2 Corinthians 5:6
To those disciples and apostles who were with the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry, the separation which commenced upon his ascension must have been painful indeed. In the case of Paul, however, the language employed in this passage scarcely seems so natural. But we learn from the record of his sentiments what ought to be to all Christians their first thought, their governing principle, viz. their relation to Jesus Christ. The earthly state of all such is a state of absence from the Lord - a fact not to be grieved over, but to be recognized and felt.

I. THIS ABSENCE IS NOT SPIRITUAL, BUT BODILY. His own word is fulfilled, "A little while, and ye shall not see me." The exclamation of his people is verified, "Him, not having seen, we love."

II. THIS ABSENCE IS APPOINTED BY DIVINE WISDOM AND LOVE. It cannot be regarded as a matter of chance or of fate. It. is the will of him who most loves us and who most cares for us, which is apparent in this provision.

III. THERE IS A BENEFICENT PURPOSE IN THIS ABSENCE. Such was the obvious intention of our Saviour himself. "It is good for you," he said, "that I go away." His aim was to lead his people into a life of faith, and to excite our confidence in himself who has gone to prepare a place for us.

IV. THERE ARE CERTAIN DANGERS INVOLVED IN THIS ABSENCE, There is danger lest, separated from our Lord, we should grow worldly and carnal, lest our love to Jesus should wax cold, lest we should magnify ourselves, lest we should be ashamed of a religion whose Head is not visibly among us.

V. YET THERE ARE COMPENSATIONS IN THIS ABSENCE. It is intended to fortify and perfect the truly Christian character. It will make the meeting, when it takes place, more delightful and welcome.


1. Remembrance of Christ.

2. Faith in Christ.

3. Communion with Christ.

4. Fidelity to Christ in his absence.

5. Anticipation of his speedy return.

VII. THE TERMINATION OF THIS PERIOD OF ABSENCE IS AT HAND. Those who live until the Lord's return shall welcome him to his inheritance. Others must be absent from Christ until they are absent from the body, when they shall be "present with the Lord. - T.

Therefore we are always confident...at home in the body...absent from the Lord.
1. The peculiar interest of this passage is, that it gives us an insight into the apostle's personal feelings in the contemplation of death. In other places he refers to what is before and after death; but this is the only passage that gives us an insight into his forebodings about the act itself.

2. He evidently writes under the pressure of some sadness; and in chap. 2 Corinthians 4. this feeling deepens, and phrases that express it occur in almost every verse. We see throughout the conflict of natural feeling with Christian faith. And in this chapter he carries this conflict of feeling into his contemplation of dying. But if he thinks of the painful taking down of the earthly tabernacle, he thinks also of the glorious "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." And he never for a moment hesitates in his preference. His human conflict works itself out to this result — "Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent," whether found by the Master at His coming I)resent in the body or absent from it, "we may be accepted of Him."

3. The lesson to ourselves is, that we need not trample down our human instincts and yearnings in order to be spiritual. Our shrinking from death by no means implies unsubmissiveness of heart. Note —

I. THAT OUR LIFE IS NOT TWO, BUT ONE. It is the same life, "whether present or absent," in the body or out of it, on earth or in heaven. Now we admit this theoretically, but we do not feel it practically. We rather think of two different lives. Men ordinarily think of their chief life as the vital principle of the body. So long as we can walk, and eat, and speak, we call ourselves living men; so soon as these cease, we speak of ourselves as dead. But is that really the living man? We know that it is not, we know that the thought, affection, virtues of our friends are not identified with the body that we put into the grave. This, according to the apostle's figure, is only the tabernacle of the man. The life of man is the spiritual flame which God has enkindled, and which no physical changes can affect — it is the immortal spirit which is God's own breath, and which partakes of the inextinguishableness of His own being. And yet so sense-bound are we, that we are far more affected by the unimportant death of the physical body than by the essential life of the indestructible spirit. Observe concerning this one soul life of man —

1. That its spiritual, or holy character, both here and hereafter, is realised in virtue of our union with Christ (John 11:25).

2. The spiritual life which we realise through Christ in nowise hinders the physical death of the body. However perfect our faith, however holy our life, the body must die. The curse of sin is reversed, not by the exemption from death of the body, but by the spiritual life of the soul. There are obvious reasons why the body must die —(1) Natural reasons. The body, as fitted for this earthly and probationary condition of being, is too sensuous for heavenly and immortal life. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." It is essential, therefore, for a higher condition of life, that the physical body should be "changed," transfigured. We must in some way or other leave the world, be introduced to our new and final state of being.(2) Moral reasons. To exempt believers would disorganise the conditions of human life, and anticipate the rewards and punishments of the future by distinctions between the good and the evil during their probation. Beyond the natural effects of piety, therefore, God bestows upon it no rewards — exempts it from no evils here. Nor, all things considered, would we have it otherwise. Who, for example, would willingly lack the manifest truth and power of the gospel, as seen in the dying peace and triumph of holy men?

3. While the outward thing is not abrogated, the essential character of it is changed. Its "sting" is taken away. Indeed, every evil which sin has entailed, is, in virtue of our union with Christ, essentially and radically changed. Suffering becomes a fatherly chastisement, and death a fatherly summons. Nay, even the body itself no longer dies, it only "sleeps."


1. There is the home of the physical body. Notwithstanding its disabilities and drawbacks, how many things still make it a home! The comparison is not so much between an evil and a good, as between a good and a better. We are pilgrims only in relation to a "better country"; our houses are tents only in relation to the house not made with hands. To be in heaven is to be with Christ visibly, and therefore "far better"; but to be on earth is also to be with Christ spiritually, and is a good thing. God has made the earth a home for us, filled it with goodness, and beauty, and joy, and it does not need to enhance heaven that we disparage it. Only as spiritual men we can never rest in it with perfect contentment. And so wisely has God adjusted our experiences, so alluringly has He revealed the future, even while He has given us such satisfactions in the present, that, while we do not impatiently wish the future, we lovingly desire and seek it. Enough is revealed to incite us; but it is sufficiently veiled to enable contentment, and quiet work, and peaceful joy.

2. We wait and hope, therefore, for the home of the spiritual body. There every condition of happiness, which here is so marred, will be perfect. The body will know no weariness nor incompetence, the soul no sorrow nor sin, ignorance will not incapacitate, uncertainty will not disquiet; they "rest from their labours." The chief difference, however, is constituted by the different conditions of our spiritual life — the different conditions of our communion with Christ. Here our holiness is struggling and imperfect; our recognitions of Christ are only recognitions of faith; "we know only in part"; we are "absent from the Lord." There we "see Him as He is," "know as we are known," commune with Him "face to face," and under conditions of confidence and delight, with no consciousness of sin. It is this that makes heaven blessed — that makes it home; the being so immediately with Christ, the perfection of all purity and joy. This is the "far better" which we now desire. To the Christian heart Christ is heaven, and heaven is Christ.

3. The form of the apostle's expression and desire implies that the transition from the one home to the other will be immediate — that, whatever the condition of separate spirits, they are where Christ is, consciously and rejoicingly in His presence.

III. THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE OF THIS RECOGNITION UPON OUR PRESENT DAILY LIFE. It constituted Paul's life a life of faith, endowed it with "the powers of the world to come," and by these his entire being was regulated. What can intimidate a soul so full of spiritual recognitions — what can seduce it — what can make it wretched? Amongst the influences of this recognition upon his present spiritual life the apostle instances —

1. Its boldness — "Therefore we are always confident," and he reiterates the assertion — "we are confident, I say." It filled him with fortitude to endure, with boldness and strength to do.

2. Its ruling principle. "We walk by faith, not by sight." Every action and feeling was regulated by the things of the spiritual world. "He looked not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."

3. What marvel, then, that such faith should be so ardent in its desire, that with such recognition the heart of piety and of love should be inflamed; that it should mightily yearn, and tend, and pray towards that better life. "Wherefore we labour, that whether found in the body or absent from it we may be accepted of Him." Wherefore we practically strive to realise our desire; the things that our hearts leap forward to with eager and satisfied joy. For heaven is not to be won by barren desire, by sentimental recognition, by spiritual visions, but by earnest, practical labour.

(H. Allon, D. D.)


1. Note the confidence which the believer has in reference to his present condition. "Knowing that while we are at home in the body we are from home as to the Lord."(1) In the present state we are at home in the body; but it is a home which is not a home, a frail lodging to accommodate us till we reach our true home. It is such a home as a soldier has in the camp, or as a passenger on a journey. In a sense, however, this body is a home, for here dwells the living, thinking, active mind. It is a house for which we have no little affection, and we are loath to quit it.

"This pleasing, anxious being e'er resigned,

Left the warm precincts of this house of clay,

Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind."We complain of the infirmities of our bodies, but we are in no hurry to leave them.(2) But yet this body is not a fitting home for us.(a) We often discover by experience how inconvenient it is. In the course of years it has become soiled and creased, and worn like the tents of Kedar. We have suffered many inconveniences; often the spirit has been willing, but the flesh has been weak.(b) According to the Greek, ours is a home in a foreign country. A numerous band of our brothers and sisters are with us, even as the Jews found company of their own race in Babylon; but this is exile to us, we have no inheritance here.(c) It is a home, too, which keeps us from our true home. To-day we are at school, like children whose great holiday joy is to go home. We are labourers, and this is the work field: when we have done our day's work we shall go home.(d) Home is the place where one feels secure; we find no such home spiritually in this world, for this is the place of conflict and watchfulness. In heaven there will be no foes to watch against, nor men of our own household to be our worst enemies.(e) Home, too, is the place of the closest and sweetest familiarities. Here, alas, our spirits cannot take their fill of heavenly familiarities, for distance comes between; but up there what indulgence shall be accorded to us!(3) These are the inconveniences, but Paul, despite all, was confident.(a) He had a hope of the immortality to be revealed. He knew that when he shook off this body his soul would be with Christ.(b) His confidence came from God's work in his soul. "He that has wrought us to the self-same thing is God." When the statuary takes the block of stone, and begins to carve it into a statue, we get the promise of that which is to be. But he may turn aside, or die, and therefore there may be no statue. But God never undertakes what He does not finish; and so if to-day I be the quarried block of marble, if He has begun to make the first chippings in me of genuine repentance and simple faith towards God, I have the sure prophecy that He will work me up into the perfect image of Christ.(c) Another ground of confidence was "the earnest of the Spirit."

2. Paul was equally confident about the next state, viz., the condition of a disembodied spirit (ver. 8).(1) It was not because Paul thought it would be better to be without a body that he thus spoke. He has told us already "not for that we would be unclothed." Our great Creator does not mean us to be maimed creatures for ever.(2) But if Paul preferred the disembodied state to this, then the spirits of dead saints are not annihilated. Paul could not have counted destruction better than a life of holy confidence. Neither are they unconscious, for who would prefer torpor to active confidence? Neither are they in purgatory. Paul would not have been willing rather to be tormented than to live here and serve his Lord.(3) He was willing to depart into the disembodied state because he knew he would be at home with the Lord in it.(4) In that condition to which we are speeding(a) We shall be beyond all doubt as to the truth of our holy faith. There will be no more mistrust of our Lord or of His promises, and no more shall we doubt the power of His blood or our share in His atoning sacrifice.(b) We shall communicate with Christ more sensibly than we do now. Here we do speak with Him, but it is by faith through the Spirit of God; in the glory land we hear His voice while He personally speaks to us.(c) We shall have greater capacity for taking in the glory of our Lord.

II. THE BELIEVER HAS REASONS FOR AN ABSORBING AMBITION (ver. 9), From henceforth the one great thing we have to care about is to please our Lord.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. A CHRISTIAN IS NOT IN HIS OWN PROPER HOME WHILE HE SOJOURNETH IN THE BODY. Instances: Abraham (Hebrews 11:9). David (Psalm 39:12). Christ (John 17:16). He that was Lord of all had neither house nor home. Reasons —

1. Our birth and parentage is from heaven. Everything tendeth to the place of its original; men love their native soil; a stone will fall to the ground, though broken in pieces by the fall. There is a double reason why the new creature cannot be satisfied here.(1) Here is not enough dispensed to answer God's love in the covenant. "I will be your God," noteth the gift of some better thing than this world can afford unto us (Hebrews 11:16; Matthew 22:32).(2) Here is not enough to satisfy the desire and expectation of the renewed heart — perfect enjoyment of God, and perfect conformity to God.

2. There lieth our treasure and inheritance (Ephesians 1:3). Christ hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in earthly places; here He hath adopted, justified, and sanctified us in part, but the full accomplishment is reserved for the world to come.

3. There are all our kindred. There is our home and country, where our Father is, and our Lord Jesus, and all the holy ones of God.

4. There we abide longest. An inn cannot be called our home; here we abide but for a night, but there for ever with the Lord.

5. The necessary graces that belong to a Christian show that a Christian is not yet in his proper place.(1) Faith hath another world in prospect and view; and our great aim is to come at it.(2) Hope was made for things to come, especially for our full and final happiness.(3) Love (1 Peter 1:8).

6. Let us therefore give in our names among them that profess themselves to be strangers and sojourners here in the world.(1) Let us be drawing home as fast as we can. A traveller would be passing over his journey as soon as may be.(2) Make serious provision for the other world (Matthew 6:33).(3) Mortify carnal desires (1 Peter 2:11).(4) Patiently endure the inconveniences of our pilgrimage. Strangers will meet with hard usage (John 15:19).(5) Beg direction from God, that we may go the shortest way home (Psalm 119:19).(6) Get as much of home as we can in our pilgrimage, in the earnest and first fruits of the Spirit (Romans 8:23).


1. How are believers absent from the Lord, when He dwelleth in them, as in His temple, and there is a close union between Him and them? I answer, Christ is with us indeed, but our communion with Christ is —

(1)Not immediate.

(2)Nor full.

(3)Often interrupted.

2. Why, God's children count themselves not at home till they are admitted into this perpetual society with Christ.(1) Because this is the blessedness which is promised to them. And therefore they expect it, and thirst after it (John 12:26).(2) This is that which is highly prized by them, to be where Christ is. Why?

(a)Out of thankfulness to Christ's delighting in our presence (Proverbs 8:31).

(b)Out of love to Christ (Psalm 73:25).

(c)Taste. Communion begun maketh us long for communion perfected (Psalm 63:1, 2).

(d)Their complete happiness dependeth upon it (1 John 3:2; John 17:24).

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I. THAT LONGING AFTER HOME ESSENTIALLY BELONGS TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS BY NO .MEANS SO GENERALLY ACKNOWLEDGED AS A PIOUS MIND OUGHT PERHAPS TO EXPECT. More loudly than ever voices are raised, which contest the right of that longing, and the hope out of which it springs to a place in the Christian's inner life. The one who believes on Christ hath eternal life, and needs not to long for it in the other world.

1. But those who have already partaken of eternal life in communion with God, have always longed most heartily after its completion. Paul has been especially named the apostle of faith, and yet —(1) Paul had rather a desire to depart from the body, and be at home with the Lord. For the very reason that Christ is his life, even here during his earthly pilgrimage death is his gain (Philippians 1:21). The life of the believer is still hid with Christ in God; but when Christ our life shall appear, then will His people appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:3, 4). Yea, the apostle speaks of the Holy Ghost as a pledge of the incorruptible inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Romans 8:23). But the statement that the resurrection had already taken place, i.e., in a spiritual way, is rejected by the apostle (2 Timothy 2:16, 18).(2) So with the apostle of love (1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2).(3) So with the apostle of hope (1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 4:13, 14; 1 Peter 5:10).(4) With all this the testimony of our Lord agrees (John 6:40; John 17:24; Luke 23:43).

2. What the words of our Lord and of His apostles teach us is also confirmed by the condition and inward connection of the life which His Spirit works in us. "Whilst we dwell in the body," says the apostle, "we are absent from the Lord" as in a foreign land; "for," adds the apostle as his ground, "we walk by faith, and not by sight." Is not faith the fountain of the new life, and is it not a certain confidence of what is hoped for, a firm conviction of what is not seen? (Hebrews 11:1.) Do we not know by it that the Lord, with His grace, is always near to us on our pilgrimage? And yet, however close the connection of the believer with Christ may be, it is nevertheless to be esteemed a separation in comparison with the perfect communion with Him of which he will then become partaker, when his faith is once changed into sight. And if faith is nothing else than the concealed bud of sight, how should we not long after the development of this bud into glorious bloom? If we see now in faith the glory of the Lord only through a glass, and as in a riddle (1 Corinthians 13:12), who should not long, with the holy apostle, to see face to face, and to know even as we are known? (1 Corinthians 13:12.) A time is coming when everything imperfect reaches its perfection, and everything piecemeal appears a beautiful whole; where all difference disappears, and all concealed glory becomes manifest; where all holy longings find perfect satisfaction, and all blessed anticipations and hopes become a living reality. Then shall our faith, which at one time is an offence to the children of this world, at another time a folly, be solemnly justified through seeing.


1. It will strengthen and enliven our zeal after holiness (ver. 9, cf. Romans 2:7). As the sun cannot do otherwise than give light and warmth, so the longing after home in the case of the Christian cannot do otherwise than manifest itself in redoubled striving after a conduct well-pleasing to God. Each one who has such a hope in Christ purifies himself even as He is pure (1 John 3:3). For only to those who have a pure heart is the promise given, that they shall see God (Matthew 6:8).

2. It will promote our comfort and peace as regards the earthly life. If our life is like a journey, say which traveller will, with more cheerful courage, proceed on his way — he who knows that at the close of it he will meet his end; or he who knows at the end of his journey there awaits him an entrance into the most delightful home? The thought, which no one can drive away, that we are at every step come nearer to the end, is dreadful to those who have no hope; but for the one who longs after his home it is a source of holy joy. Certainly one proceeds calmly and peacefully through the earthly life when one has nothing to dread but everything to hope (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 6:9).

(Julius Muller, D. D.)(

For we walk by faith not by sight.) —

You see, you feel, and know, by the testimony of your own senses, what your present situation is. And there are advantages as well as disadvantages attending the present state. But of the life to come you have no experience. To obviate this cavil, the words of our text are brought in by way of parenthesis. "It is true, we never saw our house that is from heaven, and all that we know about it is by report. But that report is the report of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and it may be relied on with more assurance than even the testimony of our senses."


1. That Christians in this world are in an unsettled and movable state. For the same reason the body is called a tent or tabernacle in the first verse. Need any of you be told that here you have no continuing city? The fashion of this world is continually passing away. How widely different is your present condition from what it was a few years ago! It will probably be as much changed in a few days more.

2. That it is a progressive state.

3. That Christians in this world are in a state of voluntary activity. The men of the world, if they had their choice, would not walk, but sit still; they move towards another world with great reluctance.

4. This expression imports that the Christian's life in this world is a toilsome and uneasy life. The luxury of modern times has contrived various methods of accomplishing journeys without walking. It is not in this manner, Christian, that you are to perform your journey. You must travel through the wilderness on foot.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE IS SPENT — his journey performed. "We walk by faith." There are chiefly three ways in which our knowledge in this world is acquired.

1. By the testimony of our external senses.

2. By rational demonstration.

3. By moral evidence, or the testimony of rational agents.Thus are all matters of fact ascertained, of which we have not ourselves been witnesses. It is manifest that the strength of our faith should always correspond to the degree of veracity that belongs to his character, upon whose testimony it rests. The greatest part of those truths that constitute the matter of the Christian faith are of such a nature that they could never have been known to us otherwise than by the testimony of God. It is equally manifest that if we did believe these things, upon any other evidence, our belief of them could not be a Divine faith. Once more, true faith includes in it, or, at least, it necessarily produces, a firm reliance upon the faithfulness and power of God, for a full and final performance of all His words of grace, to the person in particular, till he be filled with all the fulness of God. They walk by this faith in the following respects —

1. By faith they learn the way in which they ought to go. At man's first creation, God inscribed upon his heart a law, sufficient to direct him in every part of his way. Some remains of this law continue upon the hearts of all Adam's posterity. But this knowledge is so imperfect that, though it may inform us that we go astray, it can never keep any person in the right way. Notwithstanding the clear objective discoveries that we have of the way of truth and duty, such are often the perplexing circumstances of our lot, and such is our natural incapacity to understand and apply the rule, that our way is often covered with darkness, and we are at our wits' end.

2. By faith they receive strength to prosecute their journey. All Christians in this world are in a state of childhood. Their way is long and difficult, and they have no strength to prosecute it.

3. By faith they are furnished with motives to animate them in their walk, and so are encouraged to prosecute their journey with unwearied perseverance. Though the authority of God is a sufficient reason for our obedience, yet He does not require us to obey Him in a blind and irrational manner.We come now to speak concerning the negative part of what the text says about the manner of the Christian's walk. "We walk — not by sight."

1. They walk not by the sight or appearance of those material things which alone are capable, strictly speaking, of being seen. In this view the words import the three things following. Christians walk not by sight.(1) Material or seen things are not the principal objects of their attention. The mean of the world are so immersed in sensuality that they can think of almost nothing but what has a tendency to gratify their senses. They walk after the sight of their eyes, and that is also the desire of their hearts.(2) Things capable of being seen are not the principal objects of their pursuit. Unrenewed men pursue happiness with all their might, but they seek it anywhere; or everywhere, except where it is really to be found.(3) The motives by which they are influenced in their walk are not drawn from visible things. If the motives of their actions were drawn from things that are seen they would surely follow such a course as might be calculated to obtain seen advantages, or, at least, to secure them against visible disadvantages.

2. Even in respect of those things which they do pursue, they are not influenced, in the pursuit of them, by their own sight, sense, or feeling; but by the testimony of God concerning them, received and relied on by faith. Though spiritual things fall not under the cognisance of the outward senses, they are capable of being perceived by the soul in a manner some way corresponding to that. That heavenly house, in which you hope to dwell for ever, you have not yet seen, and therefore, in longing for it, you cannot be influenced by a personal experience of what it is, but only by the testimony that God has given you concerning it. So it is with regard to all those invisible things towards which you press in your daily walk. Thus faith continues to have its usual influence upon our walk, even when our sight, sense, or feeling runs in direct opposition to it, as appears in the following instances.(1) When a Christian walks in darkness about his spiritual estate, and can attain no sensible assurance of his interest in Christ, or his being within the covenant of grace, he dares not, on that account, neglect any duty that is incumbent upon him as a friend or disciple of Christ.(2) When difficulties, apparently insurmountable, are seen in the way, when the Christian is most sensible of his own weakness, and when the help of God, in which he trusts, seems to be, in a great measure, withdrawn, the influence of faith prevails over that of sense, and even in that case he sets forward. When Israel came to the Red Sea they had no way to escape the fury of their enemies but by going forward, and that, in all human appearance, was impossible.(3) When the greatest danger is seen to lie in the way of duty, and when sense and reason assure us that the danger cannot be avoided unless the duty is postponed, the Christian, depending upon the promise of God, despises the danger; and, that he may not be wanting in the performance of his duty, rushes into the jaws of a seen destruction.

3. When, instead of a present accomplishment of the promise, the Christian sees Divine providence moving in a contrary direction, and the Lord seems to be taking methods to render its accomplishment impossible, even then he so far overlooks appearances as to form his whole conduct upon the assured persuasion that God will still do as He hath said. A clear instance of this we have in Abraham.


1. From what has been said, we may see the excellence of the grace of faith, and its usefulness to them that possess it.(1) It attains the knowledge of things that surpass all created knowledge.(2) It believes things that, upon the principles of unenlightened reason, are incredible.(3) Faith can bear things that, in all human appearance, are intolerable.(4) It sees things invisible. In a word —(5) Faith performs things impossible.

2. See the sin and unreasonableness of infidelity. We would only beg leave to suggest the two following considerations.(1) Were you to act upon the same principles in the common affairs of life as you do in matters of religion, it would be simply impossible for you to subsist in the world. Are there not many things relative to the most important concerns of life that you necessarily must believe upon evidence not better than what you have for the truth of Christianity?(2) Whatever objections you may have to the truth of the Christian religion, you cannot pretend to prove that it is not true; otherwise you go further than any of your brethren ever did, so far as we know. And therefore you must grant that it is possible it may be true.

3. See the sin and folly of unbelief. Though every infidel is an unbeliever, there are many unbelievers who are not infidels. Yea, there is much unbelief in the exercise of every Christian while in this imperfect state.

4. See the sin and folly of too much attachment to sensible enjoyments.(1) When you give yourself up to discouragement and downcasting on account of the want of it. The ground of your joy, as well as of your faith, is all without you.(2) When, on account of your want of this, you indulge yourself in the neglect of any duty that you would think incumbent upon you if you had it, excepting the single duty of being thankful for it.(3) When you cast away your confidence, or refuse to believe the promise, because you dare not say with certainty that you have a present interest in it.(4) When you improve your assurance of an interest in Christ, as a ground of your faith, or of your boldness in coming to the throne of grace.(5) When, because you cannot be sure that you are in Christ, you certainly conclude that you are a stranger to Him, and so give yourself up to unbelieving discouragement or despair, and rob God of the glory due for all that He hath done for you.

5. See various marks by which the real followers of Christ may be distinguished from the rest of mankind.

6. To conclude — We may see from this subject the duty of all who profess the Christian religion, or have the Word of God among their hands. It is to follow the example of these primitive teachers of Christianity, and walk by faith, not by sight. Beware of considering yourselves as in a state of rest.

(J. Young.)

There are two worlds, the visible and the invisible: but for the Fall they would constitute one. Had we remained pure, the visible world would be to us the mirror of eternal realities. For Jesus the invisible world is everywhere. He finds it in the well, in the branches of the vine, in the cornfields, and in the minutest details of the life around Him. Thus it ought to be. Alas! most know no realities but in this world; the rest they consider as vain-dreamings. Even religion, which ought to be, before all things, a revelation of the invisible world, they degrade by making only the handmaid of this present life.


1. Positivism says, "What is the use of letting your thoughts stray into the invisible world; to pursue those vain clouds which are called religions? Lay hold of the visible world." This doctrine is re-echoed on every hand. What is the invisible world to most of our monied men?

2. Yet what an array of weapons have we for the defence of the invisible world?(1) The greatest things, and those which have been the most salutary for humanity, are the work of those who walked by faith and not by sight. When St. Paul spoke these words, the ancient world was precisely in the state to which men would lead back the modern World. It only believed in visible and palpable things; it considered as chimeras and trifles all that went beyond them. And what had it arrived at? Who is not aware that there was never a more shameful degradation of the dignity of man? Who has given it life again but those men who opposed to the present world the world to come? Now this fact has often repeated itself. For how often has the world been ready to sink back into that condition in which Christianity found it?(2) We should form a strange idea of Christianity if we believed that it teaches us to despise the earth and the present life. I know that many causes have favoured this error. The monastic life and the deplorable exaggerations of certain Christians who have neglected life's duties, pretending that eternity was taking up all their thoughts, have too often furnished infidelity with weapons. But Christianity has never taught us to forget the duties and privileges of earth. But earth is not — it cannot be — the aim of the Christian, but it is the scene of his activity, even the place where his eternal future is prepared. It is often maintained that eternity diminishes the happiness of the present life; but I assert, on the contrary, that it gives it incomparable grandeur. If, instead of passing through the world, I must remain here, life is an enigma as cruel as it is inexplicable, and one must write on its threshold, "Without God, without hope." Open to me, on the contrary, eternity. Tell me that life is a journey, a marching forward; tell me that my fatherland is awaiting me, then I am able to begin and undertake everything, and the bitter feeling of vanity disappears.


1. What shall we say of those who do not accept religion unless it be presented to them under a fascinating form with the approbation of man, with all that speaks to the senses and the imagination? But Jesus said to His disciples, who admired the beauty of the temple, "See ye not all these things?" What would He, then, say to those who cannot understand truth when not accompanied by a gorgeous ceremonial, and upheld by a powerful hierarchy? And can we positively affirm that such a temptation has never crept over us? Have not we been troubled in our faith, because we saw the Church feeble, obscure, and despised? Did we never wish her the homage of the world, the support of distinguished men, the authority of numbers, or of public opinion? Well, asking for these external signs is wishing to walk by sight, and not by faith. Ye who want these signs, what would you have done in the days of Jesus Christ?

2. There are Christians who are troubled because to the Church in our days God no longer grants miraculous signs of His intervention. But —(1) Miracles alone have never converted the heart. The Galilaeans remained unbelievers in the presence of the most marvellous wonders, and the hearers of St. Paul, without a miracle, were converted by thousands.(2) If miracles were necessary to faith, every one must witness them, and if that were the case they would lose their power, being no longer regarded as supernatural.(3) The more revelation advances, the less God shows Himself to sight, and the more He reveals Himself to faith. In the beginning, there were continual signs and wonders, a pillar of cloud or of fire marks His presence; the thunder roars on Sinai. Everything speaks to the sight; but, with the advent of Christ, everything changes! He teaches us that there is a sign which attests better the presence of God than all the external miracles — it is love. When John, the man of the old covenant, asks Christ, "Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" Christ answers him by enumerating the wonders which He has accomplished; but He finishes with those sublime words, "The poor have the gospel preached to them." God will not now open the heavens; there will be no sign given to this unbelieving generation but that of the Cross; for he whom the Cross leaves insensible would not be moved though a man should rise from the grave and declare Jesus is the Christ.

3. We walk by sight, and not by faith, when we wish Christianity to justify itself entirely in the eyes of reason. Miracles speak to the senses, arguments speak to the intellect; but God will lay hold of our moral being. He wishes that we shall freely give up ourselves to Him by faith.

4. We are still desiring sight instead of faith when we ask God to mark His providence by continual deliverances —(1) By immediate answers to our prayers. But imagine a life where prayer would always be followed by an immediate deliverance. Many would be disciples, but how many from the right motive? Now it is just that mercenary instinct which God wants to destroy in us. Therefore, while He assures us that all our prayers are heard, He seldom shows us beforehand how He will answer them. The most glorious victories of faith have been won against every appearance. Christ Himself by faith saw before His death the fruit of the bitter travail of His soul, and it was not sight which could reveal to Him a conquered world, a redeemed Church. How often, when we see the prayer of some saint manifestly answered long after his death, we say, "Oh, that he had lived to see this day, the day he so desired!" We must remember, though he saw not, he believed. Pray, then, Christian mother, pray still for the conversion of your son, pray without doubting, and should your eyes only meet subjects of discouragement, remember that we walk by faith and not by sight.(2) These remarks on prayer find also their application on every Christian activity. It is a singular fact that the greatest progress in the kingdom of God has been attained by men who believed though they did not see. What did Christ see in His ministry? What would He have done if He had walked by sight? And what shall we do if we want to see instead of believing, if we resemble those children who, after having cast a seed corn into the ground, return every instant to see whether it has sprung up? God only blesses those who have confidence enough in His faithfulness to commit to Him the care of results, and to say with Luther, "It is Thy work, not mine." It is stated that Kepler, when lying on his death-bed, and being asked by a friend whether he suffered not cruelly to be obliged to die without seeing his discoveries appreciated, answered, "My friend, God has waited five thousand years till one of His creatures discovered the admirable laws which He has given to the stars; why should I, then, not wait till justice is done to me? "

5. They are wrong who want to describe beforehand, as it has been so often tried, the way which the Christian is to follow. The Christian life is like an immense region which thousands of pilgrims have already travelled through; each had followed the road which God had traced out for him; some have found it soft and light, others dark and difficult. Yet all these ways led to the fatherland, and none has a right to say that the road he followed is that which all others must enter upon; for if this road were known, if it could be described, we should walk by sight, and no longer by faith. Let us then accept any unforeseen events; let us expect that God will destroy our plans and disappoint our expectations; whether He send us joy or sorrow, let us walk by faith, allowing Him to lead us.

(E. Bersier, D. D.).


1. The possession of life. You can make a dead man sit or even stand in a certain position, but to walk necessitates life. In the sense in which the term is here used, the ungodly man does not walk at all.

2. Activity. It is a blessed thing to sit "with Mary at the Master's feet"; but we walk as well as sit. Many can affirm — "We talk; we think; we experience; we feel"; but true Christians can say, "We walk."

3. Progress. A man does not walk unless he make some headway. God does not say to us, "This is the way," and then stop; but He says, "This is the way, walk ye in it." We are always to be making advances, from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections.

4. Perseverance. When a man goes along a step or two and then stops, or returns, we do not call that walking.

5. That in the ordinary actions of life we are actuated by faith. Walking is that kind of progress in which a man continues hour after hour. We often read of men who, by faith, did great exploits, and some Christians are always fixing their eyes upon exploits of faith. But Paul does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking, and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man; that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does.

II. TWO PRINCIPLES CONTRASTED. All men naturally walk by sight. They have a proverb that "Seeing is believing," and no further. Their maxim is — "Know things for yourself; look after the main chance; take care of Number One." Now the Christian is the very opposite of this. He says: "I do not care about looking after the things that are seen and are temporal; the things that are not seen influence me, because they are eternal." Now, since the world thinks itself wise and the Christian a fool for acting contrary to the world's proverb that "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," let us just see wherein the wisdom of this matter is, and wherein it is not.

1. Walking by sight is a very childish thing. Any child can walk by sight, and so can any fool too. You give him a number of coins; they are all spurious, but he is so pleased with them that he does not care about having real sovereigns. The child says that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, but men know that it does not move, only the earth. But it is a very manly thing to believe something which you cannot see. What a man was Columbus compared with his contemporaries because he walked by faith! So the Christian is a man, while the worldling saith, "This is all the world; 'let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,'" he says, "there must be another half; I will leave this world to you children, and will seek another and more heavenly one."

2. The one is grovelling while the other is noble. A man earning his bread all day long — what is he better than the donkey at Carisbrook Castle, pumping up water and always going round? The children go to the seaside with their little wooden spades and build up a pier of sand, but the tide comes and washes it away, and this is just what men do. They build with heavier stuff, which gives them more care and not half so much merriment, but the end is just the same, only the children live to build again, while these big children, these grovellers, are washed out to sea with all their works and perish everlastingly. If there be not another world to live for, I must say that this life is not worthy of a man. But to believe what God tells me, that I am God's son, that I shall one day see His face and sing His praise for ever, why, there is something here. The man who believes this expands into something worthy of a man who is made in the image of the Most High.

3. There is something exceedingly ignorant about believing only what I can see. Nine out of ten things in the world that are the most wonderful and potent cannot be seen, at least not by the eyes. A man who will not believe in electricity — well, what can you make of him in these days? And this is the case with regard to spiritual things. If you only walk by sight, and only believe what you see, what do you believe? You believe that while you are living here it is a good thing to make the best you can of it, and that then you will die and be buried, and there will be an end of you! What a poor, miserable, ignorant belief this is! But when you believe in what God reveals, and come to walk by faith, how your information expands!

4. Walking by sight is deceptive. The eye does not see anything; it is the mind that sees through the eye. The eye needs to be educated before it tells the truth, and even then there are a thousand things about which it does not always speak truly. Now the man who has a God to believe in, is never deceived. The promise to him always stands fast; the person of Christ is always his sure refuge, and God Himself is his perpetual inheritance.

5. The principle of sight is a very changeable one. It is well enough to talk of walking by sight in the light, but what will you do when the darkness comes on? It is very well to talk about living on the present while you are here, but when you go and lie on your dying bed, what about the principle of living for the present then? But the principle of faith does best in the dark. He who walks by faith can walk in the sunlight as well as you can, but he can walk in the dark as you cannot, for his light is still shining upon him.

6. That those who walk by sight walk alone. Walking by sight is just this — "I believe in myself," whereas walking by faith is "I believe in God." If I walk by sight I walk by myself; if I walk by faith then there are two of us, and the second one — ah! how great, how glorious, how mighty is He! Sight goes a warfare at its own charges, and is defeated. Faith goes a warfare at the charges of the King's Exchequer, and there is no fear that Faith's bank shall ever be broken.

III. THE CAUTION IMPLIED. The apostle says positively, "We walk by faith," and then he adds negatively, "not by sight." The caution, then, is — never mix the two principles. You may go a journey by land, or you may go by water, but to try to swim and walk at the same time would be rather singular. A drunken man tries to walk on both sides of the street at once, and there is a sort of intoxication that sometimes seizes upon Christians, which makes them also try to walk by two principles.

1. You say, "I believe God loves me; I have prospered in business ever since I have been a Christian." The first part of that is faith; but the second part of it is sight.. Suppose you had not prospered in business, what then? Will you deny that God loves you because you have not prospered in business?

2. Another says, "I have believed in Christ, but I am afraid I am not saved, for I feel to-night so depressed." "Oh," says another, "I am sure I am saved, because I feel so happy." Now you are both wrong, for you are both walking by sight. Faith is not meant for sweet frames and feelings only, it is meant for dark frames and horrible feelings. Conclusion — Take heed to one thing. You must mind if you do walk by faith, that you walk by the right faith — viz., faith in Christ. If you put faith in your dreams, or in anything you thought you saw, or in a voice you thought you heard, or in texts of Scripture coming to your mind — if you put faith in anything else but Christ — I do not care how good it may be or how bad it may be — you must mind, for such a faith as that will give way. You may have a very strong faith in everything else but Christ, and yet perish. Rest thou in the Lord Jehovah.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

These were the words that arose to our recollection in visiting that old castle of St. Andrews, out of which Hamilton and Wishart, our first Scotch martyrs, came to die for God's truth at the stake. Groping our way along a tortuous passage, we descended by some steps into an inner prison, and there, by a beam of light that streamed through a loophole of the massive wall, we saw an opening in the rocky floor. Candles lighted and let down showed a shaft descending into the bowels of the rock, where, widening out like the neck of a bottle, it formed a dreadful dungeon. It was called — and justly — an oubliette, or place of forgetfulness, because those that black mouth swallowed up were ever after lost to life, to light, to liberty. It made one shudder to look down into that horrible pit; nothing seen but the blackness of darkness — nothing heard but the muffled sound of the waves, as bursting on its rocky walls they seemed to moan for the deeds that had been perpetrated there. "There," says John Knox, "many of God's children suffered death, pining away slowly till their life lapped up like the tide on the shore, or was suddenly destroyed by the blow of the assassin." Such were the bloody days and deeds of Popery — never more, we trust, to return. But as our fancy called up the men who entered that low door to be let down like a coffin into that living sepulchre, never to come out but to die on the scaffold or the stake, the words that sprang to our memory were, "They walked by faith, not by sight." The apostle makes a similar application of these words, which are the key to what must have been regarded as a perfect enigma. Note not the resignation only, but the cheerfulness with which he and his fellow-Christians suffered wrong (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18). No doubt our days are in many respects very different from his, but the changes that have taken place in the world since the days of Paul have not changed human nature. This world is like yon volcanic mountain, where vineyards and fig-trees cover its sides with verdure; an occasional growl, a tremor, a puff of smoke, proves that the volcano that buried Herculaneum and Pompeii in its fiery discharges is not dead; it is but dormant. But whatever be the age we live in, whether we shall wear a martyr's crown or not, all the saints that go to glory must go there by the way of faith. The believer walks by faith —


1. By faith Noah, Abraham, David, etc., won themselves a place in the cloud of witnesses. And yet he who waited for the consolation of Israel was second to none of them. What is that he holds in his aged arms? An infant — the offspring of a poor woman; born in a stable, a flame, a breath would blow out. Simeon is at that stage in human life when enthusiasm dies, and yet this sight throws him into an holy ecstasy. And why? The long looked-for has come at last; and now, as if there were nothing more on earth worth looking at or waiting for, he lifts his aged arms and eyes to heaven to exclaim, "Now, Lord," etc. Faith never uttered a bolder speech than that. In that infant, as I have seen the giant oak wrapped up in the tiny acorn, Simeon saw the Saviour of mankind, and in the arm that hung round a mother's neck, the strength that sustained the universe. He walked by faith in that, and yet we have more need than he to walk by faith. He said, "Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation" — a privilege ours never shall enjoy till these eyes are closed on this world and open on another. Still more had the disciples in their senses aids to their faith which we do not enjoy. Simeon saw the boy; they saw the man; they touched the hand that wrenched its fetters from the tomb; they heard the voice that rebuked the tempest and cured disease, and said, "Thy sins be forgiven thee."

2. Are we ready to envy the apostles and Simeon? "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." The faith of the humblest believer nowadays is in some senses a higher attainment than theirs. The emigrant who sees the hills of his native land sink beneath the wave, and goes away to the land of gold, has seen and handled the gold dug from the mines of that distant land. He has seen those who have been there — go out poor and come back rich; but I believe in a land to which I have seen hundreds go, but none come back to unveil its secrets. I believe in a Saviour I never saw, and never saw the man that saw, and commit to His keeping what is more precious than all the gold of the Bank of England — viz., my precious soul. I stake my everlasting welfare on works done eighteen long centuries ago, of which there is not one solitary vestige now on this earth for my faith to cling to, like ivy to a crumbling ruin. And does the world say to me, "Such trust were madness in earthly matters"? I admit it, but "I am not mad, most noble Festus." Is He unseen? Why the most real things in this world are unseen. My spirit is unseen. The things you see are but the shadows of the unseen, and because my Saviour is unseen, that no more shakes my faith in Him than it shakes my faith in God, in angels, in the heavens, in the spirits of the blest who await my coming.

3. Yon lighthouse tower that stands among the tumbling waves, seems to have nothing but them to rest on, but beneath the waves its foundation is the solid rock. And what that tower is to the but on yon sandbank, which the last storm threw up, and the next shall sweep back into the sea, Christ's righteousness is to mine-Christ's works to my best ones. And so, when the Christian man was dying after a life full of good works, and they told him of them, he replied, "I take my good works and my bad works, and I east them in one heap, and I flee from them both to Jesus. He is all my salvation, He is all my desire."


1. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night teacheth knowledge of Him. All nature is vocal with His praise. For a man to sit down and write a book to prove it, seems to me a perfect waste of time and labour, graved as these are on every rock, written on every leaf, painted on every flower. But though that be true, generally, what may be called His special providence, at least so far as regards His own people, is very often with them more a thing of faith than a thing of sight. The sun shines on the evil and on the good, the rain falls alike on the just and unjust, and there are many things besides death of which it is true that there is one event to all. Nay, our faith finds stumbling-blocks far more staggering than this. There is Lazarus begging at a rich man's gate. In poverty, in disease, in domestic trials, I have seen God's people have the bitterest cup to drink, and the heaviest burden to bear. "Peace, Mary, peace," said a godly woman, who had lost all her family, to a godless neighbour, who was rebelling against the providence that had taken one child of many; "while I have six empty pairs of shoes to look on you have but one." There are trying circumstances in which the only safety or confidence of a believer rest in walking by faith, and not by sight; in believing how "behind a frowning providence" God hides a smiling face.

2. In ascending a lofty mountain, standing high above all its fellows, which the sun is the first to reach and the last to leave, I have seen the rock that crowned it cleft with storm, and its summit all naked and bare, and so, sometimes, with those whose heads are most in heaven. What are they to do under such circumstances? On the higher Alps, along a path no broader than a mule's foothold, that skirted a dreadful precipice, I have known a timid traveller who fancied it safest to shut her eyes and not attempt to guide the course nor touch the bridle. And there are times in the believer's life when, if he would keep himself from failing into despair, he must, as it were, shut his eyes, lay the bridle on the neck of Providence, and "walk by faith, not by sight."

3. Had Jacob, for instance, done so, he had played a nobler part in Pharaoh's palace; he had stood a venerable witness for the God of truth in that heathen palace instead of indulging in this pitiful cry, "Few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage on earth." He lived to regret he had ever said it, and to bear other testimony to the providence of God. Our great dramatist says of one of his characters that nothing of his life became him so much as the leaving it. Nor did anything in Jacob's life become him so much as the leaving it. "The God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads." Jacob dies in the light of faith. Never say, "All these things are against me." Let all His waves and billows go over ye, let your bark go rolling and staggering amid the sea of troubles; never yield to the belief that you are the sport of chance, at the mercy of winds and waves. Your Father is at the helm, as the sailor boy said.

III. IN AND TO ANOTHER WORLD. The discovery of the New World was not, like many discoveries, an accident; it was the reward of Christopher Columbus's faith. He found fruits on the shores of Europe, cast up by the Atlantic waves, which he knew must have grown in lands beyond. They thought him mad to leave his home, to launch on a sea which keel had never ploughed, in search of a land man had never seen. I tell that infidel that I know whom I have believed; I can give a reason for the faith that is in me; and so could he. And so he launched his bark on the deep, and with strange seas around him, storms without, and mutinies within, that remarkable man stood by the helm, and kept the prow of his bark onward till the joyful cry, "Land!" rang from the mast-head, and faith was crowned with success, and patience had her perfect work. Now I look on that man as one of the finest types of a believer, but I cannot read his story without feeling that it puts our faith to the blush. "I have not found such great faith; no, not in Israel." What had he? He walked by faith, and not by faith such as we have. He had but conjecture, we have certainty; he had not even the word of man that lies; we have the word of Him, that cannot lie.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Did Paul ignore the material universe, or so underrate it as to pay it no attention? No. He studied, admired, used it. He speaks comparatively, and means that in the daily course of himself and his Corinthian brethren, they were influenced more by the invisible than the visible, by the spiritual and eternal than by the material and the temporal. They were practical spiritualists. In relation to this course of life we may observe —

I. It is A MORE PHILOSOPHIC COURSE. A life of practical spiritualism is far more rational than that of practical materialism, because the spiritual is —

1. More real than the material. We have stronger evidence for the existence of spirit than of matter. True, the essence of both is beyond us; but the phenomena of spirit come more closely and impressively to us. Thought, volition, hope, fear, are immediate subjects of consciousness, and these belong to the spirit.(1) The whole structure of the visible universe indicates the existence of spirit. Matter is essentially inert, but every part of nature is in motion. Matter is blind, but every part of nature indicates contrivance. Matter is heartless, but every part of nature is instinct with goodness. And then, too, it seems designed for spirit. Does not its contrivance appeal to thought, its streams of goodness to gratitude, its beauty to admiration, its sublimity to reverence and awe? What is this fair universe without spirit but a magnificent mansion without a tenant; a temple filled with the glories of the Shekinah, but containing no worshipper?(2) The impressions of mankind sustain the belief. From remotest times, in all places and in every stage of culture, men have believed in the spiritual. A belief so universal must be intuitive, and any intuitive belief must be true, otherwise there is no truth for man.(3) The Bible authoritatively declares this fact. It tells us of legions of spirits in various orders and states, and that there is One Infinite Spirit, the Parent, Sustainer, and Judge of all. I am bound to believe, then, that the universe is something more than can be brought within the cognisance of my five senses. We are confessedly more intimately and solemnly related to the spiritual, and is it not natural to expect that we should have a sense to see spiritual things? Were such a sense to be opened within us, as the eye of Elijah's servant was opened of old, what visions would burst upon us! The microscope gives us a new world of wonders, but were God to open the spiritual eye, what a universe of spirits would be revealed!

2. More influential. The invisible is to the visible what the soul is to the body, that which animates and directs every part. Its spirit is in all the wheels of the material machine. It is the spring in all its forces, the beauty in all its forms, the glow in all its life.

3. More lasting.

II. It is A MORE UNPOPULAR COURSE. It is opposed to —

1. Popular science, which teaches that matter is everything, that all thoughts about the invisible are idle and superstitious. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."

2. Popular religion, not only of heathendom, but of Christendom, which is the religion of the senses. Popular life. The great bulk of mankind live a material life; their ideas of wealth, grandeur, beauty, dignity, pleasure, are all material. Their grand question is, "What shall we eat, what shall we drink, wherewithal shall we be clothed?" The Christly man, in walking by faith, sets popular science, religion, life, at defiance. Though he is in the world, he is not of the world.


1. It is more safe to walk "by faith" than "by sight." The senses are deceptive, the eye especially.makes great mistakes. "Things are not what they seem."

2. It is more useful. Who is the more useful man in society — the man who is controlled by appearances, who is materialistic in all his beliefs and pursuits, or the man whose mental eye enters into the invisible region of eternal principles, ascertains the real work they do in the universe, arranges them, and applies them to the uses of man's daily life? Undoubtedly the latter. To him we owe all the blessings and arts that adorn civilised life. Albeit a stupid age calls the former a practical man, and the latter a theorist and a dreamer. In the spiritual department of life, the man who lives under the practical recognition of One whom no eye has seen or can see, is the man who both enjoys for himself and diffuses amongst others the largest amount of happiness.

3. It is more ennobling. He who walks by sight is bounded by the material. Matter is his cradle, his nourishment, the circle of his activities, and his grave. On the contrary, he who walks by faith, towers into other regions, brighter, broader, and more blest.Conclusion — Which of these courses of life are we pursuing? It is not difficult to determine this question. Jesus Himself has supplied the test, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the spirit is spirit."

1. He that walks by sight is in all his experiences, purposes, and pursuits, "flesh." His mind is a "fleshly mind," his wisdom is "fleshly wisdom."

2. On the contrary, he who "walks by faith" is spirit. Spirit in the sense of —(1) Vivacity. All his faculties are instinct with a new life — the life of conscience, the true life of man. He is spirit.(2) Social recognition. He is not known as other men are known, as men of the world. But, as a spiritual man, distinguished by spiritual convictions, sympathies, and aims.(3) Divinity. He is born of the Divine Spirit, and has a kindredship with, and a resemblance to, his Eternal Father. He is now a conscious citizen of the great spiritual kingdom.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord
The word "confident" here means courageous, and implies —

1. Unavoidable perils and trials (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). The man that rushes into danger is not courageous, but reckless.

2. Intelligent views and convictions of being. Much of battle-field valour springs from ignorance of what existence is, or false views of it. Paul regarded —(1) The body as the organ of being — an "earthly house."(2) The soul as the personality of being. "We that are in this house." The soul, not the body, is the I, or self, of being.(3) Death as only a change in the mode of being.(4) Heaven as the perfection of being. It is "the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." But these views are repeated here in a more condensed form. The apostle's courage was based on —


1. That which gives a fear-awakening power to events is the dread of death. The most malignant disease, the fiercest hurricane, or the loudest roar of musketry would have no fear-awakening power without this. Let the fear be taken away, as it was from Paul, and men would then, like him, be always courageous.

2. Now observe the apostle's view of —(1) The interests of being. "Present with the Lord."(2) The bearing of death upon the interests of being. He regarded death as the flight of the spirit to the presence of its Lord. "Absent from the body," etc.

3. Notice Paul's state of mind under the influence of these thoughts. "Willing rather," etc.


1. Men without purpose are almost indifferent to life.

2. The master-purposes of men differ. They are pleasure, wealth, to please God. This last was Paul's grand purpose. "Wherefore we labour," etc. This purpose is —(1) Reasonable. If there be a God, reason dictates that to please Him ought to be the supreme purpose of intelligent natures.(2) Delightful. The highest happiness of a moral intelligence is to please the chief object of its love.

3. Now death destroys the main purposes of the voluptuous, avaricious, and ambitious, and hence it is terrible to them, but it does not destroy the chief purpose of the Christian. "Whether present or absent" his chief purpose will be to be "accepted of Him."

III. A CONSCIOUSNESS THAT DEATH WOULD NOT PREVENT THE REWARDS OF BEING (ver. 10). Success must ever have an influence upon the mind of man in every department of labour. Non-success discourages. The Christian labourer looks for success, but it does not appear here at all proportioned either to his desires or efforts. Paul, no doubt, would like to have seen the full results of his labours in Corinth, etc., and if death could have prevented a full realisation, he would have esteemed it an evil, and shrunk from it with fear. But here he distinctly affirms an opposite conviction.

1. Every one shall receive the recompense of labour.

2. Every one shall receive a reward for every deed. For every good deed. There shall be no lost labour. And every "bad" deed, too, shall be recompensed. Conclusion — If we possess Paul's convictions of life and his spirit, we may have this sublime courage. Let us look at death as he looked at death, as the flight of the spirit into the presence of its Lord. Is not fear of death a disgrace to the Christian? "If," said Cicero, "I were now disengaged from my cumbrous body, and on my way to Elysium, and some superior being should meet me in my flight and make the offer of returning and remaining in my body, I should, without hesitation, reject the offer, so much should I prefer going to Elysium, to be with Socrates and Plato, and all the ancient worthies, and to spend my time in converse with them." How much more should the Christian desire to be "absent from the body and present with the Lord!"

(D. Thomas, D. D.)


1. The apostle is not here referring to the state of the dead, but to the act of dying. His language is more accurately, "willing to go from home, from the body, and to go home to the Lord." The moment of transition of course leads to a permanent state, but it is the moment of transition which is in view here. The Christian view of the act of death is that it is simply a change of abode.

2. The text suggests that to the Christian soul the departure from the one house is the departure into the other. The home has been the body; the home is now to be Jesus Christ. We know not how much separation may depend upon the immersing of the spirit in the fleshly tabernacle, but we know that, though here by faith souls can live in Christ, yet there shall come a form of union so much more close, all-pervading, as that the present union, precious as it is, shall be "absence from the Lord,"

3. Perhaps, in the bold metaphor of my text, there is an answer to the painful questions, "Do the dead know aught of what affects us here? and can they do aught but gaze on Him and love and rest?" If there is any analogy between the relation of the body on earth to the spirit that inhabits it, and that of Christ to him who dwells in Him, then it may be that, as the flesh, so the Christ transmits to the spirit impressions from the outside world, and affords a means of action upon that world. Christ may be the sensorium of the disembodied spirit, and the hand of the man who hath no other instrument by which to express himself. But be that as it may, the reality of a close communion and encircling by the felt presence of Christ, which will make the closest communion here seem to be obscure, is certainly declared in the words before us.

4. This transition is the work of a moment. It is not a long journey, of which the beginning is "to go from home," and the end is "to go home." But it is one and the same motion which, looked at from the one side, is departure, and looked at from the other is arrival. "There is but a step between me and death." Yes, but there is but a step between me and life. The consciousness of two worlds blends; the spirit is clothed upon with the house which is from heaven, in the very act of stripping off the earthly house of this tabernacle.

5. This transition obviously leads into a state of conscious communion with Jesus Christ. The dreary figment of an unconscious interval for the disembodied spirit has no foundation, either in what we know of spirit, or in what is revealed to us in Scripture. It is absurd to say of an unconscious spirit, clear of a bodily environment, that it is anywhere; and there is no intelligible sense in which the condition of such a spirit can be called being "with the Lord."

6. And that is all we know. Nothing else is certain but this, "with the Lord," and the resulting certainty that therefore it is well. It is enough for our faith, comfort, and patient waiting. Not only that great hope of the "body of His glory," but furthermore, "the earnest of the Spirit," ought to make the unwelcome necessity less unwelcome. If the firstfruits be righteousness and peace and joy of the Holy Ghost, what shall the harvest be?

II. THEREFORE THE CHRISTIAN TEMPER IS THAT OF QUIET WILLINGNESS AND CONSTANT COURAGE. There is nothing hysterical, morbid, overstrained, artificial. The apostle says: "I would rather not; but when I see what I do see beyond, I am ready. Since so it must be, I will go, not dragged away from life, nor clinging desperately to it as it slips from my hands, nor dreading anything that may happen beyond; but always courageous, and prepared to go whithersoever the path may take me, since I am sure that it ends in His bosom." There are other references of our apostle's substantially of the same tone as that of my text, but with very beautiful and encouraging differences. "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth," etc. That is our model. "Always courageous," afraid of nothing in life, in death, or beyond, and therefore willing to go from home from the body, and to go home to the Lord.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I once heard two good men holding a dialogue. One of them said he wished that his time was come to go to heaven; he did not see anything here worth living for. The other said he had many reasons why he would rather just then live than die. He had lived to see the Church in prosperity; he should like, therefore, to be a sharer in the Church's joy. Besides, he had those he loved on earth, etc. Now consider —


1. It is wrong —(1) When the Christian has grown worldly. Dr. Johnson, being taken by one of his friends over his fine house and beautiful garden, observed, "Ah! sir, these are the things that make it hard to die." The world was never meant to fill a believer's soul.(2) When he has a secret fear of dying. Christ came into the world to deliver those who are subject to this bondage. Thou art afraid of a stingless enemy, of a shadow, of heaven's own portals, of thy Father's black servant whom He sends to bring thee to Himself!(3) When it is the result of his doubting his interest in Christ. We have no right to doubt. The apostle says, "We are always confident." Now, some hate the very word "confidence," but the apostle knew what was the proper spirit for a believer.(4) When it is because he has a large family dependent upon him.

2. It is right —(1) When he wants to do more for his Master, and a sphere is just opening before his eyes. As a valiant soldier, with the field of battle in view, he wants to win a victory. Carey, Ward, and Pierre, when laid down with sickness at Serampore, prayed that they might live a little longer, because every godly man in India was then worth a thousand. Paul himself said, "To abide in the flesh is more needful for you, and therefore I prefer to stay."


1. It is wrong —(1) When he wants to get there to get away from his work. Suppose your servant came to you about ten o'clock in the morning, and said, "Master, it is a very hot day, I wish it was six o'clock at night." You would say, "I want none of those laggard fellows that are always looking for six o'clock." Or suppose you met him on Thursday, and he said, "I wish it was Saturday night." "Ah," you would say, "a man that always looks for Saturday night is never worth his master's keeping." And yet you and I have been guilty of that with regard to the things of Christ.(2) When it is because there is some little discouragement in labouring for Christ. Jonah thought he would rather go to Tarshish than to Nineveh. We get cowardly and distrustful of God. 'Tis then we fretfully say, "Let us go to heaven." I fancy I hear Luther talking like that! Melancthon said, "Let me die," but Luther said, "No, we want you, and you are not to be let off yet, you must stand in the thick of the battle till the fight changes and victory is ours."(3) When it is to get away from the Lord's will on earth. Some have had so much pain, that they would like to be released from it. We cannot blame them. But yet does it not sometimes amount to this, "Father, if the cup cannot pass from me, let me pass away from it"? Such people never do die for years afterwards; because the Lord knows they are not fit to die. But when we are able to say, "Well, let it be as He wills; I would be glad to be rid of pain, but I would be content to bear it if it be God's will"; then patience hath had her perfect work, and it often happens that the Lord says, "It is well, My child: thy will is My will."

2. It is right —(1) When it is because you are conscious of your daily sins and want to be rid of them. To be perfectly holy is an aspiration worthy of the best of men.(2) When you wish to serve God better than you do. Then, inasmuch as it is a proper thing for the servant of God to desire, to be a better servant, it must be right and proper for him to long to serve his Master without imperfection.(3) When we have been at the Lord's table, or in some service where we have had great enjoyment, we have had the earnest and want to have the whole of the redemption money.(4) When you have had near fellowship with Christ. It would indeed be a strange thing if you did not wish to be with Him where He is. If a woman loves her husband she longs for his society. You are a child; he is not a loving child that does not wish to see his father's face. How some of us used to long for the holidays! We are also labourers. It were a strange thing if the labourer did not wish to achieve the end of his toils. And then, what soldier does not long for victory? He would not shun the fight, but he wishes it were triumphantly over.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Note —

I. THE PROSPECT OF THIS GREAT TRANSITION, AND THE WILLINGNESS EXPRESSED. In this willingness there are four main elements.

1. The acknowledgment of a higher claim. The apostle has a figure of two habitations for the soul, and both presenting their rival claims. The body has a claim, and reasonably. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Through the bodily senses and perceptions the soul has its education. It gazes upon the fair universe through the windows of the eye; through the ear flows in the music of creation; and it is by the organs of speech that spirit communicates with spirit. Now, is there not here a claim? To be "unclothed," in the apostle's speech, would seem to be cut off from fellowship with the universe. Who then could be well pleased to be absent from the body? Those only who are conscious of a higher claim. Christ claims us. A thousand objects seem to stretch imploring hands to us and cry, "Thou art ours"; but Christ says, "Thou art Mine." With the claim that redemption gives us what else can compete? The body, with all the wonders of its construction, is, after all, but the servant of the soul; Christ is its Master. We, therefore, are ready to renounce the lower for the loftier claim, and willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

2. The acceptance of a necessary condition. Why should the two claims come into competition? The ideal man of God's purpose and first creation may be well conceived as equally at home in both worlds. As it is, the two things are incompatible. Whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from Him, and to be at home with Jesus we must die. Now it cannot be said that this is m itself desirable. The best, the bravest of us must falter when we think of going to an untried eternity. But we know that it must be so. We therefore accept the decree with submission, nay, with love, for we "reckon the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."

3. The longing for a promised deliverance. The body is not merely a veil which we are willing should be drawn aside that we may behold the Saviour's glory; it is often a source of the deepest trial and sadness. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit," etc. What wonder, then, that he thought it good rather to be "absent from the body," which he found so painful and insecure a home, and to be "at home with the Lord" at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore!

4. The embodiment of the highest aspiration. The Saviour left the world with "Lo, I am with you alway." To apprehend His presence is the one great aim of the souls that love Him, and He is ever near. This also is the life of heaven. All else in that life is mystery.


1. We are "of good courage"; this begins the text, strikes its keynote. The true tone of the Christian character is a brave, undismayed way of looking at life with all its possibilities, and at the distant prospect or the near approach of death. There is no insensibility in this. The spirit is exquisitely alive to the solemnity both of life and of death, yet courageous, cheerful, knowing that already "death is swallowed up in victory."

2. But with this "courage" the apostle combines faithfulness. "Wherefore we make it our aim" our ambition is, "whether present or absent, to be well pleasing unto Him." The triumphant confidence becomes, whether here or there, the inspiration of faithful work. Acceptance of that work remains the crowning hope and joy of life.

(S. G. Green, D. D.)


1. From the principles of our nature. Is it not contrary to every principle of our nature to be pleased with misery, to fail to desire happiness? And yet this must be the strange disposition of every believer who does not wish "to be absent from the body, that he may be present with the Lord." Is this a condition in which a reasonable man should be satisfied to remain, when the joys of the New Jerusalem are proffered to him?

2. Consider the spirit and the principles of our religion.(1) True religion gives to the soul a holy and a heavenly temper; but can such a temper be inwrought in that soul which contentedly settles down on earth?(2) A holy love of God and the Redeemer lies at the very foundation of true religion. But what kind of love, I pray you, is that which is satisfied to be absent from the Lord rather than be absent from the body?(3) A love to the children of God, and a delight in their society, are essential to the Christian character. But can the soul of that man be warmed with this love, who sees the pious, one by one, departing from earth, and yet desires not to go with them to join the holy host of the redeemed?(4) Hope is one of the Christian graces; but hope includes desire. What a contradiction, then, to say that we hope for the presence of the Lord when we had rather that He would delay His coming!(5) There is no religion in that heart which does not long after greater degrees of holiness, and continual increase in grace. But this is the character of him who prefers a sinful world to a holy heaven.

3. The representations of the Scriptures confirm this same truth. They uniformly represent those who "mind earthly things," "who look at the things which are seen and temporal," without any right to hope for eternal blessedness.

4. The examples of saints teach us to cultivate this disposition which we are recommending. Look at David: "My heart is glad, my glory rejoiceth, my flesh also shall rest in hope; for Thou wilt show me the path of life." Listen to Paul: "I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better." View the delight of Peter: "I must shortly put off this tabernacle," etc. Hear the joyful response of John, when the Saviour tells him: "I come quickly." "Even so, Amen; come, Lord Jesus."


1. Do you say, "I am unwilling to die, because I am not assured of the love of God towards me"? This is not an objection against our doctrine, for the Christian desires death as connected with the presence of the Lord; we have not been endeavouring to persuade you to be willing to die, but to induce you to shake off that worldly spirit which makes you prefer earth before the enjoyment of Christ. But let me ask you that present this plea, why do you not tremble when you make it? What! you yourselves acknowledge that it is a matter of uncertainty whether, when you die you enter into the presence of an angry Judge or tender Redeemer, and yet can be tranquil! Where is your reason, your prudence?

2. Do you object again, "I am not willing to depart, because I wish yet to remain some time longer in the earth, to serve and glorify God"? But do you suppose that you cease to serve and glorify God, when you depart from earth? Think you that Abraham, David, Paul, etc., when they left this little speck of earth to enter the more extensive regions beyond the skies, lost either inclination or opportunity of serving God; think you that their service is fainter, or less important, or less constant than that which you pay?

3. Do you say, "I am not willing because I have friends, relatives, children, to whom I may be of advantage"? But is not God the supreme object of our pursuit? And is it right for us to put the dearest earthly connections in competition with Him? (Matthew 10:37.)

4. Do you object that "such a desire is unnatural"? But we are compounded beings; and an inclination is not, therefore, unnatural, because, while it accords with the tendencies of our superior part, it is opposed to those of our inferior part. Sensitive nature shrinks from death; but rational nature, especially when the soul is renewed, longs for that period when it shall be delivered from corruption. And by what law of nature is it that the superior part is bound thus to submit to the inferior part? Conclusion: If such be the Christian temper, how few real followers of the Saviour are to be found in our assemblies! Where are the men who are disentangled from earth, longing for the presence and enjoyment of the Lord?

(H. Kollock, D. D.)

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