By A. B. Simpson
This last text is the interpreter of the first. Both express, one in figure and the other in simple prose, the longing of every true Christian heart for the coming of our Lord. How different the closing cry of the Song of Solomon from the bride's earlier song in the second chapter! There it is, "Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether," or "Division," but here it is, "Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Besamim," or the mountains of love, for the spices suggested by the Hebrew word just mean the "fragrance of love."
We have already seen that the bride became weary of the constant distractions of the life that she was living in the great city, and longed to return to her early home, where she could have her beloved all to herself, and, in the simplicity of their home life, could meet him without restraint or thought of the keen eyes of a conventional world. This is expressive of the longing of the church for the Lord's second coming, and the instinctive cry of every holy heart, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." Let us endeavor to understand the true spirit and limitations of this desire. What is a true Scriptural home-longing?
We do not mean by this a morbid discontent with life, either from the ennui of satiety with pleasure or business, or the deeper despair that comes from trouble, and which so often hurls the discouraged heart into reckless or cowardly suicide. There may be a deep weariness with life which is entirely wrong and even utterly cowardly and mean. The spectacle of Elijah lying under the juniper tree and crying, "Lord, let me die, because I am not better than my fathers," or of Jonah sitting under his withered gourd and asking Jehovah to take away his life because Nineveh had been spared and his reputation as a prophet had suffered loss, are but samples of many kinds of discontent and morbidness that may always be found among the generations of earth; but this is far from the spirit to which our subject applies. Disappointed affection, unsuccessful business, the bitter consequences of our own mistakes and misdeeds, the reaction of wild and reckless passion, the terrors of a guilty conscience, or the hard and oppressive circumstances of life, all these may lead one to cry out like poor Job, "I am weary of life, I would not live always." But it is often the most selfish and unmanly thing that a man can do, to run away from his difficulties and leave his helpless family and friends to stem the tide that he was not brave enough to meet. There may be a milder desire for death, which does not lead to reckless suicide, but which is at the best only a longing to get free from suffering, and which has in it no real devotion or spirituality. Let us not be deceived by the counterfeit and palm off mere jaded languor as heavenly-mindedness.
There is a true longing to be with Christ, which we find expressed all through the pages of the Scriptures and the utterances of all true Christian biography. There is a ripening of the grain which makes the heads hang low and the fruit mellow and ready to fall. There is a true and beautiful sense in which the apostle can say, "To depart and be with Christ is far better; nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you." Here we find a sound and wholesome readiness and even gladness to be with the Lord in a better world, yet with not a tinge of morbidness about it, but rather on the contrary, a bright and radiant heartiness and hopefulness, and a real preference to remain amid the toil and conflict of life for the sake of others and for the Master's work. But under all this there is a heart springing heavenward, a spirit that often longs for the rest and communion of the life beyond, and like a caged bird, poises its wings for a higher and everlasting flight. Such heavenly aspirations breathe through God's holy Word and the hymnology of the ages as well as the highest experiences of the best of saints, and yet even this does not express the meaning of our text, and the most Scriptural form of the saints' "longing for home."
It is not so much a desire for even heaven as a definite longing for the personal coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the setting up of the kingdom which His advent is to bring. This is very definitely expressed by the apostle in the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians, where he distinguishes the expectation of death very clearly from the expectation of the Lord's coming and the resurrection. "Not that we may be unclothed," he says, referring to death, "but clothed upon," meaning the resurrection, "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." This is the Christian's true hope -- the Lord's personal return, and the life immortal which this will bring to the body as it shall rise in His glorious likeness, and death shall be swallowed up of life immortal. This is a very different thing from the expectation of death. There is a most erroneous impression abroad among many Christians with respect to the Lord's coming. When He bids us to always be ready, ever ready, He certainly does not mean that we are to be continually looking for death, but we are to be looking and hastening for the coming of our Lord, and prepare to meet Him when He descends from the skies to claim His bride and to reward His servants. This is a very different thing from the expectation of death. That is a looking down into the tomb: this is a looking up into the air. That is a depressing thought; this is a living and comforting one. Nowhere do we find our Master bidding us keep our eyes upon the tomb, but often does He admonish us to watch for His return and to stand with loins girt and lights burning, like men that wait for their Lord when He will return from the wedding. Such a desire and expectation is not only Scriptural, but most sanctifying and quickening. It will lead to personal holiness and faithfulness in the discharge of our ministry and duties. It is an incentive to separation from the world such as nothing else can afford, and it will give a nobility to life and shed the halo of its glory over all its work and all our way, and inspire us like a pole star to lofty aspirations, and to the highest and noblest sacrifices and service. There are abundant reasons why our heart should feel this heavenly desire.
The world is not fitted to be our rest. It is too small for a heart that has felt the enlarging of God's indwelling presence, and it is too sad for the development of our heaven-born joy. There is no longing in the human heart so pure and sweet as the longing for home. No song has even touched a wider circle of responsive echoes than "Home, Sweet Home," and no writer has ever achieved by so small a work a greater reputation than the author of that sweet and simple song, just because it is so true to the deepest instincts of human nature. And yet, when we come to the real picture, how disappointing to the great mass of humanity it is! How few homes there are on earth that reach the highest ideal of even man's thought, and none of these are exempt from the touch of that hand which falls most heavily of all on the sweetest and happiest shrines. It is where love has been most sweet and heavenly, and happiness most divine, that the parting which death at last brings is most keenly felt. The very depth of our joy only intensifies the measure of our pain, so that the heart cries amid the wreck of earth's sweetest home circles,
"Friend after friend departs, Who hath not lost a friend? There is no union here of hearts That finds not here an end. Were this trying world our only rest, Living or dying, none were best."
The heart that is born from above instinctively reaches upward and rises heavenward, even as the river flows to the ocean and fire ascending seeks the sun.
The coming of the blessed Lord may well be an object of desire because of the unspeakable blessings which it is going to bring us. Not only will it take away from us a thousand sources of sorrow and pain, but it will bring to us the perfection of our own being. All that we know of holiness here will reach its maturity there and rise to a manhood to which all our present experiences are but as the play toys of an infant. Our physical life will reach its completeness there in the resurrection power and glory which will exalt us above the limitations of space and matter, and thrill our being with a fullness of life like His own.
It will bring still greater blessing to the world. It will be the time of the restitution of all things of which the prophets have spoken since the beginning of the world. It will bring to this sad and sin-cursed earth more than paradise restored, and for a thousand happy years the world will become the theater of the highest and divinest possibilities of God's power and grace. Then will the philanthropist see his dreams of human happiness fulfilled; then will our wretched political systems give place to a reign of beneficence and happiness, and generation after generation rejoice in finding at last all that freedom and righteousness really mean. David Livingstone will look upon the continent for which he died, smiling in the loveliness of millennial righteousness. John Williams will wander through the lovely islands of Polynesia, where he shed his blood, and see every drop transformed into rubies of eternal glory and recompense in scenes as holy as they are fair. John Howard will seek in vain for a prison beneath the sun, and recall with rapture the prayers and tears that he spent amid these gloomy scenes of human misery. William Wilberforce will gaze with wonder and delight upon a globe where it will be impossible to find a fetter or a slave. Frances Willard will search for a thousand years before she will find a drunkard in the streets of the New Jerusalem. It is doubtful if even the fairest of our earthly scenes, our cemeteries, will be found. At least even death, if it comes at all during that age, will be robbed of its sting, and will probably be but a transformation from the lower to the higher plane, from the natural to the resurrection life. Oh, for the sake of a groaning world, may we not well cry,
"Oh, long-expected day, begin, Dawn on this scene of pain and sin."
But the best of all reasons for desiring this blessed home coming, is that it is to bring us our Savior in visible, continual and perfect fellowship forevermore. The joy of the bride is the bridegroom; the hope of His coming is centered in Himself. In this beautiful poem the reason the bride longs to be back at her home is not so much to see her mother or her garden as to be able to be ever with her beloved.
"O that thou wert as by brother," she cries, "when I should find thee without I would kiss thee; yea, I would not be despised. I would lead thee and bring thee into my mother's house, who would instruct me. His left hand should be under my head and his right hand should embrace me." This is also the secret of the Christian's longing. It is to be with Christ which makes it far better to depart. The Lamb is the light of the city above, and the Lord is its glory. It will bring Christ Himself. It is true we have Him now, but not as we shall then. We shall see His face. We shall dwell continually in His glorious presence. We shall behold His beauty. We shall commune with Him without restraint. We shall see the grandeur of His kingdom and be partners with Him in the government of the millennial world. We shall be glad in His joy, as we shall see forever the glorious fruition of all His sorrow, and the eternal results of redemption in the ages to come.
In this beautiful song the bride speaks not only of the joys that wait for her at home, but the joys she has laid up for him. "At our gates await all manner of fruits which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved." We think of what that day will mean for us, but do we think of what it mill mean for Him, as He gazes upon the innumerable souls that have been saved and glorified through His sufferings and love, and as each of them shall bring their crowns and their rewards and lay them at His blessed feet, oh, the joy that shall swell His noble heart as He gazes upon that spectacle of happiness and eternal transformation, and feels that one of those shining ones would be worth all the cost of Calvary. Have we something laid up for that day? Are we converting our treasures, our friendships, our affections into eternal memorials that some day we can bring to Him as the wedding gift of that glorious day?
It will bring us our loved ones. When He comes again, they also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. It will give us back our dead. As the years go, how the friends of the past diminish. How the friends of the future increase. The other day I was talking with a dear old saint who desired to commit to some one the administration of an important trust after he had passed away, but he could think of no one to whom he would commit it. They were all gone, and he stood alone. This is not his home, but oh, how thickly they are clustering at yonder gates. What troops will meet us as we enter there -- brothers, sisters, children, husbands, wives. Oh, how memory teems with them, and hope lights up that looked-for day with all that makes home "Sweet Home." Happy they whose friendships all take hold upon that coming day! Happy they who have no strong ties that are not anchored within the veil! God has to awaken this homesickness often by breaking up our earthly nest, that we may transfer our hopes to the better home, and some day we shall thank Him for the flowers that He has transplanted to a climate where they shall wither no more, and where God is keeping them for our arms forever. Beloved, do you know this home longing? If not, why not? Is it perhaps because your life is all invested in this earth, your interests are all committed to the present world, and it is not possible for you to have two hopes and two aims? The Christian is a man of one idea. He is living for the kingdom of the future. His hopes are all passing onward, and where his treasure is, there will his heart be also. When the gardener wants his little bedding plant to form new roots and be prepared to be transplanted to the garden, he cuts the little branch off from the stalk, and then it throws out its roots and grows into the new soil, but if he did not detach it, it would never have formed its new connection, or drawn its new sources of life from the soil. And so He calls upon us to separate ourselves from the hopes of earth and invest our being in the world to come. Then all the strength of our spirit shall fasten around the throne and our heart will long for the consummation of its blessed hope. But there is nothing that so claims our longing for Christ's coming as Christ Himself in the heart, the Hope of glory. He is the Morning Star and as He is formed within us, so we reach out more and more for His appearing. Beloved, do you know anything of this home-longing? "Blessed are the homesick," the Germans say, "for they shall get home." This is indeed true. Those that choose their portion on earth shall have their reward, and those that choose it on high shall in no wise lose their reward. Oh, that we may be able to sing with true hearts,
I am waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom in the air, I am longing for the gathering of the ransomed over there I am putting on the garments which the heavenly Bride shall wear For the glad homecoming draweth nigh.Oh, the glad homecoming, it is swiftly drawing nigh, Oh, the sad home longing will be over by-and-by Lo, the Bridegroom cometh, holy watchers soon will cry, For the glad homecoming draweth nigh.