down by His side. What a blessed prospect indeed! I am a dying man in a dying world! All before me is dark! The world to come is an unknown harbour! 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 we see Him face to face. If we have found it good to follow the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness, we will find it a thousand times better to sit down in our eternal inheritance with our Joshua in the promised land.
Now, if you are not yet among the sons and heirs, you ought to be pitied above all else. 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 things,—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. Would that you were wise! Would that you would hear the voice of Jesus, and learn of Him!
And if you are one of those who are sons and heirs, you may well rejoice and be happy. You may well wait like the boy Patience in Pilgrim’s Progress. Your best things are yet to come.—You may well bear crosses without murmuring. Your light affliction is only for a moment. The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory which is to be revealed. When Christ our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
You may well not envy the transgressor and his prosperity. You are the truly rich. 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 if you are a son of God. “If we are children, then we are heirs.”
And now as we come to a close, let me ask you, Whose child are you? Are you the child of nature or the child of grace? Are you the child of the devil or the child of God? You cannot be both at once. Which are you?
Settle the question for you must die at last either one or the other. Settle it, for it can be settled, and it is folly to leave it doubtful. Settle it, for time is short, the world is getting old, and you are fast drawing near to the judgment-seat of Christ. Settle it, for death is close, the Lord is at hand, and who can tell what a day might bring? Would that you would never rest until the question is settled! Would that you may never feel satisfied until you can say, “I have been born again,—I am a son of God.”
If you are not a son and heir of God, let me entreat you to become one without delay. Would you be rich? There are unsearchable riches in Christ. Would you be noble? You will be a king. Would you be happy? You will have a peace which passes understanding, and which the world can never give, and never take away. Come out, and take up the cross, and follow Christ! Come out from among the thoughtless and worldly, and hear the word of the Lord, “I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:18.)
And if you are a son of God, I urge you to walk worthy of your Father’s house. I charge you solemnly to honour Him in your life; and above all to honour Him by implicit obedience to all His commands, and hearty love to all His children. Labour to travel through the world like a child of God and heir of glory. Let men be able to trace a family likeness between you and Him that begat you. Live a heavenly life. Seek things that are above. Do not seem to be building your nest below. Behave like a man who seeks a city out of sight, whose citizenship is in heaven, and who would be content with many hardships until he gets home.
Labour to feel like a son of God in every condition in which you are placed. Never forget you are on your Father’s ground so long as you are here on earth. Never forget that a Father’s hand sends all your mercies and crosses. Cast every care on Him. Be happy and cheerful in Him. Why indeed are you ever sad if you are the King’s son? Why should men ever doubt, when they look at you, whether it is a pleasant thing to be one of God’s children?
Labour to behave towards others like a son of God. Be blameless and harmless in your day and generation. Be a peacemaker among all you know. Seek for your children’s sonship to God above everything else. Seek for them an inheritance in heaven, whatever else you do for them. No man leaves his children so well provided for, as he who leaves them sons and heirs of God.
Persevere in your Christian calling, if you are a son of God, and press forward more and more. Be careful to lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely to you. Keep your eyes steadily fixed on Jesus. Remain in Him. Remember that without Him you can do nothing, and with Him you can do all things. Watch and pray daily. Be steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. Settle it down in your heart, that not a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, will lose its reward, and that every year you are so much nearer home.
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay.” (Heb 10:37) Then will be the glorious liberty, and the full manifestation of the sons of God. Then will the world acknowledge that they were the truly wise. Then will the sons of God at length come of age. Then will they no longer be heirs in expectancy, but heirs in possession. And then will they hear with exceeding joy those comfortable words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34.) Surely that day will make amends for all!