Seeking a Better Country
By Dwight L. Moody
When I was a boy I thought of heaven as a great shining city, with vast walls and domes and spires, and with nobody in it except white angels, who were strangers to me. By and by my little brother died, and I thought of a great city with walls and domes and spires, and a flock of cold, unknown angels, and one little fellow that I was acquainted with. He was the only one that I knew in that country. Then another brother died, and there were two that I knew. Then my acquaintances began to die, and the number continually grew.
But it was not until I had sent one of my little children back to God that I began to think I had a little interest there myself. A second, a third, a fourth went, and by that time I had so many acquaintances in heaven that I did not see any more walls and domes and spires. I began to think of the residents of the Celestial City. And now so many of my acquaintances have gone there that it sometimes seems to me that I know more in heaven than I do on earth..
The home for the soul
That unchangeable home is for you and for me,
Where Jesus of Nazareth stands;
The King of all kingdoms forever is He,
And He holdeth our crowns in His hands.
Oh, how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain;
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands
To meet one another again.1
… What has been, and is now, one of the strongest feelings in the human heart? Is it not to find some better place, some lovelier spot, than we have now? It is for this that men are seeking everywhere, and they can have it if they will; but instead of looking down, they must look up to find it. As men grow in knowledge, they vie with each other more and more in making their homes attractive, but the brightest home on earth is but an empty barn, compared with the mansions in the skies.
What is it that we look for at the decline and close of life? Is it not some sheltered place, some quiet spot, where, if we cannot have constant rest, we may at least have a foretaste of the rest that is to be? What was it that led Columbus, not knowing what would be his fate, across the unsailed western seas, if it were not the hope of finding a better country?
This it was that sustained the hearts of the Pilgrim Fathers, driven from their native land by persecution, as they faced an iron-bound, savage coast, with an unexplored territory beyond. They were cheered and upheld by the hope of reaching a free and fruitful country, where they could be at rest and worship God in peace.
Somewhat similar is the Christian’s hope of heaven, only it is not an undiscovered country, and in attractions cannot be compared with anything we know on earth. Perhaps nothing but the shortness of our range of sight keeps us from seeing the celestial gates all open to us, and nothing but the deafness of our ears prevents our hearing the joyful ringing of the bells of heaven. There are constant sounds around us that we cannot hear, and the sky is studded with bright worlds that our eyes have never seen. Little as we know about this bright and radiant land, there are glimpses of its beauty that come to us now and then.
We may not know how sweet its balmy air,
How bright and fair its flowers;
We may not hear the songs that echo there,
Through these enchanted bowers.
The city’s shining towers we may not see
With our dim earthly vision,
For Death, the silent warder, keeps the key
That opes the gates Elysian.
But sometimes, when adown the western sky
A fiery sunset lingers,
Its golden gate swings inward noiselessly,
Unlocked by unseen fingers.
And while they stand a moment half ajar,
Gleams from the inner glory
Stream brightly through the azure vault afar,
And half reveal the story.2
It is said by travelers that in climbing the Alps the houses of far distant villages can be seen with great distinctness, so that sometimes the number of panes of glass in a church window can be counted. The distance looks so short that the place to which the traveler is journeying appears almost at hand, but after hours and hours of climbing it seems no nearer yet. This is because of the clearness of the atmosphere. By perseverance, however, the place is reached at last, and the tired traveler finds rest. So sometimes we dwell in high altitudes of grace; heaven seems very near, and the hills of Beulah are in full view. At other times the clouds and fogs caused by suffering and sin cut off our sight. We are just as near heaven in the one case as we are in the other, and we are just as sure of gaining it if we only keep on the path that Christ has pointed out.
I have read that on the shores of the Adriatic Sea the wives of fishermen, whose husbands have gone far out upon the deep, are in the habit of going down to the seashore at night and singing with their sweet voices the first verse of some beautiful hymn. After they have sung it they listen until they hear brought on the wind, across the sea, the second verse sung by their brave husbands as they are tossed by the gale—and both are happy.
Perhaps, if we would listen, we too might hear on this storm-tossed world of ours, some sound, some whisper, borne from afar to tell us there is a heaven which is our home; and when we sing our hymns upon the shores of the earth, perhaps we may hear their sweet echoes breaking in music upon the sands of time, and cheering the hearts of those who are pilgrims and strangers along the way. Yes, we need to look up—out, beyond this low earth, and to build higher in our thoughts and actions, even here!
You know, when a man is going up in a balloon, he takes in sand as ballast, and when he wants to mount a little higher, he throws out some of it, and then he will mount a little higher; he throws out a little more ballast, and he mounts still higher; and the more he throws out the higher he gets, and so the more we have to throw out of the things of this world the nearer we get to God. Let go of them; let us not set our hearts and affections on them, but do what the Master tells us—lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven…
Now, I think that is what we want to say to professing Christians—if you build for time, you will be disappointed. God says: Build up yonder. It is a good deal better to have life with Christ in God than anywhere else. I would rather have my life hid with Christ in God than be in Eden as Adam was. Adam might have remained in Paradise for 16,000 years, and then fallen, but if our life is hid in Christ, how safe!