A. C. (Augustus Charles) Thompson.

Heavenly homage : a sermon occasioned by the death of Mrs. Martha Vinal Hooker, preached in the Eliot Church, Boston, December 3, 1893 online

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HEAVENLY HOMAGE



A SERMON

OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF

MRS. MARTHA VINAL HOOKER

PREACHED IN THE ELIOT CHURCH, BOSTON, OECEOER 3, 1893
By a. C. THOMPSON,

SENIOR PASTOR.



[PRINTED BY REQUEST]



HEAVENLY HOMAGE



A SERMON

OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF

MRS. MARTHA VINAL HOOKER

PREACHED IN THE ELIOT CHURCH, BOSTON, OECEPER 3, 1893
By a. C. THOMPSON,

SENIOR PASTOR.



[PRINTED BY REQUEST]



BEACON PRESS: THOMAS TODD, PRINTER,

1894.



Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from
Boston Regional Library System



http://www.archive.org/details/heavenlyhomageseOOthom



HEAVENLY HOMAGE.



Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and
riches, and wisdom, and strength, and ho?ior, and glory, and bless-
i?ig. — Rev. v : 12.

Recently one' of the oldest members of this
church was transferred to the church triumphant.
Her earthly pilgrimage measured eighty-seven and
one half years. I need not say that while she had
long been loved and honored for her own sake, she
has, during the last twelve years, been all the more
tenderly regarded as the widow of Rev. Dr. Henry
Brown Hooker, whose praise is in all our churches.

This later period was spent amidst untiring
assiduities, and the departure was perfectly peaceful.
Morning" came clear and calm, yet not more so than
the scene in that chamber of quietness. Its win-
dows look toward the rising sun. Eight months had
passed since she could come below stairs. Her hand
was for a good while on the latch of another door ;
and at length it opened inward.

Such quietness of transition is always, I appre-
hend, the Christian's experience on the other side,
whatever the circumstances this side. Struggle and
even violence may precede, but perfect composure
ensues. Beneficent processes are all silent and grad-



' Mrs. Martha Vinal Hooker, «tv Chickering.
'^Thursday, November 16, 1893.



ual. Germination, vegetation — how noiseless, how
leisurely ! The morning sun does not mount up
with a rush into the heavens. First there are a few
scattered rays scarcely discernible ; after a time gray
pencils of light ; then at length, in sublime leisure
and grandeur, the king of day comes above the hori-
zon. The whole movement is kindly adjusted to the
nature of the eye — that organ so delicate, so sensi-
tive. Men have been made blind by being brought
suddenly out of prison darkness into sunshine. It
was so when the Bastile was destroyed. But the
Sun of righteousness never dazzles, never confuses.
In the experience of a believer's liberated soul there
can be not only nothing violent, but doubtless noth-
ing even abrupt. The most diffident saint will not
feel overwhelmed, nor even greatly abashed. All
that is new opens with the sweet tranquillity of a
holy home. Thus was it, we may well believe, with
our departed friend.

An acquaintance of full half a century would
make it easy for me to speak of her characteristics,
and especially of her life in the second and longer
pastorate of Dr. Hooker.' That church, present at
the funeral service by its representative officer, would
confirm all that I might say. So far as impaired
health allowed she maintained a lively interest in
church work and parish affairs. The young had a
larafe share in her lovinor resfard. She formed them
into missionary bands. Mothers, too, with the chil-
dren, were gathered into maternal meetings. A share
in Sunday-school instruction was volunteered and
continued so long as strength allowed. Many testi-



' With the First Church in Falmouth, Mass., from 1837-1J



5

monies have reached me from those who came un-
der her immediate influence regarding her tact, her
pleasant ways, and her evident aim to promote their
spiritual welfare. During the thirty-five years since
residence in Falmouth ceased, her frequent summer
visits to that place have kept alive the most cordial
relations with the good people there and an affection-
ate interest on their part. Her memory is fragrant.

Many conversations with our departed friend,
especially in recent years, lead me to speak of her
conception of heaven. For threescore years and ten
she had been a member of the visible church. Her
love of God's Word and her acquaintance with it
were marked. The full assurance of hope whereof
sacred Scripture speaks was not uniformly possessed
by her. Yet with much self-distrust, and with a good
many doubts regarding her preparation for the abode
of bliss, she could not deny that all her sympathies
were with the revealed character and occupations
of heaven. In no one of the numerous interviews
referred to did she indicate that the popular notions,
so far as unworthy or insufficient, had place in her
thoughts. Her views and anticipations took shape
— as they should with all of us — from the lively
oracles ; and I improve the occasion to dwell briefly
on the subject thus brought to view.

What, now, are some of the unsatisfactory views
referred to ?

There are those who appear to conceive of
heaven as little else than a state of quiescence. Not
a few give to the future only a stray, occasional
thought, a vague anticipation of passiye enjoyment
in some way ; a luxurious idleness it may be, yet
bordering upon listlessness and vacuity. Seeing that



continuance of life here is uncertain, only its close
before long being certain, such persons feel con-
strained to express willingness to go to heaven, yet it
is simply because unable to stay on earth. Theirs is
rather a regretful submission to the inevitable. This
is about upon a par with the Nirvana of the Buddhists.
Pure intellectualism is, with some, the chief
characteristic of heaven. A vigorous cultivation of
the mental powers, an eager pursuit of secular knowl-
edge, enthusiasm in scientific research, if prosecuted
at the expense of the moral and the spiritual, will
obscure, and it may be wholly hide, the real glor}^
of that world above. Heaven is not only not an
academy of arts, it is not an earthly university
with unlimited endowments and apparatus, number-
less chairs of instruction, and all conceivable appli-
ances, conveniences, and incentives to study. No
doubt there will be endlessly increasing acquaintance
with the working of divine laws and with the worlds
that make up the cosmos. Growth in knowledge
must be wide as the universe and enduring as eter-
nity. Some of the loftiest intellects of our world are
there, but only because they here bowed humbly and
penitently to the sole Saviour of men. " If Chris-
tianity," says Moritz Carriere, " if Christianity must
exclude the intellectual heroes, the heroes of German
life- — a Goethe, a Schiller, a Fichte — then indeed
I would withhold myself from the waters of baptism,
and I would prefer a place in hell with those noble
souls to a throne in paradise." Nothing excludes
from heaven but a rejection of truth and duty — a
failure to comply with the claims and offers of Chris-
tianity, Will not every man find his final prefer-
ences met ?



Gratification of the taste is the heaven of man)-.
Culture has molded and refined them. They have
aesthetic ideals not to be realized on earth. Imagi-
nation has ample opportunity to expatiate in a new
earth, this old one being refurbished. Only there is
to be a sanitary cordon that shall keep out sickness,
weariness, deformity, vulgarity, and indecorum. Sin
is not thought of. Holiness is never mentioned in
society. Consummate politeness, beauty of form and
movement, harmony of proportions, color, and sound
as conceived to exist there awaken pleasing antici-
pations.

An English gentleman, eminent as an engineer
and a man of taste, visiting Chatsworth, that princely
country seat of the Duke of Devonshire, remarked,
" I will tell you what, my lord, you'll not find the
change so very great when you go to heaven." Not
a few adherents of Islam and not a few bearing
the Christian name seem to have no higher thoughts
of future bliss than such men and those who think
perhaps that the White City was the ultimatum of
beauty.

No doubt all of man's faculties and susceptibili-
ties will have scope for harmonious development and
high enjoyment in the paradise of God. But para-
dise is something more than a great horticultural
exhibition ; something else than a fine specimen of
landscape gardening. To limit thought to material
beauties and elegant enjoyments is dilettanteism, is
heathenism. Never was a more fittino; answer o^iven
than by Archbishop Whately to a clergyman sitting
beside the dying prelate, and who, looking at an
exquisite bouquet, asked, " Does your Grace think
there will be flowers in heaven ? " " As to that," he



replied, " I know nothing ; but I do know Jesus will
be there."

Is heaven simply a social reunion — simply a
reunion even of saints ? Without question it is a
social place, eminently a social place. Christianity is
of all religions the most social. The spirit of evan-
gelical Christianity, the spirit of those born from
above, born into the kingdom not of this world, is
preeminently social. Like the founder and chief
theme of Christianity, its instinctive impulse, when
rightly educated, is to communicate. Uniform soli-
tude belies its nature. Voluntary seclusion, whether
in the cave or the convent, is anti-Christian. Most
reasonably delightful is the believer's anticipation
of rejoining friends who precede and of welcoming
those who come after him. And what a thanksgiv-
ing assemblage will at last be that of " the whole
family in heaven and on earth " gathered together !
But of all things superfluous regarding the future
state nothing is more so than the writing of ser-
mons and books to prove the recognition of friends,
as if it were supposable that they will know less
or will have fewer opportunities and feebler discern-
ment there than here. Not unfrequently the leading
thought, yes, almost the sole thought, appears to be
the finding of certain relatives and personal friends ;
whereas the true conception is not so much that
they are our friends as the friends of Christ. We
may beguile ourselves by forgetting that to love them
who are with the Lord is not necessarily loving the
Lord.

We come thus upon the confines of what heaven
is distinctively. It is the realm of holiness, the
unique abode of that one consummate excellence,



the very flower and crown of intelligent beings. To
be divested of self, to be completely disenthralled
from Satan and disillusioned from the world —
O what bliss !

Of course preliminary questions arise : How is
this effected ? How comes that world to be what
it is ? What, after all, is heaven ? Has any one
returned to tell us ? Did the ruler's daughter, did
the young man of Nain, did Lazarus after his three
days' experience give an account of what had been
seen and felt ? All such witnesses appear to have
been silent. One only is competent to give desired
testimony in his own person or by the Holy Spirit
proceeding from him. The analogy of revelation
would lead us antecedently to look for comparatively
little on this subject till after he had finished his
great work here and had gone to prepare a place
for his prepared people. Disclosures regarding him
and his kingdom were progressive, and gradually
progressive. We now glance hastily at the Gospels
and Epistles.

Among the recorded earthly utterances of Im-
manuel are found a few words of his — the key to
all that we really know about heaven. Perfectly
familiar though they are, I repeat a clause in some
of them, which clause will suggest an entire passage.
" Many mansions " — there is amplitude of accom-
modation. " Eat and drink at my table in my
kingdom ; " " Be with me where I am ; that they may
behold my glory'' — there will be intimate fellowship
with Christ, and a clearer discovery of his excel-
lences. ""Today shalt thou be with me in paradise"
— the blessed transition comes immediately upon
a believer's decease.



lO

Such, in brief, is the definition of heaven as given
by him while on earth who came down to gather a
ransomed people into the kingdom.

Hints in harmony therewith are communicated
through his apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.
And how reads the inerrant definition of heaven by
men who spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost .?

" Rest with tts when the Lord shall be revealed "

— an end to toil, fatigue, and worriment. "Absent
from the body, present with the Lord;''' " Forever
with the Lord " — endless association with Jesus
Christ. " We shall be like him " — resemblance, in
a resurrection body and in character, to our Lord
Jesus. " The righteous shall shine forth as the sun "

— saints in heaven form a most resplendent com-
pany. " Glad with exceeding joy " — superlative en-
joyment is theirs. " The righteous into life eternaV

— that sublime fellowship, those beautiful lineaments,
and the completeness of bliss continue forever and
ever.

Such are the chief hints or outlines of deline-
ation furnished by the Great Teacher during his
earthly life and by men whom he specially author-
ized to teach. They are lines along which, consist-
ently wath other kindred elements of sacred portrai-
ture, our conceptions of heaven should be formed.

Let us then single out for further consideration
a few of the more salient facts thus presented which
seem not usually to have due prominence in the
thoughts even of Christian people, but which did
seem to hold relatively just proportion in the mind
of the venerated sister who has just left us :

I. The visible person of our Lord fesus Christ.



II

His own word Is, " No man hath seen God at
any time." It is to be presumed that no man will
ever see God the absolute. " The only begotten
Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath
declared him," is the testimony of one competent to
speak decisively and who is himself " the image of
the invisible God." Visibility of the Godhead will
then be witnessed only as the church on high shall
find realized what was once said to Philip, " He that
hath seen me hath seen the Father." The one
transcendent personage in paradise is Jesus Christ.
In him are still and forever combined the divine
and the human, the regal and the fraternal. He is
equally near and equally identified with the two who
by him are reconciled. There is a natural body
and there is a spiritual body ; but his resurrection
form must be the most beautiful object in the uni-
verse. No longer is he to be there remembered by
the aid of emblems, for we shall see him as he is,
and in him shall we behold the fullness of the God-
head bodily. At his girdle hang the keys of death
and hades. His image, we may suppose, will be re-
flected in all quarters, from the sea of glass and from
each one in the " all manner of precious stones."
Yet it is a benign majesty. He is the " Plant of
Renown," the " Rose of Sharon," the consummate
flower of eternity. No question will arise about his
being the chiefest among ten thousand. With wliat
gladness must every newly arrived disciple bow and
confess, " My Lord and my God ! "

It is to be noticed that after our Lord's resur-
rection, and before his ascension, there' was no such
unappreciative familiarit\' on the part of acciuaint-
ances as there had been before. And amidst all



12

the social freedom that exists on high we can con-
ceive of nothing that even borders upon disrespect.
Where there is no reverence there is no religion, no
genuine religious sense. We certainly cannot imag-
ine that fondling epithets will be employed there,
as they sometimes are injudiciously here. Rudeness
and bluntness must at once be sobered down into
silence. All sweet courtesies of supernal life will be
spontaneously maintained. At the same time dif-
ferences in rank and relations now can make no
difference in the cordiality of welcome. The gold
ring and goodly apparel of the present drawing-room
never have precedence at that great jubilee reception.
Onesimus has as warm a greeting as Philemon.

2. Chrisfs works of wisdom, and power will be
devoutly contemplated in heaven.

No one can be there long without becoming fully
satisfied that not only was the eternal Word " in the
beginning with God," and " was God," but also that
" all things were made by him." This conviction
once lodged, it must be discovered that there is also
no limit to the results of creative power. Even now
we know that not less than one hundred million of
stars come within telescopic range ; and at the same
time there is no reason to suppose that the boundary
of such aided vision is much nearer an ultimate limit
than is the scope of our unaided eye. What a field
for future study !

Another correlated truth ere long to have clear
lodgment is the fact that " by him all things con-
sist ; " " Upholding all things by the word of his
power." It cannot be otherwise than that he w^ho
calls into existence should preside over his creations.
Our Lord's sustaining and controlling will extends to



13

every one in the infinitude of worlds and to every
one in the countless throng of intelligences. " Let
all the angels worship him " was a most fitting order.
The more than twelve legions of them were not
called to his aid when on earth ; but their vast and
varied and delicate ministries are at his bidding.
" All authority in heaven and on earth " is in the
hands of the Lord Jesus.

An associated truth — one by no means second-
ary — here presents itself. He is himself the end of
creation and of divine government. The Holy Spirit
testifieth, " By him were all things created, that are
in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible,
whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principali-
ties, or powers : all things were created by him, and for
him " — '' foT- him." Christ's exaltation is declared to
be " that at the name of Jesus every knee should
bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and
things under the earth ; and that every tongue should
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
the Father." Universality of homage being due to
him is pledged to him. As in the material universe
every particle of matter attracts and is attracted
by every other particle, constituting community and
pointing to unity of creative origin and administra-
tive purpose, so there are intimations — and more
than mere intimations — that all proceedings on earth
are under the eye and the hand of him who became
Immanucl. The universal history of our world is
then only tlie h'fe and times of the Son of God. The
eternal Word left out, everything is disjointed and
fragmentary. The theophanies of the , former dis-
pensation were by the second person of the Trinity.
The divine ritual economy and all arrangements of



14

those old times were preparatory to the coming of the
Great King and his kingdom. Not less is the cur-
rent dispensation, with what went before, simply a
prelude to what is yet to come. Creation is only the
platform of redemption. Time, in its thousands of
years, is a mere parenthesis of eternity. The golden
threads of illustrative continuity running through all
earthly affairs run on into the unfolding future. We
now see rough and imperfect figures on the fabric ;
the beautiful right side and bright side of the vast
embroidery comes out on high. Jesus Christ is the
Alpha and Omega, the great historic center of a
majestic whole. That audible word on the mount,
" Hear ye him," contemplated Mount Zion above
and all beings, all ages to come. The adjustments
of heaven are Christocentric. " I heard a voice of
many angels round about the throne, and the living
creatures, and the elders ; and the number of them
was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands
of thousands." Is there any one excepted ? " That
all men " and all angels " should honor the Son even
as they honor the Father." " He that honoreth not
the Son honoreth not the Father."

O, what contrasts to his exile on earth ! — little
Bethlehem Ephratah ; despised Nazareth ; no room in
the inn ; no fruit on the fig-tree ; a man of sorrows
slandered as a wine-bibber; under the reign of Herod
in the hands of Judas ; at the judgment-seat of Pilate
mocked, scourged, crucified !

Nothing of a social nature is stationary in
heaven, nor is there any finality there. Correspond-
ing to the progressive enlargement of capacity and
of vision that goes on, there must be a correspond-
ing endless apocalypse. Never can the period come



15

when glorified spirits at that court will cease to sa}^
with the Queen of Sheba, " Behold the half was not
told." No one can grow old or grow weary. Ever}^
effort is refreshment. Satiety is impossible. " I have
no conception," said Lord Byron, " I have no concep-
tion of an existence which duration would not make
tiresome." That was a natural confession. A holy
heaven cannot seem attractive, even for a short time,
to a man blinded by sin, and especially if besotted
by criminal indulgence. But a regenerate soul, the
soul of one in whom God reveals his Son, and so he
becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus, will experi-
ence an ever swelling tide of holy joy with not the
slightest tinge of monotony. The Rev. John Brown,
of Haddington, was not an impulsive man nor a
man given to extravagant utterances. His testimony
is, " Little as I know of Christ — and it is my dread-
ful sin and shame that I know so little of him — I
would not exchange the learning of one hour's fel-
lowship with Christ for all the liberal learning in
ten thousand universities during ten thousand ages,
even though angels were to be my teachers."

Early in this discourse something was said re-
garding the chamber of peace and the quiet manner
in which, presumably, redeemed spirits enter the
abode of blessedness. The experience may, indeed,
be greatly varied, being suited to differing tempera-
ments. There are few persons who do not feel a
little timid at the thought of entering a great assem-
bly for the first time or of the first presentation at
a splendid royal court. It should be borne in mind
that there is no hurry in heaven. From, the earliest
moment there must be a sacred leisure, if required,
for becoming gradually familiar with the conditions



i6

of the place. It may be a good while before per-
sonal participation will be had in the grand universal
chorus. It was at his fourth centennial that Luther's
hymn was sung by forty thousand voices at Eisleben,
and as yet there has been but one just such occasion
on earth. Singing is neither the constant nor the
sole exercise in heaven ; nor is saints' rest the same
as saints' idleness. Occupations will doubtless be
infinitely multiplied and endlessly varied, the great
charm being that all is for the Master and all with-
out blemish.

" For he hath met my longing

With word of golden tone,
That I shall serve forever —

Himself, himself alone ;
Shall serve him, and forever,

O hope most sure, most fair !
The perfect love outpouring

In perfect service there ! "

But whatever the activities, there can be no
tumult, no perturbation. A bustling angel or a
bustling saint in glory is inconceivable. " Thine
eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation." Pro-
found joy is never noisy. Down in the soul's depths
will be experienced what it is to be " filled with all
the fullness of God," and will not that impart sacred
quietness, steadiness, and dignity .r*

3. Christ's atoning work engages chief thought in
heaven.

It was not to be expected that till his perfect
obedience in subjection to the law and his vicarious
sufferings in the period of humiliation were accom-
plished very much would be communicated regard-
ing the results thereof in the realm of glory. But



17

now is Christ risen from the dead. The order went
forth, " Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift
up ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall
come in." He ascended to the right hand of majesty
in the heavens. The eyes of a holy seer were per-
mitted to behold him and the throngs round about ;
his ear caught their ascriptions, and his pen recorded
them.

The Apocalypse is in some sense the second
Gospel of John, the gospel of heaven, the gospel of
Jesus in glory. We find, in the first place, corre-
spondence between passages on this marvelous roll
and what had been previously intimated, as we have
seen, by the Great Teacher and by those specially
taught of the Holy Ghost.

Sacred repose is there — "That they may rest
froin their laborsT

Holy purity reigns there — "There shall in no
wise enter into it anything that defilethr


1

Online LibraryA. C. (Augustus Charles) ThompsonHeavenly homage : a sermon occasioned by the death of Mrs. Martha Vinal Hooker, preached in the Eliot Church, Boston, December 3, 1893 → online text (page 1 of 2)