Sermon 542. Paul-His Cloak And His Books
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 29, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when you come, bring with you, and the books, but especially the parchments."2 Timothy 4:13.
FOOLISH persons have made remarks upon the trifles of Scripture. They have marveled why so little a matter as a cloak shouldbe mentioned in an Inspired Book. But they ought to know that this is one of the many indications that the Book is by thesame Author as the Book of Nature. Are there notthings which our short-sightedness would call trifles in the volume of Creation around us? What is the peculiar value ofthe daisy upon the lawn, or the buttercup in the meadow? Compared with the rolling sea, or the eternal hills, how inconsiderablethey seem!
Why has the humming bird a plumage so wondrously bejeweled and why is so much marvelous skill expended upon the wing of abutterfly? Why such curious machinery in the foot of a fly, or such a matchless optical arrangement in the eye of a spider?Because to most men these are trifles, are they to beleft out of Nature's plans? No. Because greatness of Divine skill is as apparent in the minute as in the magnificent-evenso in Holy Writ-the little things which are embalmed in the amber of Inspiration are far from inappropriate or unwise.
Besides, in Providence are there not trifles? It is not every day that a nation is rent by revolution, or a throne shakenby rebellion-far oftener a bird's nest is destroyed by a child, or an anthill overturned by a spade. It is not at every hourthat a torrent inundates a province, but howfrequently do the dewdrops moisten the green leaves? We do not often read of hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, butthe annals of Providence could reveal the history of many a grain of dust borne along in the summer's gale, many a sear leafrent from the poplar and many a rushwaving by the river's brim.
Learn to see in the little things of the Bible the God of Providence and Nature. Observe two pictures and you will, if thoroughlyskilled in art, detect certain minute details which indicate the same authorship if they are by the same hand. The very littlethings often, to men of artistic eye,identify the painter more certainly than the more prominent strokes, which might far more easily be counterfeited. Expertsdetect a handwriting by a slight quivering in the upstrokes, the turn of the final mark, a dot, a cross, or even less matters.
Can we not see the legible handwriting of the God of Nature and Providence in the very fact that the sublimities of Revelationare interspersed with homely, everyday remarks? But they are not trifles. I venture to say that my text has much in it ofspiritual instruction. I trust that this cloak maywarm your hearts this morning, that these books may give you instruction, and that the Apostle himself may be to you anexample of heroism, fitted to stir your minds to imitation.
I. First, let us LOOK AT THIS MEMORABLE CLOAK which Paul left with Carpus at Troas. Troas was a principal seaport town ofAsia Minor. Very likely the Apostle Paul was seized at Troas on the second occasion of his being taken before the Roman emperor.The soldiers usually appropriated to themselvesany extra garments in the possession of an arrested person, such things being considered as the perquisites of those whomade the arrest. The Apostle may have been forewarned of his seizure, and therefore prudently committed his few books andhis outer garment, which made up all hishousehold stuff, to the care of a certain honest man named Carpus.
Although Troas was a full six hundred miles' journey from Rome, yet the Apostle Paul is too poor to purchase a garment, andso directs Timothy, as he is coming that way, to bring his cloak. He needs it much, for the sharp winter is coming on andthe dungeon is very, very chilly. This is a briefdetail of the circumstances. What kind of cloak it was, certain learned commentators have spent whole pages in trying todiscover. But as we know nothing at all about it, ourselves, we will leave the question to them-believing that they know asmuch as we do, but no more.
1. But what does the cloak teach us? There are five or six lessons in it. The first is this-let us perceive here, with admiration,the complete self-sacrifice of the Apostle Paul for the Lord's sake. Remember, my dear Friends, what the Apostle once was.He was great, famous, and wealthy. Hehad been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. He was so zealous among his brethren that he could not but have commanded theirsincere respect. He was attended by a guard of soldiers when he went from Jerusalem to Damascus. I do not know whether thehorse on which he rode was his own,but he must have been a man of importance to have been allotted so important a post in religious matters.
He was a man of good standing in society and doubtless everybody looking at young Saul of Tarsus would have said, "He willmake a great man. He has every chance in life. He has a liberal education, a zealous temperament, abundant gifts and the generalesteem of the Jewish rulers. He will rise toeminence." But when the Lord met him that day on the road to Damascus, how everything changed with him! Then he could trulysay, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes, doubtless and I count all things but loss forthe excellency of the knowledge ofChrist Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christand be found in Him."
He begins to preach-away goes his character. Now nothing is too bad for Paul among his Jewish associates. "Away with sucha fellow from the earth. It is not fit that he should live," was the exact expression of Jewish feeling towards him. He continueshis labors and away has gone hiswealth-he has either scattered it among the poor, or it has been sequestered by his former friends. He journeys from placeto place at no small sacrifice of comfort. The wife to whom he was probably once united-for no unmarried man could vote inthe Sanhedrim as Paul didagainst Stephen-had fallen sick and died and the Apostle now preferred a life of singleness, that he might give himselfentirely to his work.
If only in this world he had hope, he would have been of all men the most miserable. He has at last grown gray, and now thevery men who owed their conversion to him have forsaken him. When he first came into Rome they stood with him, but now theyhave all gone like winter's leaves, and the poorold man, "such an one as Paul the aged," sits with nothing in all the world to call property but an old cloak and a fewbooks-and those are six hundred miles away. Ah, how he emptied himself, and to what extremity of destitution was he willingto bring himself for Christ'sname sake!
Do not complain that he mentions his clothes-a greater than he did so and did so in an hour more solemn than that in whichPaul wrote the Epistle. Remember who it was that said, "They parted My garments among them and upon My vesture did they castlots." The Savior must die in absolutenakedness and the Apostle is made something like He as he sits shivering in the cold.
Brethren, was Paul right in all this? Were his sacrifices reasonable? Was the object which he contemplated worthy of all thissuffering and self-denial? Was he carried away by an excessive heat of fanaticism to spend upon an inferior object what wasnot required of him? No Believer here thinks so.You all believe that if you could give up substance and talent and esteem, yes, and your own life, also, for Christ, itwould be well spent. I say you think so, but how many of us have ever carried it out? Had I not better say, how few of us?There are some who seldom have anopportunity for sacrificing for Christ at all. What they give is spared from their superfluity-they never feel it.
It is a high luxury when a man has such a love for Jesus that he is able to give until he pinches himself. If Paul were reasonable,what are you and I? If Paul only gives as a Christian should do, how ashamed should we be of ourselves? If he will bring himselfto poverty for Christ, what shall wesay of those base-born professors who will not lose a trifle in their trade for honesty's sake? What shall we say of thosewho say "I know how to get money and I know how to keep it, too," and look with scorn upon those who are more generous thanthey? If you are content to condemnPaul and charge him with folly, do so. But if not, if this is but a reasonable service and such as the infinite Grace ofGod which Paul experienced required of him, then let us do something of the like sort. If you have experienced as much love,love the Lord as much and spend andbe spent for the Lord Jesus!
2. Secondly, dear Friends, we learn how utterly forsaken the Apostle was by his friends. If he had not a cloak of his own,could not some of them lend him one? Ten years before, the Apostle was brought in chains along the Appian way to Rome. Andfifty miles before he reached Rome, a little band ofmembers of the Church came to meet him. And when he came within twenty miles of the city, at the "Three Taverns," therecame a still larger group of the disciples to escort him, so that the chained prisoner, Paul, went into Rome attended by allthe Believers in that city.
He was then a younger man. But now for some reason or other, ten years afterward, nobody comes to visit him. He is confinedin prison and they do not even know where he is, so that Onesiphorus, when he comes to Rome, has to seek him out very diligently.He is as obscure as if he had never had aname and though he is still as great and glorious an Apostle as ever, men have so forgotten him, and the Church has so despisedhim that he is friendless! The Philippian Church, ten years before, had made a collection for him when he was in prison. Andthough he had learned inwhatsoever state he was, to be content, yet he thanked them for their contribution as an offering of a sweet smelling savorunto God.
Now he is old and no Church remembers him. He is brought to trial and there are Eubulus and Pudens and Linus- will not someof them stand by his side when he is brought before the emperor? "At my first answer no man stood with me." Poor soul, heserved his God and worked himself down topoverty for the Church's sake, yet the Church has forsaken him! Oh, how great must have been the anguish of the loving heartof Paul at such ingratitude! Why did not the few who were in Rome, if they had been ever so poor, make a contribution forhim? Could not those who were ofCaesar's household have found a cloak for the Apostle? No. He is so utterly left, that although he is ready to die of feverin the dungeon, not a soul will lend or give him a cloak.
What patience does this teach to those similarly situated! Has it fallen to your lot, my Brother, to be forsaken of friends?Were there other times when your name was the symbol of popularity, when many lived in your favor like insects in your sunbeam?And has it come to this, now, that you areforgotten as a dead man out of mind? In your greatest trials do you find your fewest friends? Have those who once lovedand respected you fallen asleep in Jesus? And have others turned out to be hypocritical and untrue? What are you to do now?
You are to remember this case of the Apostle. It is put here for your comfort. He had to pass through as deep waters as anythat you are called to ford, and yet remember, he says, "Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me." Sonow, when man deserts you, God will be your Friend.This God is our God forever and ever-not in sunshiny weather only, but forever and ever! This God is our God in dark nightsas well as in bright days.
Go to Him, spread your complaint before Him. Murmur not. If Paul had to suffer desertion, you must not expect better usage.Let not your faith fail you as though some new thing had happened to you. This is common to the saints. David had his Ahithophel,Christ his Judas, Paul his Demas-andcan you expect to fare better than they? As you look at that old cloak, as it speaks of human ingratitude, be of good courageand wait on the Lord, for He shall strengthen your heart. "Wait, I say, on the Lord."
3. There is a third lesson. Our text shows the Apostle's independence of mind. Why did not the Apostle borrow a cloak? Whydid he not beg one? No, no, no! That is not to the Apostle's taste at all. He has a cloak and though it is six hundred milesaway, he will wait until it comes. Though there maybe some that may lend, he knows that they who go a borrowing go a sorrowing, and that they who beg are seldom welcome. Ido not think a Christian man should blush to borrow or to beg if he is absolutely brought to it, but I never like that classof people who do eithersystematically.
I wish many of the poor would not damage the charity of others by being so ready to beg on every presence of necessity. AChristian man would do well to remember that it is never to his honor, though it is not always to his dishonor, to beg. "Icannot dig, to beg I am ashamed," said the unfaithfulsteward. And if he had been a faithful one he would have been more ashamed, still. I say again, when it comes to the pinchand a man must ask of his fellows, let him do it boldly. But let him never be too ready to do it, but, like the Apostle, aslong as he can do without it, lethim say, "I have labored with my own hand and eaten no man's bread for nothing."
He taught that the minister of God had a right to be supported by the people. "If you partake of their spirituals," says he,"it is right that you give of your temporals." He insists upon it that they are not to muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadsout the corn. Yet though he holds this as agreat general principle, he never takes anything himself. He follows his trade of tent making. He stitches away at the canvasand earns his own living so that he is chargeable unto no man. Noble example! How anxious all Christians ought to be to seethat they do not come to want intheir old age!
Yet Paul does come to poverty-his independent spirit is not broken at the last, for he will wait till his own cloak is broughtsix hundred miles rather than ask any man to give or lend. Let the Christian man be quite as independent, for though independenceis not a Christian grace, yet it isa common grace which, when wreathed with Christianity, is very beautiful and befits the character of a son of God.
4. The fourth remark is-see here, how very little the Apostles thought about how they were dressed. Paul wants enough to keephim warm. He asks no more. There is no doubt whatever that the other parts of his garments were getting very dilapidated-thathe was, indeed, in a state of rags.And so he needed the cloak to wrap about him. We read in olden times of many of the most eminent servants of God being dressedin the poorest manner. When good Bishop Hooper was led out to be burnt, he had been long in prison and his clothes were sogone from him that he borrowed anold scholar's gown, full of rags and holes, that he might put it on and went limping with pains of sciatica and rheumatismto the stake.
We read of Jerome of Prague, that he lay in a damp, cold dungeon and was refused anything to cover him in his nakedness andcold. Some ministers are very careful lest they should not always be dressed in a canonical or gentlemanly manner. I likethat remark of Whitfield's, when someone of a badcharacter wondered how he could preach without a cassock. "Ah," he said, "I can preach without a cassock, but I cannot preachwithout a character." What matters the outward garment, so long as the character is right?
This is a lesson to our private members, too. We sometimes hear them say, "I could not come out on the Sunday-I had not fitclothes to come in." Any clothes are fit to come to the House of God with, if they are paid for, no matter how coarse theymay be. If they are the best God has givenyou, do not murmur. Inasmuch as the trial of raiment is a very sharp one to some of the poorest of God's people, I thinkthis text was put into the Bible for their comfort. Your Master wore no soft and dainty raiment. His garment was the simplepeasant's smock-frock-woven fromthe top throughout without seam-and yet He never blushed to wear it in the presence of kings and priests.
I shall always believe that the Christian ought to cultivate a noble indifference to these outward things. But when it comesto the pinch of absolute want of clothing, then he may comfort himself in this thought, "Now am I companion with the Master.Now do I walk in the same temptation as theApostles. Now I suffer even as they also suffered." Every saint is an image of Christ. But a poor saint is His exact image,for Christ was poor. So, if you are brought to such a pinch with regard to poverty that you scarcely know how to provide thingsdecent by way of raiment, donot be dispirited. But say, "My Master suffered the same, and so did the Apostle Paul." And so take heart and be of goodcheer.
5. Paul's cloak at Troas shows me how mighty the Apostle was to resist temptation. "I do not see that," you say. The Apostlehad the gift of miracles. Our Savior, though able to work miracles, never worked anything like a miracle on His own account.Nor did His Apostles. Miraculous gifts wereentrusted to them with Gospel ends and purposes-for the good of others and for the promotion of the Truth of God. But neverfor themselves. Our Savior was tempted of the devil, you will remember, when He was hungry, to turn stones into bread. Thatwas a strongtemptation-to apply miraculous powers which were intended for other ends-to His own comfort.
But He rebuked Satan and said, "Man shall not live by bread alone." Paul also had power to have created a cloak if he hadliked. Why could he not? His very shadow healed the sick! If he had willed it, he could have prevented the cold and damp fromhaving any effect upon himself. He who had onceraised to life dead Eutychus, when he had fallen from a loft, and brought back the vital heat, could certainly have keptthe heat in his own body if he had chosen. And I am bold to say the devil often came to him and said, "If you are an Apostleof God, if you can work miracles,command this atmosphere to rise in temperature, or these rags to be joined together and form you a comfortable raiment."
You do not know-you cannot tell, for you were never put to it-what were the stern struggles the Apostle must have had in resistingthe foul temptation to use his miraculous gifts for himself. O Brothers and Sisters, I am afraid you and I are much more readyto give way to self than wasthe Apostle. We preach the Gospel and if God helps us, oh, directly the devil will have us to take some of the praise. "Youpreached a good sermon this morning," said one to John Bunyan, as he came down the stairs. "You are too late," said HonestJohn, "the devil told me that when Iwas preaching." Yes, God works the miracles, but we take the honor to ourselves.
There is the temptation for any man who has gifts to use them to his own purposes. And if he does, he is an unfaithful stewardto his Master. I do beseech you, whether in the Sunday school or the Church, never let the miracle-working power which Godhas given you be used for yourselves. You can dofor Christ's sake mighty things through faith and prayer, but never let prayer and faith be prostituted to so base a purposeas to minister unto the flesh. I know carnal minds will not comprehend this, but spiritual minds, who know the temptationsof the devil, will know how sternmust be a life-long battle to keep ourselves back from doing that which might apparently make us happy, but which wouldat the same time make us unholy.
6. The sixth lesson from this cloak is we are taught in this passage how precisely similar one child of God is to another.I know we look upon Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as being very great and blessed beings-we think that they lived in a higherregion than we do. We cannot think that ifthey had lived in these times, they would have been Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We suppose that these are very bad days andthat any great height of Divine Grace, or self-denial is not very easily attainable.
Brethren, my own conviction is that if Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had lived now-instead of being less, they would have beengreater saints-for they only lived in the dawn, and we live in the noon. We hear the Apostles often called "Saint" Peter and"Saint" Paul. And thus they are set upon high as on an elevated niche. If we had seen Peter and Paul we should have thought them a very ordinary sort of people-wonderfullylike ourselves. And if we had gone into their daily life and trials, we should have said, "Well, you are wonderfully superiorto what I am inGrace, but somehow or other, you are men of like passions with me. I have a quick temper, so have you, Peter.
"I have a thorn in the flesh, so have you, Paul. I have a sick house, Peter's wife's mother lies sick of a fever. I complainof the rheumatism, and the Apostle Paul, when aged, feels the cold and wants his cloak." Ah, we must not consider the Bibleas a Book intended for transcendentalsuper-elevated souls-it is an everyday Book and these good people were everyday people. They had more Divine Grace, butwe can get more Grace as well as they could-the Fountain at which they drew is quite as full and as free to us as to them.We have only to believeafter their fashion and trust to Jesus after their way-and although our trials are not the same as theirs, we shall overcomethrough the blood of the Lamb.
I like to see religion brought out in everyday life. Do not tell me about the godliness of the Tabernacle. Tell me about thegodliness of your shop, your counter, and your kitchen. Let me see how Divine Grace enables you to be patient in the cold,or joyful in hunger, or industrious in labor.Though Grace is no common thing, yet it shines best in common things. To preach a sermon, or to sing a hymn is but a paltrything compared with the power to suffer cold and hunger and nakedness for Christ's sake.
Courage then, courage then, fellow Pilgrim! The road was not smoothed for Paul any more than it is for us. There was no royalroad to Heaven in those days any more than there is now. They had to go through sloughs and bogs and mire-just as we do-
"They wrestled hard as we do now With sins and doubts and fears," but they have gained the victory at last, and even so shallwe! So much then, for the cloak which was left at Troas with Carpus.
II. We will LOOK AT HIS BOOKS. We do not know what the books were, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchmentswere. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.Even an Apostle must read. Some of our veryultra-Calvinistic Brothers and Sisters think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorablespecimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantityof nonsense is the idol of many.
If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains-oh,that is the preacher! How rebuked are they by the Apostle! He is Inspired and yet he wants books! He has been preaching atleast for thirty years, and yet he wantsbooks! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!He had been caught up into the third Heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!He had written the major part ofthe New Testament, and yet he wants books!
The Apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, "Give yourself unto reading." The man who never reads willnever be read. He who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves thathe has no brains of his own. Brothers and Sisters,what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature,but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritan writers and expositions of the Bible. We arequite persuaded that the very best wayfor you to be spending your leisure is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwardyou may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"-join in the cry.
Our second remark is that the Apostle is not ashamed to confess that he does read. He is writing to his young son, Timothy.Now some old preachers never like to say a thing which will let the young ones into their secrets. They suppose they mustput on a very dignified air and make a mystery oftheir sermonizing. But all this is alien from the spirit of truthfulness. Paul wants books and is not ashamed to tell Timothythat he does. And Timothy may go and tell Tychicus and Titus if he likes-Paul does not care.
Paul herein is a picture of industry. He is in prison. He cannot preach-what will he do? As he cannot preach, he will read.As we read of the fishermen of old and their boats, the fishermen were out of them. What were they doing? Mending their nets.So if Providence has laid you upon a sickbed and you cannot teach your class-if you cannot be working for God in public, mend your nets by reading. If one occupationis taken from you, take another and let the books of the Apostle read you a lesson of industry.
He says, "Especially the parchments." I think the books were Latin and Greek works but the parchments were Oriental. And possiblythey were the parchments of Holy Scripture. Or, as likely, they were his own parchments, on which were written the originalsof his letters which stand in our Bible asthe Epistles to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and so on. Now, it must be, "Especially the parchments"with all our reading. Let it be especially the Bible. Do you attach no weight to this advice? This advice is more needed inEngland now than almost at any othertime, for the number of persons who read the Bible, I believe, is becoming smaller every day.
Persons read the views of their denominations as set forth in the periodicals. They read the views of their leader as setforth in his sermons or his works. But the Book, the good old Book, the Divine Fountainhead from which all Revelation wellsup-this is too often left. You may go to humanpuddles until you forsake the clear crystal stream which flows from the Throne of God. Read the books, by all means, butespecially the parchments. Search human literature, if you will, but especially stand fast by that Book which is Infallible,the Revelation of our Lord and SaviorJesus Christ.
III. We now want to have AN INTERVIEW WITH THE APOSTLE PAUL HIMSELF, for we may learn much from him. It is almost too darkto see him-we will find him in that frightful den! The horrid dungeon-the filth lies upon the floor till it looks like a roadwhich is seldom scraped-thedraft blows through the only little slit which they call a window. The poor old man, without his cloak, wraps his raggedgarment about him. Sometimes you see him kneeling down to pray and then he dips his pen into the ink and writes to his dearson, Timothy. No companion, exceptLuke, who occasionally comes in for a short time. Now, how shall we find the old man? What sort of temper will he be in?
We find him full of confidence in the religion which has cost him so much. For in the first chapter, at the twelfth verse,we hear him say, "For this reason I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believedand am persuaded that He is able to keep that whichI have committed unto Him against that day." No doubt, often the tempter said to him, "Paul, why you have lost everythingfor your religion! It has brought you to beggary. See, you have preached it and what is the reward of it? The very men youhave converted have forsaken you. Giveit up, give it up, it cannot be worth all this. Why, they will not even bring you a cloak to wrap round you. You are lefthere to shiver and very soon your head will be struck from your body. Take off your hand from the standard and retire."
"No," says the Apostle, "I know Whom I have believed." Why, I have heard of professors who say, "Ever since I have been aChristian I have lost in my business and therefore I will give it up." But our beloved Apostle clings to it with a life grip.And oh, there is no heart in our piety if ourafflictions make us doubt the Truth of our religion. For these trials, inasmuch as they work patience, and patience experience,and experience hope, render us such that we are not ashamed, but we do the more firmly hold on to Christ. Just think, youhear the Apostle say, "I knowWhom I believe." It is very easy for us to say it. We are very comfortable, sitting in our pews. We shall go home to ourplentiful meal. We shall be clothed comfortably.
We have friends about us who will smile at us and it is not hard to say, "I know Whom I have believed." But if you were vexedon the one hand by Hermogenes and Philetus, and on the other hand by Alexander the coppersmith, and De-mas, you would notfind it quite so easy to say, "The Lord isfaithful." Behold this noble champion who is just as much unmoved at the worst as he was at the best times. "I know howto be full," said he once. And now he can say, "I know how to suffer hunger-I know how to abound and how to suffer loss."
But he is not only confident. You will notice that this grand old man is having communion with Jesus Christ in his sufferings.Turn to the second chapter, at the tenth verse. Did ever sweeter language than this come from anyone? "Therefore I endureall things for the elect's sakes, that they mayalso obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saving: For if we are dead withHim, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us: if webelieve not, yet He abides faithful: Hecannot deny Himself." Ah, there are two in the dungeon-not only the man who is suffering trouble as an evildoer, even untobonds-but there sits with him One like unto the Son of Man, sharing all his griefs and bearing all his despondencies and solifting up his head.Well may the Apostle rejoice that he has fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
Nor is this all. Not only is he confident for the past and in sweet communion for the present, but he is resigned for thefuture. Look at the fourth chapter and the sixth verse. "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is athand." It is a beautiful emblem taken from thesacrificial bullock. There it is, tied to the horns of the altar, and ready to be offered. So the Apostle stands as a sacrificeready to be offered upon the altar. I am afraid that we cannot all say we are ready to be offered. Paul was ready to be aburnt offering. If God willed it,he would be burnt to ashes at the stake. Or he would be a drink offering, as he did become, when a stream of blood flowedunder the sharp sword.
He was ready to be a peace offering, if God willed it, to die in his bed. In any case, he was a freewill offering unto God,for he offered himself voluntarily. As he says, "I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand." Gloriousold man! Many a professed Christian has beenclothed in scarlet, and fared sumptuously every day and yet never could say he was ready to be offered. Rather he lookedupon the time of his departure with grief and sorrow. As you think, then, of poor, shivering, ragged Paul, think of the jewelwhich he carried in his breast. AndO you sons of poverty, remember that the magnificence of a holy life and the grandeur and nobility of a consecrated heartcan deliver you altogether from any shame which may cling to your rags and poverty! For as the sun at setting paints the cloudswith all the colors of Heaven, soyour very rags, poverty, and shame may make your life the more illustrious as the splendor of your piety lights them withheavenly radiance!
We have not quite concluded with the Apostle. We find him not only resigned, but triumphant. "I have fought a good fight,I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." See the Grecian warrior just returned from battle? He has many wounds andthere is a gash across his brow. His breast isstreaming here and there with cuts and flesh wounds. One arm is dislocated. He halts, like Jacob, on his thigh. He is coveredwith the smoke and dust of battle. He is besmeared with much blood. He is faint, and weary, and ready to die, but what doeshe say? As he lifts up his rightarm, with his buckler tightly clasped upon it, he cries, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept my shield." That was theobject of ambition with every Grecian warrior. If he kept his shield he came home glorious.
Now, faith is the Christian's shield. And here I see the Apostle, though he wears all the marks of the conflict, yet he triumphsin these marks of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I have fought a good fight. My very scars and wounds prove it. I have kept thefaith." He looks to that golden buckler of thefaith fastened to his arm and rejoices in it. The tyrant Nero, nor all the warriors of Rome never had such triumph as theApostle Paul! None of them had such true glory as this solitary man who has trod the winepress alone. And of the people-therewere none with him-whohas stood against the lion, a solitary champion, with no eye to pity and no arm to save, still triumphant to the end? Bravespirit! Never mind the old cloak at Troas, so long as your faith is safe.
Once more. He not only triumphs in the present, but he is in expectation of a crown. When the Grecian wrestler had foughta good fight, a crown was presented to him. And so Paul, who writes about the old cloak, also writes- "Henceforth there islaid up for me a crown of righteousness, whichthe Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
When I was picturing Paul, and talking of the poverty of many Believers-"Ah," said the Sinner, "Who would be a Christian?Who would suffer so much for Christ? Who would lose everything as Paul did?" Worldly minds here are thinking-"What a fool,to be led away by such an excitement!" Ah,but see how the tables have turned! "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown!" What if he had been robed in scarlet,had rolled in wealth, and been great? And what if there had been no crown for him in Heaven? No joy hereafter-but a fearfullooking for of judgment? See, hesprings from his dungeon to his throne! Nero may cut off his head, but that head shall wear a starry crown. Courage, then,you that are downtrodden, afflicted, and despairing! Be of good cheer, for the end will make up for the way. And all the roughnessof the pilgrimage will bewell recompensed by the Glory which shall await all those who are resting upon Christ Jesus.
We close, having done with this old cloak, when we say, is it not beautiful as you read this Epistle, and, indeed, all theApostle's letters, to see how everything which the Apostle thought of was connected with Christ? How he had concentrated everypassion, every power, every thought, every act,every word-and set the whole upon Christ. I believe that there are many who love Christ after a sort, just as the sun shinestoday. But you know if you concentrate the rays of that sun with a magnifying glass and fix all the rays upon any object,then what heat there is, whatburning, what flame, what fire!
So many men scatter their love and admiration on almost any and every creature, and Christ gets a little, as we all get somerays of the sun. But that is the man, who, like the Apostle Paul, brings all his thoughts and words to a focus. Then he burnshis way through life. His heart is on fire. Likecoals of juniper are his words. He is a man of force and energy. He may have no cloak, yet for all that, he is a great manand the Czar in his imperial mantle is but a driveling dwarf by the side of this giant in the army of God. O, I wish we couldset our thoughts on Christ thismorning. Are we trusting in Him this morning? Is He all our salvation and all our desire? If He is, then let us live toHim.
Those who are wholly Christ's are not many. O that we were espoused as chaste virgins unto Christ-that we might have no otherlover and know no other object of delight! Blind are these eyes to all but Christ. And deaf these ears to any music but thevoice of Christ. And lame these feet to anyway but that of obedience to Him! Palsied these hands to anything but work for Him. And dead this heart to every joy ifJesus cannot move! Even as a straw floats upon the river and is carried to the ocean, so would I be bereft of all power, andwill to do anything but that which myLord would have me do-and be carried along by the stream of His Grace right onward, ready to be offered up, or ready tolive, ready to suffer, or ready to reign just as He wills-only that He may be served in my living and dying!
It will little matter what cloak you wear, or if you have not any at all, if you have but such a concentration of all yourbodily and mental powers and spiritual energies upon Christ Jesus and upon Him alone. May those of you who have never trustedJesus be ready to rely upon Him now. He did notforsake Paul, even in extremity, and He will not forsake you-
"Trust Him, He will never deceive you, Though you hardly of Him deem. He will never, never leave you, Nor will let you quiteleave Him." Therefore trust Him now and forever, for Jesus' sake. Amen.