I ALMOST ENVY YOU; YOU SEEM SO NEAR HOME

Written by the Rev. James Bourne Mitchell b. 1821 June 27 in Abingdon, Washington, Virginia, died 1901 March 21 in Kirksville, Adair, Missouri.

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I ALMOST ENVY YOU; YOU SEEM SO NEAR HOME

Rev. J. B. MITCHELL, D.D.

Published in “The Observer” date unknown

Thus wrote a dear brother in the Lord who is in the strength of Christian manhood and usefulness, and it will be granted that it is a blessed thing to have the heart undivided, set on heaven from the day we are born of God.

When I was a small boy my oldest brother left our Virginia home to seek employment in Missouri, as mother agreed with him that his services were no longer needed on the farm. After several years had passed he arranged to make us a visit of which he wrote mother in such terms as suggested that his heart was yearning to be in the home circle again. On the day he was expected mother could not await his arrival, hence ordered her horse saddled and taking me up behind her, she went to meet him. The meeting occurred where the view on the road was unobstructed for quite a distance. As we rode along mother said in tones of animated tenderness, “James, I see your brother William coming,” and just then we heard him exclaim, “O, my dear mother! Have you come to meet me?” Quickening the movement of their horses, they were soon in each other’s embrace. What a joyous meeting between mother and son. While I was not overlooked the mother and the long absent son were the crowning of the scene.

That devout Christian mother who taught my young heart to seek and serve the Lord has been in her heavenly home many years, but that has not lessened her maternal love, hence I expect her as certainly to meet and welcome her youngest son somewhere on the confines of heaven, within the pearly gates, as she did her oldest child on his arrival from the far West. The whole trend of divine revelation is in evidence of personal recognition in heaven and tends to sweeten the anticipations of the blessed home of God’s family.

It is accepted, however, that all Scriptural thought about those heavenly mansions cluster around the Lord Jesus Christ who has gone thither to prepare places for His redeemed ones. He will be their all and in all amidst the infinite glories, as the mother was the chief joy to the home-bound son. Paul speaks of the believer’s departure from earth as being absent from the body and present with the Lord, and the dying Stephen cried out, “Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit.” No wonder then that Paul should say, “I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.”

Notwithstanding the richness of heaven’s experiences it would be a great mistake to serve the Lord simply or mainly in order to enjoy its blessedness; yet we despoil ourselves of much of spiritual good if we fail to take in a large field of heavenly meditation as a daily habit of life. No one of earth has been more unselfish than was Moses, and of him in connection with his self-denials, it is sad that “he had respect unto the recompense of reward.” There is no reason to doubt that his mind-picture of Canaan, as in some delightful sense a type of heaven, made him all the more persistent in his entreaty to the Lord to be permitted to pass over into the promised land. While we should not desire to leave the earth for heaven because of present labors, trials or suffering other than in entire submission to the will of the Lord, yet having “our conversation in heaven from whence we look for the Savior,”greatly enlivens and strengthens us for present labors, and wondrously sustains us under the afflictions and sorrows incident to this life.

It may, therefore,be safely said that in an important sense heaven is the goal of the Christian’s race the consummation of his most cherished hopes. It is set before us in the Bible in such terms as evidently intended to have a molding influence upon our lives. To be heavenly minded is a blessed state, and may be enjoyed by all God’s children in every possible condition of life, and certainly not less as the evening shades are lengthening toward the opposite horizon. As to Paul, so to all His dear ones, the Lord makes the straits of the present yield the sweet experience, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” Hence “a desire to depart and to be with Christ” when then Father so wills, fills the heart of God’s faithful servants with solid comfort and unspeakable joy as they near their heavenly home.

Kirksville, MO

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