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A Right to the Tree of Life
By Robert Murray M'Cheyne
"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Revelation 22:14
1. LET US MEDITATE on the character of the saved. "They that do his commandments." All that are on the road to heaven, are not only a justified people, but a sanctified people. This was God's end in choosing us. "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." If any man be chosen to salvation, it is through sanctification of the Spirit. He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy.
This was Christ's great end in dying for us, that He might make us a holy nation. "Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water through the word." He laid down the unspeakable price for this. He became a man, He became a curse for this. He groaned, sweated blood, was bruised, bowed His head, gave up the ghost for this; that He might have liberty to make us free, humble, self-denied, loving, pure as He Himself is pure.
This is the Holy Spirit's end in dealing with us. It would not be righteous in Him to dwell in an unjustified soul. It is no rest for the dove of heaven. He therefore awakens the soul-discovers to the man his guilt, depravity, lothesomeness. He glorifies Christ in the man's soul-destroys the face of the covering that is over the carnal heart. He softens the rocky heart, and inclines and engages the will to cleave to the Lord Jesus Christ alone for righteousness.
Then He sees no iniquity in that man. He says of that soul, This is my rest; here will I dwell, for I have desired it. He writes all the law in that heart, Jeremiah 31:33. He does not omit one of the commandments. The man cries out, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22). And not only does He give him the will, but the ability, to serve God; "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
O my soul, art thou one of those that do His commandments? Have I come into the bonds of the new covenant, and got the law put in my inward parts, and written on my heart? Does Christ stretch forth His hand to me, saying "Behold, my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50). On this my eternity hangs. If I receive an unholy gospel I shall perish. They are ungodly men who "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness". The branches that bear no fruit He taketh away. They that are saved are they that do His commandments.
2. Let us meditate on the blessedness of the saved. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." Holiness is its own reward. To be holy is to be happy. God is happy because He is infinitely holy. The devil never can be happy because he has lost every spark of holiness. The first rest of the believing soul is when he comes to Christ and finds pardon. But there is a further and sweeter rest when he learns of Christ, who is meek and lowly in heart, Matthew 11:28-29. Holiness is the river of God's pleasure, and therefore it fills the soul that drinks of it with divine joy. But it has a further reward.
(i) They have right to the tree of life. Adam lost us that right when he fell. "God drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." In vain did Adam strive to find a secret entrance. Perhaps he tried to creep through the embowering thickets, or through some wooded pass. Perhaps he tried to enter under cloud of midnight, or by morning's early dawn, before the birds began their matin praise. But all in vain; that flaming sword "turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life".
Adam's children, up to this day, have spent their strength and ingenuity in the same vain attempt. They have gone about to establish their own righteousness. But all have found-a few on this side of eternity, and some, by fearful experience, on the other side-that the flaming sword of divine justice still turns every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. No-not every way. There is "a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh". A second Adam came, the Lord from heaven. He gave Himself to the flaming sword of justice.
A voice was heard, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts". And now that slain Lamb of God says, "I am the way; no man cometh unto the Father but by me". The guiltiest may enter in by Jesus. And hear how sweetly He says, "To him that overcometh will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). O my soul, like Ephesus thou hast left thy first love, yet this promise is to thee.
In Jesus thou hast a right to the tree of life. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I that in myself have a right to a place in hell, in Christ have a right to a place under the shadow of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God.
(ii) May enter in through the gates into the city. Here we are on our way to the heavenly city. We are coming up from the wilderness. Sometimes we have clouds between us and Christ-doubts as to our conversion-our union to Christ-our new nature. There all clouds and doubts shall flee away. Here we have diverse temptations from indwelling sin, from the world, from our adversary the devil; there temptations cannot come. Here we have no city where the most are righteous.
We can hardly speak the name of Jesus in the streets, but we ate made the song of the drunkard. There the inhabitants are all righteous-"there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth". None but the holy angels, and the brothers and sisters of Christ shall be there. The song of eternity shall be, Worthy is the Lamb. Here we love Christ unseen. Often He withdraws Himself and is gone. We seek Him and find Him not. There we shall be for ever with the Lord. We shall see Him as He is.
We shall be with Him, and behold His glory which His Father gave Him. We shall say without another doubt to all eternity, "I am my Beloved's, and his desire is toward me". This is the reward of the sanctified. O my soul, is this reward for thee? Welcome light afflictions, which are but for a moment. Welcome sweet cross, that I must bear for Jesus. Roll round, swift years. Hasten the day of His espousals, the day of the gladness of His heart and mine, that I may enter with all His redeemed through the gates that are all praise.