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dark, having only conjecture to guide us, if even it is safe to rest much on that. Still, on the fundamental characteristics of this state we are not left in the dark. And there are two things about which we have the clearest light.
1. It will be a state of conscious existence.
For Jesus to tell this dying man that he would be with Him that day in Paradise, if after death the man were totally unconscious, would only have been to mock him. In like manner, when Paul said, “ To depart and be with Christ is far better,” he must plainly have meant to be knowingly with Him, else it would have been, not“ far better,” but far worse. For even here he was “ with Christ,” and doubtless had sweet communion with Him, though all unseen-about his work, its difficulties, its enemies, its triumphs, its prospects; "night and day praying exceedingly" for all the churches he had reared. Now, to have this completely extinguished, and be unconscious of his own existence-even though eventually to have it restored—could not possibly have been “far better.” But to be consciously in the immediate presence of Christ could not but be “ far better” than all the enjoyment he had ever had in unseen fellowship with Him. How much that includes, cannot now be told; but if such as know anything of fellowship with Christ here will only fix their thoughts steadily upon it, they will better conceive of it than I can hope to describe it.
2. It is “ to be at home with the Lord.”
Here, says the apostle, we are “absent” or “abroad from the Lord;” but (he adds) “we are confident, and willing rather to be abroad from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” O how much lies hidden in that word “at home!” To the weary traveller, long away and far away, what word is the sweetest, winsomest, warmest, that can greet his ear? Is it not “Home, sweet home?" Well, to us, strangers and sojourners here, far from home, tossed with cares that too often distract, and harass, and worry us out of our peace and rest, not to speak of our sorrows and tears, O how cheering is the thought, that no sooner is the spirit of the believer disengaged from its clay tabernacle than in a moment it is in “ the Home over there”—“at home with the Lord !” , “ He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them to their desired heaven.”. Yes, it is not only perfect rest, but, in the light of Home, it is the abiding dwelling-place of our dearest treasures, of our tenderest associations, of our sweetest companionships, of our warmest affections. Well might the apostle say, “Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent "“whether from home or at home—we may be accepted of Him."
And ye that have loved ones" over there," who have died in the Lord, “ sorrow not, even as others which have no hope;" but let their departure help you to set your affection on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and to be followers of them who through faith and patience are, in their disembodied state, already and in part, inheriting the promises; while their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."
THE WEANED SOUL HOPING IN THE LORD :
“My soul is even as a weaned child : let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.”—PSALM CXxxi. 2-3.
In the same hour in which the soul of man is by grace weaned from itself and its own high thoughts, it begins to hope and rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, for a man to have the Lord alone for his confidence, seems to the unrenewed mind the highest presumption; to put a present, an immediate trust, in the Lord for all the future, in time and in eternity, is thought to be unhallowed boldness, and not humility or weanedness of heart. The whole dealings of God with man brings us back to the ever memorable words of the Lord Jesus, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes : even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.”
In considering the weaning of soul in our text, I would, by the help of the Holy Spirit, ask you to look at these four
things: the great event of a man's history in the first weaning of * his soul; the joy in the Lord that springs up within him in that hour; the daily weaning of the soul through life; and the earnest desires and the fruitful work of the weaned soul.
I. The first weaning of the soul, the grand event of a man's history.
When God begins to deal with you in saving grace, He weans you from self, in its various forms, according to our Lord's teaching, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.” This selfdenial includes weaning from the world, from your own will, from your own strength.
1. You must be weaned from the world, for “All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world; and if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The praise of man, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of this life, or other forms of worldliness, have deep roots in every man's heart, and to let them go for Christ's sake, is for a man to deny and give up himself. This can never be without a deep inward struggle. It is letting go all you have most fondly clung to; what you have achieved, what you have loved, what you have valued; not one thing, not many things, but all things forsaken, that you may win Christ.
2. You must be weaned from your own will. What will I, what will I to do, to say, to think, is the daily language of every unweaned heart. The dawn of a new life has risen within the man when he asks, for the first time, “ Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?” He has become another man in that hour; another will subdues, rules, guides, turns, restrains, and impels him. Self is no longer the master whom he obeys, but he is weaned from his own high thoughts, and his own will. Very humbling, very humiliating, it is for self-will to resign the throne, and give it up to another; but very blessed to sit at His feet, and say, “Not my will Lord, but Thine be done.”
3. You must be weaned from your own righteousness and strength; from any fancied righteousness you possess, and from all strength of your own to work out a righteousness you want. “I thank Thee, I am not as other men are,” is deep in the heart of us all; and “every mouth must be stopped, and all the world must become guilty before God.” It is hard and humbling to have your mouth stopped; to give up every excuse and extenuation, and to plead guilty. At the same time, when you are condemned for the past, you are helpless for the future; your cherished power is gone by which you thought to form yourself into some fitness to stand before your Judge.
The great eternity is before you; your great idol Self is cast down, powerless and vile; the world with its attractions is a broken vessel ; your own will is given up, and you are earnestly asking another to “show you His way and teach you His paths.” Your heart is no longer haughty nor your eyes lofty; your high thoughts have vanished like a dream in the night; you wonder how you had ever conceived them, or could have cherished and clung to them; and your soul is even as a weaned child, -weaned from all it was clinging to, and from which, a short while ago, it seemed as if it never could be severed. But now there is
II. The joy in the Lord that springs up in every weaned soul :
“My soul is even as a weaned child, let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.” The Lord is now your ransom, your righteousness, and the well of living joy within you.
The Lord Himself is your ransom. The weaning of the soul from its idols, of a man from himself, we have spoken of as essential for the acceptance of the Lord as our salvation. But as much, or even more, is the knowledge of the Lord as the Saviour essential for the weaning of the soul. Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” There is first a certain drawing nigh to Christ, and a desire to follow after Him; there is next the denial of self for His sake and in the faith of His redemption; and there is then, the clinging to Christ and following Him. The soul having a glimpse of the beauty of the Lord Jesus, and of the freeness of His grace, lets go all for His sake, and hopes, trusts, rejoices, and glories in the Lord. This is an entirely new position for the man. In our unweaned hearts, our desire is to have some portion of our own, apart from the Lord, and some footing of our own, on which we may stand as if against the Lord, when He enters into judgment with us. It is a complete revolution of the whole man when he says, my hope is the Lord, when he ventures to declare,
“ Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling."
“ The Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many;" and believing on Him, we cease to search for a ransom which we may offer for our souls, and we receive the Lord Himself for our all-sufficient and only ransom. Our fulness of hope and joy in the Lord, is according to our weanedness from all hope and confidence in ourselves, and our consent to depend on Christ alone for acceptance with God.
2. The righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is your righteousness. “Thou knowest not that thou art poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed.” Willingly stripped of our once cherished rags, we consent to have His righteousness as our only covering, and we are complete in