If I understand things correctly, whenever you find a man or woman who is looking to be rewarded here for doing right, they are unqualified to work for God; because if they are looking for the applause of men, looking for the reward in this life, it will just disqualify them for the service of God, because they are all the while compromising truth.
They are afraid of hurting some one's feelings. They are afraid that some one is going to say something against them, or there will be some articles written against them. Now, we must trample the world under our feet if we are going to get our reward hereafter. If we live for God we must suffer persecution. The kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light are at war, and have been, and will be as long as Satan is permitted to reign in this world, and as long as the kingdom of darkness is permitted to exist, there will be a conflict, and if you want to be popular in the kingdom of God, if you want to be popular in heaven, and get a reward that sliall last forever, you will have to be unpopular here.
If you seek the applause of men, you can't have the Lord say "Well done" at the end of the journey. You can't have both. Why? Because this world is at war with God. This idea that the world is getting better all the while is false. The old natural heart is just as much at enmity with God as it was when Cain slew Abel. Sin leaped into the world full grown in Cain. And from the time that Cain was born into the world to the present, man by nature has been at war with God. This world was not established in grace, and we have to fight "the world, the flesh and the devil;'' and if we fight the world, the world won't like us; and if we fight the flesh, the flesh won't like us. We have to mortify the flesh. We have to crucify the old man and put him under—and then we will get our reward, and it will be a glorious reward.
It says in the 16th chapter of Luke and the 15th verse:
"And he said unto them, Te are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God."
We must go right against the current of this world. If the world has nothing to say against us, we can be pretty sure that the Lord Jesus Christ has very little to say for us. There are those who do not like to go against the current of the world. They say they know this and that is wrong, but they do not say a word against it lest it might make them unpopular. If we expect to get the reward we must fight the good fight of faith. For all such, as Paul has said, there is laid up a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give us at that day.
FEAR OF DEATH.
How little we realize the meaning of the word eternityl The whole time between the creation of the world and the ending of it would not make a day in eternity. In time, it is like the infinity of space, whose centre is everywhere and whose boundary is nowhere. We read in this Epistle to the Hebrews, in the 2nd chapter and 14th verse:
"Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he, also himself, likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death—that is the devil— and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
There are a great many of God's professed children who live in constant bondage, in the constant fear of death. I believe that it is dishonoring to God. I believe that it is not His will to have one of His children live in fear for one moment. If you know the truth as it is in Christ, there need be no fear; there need be no dread, because death will only hasten you on to glory; and your names are already there.
And then the next thought is for those who are dear to
us. I believe that it is not only our privilege to have our names written in heaven, but those of thechildren whom God has given us; and our hearts ought to go right out for them. The promise is not only to us, but to our children. Many a father's and many a mother's heart is burdened with anxiety for the salvation of their children. If your own name is there, let your next aim in life be to get the children that God has given you, there also.
I have three children, and the greatest desire of my heart is that they may be saved; that I may know that their names are written in the Book of Life. I may be taken from them early; I may leave them in this changing world without a father's care; without a father to watch over them; and I have often said to myself I would rather have them come to my grave after I am dead and gone, and drop a tear upon it, and say, "my father, while he lived, cared for my soul," than I would have them do anything else.
A mother died in one of our Eastern cities a few years ago, and she had a large family of children. She died of consumption, and the children were brought in to her when she was dying. As the oldest one was brought in she gave it her last message and her dying blessing; and as the next one was brought in she put her hand upon its head and gave it her blessing; and then the next one was brought in, and the next, until at last they brought in the little infant. She took it to her bosom and pressed it to her loving heart, and her friends saw that it was hastening her end; that she was excited, and as they went to take the little child from her, she said: "My husband, I charge you to bring all these children home with you." And so God charges us as parents to bring our children home with us; not only to have our own names written in heaven, but those of our children also.
An eminent Christian worker in New York, told me a story that affected me very much.
A father had a son who had been sick some time, but he did not consider him dangerous; until one day he came home to dinner and found his wife weeping, and he asked, "What is the trouble?"
"There has been a great change in our boy since morning," the mother said, "and I am afraid that he is dying; I wish you to go in and see him, and, if you think he is, I wish you to tell him so, for I cannot bear to tell him."
The father went in and sat down by the bed-side, and he placed his hand upon his forehead, and he could feel the cold, damp sweat of death, and knew its cold, icy hand was feeling for the chords of life, and that his boy was soon to be taken away, and he said to him:
"My son, do you know you are dying?"
The little fellow looked up at him and said:
"No; am I? Is this death that I feel stealing over me, father?"
"Yes, my son, you are dying."
"Will I live the day out?"
"No; you may die at any moment."
He looked up to his father and he said: "Well, I will be with Jesus to-night, won't I, father?"
And the father answered: "Yes, my boy, you will spend to-night with the Savior," and the father turned away to conceal the tears, that the little boy might not see him weep; but he saw the tears, and he said:
"Father, don't you weep for me; when I get to heaven I will go straight to Jesus and tell Him that ever since I can remember you have tried to lead me to Him."
I would rather have my children say that of me after I am dead and gone, or if they die before me I would rather they should take that message to the Master—that ever since they can remember I have tried to lead them to the Master—than to have a monument over me reaching to the skies*
We ought not to look upon death as we do. Bishop Heber has written of a dead friend:
"Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not deplore thee,
Though sorrow and darkness encompass the tomb;
Thy Savior has passed through its portals before thee,
And the lamp of His love is thy guide through the gloom;
Thou art gone to the grave; we no longer behold thee,
Nor tread the rough paths of the world by thy side,
But the wide arms of Mercy are spread to enfold thee,
And sinners may die, since the Sinless has died."
The roll is being called, and one after another summoned away, but if their names are there, if we know that they are there, saved, how sweet it is, after they have left us, to think that we shall meet them by and by; that we shall see them in the morn when the night has worn away.
During the late war a young man lay on a cot, and they heard him say, " Here, here! " and some one went to his cot and wanted to know what he wanted, and he said, "Hark! hushl don't you hear them?" "Hear who?" was asked. "They are calling the roll of heaven," he said, and pretty soon he answered," Here! "—and he was gone. If our names, are in the Book of Life, by and by when the name is called, we can say with Samuel, "Here, Lord Jesus, " and fly away 7
to meet him. And if our children are called away early, 0, it is so sweet to think that they died in Christ; that the great Shepherd gathers them in His arms and carries them in His bosom, and that we shall meet them by and by.
PAUL, THE CHRISTIAN HERO.
The way to get to heaven is to be saved through faith ir Jesus Christ.
We get salvation as a gift, but we have to work it out, just as if we got a gold mine for a gift.
I don't get a crown by joining church, or renting a pew.
There> was Paul. He got his crown. He had many a hard fight; he met Satan on a good many battle-fields, and he overcame him and wore the crown. It would take about ten thousand of the average Christians of this day to make one Paul.
When I read the life of that Apostle, I blush for the Christianity of the nineteenth Century. It is a weak and sickly thing.
See what he went through. He, five times was scourged. The old Roman custom of scourging was to take the prisoner and bind his wrists together and bend him over in a stooping posture, and, with sharp pieces of steel braided into a lash, the Roman soldier would bring the lash down upon the bare back of the prisoner and cut him through the skin, so that men sometimes died in the very act of being scourged. But Paul says, he was scourged five different times. Now if we should get one stripe upon our backs what a whining there would be; there would be forty publishers after us before the sun went down, and they would want to publish our lives, that they might make capital out of it. But Paul says, Five times received I forty stripes, save one. That was nothing for him. Take your stand by his side.
"Paul, you have been beaten by these Jews four times, and they are going to give you thirty-nine stripes more; what are you going to do after you get out of the difficulty; what are you going to do about it all?"
"Do?" says he, "I will do this one thing; I will press towards the mark of the prize of my high calling; I am on my way to get my crown." He was not going to lose his crown. "Don't think that a few stripes will turn me away; these light afflictions are nothing."
And so they put on thirty-nine more stripes.
He had sprung into the race for Christ, as it were, and was leaping towards heaven. If you will allow me the expression, the devil got his match when he met Paul. He never switched off on to a side-track. He never sat down to write a letter to defend himself. All the strength that he had he gave to Christ. He never gave a particle to the world nor to himself to defend himself. This one thing I do, he said, I am not going to lose the crown. See that no man taketh your crown.
Thrice was he beaten with rods. Take your stand again beside him.
"Now, Paul, they have beaten you twice, and they are going to beat you again. What are you going to do? Are you going to continue preaching? If you are, let me give you a little advice. Now, don't be quite so radical; be a little more conservative; just use a little finer language, and kind of cover up the cross with beautiful words and flowery sentences, and tell men that they are pretty good after all; that they are not so bad, and try and pacify the Jews; make friends with them, and get in with the world, and the world will think more of you. Don't be so earnest; don't be so radical, Paul; now come, take our advice. What are you going to do?"
"Do?" he says, "I do this one thing—I press towards the mark of the prize of my high calling." So they put on the rods, and every blow lifts him nearer God.
Take your stand again. They begin to stone him. That is the way they killed those who did not preach to suit them.
It seems as if he was about to be paid back in his own coin, for when Stephen was stoned to death, Paul, then known as Saul, cheered on the crowd.
"Now Paul, this is growing serious; hadn't you better take back some of the things you have said about Christ? What are you going to do?" *
"Do?" he says, "if they take my life I will only get the crown the sooner."
He would not budge an inch. He had something that the world could not give; he had something it could not take away; he had eternal life, and he had in store a crown of glory.
THESE LIGHT AFFLICTIONS.
Three times was he shipwrecked; a day and a night in the deep. Look at that mighty apostle, a whole day and night in the deep. There he was—shipwrecked, and for what? Was it to make money? He was not after money. He was just going from city to city, and town to town, to preach the glorious gospel .of Jesus Christ, and to lift up the cross wherever he had opportunity. He went down to Corinth and preached eighteen months, and he didn't have a lot of the leading ministers of Corinth to come on the platform and sit by his side when he preached. There was not a man that stood by him. When he got down to Corinth he didn't have some of the leading business men to stand by him and advise him; but the little tent-maker arrives in Corinth a perfect stranger, and the first thing he does is to find a place where he can make a tent; he does not go to a hotel; his means will not allow it; but he goes where he can make his bread by the sweat of his brow. Think of that great apostle making a tent, and then getting on the corner of a street and preaching, and perhaps once in a while he would get into a synagogue, but the Jews would turn him out; they did'nt want to hear him preach anything about Jesus the crucified. The Jews didn't like that, and they turned him out, and after toiling eighteen months in that city, they took him outside of the city and gave him thirtynine stripes, and paid him off. That was all the pay he got, and they sent him on to the next town.
When I read of the life of such a man, how I blush to think how sickly and dwarfed Christianity is at the present time, and how many hundreds there are who never think of working for the Son of God and honoring Christ.
Yet when he wrote that letter back to Corinth, we find him taking an inventory of some things he had.
He is rich, he says: In journeyings, often in perils «of water; in perils by my own countrymen; in perils by the heathen; in perils in the city; in perils in the wilderness; in perils in the sea; in perils among false brethren. That must have been the hardest of all. In weariness, in painfulness, in watchings often; in hungering, in thirsting, in fasting often; in cold, in nakedness; and besides all these, the care of all the churches. These are only some of the things that he summed up. Do you know what made him so exceedingly glad? It was just because he believed the Scripture; he believed that Sermon on the Mount. We profess to believe it; we pretend to believe it; but few of us more than half believe it. Listen to one sentence in that sermon: Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven when you are persecuted. Now this persecution was about all that Paul had.
That was his capital, and he had a good deal of it; he ha^ laid by a good many persecutions, and he was to get a great reward. Christ says, Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward. If Jesus Christ called it great it must be wonderful. We call things great that may look very small to Jesus Christ; and things that look very small to us may look very large to Christ, and when the great Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, He who created the heavens and the earth by His mighty power, when He calls it a great reward, what must it be?
Perhaps some people said to him: "Now, Paul, you are meeting with too much opposition; you are suffering too much."
Hear him reply: These light afflictions just for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
"These light afflictions," he calls them. "We would have called them pretty hard, pretty heavy, would n't we?
»But he says, "These light afflictions are nothing; think of the glory before me, and think of the crowning time; think of the reward that is laid up for me. I am on my way; He will give it to me when the time comes;" and that is what filled his soul with joy; it was the reward that the Lord had in store for him.
Now, my friends, let us just for a minute think of what he accomplished. Think of going out, as it were, among the heathen; the first missionary to preach to these men, that were so full of wickedness and so full of enmity and bitterness, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and to tell them that the man who died outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem the death of a common prisoner, a common felon, in the sight of the world, was the Christ; to tell them that they had to believe in that crucified man in order to get into the kingdom of God.
Think of the dark mountain that rose up before him; think ef the opposition; think of the bitter persecution, and then think of the trifles in our way.
SONGS IN PRISON.
But a great many worldly people think Paul's life was a failure. Probably his enemies thought when they put him in prison it would silence him; but do you know that I believe to-day Paul thanks God more for prisons, for stripes, for persecution and the opposition that he suffered, than anything else that happened to him here?
The very things we don't like are sometimes the very best for us.
Christians probably might not have these glorious epistles, if Paul had not been thrown into prison. There he took up his pen and began to write that letter to the Christians at Corinth. Look at the two epistles that he wrote at Corinth to the Corinthians. Look and see how muoh has been done for the world by these epistles. See what a blessing they have been to the church of God; how they have thrown light on many a man's life. But we might not have those epistles if it had not been for opposition.
No doubt John Bunyan blesses God more to-day for Bedford jail than anything that happened to him. Probably we would not have the Pilgrim's Progress if he had not been thrown into that jail. Satan thought he accomplished a great deal when ho shut Bunyan up twelve years and six months in that jail; but what a blessing it was to the world; and I believe Paul blesses God to-day for the Philippian Jail, and for the opposition he encountered in Rome, because it gave him time to write those blessed letters. Talk of Alexander making the world tremble with the tread of his armies; and Caesar and Napoleon's power; but here is a little tent-maker^ who without an army, moved the world.
Because God Almighty was with him.
He says in one place "None of these things move me." They threw him in prison; but it was all the same—it did not move him. When he was at Corinth and Athens preaching, it was all the same. He just pressed towards the mark of the prize of his high calling. If God wanted him to go through prisons to win the prize, it was all the same to him. They put him in prison, but they put the Almighty in with him, and he was so linked to Jesus that they could not separate them. He would rather be in prison with Christ than out of prison without him. He would a thousand times rather be cast into prison with the Son of God and suffer a little persecution for a few days here, than to be living without him. lives I should give every one to Christ, and the only regret I have is that I did not commence earlier and serve Him better; the only regret I have now is that I ever lifted my voice against Jesus of Nazareth."
He went over into Macedonia- He heard the cry, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." He went over and he preached, and the first thing that happened to him was that he was put into the Philippian jail. Now, if he had been as faint-hearted as most of us, he would have been disappointed and cast down. There would have been a good deal of complaint.
He would have said, " This is a strange Providence; what ever brought me here? I thought the Lord called me here; here I am in prison in a strange city; how did I ever get here? how will I ever get out of this place? I have no money; I have no friends; I have no attorney; I have no one to intercede for me, and here I am." Paul and Silas were not only in prison, but they made their feet fast in the stocks. There they were, in the inner prison, the inner dungeon, a dark, cold, damp dungeon. But at midnight those prisoners heard a strange voice. They had never heard anything like it before. They heard singing. I don't know what song they sung, but I know one thing, it was not a doleful sound from the tombs. You know we have a hymn: "Hark, from the tombs a doleful sound." They didn't sing that, but the Bible tells us they sang praises. That was a queer place to sing praises, wasn't it?
I suppose it was time for the evening prayers, and that they had just had their evening prayer and then sang their evening song. And God answered their prayers, and the old prison shook, and the chains fell off, and the prison doors were opened. Yes, yes; I have no doubt he thanks God in glory that he went to jail and that the Philippian jailer became converted.
SWEPT INTO GLORY.
But look at him at Home. Nero has signed his deathwarrant. Take your stand and look at the little man. He is small; in the sight of the world he is contemptible; the world frowns upon him. Go to the palace of the king and talk about that criminal—about Paul—and you will see a sneer on their countenances.
"Oh, he is a fanatic," they say, "he has gone mad." I wish the world was filled with such lunatics. I tell you what we want to-day is a few lunatics like him; men that fear nothing but sin and love no one but God.
Rome never had such a conqueror within its limits. Rome never had such a mighty man as Paul within its boundaries. Although the world looked down upon him, and he looked very small and contemptible, yet in the sight of heaven he was the mightiest man that ever trod the streets of Rome. Probably there will never be another one like him that will ever travel those streets. The Son of God walked with him, and the form of the Fourth was with him. But go into that prison; there he is; they come to him and tell him that Nero has signed his death-warrant. He does not tremble; he is not afraid.
"Paul, are you not sorry you have been so zealous for Christ? It is going to cost you your life; if you had to live your life over again, would you give it to Jesus of Nazareth?'' What do you think the old warrior would say?
See that eye light up as he says, "If I had ten thousand
"But they are going to behead you."
"Well, they may take my head, but the Lord has my heart. I don't care about my head; the Lord has my heart and has had it for years. They can not separate me from the Lord, and though my head may be taken off, we are not going to be separated." And they led him out.
I don't know; perhaps it was early in the morning. Profane history tells us that they led him two miles out of the city. Look at the little tent-maker as he goes along through the streets of Rome with a firm tread. Look at that giant as he moves through the streets. He is on his way to the execution. Take your stand by his side and hear him talk. He is talking of the glory beyond.
He says: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. I shall be there to-night. I shall see the King in his beauty to-night. I have longed to be with Him; I-have longed to see Him. This is my crowning day."
The world pitied him, but he did not need its pity. He had something the world had not; he had a love and zeal burning within him which the world knew nothing about. Ah, the love that Paul had for Jesus Christ!
But the hour has come. The way they used to behead them in those days was for the prisoner to bend his hesd, and a Roman soldier took a sharp sword and cut it off. The hour had come, and, with a joyful countenance, I can see Paul bending that blessed head of his, and that sword comes down and sets his spirit free.
If our eyes could look as Elisha's looked, we would have seen him leap into a chariot of light like Elijah; we would have seen him go sweeping through limitless space.
Look at him now as he mounts higher and higher; look at him, see him move up; up—up—up—ever upward. Look at him yonder!
See! he is entering now the Eternal City of the glorified saints, the blissful abode of the Saviour's Redeemed. The prize he so long has sought is at hand. See yonder the gates; how they fly wide open. See the herald angels yonder on the shining battlements of heaven. Hear the glad shouts that is passed along, "He is coming! he is coming!" And he goes sweeping through the pearly gates, up through the shining way, to the very throne of God, and Christ stands there and says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Just think of hearing the Master say that—that is enough for everything, is it not?
Oh friends, your turn and mine will come by-and-by, if we are but faithful; let us see that we do not lose the crown. Let us awake and put on the whole armor of God; let us press into the conflict; it is a glorious privilege; and then to us too, as to the glorified of old, will come that blessed welcome: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."