And I heard a voice from heaven telling me to write, "Blessed are the dead--those who die in the Lord from this moment on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labors, for their deeds will follow them."
Vale, vale, in aeternum vale! of broken hearted paganism is gone, never to return. The broken pillar and the extinguished torch are no longer fit emblems to place over the grave of our loved ones. The pillar rears its fair shaft and lacks not its beautiful coronal, and on the eternal shore the torch burns more brightly than ever, and is by no means gone out, though our dim eyes for a while see it not. And this unspeakably precious gospel, which brings us such glad tidings of great joy, it is which some men want to silence as effete and incredible, that they may substitute for it their own dismal speculations, the only outcome and clear utterance of which is that, in regard to religious faith, there is nothing solid under our feet, nor clear over our heads; all is one great "perhaps;" nothing certain - nothing; neither soul, nor God, nor eternal life. To all such we say, "If we be dreaming, as you affirm, then for God's sake let us dream on, unless you have some better, surer belief to which we may awake." But let us now think awhile of the unspeakably precious truth our text contains. And we note -
I. WHOM IT CONCERNS.
1. Those "in the Lord." "It is obviously of the utmost moment that we rightly understand who are spoken of. Alas! the context has warned as that the blessing here pronounced is not for all. The blessed dead are placed in marked contrast with those who in this life have borne the mark of the beast, which is the world, in their forehead and upon their hand. How glad are we, for ourselves and for those dear to us, when it comes to the last solemn moment, to forget that there is any distinction between the death of the righteous and of the wicked; between the death of one who has loved and served Christ, and of one who has lived 'without him in the world'? It seems so hard to preserve that distinction" (Vaughan, in loc.). But there it is, and may not be overlooked, though, to the unspeakable hurt of men's souls, it too often is. Now, "to die in the Lord," we must first have been "in the Lord." And can any be said to be "in the Lord" if they never think of him, never call upon him, never look to him, and never seek to live to him? "In the Lord" is the constant phrase which tells of a living trust and hope and love towards the Lord; and how can the description be applied where none of these things are? God help us all to remember this!
2. And these when they are dead. Just then, when we want to know something of them; when with streaming tears we yearn
"For the touch of a vanished hand, II. WHAT IT SAYS OF THEM. 1. That they are "blessed." What unspeakable comfort there is in this assurance for those who are left behind! Not unconscious, for such high epithet as "blessed" belongs not to mere unconsciousness. Not in purgatorial pains, for neither could that be called blessed. Doubtless Christ's transforming, assimilating power, through the energy of the Spirit of God, goes on in the departed believer, as it is necessary that it should. For St. Paul teaches us that "he who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Therefore that good work is going on still; death does not hinder, but accelerate it. But the process is not by those hideous means which mediaeval monks imagined, and which the very word "purgatory" suggests. But they are blessed; that is enough to know, enough to uplift the mourner's heart. 2. And immediately that they quit this life. Such is the meaning of the word "henceforth." "It means substantially even now; not merely in the new Jerusalem which is one day to be set up on the renovated earth, but from the very moment of their departure to heaven" (Hengstenberg, in loc.). 3. They die to rest. "Yea, saith the Spirit, in order that (ἱνα) they may rest [or, 'that they shall rest'] from their labours." Death, therefore, is for them but the Divine signal that the day's work is done, that the evening hour has come, and that they are now to go home and rest. The wearisome work and toilsome trying task, which has often well nigh worn them out - such is the significance of the word "labours" - all that is over, and death is the Lord's call to them to now lie down and rest. 4. Their works follow with them. Not their labours, the element of distress and pain in their work, but their works. How do they follow? Perhaps: (1) In that they are carried on still. They were works for the honour of their Lord, for the good of their fellow men - prayers and endeavours to draw others to Christ, intercessions for the Church of God, all manner of beneficent deeds. Are all these to cease? Is there no room for them where the blessed dead now are? Shall the sainted mother who here besought the Lord for her children that they too may be saved - shall she cease that "work"? The Lord forbid that she should; and our text seems to tell us that she, and all they like her, will not, for their works follow them. (2) For reward. There is the scene, there the day, of recompense. Not here or now. "Let thine eyes look right on, and thine eyelids straight before thee." "Oh how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!" (3) In their effects upon their character. We cannot see the soul, we saw only the man, and faulty enough he was, we well knew; but all the while, as the days of his life went on, and this or that work was put upon him to discharge, the soul was, by means thereof, as the marble by the sculptor's chisel, being wrought into a condition of beauty and faultlessness such as from the first had been in the Creator's mind. (4) As ministers to their joy. The joy of gratitude that they were enabled to undertake and accomplish them. The joy of knowing that as seed they will yield blessed harvest, and, perhaps, of witnessing that harvest. St. Paul spoke always of his converts as his "joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus." Such "works" will be a joy to remember, to look upon in their results and to continue in. They cannot but be, every way, ministers to our joy. III. THE EMPHASIS THAT IS LAID UPON IT. 1. It is declared by "a voice from heaven." This voice "may well be conceived to be that of one of 'the just made perfect,' testifying from his own experience what the true members of the militant Church on earth have to expect in heaven" (Hengstenberg, in loc.). When we remember that the attestations to our Lord's Divine Sonship were made in similar manner by a voice from heaven, this declaration is thereby lifted up to a like high level of authority and importance. 2. It was commanded to be written. "This command to 'write' is repeated twelve times in the Revelation, to indicate that all the things it refers to are matters of importance, which must not be forgotten by the Church of Christ." 3. It is confirmed solemnly by the Holy Spirit. "Yea, saith the Spirit." With such solemn sanctions are these words so inestimably precious to the Church, introduced to our notice and commended to our reverent heed. IV. THE PURPOSE OF ITS PROCLAMATION. 1. It was a truth most necessary for the time when it was given. See the circumstances of the faithful Church, how fearful their trial, how dire their need of all and everything that would fortify their minds amid such awful temptations to be unfaithful to their Lord. And what truth could be more helpful than such as this? 2. And it is needed still. (1) To comfort us concerning our departed brethren in Christ. (2) To strengthen us in view of our own departure. (3) To cheer us amid work that often seems thankless and unfruitful, although it be the "work of the Lord." With our hope we ought never to be weary in such work. Noble work has often been done by men who had no such hope. Think of the three hundred at Thermopylae. Think of the holy men of old to whom the grave seemed to end all, to be the place where they should be "no more," and yet who became heroes of the faith (cf. Hebrews 11.). (4) To every way ennoble and elevate our lives. (5) To draw forth our love and devotion to him "who having overcome the sharpness of death, hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Are these purposes fulfilled in us? - S.C.
II. WHAT IT SAYS OF THEM.
1. That they are "blessed." What unspeakable comfort there is in this assurance for those who are left behind! Not unconscious, for such high epithet as "blessed" belongs not to mere unconsciousness. Not in purgatorial pains, for neither could that be called blessed. Doubtless Christ's transforming, assimilating power, through the energy of the Spirit of God, goes on in the departed believer, as it is necessary that it should. For St. Paul teaches us that "he who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Therefore that good work is going on still; death does not hinder, but accelerate it. But the process is not by those hideous means which mediaeval monks imagined, and which the very word "purgatory" suggests. But they are blessed; that is enough to know, enough to uplift the mourner's heart.
2. And immediately that they quit this life. Such is the meaning of the word "henceforth." "It means substantially even now; not merely in the new Jerusalem which is one day to be set up on the renovated earth, but from the very moment of their departure to heaven" (Hengstenberg, in loc.).
3. They die to rest. "Yea, saith the Spirit, in order that (ἱνα) they may rest [or, 'that they shall rest'] from their labours." Death, therefore, is for them but the Divine signal that the day's work is done, that the evening hour has come, and that they are now to go home and rest. The wearisome work and toilsome trying task, which has often well nigh worn them out - such is the significance of the word "labours" - all that is over, and death is the Lord's call to them to now lie down and rest.
4. Their works follow with them. Not their labours, the element of distress and pain in their work, but their works. How do they follow? Perhaps:
(1) In that they are carried on still. They were works for the honour of their Lord, for the good of their fellow men - prayers and endeavours to draw others to Christ, intercessions for the Church of God, all manner of beneficent deeds. Are all these to cease? Is there no room for them where the blessed dead now are? Shall the sainted mother who here besought the Lord for her children that they too may be saved - shall she cease that "work"? The Lord forbid that she should; and our text seems to tell us that she, and all they like her, will not, for their works follow them.
(2) For reward. There is the scene, there the day, of recompense. Not here or now. "Let thine eyes look right on, and thine eyelids straight before thee." "Oh how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!"
(3) In their effects upon their character. We cannot see the soul, we saw only the man, and faulty enough he was, we well knew; but all the while, as the days of his life went on, and this or that work was put upon him to discharge, the soul was, by means thereof, as the marble by the sculptor's chisel, being wrought into a condition of beauty and faultlessness such as from the first had been in the Creator's mind.
(4) As ministers to their joy. The joy of gratitude that they were enabled to undertake and accomplish them. The joy of knowing that as seed they will yield blessed harvest, and, perhaps, of witnessing that harvest. St. Paul spoke always of his converts as his "joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus." Such "works" will be a joy to remember, to look upon in their results and to continue in. They cannot but be, every way, ministers to our joy.
III. THE EMPHASIS THAT IS LAID UPON IT.
1. It is declared by "a voice from heaven." This voice "may well be conceived to be that of one of 'the just made perfect,' testifying from his own experience what the true members of the militant Church on earth have to expect in heaven" (Hengstenberg, in loc.). When we remember that the attestations to our Lord's Divine Sonship were made in similar manner by a voice from heaven, this declaration is thereby lifted up to a like high level of authority and importance.
2. It was commanded to be written. "This command to 'write' is repeated twelve times in the Revelation, to indicate that all the things it refers to are matters of importance, which must not be forgotten by the Church of Christ."
3. It is confirmed solemnly by the Holy Spirit. "Yea, saith the Spirit." With such solemn sanctions are these words so inestimably precious to the Church, introduced to our notice and commended to our reverent heed.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF ITS PROCLAMATION.
1. It was a truth most necessary for the time when it was given. See the circumstances of the faithful Church, how fearful their trial, how dire their need of all and everything that would fortify their minds amid such awful temptations to be unfaithful to their Lord. And what truth could be more helpful than such as this?
2. And it is needed still.
(1) To comfort us concerning our departed brethren in Christ.
(2) To strengthen us in view of our own departure.
(3) To cheer us amid work that often seems thankless and unfruitful, although it be the "work of the Lord." With our hope we ought never to be weary in such work. Noble work has often been done by men who had no such hope. Think of the three hundred at Thermopylae. Think of the holy men of old to whom the grave seemed to end all, to be the place where they should be "no more," and yet who became heroes of the faith (cf. Hebrews 11.).
(4) To every way ennoble and elevate our lives.
(5) To draw forth our love and devotion to him "who having overcome the sharpness of death, hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Are these purposes fulfilled in us? - S.C.
Here is the patience of the saints.Isaiah 40:31). So far from warning us against excess in the employment of this means for the recruiting of our spiritual strength, the Scripture points it out as the highway to perfection (James 1:4). It is presented, likewise, as the only security against the disappointment and frustration of our strongest confidence and highest trust. Is it then a mere inert quiescence, a stagnation of the soul, without affection or activity, that God's Word sets before us, as a duty, as a necessary source of strength, and as the highway to perfection? Such a conclusion is well suited to the tendency of human nature to extremes; but if it were correct the apostle could never have used such a combination (Hebrews 6:12). The patience that is heir to the promises of God is therefore not a mere negation, not a stagnant patience, not a slothful patience. It is urged on to action by a potent principle, the love of God, without which patient waiting, in the true sense, is impossible (2 Thessalonians 3:5). But this Divine love may itself be personated by a mere inert affection, or by a corrupt one, which refuses to be subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. He has therefore taught us that obedience to His will is an essential characteristic of true patience. "Wait on the Lord," and "keep His way," that is, walk in the way of His commandments, are inseparable precepts, forming, not severally, but together, the condition of the promise, "He shall exalt thee to inherit the land" (Psalm 37:34). They for whom glory, and honour, and immortality, and eternal life are reserved, are they who seek it, not simply by patient continuance, but "by patient continuance in well doing" (Romans 2:7). "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may inherit the promise" (Hebrews 10:36). The patience of the saints, then, is neither an inactive nor a lawless patience, but a loving and obedient patience. It is through faith and patience, a patient trust and a believing patience, that the saints in glory have inherited the promises. From such a faith hope is inseparable. He who would not be slothful, but a follower of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises, must do so by" showing diligence" in every duty "to the full assurance of hope unto the end" (Hebrews 6:11). The faith and hope which are thus represented as essential to the patience of the saints, are not merely a vague trust and expectation, founded upon no sufficient reason, or simply on the attributes of God, or His promises in general, without regard to the restrictions and conditions by which they are accompanied, but a specific trust and expectation, having a definite object, reason, and foundation. We have seen already that the exercise of Christian patience is described in Scripture as a patient waiting, not for something unknown, not for evil, not for good in the general, but for God. "Blessed are all they that wait for Him " (Isaiah 30:18). It might be asked how or why should men wait for or expect the Lord? He will be for ever what He is. He will be for ever, as He is now, intimately present to His creatures. But the definite object of the true believer's patient expectation is the manifestation of God's mercy in His own salvation, in His complete and final deliverance from suffering and from sin. "Wait on the Lord, and He will save thee" (Proverbs 20:22). "It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." But even here, the expectation of the Christian might be too vague to secure the exercise of genuine patience. He might look to God for salvation, but without understanding how it was to be procured, or how it could be reconciled with the Divine justice. While this doubt or ignorance existed, he could hardly rest with implicit trust even on God's mercy, and could not therefore be expected to possess his soul in patience. The only remedy for this uneasiness and restlessness of spirit is a just apprehension, not only of God's nature as a merciful Being, but of the precise way in which His mercy can and will be exercised, in which He can be just and yet justify the ungodly. In other words, the soul must not only see God as He is in Himself, but see Him in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them, but imputing them to Christ; making Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The man whose hope is fixed, not on abstractions or on generalities, not even on the attributes of God, as such, nor on His promises at large, but on the positive, distinct, specific promise of justification and salvation even to the chief of sinners, who renounces his own righteousness and submits to the righteousness of God, by a simple trust in the righteousness of Christ, that man may indeed be said to "wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (Galatians 5:5). The attitude of that soul is indeed one of waiting, of patient waiting, of patient waiting for God, of patient waiting for the salvation of the Lord, of "love to God and patient waiting for Christ."
(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)I. God has always a people for His name; He owns them to be SAINTS; and they are often found where we should little expect to find them. They are called holy for two reasons.
1. The first is taken from their dedication God.
2. The second is derived from their personal renovation. The instruments under the law were only holy by appropriation. No change passed upon them. It is otherwise with us; we must be "made meet for the" great "Master's use." Hence regeneration is necessary.
II. ON THE CONNECTION THERE IS BETWEEN SAINTS AND PATIENCE.
1. Saints only have patience. A man may endure, and not be patient; there may be no religious principle or motive to influence him; it may be a careless indolence; a stupid insensibility; a kind of mechanical or constitutional fortitude; a daring stoutness of spirit resulting from fatalism, philosophy, or pride. Christian patience is another thing; it is derived from a Divine agency; it is nourished by heavenly truth; it is guided by Scriptural rules.
2. Every saint possesses patience. They do not indeed possess it in equal degrees. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit; it is an essential part of the Divine image restored in man.
3. It highly becomes saints to cultivate patience. "The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price." It ennobles the possessor. It recommends his religion. It carries along with it a peculiar conviction.
III. Some CASES in which the patience of the saints is to be rendered ILLUSTRIOUS and STRIKING.
1. It is to be displayed in bearing provocation. "It must needs be that offences will come." Our opinions, reputations, connections, offices, businesses, render us widely vulnerable.(1) His peace requires it. People love to sting the passionate.(2) His wisdom requires it. "He that is slow to anger is of great understanding; but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. Anger resteth in the bosom of fools."(3) His dignity requires it. "It is the glory of a man to pass by a transgression."(4) It is also required by examples the most worthy of our imitation.
2. Patience is to be displayed in suffering affliction.
3. Patience is to be exercised under delays.
The faith of Jesus
1. You will, of course, thoroughly understand it — the Apostles' Creed. You will take pains to do so.(1) You will know, then, its history, I mean the history of its actual form.(2) And, again, we should understand the substance of the creed. It is, indeed, little else than the gospel narrative thrown into a short form.
2. And, secondly, having this creed, pledged as we are to this creed, we should know not only its history, and its meaning, but we should know its value. It is, indeed, a most precious heritage. I might remind you of Mr. Keble's words, "Next to a sound rule of faith, there is nothing of so much consequence as a sober standard of feeling in practical religion, and it is the peculiar happiness of the Church of England to possess in her authorised formularies an ample and secure provision for both."
3. Last of all, we must regard our Christian creed as final. It is "the faith of Jesus," "the faith once delivered to the saints." It is the perpetual reiteration of St. Peter's early creed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and it must hold good for all time, till He shall come again "who is the faithful Witness and the First-begotten of the dead." "Here," around this creed of His universal Church, this creed which you and I profess, — "here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
1. To die in the Lord is, in the first place, to die in the faith of the Lard; it is to renounce all hope of salvation founded on ourselves, on our works, on our pretended merits, and to cause our hopes to rest only on the merits of Christ, on the atonement accomplished by His blood.
2. To die in the Lord is also to die in the love of the Lord; it is to love Him Who loved us first, and that unto the Cross; it is to feel ourselves drawn to Him by an intimate and powerful affection; it is, when dying, to be able to say with St. Paul; "I have a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better."
3. To die in the Lord is once more to die in obedience to the Lord. It is to die after having lived here below in imitation of Jesus Christ; after having purified ourselves as He also is pure; it is to have lived, I do not say in a state of perfect holiness, but at least in the constant desire of holiness, making continual efforts to reach it, and approaching it more and more.
4. In fine, and to say all in one single word, to die in the Lord is to die in communion with the Lord; it is to die, after having lived, dead to the world and to sin, with a life "hid with Christ in God."
(H. Monod.)I. THE CHARACTER.
1. "Here is the patience of the saints." To be blessed when we die we must be saints. By nature we are sinners, and by grace we must become saints if we would enter heaven. Since death does not change character, we must be made saints here below if we are to be saints above. The word "saint" denotes not merely the pure in character, but those who are set apart unto God, dedicated ones, sanctified by being devoted to holy uses — by being, in fact, consecrated to God alone. Do you belong to God? Do you live to glorify Jesus? "But how am I to attain to holiness?" You cannot rise to it save by Divine strength. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.
2. But the glorified are also described in our text as patient ones. "Here is the patience of the saints," or, if you choose to render it differently, you may lawfully do so — "Here is the endurance of the saints." Those who are to be crowned in heaven must bear the cross on earth. Ii we are to win the glory we must be faithful unto death. "Here is the patience of the saints"; it cometh not by nature; it is the gift of the grace of God.
3. Farther on these saints are described as "they that keep the commandments of God."
4. The next mark of the blessed dead is that they kept "the faith of Jesus." Do not waver in your belief, but keep the faith, lest ye be like some in old time, who "made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience," and were utterly cast away.
5. Notice that these people continue faithful till they die. For it is said, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." Final perseverance is the crown of the Christian life.
6. Those who thus entered into rest exercised themselves in labours for Christ. For it is said, "They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." The idle Christian can have little hope of a reward.
7. To close this description of character, these people who die in the Lord were in the Lord. That is the great point. They could not have died in the Lord if they had not lived in the Lord. But are we in the Lord? Is the Lord by faith in us?
II. THE BLESSEDNESS which is ascribed to those who dis in the Lord. "They rest from their labours."
1. By this is meant that the saints in heaven rest from such labours as they performed here. There we shall not teach the ignorant, or rebuke the erring, or comfort the desponding, or help the needy. There we cannot oppose the teacher of error, or do battle against the tempter of youth.
2. They rest from their labours in the sense that they are no longer subject to the toil of labour. Whatever they do in heaven will yield them refreshment, and never cause them weariness. As some birds are said to rest upon the wing, so do the saints find in holy activity their serenest repose.
3. They rest also from the woe of labour, for I find the word has been read by some "they rest from their wailing."
4. To the servant of the Lord it is very sweet to think that when we reach our heavenly home we shall rest from the faults of our labours. We shall make no mistakes there, never use too strong language or mistaken words, nor err in spirit, nor fail through excess or want of zeal. We shall rest from all that which grieves us in the retrospect of our service.
5. We shall there rest from the discouragements of our labour. There no cold-hearted brethren will damp our ardour, or accuse us of evil motives; no desponding brethren will warn us that we are rash when our faith is strong, and obstinate when our confidence is firm.
6. It will be a sweet thing to get away to heaven, I am sure, to rest from all contentions amongst our fellow Christians.
III. THE REWARD of the blessed dead. "They rest from labours, and their works do follow them." They do not go before them; they have a forerunner infinitely superior to their works, for Jesus and His finished work have led the way. Jesus goes before, works follow after. Note well, that the works are in existence and are mentioned; immortality and honour belong to them. No desire for another's good is wasted, God has heard it. A word spoken for Jesus, a mite cast into Christ's treasury, a gracious line written to a friend — all these are things which shall last when yonder sun has blackened into a coal. Deeds done in the power of the Spirit are eternal.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE FIRST LINE: THAT THE UNION BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE CONTINUES THROUGH DEATH — "die in the Lord." When a ship enters the harbour, after the long and stormy voyage, the captain pays off the crew. If they wish to go on that ship again, they must reship. But the godly have signed articles to die. The Lord does not pay them off when they are going to die — they die in His employ. They die in the service, beneath the care and look of the Master; and He will have His people to die aright.
II. THE SECOND LINE: THAT THE SAINTS AFTER DEATH GO TO REST. It is impossible to rest and to make progress; one of the two can alone be had here. I have seen a tired traveller mounted on a milestone — to rest, apparently. He looked weary, and his parcel lay at the foot of the milestone. I do not know how long he had been there, but I know that whenever he started he had nine miles to go to the next town — it was that on the milestone. But yonder they rest — not from work, but from labour. They grow, and yet they rest; they rest, and yet grow. "They shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
III. THE THIRD LINE: THAT THE WORKS OF THE SAINTS FOLLOW THEM. Many work on materials that cannot follow them to eternity. The artist for months works on the canvas: he dies, and leaves the portrait behind him. The sculptor works on the marble for years: dies, and leaves the sculpture behind. But the good man works on a material that will bear transferring to the other world without receiving any damage. He draws beautiful lines — draws them upon his own soul, upon himself. He has sought the best material to work on, that will last when the rocks melt. And their work in others will remain; it is cut deep enough, so that it shall be visible in the judgment. Many work upon objects which they will leave behind. True, that the lands must be tilled, and minerals raised, and iron wrought; but it is not as a farmer, or miner, or carpenter, or astronomer, or geologist, that any man passed into eternity.
IV. THE FOURTH LINE: THAT THE STATE OF THE SAINTS AFTER DEATH IS A STATE OF BLISS. What kind of a country would you like to emigrate" into?
1. A pleasant, country, with beautiful landscapes? Such is heaven — an "inheritance in the light."
2. A plentiful country, without scarcity or want, never lacking any good thing? Such is heaven — "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more."
3. A healthy country? So is heaven — "The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick. Sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
V. THE FIFTH LINE: THAT IT IS TO CONTINUE SO. "From henceforth." Parents have often received a letter from their children in America or Australia; but they will still say that they are expecting the mail every day, to hear again. Why? Because the country is changeable. Though all was well when the last letter was sent, things may have changed. But as to heaven, a single letter is as good as if you had one every day. There it is always the came — "from henceforth."
(D. Roberts, D. D.)
Homilist.I. HEAVEN'S DESCRIPTION OF THE CHARACTER OF THE SAINTED DEAD. They "die in the Lord." Their character was that of vital union with Christ. This union may include two things —
1. Their existence in His affections. Christ's disciples live in Him; they are in His heart; He thinks upon them; He plans for them; He works for them; He causes all things to work together for their good.
2. Their existence in His character. Without figure, we live in the character of those we admire and love. Arnold's most loyal pupils live in his character now. We see their old master in their books, and hear him in their sermons. Christ is the grand object of their love, and the chief subject of their thought, and to please Him was the grand purpose of their life.
II. HEAVEN'S DESCRIPTION OF THE CONDITION OF THE SAINTED DEAD.
1. Their blessedness is in rest from all trying labour. Not rest from work, for work is the condition of blessedness; but from all trying labour, all anxious toil, all wearying, annoying, irritating, fruitless toll.(1) Rest from all trying labour pertaining to our physical subsistence.(2) Rest from all trying labour pertaining to intellectual culture. How much trying labour is there here to train our faculties, and to get knowledge.(3) Rest from all trying labour pertaining to our spiritual cultivation.(4) Rest from all trying labour to benefit our fellow-men. To do good here is a trying work. Not so yonder.
2. Their blessedness is in the influence of their works. No one act truly done for Christ, and in His spirit, will be lost.
3. Their blessedness begins immediately after death. "From henceforth." Not from the waking of thy soul into consciousness after the sleep of centuries; not from the extinction of purgatorial fires — but from death. "To-day shalt thou be with Me."
4. Their blessedness is vouched by the Spirit of God. He who knows the present and future; He who hears the last sigh of every saint on earth, and his first note of triumph. The Spirit saith it. Let us believe it with an unquestioning faith. The Spirit saith it: let us adore Him for His revelation.
(Homilist.)I. Our first question, then, is — "How is this heavenly blessedness ATTESTED?" We all profess to believe in heaven. How do we know that there is such a place and such a state? If we cannot give a good answer, the Apostle John could. "Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord!" "Mere enthusiasm!" you say, "the wish was father to the thought. He only dreamt in that lonely isle, and turned the vision into a reality!" A strange delusion surely that could give visions, so coherent, so far-reaching, so sublime! Could he have written all this, even had he wished it, without inspiration from God? And consider what had gone before in the history of the apostle. He had lived amidst wonders, which he could not but believe, and of which he had been a great part himself. He had kept company with One who professed to come down from heaven, and who had opened His mouth to describe it. Had we lived all that this Galilean fisherman lived through, should we have doubted? But this testimony, thus of an outward kind, has next an inward voucher to its own authenticity. It bears the stamp of the heaven, whence it professes to come. It is, you say, only a dream. Did ever mortal man, outside of the Word of God, dream thus of the heavenly blessedness? Here is not the Greek or Roman heaven, such as we have in its brightest form in the sixth book of the AEneid of Virgil; for this is a heaven of eating and drinking, of running and wrestling, of expatiating in green fields, and basking in the sunshine. This is not the old Scandinavian or Teutonic heaven of eternal battles and immortal drunkenness. Here is not the Mohammedan heaven of feasting and sensual pleasure. Now, we see what kind of a heaven is congenial to men's natural fancy, and how different the heaven of the Bible would have been, had it been the creation of man. Here is a heaven of holiness and purity; of likeness to God, and fellowship with Christ, of eternal contemplation, worship, and praise! Did this dream, then, come out of the human mind and heart? Nor is this all the evidence that we have for the existence of heaven. The Spirit says, "Yea!" in a manner, if possible, more emphatic. It is not only in books that we read of heaven, even in that Book, which is above all. There is a testimony in living Epistles, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. This is our third evidence of there being a heavenly world, what may be called the evidence from Christian character. Had you been in company with the Apostle John, you would have said, Here is heaven begun! Suppose that this man still somewhere survive, and that there are others of the like character, who equally outlast the stroke of death, and meet in the same region, where they can reveal their character to each other, would there not be already many of the elements of heaven? And to crown all, let us suppose that it is the region whither Christ in soul and body is gone; and what would be wanting to make heaven essentially complete? As coals when thrown together and kindled make a fire, so must saints after death, in all the warmth of their love, when together with each other and with their Lord, awake the blessedness of heaven. We see the prophecy of this, in the renewed character and happy intercourse of Christians in the Church below. Let these then be reasons to us for the existence of this "land of pure delight"; and whoever may neglect it, whoever may discredit it, let us not be disobedient to the heavenly vision, but labour to enter into this rest!
II. This leads now to our second topic, raised by the second question — "HOW IS THIS HEAVENLY BLESSEDNESS GAINED?" It clearly lays down two things as needful to the inheritance of the skies. The one is faith; and the other is holy obedience.
1. Faith, then, is needful to give a title to the heavenly blessedness: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." Faith is necessary to secure union to the Lord. Men simply as men are not savingly united to the Lord; and therefore cannot die blessed in Him. This is a connection that needs to be acquired; and to those to whom the gospel comes, it is acquired by faith in Christ (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; Romans 8:1; John 8:24; John 14:5; 1 Corinthians 1:80).
2. The second point as to the means by which the heavenly blessedness is gained is the necessity of holy obedience. Beautifully has it been said, that the good works of Christians do not go before them to open heaven, but they must follow after, to make it a place of blessedness; for the spirit of heaven is the spirit that brings forth good works below; and thus "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
III. We now come to our third question — HOW IS THIS HEAVENLY BLESSEDNESS TO BE ENJOYED? The answer is, "They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them."
1. There is, first, the rest of the worker. It is not sloth, torpor, or inactivity. God forbid. That would be no heaven to an Elijah, a Paul, a Luther, a Wesley, and many more. But it is rest; rest the most pure, refreshing, and exalted. Who that knows anything of Christian labour in its highest forms — the labour of the Christian parent, who travails as in birth till Christ be formed in the hearts of all His children; the labour of the teacher, who regards the welfare of the soul as inseparable from the growth of the mind, but will appreciate this delightful and soul-soothing prospect of rest! No more out amidst the billows, toiling in rowing for that the wind is contrary, but at last in smooth water, and with the ripple breaking on the shore! No more down in the mine, with the hard and painful routine of grimy toil amidst darkness, and fire-damp, and rocky hindrances at every turn, but aloft in the pure air, the soiled raiment laid aside for the Sabbath dress, and the song and melody of the sanctuary filling each weary sense! The rest spoken of in this text is a "Sabbatism"; the keeping of an endless Sabbath, with its holy calm for ever unbroken, as fresh as when, in its virgin beauty, it first dawned upon the emancipated spirit, recalling Eden with its dews and flowers, but without trail of the serpent upon them, since for the redeemed all the sanctities of that higher paradise are over-arched and guarded by the "rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald,"
2. But the second element of blessedness, and one which in the case of the Christian worker, is more positive, is the continued influence of the work. "Their works do follow them." It is delightful to think of the perpetuity of all goodness. It is not too much to say that a truly good action, an action done from true love to it, and from a regard to the will and glory of God in it, lasts for ever. You are tempted to give an angry look. The memory of Christ restrains you; and you give a kind and loving one; and that glance — though sent forth in a moment of time, will be fixed as in a picture to all eternity. Nor are these influences for good that we have all received only to be traced back to persons of position and prominence in the true Church of God. The humblest have wrought with them. The history of the Church in regard to the influence of its members can only be written in the world of immortality; and what secrets of domestic, of congregational, and even of world-wide Christian import shall then be unveiled, where there is no fear of jealousy or misunderstanding being aroused, or of sensitive delicacy being offended. Much of the blessedness of heaven will arise from these disclosures, and from the endless bonds which they shall seal! In the light of these undying soul-relationships the labour of the way shall be forgotten. Such is the perpetuity of moral influence, and of its final disclosure, for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, nor hid that shall not be known! And with all the other following of the good works of the righteous, let us not forget its influence upon themselves; for what are we but what our works make us? What on earth or what in heaven? We live in the atmosphere of our own actions, and if we have lived to God and to Christ, the work tells upon ourselves, more than upon all besides; and the spirit that prompted it is in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life! If these things be so, let us not mourn the dead that "die in the Lord." Shall we mourn rest, freedom, blessedness? How can any of us be satisfied till we seek and obtain, through union to Christ, the comfortable hope that we are in the Lord, and that through His grace, our works, with all their failures and shortcomings, are so wrought in Him as to leave a memorial of the right kind behind!
(John Cairns, D. D.)I. CONSIDER WHAT WE MAY UNDERSTAND BY DYING IN THE LORD.
1. Dying in the righteousness of Christ. By dying in His righteousness, understand dying interested in that atonement, which our Lord Jesus Christ has made for all such as believe upon Him.
2. Dying in the image of Christ. We are also to bear a resemblance to Him, and to be conformed to Him as our holy example.
3. Dying in union with Christ.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF SUCH AS DIE IN THE LORD.
1. They are blessed in a freedom from troubles and sorrows.
2. They are blessed in their enjoyment of positive glory and happiness.
(T. Gibbons, D. D.)I. DEATH IS A CURSE. My text, no doubt, says, "Blessed are the dead," still death is a curse. The lower creatures die, but with how little pain I in what happy ignorance! Death springs on them with a tiger's leap. The coming event casts no shadow before. I have seen a lamb go gambolling on its way to the slaughter-house cropping the wayside flowers. The bravest men are afraid of death; and true bravery lies not in insensibility to its terrors, but in facing what we fear. It is an easy thing for a soldier, amid the whirl and excitement of a battle-field, to dash on the serried bayonets; but show me the man, unless a true, lofty, strong-minded Christian, who will, calmly and undauntedly, meet his dying hour. Ah! this fate, from which nature shrinks with instinctive horror, tries the courage of the bravest, and the piety of the best of men. Separate and apart from the consolations of Christian faith, death is a tremendous evil. Nature shrinks from it, shuddering. I do not like to think of being a cold, pale, inanimate form of clay, unconscious of the love and grief of all around me; screwed down into a narrow coffin. Nor is that all; the grave is the land of oblivion; and who does not shrink from the thought of being forgotten? Besides these sad imaginings, the sufferings that usually attend the close of life and gather like heavy clouds around its setting sun, make death a curse.
II. DEATH IS A BLESSING. How true these words — "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord!" A union that, more intimate than marriage which unfaithfulness in either party dissolves; a union that, more intimate than the connection between body and soul which a slight accident may endanger, which an ounce of lead, an inch of steel, a drop of poison, a wrong step, the hand of a child may dissolve; a union that, more intimate than binds together those sections of the Church which, though differing, co-operate. The union which is formed between Christ and His people being one of incorporation, and not one merely of co-operation, what the one is, the other is; and where the one is, the other is; and as the one feels, the other feels; and as our bodies and their limbs have blood in common, or the branches and trunk of a tree have sap in common, so Jesus and His people have all things in common. To be in Christ, therefore, to be in the Lord, implies that we shall infallibly enjoy all the blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, which He shed His blood to purchase; these being secured to us by the great oath of God, and the bonds of a covenant which is well ordered in all things and sure. With Christ we shall be crowned, and throned in glory. Well then may the apostle say, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord"! They must be blessed. How can it be otherwise? "Die!" No doubt they must die; but death has lost its sting; and it does not matter when, or how, or where they die. Think of it, therefore, not as death, but as glory — going to heaven, and to your Father. It is life through Christ, and life in Christ; life most blissful, and life evermore.
III. DEATH IS A BLESSING AS INTRODUCING US INTO A STATE OF REST.
1. At death the believer rests from the toils of life.
2. At death the believer rests from the cares of life. Next to sin, these form life's heaviest burden. There will be nothing in the household above to withdraw Martha from sitting with her sister at Jesus' feet — there Jacob mourns no Joseph, and David weeps no Absalom; the pious widow dreads no empty barrel; Lazarus fears no rich man's frown, nor courts his favour.
3. At death the believer rests from the griefs of life.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)I. THE DEAD THAT DIE IN THE LORD.
II. WHEREIN ARE THEY BLESSED WHO DIE IN THE LORD?
1. Death is birth to the believer, and birth is ever blessed.
2. Born out of a life which is a long pain to a life which is a long bliss.
3. They pass out of relations and fellowships which are ever changing, to those which abide and enlarge their ministries through eternity.
4. Blessed are they, for they are for ever beyond the reach of all that may imperil the prize.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)I. THE IMPRESSIVE MODE OF COMMUNICATION.
1. Heaven never speaks on trifling occasions, or upon matters of indifference. Its utterances are always solemn and weighty. They apprise of danger; they caution us against sin; they counsel us in difficulty; they point us to duty; they cheer us in sorrow; they embolden us in the conflict. Yet, of all its revelations, none can be of such transcendent moment as those which respect the eternal state of the dead.
2. Heaven never speaks but in words of truth and soberness. No possibility of error, no thought of deception. Truth reigns in heaven.
3. Heaven never speaks but with authority. Whether God speaks in His own person, or through the medium of an angelic ministry, it is plainly the duty of man to listen with reverential and obedient attention.
4. These several suggestions receive additional force from the command given to the prophet, saying, "Write"; which further implies the abiding and unchangeable operation of this truth to the end of time. It is as if the voice had said, Write, that it be not forgotten. Write, that generations yet to come, and nations yet unborn, may read, and derive therefrom incentives to faith and holiness — lessons of triumph over mortality and death.
II. THE GREAT SUBJECT OF PROCLAMATION. "Blessed are the dead." How widely opposed is the verdict of man! Blessed rather are the living, around whom life throws its treasures of enjoyment and hopes — "yea, a living dog is better then a dead lion." Death, to the eye of natural sense, is ever shrouded with gloom and sorrow. The gospel of life and immortality creates a difference; and, in the eyes of all who believe and obey the truth, arrays even this, the gloomiest dispensation of Divine providence, in colours of light and loveliness. A vital union with Him, the well-spring of life and happiness, secures them the uninterrupted flow of blessing through every changeful vicissitude of mortality. Death itself may not turn the stream, or prohibit its flow. The very sepulchre feels its fertilising influence, and they pluck flowers of hope and immortality from the margin of the grave.
III. THE DIVINE CONFIRMATION. "Yea, saith the Spirit." Why this solemn and impressive asseveration? Does the voice from heaven require a voucher, that the Spirit of truth Himself should appear as witness? Is there need of further testimony? Assuredly not. Yet, in a matter of such passing interest, that our faith may be stedfast and settled, God condescends to supply it. The Spirit witnesses with the voice of blood, and every doubt must vanish. This testimony is given in His Holy Word, which everywhere corroborates the doctrine of the text. This testimony is further given in the believer's heart. There, with still small voice, that Holy One doth sweetly and delightfully repeat the echoes of His written word; for "he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself," attesting and confirming whatsoever hath been written aforetime for our comfort and edification. Divine arguments are added for the fuller confirmation of our faith. The Spirit's voice is not a delusion, but an appeal to the understanding and judgment. "They rest from their labours." As the toilworn labourer retires from the busy and fatiguing occupations of the day, to seek his evening's repose, so the Christian believer relinquishes life for the rest of paradise. More than this. "Their works do follow them." When the rich man dieth, he shall carry nothing away, but leave his wealth to others. The great must relinquish their honours and distinctions; the wise and ingenious, the fruit of their labours. Nothing of all their pride and possessions may be transported beyond the grave; for their glory shall not descend after them. But these reap the reward of their own doings. No heir steps in to supersede the original owner, and enjoy his possession. As a glorious retinue, their works of piety and mercy grace their progress to the skies, and accompany them even to the very throne; yet not to plead their merits, but justify their faith; not to claim acquittal from the accusations of the law, but an interest in the promises of the gospel. They demonstrate a life of faith in the Son of God, and must therefore secure His approbation, as their author, their end.
(John Lyth.)I. WHAT IT IS TO DIE IN THE LORD, AND WHO MAY BE SAID TO DO SO.
1. What is supposed to be necessary to it, as to their state, whilst they live. And here it is plain, they that die in the Lord must first live in Him. That is, as to the principle of their life, they must be quickened and made alive by Him: As to the work of their life, they must walk after Him: As to the scope of their life, they must live to Him.
2. That this includes, as to their temper, when they come to die. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord"; that is, that die —(1) In submission to His will; He having the fullest right to dispose of them as He pleases.(2) In a dependence upon Him, for life and immortality after death, as what He hath purchased and promised, and will assuredly bring His people to.(3) Dying in the Lord includes a sincere desire to be with Him, as far better than to be here.
II. THAT HENCEFORTH BELIEVERS ARE BLESSED INDEED.
III. CONSIDER THEIR BLESSEDNESS.
IV. FOR WHAT REASON IT IS SO SOLEMNLY PROCLAIMED BY A VOICE FROM HEAVEN, AND ORDERED TO BE RECORDED, THAT THE DEAD ARE BLESSED THAT DIE IN THE LORD.
1. To let it be known in this world how it fares with the friends of Jesus in another.
2. To assure believers that death is no bar to their happiness, but the sure, though awful way to it.
3. To leave it on record to the end of time, and assure those that live in every age, that here is not their rest.
(D. Wilcox.)I. The introduction. "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write."
1. We here see the truth of the subsequent announcement. The doctrine to be taught is not of human origin. It is neither a dictate of man's imagination, nor an effusion of rash enthusiasm, nor a deduction of erring reason; but it comes direct from the region of unclouded light, the fountain of unerring truth.
2. We see also the importance of the doctrine announced.(1) This is evinced in its origin. If heaven speaks, it is not to proclaim a useless or insignificant truth, nor to unveil some trifling or uninteresting mystery. This would reflect on the Divine wisdom.(2) This is further seen in the command given. "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me" — What? — Remember? — or Preach? — No, but "Write." — The truths thou art about to hear are of infinite moment, and deeply interest every child of man.
II. BUT WHAT IS IT that is promulgated by this high authority, and is revealed with attendant circumstances which so clearly attest its great importance? "Blessed are the dead," etc.
1. The subjects of this blessedness are the dead; yet not the dead indiscriminately, but "the dead that die in the Lord." Such is the ambiguity of the phrase "in the Lord," as to render its precise meaning in this passage somewhat uncertain. At times its obvious import is, "in the cause, or on account, of the Lord." And looking at the entire connexion in which the passage stands, such an interpretation appears by no means inappropriate. Every Christian, truly so called, is "in the Lord." Hence the striking language of the Redeemer Himself: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: abide in Me and I in you." This all-important union is affected, on the part of the Christian, by faith, and is consummated, on the part of Christ, by the bestowal of His indwelling Spirit. Two important parts of their blessedness are here brought before us: — They rest from their labours — and their works follow them. Does the wearied traveller rejoice on seeing his loved but long absent home, where he hopes to end his wanderings. Does the mariner, long tossed by the fierce storm, and endangered by the rolling waves, and drifted sands, and sunken or frowning rocks, rejoice on his entrance into the harbour, in which fear is exchanged for security, and turmoil for peace? Yes, they rest from their labours, and account themselves blessed.
III. Who does not feel that such an announcement would be incredible were it not so ATTESTED AS TO PLACE IT BEYOND THE REACH OF REASONABLE DOUBT? And, thanks to the condescension and abounding grace of God, such an attestation we have. "Yea, saith the Spirit." The doctrine of immortality, with its glorious and awful results, is one of those primeval truths that constitute the religious belief of the first generations of men. It underlay both the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations. But it was reserved for Him who came as the "light of the world" to present this doctrine in the fulness of its glory. But while in the economy of redemption it is the glory of the Son to ransom and save, it is the prerogative and glory of the Spirit to reveal and attest truth, and by its application to the understanding and heart, to enlighten, and sanctify, and make fit for heaven. And by that Spirit the great doctrine announced in our text is attested. "Yea, saith the Spirit." "True — certainly, infallibly true — I, the Spirit of Truth, whose prerogative it is to search all things, even the deep things of God, and to reveal them to man — I corroborate the testimony that the dead which die in the Lord are, and shall be, thus blessed. Though one of the things which no mortal eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the most fruitful imagination conceived, yet do I thus solemnly avow, that in all the brightness of the glories it unfolds, and in all the richness of the blessings it promises, it is true. On it, as an immovable rock, you may rest. And in its assured prospects you may trample on the world and sin — mortify self — multiply works of faith and labours of love — and defy the powers of persecution, how fierce soever the forms it may assume, or agonising the tortures and deaths it may inflict. Labours, sacrifices, and tortures are momentary only, but recompenses are eternal."
(Thomas Allin.)Romans 14:7, 8). Oh, the magnificence of that thought! I would to God I could rise to it, and help you to rise to it. While you live you are in this sphere: in Christ Jesus. Each may enter into that sphere. When you die, when you fall asleep as to your body, you are at home with the Lord. Now the apostle says that the man who lives unto the Lord dies unto the Lord. The Lord has not surrendered His control of him when death comes upon him. Neither has he lost his identity and unity with Jesus when he falls asleep. So we have both active and actual redemption in the Lord. But look at the concluding part of this great text. "Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." I need not say much about the first part of this clause, "They rest from their labours." There is absolute rest for every believer who is at home with the Lord from everything that mars our service in this world. But I must fasten your thought for a moment on the lines of this great expression "and their works do follow them." This is another difficult phrase. There are three principal applications. One is that the works done in Christ Jesus are a saint's memorial and monument in this world. The second suggestion is that the works which he has done here follow him into eternity as his witness before the throne of God unto his fidelity, and are the means of increasing his reward. And there is a third which I venture to suggest, and which will, I believe, commend itself to us. The Greek word translated follow, really means and enter, it is the following of the disciple that treads in the heels of his Master just before him; it is following and companionship and fellowship. And there is another thing which suggests and confirms this interpretation — namely, the difference in the terms of the original, which appears in the English translation. They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. What is the difference between labour and work? Labour in the original is a Latin word, and in the English word it suggests — as it does in the original Greek word — the idea of hindrance. All difficulty, all weariness, the burden-bearing which suggests the idea that the man is doing, toiling, and taxing his strength; that which fatigues him, so that he comes from his work worried and worn out; it suggests the idea that his strength is unequal to the task, and that he feels himself circumscribed with limitations. But the Master's work simply means activity, doing, performing. Now see how blessed the thought that the Holy Spirit suggests to us. The saint of God, falling asleep as to his body, enters into the presence of his Lord, as to his spirit. For evermore the labour, toil, vexations, of this world is left behind him, but he carries with him his service into immortality — he goes to carry on his work for God. Thus his immortality has come at last. He goes where there are no limitations, where there are no vexations or hindrances to circumscribe his activity — where they rest, not because they are never tired or fatigued — where they wait on the Lord, but renew their strength, mount on wings, walk and never faint — but enjoy the tireless and the unending activity of redeemed souls, partakers of the tireless energy of the untiring God.
(A. T. Pierson, D. D.)
I. Take the principle, then, as it affects THE PRODUCTION OF DIVINE SCRIPTURE. For not only in regard to the announcement made here, but the doctrine and the narratives of Scripture throughout, it holds true that the voice said, "Write," and the Spirit of God in the penman said, "Yea." He said, "Yea," as the Spirit of inspiration. And apart from the testimony of the Bible to itself, there is a proof of its origin in its own inner character. Take, among other evidences, this one: the persistency with which the facts and the truths transcribed run counter to the natural prepossessions and prejudice of those who transcribe them.
II. Note the same fact with regard to THE ACCEPTANCE OF DIVINE TRUTH. In regard, then, to the belief of the Scripture as well as its delivery, the Spirit returns His deep inward "Yea"; He returns it as the Spirit of conviction. And this, mark, in two cases. The response arises in the case of those whom the Spirit has entered to sanctify, and it arises in the ease of those with whom He is present to persuade. Deep in their heart of hearts there is a something that throbs back to them saying, "These things are real; I must believe them accordingly."
III. Take the principle as it refers to THE PERFORMANCE OF THE DIVINE COMMANDS. For the voice that bids us write and believe bids us also do and endure, and when it does so the Spirit again answers, "Yea." He answers "Yea," as the Spirit of submission and obedience.
IV. Take the thought of the text in regard to THE ENJOYMENT OF DIVINE PRIVILEGES. For the same voice from heaven has a message as to these, and while the message of assurance and of comfort is revealed from above, the Spirit responds from within with His "Yea": He does so as the Spirit of adoption. And surely, of all the Divine intimations, the sweetest and the fullest is this: "But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name: thou art Mine." There will be often a "Nay" to assurances such as these. There is the "Nay" of Satanic impeachment. Scripture clearly prepares us to meet and to deal with that. Y. Observe the principle of the text as it bears on THE WELCOME OF DIVINE HOPES. And of these hopes take one — the hope of the Lord's Second Advent. We close by considering His response as the Spirit of longing and of love. Try, again, there are voices that are raised in dissent. "Nay," say the unholy, to whom the thought of Christ's Advent is a terror; "Nay," say the profane, to whom the prophecy is a scoff, asking, "Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." But from a multitude whom no man can number, even the Church upon earth which a Saviour has chosen, to be saved through atoning blood, preserved by sanctifying grace, and made meet for eternal glory, there rises a mighty and manifold "Yea." And well may the Spirit in the Bride's heart say "Yea," and speak of the prospect disclosed as that " blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
(W. A. Gray.)
Presbyterian.Dr. Bushnell, when well, abounded in life and action. He once preached a sermon on "The Employments of Heaven." A weary, hard-working woman was heard to say, when the service closed, "Well, if heaven is such a place for work I don't care to go there; I hoped I should rest." Dr. B. said, as his strength began to fail, the thought of rest grew more precious to him also. It only illustrates how apt we are to see everything from ourselves.
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