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ye weeping and timid spirits, behold Jesus Christ risen! For remember, this is a great truth—“ Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” And the verse of our song just embodies it :
“What though our inbred sins require
Our flesh to see the dust,
So all his followers must.” There widow; weep no longer for your husband, if he died in Jesus. See the Master he is risen from the dead; no spectre is he. In the presence of his disciples he eats a piece of broiled fish and part of an honeycomb. No spirit is he; for he saith, “ Handle me and see; a spirit hath not flesh and blood as ye see me have.” That was a real resurrection. And learn then, beloved, when you weep, to restrain your sorrows; for thy loved ones shall live again. Not only shall their spirits live, but their bodies too.
“Corruption, earth, and worms,
Do but refine this flesh;
We put it on afresh.” Oh! think not that the worm has eaten up your children, your friends, your husband, your father, your aged parents-true, the worms seem to have devoured them. On: what is the worm after all, but the filter through which our poor filthy flesh must go? For in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, we shall be raised incorruptible, and the living shall be changed; you shall see the eye that just now has been closed, and you shall look on it again, you shall again grasp the hand that just now fell motionless at the side. You shall kiss the lips that just now were clay-cold, and white, and you shall hear again the voice that is silent in the tomb. They shall live again. And you that fear death-why fear to die? Jesus died before you, and he passed through the iron gates, and as he passed through them before you, he will come and meet you. Jesus who lives can
“Make the dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are." Why should you weep? for Jesus rose from the dead; so shall you. Be of good cheer and confidence. You are not lost when you are put into the tomb; you are but seed sown to ripen against the eternal harvest. Your spirit mounts to God; your body slumbers for awhile to be quickened into eternal life. It cannot be quickened except it die; but when it dies it shall receive a new life; it shall not be destroyed. “They looked to him, and were lightened.” Oh! this is a precious thing to look to—a risen Saviour. I know of nothing that can lift our spirits higher than a true view of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have not lost any friends then; they have gone before. We shall not die ourselves; we shall seem to die, but we shall begin to live; for it is written
“ He lives to die; he dies to live;
He lives to die no more." May that be the lot of each one of us!
IV. And with the greatest possible brevity, I invite you to Look At Jesus Christ ASCENDING INTO HEAVEN. After forty days, he takes his disciples to the hill, and while he discourses with them, on a sudden he mounts upward;
and he is separated from them, and a cloud receives him into glory. Perhaps I may be allowed a little poetical license if I try to picture that which occurred after he ascended into the clouds. The angels came from heaven
They brought his chariot from on high,
To bear him to his throne;
The glorious work is done.” I doubt not, that with matchless triumph he ascended the hill of light and went to the celestial city, and when he neared the portals of that great metropolis of the universe, the angels shouted, “ Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors,” and the bright spirits from burning battlements, cried out, * Who is this King of Glory—who?” And the answer came, “the Lord mighty in battle, and the Lord of Hosts; he is the King of Glory.” And then both they upon the walls, and they who walk with the chariot join the song once more, and with one mighty sea of music, beating its melodious waves against the gates of heaven and forcing tirem open, the strain is heard, “ Lift up your heads, O) ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in”-and in he went. And at his feet the angelic hosts all cast their crowns, and forth came the blood-washed and met him, not casting roses at his feet, as we do at the feet of conquerors in our streets, but casting immortal flowers, imperishable wreaths of honour that never can decay; while again, again, again, the heavens did ring with this melody, “ Unto him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Fatherunto him be glory for ever and ever." And all the saints and all the angels said, " Amen.” Now, look ye here, Christian, here is your comfort; Jesus Christ won the victory, and he ascended to his throne of glory. You are fighting to-day, and wrestling with spiritual enemies, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers; you are at war to-day, and mayhap the enemy has thrust sore at you, and you have been ready to fall; it is a marvel to you, that you have not turned your back in the day of battle, for you have often feared lest you should be made to fly like a coward from the field. But tremble not, your Master was more than conqueror, and so shall you be The day is coming when with splendour less than his, but yet the same in its measure, you too shall pass the gates of bliss; when you are dying, angels shall meet you in the mid-stream, and when your blood is cooling with the cold current, then shall your heart be warming with another stream, a stream of light and heat from the great fountain of all joy, and you shall stand on the other side of Jordan, and angels shall meet you elothed in their immaculate garments, they shall attend you up the hill of light, and they shall chant the praise of Jesus, and hail you as another trophy of his power. And when you enter the gates of heaven, you shall be met with Christ your Master, who will say to you—“Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Then will you feel that you are sharing in his victory, as once you shared in his struggles and his war. Fight on, Christian, your glorious Captain has won a great victory, and has secured for you in one and the same victory, a standard that never yet was stained with defeat, though often dipped in the blood of the slain.
V. And now once more, “Look unto him, and be lightened.” See there he sits in heaven, he has led captivity captive, and now sits at the right hand of God, for ever making intercession for us. Can your faith picture him to-day? Like a great high priest of old, he stands with outstretched arms: there is majesty in his mien, for he is no mean cringing suppliant. He does not beat his breast, nor cast his eyes upon the ground, but with authority he pleads enthroned in glory now. There on his head is the bright shining mitre of his priesthood, and look you, on his breast are glittering the precious stones whereon the names of his elect are everlastingly engraven; hear him as he pleads, hear you not what it is?-is that your prayer that he is mentioning before the throne? The prayer that this morning you offered ere you came to the house of God, Christ is now offering before his Father's throne. The vow which just now you uttered when you said, “ Have pity and have mercy," -- he is now uttering there. He is the Altar and the Priest, and with his own sacrifice he perfumes our prayers. And yet, mayhap, you have been at prayer many a day, and had no answer; poor weeping suppliant, thou hast sought the Lord and he hath not heard thee, or at least not answered thee to thy soul's delight; thou hast cried unto him, but the heavens have been as brass, and he hath shut out thy prayer, thou art full of darkness and heaviness on account of this, “Look to him, and be lightened.” If thou dost not succeed, he will; if thy intercession be unnoticed his cannot be passed away; if thy prayers can be like water spilt on a rock which cannot be gathered up, yet his prayers are not like that, he is God's Son, he pleads and must prevail; God cannot refuse his own Son what he now asks, he who once bought mercies with his blood. Oh! be of good cheer, continue still thy supplication, “Look unto him, and be lightened,”
VI. In the last place, there are some of you here, weary with this world's din, and clamour, and with this world's iniquity and vice. You have been striving all your life long, to put an end to the reign of sin, and it seems as if your efforts have been fruitless; the pillars of hell stand as fast as ever, and the black palace of evil is not laid in ruins ; you have brought against it all the battering rams of prayer,
and all the might of God, you have thought,—and yet the world still sins, its rivers still roll with blood, its plains are still defiled with the lascivious dance, and its ear is still polluted with the filthy song and profane oath. God is not honoured; man is still vile; and perhaps you are saying. * It is vain for us to fight on, we have undertaken a task which cannot be accomplished ; the kingdoins of this world never can become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." But, Christian, “Look unto him, and be lightened.” Lo! he cometh, he cometh, he cometh quickly ; and what we cannot do in six thousand years, he can do in an instant. Lo! he comes, he comes to reign ; we may try to build his throne, but we shall not accomplish it. But when he comes, he shall build his throne himself, on solid pillars of light, and sit and judge in Jerusalem, amidst his saints, gloriously. Perhaps to-day, the hour we are assembled, Christ may come—"For of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels in heaven." Christ Jesus may, while I yet speak, appear in the clouds of glory. We have no reason to be guessing
at the time of his appearing; he will come as a thief in the night; and whether it shall be at cock-crowing, or broadday, or at midnight, we are not allowed to guess; it is left entirely in the dark, and vain are the prophecies of men, vain your " Apocalyptic Sketches,” or ought of that. No man knoweth anything of it, except that it is certain he will come; but when he comes, no spirit in heaven or on earth should pretend to know. Oh! it is my joyous hope, that he may come whilst yet I live. Perhaps there may be some of us here who shall be alive, and remain at the coming of the Son of Man. Oh, glorious hope! we shall have to sleep, but we shall all be changed. He may come now, an! we that are alive and remain shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so shall be for ever with him. But if you die, Christian, this is your hope. “I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." And this is to be your duty, "Watch, therefore, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” Oh, will I not work on, for Christ is at the door! Oh! I will not give up toiling never so hard, for my Master cometh, and his reward is with him, and his work before him, giving unto every man according as his work shall be. Oh, I will not lie down in despair, for the trump is sounding now. Methinks I hear the trampling of the conquering legion, the last of God's mighty heroes are even now, perhaps, born into the world. The hour of this revival is the hour of the turning to the battle; thick has been the fight, and hot and furious the struggle, but the trump of the Conqueror is beginning to sound, the angel is lifting it now to his lips. The first blast has been heard across the sea, and we shall hear it yet again; or if we hear it not in these our days, yet still it is our hope. He comes, he comes, and every eye shall see him, and they that have crucified him shall weep and wail before him, but the righteous shall rejoice, and shall magnity him exceedingly. “They looked unto him, and were lightened.”
I remember I concluded preaching at Exeter Hall with these three words, “ Jesus, Jesus, Jesus !” and I think I will conclude my sermon of this morning with the same words, but not till I have spoken to one poor forlorn soul who is standing over there, wondering whether there is mercy for him. He savs, “ It is well enough, sir, to say, Look to Jesus ;' but suppose you cannot look ? If your eye is blind--what then ? Oh! my poor brother, turn your restless eyeballs to the cross, and that light which gives light to them that see, shall give eyesight to them that are blind. Oh! if thou canst not believe this morning, look and consider, and weigh the matter, and in weighing and reflecting thou shalt be helped to believe. He asks nothing of thee; he bids thee now believe that he died for thee. If to-day thou feelest thyself a lost, guilty sinner, all he asks is that thou wouldest believe on him; that is to say, trust him, confide in him. Is it not little he asks? And yet it is more than any of us are prepared to give, except the Spirit hath made us willing. Come, cast yourselves upon him; fall flat on his promise; sink or swim, contide in him, and you cannot guess the joy that you shall feel in that one instant that you believe on him. Were there not some of you impressed last Sabbath day, and you have been anxious all the week? Oh! I hope I have brought a good message to you this morning for your comfort. “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth,” saith Christ, “for I am God, and beside me there is none else.” Look ye now, and looking ye shall live. May every blessing rest upon you, and may each go away to think of that one person whom we love, even Jesus-Jesus-Jesus!
A PRESENT RELIGION.
REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God."--1 John iii. 2.
I SHALL not pretend to preach from the whole of my text this morning, short though it be. The word "now" is to me the most prominent word in the text, and I shall, make it so this morning. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God."
It is astonishing how distance blunts the keen edge of anything that is disagreeable. War is at all times a most fearful scourge. The thought of slain bodies and of murdered men must always harrow up the soul; but because we hear of these things in the distance, there are few Englishmen who can truly enter into their horrors. If we should hear the booming of cannon on the deep which girdles this island; if we should see at our doors the marks of carnage and bloodshed; then should we more thoroughly appreciate what war means. But distance takes away the horror, and we therefore speak of war with too much levity, and even read of it with an interest not sufficiently linked with pain. As it is with war, so it is with death. Death is a frightful thing; he who is the bravest must still fear before it, for at best it is a solemn thing to die. Man, therefore, adopts the expedient of putting off all thoughts of death: it may be very near to him, but he conceives it to be at a distance, and then the same effect is produced as when war is at a distance; its horror is forgotten, and we speak of it with less solemnity. So likewise with true religion; men are constrained to believe that there is truth in religion. Though there are some fool-hardy enough to deny it, the most of us in this enlightened land are obliged to acknowledge that there is a power in Godliness. What, then, does the worldling do? He practises the same expedient. He puts re igion far away; he knows that its disagreeableness will be diminished by his believing it to be distant. Hence there has sprung up in the minds of the unregenerate world a notion that religion is a thing to be accomplished just at the close of life, and the usual prayer of an ungodly man, when in the slightest degree pricked in his conscience, is, “Oh, that I may be saved at last!” He does not feel anxious to be saved now; religion is a thing for which he has no appetite, and therefore believing it essential to insure his eternal welfare, he adopts the alternative of saying, "I hope to have it at last.”
The religion, then, of the present, is not the worldling's religion. He tolerates that which speaks of eternity, that which deals with dying beds; that which leads him to look back with a specious repentance upon a life spent in sin, but not that which will enable him to look forward to a life spent in holiness. Very differently, however, do we act with affairs of the present life; for things that are sweet to us, become the more sweet by their nearness. Was there ever a child who longed for his father's house who did not feel that the holidays grew more sweet in his estimation the shorter the time was that he had to tarry ?
What man is there who having once set his heart on riches, did not find his delight in the thought of being rich increase with the nearness of his approach to the desired object? And are we not all of us accustomed, when we think a good thing is at a distance, to try if we can shorten the time between us and it. We No. 196.
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try anything and everything to push on the lagging hours; we chide them; we wish that Time had double wings, that he might swiftly fly and bring the expected season. When the Christian talks of heaven, you will always hear him try to shorten the distance between himself and the happy land; he says,
“A few more rolling suns at most
There may be many years between him and paradise, but still he is prone to say,
“The way may be rough, but it cannot be long."
Thus do we all delight to shorten the distance between us and the things for which we hope. Now let us just apply this rule to religion. They who love religion love a present thing. The Christian who really seeks salvation, will never be happy unless he can say, "Now am I a child of God." Because the worldling dislikes it, he puts it from him; because the Christian loves it, therefore its very fairest feature is its present existence, its present enjoyment in his heart. That word “now” which is the sinners warning, and his terror, is to the Christian, his greatest delight and joy. “ There is therefore"--and then the sweetest bell of all rings“there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; ” to the sinner that same idea is the blackest of all, “ He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God.
This morning, in God's name, I shall endeavour to plead with men, and show them the importance of having a present religion. I am quite certain that this is a habit which is too much kept in the back-ground. I am sure from mixing with mankind, that the current belief is, that religion is a future thing, perhaps the wish is father to the thought. I am certain the ground of it is, men love not religion, and therefore they desire to thrust it far from them.
I shall commence by endeavouring to show that religion must be a thing of the present, because the present has such intimate connexions with the future; and to proceed-We are told in Scripture that this life is a seed time, and the future is the harvest, “ He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." The Scripture often speaks to us in words like these, “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy." It is always supposed in Scripture, that this life is the time of generating, if I may use such an expression, the life that is to come, as the seed generates the plant, even so doth this present life generate the eternal future. We know, indeed, that hearen and hell are, after all, but the developments of our present character, for what is hell but this, “He that is filthy, let him be filchy still, and he that is unholy, let him be unholy still?" Do we not know that in the bowels of every sin, damnation slumbers? Is it not a fearful truth that the germ of everlasting torment sleeps in every vile wish, every unholy thought, every unclean act, so that hell is but s great breaking out of slumbering lava, which had been so quiet, that while the mountain was covered with fair verdure, even to its summit, death comes and bids that lava rise; and down the steeps of manhood's eternal existence, the fiery flame, and the hot scalding lavaof eternal misery doth pour itself. Yet it was there before, for sin is hell, and to rebel against God is but the prelude of misery. So is it with heaven; I know that heaven is a reward, not of debt, but of grace; but still the Christian has that within him, which forestals for him a heaven. What did Christ say? “I give unto my sheep eternal life.” He did not say, I will give, but, I give unto them. “As soon as they believe in me, I give them eternal life." and " he that believeth, hath eternal life, and shall never come unto damnation." The Christian hath within him the seed-beds of a paradise; in due time the light that is sown for the righteous, and the gladness that is buried beneath the black earth for the upright in heart, shall spring up, and they shall reap the harvest. Is it not plain then that religion is a thing which we must have here? Is it not prominently revealed that religion is important for the present? for if this life be the seed time of the future, how can I expect to reap in another world other crops than I have been sowing here? how can I trust that I shall be saved, unless I am saved? how can I have hope that heaven shall be my eternal inheritance, unless the earnest be begun in my own soul on earth? But again, this life is always said in Scripture to be a preparation for the life