Sermon 746. The End of the Righteous Desired
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, APRIL 21, 1867, by
At the Agricultural Hall, Newington
"Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."- Numbers 23:10.
CARLYLE, in his "History of the French Revolution," tells us of a Duke of Orleans who did not believe in death. And when hissecretary stumbled on the words, "The late King of Spain," he angrily demanded what he meant by it. The flattering attendantreplied, "My Lord, it is a title which some of the kings of Spain have taken."
In all this assembly I have not such a lunatic! For you unanimously believe that the entire race of men await alike the inevitablehour. We know that all our paths, wind as they may, will lead to the grave. A certain king of France believed in death, butforbade that it should ever be mentioned in his presence. "And if," said he, "I at any time look pale, no courtier must dare,on pain of my displeasure, to mention it in my presence." Thus imitating the foolish ostrich, which, when pursued by the hunter,and utterly unable to escape, is said to hide its head in the sand fancying that it is secure from the enemy which it cannotsee.
I trust I do not address today any men so idiotic as to desire to forget the certainty of death, or to thrust the fact fromtheir remembrance. I trust that, being sane men, you desire to look in the face the whole of your future history, both inthe present world and in worlds beyond the region of sight. And, foreseeing that soul and body must part in the article ofdeath, you are desirous to consider that event that you may be prepared for it. You desire to take death into your reckoningthat it may not surprise you. He who should go upon a long journey and provide for every difficulty on the road but one, wouldprobably find the journey a failure. If, with a rolling chariot for the solid ways, he had forgotten to find the means ofcrossing the last river which would divide him from the country which he sought, he would be disappointed after all his pains.
If you have provided for life, but have not also prepared for death, what better will you be, my Hearer, than such a foolishtraveler? We have heard of one, who, going into a tavern, ordered according to his wildest wishes and feasted sumptuouslyon the best the house afforded, hour after hour. But when the host came with the bill, he told him that he had no money, andhad quite forgotten the reckoning, thinking it quite enough to attend to the eating and drinking while these were the orderof the day, without perplexing himself about the unknown future. Alas, my Hearer, are you living in this inn of life, forgettingthe reckoning? Do you go from cup to cup, from merriment to merriment, feasting as though there were no day of account appointedfor you?
If so, are you fool or knave, or both? For a man who would enjoy life, and yet shirk the account of his responsibilities withwhich the scene must close, is either foolish, or knavish, or both. Surely, since we must die. Since "there is no dischargein this war." Since every man must be a conscript to the army of Death. Since whether it is tomorrow or the next day, or ina few years time, every one of us must pass through the iron gate-it behooves us, knowing the fact, to take it into our account-tobe diligent in forestalling its demands and providing for its emergencies.
And yet I should not wonder if many here almost shudder at the subject which I am now introducing, so unaccustomed are theyto it! Or, if they listen to it, they consider it to be especially applicable to those by whom they are surrounded, but theyfail to see its application to themselves. Young's verse is true-"All men think all men mortal but themselves." They regardothers as having death written upon their brow, but they imagine that they, at least, shall last for years to come! They willnot dare admit that they are immortal, yet alas, they act as if they thought they were so. And trifling away year after year,suffer life itself to disappear without improvement.
I beseech all honest and wise hearts at this hour to reflect upon their latter end. Prepare now that you may be ready whenthe final summons shall be sounded, and may God grant you Divine Grace that the words of this morning may be made helpfulto your preparations. Balaam, though a base man, was no fool. He had thoughts of death. He did not shut
his eyes to what he did not like. He believed that he should die, and he had desires about it-and though those desires werenever realized, but the reverse-yet he had wit enough to gaze upon the tents of God's chosen Israel and to say from his heart,"Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"
I shall regard this exclamation as having in it a double wish. First, a wish concerning death, and secondly, a wish concerningthe after death. When these have been spoken upon as the Holy Spirit may help me, I shall try to make some practical use ofthe whole.
I. First, dear Friends, Balaam's WISH CONCERNING DEATH. He anxiously desired that he might die such a death as the righteousdie. Truly we commend his choice, for, in the first place, it must, at the least, be as well with the righteous man when hecomes to die, as with any other man. By the righteous man we mean the man who has believed in Jesus Christ and so has beencovered with Christ's righteousness, and washed in His most precious blood, and moreover, has by the power of the Holy Spiritreceived a new heart, a righteous heart, so that his actions are righteous both towards God and man.
Such a man, being righteous by faith in Jesus Christ unto perfect justification, and righteous also in act and spirit throughsanctification of the Holy Spirit, is alone the truly righteous man! Such a man must be right at last, and this you will seeclearly by the following story. A certain carping infidel, after having argued with a poor countryman who knew the faith,but who knew little else, said to him, "Well, Hodge, you really are so stupid that there is no use arguing with you, I cannotget you out of this absurd religion of yours." "Ah, well," said Hodge, "I dare say I am stupid, Master, but do you know wepoor people like to have two strings to our bow?"
"Well," said the critic, "what do you mean by that?" "Master, I'll show you. Suppose it should all turn out as you say. Supposethere is no God, and there is no hereafter, don't you see I am as well off as you are? Certainly, it will not be any worsefor me than it will be for you if we, both of us, get annihilated. But don't you see if it should happen to be true as I believe,what will become of you?"
Clearly in either case it must be right with the righteous, for if he should have ignorantly received a cunningly devisedfable, yet, seeing according to his own experience it makes him a better and a happier man. So far so good-he is no loserhere-and he will be certainly at the last in no worse a position than the man who rejected the holy and comfortable influencesof what he styled a deception.
While, if the religion of Jesus should be true-ah, ghastly, if for you who doubt it!-if it should all be true, ah, then yourweeping and your wailing at the discovery will be a terrible contrast to the joy and the glory which God has reserved forthem that love Him! Upon the very lowest possible ground it will be well with the righteous, as well at any rate as with thebest of other men. There is this to be said for the righteous man-he goes to the death chamber with a quiet conscience. Ithas been clearly ascertained that in the event of death the mind is frequently quickened to a high degree of activity, sothat it thinks more, perhaps, in the course of five minutes than it could have done in the course of years at other times.
Persons who have been rescued from drowning have said that they imagined themselves to have been weeks in the water, for thethoughts, the many views and visions, the long and detailed retrospect seemed to them to have required weeks-and yet the wholetranspired in a few seconds! Frequently towards the last, the soul travels at express speed, traversing its past life as thoughit rode upon lightning. Ah, then how blessed is that man who, looking back upon the past, can see many things of which consciencecan approve! And how accursed must that man's deathbed be who has to look back upon a youth spent in folly, a middle lifeof sin, and an old age of iniquity!
What will it be, my Hearer, if, when you lie dying there should rise up before your memory those whom you led into sin, seducedto vice, or taught in profligacy! A grim assemblage must gather around some men's beds when guilt, like a grim chamberlain,shall usher them in, one by one, and call out their names with horrible distinctness, and tell out their doings and dealingswith the wretch who shivers on the brink of death accused by so many, and unable to answer one of a thousand. I picture sucha man traveling over the wastes of remorse, hounded by the wolves of his past sins-rushing with desperation into a destructionstill worse than his present woe-all unable to endure the horrible baying of his old sins, much less to endure their sharperfangs when they shall tear him in pieces and there shall be none to deliver!
But the righteous man knows that though his sins were as scarlet, they have been made white as wool through the precious bloodof Christ! And moreover, by the power of the Holy Spirit, his life has been kept from the vices of the
world and he has been enabled to serve his Lord. This surely must help to make soft his dying pillow. He remembers those holydays of sacred worship, those gatherings around the family altar, that child taught to pray, that young man won from follyand led in the paths of righteousness. Above all he remembers the love visits which the Lord Jesus has paid to his favoredsoul! And so, perfectly at peace, forgiving all men their offenses as he desires to be forgiven, and conscious that his Fatherhas forgiven him, he can sleep upon his dying bed as softly as on the stillest night of his life. "Let me," in this sense,"die the death of the righteous."
Again, the righteous man, when he dies, does not lose his all. With every other man the sound of "earth to earth, dust todust, and ashes to ashes," is the end of present seeming wealth and the beginning of eternal and real need. But the Christianis not made a bankrupt by the grave-death to him is gain. "Go," said the dying Saracen hero, Saladin, "take this winding sheetand as soon as I expire, bear it on a lance through all the streets, and let the herald cry as he holds aloft the ensign ofdeath, 'This is all that is left of Saladin, the conqueror of the East.' " He need not have so said if he had been a Christian,for the Believer's heritage is not torn from him, but opened up to him by the rough hand of Death! The world to come and allits infinite riches and blessedness are ours in the moment of departure.
It is written upon the tomb of Cyrus, "Stranger, here lies Cyrus, who gave the empire to the Persians. Grudge him not thelittle earth that covers him." But the Christian lies not there under the tombstone-he is not here, for he is risen! He hasleft his poor worn garments here to be washed, and cleansed, and purified-and by-and-by, when they are whiter than any fullercan make them-he will come to take his garments again. But meanwhile the Christian is not buried here, nor is the tomb hissole possession-his treasure is in Heaven, and he is gone where his wealth is stored. Who would not wish to die a death whichwould be a gain to him? Are you not conscious, some of you, that death would be a horrible loss to you? It would shut up foreverall the outlets of your present mirth and all the sources of your present joy. Alas for you! For the day of the Lord to youwill be darkness and not light!
"Let me die the death of the righteous" may well be our wish because he dies with a good hope. Peering into eternity, witheyes marvelously strengthened, the Believer frequently beholds even while he is yet below, something of the glory which isto be revealed in him. Have you ever heard the songs of dying women, and seen their glowing countenances as they thought theycould hear the angels and all but see the invisible glory? Have you ever seen their beaming eyes and heard their memorablewords, so rich, so original, so quaint, so wet with the dew of Heaven that they could not have borrowed them? Ignorant, unletteredpersons have I heard say in their dying moments words which were worthy of the most refined poetry.
Have you ever seen the gray-headed man who, in his weakness, had come to talk as a child, suddenly clothed with patriarchaldignity, as, stretching out his bony hand he has exclaimed, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil: for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me"? It is sweet to die with Canaan's happyland in view-to melt into eternal bliss as the twilight of the morning melts into opening day! It must be a dreary thing todie believing in annihilation, or expecting a doom still worse! My Hearer, will this be your death? Will you hear the warningcry of the angel: "One woe is past, and, behold, there come two woes more"?
Death is past, but the Judgment and the pit are yet to come. God forbid that such horrors should freeze the genial currentof my soul, but may bliss eternal be my prospect from the top of my expiring Pisgah. Let me die as the Christian whose eyeis resplendent with visions of light, and whose heart is fired with the confidence of seeing his Redeemer and being made likeHe is, to dwell with Him world without end!
Moreover, Beloved, the Believer dies in the arms of a Friend. I do not say in the arms of a mortal friend, for it has fallento the lot of some Christians to be burnt at the stake. And some of them have rotted to death in dungeons. But yet I willrepeat it, every Believer dies in the arms of a Friend-the best of friends, the Friend that sticks closer than a brother.Precious is communion with the Son of God, and never more so than when it is enjoyed upon the verge of Heaven-
"Jesus can make a dying bed Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head, And breathe my life out sweetly there."
Jesus is a Friend who is most practically friendly, for the righteous man, in the most calm and business-like manner, leaveshis wife and his children in the hands of God and quotes the promise, "Leave your fatherless children, and let your widowstrust in Me."
He would gladly live, perhaps, to comfort the partner of his bosom a little longer, and to see the children of their mutuallove brought up to riper manhood. But since he must go, how often does God enable him to forget all care, to cast it so completelyinto the hands of Christ, that he sings, "All is well!" I have sometimes heard from dying saints sentences like these, "Mybusiness is all settled, I never want to hear again of the stock, of the farm, or of the shop, or of the family, I have putit all away. God will provide for those I have left behind and I have nothing now to do but just to hear the summons, 'Comeup higher,' and then to enter into my Father's house."
My Hearers, I am not giving you an exaggerated picture! I am not telling you some wondrous stories of remarkable departures!I am telling you what is the common way of the dying of the righteous, which I trust commends itself to your conscience asbeing naturally that which righteous men might expect to feel when returning to their God. The Christian dies in peace, andoften in triumph. According to the state of his body, or the disease by which he may be taken off, his feelings will varybetween peace and triumph. Sometimes the death scene is still as a summer's evening, and the Christian crosses the Jordanalmost dry shod. Or if there is a storm, and Jordan overflows its banks, the Believer, resting upon the everlasting arms,feels the bottom of the river and finds it good.
At times, however, God has been pleased to give to His people Divine Grace to mount to Heaven in a chariot of fiery joy, sothat their dying bed has been a throne, and their chamber a palace of glory. These instances are not uncommon, they are probablythe rule-but in all cases there is a strong, deep current of pure and precious peace which glides along the valley of deathand makes glad the follower of the Lamb-"Let me die the death of the righteous," for such dying is the dawn of bliss, thebeginning of immortal glory!
Lastly, when the good man dies, he dies with honor. Who cares for the death of the wicked? A few mourning friends lament fora little time, but they almost feel it a relief within a day or two that such a one is gone. As for the righteous, when hedies there is weeping and mourning for him! Like Stephen, devout men carry him to the sepulcher and make great lamentationover him. See the funeral of the tares? They are hurried up in heaps, they are thrown over the garden wall, they are burned,and no one regrets them. They were no blessing in living-they are no lamentation in dying.
Did you ever see the funeral of the wheat, if such I may call it? Here come the golden sheaves! The wagon is heavy with theprecious freight: on the top stands one who gives a cheery note, and all around the harvest men and village maidens danceor shout for joy as they bring home the shocks of golden corn to the garner! Let me be gathered home with the triumphant funeralof the wheat which man values-garnered by angels, housed with songs of saintly spirits- and not cast away as a reprobate andworthless thing, like the weeds of which men are thankful to be rid.
May it be yours and mine, when we depart, to be remembered by those whom we have succored in their need, whom we instructedin their ignorance, whom we comforted in their distress! May we not depart from this world shaken off from it, as Paul shookthe viper from his hand, but may our ashes be gathered up as sacred dust, precious in the sight of the Lord! Let me, in thatsense and every other, "die the death of the righteous." I need not tarry long on this point. Any one of these suggestionsmight suffice to incite, even in such a man as Balaam, a desire to "die the death of the righteous." Surely it will kindlein you the same longings.
II. Balaam spoke concerning the godly man, of HIS LAST END. I do not know that this wicked prophet, whose eyes were once opened,knew anything about this latter end as I shall interpret it, but you and I know, and so let us use his words, if not his thoughts.We do not believe that death is the last end of men. Those who do believe it are welcome to their belief. We certainly shallnot wish to deprive them of it. When a dog has his bone, let him keep it-we envy not his enjoyment. If ungodly men delightin the thought of dying like brutes, perhaps they know their own value best and know what would be best for society if itshould happen to them. So they, having made their choice, shall keep it if they will.
As for us, we believe ourselves to be immortal-that God has endowed us with a spiritual nature which shall outlive the sun,outlast the stars, and run on existing with eternity. Like the years of God's right hand, like the days of the Most High,God has ordained the life of souls to be. Now, I can well believe that the most of us wish that our position after death maybe like that of the righteous. The first consideration in death is that the spirit is disembodied. What a spirit is
like without a body you and I cannot guess. It is, of course, not a thing to be seen, or heard, or touched, or handled. Itis quite out of the realm of materialism and quite beyond the reach of the senses.
Yet you and I are conscious that there is an immaterial something within us infinitely more precious than these poor clayhands, and feet, and eyes of ours. This immaterial something will leave the body, and it will be naked-not a thing to be desired,for even Paul says, "Not that we would be unclothed." He did not desire the disembodied state for its own sake, nor shouldwe. Those disembodied saints who are now in Heaven are happy, perfectly happy as to their souls, but they, as to their manhood,are not yet made perfect. They, without us, the Apostle says, cannot be made perfect. Until we all are gathered in and theResurrection Day comes, they are without bodies, and are, as it were, but half men.
All the powers they have are full of happiness, but they are waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the bodywhich will be at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. But what is there desirable in the state of the Christian whenhis spirit is disembodied? I should desire to be like a Christian in the disembodied state, because he will not be altogetherin a new and strange world. Some of you have never exercised your spirits at all about the spirit-world. You have talked withthousands of people in bodies, but you have never spoken with spiritual beings. To you the realm of spirit is all unknown,but let me tell you, Christians are in the daily habit of communing with the spirit-world, by which I mean that their soulsconverse with God! Their spirits are affected by the Holy Spirit. They have fellowship with angels who are ministering spiritssent forth to minister to them that are the heirs of salvation.
Now, when some of you enter into the spirit-world, you will say, "I never was here before. This is a foreign land to me."I can conceive that you will call for some companion. "Is there anyone here with whom I have had dealings?" And there willbe a voice heard, "Yes, I have often spoken to you, and you to me." "Who is that?" It is Satan or some evil spirit with whom,alone out of all spirits you have ever had communion. He will be the only friend to meet you-and what a friend! Your grimcompanion, your fellow sinner, and your fellow prisoner forever!
But a Christian in the disembodied state, if I may so imagine it, might cry, "Where are my friends? I have been here before!Where are those with whom aforetime I had fellowship?" And a response will come from the ministering angels, and there, aboveall, will be the blessed Spirit of God! There will be God Himself, and the Spirit of the ever-living Christ. All these willmake up sweet company for the Believer. After the soul has left the body, we believe that it at once appears before God, andreceives by anticipation what will be its final sentence. To the righteous soul there is no sleeping in the grave, no delayin "purgatory" before he enters into Heaven. "Today shall you be with Me in Paradise," is the portion of all who trust inJesus.
Now, think, dear Hearer, your disembodied spirit will have to appear before the fiery eyes of God! What, then, is your relationto God this morning? Why, some of you never think of Him! Some of you, I almost blush to say it, have cursed Him to His face,and have even asked Him to damn you! Ah, He will do it, except you repent! But how delightful must it be for a man to say,"I am going up to God. He is my Father. It is no more terror to me than for a child to go home from school. I am going tomy God with whom I am reconciled by the precious blood of Jesus. I have known my God, He is no stranger to me. I saw Him inChrist, and I trusted Him. And all my life long I learned to see Him in the works of nature. I could say of the mountainsand the valleys, 'My Father made them all.' I was never so happy as when thoughts of God came flowing into my spirit. My spirithas dwelt with God when in the body. It is not afraid to fly up to God now that it has left the body behind it."
Surely, in the prospect of such a judgment, each man may say, "Let my last end be like his!" After the judgment is pronounced,the disembodied spirit dwells in Heaven. Some of you could not be happy if you were allowed to enter that Heaven. If you couldbe admitted between those pearly gates which forever exclude pollution, sin, and shame, you could not be happy there. ShallI tell you why? It is a land of spirit, and you have neglected your spirit! Some of you even deny that you have a spirit,and I do not wonder that you say so because I do not suppose that you have ever exercised it. But let a man who has delightedto commune with the Holy Spirit enter into the spirit-world, and he will be in his element!
Besides, the world to come is a holy world. The engagements of disembodied spirits are all pure and lovely. What will thatman do who loved drunkenness, who indulged in unclean habits? He will be out of his element. If he could be in Heaven, asWhitfield used to say, he would ask God to let him out, and would run into Hell for shelter, for Heaven would be a dreadfulplace to an ungodly man! There is a dream which is told (I tell it not for the dream, but for the moral
of it) of a young woman who imagined that she was in Heaven unconverted and thought she saw upon the pavement of transparentgold, multitudes of spirits dancing to the sweetest music.
She stood still, unhappy, motionless, silent, and when the King said to her, "Why do you not partake in the joy?" she answered,"I cannot join in the dance, for I do not know the measure. I cannot join in the song, for I do not know the tune." Then saidHe in a voice of thunder, "What are you doing here?" And she thought herself cast out forever. Ah, dear Hearer! Heaven isa prepared place for a prepared people. If you do not learn Heaven's language on earth you cannot learn it in the world tocome! If you are not holy you cannot be with holy saints. What a misery would it be for you to be always with those who arepraising and serving God if you know nothing of His love. If you have never praised Him on earth, you will not readily taketo it there. You would be strangers in a strange land!
Ah, trouble not yourselves, that shall never be your portion. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,"much less can he ever enter there. After awhile our bodies will be raised again. The soul will re-enter the body, for Christhas not only bought the souls of His people, but their bodies, too. Think of that tremendous day, when the trump shall beheard, shrill as a clarion, ringing through earth and Heaven, and Hell, "Awake, you dead! Awake, you dead! And come to judgment!Come to judgment, come away!" Then up will start the bodies of the wicked. I know not in what shapes of dread they will arise,nor how they will appear.
What forms of ghastliness they will put on or what horrors will wreathe their brows, I cannot tell. But this I know, thatwhen the righteous shall rise they will be glorious like the Lord Jesus! They shall have all the loveliness which Heaven itselfcan give them. Their body here is but a shriveled grain sown in the earth. Their next body will be as much more glorious thanthat as the sweetest flower of spring is fairer than the shriveled seed that was cast into the mold. It will be a gloriousbody, raised in honor, raised in power, raised no more to die! Oh, glorious hour! "I know that my Redeemer lives, and thatHe shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall Isee God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another."
Would you not wish to rise in the image of Christ as the righteous will? Remember you must rise from the grave very much whatyou are when put into it. I think I see a perfect model of a city before me, containing all that is to be built. Here I seea temple of alabaster, and there a dunghill. The architect is bid to produce on the largest scale, in the purest marble, thatcity as modeled before him. Rest assured that he will produce the temple as a temple, only far more splendid, and the dunghillas a dunghill, only 10,000 times more loathsome! Now, which are you in that model? For this life is a model of the life tocome, and it is written, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still, and he that is holy, let him be holy
Ah, my Hearer, you may well wish to be holy here that you may be holy there! To be pure here, that you may be pure there!To be godlike on earth, that you may be godlike in Heaven. "Let my last end be like that of the righteous." Let me wave thepalm of victory! Let me wear the crown of triumph! Let me be girt about with the fair white linen of immaculate perfection!Let me cast my crown before Jehovah's feet! Let me swell the everlasting song! Let my voice make one in that eternal chorus,"Hallelujah, Hallelujah, the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" Oh, how will I sing! How sweetly shall my voice be attuned to notesof gratitude! How will my heart dance with ecstasy before that throne! "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let mylast end be like his!"
III. As this is the last occasion of my preaching in this great hall I shall venture to trespass a little longer, and on thethird head I shall most earnestly ask your solemn attention for a few minutes longer. We have to make A PRACTICAL USE OF THEWHOLE.
Behold the vanity of mere desires. Balaam desired to die the death of the righteous, and yet was slain in battle fightingagainst those righteous men whom he envied. There is an old proverb which says, "Wishers and woulders make bad housekeepers."And another which declares, "Wishing never filled a sack." I commend the truth of those proverbs to you now. Mere desiringto die the death of the righteous, though it may be natural, will be exceedingly unprofitable. I beseech you stop not there!Have you ever heard the old classic story of those ancient Gauls who, having once drunk the sweet wines of Italy, constantly,as they smacked their lips, said one to another, "Where is Italy?" And when their leaders pointed to the gigantic Alps crownedwith snow, they said, "Cannot we cross them?" Every time they tasted the wine the questions were put, "Where is Italy? Andcannot we reach it?" This was good plain sense. So they put on their war harness and marched to old Rome to fight for thewines of Italy.
So, my Brothers and Sisters, every time you hear of Heaven, I should like you, with Gothic ardor, to say, "Where is it? Igladly would go." And happy should I be if men here would put on the harness of the Christian, and say, "Through floods andflames for such a conquest, to drink of such wines well refined, we would gladly go to the battle that we may win the victory."Oh, the folly of those who, knowing and desiring this, yet spend their strength for nothing! The Roman Emperor fitted outa great expedition and sent it to conquer Britain. The valiant legionaries leaped ashore, and each man gathered a handfulof shells, and went back to his ship again-that was all.
Some of you are equally foolish. You are fitted by God for great endeavors and lofty enterprises, and you are gathering shells!Your gold and your silver, your houses and your lands-they are mere empty shells-and Heaven and everlasting life you let go.Like Nero, you send to Alexandria for sand for your amusements and send not for wheat for your starving souls! O fools andslow of heart! When shall God, who gave you souls, give those souls wisdom that you may seek after the true treasure, thereal pearl, the heavenly riches?
"Well," cries one, "how is Heaven to be had?" It is to had only by a personal seeking after it. I have read of one who, whendrowning, saw the rainbow in the heavens. Picture him as he sinks! He looks up, and there if he sees the many-colored bow,he may think to himself, "There is God's covenant sign that the world shall never be drowned, and yet here I am drowning inthis river." So it is with you! There is the arch of God's promise over you, "God so loved the world, that He gave His onlybegotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And yet, because you believe notin Him, you will be drowned in your sins.
"I would gladly enlist, then," says one, "in the army of Christ, and fight for Heaven." Come on, then, I am Christ's enlistingofficer today. "What am I to give?" says one. Give? Give nothing. "But I have many good works." These are not to be broughtas a price for Heaven. "I have my prayers and my tears of repentance." These cannot avail meritori-ously-if you want to bea Christian, you must come to Christ with empty hands! You know how the recruiting sergeant makes a soldier-not by askingthe man to give him something, but by getting him to take the Queen's shilling. Take Christ-that is God's enlisting money-andyou are enlisted! Do not bring anything, but take the water of life freely. If you will trust the Lord Jesus, and take Himto be your salvation, you are then enlisted as a soldier of Jesus. Oh, may you have Grace to do that!
But remember, all soldiers have to fight! One of the first things you will have to do, if you become a Christian, is to carrya Cross. Ah, you do not like it. "His yoke is easy, and His burden is light." Take it upon you-and yet to carnal shouldersthe Cross is very galling-and nothing but Divine Grace can make it light. You will have to give up your sins! You will haveto give up your empty pleasures. You will have to, from now on, bear witness for Christ before a crooked and perverse generation.Do not expect to be Christ's soldier and yet not wear His uniform. No, you must put on his regimentals. You must wear Hiscrest-His crest is the Cross. You must take His shield, the shield of faith, and His sword, which is the sword of the Spirit,the Word of God. And resting alone on Him, depending alone upon His merit, you shall certainly win the victory!
My Brethren, what a blessing it will be if you and I shall ever reach the land of triumph. You remember Bunyan's picture.He says he saw a brave palace and as he looked up he could hear happy spirits singing on the top. They walked in white, cladin royal robes. And as he heard them singing, he longed to be with them. Going up to the door, he noticed that it was besetwith armed men-a great host with pikes, and halberds, and swords-pushing back all who desired to come. Presently he saw aman of bold countenance, covered with armor, go up to a man who sat at a table with a writer's ink-horn, and he heard himsay, "Set down my name, Sir." And as soon as the name was set down, the man drew his sword and began to hack and hew rightand left, cutting himself a way right through the midst of his enemies.
After being covered with sweat and blood, and many wounds, he at length forced an entrance. And Bunyan says, "I did hear themsweetly sing at the top, 'Come in! Come in! Eternal glory you shall win.' " I am this morning the man with the writer's ink-horn.Is there anyone here who will say, "Set my name down, Sir"? I trust it will be so. I trust the Holy Spirit will win your heartsfor Jesus! That you will rest in Him alone! But the moment your name is down, remember then the battle begins-then, with yoursword drawn, you must begin to contend with your besetting sins! You must have done with your old ways, and must fight againstthem. You will have to cut as never soldier did, for you will have to wound yourself! It will be your own arms and eyes thatwill have to be given up! Your own sins that will have to be slain! But, oh, the victory will make amends for it all!
It was but the other day that on this floor men wrestled for the mastery-a dangerous sport in which few of us would like totake a share-but I do not doubt that to those who gained the victory, the victory seemed an ample compensation. Certainlyto Rome's old legionaries, when they rode through the streets, and all the people climbed to the very chimney tops to seethem ride the streets of Rome, it was enough reward for all their hardships. But the triumphs of Heaven, the shouts of angels,the songs of the redeemed, the hallelujahs, the bliss forever, the glory without end! Oh, those will be an abundant recompenseto the humble followers of the Lamb!
Be of good courage, my Brothers and Sisters! Follow the Captain of your salvation! Forward to the fight, to the victory, andto the crown! And may the Lord so bless you, for Jesus' sake. Amen.