And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.Revelation 14:1The Communion of Saints.
The communion of saints is (1) the restoration of fellowship between God and man; (2) the restoration of the fellowship of men with each other.
I. Let us learn from it that we can never be lonely or forsaken in this life. Our Lord has promised, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." And in Him all His saints are with us too. No trial can isolate us; no sorrow can cut us off from the communion of saints. There is but one thing in which the sympathy of Christ has no share, and that is the guilt of wilful sin. The faith is the common consciousness and life of the elect, and they who stand for it, although they stand alone against all the world, are never alone, for all the companies of heaven and all the generations of the Church are at their side. Kneel down, and you are with them; lift your eyes, and the heavenly world, high above all perturbation, hangs serenely overhead. Only a thin veil, it may be, floats between.
II. Let us learn further, by the reality of this heavenly fellowship, to live less in this divided world. If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us, and if no love of the Father, then no communion with His kingdom. Between these two we must make our choice. We are between two cities, the one visible, the other invisible; the one an object of sense, the other of faith; the one garish, splendid, and tumultuous, the other calm, glorious, and serene: on the one side, the world and this earthly life, with its fair show, luring gifts, bright promises, gilded ambition; on the other, the city of God, the fellowship of saints, the sympathy of Christ, the love of the Father, the beatific vision.
III. Let us learn from the communion of saints to live in hope. They who are now at rest were once like ourselves. Their life was once homely and commonplace. While on earth they were not arrayed in white raiment, but in apparel like that of other men, unmarked and plain, worn and stained by time and trial. Only one thing there is in which we are unlike them: they were common in all things except the uncommon measure of their inward sanctity. In all beside we are as they, only it is now our turn to strive for the crown of life.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 303.
References: Revelation 14:1-3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 110; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 17. Revelation 14:2, Revelation 14:3.—T. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 425. Revelation 14:3.—G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to My Friends, p. 207; Talmage, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 92. Revelation 14:4.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 4th series, p. 89.
Revelation 14:6The Everlasting Gospel.
Some one not long ago published a book with the title "Gospels of Yesterday." It discussed the writings of several authors who in our generation have caught the popular ear, and analysed their doctrines with keen incisiveness. Gospels of yesterday—how many there have been of them. They lasted as long as they could, but the world outgrew them. There is only one Gospel which is everlasting, which can pass from country to country, from continent to continent, and be everywhere at home; which time cannot wither nor custom stale; which has the safe and certain reversion of all the future. Now why is this? What makes the Gospel of Christ everlasting? To this question I give two answers. First, it is a message to what is universal in man; and secondly, it is a message to what is peculiar in every man.
I. Its universal message. The reason why so many gospels have been doomed to become gospels of yesterday has been because they have addressed themselves to what is transient or partial in human nature. Religions have been the religions of single tribes or single countries, and have not been adopted for other parts of the world; philosophies have addressed themselves to select sections of that community, like that one which inscribed over the entrance to its school in Athens the intimation, "Let no one ignorant of mathematics enter here." Men have been hailed as saviours of society because they have been able to give relief from a need pressing at some particular time, or because their doctrines have fallen in with some passing phase of popular sentiment. But the glory of Christianity is that its teaching is addressed to what is most characteristic in human nature, and absolutely the same in all members of the human race, whether they be rich or poor, whether they inhabit the one hemisphere or the other, and whether they live in ancient or modern times. The three great watchwords of the Gospel—the soul, sin, and eternity—which it is uttering continually wherever its voice is heard at all, are enough to show why it is an everlasting Gospel. Nowhere in the wide world and at no period in the lapse of ages can human beings be found to whom these words will not have all the reality and all the interest of life and death, and if the Gospel can tell how the infinitely precious soul is to be saved, how sin is to be overcome and blotted out, and how eternity is to be transmuted from a dream of terror into a home and an inheritance, then it can never lack an audience.
II. Its particular message. The Gospel has a message for the difference in each specimen of human nature, and for each quarter of the globe and each age of the world, as well as for that which is common to all. God has a special message for every age. His Gospel has a word in season for every condition of life, for the child, and the young man in his prime, and for old age, a word for the multitude and a word for the few. The Chinese, when they accept the Gospel, will find secrets in it which the British have never discovered; the twentieth century will discover phases of the Christian life which are lacking to the nineteenth. We have not exhausted Christ, and we have not exhausted the Gospel of Christ.
J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli., p. 397.
Reference: Revelation 14:6.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 122.
Revelation 14:12There are mainly three conditions required in order to the attainment of the grace of patience.
I. Learn to look on all trying circumstances from the true point of view. The first and most natural view of them is that they destroy our ease. The sense of injury or annoyance, the soreness at the unkindness or disappointment—this occupies us, and the one longing is that the cause of pain may be removed, that at any cost we may be freed from the unwelcome pressure. Thence arises the restless impatience which is the source of some of our worst temptations. We need to rise above this estimate of trial, to look at it on a different side, to view it as God views it. As in mounting a hilly range, when looking down from a higher eminence on points which were above us as we commenced the ascent, their aspect is altogether changed from the mere effect of change in our point of view, so we need to rise above the first appearance of the trial, above the mere temporary effects, separating from it the selfish aspect, the idea of injury, or hardship, or personal annoyance, to rise high enough to apprehend the Divine will regulating it, the love restraining it, lest it become heavier than we are enabled to bear, the virtue which God intended to work in us by its means.
II. The second condition is the self-sacrifice which alone can surrender inward sensibilities to be chastened as God wills.
III. The third condition is the habitual study of the life of Jesus, which cherishes as a reality a spirit of patience. No impulse can rise in rebellion before the face of the Crucified.
T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 292.
Revelation 14:12-13All Saints.
I. Our text shows us the chief graces which have made the saints what they are: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." So then the saint-like graces on which we are invited to gaze are faith and patience. Patience says, "Do not take for granted that you have failed because the result at present seems poor." The end is not yet. Look with suspicion on rapidly won victories. Those master-builders who have been permitted to raise up the grandest edifices, either of personal piety or of extensive reforms, have generally been men who have passed through repeated disappointments, and by failing often have been taught to build circumspectly, to examine the soil, and to lay warily every stone. It is interesting often to see on its secular side the operation of a grand Christian grace. Some who would scorn patience at the hand of a saint may reverence her when she comes from the hand of a statesman. An instructive story has reached us of the most commanding of English Ministers. One day, we are told, the conversation turned on the quality most required in a Prime Minister. One said eloquence, another knowledge, another toil. "No," said the man who bore the burden for seventeen years; "it is patience."
II. Patience and faith are sister-graces. The saints clung to the powers of the world to come. They were not satisfied with what they saw. Faith is still, as it always has been, the salt of the earth, the one thing which prevents mankind from becoming utterly corrupt and keeps open the ladder of communication between God and man. Nor is it always acting on the defensive. The faith of the saints, the firm trust in God which fills the souls of all His true servants, has been the author of all the great achievements which redeem the history of the world from vulgarity and from selfishness. There is nothing impossible for those who believe in Christ, and are content to bide God's time.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 71.
Reference: Revelation 14:12, Revelation 14:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1219.
Revelation 14:13The Immortality of Good Work.
This is a benediction; it is a benediction, too, falling where we are accustomed to look for anything else but felicitation. "Waste," "decay," "death," are words which usually bring only the most gloomy associations; but in the New Testament, more and more as it goes on toward its consummation, the brightest words, the strongest tokens of joy and of triumph, overhang these desolate places; and where men have been accustomed to set fear as a sentinel, to wet the place with tears, there in Christianity we see banners set up for victory, and we see all cheer and all comfort predicated of that which has been the world's dread and the world's curse.
I. We regard it as strange when energetic and useful men are cut off. Men cling to their work by that very force which enables them to be useful. We could not be what we are appointed to be in this life if we were so indifferent to our tasks and responsibilities that we could let them go easily; and this very tenacity, this very life adhesion, becomes at last a hindrance. So long as we are bound to this life, we are bound to be interested in the things of this life; and men cling to their work as if that were nature, when it is nature in transitu, or when it is nature partial or relative to one particular period of our age; and when persons are taken out of life in the midst of strength and function, men marvel. They cannot understand why those who are useful should be removed. But do you forget that dying makes but very little void in this world? Indeed, after Christ died He lived more efficaciously than when He was alive. The death of the Apostle stopped nothing, but sped much. No age was ever left without men. We are poor in our conception, but God is rich. He that could raise up seed to Abraham from the very stones need not look about much, nor mourn that men, one and another, drop out from the functions of life; yet it is natural that we should do so. They who have the responsibility, they who supervise the labour, they who must replace the men that are gone, think it strange that those who are well equipped and of the right spirit should be taken out of life.
II. But the consideration of triumph is that men do not cease their work. They never die. The irksome part of their labour they rest from; but their works go after, go on with, or have gone before them. A man's life is not simply what you see. The effects of a man's life are not simply those things which you can count, measure, or describe. He who lives in earnest, striving to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, or in the spirit of Christ, throws into life elements which never die out even here—elements that are not witnesses; that have no report; that come not with observation; that are immeasurable; but that are more real a thousand times than the things which are visible.
H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 60.
I. There seem to be two points to be discussed in the text. (1) What is meant by dying in the Lord, and (2) for what reason or reasons are those who die in the Lord to be pronounced blessed? As to the former of the two, it may be well for us to note that there is a peculiar significance about the expression "in the Lord." The Scriptures of the Old Testament, and even the Scriptures of the New, make much of the lawgiver Moses, and Moses perhaps was the man who more than any other man who ever lived has influenced the fortunes of Israel, and through Israel the fortunes of the human race. But although men may follow Moses and obey the precepts which he gave, you never heard any of them spoken of as being "in Moses." And, again, when we come to the New Testament, we find the Apostle Paul put prominently forward as one of the greatest of the inspired teachers whom God has sent for the instruction and guidance of mankind. Yet neither do you meet with the expression "in Paul" or any conceivable equivalent for it. It is obvious that the expression conveys more than the idea of respecting a teacher, or of imitating an example, or obeying the injunctions of one who has a right to command us. It implies a close and living personal union, which is real, though it may be mysterious, and which shows its existence in certain unmistakable results produced upon our heart and conduct. A Christian is a man who is in Christ, and who abides or remains in Him. The man must die in the Lord as well as live in the Lord, if we are to pronounce him blessed.
II. The reasons for the proclamation of blessedness. They are two in number: (1) they rest from their labours; (2) their works do follow them. The person of the man is accepted for Christ's sake; his works come afterwards. A man cannot take with him his riches, his honours, his worldly position and successes; these things will drop off him as he enters the cold waters of death. All that will go with him is his character and the results of the influence which he has exerted upon the character of others; and in this respect eternity will be but a continuation and prolongation of the present life.
G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 1163.
The Blessed Dead.
I. The dead that die in the Lord. The term hardly needed much nice definition when to live in the Lord meant almost certainly persecution, and possibly martyrdom. To die in the Lord was the end of those who had lived in the Lord, and few were likely to make that profession who had not taken up the cross and followed Christ in the way. To die in the Lord is to die in possession of all that the Lord, by His incarnation and passion, has won for man; to die in the Lord is to pass up to live with Him. What life do you take through death to that world? Is it a fool's paradise which you are dreaming of there, or the Lord's? It is simply a question of at-homeness. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, who have lived with Him here, talked with Him, wrought for Him, and have pined for more perfect possession of all that makes the holy beauty of His character and glory of His life.
II. Wherein are they blessed who die in the Lord? What is it which transmutes man's great terror into an angel of benediction, and makes that which nature shudders at a birth into a world of bliss? Here we rise into another region: a region of intense, conscious, joyous vitality; a region of intelligent, responsible, glorious activity, in which nothing that makes the dignity, the grandeur, of the burden of life is laid down, but only the pain. (1) Because death is birth to the believer, and birth is ever blessed. This is not the noon of life, but its struggling dawn; not its summer, but its bleak and wintry spring. Our high life is the seed in the ground which is growing, struggling into form. Blessed are the dead, for they are born, exiled from the body, at home with the Lord. (2) Born out of a life which is a long pain to a life which is a long bliss. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." (3) They pass out of relations and fellowships which are ever changing to those which abide and enlarge their ministries through eternity. (4) Blessed are they, for they are for ever beyond the reach of ail that may imperil the prize.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 320.
The Blessedness of the Dead in Christ.
Some years ago, when worshipping in one of the churches of the canton of Glarus, in Switzerland, I could not but be struck with the truth of the remark that there, as in some other parts of that wonderful country, the mountains look in at the windows. Wherever there was an opening, some part of a giant mountain could be seen looking in, as with a lofty and yet kindly eye; and the effect was all the more striking that in that grey and venerable town where I was more than three and a half centuries before the great Swiss reformer Zwingli had begun that work which was to have such consequences for his country and for the world. I have been impressed with the likeness of the relation of heaven to the Church below in the book of Revelation. Everywhere, so to speak, heaven looks in at the windows; and there are not only looks and sympathies, but voices, reminding those engaged in the earthly worship that a higher company is not far off from any one of them, and that where the shadow now falls the summit is also near. Considering the words of the text as in general descriptive of the heavenly blessedness, I shall endeavour to answer three questions regarding it which are here suggested:—
I. How is this heavenly blessedness attested? We all profess to believe in heaven. How do we know that there are such a place and such a state? If we cannot give a good answer, the Apostle John could. Could he have written all this, even had he wished it, without inspiration from God? If the Apostles had seen all that they testified, would they not have been less than men if they had doubted it? And shall we be wiser men than they if we disbelieve it? But their testimony, of an outward kind, has an inward voucher to its own authenticity. It bears the stamp of the heaven whence it professes to come. Here is a heaven of holiness and purity, of likeness to God, and fellowship to Christ, and eternal worship, contemplation, and praise. Did this dream come out of the human mind and heart? Then there is a testimony in living epistles, written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. This is our third evidence of there being a heavenly world, what may be called the evidence from Christian character. Had you been in company with the Apostle John, you would have said, "Here is heaven begun." The Christian Church in all its graces and in all its virtues, as it is a preparation for heaven, so is it a prophecy of heaven.
II. How is this heavenly blessedness gained? (1) Faith is needful to give a title to the heavenly blessedness; (2) holy obedience is necessary.
III. How is this heavenly blessedness to be enjoyed? (1) There is the rest of the worker; (2) there is the continued influence of the work.
J. Cairns, Christ the Morning Star, p. 160.
The Christian's Death.
I. Death is a curse. My text says, "Blessed are the dead." Still death is a curse. Separate and apart from the consolations of Christian faith, death is a tremendous evil. Nature shrinks from it shuddering. In most cases death presents the unmistakable features of a tremendous curse, being attended with sufferings which, however unpleasant to think of, it is well to anticipate, that we may be prepared for the worst, and, fortified by faith, may withstand the rude shocks of dissolution.
II. Death is a blessing. The union which is formed between Christ and His people being one of incorporation, and not merely one of co-operation, what the one is, the other is; and where the one is, the other is; and as the one feels, the other feels: and as our bodies and their limbs have all things in common, or the branches and trunk of a tree have sap in common, so Jesus and His people have all things in common. To be in Christ, then, to be in the Lord, implies that we shall infallibly enjoy all the blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, which He shed His blood to purchase, these being secured to us by the great oath of God and the bonds of a covenant which is well ordered in all things and sure.
III. Death is a blessing as introducing us into a state of rest. (1) At death the believer rests from the toils of life. (2) At death the believer rests from the cares of life. Faith is often weak, and man is fearful; and so our life has many a troubled dream, that fills those with fears and terrors who are all the time safely folded in a Father's arms. (3) At death the believer rests from the griefs of life. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord will deliver him out of them," if never before, at death. Death cures all griefs; and his own best physic and physician, he applies the most healing balm to the wounds his own hands have made. No more true or beautiful way of announcing a good man's death than the old-fashioned phrase, "He is at rest"
T. Guthrie, The Way to Life, p. 372.
Revelation 14:13I. Observe that St. John introduces the subject with a singular solemnity; "Yea," as though it was worthy of some special asseveration;—"Yea, the Spirit saith." He said all that John had written; but He said this with a stronger emphasis: "Yea, the Spirit saith,"—for the exceeding comfort of all the weary ones, who are now fighting through the hard day,—"Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours." From their "labours" they "rest," not from their "works," but from the pain of work, for "their works do follow them." There are two senses in which we may take this last clause: the record of their works follows them to testify to the grace of God, to witness to them in the day of judgment, and to be the measure of their eternal reward; or, more literally, their works themselves do follow them, what they used to do and loved to do for God in this present world. It follows them, to be taken up again in some higher and holier manner there. The tastes they formed, the services in which they delighted, the ministrations which they occupied here—they have not ceased to be, but are sweetly renewed in that higher state. And is it not an animating thought to think that all we now try to do for God is the beginning of something which we are to continue for ever and for ever, and for ever and for ever to continue to improve to do? Is it not very pleasant to realise those we love there carrying on still their loving occupations, which we remembered in them so well when they were with us here? But the struggle, the toil, the distress of work, is past for ever. "They rest from their labours," even though, ay, and because "their works do follow them." Work is never a hurtful thing. Work, in its own essence, is all happiness; it is the worry of work, it is the anxiety of work, it is the disproportionateness of work, it is the unkindness of work, it is the clashing of work, it is the incompleteness of work, it is the disappointment of work, this is the trouble and the discipline. Take away these, and work is heaven. Therefore we have all the elements of perfect joy combined when we say, "They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them."
II. To this last release, not from "work," but from "labour," we mount up by many steps. The fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives the series of steps. There is a rest or release into which we all enter the moment we believe. "We which believe do enter into rest." It is a rest or release from the feeling of condemnation, from that awfully oppressive feeling of unforgiven sin. From that time "labour" continues, perhaps increases. The sin is more violent; and therefore the labour is more severe. But then it is the labour of a lightened heart; it is the labour of love. After that, after forgiveness, gradually another release takes place. The Christian escapes from the dominion of sin. It becomes rather his servant, that sometimes rebels, than his master, that always rules; and that is the release from the thraldom of the tyranny of sin. Nevertheless, after that release, sin is there. It meets him everywhere; he is never safe from it. He is pained by its contact; he is humbled by its force; he is grieved by its outbreak. He sees it; he feels it; he breathes it; he lives in the atmosphere of it, till at last a moment comes that he is released even from the touch, from the sound, from the breath, from the possibility, of it. And so the believer travels up, in a series of releases, step by step, to that grand dismissal at last when he is set free from the whole warfare of the cross of Christ. But what will the release be? You will come down from your watch-tower. How you are obliged to be always going up to that watch-tower! And how your eye is strained to descry the approach of evil, of which you knew it was somewhere, but from what quarter you could never tell how it would come, often from the most unlikely! And so night and day you had to keep your weary guard there. You may sheathe that sword; you may lay down that shield. There is no adverse occurrent now. Every one that rose up against you is laid dead at your feet. It is peace, peace, inviolable peace, and peace that can never be broken. And painful exercises there are now no more, no rushing tides of contending influences, no antagonism of a double nature, no warring of the flesh against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, no wrestling with the evil one, no importunate prayer, no baffling mysteries to the tired intellect, no delicate balancing of truth and error, no efforts failing through their own violence, no sinking of the spirit, no eclipse of faith, no mountains of pride, no valleys of despair. The besetting sin rears its conquered head again and again no more. All those are labours past, and, like all labours past, bitter in the present, pleasant, very pleasant, very humbling, but very glorifying to God, to look back upon. And the very capability of sin is gone. It would be as impossible to have a wrong as it is now impossible to have a right thought. You cannot help but love God intently, and please Him absolutely, for nature and grace run in one channel, in one world; and the whole man is one perfect image of one infinite Creator. Then, as I believe, in token of it all, God will give to every discharged soldier "the white stone, with the new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it," the sign of His approving favour, our dismission from sin, our admission into everlasting glory. So will the release come on; and that will be the Easter joy of our resurrection morn.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 45.
Revelation 14:13Degrees of Glory.
We are justified casually by God's eternal grace; we are justified effectively by the blood of Jesus Christ; we are justified instrumentally by faith; we are justified evidentially by good works. Or, to put this a little more plainly, we are justified before God—i.e., we are accounted righteous and acceptable—only by the faith in Christ which His Spirit creates and moves in our hearts. But how are we justified to ourselves in believing that we are justified before God? how are we justified to the world in saying that we are justified? By our good works. This harmonises the apparent discrepancy between St. Paul and St. James. We are "justified by our works," as St. James says, in believing that we are "justified" before God, as St. Paul says, "by faith" only. "They rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
I. Observe that it does not say, "They rest from their works"—for that would imply that where they are gone they cease from work, which is entirely the contrary to the fact—but, "They rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Now labour is work's distress. Work itself as such is joy. There is no happiness without work. Every man must work, some with their heads, some with their minds, some with their hands; but all must work. The secret of all the wretchedness that there is in the world is the absence of work. Whoever you are, you can never lead a happy life if you do not work, really work, work hard. If your circumstances do not define your work for you, you must define your work for yourself. You must work. It is God's universal law in His government of this world, "If any man will not work, neither let him eat"—eat of any of the pleasant things which I spread for My children. But then, in this present state, the law of work has its dark shadows: fatigue, infirmity, too great tension, ill-health, disappointments, mistakes, waitings, suspensions, and sins. There is the miserable, depressing sense of inadequacy for the task; there is the perplexity of what is the line of duty and all the entanglements of self on every point; there is the feeling, "After all, all this is but a drop out of the ocean of misery!" I do not wonder that even in His work, Jesus "sighed." Now, all this, and much more, makes the labour. The Greek word has for its root the verb "to cut"—it cuts to the heart. It is like that other word, "Take no thought for the morrow," which is in the original, "Do not cut or split your heart about the morrow." But yet all this that cuts to the quick is necessary now to make work what work was intended to be in this stage of existence. The labour of work is the discipline of work; it is the education, the discipline, the school. It was not the work which was the punishment of Adam and Eve—doubtless they would have worked in paradise—but it was the excess of the work above the power of the being of the worker, work's pressure: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." And therefore, because it is the needful discipline, the rule holds good, whether it be the bread for the body, or whether it be the bread for the mind, or whether it be the bread for the soul, you can never get what is really satisfying but by dint of real, hard fag, hard toil: "in the sweat of thy brow." It is not work only, but it is labour, which is the condition of the peace of life. Therefore it was that Christ chose the word—for He knew how wide it was—"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
II. If a man is in Christ, and that man works, and that man casts the labour of his work upon Christ, its vexings and its harassings, then that man has entered into rest so far, for he does the work, and he casts the labour. Absolutely, however, death is the point when the believer perfectly and for ever exchanges labour for work. Death might be defined as going from labour to work. For do not think that those busy minds which were so active and so earnest here when they were among us, who are gone to their prepared places, are leading there a life of mere receptive enjoyment or meditative peace. They have not so unlearned their natures. "His servants shall serve Him." "They rest not day and night," while they glorify God, in His boundless ministrations, still "each upon his wing," while he soars away for activity in his vast circumference. It is tolerably clear, then, what it is the Spirit saith when He saith, "Yea, that they may rest from their labours."
III. We have now to examine a little further how it is that "their works do follow them." It certainly admits of the interpretation that those works in which Christians are engaged here continue to interest them in the next world. Why should it not be so? Do we not make too much of death if we look upon it as destroying any of the interests of life? For what is death but as if a person should go into some foreign land? He can see no longer what he used to love so well, and what he called home. But do those things which lie beyond the sea become indifferent to him? Are his affections closed to them? Nay, are not those things, in some sense, dearer to him than ever they were before? Surely we may believe that those high and busy enterprises, which had so large a place in the hearts of God's children here, are not forgotten by them in their perfected happiness! The conversion of the Jews, the missions to the heathen, the flock, the schools, things once so near and bound up with their very life-blood—do you think they are passed away? And if not, if the interest lasts, and is imperishable, then may we not say that, in this way, "their works do follow them"? Nay, may we not go a step further, and hold it probable that there is a continuity between the special tastes, and occupations, and habits of thought, which characterised us here, and that which shall stamp our condition and our services in another state? Do not let us make the gulf between the two worlds greater than it is. There are two offices which the works we have done on earth are fulfilling in another world. (1) The one is to be our witnesses in the day of judgment. The matter which will be examined into at that tribunal will not be acts, but character. It will be, Did you love God? What was Christ to you? What were you to Christ? But, to determine the answer to that inquiry, acts will stand out in evidence; words will be an index. Therefore "by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." Deeds of charity will stand out in evidence: "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it not to Me"; "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Thus, then, just as our justification was justified by our good works when we were here, so there God, though He needs it not, will be justified before the universe, in His final award to all men, by their works, which will be manifest then before men and angels. (2) The second purpose for which our "works will follow us" will be to determine, as I believe, the measure of our glory and our place in heaven, our place, not geographically, but morally, not so as to separate one saint from another—for the communion will be perfect in all saints—but just as Christians here meet in one, but yet are of various capacities and degrees, so there it will be in glory: they are all one, all filled, but the vessels are of different sizes.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 90.
References: Revelation 14:13.—S. King, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 51; R. Thomas, Ibid., vol. vii., p. 40; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 92; Bishop Barry, Sermons for Passiontide and Easter, p. 104; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 262; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 83: Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 363. Revelation 14:15.—H. Robjohns, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 271; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 142.
And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
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 henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.