"Our Father, which art in heaven." Luke 11:8.
We have for our subject this evening, heaven. It is not as some talk about heaven, as just the air. I find a good many people now that think there is no heaven, only just here in this world; that this is all the heaven we will ever see. I talked with a man the other day, who said he thought there is nothing to justify us in believing there is any other heaven than that which we are in now. Well, if this is heaven, it is a very strange kind of heaven—this world of sickness, and sorrow, and sin. If he thinks this is really all the heaven we are going to see, he has a queer idea of it. There are three heavens spoken of in the Bible, and the Hebrews acknowledge in their writings three heavens. The first is the aerial—the air, the wind, the air that the birds fly in; that is one heaven. Then, there
is the heaven of the firmament, where the stars are; and then there is the heaven of heavens, where God's throne is and the mansions of the Lord are—the mansions of light and peace, the home of the blesled, the home of the Redeemer, where the angels dwell. That is the heaven that we believe in, and the heaven that we want to talk about to-day. We believe it is just as much a place and just aa much a city as New York is, and a good deal more; because New York will pass away, and that city will abide forever. It has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. I do not think it is wrong for us to speculate, and think about, and talk about heaven. I was going to meeting once, some time ago, when I was asked by a friend on the way, "What will be the subject of your speech r' I said, "My subject will be heaven." He scowled, and I asked, "Why do you look so?" He said: "I was in hopes you would give us something practical to-night. We cannot know anything about heaven. It is all speculation. Now, all Scripture is given us by the inspiration of God. Some is given for warnings, some for encouragement. If God did not want to think about heaven and talk about it down here, there would not be so much said about heaven in Scripture. There would not be so many promises about it. If we thought more about those mansions God is preparing for us, we would be thinking more of things above, and less of things of this earth.
I like to locate heaven, and find out all about it I can. I expect to lire there through eternity. If I was going to dwell in any place in this country; if I was going to make it my home, I would want to inquire all about the place, about its climate, about what kind of neighbors I was going to have, about the schools for my children, ibout everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it If any of you who are here were going to emigrate, going off to some other country, and I was going to take that for my subject to-night, why, would not all your ears be open to hear what you could learn about H? Would you then be looking around to see who was sitting next you; and who among your acquaintances were here; and what people were thinking about you? You would be all interested in hearing of this country that I was talking about. You could not think anything about the latest fashion, or about some woman's bonnet. If it is true that we are going to spend eternity in another world, wd that God is inviting us to spend it with him, shall we not look tnd listen, and find out where he is, and who is there, and how we »re to get there? Soon after I was converted, an infidel got hold of me one day, and he asked me why I looked up when I prayed. He said that heaven was no more above us than below us, that heaven was everywhere. Well, I was greatly bewildered, and the next time I prayed it did seem as though I was praying into the air. His words bad'sowed the seed. Since then I have not only become better acquainted with the Bible, but I have come to see that heaven is above
as; it is upward. If you will turn to the 17th chapter of GenesU, you will see that it says that God went up from Abraham. In the 3d chapter of John, in the wonderful conversation that Christ had with Nicodemus, he told them that he came down from heaven; and as we read in the 1st chapter of Acts, "They saw him go up into heaven"—not down—" and the clouds received him out of their sight." If you will turn to the 8th chapter of 1st Kings, 30th verse, I will show you that God has a dwelling-place. A great many people have gone upon their reason until they have reasoned away God. They say God is not a person that we can ever see. He is the God of •Nature. "And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray towards this place; and hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling-place, and when thou hearest, forgive." Some people are trying to find out and wonder how far heaven is away. There is one thing we know about that; it is, that it is not so far away but that God can hear us when we pray. There is not a sigh goes up to him but that he hears it. He hears his children when they cry. God has a throne and a dwelling-place in heaven. In the 7th chapter of 2d Chronicles, 14th verse, it says, "If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
There are a good many promises given us to encourage us to pray, and to teach us that God hears us when we do pray; that he is not so far away but that he hears us. When Christ was on earth, they came to him and said, "Teach us how to pray to our heavenly Father." He taught them a prayer. It began, "Our Father which art"—not on earth—no; but, "Our Father which art in heaven." Now, when we go to heaven we will be with our Father himself. If you will turn to the 7th chapter of Acts, 15th verse, it says, "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God"—which shows that heaven is not so far away but that God can allow us to look into it, if he will. "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Thus we have it clearly established from Scripture teachings, that not only is heaven the dwelling-place of God the Father, but of Jesus Christ the Son. A great many think that there is but one person. There is but one God; but there are three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. When I get to heaven, T expect to see them all there. There is Christ standing on the right hand of God. Stephen saw him. We have got Christ there; heaven would not be all that we love unless Christ was there. I would be unhappy, when I got to heaven, if I could not find him there who redeerae'l me, who died for me, who bought me with his own blood. Some one asked a Christian man once, what he expected to do when he got to heaven? He said he expected to spend the first thousand years in looking at Jesus Christ, and after that he would look for Peter, and then'for James, and for John; and all the time he could conceive of would be joyfully filled with looking upon these great persons. But oh, it seems to me that one look at Jesus Christ will more than reward us for all that we have ever done for him down here; for all the sacrifices we can possibly make for him, just to see him; and not only that, but we shall become like him when we once have seen him, because we shall be like the Master himself. Jesus, the Savior of the world, will be there. We shall see him face to fane.
It won't be the pearly gates; it won't be the jasper walls, and the streets paved with transparent gold, that shall make it heaven for us. These would not satisfy us. If these were all, we would not want to stay there forever. I heard the other day of a child whose mother was very sick; and while she lay very low, one of the neighbors took the child away to stay with her until the mother should be well again. But instead of getting better, the mother died; and they thought they would not take the child home until the funeral was all over; and would never tell her about her mother being dead. So a while afterward they brought the little girl home. First she went into the sitting-room to find her mother; then she went into the parlor, to find her mother there; and she went from one end of the house to the other, and could not find her. At last she said, "Where is my mamma?" And when they told her her mamma was gone, the little tiling wanted to go back to the neighbor's house again. Home had lost its attractions to her, since her mother was not there any longer. No; it is not the jasper walls and the pearly gates that are going to make heaven attractive. It is the being with God. We shall be in the presence of the Redeemer; we shall be forever with the Lord.
We have now seen that God the Father and God the Son are dwelling in heaven. Will you turn to the 18th chapter of Matthew, 10th verse: "Take head that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." So we shall have the company of angels when we go there. We find when Gabriel came down and told Zachariah that he should have a son, Zachariah doubted his word; and Gabriel replied: "1 am Gabriel, that stands in the presence of God." It says in Luke, 2d chapter and 13th verse, that after one angel had proclaimed that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there was a multitude of the heavenly host telling out the wonderful story. So, we have angels in heaven. We have God the Father, and Christ the Son, and angels dwelling there. The angels, undoubtedly, wander away from the throne of God to this worldly iphere, to watch over the soul's welfare of those they have left behind. It may be that some angels are hovering over the soula here to-night, to see if some one will decide in favor of the Lord's side.
And we have not only the presence of the angols already established, but we have friends. Those who have died in the Lord are there. Do you believe that Stephen is not there, after his martyrdom? Do you believe God did not answer that prayer of his, "Lord, receive my spirit?" Undoubtedly, the moment that spirit left that body it winged its way to the world of light. Do you think those who have died in Christ are not there with the Master to-day? What does Paul mean when he says, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord?" All the redeemed ones are in heaven. We talk about "the best of earth." They are not down here. They are up in heaven. The best that ever trod this earth are up there, around the throne, singing their songs of praise, the sweetest songs you ever heard. Turn to John, 12th chapter and 26th verse: "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honor." I want to call your attention to this: "Where I am, there shall also my servants be." They shall be with him. We have it clearly established. Will you turn to the 7th chapter of Revelation, 9th and 10th verses. "After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
There are redeemed saints around the throne. You may say: "Well, what good does that do me? That will not help me. What I want to know is, have I an interest in that land?" Well, I cannot speak for the rest of you; but I can say that it is the privilege of every one in this audience to know that their names may be written in heaven, if they care to have them there. When the seventy went out to preach, in every town they went to there was a great revival. People are prejudiced against revivals in these days; but they are as old as the world. When these men went out, two by two, and proclaimed the gospel, their cry was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" and the seventy returned elated with their wonderful success. They thought all they had to do was to speak, and the whole world would be moved. But they were told: "Rejoice not at your success in these cities; rejoice that your names are written in heaven." It is a grand thing for a man or woman to know that his or her name is w. itten in heaven. Young lady, do you know today that your name is written there? Young man, do you know that your name is written in heaven? Do you think that Christ would nave told these men* to rejoice, if he had not known that their name* were written there? Some persons say that you cannot be sure; but that is one of the greatest delusions of the devil. If we cannot be certain of being saved, then we cannot preach salvation. There is not one passage of Scripture that gives us reason to doubt our own salvation. "I know that my Redeemer liveth;" in him I believe. I know that I have passed in this world from death to life; I know, / know, I Know—that is the way the Scripture speaks in regard to our salvation. And so, if you do not know to-day that your name is written in heaven; if no spirit bears witness with your spirit that your name is written in heaven, oh do not sleep to-night until you do know it! It is the privilege of every man and woman in this house to know it, if he will.
Would you just turn to a few passages in the scriptures. Turn back to the prophecy of Daniel a moment, the 12th chapter and 1st verse: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found within the book." Every one that shall be found written—not in the churoh-book; a good many have got their names written on some church record that have not got them written in the book of life; but every one whose name is found written in the book of life shall be delivered. Then would you turn a moment to Paul's epistle to the Philippians, 4th chapter, 3d verse: "And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement, also, and with my other rellowlaborers whose names are in the book of life." Why, it is not only they themselves who know it, but Paul seemed to know their names •re there. He sent them greeting, "whose names are in the book of life," My dear friend, is your name there? It seems to me it is » very sweet thought to think we can have our names there and know it; that we can send our names on ahead of us, and know it is written in the book of life.
I had a friend coming back from Europe, some time ago, and she came down with some other Americans from London to Liverpool. On the train down they were talking about the hotel they would stop at. They had got to stay there a day or two before the boat sailed; and so they all concluded to go to the Northwestern Hotel; bat when they reached Liverpool, they found that the hotel was completely filled, and had been full for days. Every room was taken, and the party started to go out, but this lady did not go with them; and they asked her, "Why, are you not coming?" "No," said she; "I am going to stay here." "But how? The hotel is full." "Oh," said she, "I have got a room." "How did you get it?" "I telegraphed on a few days ago for one." Yes; she had alone taken pains to telegraph her name on ahead, and had thus secured her room. That is just what God wants you to do. Send your name on ahead. Have your mansion ready for you when you come to die. Don't go on neglecting this great question; don't neglect your soul'i salvat'on; don't neglect your home beyond the grave.
You can have your name written in the book of life to-day; and have the crown and robe all ready for you, when your spirit leave* your body. You can secure an interest in the kingdom of God this very day, if you will only seek it. But there is another passage T want to call your attention to in regard to this very point of having your names put in the book of life. Now turn to Revelation, 13tb chapter, 8th verse: "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Ah, there is a good deal in scripture about our names being written in the book of life. Turn again to Revelation 20: 12: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Then in the last chapter but one, and the last verse: "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, nor maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Not a soul shall enter in through the pearly gates of that city whose names are not written in the book of fife. It is a very important thing that we have our names written there; and then, I think the next important thing after our names are written in the book of life is, to have our children's there. We ought to be careful and see that the names of the children whom God has given us are written there.
I want to speak here for a few minutes about our children; for the promises are not only to us, butto our children. I pity those fathers and mothers who don't believe in the conversion of their little children. I pity the fathers and mothers who are not laboring to bring their children to Christ, and have their names written in the book of life. I heard of a mother dying & few years ago of consumption; and when the hour came for her departure, she asked that her children be brought in, and the oldest child was brought to her bedside. The mother put her dving hand on his head, smoothed h's hair, and gave him her dying blessing; and the next child was brought in, and the next, and the next, and to each she gave a message of love and hope. And at last the little infant was brought in; and she hugged it to her bosom and kissed it, and hugged it again and again until, as they went to take the little child from her mother, as they saw it was exciting her and hastening her death, she looked up into bar husband's face and said: "I charge you to bring all these children home with you." And so God charges us parents to bring our children home with us. He don't want one left out, but wants every one written in the book of life. And they can be written there today if we only seek; and if that is uppermost in the minds of
God's people, to have them there, they will be broug'.ji, in. What a blessed revival we will have, if the fathers and mothers will only wake up and see that they are brought in! If we want to shine forever in the kingdom of God, then we must bring them in. But the trouble is, we want to shine down here in this fleeting world. How ambitious the fathers and the mothers are that their children shall just shine here for a little while; and the best and final interest of their soul is overlooked and forgotten.
I heard of a man that was dying some time ago, a man of great wealth; and when the doctor told him he could not live, the lawyer was sent for to make out his will. And the dying man's little girl, only about four years old, did not understand what death meant; and when the mother told her that her papa was going away, the little child went to the bedside and looked into her father's eyes and asked; "Papa, have you got a home in that land that you are going to?" And the question sunk down deep into his soul. He had spent all his time and all his energy in the accumulation of great wealth. He had a grand home, and had now got to leave it; and how that question came home to him.
Dear friends, let me ask you the question to-day, have you got a home beyond the grave? Can you say your name is written in the Lamb's book of life? Can you rejoice as only Christ's disciples rejoice, because your name is there? If you cannot, then don't let the sun go down until the great question of eternity is settled. Let the news flash over the wires of heaven, up to the throne of God, that you want your name there: "Oh, let my name be written in the Book of Life!" And then when your name is called, and there is, a voice heard, "Come up hither!" you will go with joy and gladness to meet your Lord and Savior. You remember how it was with that dying soldier—you have undoubtedly seen it, it has been in print so often— who, lying on his cot, was heard to say, "Here! here! here!" and they went to him and asked him what he wanted. "Oh," said he, "they are calling the roll of heaven, and I am answering to my name;" and in a few minutes he faintly whispered it again, and was gone. That great roll is being called; and it will be a very important thing, more important than anything else when the hour comes, that our names be written in the book of life; for God says, except it is written in the booB of life, we shall not enter that city. The (rates will be clossd igainst us; no one will enter the kingdom of God except those wnose names are written in the book of life. So, my friends, let us be wise. Let us see that our names are there; and then let us go to work, and see if we cannot bring our children to Christ. I know a mother in this audience, to-day, who has got a family of children; and a few days ago she got stirred up, and thought she would go to her children and talk to them personally about Christ. She commenced only ten days ago, and what is the result? A son and two daughters—all that she has got—have been brought to Christ; and perhaps there is not a happier woman in New York to-day, because she has got the names of her family all written in the book of life. She knows that they are to be an unbroken circle in eternal life. Fathers and mothers, let us be wise unto eternity, and bring our children into the kingdom with us. But you may say, What has this to do with heaven? You cannot talk about heaven, but the children must be spoke of, "For of such is the kingdom ol heaven." They have been going up there for these 6000 years. Their little spirits are up yonder with the Shepherd; and he will take better care of them than we can. It seems as if it ought to make heaven very dear to us.
I never talk about children and heaven, but what the story of two fathers comes right home to me. One lived out in the Western country, on the banks of the Mississippi river. The world calls him rich; but how poor he is, or, how poor he was! Thank God! he is rich now. One day his oldest son was brought home to him unconscious; a terrible accident had happened, and the family physician was hurriedly called in. As he came in, the father said: "Doctor, do you think my son will recover?" "No," said the doctor; he is dying, and cannot recover." "Well," says the father, "only bring him to, can't you, that we may tell him? I don't want him to die without knowing that he is dying." The doctor said he would try, but that the boy was fast dying. After awhile the boy did become conscious for a moment, and the father cried: "My boy, the doctor tells me you are dying, and cannot live. I could not let you die without letting you know it." The young man looked up to his father, and said: "Father, do you tell me I am going to die right away?" "Yes, my boy," said the agonized father; "you will be gone in a little while." "Oh, father, won't you pray for my lost soul?" Said the speechless father, "I cannot pray, my son." The boy grew unconscious, and after a little while was gone; and the father said when he buried that boy, that if he could have called him back by prayer, he would have given all he was worth. He had been with that boy all those years, and had never prayed once for him. Am I talking to a prayerless father and mother, to-day? Gather Toou" children around you and show them the way to the kingdon of God. Train them to go where Christ reigns in triumph, that they may be with you.
The other father was a contrast. I don't know but he may be in this audience this evening. His son had been dangerously ill, and when he came home one day he found his wife greatly troubled. She told him there had been a great change since morning, and she thought their boy was dying. "I wish," said she, "that you would go in and tell him of his condition, for I cannot bear to; and be ought to know it if he is dying." The father went in, went up to his son's bedside, placed his hand on the boy's pale forehead, and saw the cold, damp sweat of night was gathering, and he saw in a little while the boy would be gone; and he said, "My son, do you know you are dying?" And the young man said, "No; am I dying?" "Yes, my son." "Will I die ta-day?" "Yes, my boy; you cannot live until night." And the boy looked surprised, and yet seemed to be glad, and said: "Well, father, I will be with Jesus, to-night, won't I?" "Yes, my boy; you will stand to-night with the Savior," and the father turned away to conceal his tears. And the boy saw the tears, and said: "Father,.don't you weep for me; when I go to heaven, I will go right straight to Jesus, and tell him that ever since I can remember, you have tried to lead me to him." God has given me two little children; and if I know my heart today, I would rather have such testimony as this go home to my Father, through my children, than to have the world rolled at my feet. I would rather have them come to my grave and drop a tear over it, and say: "When my father lived, he was more anxious for my eternal salvation than he was for my temporal good," than I would to have all the power this world can bestow. A few weeks ago, when my boy was sick, and I didn't know but that it would result fatally, I took my place by the side of his bed, and placed my hand on his forehead, and said: "Willie, suppose you should be really sick" —I didn't want to have him think he was likely to die—" and you should be taken away, do you think you would be afraid of death?" and a tear trickled down his cheek, as he said: "No, papa. Last summer I was awful afraid of death; but Jesus has taken it all away now. If I die, I should go to him; and he would give me everything I wanted." Ah! how sweet it was to think the little fellow was not afraid of death. It seems to me, we ought to teach our children so that they will hail with joy the time that they can go to meet Jesus, their blessed Savior. Oh, may the Spirit of the Lord God come upon this assembly to-night, and may we know that our names are written in the kingdom of heaven, and then see that the children whom God has given us are written in the book of life.