A Voice From Heaven
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from now on: Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
Revelation 14:12, 13
THE text speaks of a Voice from Heaven which said, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” The witness of that voice is not needed upon every occasion, for even the most common observer is compelled to feel, concerning many of the righteous, that their deaths are blessed. Balaam, with all his moral shortsightedness, could say, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” That is the case when death comes in peaceful fashion. The man has lived a calm, godly, consistent life. He has lived as long as he could well have wished to live and, in dying, he sees his children and his children’s children gathered around his bed.
What a fine picture the old man makes, as he sits up with that snowy head supported by snowy pillows. Hear him as he tells his children that goodness and mercy have followed him all the days of his life and now he is going to dwell in the house of the Lord forever! See the seraphic smile which lights up his face as he bids them farewell and assures them that he already hears the harpers harping with their harps–bids them stop those tears and weep not for him but for themselves–charges them to follow him so far as he has followed Christ and to meet him at the right hand of the Judge in the day of His appearing. Then the old man, almost without a sigh, leans back and is present with the Lord!–
“Heaven waits not the last moment;
Owns her friends on this side death,
And points them out to men;
A lecture silent but of sovereign power!
To vice, confusion–and to virtue peace.”
Even the blind bat’s-eyed worldling can see that, “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” in such a fashion as that! Nor is it difficult to perceive that this is the case in many other instances. We have, ourselves, known several good men and women who were afraid of death and were, much of their lifetime, subject to bondage. But they went to bed and fell asleep and never woke again in this world. And as far as appearances go, they could never have known so much as one single pang in departure, but fell asleep among mortals to awake amid the angels! Truly, such gentle loosing of the cable. Such fording of Jordan dry shod. Such ascents of the celestial hills with music at every step are desirable beyond measure! And we need no Voice out of the excellent Glory to proclaim that blessed are the dead who in such a case die in the Lord.
But that was not the picture which John had before his mind. It was quite another–a picture grim and black to mortal eyes. The sounds which meet the ear are not those of music, nor the whispered consolations of friends, but quite the reverse. All is painful, terrible and the very opposite of blessed, so far as strikes the eyes and ears. Therefore it became necessary that there should be a Voice from Heaven to say, “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.” I will give you the picture. The man of God is on the rack. They are turning that infernal machine with all their might. They have dragged every bone from its place. They have exercised their tortures till every nerve of his body cries with agony! He is flung into a dark and loathsome dungeon and left there to recover strength enough to be led in derision through the streets.
Upon his head they have placed a cap painted with devils and all his garments they have bedizened with the resemblance of fiends and flames of Hell. And now, with a shaveling priest on each side, holding up before him a superstitious emblem, and bidding him adore the Virgin or worship the cross, the good man, loaded with chains, goes through the streets, say, of Madrid or Antwerp, to the place prepared for his execution. “An act of faith,” they call it–an auto da fe–and an act of heroic faith it is, indeed, when the man of God takes his place at the stake, in his shirt, with an iron chain about his loins, and is fastened to the stake where he must stand and burn “quick to the death.”
Can you see him as they kindle the wood beneath him and the flames begin to consume his quivering flesh till he is all ablaze and burning–burning without a cry–though fiercely tormented by the fire? Now assuredly is that Voice from Heaven needed, and you can hear it, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord”–blessed even when they die like this! “Here is the patience of the saints” and, in the esteem of angels and of glorified spirits, such a death may, under many aspects, be adjudged to be more blessed than the peaceful deathbed of the saint who had some fellowship with Jesus, but was not made to drink of His cup and to be baptized with His Baptism, as to die a painful and ignominious death as a witness for the Truth of God.
It must have been a dreadful thing to watch the rabble rousers hurrying to Smithfield, to stand there and see the burning of the saints. It would have been a more fearful thing, still, if possible, to have been in the dungeons of the Low Countries and seen the Anabaptists put to death in secret. In a dungeon dark and pestilential there is placed a huge vat of water–and the faithful witness to Scriptural Baptism is drowned–drowned for following the Lamb where ever He goes! Drowned alone–where no eyes could pity and no voice from out of the crowd could shout a word of help and comfort. Men hear only the coarse jests of the murderers who have given the dipper his last dip–but the ear of faith can hear ringing through the dungeon, the Voice, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
True, through the connection of their names with a fanatic band, these holy ancestors of ours have gained scant honor here, yet their record is on high! Blessed they are, and blessed they shall be! Where ever on this earth, whether among the snows of Piedmont’s valleys or in the fair fields of France, saints have died by sword or famine, or fire or massacre, for the testimony of Jesus because they would not bear the mark of the beast either in their forehead or in their hand, this Voice is heard sounding out of the third heavens, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” It matters not, my Brothers and Sisters, where they die, who die in the Lord! It may be that they have not the honor of martyrdom in man’s esteem, but yet are witnesses for the Lord in poverty and pain.
Here is the patience and here, also, is the blessedness of the saints. Yonder poor girl lies in an attic, where the stars look between the tiles, and the moon gleams on the ragged hangings of the pallet where she largely suffers and, without a murmur, gradually dissolves into death. However obscure and unknown she may be, she has been kept from the great transgression. Tempted sorely, she has yet held fast her purity and her integrity. Her prayers, unheard by others, have gone up before the Lord and she dies in the Lord, saved through Jesus Christ. None will preach her funeral sermon, but she shall not miss that Voice from Heaven, saying, “Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” We repeat it, it matters not where you die nor in what condition–if you are in the Lord, and die in the Lord–right blessed are you!
Now, it is quite certain that very soon every one of us must leave this world. We know that we are no more immortal than our fellow men. Though by a sad piece of imposition upon ourselves, we count all men mortal but ourselves, right surely mortal we are! And each one of us shall, in due time, pass away out of this world. The saints, themselves, must die, though to them death is far different than to sinners. It is greatly wise to be ready for our undressing, prepared for the sweet sleep in Jesus. And if we are not in Christ, it is all the more imperative upon us to consider our latter end, that we rush not forward in the dark.
I therefore want, for a few minutes only, to disengage your mind from the too abundant snares of this world and the thralldom of human cares, that you may look across the border into the great future so surely yours, perhaps so nearly yours. Oh, that you might be helped to prepare for that future, that by such preparation, through Divine Grace, you may be numbered among the blessed who die in the Lord! First, we shall briefly describe their character, then mention the rest which constitutes their blessedness, and conclude by meditating upon the reward, which is a further part of that blessedness.
- First, then, let us describe THE CHARACTER. “Here is the patience of the saints.” To be blessed when we die, we must be saints. By nature we are sinners and by Divine Grace we must become saints if we would enter Heaven, for it is the land of saints and none but saints can ever pass its frontiers. Since death does not change character, we must be made saints here below if we are to be saints above.
We have come to misuse the term, “saint,” and apply it only to some few of God’s people. What does it mean but this–holy? Holy men and holy women–these are saints! It is not Saint Peter and Saint John merely–YOU are a saint, dear Brother, if you live unto the Lord. You are a saint, my Sister, however obscure your name, if you keep the Lord’s way and walk before Him in sincere obedience. We must be saints–and in order to be this we must be renewed in spirit, for we are sinners by nature–we must, in fact, be born again. All unholy and unclean, we are by nature nothing else but sin–and we must be created anew by the power of the Holy Spirit, or else holiness will never dwell in us.
Our loves must be changed so that we no longer love evil things, but delight only in that which is true, generous, kind, upright, pure, godlike. We must be changed in every faculty and power of our nature by that same hand which first made us. And across our brows must be written these words, “Holiness unto the Lord.” 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.
My dear Hearer, do you belong to God? Do you live to glorify Jesus? Can you honestly put your hand on your heart and say, “Yes, I belong to Him who bought me with His blood and I endeavor, by His Grace, to live as He would have me live. I am devoted to His honor, loving my fellow men and loving my Lord, endeavoring to be like He is in all things”? You must be such, for, “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” “But how am I to attain to holiness?” You cannot rise to it except by Divine strength. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. Jesus, who is our Justifier, is also made unto us sanctification and if we, by faith, lay hold on Him, we shall find in Him all that we need. Let this be a searching matter with everyone here present, as I desire to make it with myself–and may God grant we may be numbered with the saints!
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. “No cross, no crown,” is still most true. Many would be saints if everybody would encourage them. But as soon as a hard word is spoken, they are offended. They would go to Heaven if they could travel there amidst the hosannas of the multitude, but when they hear the cry of, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” straightway they desert the Man of Nazareth, for they have no intention to share His Cross, or to be despised and rejected of men. The true saints of God are prepared to endure scoffing, jeering and scorning–they accept this Cross of Christ without murmuring, remembering Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.
They know that their Brethren who went before, “resisted unto blood, striving against sin,” and as they have not yet come to that point, they count it foul scorn that they should be ashamed or confounded in minor trials, let their adversaries do what they may. Those who are to sing Christ’s praise in Heaven must first have been willing to bear Christ’s shame below! They must be numbered with Him in humiliation, or they cannot expect to be partakers with Him in Glory.
And now, dear Brothers and Sisters, how is it with us? Are we willing to be reproached for Christ’s Glory? Can we bear the sarcasm of the wise? Can we bear the jest of the witty? Are we willing to be pointed at as Puritanical, punctilious and precise? Do we dare to be singular when to be singular is to be right? If we can do this, by God’s Grace, let us further question ourselves. Could we endure this ordeal if its intensity were increased? Suppose it came to something worse–to the thumbscrew or the rack–could we bear it, then? I sometimes fear that many professors would cut a sorry figure if persecuting times should come, for I observe that to be excluded from what is called, “society,” is a great grievance to many modern Christians!
When they settle in any place, their enquiry is not, “Where can I hear the Gospel?” but, “Which is the most fashionable place of worship?” And the question with regard to their children is not, “Where will they have Christian associations?” but, “How can I introduce them to society?”–introduction to society frequently being an introduction to temptation and the commencement of a life of levity. Oh, that all Christians could scorn the soft witcheries of the world, for, if they cannot, they may be sure that they will not bear its fiery breath when, like an oven, persecution comes forth to try the saints! God grant us Grace to have the patience of the saints–that patience of the saints which will cheerfully suffer loss rather than do a wrong thing in business!
God grant us that patience of the saints which will pine in poverty sooner than yield a principle though a kingdom were at stake! That patience of the saints which dreads not being unfashionable if the right is reckoned so! That patience of the saints which courts no man’s smile and fears no man’s frown–but can endure all things for Jesus' sake and is resolved to do so! Can you cleave to your Lord when the many turn aside? Can you witness that He has the Living Word and none upon earth beside? Can you watch with Him when all forsake Him and stand by Him when He is the butt of ribald jest and scorn? Can you bear the sneer of science, falsely so called, and the politer sarcasm of those who say they “doubt,” but mean that they utterly disbelieve?
Blessed is that preacher who shall be true to Christ in these evil days! Blessed is that Church member who shall follow Christ’s Word through the mire and through the slough, over the hill and down the dale, caring for nothing but to be true to His Master! This must be our resolve! If we are to win the Glory, we must be faithful unto death. God make us so! “Here is the patience of the saints”–it comes not by nature–it is the gift of the Grace of God. Farther on these saints are described as, “they that keep the commandments of God.” This expression is not intended, for a moment, to teach us that these people are saved by their own merits. They are saints to begin with and in Christ to begin with, but they prove they are in Christ by keeping the commandments of God.
Let us search ourselves upon this matter. Brothers and Sisters, we cannot hope to reach the end if we do not keep the way. No man is so unwise as to think that he would reach Bristol if he were to take the road to York. He knows that to get to a place he must follow the road which leads there. There is a way of holiness in which the righteous walk and this way of obedience to the Lord’s commands must and will be trodden by all who truly believe in Jesus and are justified by faith–for faith works obedience! A good tree brings forth good fruit. If there is no fruit of obedience to God’s commands in you, or in me, we may rest assured that the root of genuine faith in Jesus Christ is not in us at all.
In this age the keeping of Christ’s commandments is thought to be of very little consequence. It is dreadful to think how Christians, in the matter of the law of God’s House, do not even pretend to follow Christ and His appointments. They join a Church and they go by the law of that Church, though that Church’s rule may be clean contrary to the will of Christ! But they answer to everything, “That is our rule, you know.” But then who has a right to make rules for you or for me, but Christ Jesus? He is the only Legislator in the kingdom of God and by His commands we ought to be guided. I should not, I could not, feel grieved if Brethren arrived at contrary conclusions to mine, I being fallible myself. But I do feel grieved when I see Brethren arrive at conclusions, not as the result of investigation, but simply by taking things just as they find them.
Too many professors have a happy-go-lucky style of Christianity. Whichever happens to come first, they follow. Their fathers and mothers were this or that, or they were brought up in such-and-such a connection, and that decides them. They do not pray, “Lord, show me what You would have me to do.” Brothers and Sisters, these things ought not to be! Has not the Master said, “Whoever shall break one of the least of these, My commandments, and teach men so, the same shall be least in the kingdom of Heaven”? I would not stand here to condemn my fellow Christians for a moment. In so doing I should condemn myself, also, but I plead with you, if you do, indeed, believe in Jesus, be careful to observe all things He has commanded you, for He has said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.” And again, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
A worldling once said to a Puritan, “When so many great men make rents in their consciences, cannot you make just a little nick in yours, for peace sake?” “No,” he said, “I must follow Christ fully.” “Ah, well,” you say, “these things are non-essential.” Nothing is non-essential to complete obedience! It may be non-essential to salvation, but it is selfishness to say, “I will do no more than I know to be absolutely necessary to my salvation.” It is essential to a good servant to obey his master in all things–and it is essential for the healthiness of a Christian’s soul that he should walk very carefully and prayerfully before the Lord–otherwise he will miss the blessing of them of whom it is said, “These are they which follow the Lamb where ever He goes.” To be blessed in death we must keep the commandments of God.
The next mark of the blessed dead is, that they kept “the faith of Jesus.” This is another point upon which I would speak thunderbolts, if I could, for to keep the faith of Jesus is an undertaking much ridiculed nowadays. “Doctrines,” one says, “we are tired of doctrines!”–
“For forms and creeds let graceless bigots fight,
He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.”
The opinion is current that to be fluent and original is the main thing in preaching and, provided a man is a clever orator, it is a proper thing to hear him. The Lord will wither with the breath of His nostrils that cleverness in any man which departs from the simplicity of the Truth of God! There is a Gospel and, “there is also another gospel which is not another, but there are some that trouble you.” There is a yes, yes, and there is a no, no–and woe unto those whose preaching is yes and no, for it shall not stand in the Great Day when the Lord shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. Search, my Brothers and Sisters, and know what the Gospel is–and when you know it, hold it–hold it as with a hand of iron and never relax your grasp!
Grievous wolves have come in among us, wolves of another sort to what were used to be in the Churches, yet, verily, after the same fashion they come disguised in sheep’s clothing! They use our very terms and phrases, meaning all the while something else! They take away the essentials and vitalities of the faith and replace them with their own inventions, which they brag of as being more consistent with modern thought and with the culture of this very advanced and enlightened age, which seems by degrees to be advancing, half of it to Paganism with the Ritualists and the other half of it to Atheism with the Rationalists. From such advances may God save us! May we be enabled to keep the faith and uphold the Truths of God which we know, by which, also, we are saved!
I, for one, cannot desert the grand doctrines of the atoning blood, the substitutionary work of Christ and the Truths which cluster around them. And why can I not desert these things? Because my life, my peace, my hope hang upon them. I am a lost man if there is no Substitutionary Sacrifice, and I know it! If the Son of God did not die, “the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God,” I must be damned! And, therefore, all the instincts of my nature cling to the faith of Jesus. How can I give up that which has redeemed my soul and given me joy and peace and a hope hereafter? I beseech you, do not waver in your belief, but keep the faith, lest you be like some in old time, who “made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience,” and were utterly cast away. Woe unto those who keep not the doctrines of the Gospel, for in due time they forget its precepts, also, and become utterly reprobate! In departing from Christ men forsake their own mercies both for life and death. The blessed who die in the Lord are those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
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. “You did run well; what did hinder you that you should not obey the Truth?” Vain is it to begin to build–we must crown the edifice–or all men will deride us. Helmet and plume, armor and sword–are all assumed for nothing unless the warrior fights on till he has secured the victory. Those who thus entered into rest, exercised themselves in labors for Christ. For it is said, “They rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.” The idle Christian can have little hope of a reward. He who serves not his Master can scarcely expect that his Master will at the last gird Himself and serve him!
If I address any here who are not bringing forth fruit unto God, I can say no less than this, “Every tree that brings not forth fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” The rule is invariable. It must be so. If there are no works and no labors for Christ, no suffering or patient endurance, we lack the main evidence of being the people of God at all! 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? Dear Hearer, are you resting upon Jesus Christ only? Is He all your salvation and all your desire? What is your reply to my enquiry? You are not perfect, but Jesus is! Are you hanging upon Him as the vessel hangs upon the nail? You cannot expect to stand before God with acceptance in yourself, but are you, “accepted in the Beloved”? That is the question–“accepted in the Beloved.” Are you in Christ, and is Christ in you by real vital union–by a faith that is the gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in your soul? Answer, I charge you, for if you cannot answer these things before one of your own flesh and blood, how will you answer in your soul when the Lord, Himself shall come?
II. So much with regard to the character. And now a very few words with regard to THE BLESSEDNESS which is ascribed to those who die in the Lord. “They rest from their labors.” By this is meant that the saints in Heaven rest from such labors as they performed here. No doubt they fulfill service in Heaven. It would be an unhappy Heaven in which there should be nothing for our activities to spend themselves upon. But such labors as we can do here will not fall to our lot there. 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. There no little children can be gathered at our knee and trained for Jesus. No sick ones can be visited with the Word of comfort, no backsliders led back, no young converts confirmed, no sinners converted. They rest from such labors as these in Heaven. They rest from their labors in the sense that they are no longer subject to the toil of labor. Whatever they do in Heaven will yield then 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. They serve Him day and night in His Temple and therein they rest.
Even as on earth, by wearing our Lord’s yoke, we find rest unto our souls, so in the perfect obedience of Heaven, complete repose is found. They rest, also, from the woe of labor, for I find the word has been read by some, “they rest from their wailing.” The original is a word which signifies to beat and, therefore, as applied to beating on the breast it indicates sorrow. But the beating may signify conflict with the world, or labor in any form. The sorrow of work for Jesus is over with for all the blessed dead. Nothing is allowed to approach to molest their sweet peace. They shall no more say that they are sick, neither shall adversity afflict them. Their rest is perfect.
I do not know whether the idea of rest is cheering to all of you, but to some of us whose work exceeds our strength, it is full of pleasantness. Some have bright thoughts of service hereafter and I hope we all have, but to those who have more to do for Christ than the weary brain can endure–the prospect of a rest has in it the ocean of rest and very pleasant. They rest from their labors. 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 labors. We shall make no mistakes there! We shall never use too strong language or mistaken words, nor err in spirit, nor fail through excess or lack of zeal. We shall rest from all that which grieves us in the retrospect of our service.
Our holy things up there will not need to be wept over, though now they are daily salted with our tears. We shall, there, rest from the discouragements of our labor. There, no cold-hearted Brethren will damp our ardor, 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. None will pluck us by the sleeve and hold us back when we would run the race with all our might. None will chide us because our way is different from theirs–and none will foretell disaster and defeat when we confidently know that God will give us the victory. We shall also rest from the disappointments of labor. Dear Brother ministers, we shall not have to go home and tell our Lord that none have believed our report!
We shall not go to our beds sleepless because certain of our members are walking inconsistently and others of them are backsliding, while those that we thought were converted have gone back again to the world. Here we must sow in tears–there we shall reap in joy! There we shall wear the crown, or rather cast it at our Master’s feet. But here we must plunge deep into the sea to fetch up the pearls from the depths, that they may be set in His diadem. Here we labor, there we shall enjoy the fruits of toil where no blight or mildew can endanger the harvest. It will be a sweet thing to get away to Heaven, I am sure, to rest from all contentions among our fellow Christians. One of the hardest parts of Christ’s service is to follow peace and to maintain His Truth at the same time.
He is a wise chemist who can, in due proportions, blend the pure and the peaceable. He is no mean philosopher who can duly balance the duties of affection and faithfulness and show us how to smite the sin and love the sinner–to denounce the error and yet to cultivate affection for the Brother who has fallen into it. We shall not encounter this difficulty in yon bright world of Truth and Love, for both we and our Brethren shall be fully taught of the Lord in all things! We shall be free from the clouds and mists of doubt which now cover the earth and clear of the demon spirits which seek to ruin men’s souls beneath the shadow of deadly falsehood. Blessed be God for this prospect! It will be joy, indeed, to meet no one but a saint! To speak with none but those who use the language of Canaan! To commune with none but the sanctified! Truly blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, if they reach to such as this–
“To this our laboring souls aspire,
With ardent pangs of strong desire.”
“Our feet shall stand within your gates, O Jerusalem.”
III. The last matter for our consideration is THE REWARD of the blessed dead–“They rest from their labors 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. “I go,” He says, “to prepare a place for you.” In effect He says to us, “Not your works, but Mine. Not your tears, but My blood. Not your efforts, but My finished work shall lead the van.” How, then, do our works come? Do they march at our right hand or our left as subjects of cheering contemplation? No, no, we dare not take them as companions to comfort us!
They follow us at our heels. They keep behind us out of sight and we, ourselves, in our desires after holiness, always outmarch them. The Christian should always keep his best services behind, always going beyond them, and never setting them before his eyes as objects for congratulation. The preacher should labor to preach the best sermons possible, but he must never have them before him so as to cause him, in self-satisfaction, to say, “I have done well.” Nor should he have them by his side, as if he rested in them, or leaned upon them–for this were to make antichrists of them. No, let them come behind! That is their proper place. Believers know where to put good works–they do not despise them, they never say a word to depreciate the Law, or undervalue the Graces of the Holy Spirit–but still they dare not put their holiest endeavors in the place of Christ. Jesus goes before, works follow after.
Note well, that the works are in existence and are mentioned–immortality and honor belong to them. The works of godly men are not insignificant or unimportant as some seem to think. They are not forgotten, they are not as the sere leaves of last year’s summer. They are full of life and bloom profusely. They follow the saints as they ascend to Heaven, even as the silver trail follows in the wake of the vessel. I pictured, just now, a man burning at the stake. His enemies thought they had destroyed his work, but they only deepened its hold upon the age in which he suffered–and projected his influence into the effect for ages to come! They made a pile of his books and, as they blazed before his eyes, they said, “There is an end of you and your heresies.”
Ah, what fools men have become! Truth is not vanquished with such weapons, no, nor so much as wounded! Think of the case of Wycliffe, which I need not repeat to you. They threw his ashes into the brook–the brook carried them to the river and the river to the sea–till every wave bore its portion of the precious relics, just as the influence of his preaching has been felt on every shore! Persecutors concluded beyond all question that they had made an end of a good man’s teaching when they had burned him and thrown away his ashes–but they forgot that the Truth of God often gathers a more vigorous life from the death of the man who speaks it–and books once written have an immortality which laughs at fire!
Thousands of infidel and heathen works have gone, so that not a copy is to be found–I hope they never may be unearthed from the salutary oblivion which entombs them–but books written for the Master and His Truth, though buried in obscurity, are sure of a resurrection! Fifty years ago our old Puritan authors' writings, yellow with age and arrayed in dingy bindings, wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, destitute, afflicted, tormented–but they have been brought forth in new editions! Every library is enriched with them! The most powerful religious thought is affected by their utterances and will be till the end of time! You cannot kill a good man’s work, nor a good woman’s work, either, though it is only the teaching of a few children in Sunday school. You do not know to whom you may be teaching Christ, but assuredly you are sowing seed which will blossom and flower in the far off ages.
When Mrs. Wesley taught her sons, little did she think what they would become. You do not know who may be in your class, my young Friend. You may have there a young Whitfield and, if the Lord enables you to lead him to Jesus, he will bring thousands to decision. Yes, at your breast, good woman, there may be hanging one whom God will make a burning and a shining light! And if you train that little one for Jesus, your work will never be lost. No holy tear is forgotten, it is in God’s bottle. 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 and the moon has curdled into a clot of blood. Deeds done in the power of the Spirit are eternal! Therefore, “Be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Good works follow Christians and they will be rewarded. The rewards of Heaven will be all of Grace, but there will be rewards. You cannot read the Scripture without perceiving that the Lord, first, gives us good works, and then, in His Grace, rewards us for them! There is a, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and there is a proportionate allotment of reward to the man who was faithful with five talents and the man who was faithful with two.
You who live for Jesus may be quite certain that your life will be recompensed in the world to come. I repeat it, the reward will not be of debt, but of Grace–but a reward there will be. Oh, the joy of knowing, when you are gone, that the Truth of God you preached is still living! I think the Apostles, since they have been in Heaven, must often have looked down on the world and marveled at the work which God helped 12 poor fishermen to do! And they must have felt a growing blessedness as they have seen nations converted by the Truth which they preached in feebleness. What must be the joy of a pastor in Glory to find his spiritual children coming in, one by one! I think, if I may, I shall go down to the gate and linger there to look for some of you. Yes, not a few shall I welcome as my children there, blessed be the name of the Lord, and what a joy it will be!
You teachers–you, my good Sister, who has brought so many to Christ–I cannot but believe that it shall multiply your Heaven to see your dear ones entering it! You will have a Heaven in every one of those whose feet you guided there! You will joy in their joy and praise the Lord in their praise. No, no, the good old cause shall never die and the Truth of God shall never perish! As I have lately read many hard things that have been spoken against the Gospel, and as in going up and down throughout this land I have seen the nation wholly given to idolatry, I have felt something of the spirit of the Pole who, wherever he wanders, says to himself, “No, Poland, you shall never perish!” Despite the darkness and illsavor of the times, the Gospel nears its triumph. It can never perish!
Great men may fall, great reputations may grow obscure, grand philosophies may be cast into the shade, monstrous infidelities may win popularity and old superstitions may come back, again, to darken us, but Your Cross, Emmanuel, Your pure and simple Gospel, the faith our fathers loved and died for, must continue to be earth’s brightest light–her daystar–till the day dawns and the shadows flee away! The vessel of the Church can never be wrecked! She rocks and reels in the mad tempest, but she is sound from stem to stern, and her Pilot steers her with a hand Omnipotently wise! Her bow is in the wave, but look, she divides the sea and shakes off the mountainous billows as a lion shakes the dew from his mane! Fiercer storms than those of the present have beat upon her and yet she has kept her eye to the wind–and in the very teeth of Hell’s tremendous tempests she has plowed her glorious way!
And so she will till she reaches her appointed haven. The Lord lives and the Lord reigns, and Christ from the Cross has gone to the Throne–from Gethsemane and Golgotha up to Glory–and all power is given unto Him in Heaven and in earth. We have nothing to do but to go on preaching the Gospel and baptizing in His name, according to His bidding. And the day shall come when the might shall be with the right and the Truth–and the right hand of Jesus with the iron rod shall break His adversaries and reward His friends.
The Lord acknowledges every one of us who are on His side, but if we are not on His side, oh, that we may speedily become so by repentance and faith! May the Lord turn us and we shall be turned, for if, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,” depend upon it, cursed are they that die out of Christ–yes, cursed with a curse–and their works shall follow them or go before them, unto judgement, to their condemnation! May Infinite Mercy save us from being howled at by our works in the next world, save us from being hunted down by the wolves of our past sins risen from the dead! Remember, unless we are forgiven, our transgressions will rise from the grave of forgetfulness and gather around us, and tear us in pieces–and there shall be none to deliver.
May we fly, even now, to Jesus, and through faith in His blood be delivered from all evil, that we also may have it said of us, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” The Lord bless you for Christ’s sake. Amen. PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON–Revelation 16.
HYMNS FROM “OUR OWN HYMN BOOK”–878, 853, 852.