Heading for Heaven
He that has assured hope can sing in prison, like Paul and Silas at Philippi. Assurance can give songs in the night. He can sleep with the full prospect of execution on the morrow, like Peter in Herod's dungeon. Assurance says, "I will lay me down and take my rest, for thou, Lord, makest me dwell in safety." He can rejoice to suffer shame for Christ's sake, as the apostles did. Assurance says, "Rejoice and be exceeding glad - that is a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." He an meet a violent and painful death without fear, as Stephen did in olden time, and Cranmer Ridley, Latimer and Taylor in our own land. Assurance says - "Fear not them which kill the body, and after that have no more then can do. Lord Jesus, into Thy hand I commend my spirit."
Ah, brethren the comfort assurance can give in the hour of death is a great point, depend upon it, and never will you think it so great as when your turn comes to die. In that awful hour there are few believers who do not find out the value and privilege of assurance, whatever they may have thought about it in their lives; general hopes and trusts are all very well to live upon, but when you come to die you will want to be able to say, "I know and I feel." Believe me, Jordan is a cold stream to cross alone. The last enemy, even death, is a strong foe. When our souls are in departing, there is no cordial like the strong wine of assurance.
There is a beautiful expression in the Prayer Book's Visitation of the sick. "The Almighty Lord, who is a most strong tower to all them that put their trust in Him, be now and evermore thy defense, and make thee know and feel that there is none other name under heaven through whom thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The compilers of that service showed great wisdom there: they saw that when the eyes grow dim and the heart grows faint, there must be knowing and feeling what Christ has done for us if there is to be perfect peace.
2. Let me name another thing. Assurance is to be desired, because it tends to make a Christian an active, useful Christian. None, generally speaking, do so much for Christ on earth as those who enjoy the fullest confidence of a free entrance into heaven. That sounds wonderful, I daresay, but it is true.
A believer who lacks an assured hope will spend much time in inward searchings of heart about his own state. He will be full of his own doubtings and questions, his own conflicts and corruptions. In short, you will often find that he is so taken up with this internal warfare that he has little leisure for other things, little time to work for God.
Now a believer who has, like Paul, an assured hope is free from these harassing distractions. He does not vex his soul with doubts about his own pardon and acceptance. He looks at the covenant sealed with blood, at the finished work and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and therefore counts his salvation a settled thing. And thus he is able to give an undivided attention to the Lord's work, and so in the long run to do more.
Take, for an illustration of this, two English emigrants, and suppose them set down side by side in Australia or New Zealand. Give each of them a piece of land to clear and cultivate. Secure that land to them by every needful legal instrument, let it be conveyed as freehold to them and theirs for ever, let the conveyance be publicly registered, and the property made sure to them by every deed and security that man's ingenuity can devise. Suppose, then, that one of them shall set to work to bring his land into cultivation, and labor at it day after day without intermission or cessation. Suppose, in the meanwhile, that the other shall be continually leaving his work and repeatedly going to the public registry to ask whether the land really is his own- whether there is not some mistake - whether after all there is not some flaw in the legal instruments which conveyed it to him. The one shall never doubt his title, but just diligently work on; the other shall never feel sure of his title, and spend half his time in going to Sydney or Auckland with needless inquiries about it. Which, now, of these two men will have made most progress in a year's time? Who will have done the most for his land, got the greatest breadth under tillage, have the best crops to show? You all know as well as I do - I need not supply an answer. There can only be one reply.
Brethren, so will it be in the matter of our title to "mansions in the skies." None will do so much for the Lord who bought them as the believer who sees that title clear. The joy of the Lord will be that man's strength. "Restore unto me," says David, "the joy of Thy salvation; ... then will I teach transgressors Thy ways." Never were there such working Christians as the apostles. They seemed to live to labor: Christ's work was their meat and drink. They counted not their lives dear; they spent and were spent; they laid down health, ease, worldly comfort at the foot of the Cross. And one cause of this, I believe, was their assured hope. They were men that said, "We know that we are of God."
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 28)