Then one of the elders addressed me: "These in white robes," he asked, "who are they, and where have they come from?"
I. BLESSEDNESS FOR WHICH THEY ARE PREPARED BY EARTHLY TRIBULATION. Even the rugged ways of earthly obedience lead to heaven's gates. But all toil and tribulation are o'er.
II. The final blessedness is BASED ON AN ATTAINED SANCTITY. "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
III. This blessedness INCLUDES:
1. Recognition. They are "before the throne of God."
2. Perpetual service. They serve God "day and night in his temple."
3. They enjoy the perfect protection of the Divine presence. He that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.
IV. IT SECURES THEM EXEMPTION FROM THE SORROWS OF THE EARTHLY LIFE. "They hunger no more, neither thirst any more," nor shall the sun or any heat strike upon them.
V. THE FINAL BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS HAS ITS FRUITION IN A GRACIOUS ALLIANCE WITH THE ETERNAL The Lamb "shall be their Shepherd," and shall guide them to the perpetual fountains of life and felicity; and God shall himself exempt them from all further sorrow or suffering. He "shall wipe away every tear from their eyes." Thus every trace of the tribulation of earth shall be removed; and blessedness of the highest possible character shall be the final lot of them who now endure for truth's sake. Thus in the midst of the earthly raging power is the persecuted Church of God assured, in all ages, of a final, a certain, and an ample recompense. - R.G.
What are these which are arrayed in white robes.I. Concerning the bright spirits in heaven — WHENCE CAME THEY? "These are they which came out of great tribulation."
1. They were then like ourselves, for, in the first place, they were tried like others.(1) The saints now glorified were not screened from sorrow. I saw to-day a number of lovely flowers; they were as delightful in this month of February as they would have been in the midst of summer; but I did not ask, "Whence came they?" I know very well that they were the products of the conservatory; they had not been raised amid the frosts of this chill season, else they had not bloomed as yet. But when I look upon God's flowers blooming in heaven, I understand from the voice of inspiration that they enjoyed no immunity from the chill breath of grief; they were made to bloom by the master hand of the Chief Husbandman, in all their glory, amid the adversities and catastrophes which are common to men.(2) They were not even screened from temptation. To the child of God, temptation to sin is a greater grievance than the suffering of pain. Storms on any sea are to be dreaded; but a whirlwind raised by Satan on the black sea of corruption is horrible beyond conception. Yet, do not say you cannot enter heaven because you are tempted, for all those snow-white bands attained their glorious standing through much temptation, as well as through much affliction.(3) They were men who as keenly felt trial and temptation as we do. Good men, because they are good, are not the less sorrowful when their beloved ones are taken from them: gracious men are not by grace petrified so as to despise the chastening of the Lord. Jacob mourned for Rachel, and David for Jonathan. Peter wept bitterly, and Paul had continual heaviness. Tribulations abounded and afflictions were multiplied to the first disciples, and we wrong both themselves and us if we dream that it was easier for them to suffer than for us. I grant you that they possessed a secret something which enabled them to endure, but that something was not homeborn in their nature any more than it is in ours. They were fortified by a secret strength which they found at the throne of God in prayer, a patience which the Holy Ghost wrought in them, and which He is equally ready to work in us.
2. The saints who are now in heaven needed trial like others. To what end do men need tribulation? We reply, they often require it to arouse them; and yonder saints who serve God day and night in His temple, once slept as do others, and needed to be bestirred. They required adversity to educate them into complete manhood, for they, too, were once babes in grace. They needed tribulation, moreover, that they might be made like their Saviour.
3. The children of God who are in heaven in their trials had no other support than that which is still afforded to all the saints.
4. If there was any difference between those saints and ourselves, it lay in their enduring superior tribulations, for "these are they that came out of great tribulation."
II. WHAT ARE THESE? The reply was, "They have washed their robes," etc.
1. All those in heaven were sinners, for they all needed to wash their robes.
2. All who are in heaven needed an atonement, and the same atonement as we rely upon. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Not one of them became white through his tears of repentance, not one through the shedding of the blood of bulls or of goats.
3. The saints in heaven realised the atonement in the same way as we must do. The act which gave them the virtue which lies in the atonement was the act of faith. There is nothing to do, and nothing to feel, and nothing to be, in order to forgiveness; we have but to wash and the filth is gone.
III. Now, WHAT OF ALL THIS? Why, first of all, we must not draw the conclusion that trouble and temptation are any argument that a man will get to heaven. I add a caution. I would, however, have you learn that no amount of trial which we have to suffer here, if we are believers in Jesus, should lead us to anything like despair, for however trouble may encompass us to-day, those in heaven came through as great a tribulation, and why may not we?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Dean Vaughan.)I. THE PREVIOUS CONDITION OF THE PERSONS HERE PRESENTED TO JOHN'S NOTICE. One unacquainted with God's ways, or with the history of our race, would have been, perhaps, ready to conclude that, in their journey hither, their path had been strewed with flowers and gladdened with perpetual sunshine. This we ourselves would be apt to desire. But the ways of God are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. The zeal of saints for the truth of God; their opposition to the sinful practices which abounded around them; their diligence in the cultivation of holy affections; and their zeal in the discharge of private and public duties — all standing forth in marked contrast with the maxims and customs of a world lying in wickedness — have ever exposed them to innumerable trials, to reproaches, and sufferings. In addition to the causes of tribulation which we have now specified as the peculiar lot of the Christian, I mention farther the remains of sin within him.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THEY HAVE ATTAINED THEIR PRESENT STATE.
III. THIS BLESSEDNESS OF WHICH THESE SAINTS ARE REPRESENTED AS PARTAKERS.
(James Clayson.)I. THE TEMPLE HERE SPOKEN OF. It is a heavenly temple; a holy place, standing not on this perishable world, but on the everlasting hills of heaven. All other temples have been erected by man, but this temple has been built by Jehovah Himself, to be the eternal dwelling place of His Church, and the seat of His own glorious throne. The most glowing descriptions that language can convey, and the most exalted conceptions to which our imaginations can reach, fall infinitely short of that dazzling splendour which fills the courts of the living God. The world which we inhabit, though defiled by sin and under the curse of God, has yet so much beauty and magnificence in it, that we are often delighted and astonished as we contemplate its scenes. What, then, must be the glory of that world which has never felt the polluting touch of sin, which was prepared before the foundations of the earth were laid? Happy are they who dwell in such a templet Blessed is the man who is but a doorkeeper in such a house!
II. THE HAPPY BEINGS WHO ARE THE WORSHIPPERS IN THIS SPLENDID TEMPLE.
1. The former condition of these worshippers.(1) It was an earthly condition. They were not, like the angels, always in this house. They were natives of an apostate world.(2) Their condition, too, was a sinful one. There is not one among them who was not a transgressor while on earth, and who has not to this very hour a remembrance of his guilt.(3) They were also in an afflicted condition. Many of them came here out of a state of peculiar distress and suffering.
2. Their present condition.(1) It is a state of peace, a state of freedom from pain and sorrow. The billows of adversity which once filled them with fear still swell and rage, but they are all raging far beneath them, and can never again toss them with their waves.(2) It is also a state of purity. "They have washed their robes," etc. They were indeed continually contracting fresh defilement as long as they remained on earth, and were constrained to wash again and again in the same fountain that cleansed them at first; but if this fountain had left the unpardoned guilt of only one sin upon their souls, that one sin would have disqualified them for the pure services of the habitation of God, and have barred for ever its sacred doors against them. This free and full pardon of sin is not, however, the only blessing which the heavenly worshippers have obtained through the blood of the Lamb. The same fountain that freed them from the guilt of sin, washed away sin itself, and freed them from its power. Not that they were at once brought into this state of perfect purity. Years passed away before some of them were completely sanctified, and made meet to minister among the saints in light; and they were all harassed to their dying hour, in a greater or less degree, with the struggling corruptions of their evil hearts. But sin could not follow them beyond the grave.(3) The state of these worshippers in the temple of God is one of triumph. They have "palms in their hands."
3. The greatness of their number. Satan does not number among his subjects all the inhabitants of our globe. The Redeemer has a people on the earth. Who can tell how many an humble Christian has been travelling to the land of rest, while almost all around him, and even the honoured instrument that first turned his soul to God, have been ignorant of his faith?Lesson:
1. The gospel of Christ does not promise to its followers any exemption from the calamities of life.
2. How great is the contrast between the present and the future condition of the followers of Jesus!
3. A loud call to self-examination.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)I. THE WHITE ROBES OF INNOCENCE. The devil stains our souls. The world, too, stains them. Alas! we stain them by our own folly and fault.
II. THE WHITE ROBES OF PROMISE. These are the baptismal robes.
III. THE WHITE ROBES OF CLEANSING. God gives us not one start alone in life; He gives us many. We make our promises, and we break them. But God never bids us give up hope. Try to do better. Lift up your hearts.
IV. THE WHITE ROBES OF VICTORY. It will not always be striving here. It will not always be staining our robes and cleansing them anew, and then, alas! staining them once more. If we persevere, we shall win. It is not failing to succeed which is so bad, but failing to try. And all who try, however feeble they may be, however often they may give in to the forces against them, shall at the last "stand...clothed with white robes," etc.
(J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)I. THEIR EARTHLY LIFE WAS MARKED BY GREAT TRIAL.
1. This should teach us contentment under our trials.
2. This should inspire us with magnanimity under our trials.
II. THEIR CELESTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES ARE PRE-EMINENTLY GLORIOUS.
1. Their appearance.
2. Their employment.
3. Their companionship.
4. Their blessedness.
III. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY CONDITION IS ATTRIBUTABLE TO CHRIST.
1. They were originally polluted.
2. The self-sacrifice of Christ has a purifying influence.
3. Their cleansing by this influence had taken place when on earth.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. THE BEINGS TO WHOM ATTENTION IS DIRECTED. They were not the unfallen, in other words, the natives of that better country: they were redeemed human spirits. They were born of human parentage, and nursed upon a human breast. Their first expression on coming into existence was a wail, and their last, perhaps, a groan. And between those periods they had known their share of human suffering. If they had suffered, they had also sinned. No lingerers on the margin of wrong, no prodigals of a day, they had wandered into a far country, and theirs had been the alienation of years. And, if they had sinned, they had repented under the influence of the Holy Ghost; their hearts had turned in longing towards their Father's house. Nor had their experience ended here. Young Christians, in the first joy of forgiveness, are apt to think heaven very near to them — that the celestial shores will soon loom upon their view. In passing through a Christian career, there are trials to be endured, Men were they "of whom the world was not worthy." Into their labours we have entered. The harvests of their life we reap. "They came out of great tribulation." Again, they went to heaven by the way of death.
II. THEIR POSITION AND GLORIOUS APPEARANCE.
1. They are before the throne of God. The meaning of the throne of God we know not. Heaven is said to be His throne, and earth His footstool. The presence of His infinite nature is diffused throughout all things; but, purged from the grossness of earth, the glorified have a more vivid sense of His presence than is given us. Then notice their glorious appearance: "Clothed in white robes"(1) As being typical of their parity. No evil is there lurking within the blessed, and they shrink not beneath the Divine scrutiny.(2) White robes are significant of triumph.(3) White robes are significant of rest. The man who has laboured throws aside the garments worn in toil, and puts on others in which to repose. In this world, the condition of the Christian is not that of rest but of labour.
III. THE EMPLOYMENT OF THE REDEEMED. A very natural thought is that contained in the line of the American poet, when, speaking of a departed friend, he says: "Day after day we think what she is doing." The rest of heaven is not that of death, but of infinite life. The repose of the redeemed does not consist in cessation from employ, but rather in the constant prosecution of congenial labour. Multiform will be the character of life in heaven.
1. There will be social life. There the golden chain of love will link all souls together, binding them to the throne of God. There a feeling of common love will flow through every heart. All will be at home.
2. There will be an intellectual life. The glory of man is his mind. To cultivate this stands among the highest duties of the present life. The present is the infancy of our being, but there is before us a majestic maturity.
3. The employment of heaven will be religious. In this, more than even his intellectual nature, man is capable of unlimited improvement. Even in this life no bounds can be set to faith, and hope, and love, so will it be in the future. Oh, it overwhelms us to think of the position of unfallen spirits, our brain grows dizzy from the height, our eyes dazzle in the excess of glory. Yet is there no altitude where created being now stands, but what man may attain to in the upward career of his moral progress, and for ever; and for ever will he continue to advance through the infinitudes of his nature's possibilities.
(S. Clarke.)I. THE CONDITION OUT OF WHICH THE REDEEMED HAVE COME.
1. They came out of a state of tribulation. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward."(1) Disease, perhaps, sows its poisonous seeds in his frame.(2) Death bereaves him of those who were the desire of his eyes.(3) Adverse providences involve him in disappointment and indigence; the malice of men, in vexation and disgrace; and his own errors and imprudence in inextricable difficulties.(4) Existence itself may become a burden through a complication of calamities.(5) It is generally thought, however, that there is here an allusion to those sorrows which are peculiar to Christians. Like Stephen, they winged their way from martyrdom to the presence of God.
2. They came out of a state of impurity. The earth on which they dwelt is one wide scene of disobedience and rebellion against the Majesty of the universe. The taint of moral pollution adheres to all its intelligent inhabitants, and introduces disorder into its very frame.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE REDEEMED HAVE BEEN ADVANCED TO GLORY.
1. By washing their robes, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, they acquired a title to be before the throne.
2. By washing their robes, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, they acquired a meetness to be before the throne. They are freed from their inability to love and enjoy God; they are blessed with an incipient and growing meetness for heaven.
III. THE NATURE OF THE FELICITY TO WHICH THEY ARE EXALTED.
1. They are raised to an exalted station. Those before the throne of God witness His glory in its brightest manifestations, and enjoy the most intimate communion with the Father of their spirits. The near sight which they obtain of God gives them more distinct apprehensions of His nature — produces more complete assimilation to His image, and fills with livelier joy. The servants who stood in the presence of Solomon must have caught something of the wisdom of their master; and those who are before the throne of God, cannot fail to advance in everything heavenly and divine.
2. They are engaged in the most exalted employments.
3. They are freed from all the infirmities, imperfections, and sufferings of the present life.
4. They make continual advances in the knowledge and enjoyment of God.
(J. Kirkwood, M. A.)
1. The lesson of faith. Especially is this a festival which tells of faith, inasmuch as, above all others, it bridges over the gulf which separates this world from the world beyond the grave. This life is to the future state what the bud is to the flower, the blade in the ear to the full corn. This is a truth of especial importance to us to-day, when we commemorate the faithful dead, whose warfare is accomplished. For it teaches us that there is a real fellowship between them and us; that their relation to us is not done away by death; that their souls are not sleeping idly; that they are living more truly, and in a nobler sense, than we ourselves. In this world, men of noble birth desire — and a right feeling it surely is — to keep the brightness of their name untarnished, not to disgrace the title which their fathers bore. "My ancestors," such an one will say, "were brave and pure; they helped to vindicate liberty; I will try to be not less brave, not less upright, not less generous and true, than they." Canst thou remember this, O Christian, and forget of what spiritual lineage thou art come? so noble, so pure, so ancient, that by its side the noblest title of this world is but of yesterday? that thou art of the communion of God's saints, and they thy fathers and ancestors in the faith? Canst thou remain cowardly, remembering that they were brave?
2. But again, the doctrine of this festival is a witness for Christian endurance. It is difficult not to feel sad when we think what multitudes of our fellow-creatures are living sordid burdened lives, whose earthly course seems little else than a constant round of suffering and care. Yet let us observe, that wherever a ray of light shines in on this mystery of suffering, it is from the blessed thought of a life unseen. Or, take the case of one, whose life is often burdened by a consciousness of sin — who finds himself compassed with infirmity; who is often wearied of this constant struggle against besetting sins, "Oh, blessed day," such an one may well say, "when this strife shall cease; when God in His pardoning mercy shall make me to become that which I long and pray to be."
3. But again, this blessed festival, inasmuch as it thus throws rays of brightness on the sorrows of earth, teaches us a lesson of final perseverance and spiritual joy. We need to remember that in the dreariest November, the gloomiest days of the decaying year, there still stands out a festival of summer gladness, telling of that meeting beyond the grave, where no parting shall ever mar the unity of perfect love; that gathering on the eternal shore, as when the apostles beheld on the shore of the Lake of Galilee the presence of their risen Lord.
(J. S. Bartlett, M. A.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
These are they which came out of great tribulation
1. Earthly suffering seems to come either as a vengeance or as a calamity upon men. It is still a surprise until we have been long wonted to it. But the heavenly side, as disclosed in the apocalyptic vision, shows that suffering ordinarily comes neither as a vengeance nor as a calamity; for, although we may understand that God sometimes employs suffering for purposes of punishment, yet such an employment of it is special. Suffering is intercalated upon the course of nature, and is part of a universal experience. Storms may be most destroying, overflowing the land, tearing up foundations, sweeping away bridges, and submerging harvests; but this result of storms is exceptional. The fall of rain and the sweep of winds are part of the economy of mercy. It is not for destruction, but for benefit. And so sufferings may, at times, in the hands of God, be punitive, but ordinarily they are not. Suffering is intended to make us let go of things that are lower, and to rise a grade higher. Here it seems as if God were angry; but in heaven it is seen that He was dealing in mercy. Here it seems as if great disaster had overwhelmed us; but there the breaking of the cloud over us appears as the waters of a bath from which we shall emerge purer, cleaner, and more manly.
2. Suffering seems to some contrary to the course of nature; an interruption and violation of natural order; but the revelation of the effects of suffering upon the future state shows that it is in accordance with the course of nature. It would seem rational to suppose that God built the enginery of the human mind for happiness; that the way of growth ought not to be through bafflings; that men should not find their stability by overthrow, and their liberty by restraint. At first view everything apparently tends towards freedom and full development. Men fail to see, however, that while there is one tendency toward liberty, there is another toward restraint. If anything can be shown by the indications and facts of nature, it is that man never grows to a man's full estate without the ministration of suffering; and that suffering is a part of nature, or it could not be universal.
3. The contrast between the earthly appearance of suffering as something that weakens and beats us down, and the glorious light of the heavenly side is very striking; for while on earth suffering seems, in all its immediate tendencies, to take away from man, it is, in point of fact, adding to him. It seems to beat him down; but when we look forward to the full disclosure, we find that it is building him up. While the storm pelts, men shrink. While the thunder sounds, they slink down. While the tempest rages, it is as if they were ruined. But when the violence abates a little, they begin to lift up their head, and to perceive that it was not all dark, that it was not all thunder, that it was not all beating, that there was an element of good in it; and gradually they learn the sweet bounty and benefit that God meant to bestow upon them by afflictions.
4. The seeming cruelty of much of suffering, and the unnaturalness of it, are contrasted with great relief with this vision of the final state of those who have suffered in this world. The fatherliness and benevolence of suffering does not appear in its mere earthly relations. In heaven it is clearly pictured. There we see what it has wrought out. Human nature is very much like some elements of vegetation. In tapioca, one of the most harmless of all articles of food, there is one of the most deadly of all poisons. But the poison is of such a volatile nature, that when it is subjected to heat it escapes, and leaves only the nutriment of the starch. I think that the heart of man originally is full of poison, but that, when it is tried by affliction, little by little the poison, the rancour, the virus exhales, and leaves all the rest wholesome indeed.
5. Earthly suffering seems to weaken, to discourage them, and to destroy them; but the fact is, that it does not really destroy or weaken them. That part in us which suffering weakens is usually that very part which ought to be weakened. The great trouble in turning flax into thread or cloth is caused by that which gives the green plant its very power; for when the flax is growing, it needs two things — one is its ligneous or woody structure, and the other is its gluten. But when it has grown enough, and man wants it to make garments, to furnish the queen in the palace and the peasant in the cottage, he must get rid of these two things. And how is the flax separated from them? It is plucked and thrown into the field, that, under the influence of repeated rains and dews, the wood may rot; then the flax is taken and put through the brakes, until every particle of the stiffness and strength that it had is destroyed, and all but the stringy fibres can be shaken to the winds; then it is subjected to certain chemical processes by which the gluten is taken away; and not till then is it in a proper condition to be carried to the spinning-wheel and the loom, and manufactured into materials for use. So it is with men. There are a great many qualities which they need up to a certain point, but which beyond that are a disadvantage to them. We need a given amount of self-will and independence; but after these qualities have been carried to a certain point, the necessity for them measurably ceases, and there must be superinduced on them opposite qualities. For man is made up of contraries. He is to be as firm as iron, and as yielding as silk; he is to be persevering, and yet most ready to give up; he is to be as steadfast as a mountain, and yet easy to be entreated; he is to abhor evil, and yet to love with an ineffable love; he is to be courageous, and yet to have that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Certain qualities, when they have served their purpose, must give place to opposite qualities. Afflictions, under the supervision of Divine Providence, are working out in those that are exercised thereby beneficent results; so that suffering, while it seems frequently to be wasting and destroying men, is only wasting and destroying that part of them which they are better without than with.
6. Suffering on earth seems to set men apart from their fellows. Sometimes it puts them into obscurity. It is an experience full of solitude, voluntary and yet inevitable. Every heart knows its own bitterness. There is a delicacy in grief often. And though sometimes it is clamorous and vocal, oftener it is silent. But there is a process quietly going on, though it may not be apparent, by which those who seem to be separated in the present shall in the future be gathered together by sorrow. Those that weep apart on earth shall joy together in heaven. Those who in their sorrows are cast out from the sympathies of their fellow-men shall be gathered into the fellowship and sympathy of the heavenly host. This separation and disintegration are only apparent. Really, it is a preparation for fellowship in the world to come.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(A. P. Peabody.)I. WHAT DID THESE WHITE ROBES MEAN?
1. The white robes show the immaculate purity of their character. White signifies perfection; it is not so much a colour as the harmonious union and blending of all the hues, colours, and beauties of light. In the characters of just men made perfect we have the combination of all virtues, the balancing of all excellences, a display of all the beauties of grace. Are they not like their Lord, and is He not all beauties in one?
2. By "white robes we also understand the fitness of their souls for the service to which they are appointed; they were chosen before all worlds to be kings and priests unto God, but a priest might not stand before the Lord to minister until he had put on his appointed linen garments; and therefore the souls which have been taken up to heaven are represented in white robes to show that they are completely fitted for that Divine service to which they were ordained of old, to which the Spirit of God called them while they were here, and in which Jesus Christ leads the way, being a Priest for ever at their head.
3. "White robes" also signify victory. I should think that in almost every nation white has indicated the joy of triumph. True, the Romans adopted purple as their imperial colour, and well they might, for their victories and their rule were alike bloody and cruel; but the Christ of God sets forth His gentle and holy victories by white: it is on a "white cloud" that He shall come to judge the world, and His seat of judgment shall be "the great white throne."
4. White is also the colour of rest. Well may the redeemed be thus arrayed, for they have finally put off the garments of toil and the armour of battle, and they rest from their labours in the rest of God.
5. Chiefly, white is the colour of joy. Almost all nations have adopted it as most suitable for bridal array, and so therefore these happy spirits have put on their bridal robes, and are ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
II. HOW DID THEY COME BY THOSE WHITE GARMENTS?
1. Those characters were not so pure, or, in other words, those garments were not so white by nature. They are washed, you see, and therefore they must once have been stained. Original sin has stained the character of all the sons of Adam. Do not think of one saint who has gone to his reward above as being in any way different in nature from yourselves; they were all men of like passions with us, men who had within them the same tendencies to sin. But it might be suggested that perhaps they came to their rest by a cleaner way than that which now lies before us. Possibly there was something about their surroundings which helped them to keep their garments white. No, it was not so; they passed along the road of tribulation, and that tribulation was not of a less trying kind than ours. Their road was just as miry as ours, and perhaps even more so. How this ought to assist us to feel that albeit our pathway is one in which we meet with innumerable temptations, yet inasmuch as all the glorified have come up white and clean from it, by virtue of the atoning blood, even so shall we.
2. Their garments came to be white through a miracle of grace, because they came through the great tribulation, where everything tended to defile them. I do not think that the text refers to some one great persecution, but to the great conflict of the ages in which the seed of the serpent perpetually molests and oppresses the seed of the woman. The enmity takes all sorts of shapes, but from the beginning even until now it is in the world. Now the white robed ones had come out of that continuous and general conflict uninjured: like the three holy children who came out of the furnace with not so much as the smell of fire upon them. Some of them had been slandered: men of the world had thrown handfuls of the foulest mud upon them, but they washed their robes and made them white. Others of them had come out of remarkable temptations from men and devils; they were tried by the most defiling of temptations, but they overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and were delivered from every polluting trace of the temptation by the efficacy of the atoning sacrifice. It was by the operation of the blood of Christ, and by nothing else, that the glorified saints were made clean.
3. Some of the trials of the saints are evidently intended, by those who are the instruments of them, to make them sin. Tribulation has a tendency to create, even in good men, new sins: sins into which they have never fallen before. "Brother," thou sayest, "I shall never repine against God." How knowest thou that? Thou sayest, "I have never done so unto this hour." Art thou not in health and strength? Why, then, shouldst thou murmur? But suppose the Lord were to strip thee of all these things, O man, I fear me thou mightest murmur as others have done. In some men tribulation works a very fierce temptation to distrust.
4. So, too, great trials are wonderfully apt to reveal the weakness of our graces and the number of our infirmities. Spiritual storms make a man discover what utter weakness he is, and then he is wise to fly to the blood of the Lamb. Oh, what a sweet restorative is found in the atoning sacrifice!
III. WHAT LESSON COMES OUT OF THIS?
1. I would say to you, first, meditate on it. A sight of Christ in His agony is a wondrous sure for our agonies.
2. But the chief thing is this — in all times of tribulation the great matter is to have the blood of Christ actually applied to the soul.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)
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