Sermon 476. Citizenship In Heaven
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 12, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For our conversation is in Heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
THERE can be no comparison between a soaring seraph and a crawling worm. Christian men ought so to live that it were idleto speak of a comparison between them and the men of the world. It should not be a comparison but a contrast. No scale ofdegrees should be possible. The Believer should be adirect and manifest contradiction to the unregenerate. The life of a saint should be altogether above and out of the samelist as the life of a sinner.
We should compel our critics not to confess that moralists are good, and Christians a little better. But while the world isdarkness, we should manifestly be light. And while the world lies in the Wicked One, we should most evidently be of God, andovercome the temptations of that Wicked One. Wideas the poles asunder are life and death, light and darkness, health and disease, purity and sin, spiritual and carnal, Divineand sensual. If we were what we profess to be, we should be as distinct a people in the midst of this world, as a white racein a community of Ethiopians.There should be no more difficulty in detecting the Christian from the worldling than in discovering a sheep from a goat,or a lamb from a wolf.
Alas, the Church is so much adulterated, that we have to abate our glorying, and cannot exalt her character as we would. "Theprecious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!"O for the time when "our conversation shallbe in Heaven," and the ignoble life of the man, whose god is his belly, and whose end is destruction, shall be rebuked byour unworldly, unselfish character. There should be as much difference between the worldling and the Christian as betweenHell and Heaven, between destructionand eternal life.
As we hope at last that there shall be a great gulf separating us from the doom of the impenitent, there should be here adeep and wide gulf between us and the ungodly. The purity of our character should be such that men must take knowledge ofus that we are of another and superior race. God grantus more and more to be most clearly a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that we mayshow forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Brethren, tonight I exhort you to holiness, not by the precepts of the Law-not by the thunderings from Sinai-not by the perilsor punishments which might fall upon you if you are unholy. But by the privileges to which you have been admitted. Gracioussouls should only be urged byarguments from Divine Grace. Whips are for the backs of fools, and not for heirs of Heaven. By the honorable citizenshipwhich has been bestowed upon you, I shall beseech you to let your conversation be in Heaven. And I shall urge that most prevailingargument, that the Lord JesusChrist is coming, and therefore we should be as men that watch for our Lord, diligently doing service unto Him, that whenHe comes He may say unto us, "Well done, good and faithful servants." I know that the Grace which is in you will freely answerto such a plea.
Our text, I think, might be best translated thus-"Our citizenship is in Heaven." The French translation renders it, "As forus, our burgessship is in the heavens." Doddridge paraphrases it, "But we converse as citizens of Heaven, considering ourselvesas denizens of the New Jerusalem and onlystrangers and pilgrims upon earth."
I. The first idea which is suggested by the verse under consideration is this-if our citizenship is in Heaven, then WE AREALIENS HERE. We are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were. In the wordsof Sacred Writ, "Here we have no continuingcity," but, "we desire a better country, that is an heavenly." Let us illustrate our position. A certain young man is sentout by his father to trade on behalf of the family-he is sent to America, and he is just now living in New York.
A very fortunate thing it is for him that his citizenship is in England. Though he lives in America and trades there, yethe is an alien and does not belong to that afflicted nation. For he retains his citizenship with us on this side of the Atlantic.Yet there is a line of conduct which is duefrom him to the country which affords him shelter, and he must see to it that he does not fail to render it. Since we arealiens, we must remember to behave ourselves as aliens should, and by no means come short in our duty. We are affected bythe position of our temporary country.
A person trading in New York or Boston, though a freeman of the city of London, will find himself very much affected by thetrade of the United States-when the merchants of his city suffer, he will find himself suffering with them, the fluctuationsof their money market will affect hisundertakings and the stagnation of commerce will slacken his progress. But if prosperity should happily return, he willfind that when the coffers of their merchants are getting full, his will be the better. And the happy development of tradewill give buoyancy to his own ventures.
He is not of the nation, and yet every trembling of the scale will affect him. He will prosper as that nation prospers, andhe will suffer as that nation suffers. That is to say, not as a citizen, but as a trader. And so we, in this country, findthat though we are strangers and foreigners onearth, yet we share all the inconveniences of the flesh. No exemption is granted to us from the common lot of manhood. Weare born to trouble, even as others, and have tribulation like the rest. When famine comes we hunger. And when war rages weare in danger.
We are exposed to the same climate, bearing the same burning heat, or the same freezing cold. We know the whole train of ills,even as the citizens of earth know them. When God in mercy scatters liberally with both His hands the bounties of His Providence,we take our share. Though we are aliens,yet we live upon the good of the land, and share the tender mercies of the God of Providence. Therefore we have to takesome interest in it. And the good man, though he is a foreigner, will not live even a week in this foreign land without seekingto do good among the neighbors withwhom he dwells.
The good Samaritan sought not only the good of the Samaritan nation but of the Jews. Though there was no sort of kinship amongthem (for the Samaritans were not, as we have often heard erroneously said, first cousins or relations to the Jews. Not adrop of Jewish blood ever ran in the Samaritans'veins. They were strangers brought from Assyria. They had no relation to Abraham whatever), yet the good Samaritan, findinghimself traveling between Jericho and Jerusalem, did good to the Jew, since he was in Judea. The Lord charged His people byHis servant Jeremiah, "Seek thepeace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereofshall you have peace."
Since we are here, we must seek the good of this world. "To do good, and to communicate, forget not." "Love you your enemiesand do good and lend, hoping for nothing again. And your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest:for He is kind unto the unthankful and to theevil."
We must do our utmost while we are here to bring men to Christ, to win them from their evil ways, to bring them to eternallife, and to make them, with us, citizens of another, and a better land. For, to tell the truth, we are here as recruitingsergeants for Heaven. Here to give men the enlistingmoney, to bind upon them the blood red colors of the Savior's service, to win them to King Jesus, that, by-and-by, theymay share His victories after having fought His battles.
Seeking the good of the country as aliens, we must also remember that it behooves aliens to keep themselves very quiet. Whatbusiness have foreigners to plot against the government, or to intermeddle with the politics of a country in which they haveno citizenship? An Englishman in New York hadbest be without a tongue just now. If he should criticize the courage of the generals, the accuracy of their dispatches,or the genius of the President, he might meet with rather rough usage. He will be injudicious, indeed, if he cannot leaveAmerica to the Americans.
So, in this land of ours, where you and I are strangers, we must be orderly sojourners, submitting ourselves constantly tothose that are in authority, leading orderly and peaceable lives, and, according to the command of the Holy Spirit throughthe Apostle, "honoring all men, fearing God, honoringthe King." "Submitting ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." I cannot say that I delight in politicalChristians. I fear that party strife is a serious trial to Believers, and I cannot reconcile our heavenly citizenship withthe schemes of the hustling and theriot of the polling-booth.
You must follow your own judgment here, but for my part, I am a foreigner even in England, and as such I mean to act. We aresimply passing through this earth and should bless it in our transit but never yoke ourselves to its affairs. An
Englishman may happen to be in Spain-he wishes a thousand things were different from what they are, but he does not troublehimself much about them-says he," If I were a Spaniard I would see what I could do to alter this government but, being anEnglishman, let the Spaniards see totheir own matters. I shall be back in my own country by-and-by, and the sooner the better."
So with Christians here. They are content very much to let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Their politicsconcern their own country, they do not care much about any other. As men they love liberty and are not willing to lose iteven in the lower sense. But, spiritually, theirpolitics are spiritual, and as citizens they look to the interest of that Divine republic to which they belong. They waitfor the time when, having patiently borne with the laws of the land of their banishment, they shall come under the more beneficentsway of Him who reigns inGlory, the King of kings and Lord of lords. If it is possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men, andserve your day and generation still, but build not your soul's dwelling place here, for all this earth must be destroyed atthe coming of the fiery day.
Again, let us remember that as aliens we have privileges as well as duties. The princes of evil cannot draft us into theirregiments. We cannot be compelled to do Satan's work. The king of this world may make his vassals serve him, but he cannotraise a conscription upon aliens. He may order outhis troops to this villainy, or to that dastardly service, but the child of God claims an immunity from all the commandsof Satan. Let evil maxims bind the men that own their sway- we are free and own not the prince of the power of the air. Iknow that men of this world say wemust keep up appearances. We must be respectable. We must do as others do. We must swim with the tide. We must move withthe crowd.
But not so the upright Believer-"No," says he, "Do not expect me to fall in with your ways and customs. I am in Rome, butI shall not do as Rome does. I will let you see that I am an alien, and that I have rights as an alien, even here in thisforeign land. I am not to be bound to fight yourbattles, nor march at the sound of your drums." Brethren, we are soldiers of Christ. We are enlisted in His army. And asaliens here, we are not to be constrained into the army of evil. Let lords and lands have what masters they will, let us befree, for Christ is our Master still.The seventy thousand whom God has reserved, will not bow the knee to Baal. Be it known unto you, O world, that we will notserve your gods, nor worship the image which you have set up. Servants of God we are, and we will not be in bondage unto men.
As we are free from the conscription of the State, we must remember, also, that we are not eligible to its honors. I knowyou will say that is not a privilege. But it is a great benefit if looked at aright. An Englishman in New York is not eligiblefor the very prickly throne of the President. Isuppose he could not well be made a governor of Massachusetts or any other State, and, indeed, he may be well content torenounce the difficulties and the honor, too. So also, the Christian man here is not eligible to this world's honors. It isa very ill omen to hear the world clapits hands and say, "Well done," to the Christian man. He may begin to look to his standing and wonder whether he has notbeen doing wrong when the unrighteous give him their approbation.
"What, did I do wrong," said Socrates, "that yonder villain praised me just now?" And so may the Christian say, "What, haveI done wrong, that So-and-So spoke well of me, for if I had done right, he would not? He has not the sense to praise goodness-hecould only have applauded that whichsuited his own taste. Christian Brothers and Sisters, you must never covet the world's esteem. The love of this world isnot in keeping with the love of God. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Treat its smiles asyou treat its threats, with quietcontempt. Be willing rather to be sneered at than to be approved, counting the Cross of Christ greater riches than all thetreasures of Egypt.
O harlot world, it were a sad dishonor to be your favorite! Tire your head and paint your face, you Jezebel, but you are nofriend of ours, nor will we desire your hollow love. The men of this world were mad to raise us to their seats of honor, forwe are aliens and citizens of another country.When the Pope sent a noted Protestant statesman a present of some silver goblets, he returned them with this answer-"Thecitizens of Zurich compel their judges to swear twice in the year that they will receive no presents from foreign princes,therefore take them back." Morethan twice in the year should the Christian resolve that he will not accept the smiles of this world and will do no homageto its glory.
"We fear the Greeks even when they bear gifts." Like the Trojans of old, we may be beguiled with presents even if unconqueredin arms. Forswear then, the grandeur and honor of this fleeting age. Say in life, what a proud cardinal said in death, "Vainpomp and glory of the world, I hate you." Passthrough Vanity Fair without trading in its vanities, cry- ing, in answer to their "What will you buy?"-"We buy the Truthof God." Take up the pilgrim's song and sing it always-
"The things eternal I pursue, And happiness beyond the view Of those who basely pant For things by nature felt and seen. Their honors, wealth and pleasures mean, I neither have nor want. Nothing on earth I call my own- A stranger to the world unknown, I all their goods despise. I trample on their whole delight, And seek a country out of sight- A country in the skies."
Furthermore, as aliens, it is not for us to hoard up this world's treasures. Gentlemen, you who know the exchange of New York,would you hoard up any extensive amount of Mr. Chase's green-backed notes? I think not. Those stamps which officiate in theStates in lieu of copper coinage I should hardlydesire to accumulate. Perhaps the fire might consume them, or if not, the gradual process of wear and tear which they aresure to undergo might leave me penniless before long. "No, Sir," says the British trader, "I am an alien. I cannot very wellaccept payment in these bits ofpaper. They are very well for you, perhaps.
"They will pass current in your state but my riches must be riches in England, for I am going there to live directly. I musthave solid gold, old English sovereigns, nothing else but these can make me rich." Brethren, so it is with us. If we are aliens,the treasures of this world are like thosebits of paper, of little value in our esteem. And we should lay up our treasure in Heaven, "where neither moth nor rustdoes corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal." The money of this world is not current in Paradise. And whenwe reach its blissful shore, if regretcan be known, we shall wish that we had laid up more treasure in the land of our fatherhood, in the dear fatherland beyondthe skies.
Transport your jewels to a safer country than this world. Be rich toward God rather than before men. A certain minister collectingfor a Chapel, called upon a rich merchant, who generously gave him fifty pounds. As the good man was going out with sparklingeye at the liberality of the merchant, thetradesman opened a , and he said, "Stop a minute, I find by this letter, I have lost this morning a ship worth six thousandpounds." The poor minister trembled in his shoes, for he thought the next word would be, "Let me have the fifty pound checkback."
Instead of it, it was "Let me have the check back a moment," and then taking out his pen he wrote him a check for five hundredpounds. "As my money is going so fast, it is well," said he, "to make sure of some of it, so I will put some of it in God'sbank." The man, you doubt not, went his wayastonished at such a way of dealing as this, but indeed that is just what a man should do, who feels he is an alien hereand his treasure is beyond the sky-
"There is my house and portion fair; My treasure and my heart are there, And my abiding home- For me my elder Brethren stay, And angels beckon me away, And Jesus bids me come."
II. It is our comfort now to remind you that although aliens on earth, WE ARE CITIZENS IN HEAVEN.
What is meant by our being citizens in Heaven? Why, first that we are under Heaven's government. Christ, the king of Heaven,reigns in our hearts. The laws of Glory are the laws of our consciences. Our daily prayer is, "Your will be done on earthas it is in Heaven." The proclamations issued fromthe Throne of Glory are freely received by us. The decrees of the Great King we cheerfully obey. We are not without Lawto Christ. The Spirit of God rules in our mortal bodies. Divine Grace reigns through righteousness, and we wear the easy yokeof Jesus. O that He would sit as kingin our hearts, like Solomon upon his throne of gold. Yours are we, Jesus, and all that we have, You rule without a rival.
As citizens of the New Jerusalem, we share Heaven's honors. The glory which belongs to beatified saints belongs to us, forwe are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial. Already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus' righteousness.Already we have angels for our servitors, saintsfor our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father, and a crown of immortality for our reward. We share thehonors of citizenship, for we have come to the general assembly and Church of the First-Born, whose names are written in Heaven."Beloved, now are we the sons ofGod, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like He is. For weshall see Him as He is."
As citizens, we have common rights in all the property of Heaven. Those wide extensive plains we sung ofjust now are ours.Ours the yonder harps of gold and crowns of glory. Ours the gates of pearl and walls of chrysolite. Ours the azure light ofthe city that needs no candle nor light of the sun.Ours the river of the Water of Life, and the twelve manner of fruits which grow on the trees planted at the side thereof.There is nothing in Heaven that belongs not to us, for our citizenship is there. "Things present, or things to come, all areours. And we are Christ's. AndChrist is God's."
And as we are thus under Heaven's government, and share its honors and partake of its possessions, so we today enjoy its delights.Do they rejoice over sinners that are born to God-prodigals that have returned? So do we. Do they chant the glories of triumphantGrace? We do the same. Do theycast their crowns at Jesus' feet? Such honors as we have, we cast there, too. Do they rejoice in Him? So, also, do we. Dothey triumph, waiting for His second advent? By faith we triumph in the same. Are they tonight singing, "Worthy the Lamb"?We also have sung the same tune, notto such glorious notes as theirs, but with as sincere hearts. With minstrelsy not quite so splendid, but we hope as sincere,for the Spirit gave us the music which we have, and the Spirit gave them the thunders of their acclamations before the Throne."Our citizenship is in Heaven."
Brethren, we rejoice to know, also, that as the result of our being citizens, or rather I ought to have said as the causeof it, our names are written in the roll of Heaven's freemen. When, at last, the list shall be read, our names, by His Grace,shall be read, too. For where Paul and Peter, whereDavid and Jonathan, where Abraham and Jacob shall be found, we shall be found, too. Numbered with them we were in the Divinepurpose, reckoned with them we were in the purchase on the Cross, and with them shall we sit down forever at the tables ofthe blessed. The small and thegreat are fellow citizens and of the same household.
The babes and the perfect men are recorded in the same great registry, and neither death nor Hell can erase a single name.Our citizenship, then, is in Heaven. We have not time to expand that thought. John Calvin says of this text, "It is a mostabundant source of many exhortations, which it wereeasy for anyone to elicit from it." We are not all Calvin. But even to our smaller capacities, the subject appears to beone not readily exhausted, but rich with unfathomable joy.
III. We must now come to our third point, which is OUR CONVERSATION IS IN HEAVEN. Our walk and acts are such as are consistentwith our dignity as citizens of Heaven. Among the old Romans, when a dastardly action was proposed it was thought a sufficientrefusal to answer, "Romanus sum-I am aRoman."
Surely it should be a strong incentive to every good thing if we can claim to be freemen of the Eternal City. Let our livesbe conformed to the glory of our citizenship. In Heaven they are holy, so must we be-so are we if our citizenship is not amere presence. They are happy, so must we berejoicing in the Lord always. In Heaven they are obedient-so must we be, following the faintest monitions of the Divinewill. In Heaven they are active, so should we be, both day and night praising and serving God. In Heaven they are peaceful,so should we find a rest inChrist, and be at peace even now.
In Heaven they rejoice to behold the face of Christ, so should we be always meditating upon Him, studying His beauties, anddesiring to look into the Truths of God which He has taught. In Heaven they are full of love, so should we love one anotheras Brethren. In Heaven they have sweet communion,one with another. So should we, who though many, are one body, be every one members one of the other. Before the Thronethey are free from envy and strife, ill-will, jealousy, emulation, falsehood, anger. So should we be-we should, in fact, seekwhile we are here, to keep upthe manners and customs of the good old fatherland, so that, as in Paris, the Parisian soon says, "There goes John Bull,"so they should be able to say in this land, "there goes a heavenly citizen, one who is with us and among us but is not ofus."
Our very speech should be such that our citizenship should be detected. We should not be able to live long in a house withoutmen finding out what we are. A friend of mine once went across to America, and landing, I think, at Boston, he knew nobody.But hearing a man say, when somebody had droppeda cask on the quay, "Look out there, or else you will make a Coggeshall job of it," he said, "You are an Essex man I know,for that is a proverb never used anywhere but in Essex-give me your hand." And they were friends at once.
So there should be a ring of true metal about our speech and conversation, so that when a Brother meets us, he can say, "Youare a Christian, I know, for none but Christians speak like that, or act like that." "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth,for your speech betrays you." Our holiness shouldact as a sort of beacon by which we know how to give the grip to the stranger, who is not a real stranger, but a fellowcitizen with us, and of the household of faith.
Oh, dear Friends, wherever we wander, we should never forget our beloved land. In Australia, on the other side the world,or in the Cape of Good Hope, or wherever else we may be exiled, surely every Englishman's eye must turn to this fair island-andwith all her faults, we must love herstill. And surely let us be where we may, our eyes must turn to Heaven, the happy land unstained by shadow of fault. Welove her still and love her more and more, praying for the time when our banishment shall expire, and we shall enter intoour Fatherland to dwell there forever andever.
Shenstone says, "The proper means of increasing the love we bear our native country is to reside some time in a foreign land."Sure am I that we who cry, "Woe is me, for I dwell in Mesech and sojourn in the tents of Cedar!" are sure to add, "O thatI had wings like a dove, for then would I fly awayand be at rest."
IV. The text says, "Our conversation is in Heaven," and I think we may also read it, as though it said, "OUR COMMERCE IS INHEAVEN." We are trading on earth, but still the bulk of our trade is with Heaven. We trade for trinkets in this land but ourgold and silver are in Heaven.
We commune with Heaven and how? Our trade is with Heaven by meditation, we often think of God, our Father, and Christ, ourBrother. And, by the Spirit, the Comforter, we are brought in contemplative delight to the general assembly and Church ofthe First-Born, whose names are written in Heaven.Brethren, do not our thoughts sometimes burn within us, when we trade with that blessed land? When I have sent the shipsof understanding and consideration to that land of Ophir, which is full of gold, and they have come back again laden withall manner of precious things, mythoughts have been enriched-my soul has longed to journey to that good land.
Black and stormy are you, O sea of death, but I would cross you to reach that land of Havilah, which has dust of gold. I knowthat he who is a Christian will never have his mind long off that better land. And do you know we sometimes trade with Heavenin our hymns? They tell us of the Swisssoldiery in foreign countries, that there is a song which the band is forbidden to play, because it reminds them of thecowbells of their native hills. If the men hear it, they are sure to desert, for that dear old song revives before their eyesthe wooden chalets and the cows andthe pastures of the glorious Alps and they long to be away.
There are some of our hymns that make us homesick, until we are hardly content to stop, and therefore, well did our poet endhis song-
"Filled with delight, my raptured soul, Can here no longer stay. Though Jordan's waves around us roll, Fearless we launchaway." I feel the spirit of Wesley, when he said-
"O that we now might see our Guide! O that the word were given! Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, And land us all inHeaven.
In times of high, hallowed, heavenly harmony of praise, the songs of angels seem to come astray and find their way down tous. And then our songs return with them, hand in hand, and go back to God's Throne, through Jesus Christ.
We trade with Heaven, I hope, too, not only thus by meditation and by thought, and by song, but by hopes and by loves. Ourlove is toward that land. How heartily the Germans sing of the dear old fatherland. But they cannot, with all their Germanicpatriotism, they cannot beat the genial glow of theBriton's heart, when he thinks of his fatherland, too. The Scotchman, too, wherever he may be, remembers the land of "brownheath and shaggy wood." And the Irishman, too, let him be where he will, still thinks the "Emerald Isle" the first gem ofthe sea.
It is right that the patriot should love his country. Does not our love fervently flame towards Heaven? We think we cannotspeak well enough of it, and, indeed, here we are correct, for no exaggeration is possible. When we talk of that land of Eschol,our mouths are watering to taste its clusters.Already, like David, we thirst to drink of the well that is within the gate. And we hunger after the good corn of the land.Our ears are wanting to have done with the discords of earth, that they may open to the harmonies of Heaven. And our tonguesare longing to sing the melodioussonnets, sung by flaming ones above. Yes, we do love Heaven, and thus it is that we prove that our commerce is with thatbetter land.
Brethren, just as people in a foreign land that love their country always are glad to have plenty of letters from the country,I hope we have much communication with the old fatherland. We send our prayers there as letters to our Father, and we getHis letters back in this blessed volume of HisWord. You go into an Australian settler's hut, and you find a newspaper. Where from, Sir? A gazette from the south of France,a journal from America? Oh no, it is a newspaper from England, addressed to him in his old mother's handwriting, bearing thepostage stamp with the goodQueen's face in the comer.
And he likes it, though it is only a newspaper from some little pottering country town, with no news in it. Yet he likes itbetter, perhaps, than the "Times" itself, because it talks to him about the village where he lived, and consequently touchesa special string in the harp of his soul. So mustit be with Heaven. This book, the Bible, is the newspaper of Heaven, and therefore we must love it. The sermons which arepreached are good news from a far country. The hymns we sing are notes by which we tell our Father of our welfare here, andby which He whispers into our soulHis continued love to us. All these are, and must be pleasant to us, for our commerce is with Heaven.
I hope, too, we are sending a good deal home. I like to see our young fellows, when they go out to live in the bush, remembertheir mother at home. They say, "She had a hard struggle to bring us up when our father died, and she scraped her little togetherto help us to emigrate." John and Tommutually agree, "the first gold we get at the diggings we will send home to mother." And it goes home. Well, I hope youare sending a great many things home.
Dear Friends, I hope as we are aliens here, we are not laying up our treasure here, where we may lose it, but packing it offas quickly as we can to our own country. There are many ways of doing it. God has many banks. And they are all safe ones.We have but to serve His Church, or serve the soulswhich Christ has bought with His blood, or help His poor, clothe His naked, and feed His hungry-and we send our treasuresbeyond sea in a safe ship. And so we keep up our commerce with the skies.
V. Time has gone. Those clocks will strike when yours ought not. There is a great reason why we should live like aliens andforeigners here, and that is because CHRIST IS COMING SOON. The early Church never forgot this. Did they not pant and thirstafter the return of their ascended Lord? Like thetwelve tribes, day and night they instantly watched for Messiah.
But the Church has grown weary of this hope. There have been so many false prophets who tell us that Christ is coming, thatthe Church thinks He never will come. And she begins to deny, or to keep in the background the blessed doctrine of the secondadvent of her Lord from Heaven. I do not thinkthe fact that there have been many false prophets should make us doubt our Lord's true word. Perhaps the very frequencyof these mistakes may show that there is truth at the bottom.
You have a friend who is ill, and the doctor says he cannot last long. He must die. You have called a great many times expectingto hear of his departure but he is still alive. Now the frequent errors of the physicians do not prove that your friend willnot die one of these days, and that speedily,too. And so, though the false prophets have said, "Lo, here," and "Lo, there," and yet Christ has not come-that does notprove that His glorious appearing will never arrive.
You know I am no prophet. I do not know anything about 1866. I find quite enough to do to attend to 1862. I do not understandthe visions of Daniel or Ezekiel. I find I have enough to do to teach the simple word such as I find in Matthew, Mark, Lukeand John, and the Epistles of Paul. I do not findmany souls have been converted to God by exquisite dissertations about the battle of Armageddon, and all those other finethings. I have no doubt prophesying is very profitable, but I rather question whether they are so profitable to the hearers,as they may be to the preachers andpublishers.
I conceive that among religious people of a certain sort, the abortive explanations of prophecy issued by certain doctorsgratify a craving which irreligious people find its food in novels and romances. People have a panting to know the future.And certain divines pander to this depraved taste, byprophesying for them and letting them know what is coming by-and-by. I do not know the future and I shall not pretend toknow. But I do preach this, because I know it, that Christ will come, for He says so in a hundred passages.
The Epistles of Paul are full of the advent, and Peter's, too, and John's letters are crowded with it. The best of saintshave always lived on the hope of the advent. There was Enoch-he prophesied of the coming of the Son of Man. So there was anotherEnoch who was always talking of thecoming, and saying, "Come quickly." I will not divide the house tonight by discussing whether the advent will be premillennialor postmillennial, or anything of that. It is enough for me that He will come, and, "in such an hour as you think not, theSon of Man will come."
Tonight He may appear, while here we stand. Just when we think that he will not come, the thief shall break open the house.We ought, therefore, to be always watching. Since the gold and silver that you have will be worthless at His advent. Sinceyour lands and estates will melt to smoke when Heappears. Since, then the righteous shall be rich and the godly shall be great, lay not up your treasure here, for it mayat any time vanish, at any time disappear, for Christ at any moment may come.
I think the Church would do well to be always living as if Christ might come today. I feel persuaded she is doing ill if sheworks as if He would not come till 1866, because He may come before, and He may come this moment. Let her always be livingas if He would come now, still acting in herMaster's sight, and watching unto prayer. Never mind about the last vials-fill your own vial with sweet odors and offerit before the Lord. Think what you like about Armageddon. But forgot not to fight the good fight of faith. Guess not at theprecise era for the destructionof Antichrist, go and destroy it yourself, fighting against it every day. But be looking forward and hastening unto thecoming of the Son of Man. And let this be at once your comfort and excitement to diligence-that the Savior will soon comefrom Heaven.
Now, I think you foreigners here present-and I hope there are a great many true aliens here-ought to feel like a poor strandedmariner on a desolate island. You have saved a few things from the wreck and built yourself an old log hut. You have a fewcomforts round about you, but for allthat you long for home. Every morning you look out to sea and wonder when you shall see a sail. Many times while examiningthe wide ocean to look for a ship, you have clapped your hands, and then wept to find you were mistaken. Every night you lighta fire that there may be a blaze,so that if a ship should go by, they may send relief to you.
Ah, that is just the way we ought to live. We have heard of one saint who used to open his window every morning when he woke,to see if Christ had come. It might be fanaticism, but better to be enthusiastic than to mind earthly things. I would haveus look out each night, and light the fire ofprayer, that it may be burning in case the ships of Heaven should go by-that blessings may come to us poor aliens and foreignerswho need them so much. Let us wait patiently till the Lord's convoy shall take us on board, that we may be carried into theglories and splendor ofthe reign of Christ.
Let us always hold the log hut with a loose hand and long for the time when we shall get to that better land where our possessionsare, where our Father lives, where our treasures lie, where all our Brethren dwell. Well said our poet -
"Blest scenes, Through rude and stormy seas I onward press to You."
My Beloved Friends, I can assure you it is always one of the sweetest thoughts I ever know, that I shall meet with you inHeaven. There are so many of you members of this Church, that I can hardly get to shake hands with you once in a year. ButI shall have plenty of time, then, in Heaven. You willknow your pastor in Heaven better than you do now. He loves you now, and you love him. We shall then have more time to recountour experience of Divine Grace, and praise God together, and sing together, and rejoice together concerning Him by whom wewere helped to plant and sow, andthrough whom all the increase came-
"I hope when days and years are past, We all shall meet in Heaven, We all shall meet in Heaven at last, We all shall meetin Heaven."
But we shall not all meet in glory. Not all, unless you repent. Some of you will certainly perish, unless you believe in Christ.But why must we be divided? Oh, why not all in Heaven? "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." "He thatbelieves and is baptized shall be saved but hethat believes not shall be damned." Trust Christ, Sinner, and Heaven is yours and mine, and we are safe, by His Grace, forever.Amen.