A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, June 19, 1870, By C. H. Spurgeon At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 6/9/2011*6/9/2011
Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the
life that now is, and of what is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)
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1. We endeavoured, this morning, to prove the profit of godliness concerning the life which now is, and to discriminate concerning what the promise of this life really is. (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 937, “The Profit of Godliness in This Life” 928) We tried to prove that “the promise” of the life that now is, its real and highest beauty and excellence, consists in peace of mind, peace with God, contentment, and happiness of spirit; and while we pointed out that godliness did not ensure wealth, or health, or even a good name — for all these might not be even granted to godly men — yet we showed that the great purpose of our being, that for what we live and were created, what will best make it worth while to have existed, shall certainly be ours if we are godly. We thought it an important matter to expound the bearing of true religion upon this present state, but I trust we did not exaggerate that view so as to keep those in mind who dream that this world is the main consideration, and that the wisest man is he who makes it the be-all and the end-all of his existence.
2. Beloved friends, there is another life beyond this fleeting existence. This fact was dimly guessed by heathens. Strange as their mythology might be, and singular as were their speculations concerning the regions of bliss and woe, even barbarous nations have had some glimmering light concerning a region beyond the river of death. We have yet to discover a people with no idea of an afterlife. Man has scarcely ever been fooled into the belief that death is the end of his entire existence. Few indeed have been so lost to natural light as to have forgotten that man is something more than the dog which follows at his heels. What was dimly guessed by the heathen was more fully worked out by the bolder and clearer minds among philosophers. They saw something about man that made him more than either ox or horse. They saw the moral government of God in the world, and as they saw the wicked prosper, and the righteous afflicted, they said, “There must be another state in which the GREAT AND JUST ONE will rectify all these wrongs — reward the righteous, and condemn the wicked.” They thought it proved that there would be another life; they could not, however, speak with confidence; for reason, however correct her inferences, does not satisfy the heart, or give “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” That is reserved for faith. The best light of heathens was only twilight, yet there was so much light in their obscurity that they looked beyond the stream of death, and thought they saw shadowlike creatures that had once been here, and could not die. What was thus surmised and suspected by the great thinkers of antiquity, has been brought to light in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has declared to us that we shall live again, that there will be a judgment and a resurrection both of the righteous and of the wicked, and that there will be awarded to the righteous a reward that shall know no end, while the wicked shall be driven into a banishment to which there shall be no end. We are not left to speculate now nor to rely upon unaided reason. We have been told upon the authority of God, sometimes by the lips of prophets, at other times by the lips of his own dear Son, or by his inspired apostles, that there is a world to come, a world of terrors for the ungodly, but a world of promised blessing for the righteous. My dear hearer, if it is so, what will the world to come be like for you? Will you inherit its promise? You may easily answer that question by another — “Do you have godliness?” If you have, you have the promise of the life that is to come. Are you ungodly? Do you live without God? Are you without faith in God, without love for God, without reverence for God? Are you without the pardon which God presents to believers in Christ Jesus? Then you are without hope, and the world to come has nothing for you except a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation which will devour you.
3. I. GODLINESS CONCERNING THE LIFE TO COME POSSESSES A UNIQUE AND UNRIVALLED PROMISE.
4. I say a unique promise, for, observe, infidelity makes no promise of a life to come. It is the express business of infidelity to deny that there is such a life, and to blot out all the comfort which can be promised concerning it. Man is like a prisoner confined in his cell, a cell all dark and cheerless except there is a window through which he can gaze upon a glorious landscape. Infidelity comes like a demon into the cell, and with desperate hand blocks up the window, that man may sit for ever in the dark, or at best may have the boasted light of a tiny candle called free thinking. All that infidelity can tell him is that he will die like a dog. Fine prospect for a man who feels eternity pulsing within his spirit! I know I shall not die like the beast that perishes; and let who will propound the theory, my soul sickens and turns with disgust from it, nor would it be possible by the most specious arguments so to pervert the instincts of my nature as to convince me that I shall so die, and that my soul, like the flame of a burned out candle, shall be quenched in utter annihilation. My innermost heart revolts at this degrading slander; she feels an innate nobility that will not allow her to be numbered with the beasts of the field, to die as they must do without a hope. Oh, miserable prospect! How can men be so earnest in proclaiming their own wretchedness? Enthusiasts for annihilation! Why not fanatics for hell itself? Godliness has the promise of the life that is to come, but infidelity can do nothing better than deny the ennobling revelation of the great Father, and ask us to be content with the dark prospect of being exterminated and put out of being. Aspiring, thoughtful, rational men, can you be content with the howling wildernesses and dreary voids of infidelity? Leave them, I urge you, for the goodly land of the gospel which flows with milk and honey; abandon extinction for immortality, renounce perishing for paradise.
5. Again, let me remark that this hope is unique because popery in any of its forms cannot promise us the life which is to come. I know that it speaks as positively as Christianity does about the fact that there will be another life, but it gives us no promise of it, for what is the expectation of the Romanist, even of the best Romanist? Have I not previously remarked to you that we have heard — and therefore it is no slander for us to say it — of masses being said for the repose of the souls of the most eminent Romanists? Cardinals distinguished for their learning, confessors and priests distinguished for their zeal, and even Popes reputed to be remarkable for holiness and even infallibility, have when they died gone somewhere, I do not know where, but somewhere where they have needed that the faithful should pray for the repose of their souls. That is a very poor outlook for ordinary people like ourselves; for if these superlatively good people are still uneasy in their souls after they die, and have in fact, according to their own statements, gone to purgatorial fires or to purgatorial chills, to be tossed, as certain of their prophets have informed us, from icebergs into furnaces, and then back again, until by some means, mechanical, spiritual, or otherwise, sin shall be burnt out, or evaporated from them; if that is their expectation, I think I should be inclined, as the Irishman said, to become a Protestant heretic, and go to heaven at once, if there is so sorry a prospect for the Catholic. Godliness has the promise of the life which is to come, but it is altogether unique in possessing such a promise. No voice from the Vatican sounds one half so sweetly as that from Patmos, which we sincerely accept: “I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’: ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’ ” Our sorrow for the departed is not embittered by the absence of hope, for we believe that “those also who sleep in Jesus God will bring with him.” Neither superstition on the one hand, nor unbelief on the other, so much as dares to offer a promise concerning the life to come.
6. No system based upon human merit ever gives its followers a promise of the life to come, which they can really grasp and be assured of. No self-righteous man will venture to speak of the assurance of faith; in fact, he denounces it as presumption. He feels that his own basis is insecure and therefore he suspects the confidence of others to be as hollow as his own. He lives between hope and fear, a joyless, unsatisfied life: while the believer in Jesus, knowing that there is no condemnation for him, awaits the hour of his entrance into heaven with joyful expectancy. What is never promised to man’s imagined righteousness is secured for all who possess the righteousness of Christ Jesus. “Come, you blessed,” is their assured welcome; to be with Jesus, their entailed portion.
Godliness has a monopoly of heavenly promise concerning the blessed
future. There is nothing else beneath high heaven to which any such
promise has ever been given by God, or of which any such promise can
be supposed. Look at vice, for instance, with its pretended
pleasures — what does it offer you? It offers pleasure in the life that
now is; but as it speaks, you detect the lie upon its face, for even
in the life that now is vice gives only a hasty intoxication, to be
followed by woe and redness of the eyes. It is true it satiates with
sweets, but in all its tables there is vomit; satiety follows its
gluttony, dissatisfaction comes, with discontent, loathing, remorse,
and misery, like hounds at its heels. Vice dares not say, it never
has had the effrontery yet to say, “Do evil and live in sin, and
eternal life will come out of it.” No, the theatre at its door does
not proffer you eternal life, it invites you to the pit. The house of
evil communications, the drunkard’s abode, the gathering place of
scorners, the room of the strange woman — none of these has yet dared
to advertise a promise of eternal life as among the benefits that may
tempt its votaries. At best sin gives you only bubbles, and feeds you
upon air. The pleasure vanishes, and the misery is left. Even on this
side of the tomb the hollowness of sinful mirth is clear to all except
the most superficial, and he said truly who sang concerning merry
They grin; but wherefore? And how long the laugh?
Half ignorance, their mirth; and half a lie;
To cheat the world, and cheat themselves, they smile.
Hard either task! The most abandoned own
That others, if abandoned, are undone:
Then, for themselves, the moment reason wakes,
Oh, how laborious is their gaiety!
They scarce can swallow their ebullient spleen,
Scarce muster patience to support the farce,
And pump sad laughter till the curtain falls.
Scarce did I say? Some cannot sit it out;
Oft their own daring hand the curtain draws,
And show us what their joy by their despair.
If such is the failure of the mirth of fools this side of eternity, of what little benefit can it prove hereafter?
8. So with other things not sinful in themselves — there is no promise of the life that is to come appended to them. For instance, birth. What would not some men give if they could only somehow trace their pedigree up to a distinguished Crusader, or up to a Norman knight reported of in the battle roll of Hastings? yet, nowhere in the world is there a promise of eternal life to blood and birth. “For when he dies he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise you, when you do well for yourself. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.” Genealogies and pedigrees are poor things; trace us all up far enough, and we are all descended from that naked sinner who tried to cover his shame with fig leaves, and owed his first true garment to the charity of offended heaven. Let the pedigree run through the loins of kings, yes, and of mighty kings, and let every one of our forefathers to have been distinguished for his valour, yet no man shall pretend because of this that eternal life will be secured by it. Ah! no; the king rots like a slave and the hero is devoured by the worm as though he had been only a swineherd all his days; yes, and the unquenchable flame kindles on earl, and duke, and millionaire, as well as on serf and peasant.
9. And it is equally certain that no promise of the life that is to come is given to wealth. Men hoard it, and gather it, and keep it, and seal it down by bonds and settlements, as if they thought they could carry something with them; but when they have gained their utmost, they do not find that wealth has the promise even of this life, for it yields small contentment for the man who possesses it. “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man being in honour does not remain.” As for the life to come, is there any supposable connection between the millions of the miser’s wealth and the glory that is to be revealed hereafter? No, but by so much the more as the man lives for this world, by so much the more shall he be accursed. He said, “I will pull down my barns and build greater”; but God calls him a fool, and he is a fool, for when his soul is required from him, whose shall these things be which he had prepared? Indeed, you may grasp the Indies if you will; you may seek to encompass within your estates all the lands that you can see far and wide, but you shall be none the nearer to heaven when you have reached the climax of your avarice. There is no promise of the life that is to come in the pursuits of usury and covetousness.
10. Nor is there any such promise to personal accomplishments and beauty. How many live for that poor bodily form of theirs which so soon must moulder back to the dust! To dress, to adorn themselves, to catch the glance of the admirer’s eye, to satisfy public taste, to follow fashion! Surely an object in life more frivolous never engrossed an immortal soul. It seems as strange as if an angel should be gathering daisies or blowing soap bubbles. An immortal spirit living to dress the body! To paint, to dye, to display a ribbon, to position a pin, is this the pursuit of an immortal? Yet tens of thousands live for little else. But ah! there is no promise of the life to come appended to the noblest beauty that ever fascinated the eye. Far deeper than the skin is the beauty which is admired in heaven. As for earth’s comeliness, how do time, and death, and the worm together, make havoc of it! Take up that skull, just upturned by the gravedigger’s careless spade, “and get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, though she paint an inch thick, to this complexion she must come at last,” (a) all her dressing shall end in a shroud, and all her washings and her dainty ornaments shall only make her all the sweeter morsel for the worm. There is no promise of the life to come by these frivolities; why then waste your time and degrade your souls with them?
11. Nor even to higher accomplishments than these is there given any promise of the life to come. For instance, the attainment of learning, or the possession of what often stands men in as good a stead as learning, namely, cleverness, brings with it no promise of future bliss. If a man is clever, if he can write interesting stories, if he can sketch the current fashions, if he can produce poetry that will survive among his fellow men — it does not matter though his pen never wrote a line for Christ, and though he never uttered a sentence that might have led a sinner to the cross, though his work had no aim beyond this life, and paid no homage to the God of the gospel, yet even professed Christians will fall at the man’s feet, and when he dies, will canonise him as a saint, and almost worship him as a demigod. I consider that lowliest Christian who loved his God, though he could only speak stammeringly the profession of his faith, is nobler by far than he who possessed the genius of a Byron or the greatness of a Shakespeare, and yet only used his ten talents for himself and for his fellow men, but never consecrated them to the great Master to whom the interest of them altogether belonged. No; there is no promise of the life that is to come for the philosopher, or for the statesman, or for the poet, or for the literary man, as such. They have no preference before the Lord; not gifts but grace must save them. Humbly, penitently, and believingly they must find the promise of eternal life in godliness; and if they do not have godliness, they shall find it nowhere. Godliness has that promise, I say, and nothing else besides. I saw in Italy standing at the corner of a road, as you may frequently see in Italy, a large cross, and on it were these words, which I had not often seen on a cross before: “Spes unica” — the only hope, the one unique hope, the one only hope for mankind. So I would tell you that on Christ’s cross there is written today, “Spes unica” — the one hope for men. “Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of what is to come,” but for nothing else anywhere, search for it high or low, on earth or sea, for nothing else is the promise given except for godliness alone.
12. II. I pass on to notice, in the second place, that THE PROMISE GIVEN TO GODLINESS IS AS COMPREHENSIVE AS IT IS UNIQUE.
13. I do not have time on this occasion to go into all the promises of the life that is to come which belong to godliness: who shall give an inventory where the treasure is boundless, or map out a land which has no limit? It will suffice if I give you the main points of this great theme. That promise is something of this kind. The godly man, unless Christ shall come, will die as others die, concerning the matter of outward fact, but his death will be very different in its essence and meaning. He will pass gently out of this world into the world to come, and then he will begin to realise the promise which godliness gave him; for he will enter then, indeed, he has entered now, upon an eternal life far different than what belongs to other men. The Christian’s life shall never be destroyed: “Because I live, you shall live also,” says Christ. There is no fear of the Christian’s ever growing aged in heaven, or of his powers failing him. Eternal youth shall be for those who wear the unfading crown of life. That sun shall become black as a coal; that moon shall fail until her pale beams shall never more be seen; the stars shall fall like withered figs; even this earth which we call stable, calling it terra firma, shall along with those heavens be rolled up like a vestment that is worn out, and shall be laid aside among the things that were, but are not. Everything which can be seen is only a fruit with a worm at the core, a flower destined to fade. But the believer shall live for ever, his life shall be coequal with the years of the Most High. God lives for ever and ever and ever, and so shall every godly soul. Christ having given him eternal life, he is one with Jesus, and just as Jesus lives for ever, even so shall he.
In the moment of death the Christian will begin to enjoy this eternal
life in the form of wonderful felicity in the company of Christ, in
the presence of God, in the companionship of disembodied spirits and
holy angels. I say in a moment, for from the case of the dying thief
we learn that there is no time upon the road from earth to heaven.
One gentle sigh the fetter breaks:
We scarce can say, “He’s gone!”
Before the willing spirit takes
Its mansion near the throne.
How does Paul put it? “Absent from the body”; but you have hardly said that word, when he adds, “present with the Lord.” The eyes are closed on earth and opened again in heaven. They loose their anchor, and immediately they come to the desired haven. How long that state of disembodied happiness shall last it is not for us to know, but by and by, when the fulness of time shall come, the Lord Jesus shall consummate all things by the resurrection of these bodies. The trumpet shall sound, and just as Jesus Christ’s body rose from the dead as the first fruits, so shall we arise, every man in his own order. Raised up by divine power, our very bodies shall be reunited with our souls to live with Christ, raised however, not as they shall be put into the grave to slumber, but in a nobler image. They were sown like the shrivelled seed, they shall come up like the fair flowers which decorate your summer gardens. Planted as a dull unattractive bulb, to develop into a glory like that of a lovely lily with snowy cup and petals of gold. Sown like the shrivelled barley or wheat, to come up as a fair green blade, or to become the golden ear. “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Come, my soul, what a promise is given to you in God’s word of the life that is to come! A promise for my soul, did I say? A promise for my body too. These aches and pains shall be repaid; this weariness and these sicknesses shall all be rewarded. The body shall be remarried to the soul, from which it parted with so much grief, and the marriage shall be all the more joyous because there never shall be another divorce. Then, in body and in soul made perfect, the fulness of our bliss shall have arrived.
But will there not be a judgment? Yes, a judgment certainly; and if
not in set ceremony a judgment for the righteous, as some think, yet
in spirit certainly. We shall gather at the great white throne,
gather with the goats or gather with the sheep. But there is this
promise to you who are godly, that you shall have nothing to fear in
that day of judgment: you shall go to it with the blood bought pardon
in your heart, to be shown before the judgment seat. You shall go to
that judgment to have it proclaimed to men, to angels, and to demons,
that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
Jesus,” no one being able to lay anything to the charge of those for
whom Jesus Christ has died, and whom the Father justifies. You need
not fear the judgment, you need not fear the conflagration of the
world, or whatever else of terror shall be attendant upon the coming
of Christ as a thief in the night. You have the promise of the life
that now is, and of what is to come. Listen to me. You have the
promise that you shall enjoy for ever the high dignity of being
priests and kings to God. You sons of toil, you daughters of poverty,
you shall be peers in heaven, you shall be courtiers of the Prince
Imperial, yourselves being princes of the royal blood. Your heads
shall wear crowns, your hands shall wave palm branches of triumph.
And just as you shall have glorious rank, so shall you have
companions suitable to your condition. The worldling’s haunt, the
synagogue of Satan, shall be far away from you. No more shall you
sojourn in Mesech and dwell in the tents of Kedar. No idle talk shall
vex you, no blasphemies shall inflict themselves upon your ear. You
shall hear the songs of angels; and as they charm you, you shall also
charm them by making known to them the manifold wisdom of God. The
holiest and best of men, redeemed by Jesus’ precious blood, shall
commune with you, and, best of all —
He that on the throne doth reign
You for evermore shall feed;
With the tree of life sustain,
To the living fountain lead.
You shall have unbroken fellowship with God and with his Christ. What ravishing joy this will be; we shall better be able to experience than to imagine. Communion with Jesus here below lifts us up far above the world, but what its delights are in the unclouded skies of face to face fellowship, has not yet entered into the heart of man.
Listen yet more, beloved. You shall have a suitable occupation. I do
not know what you may have to do in heaven, but I do know it is
written, “They shall see his face, and his name shall be on their
foreheads, and his servants shall serve him.” They serve him day and
night in his temple. You would not be happy without an occupation.
Minds made like yours could not find rest unless upon the wing;
delightful and honourable employment shall be allotted to you,
suitable for your perfected capabilities. But, notice that you shall
have rest as well as service. No wave of trouble shall roll over your
peaceful hearts. You shall for ever bathe your souls in seas of
blissful rest — no care, no fear, no unsatisfied desire; for all
desires shall be consummated, all expectations be fulfilled. God
shall be your portion, the infinite Spirit your friend, and the ever
blessed Christ your elder brother. Into the joy of heaven, which
knows no bounds, you shall enter, according to his words, “Enter into
the joy of your Lord.” And all this, and infinitely more than my
tongue can tell you, shall be yours for ever and for ever, without
fear of ever losing it, or dread of dying in the midst of it. “Eye
has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of
man, the things that God has prepared for those who love him, but he
has revealed them to us by his Spirit.” All the kingdom which the
Father has prepared, and the place which the Son has prepared, are
yours, oh believer, by the promise of the Lord; for “whom he
justified, those he also glorified.” The promise goes with godliness,
and if you have godliness there is nothing in heaven of joy, there is
nothing there of honour, there is nothing there of rest and peace,
which is not yours; for godliness has its promise, and God’s promise
Lo! I see the fair immortals,
Enter to the blissful seats;
Glory opens her waiting portals,
And the Saviour’s train admits.
All the chosen of the Father,
All for whom the Lamb was slain,
All the church appear together,
Wash’d from every sinful stain.
His dear smile the place enlightens
More than thousand suns could do;
All around, his presence brightens,
Changeless, yet for ever new.
Blessed state! beyond conception!
Who its vast delights can tell?
May it be my blissful portion,
With my Saviour there to dwell.
Perhaps within the next ten minutes we may be there! Who knows? I had half said, “May God grant it to me!” No doubt, many anxious spirits would be glad to end so soon life’s weary journey, and rest in the Fathers home.
17. III. Now, very briefly, consider another point. I have shown you that the promise appended to godliness is unique and comprehensive, and now observe that IT IS SURE.
18. “Godliness has promise”; that is to say, it has God’s promise. Now, God’s promise is firmer than the hills. He is God, and cannot lie. He will never retract the promise, nor will he leave it unfulfilled. He was too wise to give a rash promise: he is too powerful to be unable to fulfil it. “Has he said, and shall he not do it?” Already tens of thousands to whom the promise was made have obtained a measure of this bliss in the glorification of their perfect spirits. We are on the road to the same happy state. Some of us are on the river’s brink. Perhaps the Lord may come suddenly, and we shall be changed, and so perfected without dying. Be that as the Lord wills, it is not a question which disturbs us. Our faith is strong and firm. We are sure that we, too, shall enter into the rest which remains, and with all the blood washed multitude shall in wonder and surprise adore the God before whose throne we shall cast our crowns.
19. IV. But I shall not tarry upon that, for there comes a fourth thought. This promise is A PRESENT PROMISE.
You should notice the participle, “having promise.” It does not
say that godliness after awhile will get the promise, but godliness
has the promise now at this very moment. My dear hearer, if you are
godly, that is, if you have submitted to God’s way of salvation, if
you trust God, love God, serve God, if you are, in fact, a converted
man, you now have the promise of the life that is to come. When we
receive a man’s promise in whom we trust, we feel quite easy about
the matter under concern. A note of hand from many a firm in the city
of London would pass current for gold any day in the week; and surely
when God gives the promise, it is safe and right for us to accept it
as if it were the fulfilment itself, for it is quite as sure. We have
the promise, let us begin to sing about it; what is more, we have a
part of the fulfilment of it, for “I give to my sheep eternal life,”
says Christ: shall we not sing concerning that? Believe in Jesus, you
have eternal life now. There will be no new life given to you after
death. You have even now, oh Christian, the germ within you which
will develop into the glory life above. Grace is glory in the bud.
You have the earnest of the Spirit; you already have a portion of the
promise which is given to godliness. Now, what you should do is to
live now in the enjoyment of the promise. You cannot enjoy
heaven, for you are not there, but you can enjoy the promise of it.
Many a dear child, if he has a promise of a treat in a week’s time,
will go skipping among his little companions as merry as a lark about
it. He does not have the treat yet, but he expects it; and I have
known in our Sunday Schools our little boys and girls months before
the time came for them to go into the country, to be as happy as the
days were long, in prospect of that little pleasure. Surely you and I
ought to be childlike enough to begin to rejoice in the heaven that
is so soon to be ours. I know tomorrow some of you will be working
very hard, but you may sing: —
This is not my place of resting,
Mine’s a city yet to come;
Onward to it I am hasting —
On to my eternal home.
Perhaps you will have to fight the world’s battles, and you will find
them very stern. Oh! but you can sing even now of the palm branch,
and of the victory that awaits you; and as your faith looks at the
crown that Christ has prepared for it, you will be much rested even
in the heat of the battle. When a traveller who has been long an
exile returns home, it may be after walking many miles, he at last
gets to the brow of the hill, where he can see the church of the
little town, and get a bird’s eye view of the parish. He gazes for
awhile, and as he looks again and again, says to himself, “Yes, that
is the High Street there, and over there is the corner by the old
inn, and there — yes, there, I can see the gable of the dear old house
at home.” Though his feet may be blistered, the way may have been
long, and the sweat may be pouring from his face, yet he plucks up
courage at the sight of home. The last mile downhill is soon past,
for he has seen his long loved home. Christians, you may see it, you
may see the goodly land from Nebo even now: —
At times to faith’s far seeing eye,
The golden gates appear!
When the crusaders first came within the sight of Jerusalem, though
they had a hard battle before them before they could win it, yet they
fell down in ecstasy at the sight of the holy city. And do you and I
not say — Soldiers of the cross, my fellow crusaders in the holy war of
righteousness, will you not in prospect of the coming glory sing: —
Oh my sweet home, Jerusalem,
Would God I were in thee!
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see!
When the brave soldiers, of whom Xenophon (b) tells us, came at last
in sight of the sea, from which they had been separated for so long,
they cried out, “Thallasse! Thallasse!” — “The sea! the sea!” and we,
though death appears between us and the better land, can still look
beyond it and see the
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Arrayed in living green,
and bless God that a sight of what is to be revealed renders the
burdens of the way light as we march towards glory. Oh! live, live in
the foretaste of heaven. Let worldlings see that
The thought of such amazing bliss
Doth constant joys create.
21. V. Last of all, this promise which is appended to godliness is A VERY NEEDFUL ONE.
22. It is a very needful one, for ah! if I have no promise of the life that is to come, where am I? where am I? and where shall I be? where shall I be? I live, I know; I die, I know I must; and if it all is as true as this old Book, my mother’s Book, tells me, that there is a hereafter, if I have no godliness, then woe is that the day to me! Oh! how much I want the promise of the life to come, for if I do not have that I have a curse for the life to come. I cannot die, God has made my soul immortal. Even God himself will never annihilate me, for he has been pleased to create me an immortal spirit, and I must live on for ever. There are some who say, and I think that the doctrine is full of unnumbered perils to the souls of men, that God made man naturally mortal, and the soul can become extinct; and they go on to teach that sinners are made to live after death on purpose to be tormented for a longer or shorter time, and then at last are annihilated. What a God must he be to give them a life they need not have, on purpose so that he might torment them! I know of no such God. But HE, whom I adore, in his unbounded goodness, gave to mankind what was in itself a wondrous blessing — immortality; and if you, my hearer, choose to turn it into a curse for ever, it is you who are to be blamed for it, and not God who gave you the immortality which, if you believe in the appointed Saviour, will be for you an eternity of bliss. You are now past all recall an immortal being, and if you die without hope in Christ there will remain only this for you, to go on sinning in another state as you have gone on sinning here, but to have no pleasure from it as you think you do sometimes, here — on the contrary, to be tortured with remorse concerning it, and vexed with angry passions to think that you cannot have your will, passions that will make you struggle even worse against your God, and make your misery consequently all the greater. The worm that never dies will be your own furious hatred for God. The fire that never shall be quenched is probably the flames of your own insatiate lust after evil. I do not say that there will not be bodily pains, but the natural results of sin are the deepest hell to the soul. Sin has made you unhappy now. It will ripen; it will increase; when everything that checks it shall be taken away, your true character will be developed, and with that development will come an increasing wretchedness. Separated from the company of the righteous, and placed among the wicked, you will go on to be worse and worse, and every step in the increase of sin necessitates an increase of misery. It is not true that God will punish you in mere caprice. He has ordained, and he was right enough to ordain it that sin should punish itself, that sin should be its own misery, and its own anguish. Sin will be to you a never ending death. Oh why will you die? Why will you die? Why will you by the love for sin bring upon yourselves an eternity of sin, an eternity of suffering? Turn to Christ. I pray his Spirit to turn you. Come now, come now, and lay hold on eternal life!
23. I have been thinking while I have been preaching to you, this evening, of my own self for awhile, and I shall turn my thoughts to myself and any others who are preachers or teachers, and who try to do good for others. Years ago nearly half of Hamburg (c) was burned down, and among the incidents that happened, there was this one. A large house had connected with it a yard in which there was a great black dog, and this black dog in the middle of the night barked and howled most furiously. It was only by his barking that the family were awakened just in time to escape from the flames, and their lives were spared; but the poor dog was chained to his kennel, and though he barked and thus saved the lives of others, he was burned himself. Oh! you who work for God in this church do not perish in that fashion. Do not permit your sins to enchain you, so that while you warn others you become lost yourselves. See to it that you have the godliness which has the promise of the life that is to come.
24. And now, you who really desire to find godliness, remember, it is to be had in Christ, and only in Christ. I was in Windermere about three weeks ago, on a hot, dusty day, and I saw a little gushing stream of water, and a chain with a ladle to it for the passerby to drink. I wanted to drink, and I went to it, but the ladle was cracked quite through, was very rusty, and would not hold a drop of water, neither was the water, if it had been held in it, fit to drink. There are ways of salvation chosen by some that are equally as deceptive. They mock the traveller. But oh! my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, is a river of mercy, deep and broad. You only have to stoop and drink, and you may drink as much as you wish, and no one shall deny you. Have you not his word for it, “Let him who is thirsty come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely?”
May God grant you with your heart to believe the gospel of Jesus, for
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Matthew 25:31-46]
(a) Quoted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
(b) Xenophon: Xenophon, name of an ancient Greek historian and biographer (c 444-354 BC). See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophon"
(c) Hamburg Fire: In 1842, about a quarter of the inner city was destroyed in the "Great Fire." This fire started on the night of the May 4, 1842 and was extinguished on May 8. It destroyed three churches, the town hall, and many other buildings, killed 51 people, and left an estimated 20,000 homeless. Reconstruction took more than 40 years. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburg"