"Neither shall there be any more pain."--Rev. 21:4
It may, perhaps, be more difficult to define the nature of pain than to trace its origin--to analyze its subtle character than to describe its disquieting effects. Around both its nature and causes much obscurity exists not easy to dispel. But while the physiologist is in a perplexity, and the moralist in a mist, God's word steps in, and sets at rest all doubt and speculation by revealing the fact of its entire absence in that world of health and blessedness, which Christ won by His merits, and took possession of by His ascension on behalf of all His saints--the great distinctive features of which will be, the absence of all evil and the presence of all good. How many an eye, languid with suffering and dim with watching, will quicken into life and luster as it bends over this sweet, winning attraction of heaven--"Neither shall there be any more PAIN." To aid his meditations on this delightful negative of the coming glory, I invite my suffering reader to view it in the following points of light.
The absence of all PHYSICAL pain--viewing the subject literally--is the first illustration that will present itself to the mind. To how large a portion of the family of God is this 'negation of pain' unutterably significant and precious! Countless numbers know not a moment's cessation of bodily suffering. The exquisite net-work of nerve extending from the sensorium to the farthest extremity, transmits a sense of suffering to every part of the human frame. The most remote and insignificant member cannot suffer and all the members of the body, to a certain degree, not suffer with it.
To what numbers will this condition apply! How many saints of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, for whom there awaits a glorious resurrection, and for whom is destined a spiritual body, are tossing upon beds of disease and agony, or are reclining upon couches of debility and restlessness, the nature and extent of whose tortures are known only to God and themselves! There are few afflictions of the Church of Christ which more touchingly appeal to our sympathy, or have a stronger claim upon our consideration and forbearance than this. We are but imperfectly aware, until our time comes to sicken and suffer, how much of irritability and depression, of nervous susceptibility and irritableness, which we are prompt to attribute to sinful infirmity, are to be traced to disease and suffering alone, pleading, in tones the most plaintive and tender, for our forbearance, sympathy, and soothing.
And, on the other hand, we are prone to forget the fact that, if disease and pain often distort the finest character, how much womanly fortitude and manly heroism, how much Christian patience and Christ-like submission, how much true nobleness and greatness, lie concealed beneath the veil of acute and violent suffering. In what a school is this to learn, and what a sphere in which to exercise, the "patience and gentleness of Christ!" Oh, if Christ's gentleness is ever conspicuous, and His sympathy ever displayed, methinks it is in the chamber where lies, in silent suffering, one for whom His own soul travailed in sorrow, and His own body writhed in anguish. Christ is there, never for a moment deserting that chamber. He is there, never for an instant leaving that couch. He is there, bending over that restless pillow in sleepless, unwearied love. As a Father, He is there, pitying His suffering child; as a Physician, He is there, ministering to His languid patient; as a Refiner, He is there, watching intently the purifying of His gold. "My heart and my flesh fails--but GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
But more than this. Our blessed Lord Himself personally passed through the discipline of bodily pain--the fiery path in which so many of His followers are treading. There is something unutterably sweet and soothing in this thought. If a mystery shrouds the fact of His actual and personal partaking of bodily disease--though we are told, "He bore our sicknesses"--a profound significance attaches to the fact of His actual and personal suffering of bodily pain. What! did that sacred head suffer no pain when the thorn-crown bound His brow? No pain!--when fainting and swooning He bore His rugged cross up the ascent of Calvary? No pain!--when, stretched from limb to limb upon the wood, they drove the iron through His hands and feet? No agony in the jolt!--when the cross fell into the earth prepared for its reception?
Oh, yes! physical suffering was an essential ingredient in the cup of woe, which, in meek submission to His Father's will, He drank to its lees. How thoroughly was He thus disciplined to sympathize with all His saints who scarcely know a moment's freedom from intense, indescribable pain! Sweet, consolatory thought! that, while I am unable to unveil, still less to describe, the hidden and deathly agonies through which I daily and nightly pass, I may moan it all in the ear, and sob it all upon the heart of Jesus, whose hand is upon each fluttering pulse, and His eye upon each quivering nerve. Thus was Christ personally trained in the school of physical pain to sympathize with all the suffering members of His Body, the Church.
A difference of opinion has existed among some Christians--influenced, perhaps, by a more scrupulous than intelligent conscience--how far it were expedient and lawful to employ any of those preventive and mitigatory agencies in the suffering of pain--especially that of maternity--which modern medical science has so nobly discovered and successfully applied. But we think that the objection will scarcely stand the test either of reason or of revelation. There exists not a stronger evidence of the beneficence of God than in the almost endless provision He has made for the amelioration and softening of the varied consequences and effects of man's sin. Our illustration shall be confined to the single one of suffering. It is a remarkable fact that for every poison in nature God has provided a corrective; that, side by side of every venomous plant grows its antidote. We think that the history of medical science establishes the fact. If this be incontrovertible, it follows that there can be no sin in the employment of those healing and mitigating agencies God has thus placed within our reach--demanding but the skill of the alchemist to compound, and the knowledge of the physician to administer--for the interception and palliation of bodily suffering. The case of our blessed Lord Himself would seem to confirm this view. We are told that, "when Jesus had RECEIVED the vinegar"--offered, doubtless, in mitigation of His suffering--"He said, It is finished!" With this illustrious example before us, let us accept, with faith and gratitude to Him who "delights in mercy," any agent He has compassionately provided for the prevention and soothing of bodily pain.
From this digression we return to our more immediate subject. Possessing "a spiritual body," we shall, in the resurrection, necessarily be done with the material, thus freed from all the physical infirmities which now clog and pinion the soul in its divine life and heavenly aspirations. The blest inhabitants of the world of health and youth will no more say, "I am sick." Disease will no more invade, nor fever consume, nor convulsions madden, nor nervousness agitate, nor suffering torture, for "there shall be no more pain." Think of this, you sick and suffering one, wasted, and weary, and worn! What an attraction has a painless heaven for you! Sin, the original and fruitful cause of all sickness and suffering, then entirely and forever annihilated, with it will vanish one of its dire effects--the throbs and throes and tortures of this body of corruption and death.
There will be no more MENTAL pain in heaven. Acute and indescribable as is physical suffering, there are few who will not admit that a far more keen and acute species of the agony to which sin has subjected us in this life, is the agony of the mind. Closely united as mind and matter are, the one constantly and powerfully acting and reacting upon the other, there yet are, indeed, occasions in which the mind asserts its independence of the body, and rises superior to the most fearful tortures to which either physical disease, or the Papal Inquisition ever subjected it. Many a sick and suffering saint of God has passed through a lingering martyrdom of pain with a brightness, and even joyousness, of spirit, which has filled the sick-chamber with radiance and song--so completely has the soul been raised by God's love and Christ's presence above the decay and torture of the suffering body.
But, regarding the subject more in its abstract light, we must admit that the most acute, crushing suffering is that of the mind. A mind diseased is a spectacle infinitely more touching than a body diseased. But apart from the more fearful picture of mental aberration--of reason unbalanced--and the intellect cloud-veiled--where is the mind not constantly subjected to pain from the cares of life the anxieties of business--misplaced confidence--alienated friendship--chilled affection--the unkindness, ingratitude, and woundings of others? But even where this does not exist, what acute mental suffering springs from the guilt of sin--from conscious failure--from remorse and self-condemnation, compared with which a Christian martyr's stake were a bed of roses, his sheet of flame a robe of down! In what did the anguish of Jesus mainly and the most acutely consist? Was it not soul-sorrow? To one cry of bodily agony--"I thirst!"--how many and how affecting were the exclamations of mental pain which broke from His lips!--"Now is my SOUL sorrowful, and what shall I say?" "My SOUL is sorrowful, even unto death." "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"
And why all this soul-sorrow--this mental anguish of the Savior? Because He was bearing the sins, enduring the curse, suffering the penalty of His Church. Upon no other rational hypothesis can such mental agony be accounted for than that of an Atoning sacrifice. "He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities--the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." "Who gave Himself for our sins." Oh, yes! Jesus is our Sin-Bearer. All your transgressions have met on the "Lamb of God," who took them up and bore them away into a land of forgetfulness, never to be found. Take the full comfort of this truth, my sin distressed reader! You have nothing more to do with your sins, as touching their condemnation, Jesus having "condemned sin in the flesh" by the condemnation of Himself. If God has put them all upon Jesus, and if Jesus has made an end of them by the sacrifice of Himself, having paid the utmost farthing of the great debt, surely not to accept this truth in faith, walking in the peaceful, joyful, holy influence thereof, is detrimental to our own soul and dishonoring to our God.
Oh, sweet and soothing thought that, Jesus, having been trained in the school of mental distress, can sympathize with the darkness, anguish, and despondency of the mind--administering the soothing and the healing it demands, as no other being, and no other physician skilled in the treatment of mental disease, can! Bear your case, beloved, to the Savior, who, from personal experience, can soothe, and, with His Divine power, will alleviate, the mental distress through which you are passing. He loves to expend His compassion and exert His skill on the human mind--the soul of man presenting the noblest and widest sphere for the display of His power, grace, and sympathy.
There will be no more SPIRITUAL pain. This may be regarded as akin to the mental, and yet it possesses a character, and springs from causes peculiar to itself. There may be much adversity in which the mind preserves its balance and retains its vigor, and even its brightness. If the negation of bodily suffering and deliverance from mental anxiety in heaven constitute attractions so winning, and are blessings so precious, what shall be said of the certain absence of all soul-adversity--no more corroding guilt, no more burdened conscience, no more unbelieving doubts, no more tormenting fears, no more spiritual darkness, no more hidings of God's countenance, or withdrawal of Christ's loving presence; no more Satanic assaults, worldly seductions, or creature allurements. Oh, don't you long, beloved, for the wings of a dove that you might escape from all these spiritual infirmities of earth, to this heavenly and blissful world where they shall never be?
The absence of all the painful DISCIPLINE of our present training for heaven must be included in this view of our subject. Who can fully describe the pain and suffering of God's afflictive dispensations, so necessary to our moral purification and fitness for glory? The fiery furnace, the heated crucible, the surging waters, the lowering clouds, "the windy storm and tempest," of the Divine dealings in providence--oh, how much do they contribute to the sufferings of this present time!
But let us not in our lamentations forget our praises; in our 'sowing of tears' lose sight of our 'reaping of joy.' Exempt from this species of pain, we would be exempt from a source of pleasure inconceivable; deprived of this ploughing and sowing of the soul, how blank we would look, when the time of harvest came, at the fruitless, barren fields from whence we expected to sickle the holy, happy results of the Divine chastisement, not joyous, but grievous now, but afterwards "yielding the peaceable fruits of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby!"
But, oh, how much better acquainted we become with God! how increasingly precious and attractive Christ is to our hearts, by the light and momentary afflictions of our present state! It is only in severe suffering we learn to spell His name as "the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." It is thus we have "FELLOWSHIP with Him in His sufferings," and are made partakers of His afflictions in the body. Need brings us into sympathy with His poverty; enticement, into sympathy with His temptations; bereavement, into sympathy with His tears; persecution, into sympathy with His assaults; the disappointment and woundings of the creature, into sympathy with the unfaithfulness and desertion of His disciples; the solitude of our path into sympathy with His isolated and lonely life, spent amid the dreariness of the desert, and the seclusion of the mountain; in a word, the daily battle with sin, into sympathy with the "agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion," which His holy soul endured when He "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
Oh, it is a grand and holy thing to have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, a privilege and an honor to which the highest angel in heaven in vain might aspire! Among your present mercies count that the most costly and precious that draws you into closest communion with the suffering Head of the Church. But all this will have passed away when we become inhabitants of the New Jerusalem. The tempest will have spent its last force; the furnace will have kindled its last spark; the ocean will have heaved its last billow; the enemy will have hurled his last shaft, the moment we spring from earth to heaven!--for, "there shall be no more pain."
There will be no more pain of SEPARATION.
"Friend after friend departs,
Such is a part of our present moral education; and how painful a part it is! The bonds of friendship--the ties of relationship--the cords of love--oh, with what a slight and uncertain hand we hold them! How they loosen and break and vanish one by one! The friend we loved as our own soul; the being that seemed essential to our existence; the oak we leaned against--the vine we entwined us with--the plant we trained--the flower we cherished--God has seen fit to remove; and the fires on the altar of the heart are gone out, and the world has become a desolate wilderness, and life a dreary winter. But oh! even from this bitter we may extract some sweet, and from these nettles we may gather the soft down. It is "well with the righteous" at all times; there is no circumstance in his history which may not supply him with material for thanksgiving and praise, for all springs from God's everlasting love. His sorrows, alike with his joys, are from the hands of the same Divine musician whose skillful and delicate touch awakes harmony from every string.
Who has not lost a friend?
There is no union here of hearts,
That finds not here an end."
"His fine-toned heart, like the harp of the winds,
But the pain of separation is annihilated in Heaven! O entrancing thought! O fond attraction! O blissful hope! Kindred souls, loving hearts, congenial spirits are there forever. The pangs of separation are past; no more oceans sunder, and no more death separates. The blessed inhabitants of glory shall "go no more out;" "forever with the Lord," they are forever with each other, spending eternity in the holiest love, in the most elevated communion, and in the closest fellowship; mind in harmony with mind, spirit blending with spirit, and with voice attuned to voice; all uniting in the study and admiration, worship, and song of the LAMB who was slain, whose blood and righteousness will have brought them there.
Answers in sweetness each breeze that sings;
And the storm of grief, and the breath of joy,
Draw nothing but music from its strings."
This negative--in conclusion--is not without its suggestive and practical reflections. How sweet is the thought that, the pains which we here suffer are the pains which love alone inflicts! Not a stroke of God's rod lights upon us that is not a subdued echo of His love. Viewed in this light, how sweet is every pang we endure! The hand that inflicts it, is a Father's; the love that sends it, is a Redeemer's; the grace that soothes it, is the Comforter's! The TRIUNE GOD is thus concerned, beloved, in every pain you experience.
Another sweet reflection springs from the fact that, there is no curse in the pains our Heavenly Father in infinite wisdom and righteousness inflicts. Were it not so, oh how piercing and how bitter would they be! But Jesus, in bearing all our pains, and enduring all our sufferings, has so completely extracted every drop of the curse, has so entirely extinguished every spark of hell, that there is, in the most acute mental and bodily suffering, nothing but covenant blessing.
This last thought suggests another of most vital and solemn character--"the pains of hell." There is not a spectacle more sad and mournful than that of a soul passing from the temporal and temporary sufferings of this life, to the mental and interminable sufferings of the life that is to come. Such must inevitably be the case of all who die unconverted. There exists a kind of 'sentimental notion' in the minds of many individuals that, the long and painful sicknesses through which they pass in this life are of a meritorious and saving character; that, God will accept them as balancing the account of their souls; and that when they go hence they will pass from a bed of pain as those that have been purified by fire, and so fitted for the kingdom of which it is said--"there shall be no more pain."
A more unscriptural idea or fatal delusion never existed. No! there is no saving merit in mental suffering; no moral efficacy in bodily pain. Could there be concentrated in our individual self all the tortures, all the anguish, all the sufferings the human race ever endured--from the murdered Abel to the last victim of anti-christian persecution--it would not bring our soul to heaven. By the pangs, and sufferings and death of ONE VICTIM alone can Divine justice be propitiated, the wrath of God appeased, and the sinner saved. The sufferings of Christ were atoning--the sorrows of Christ were vicarious--the death of Christ was sacrificial. "Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."
There is sin in all human suffering--there was nothing but holiness in Christ's. There is demerit in all the pains we endure--there was infinite merit in His. There is hell-deserving in all the sorrows which afflict our humanity--there is heaven-winning in the soul-sorrow which afflicted His. Away, then, with the thought that there is anything of merit, anything of worthiness, anything of salvation in the mere endurance of sickness and pain. The rebellion of the will against God--the impatience of spirit under His hand--the questioning of His right, and wisdom, and goodness in sending so much pain--involve sin enough to sink the soul to endless woe.
That sickness and pain are often the means, in the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, of bringing the soul to Christ, we gratefully admit. Oh! what multitudes in glory are singing the high praises of God, in remembrance of the languid couch, the suffering bed, the sleepless pillow, the long, wearisome sickness, by which they were brought to Jesus--the Lord's frequent method of calling in His "hidden ones," of finding His lost "jewels"--of drawing to Himself the people given Him of His Father. "All that the Father gives me shall come to me." Christ is at no loss for means of finding the lost one, of bringing home the wanderer. He knows where to seek them, how and when to draw them; and the sanctified sicknesses and sufferings of the body are often, in the sovereignty of His converting grace, the medicine, the health and salvation of the soul.
What future and endless suffering awaits the unconverted mind! Oh the thought is appalling of passing from the fire that is temporal, to the fire that is eternal! Such is the doom which awaits all who die in their sins. "For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He pours out of the same; but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out and drink them." (Ps. 75:8) "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." (Matt. 25:46) "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isa. 33:14)
Sinner! fly to Christ! Escape for your life. Flee from the wrath to come. There is but one Way by which you may come to God--but one Refuge in which you may hide--but one Door by which you may enter heaven--but one Name by which you must be saved--it is JESUS. "His name shall be called JESUS, for He shall SAVE!" O precious truth! O joyous announcement! O faithful saying, worthy, my reader, of your personal believing, and immediate acceptance, that Jesus receives and saves sinners; and will receive and save even YOU. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
Without anticipating a subsequent chapter, let me, in concluding the present one, remind the believing reader that, He who has soothed, mitigated and removed the pains of life, will not be lacking, in His succourings and consolations, in the pains of death. If ever His strength was perfected in weakness, and His grace found all-sufficient, it will be in that solemn, that trying hour. How we now shrink from the thought of dying! But,
"Why should we dread, and fear to die?
But the death-pains of the body will all be abolished and forgotten in the sweet pleasure of dying in the Lord. Once death's illustrious Victim, now death's Divine Conqueror will be there; and it will be the joy, the poetry, and the song of death, to die clasped in the embrace and pillowed upon the bosom of JESUS.
What timorous worms we mortals are!
Death is the gate of endless joy,
And yet we dread to enter there.
"The pains, the groans, and dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
Still we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay."
"In the hour of pain and anguish,
In the hour when death draws near,
Allow not our hearts to languish,
Allow not our souls to fear.
And when mortal life is ended,
Bid us in your arms to rest,
Until, by angel-bands attended,
We awake among the blest!"
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