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A Last Look-Out
A Sermon Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington
"The time of my departure is at hand." 2 Timothy 4:6 .
SO NEAR, SO VERY NEAR THE CHANGE his removal from this to another world; and so very conscious of it; yet Paul looked back with calm satisfaction; he looked forward with sweet assurance; and he looked round with deepest interest on the mission that had engaged his life. As you must have noticed while we were reading the chapter, in his case "the ruling passion was strong in death." Writing what he well knows is the last letter he shall ever write, its main topic is care for the church of God anxiety for the promotion of the truth zeal for the furtherance of the gospel. When he is dead, and gone from the post of service, the scene of suffering, the field of enterprise, on whom shall his mantle fall? He desires that in Timothy he may find a worthy successor, strong in the faith, sincere of heart, and having dauntless courage withal, one who will wield the sword and hold the banner when his hand is palsied in death. Men have usually shown us what lies at the bottom of their heart when they have come to die. Often their last expiring expressions have been indicative of their entire character. Certainly you have before you in the last sentences of Paul's pen a fair epitome of his entire life. He is trusting in the Savior; he is anxious to show his love for that Savior. The welfare of the Christian church and the advancement of the holy cause of the gospel are uppermost in his mind. May it be yours and mine to live wholly for Christ, and to die also for him. May this ever be foremost in our thoughts, "How can I advance the kingdom of our Lord and Savior? By what means can I bless his church and people?" It is very beautiful to observe the way in which Paul describes his death in this verse. According to our translation he speaks of it as an offering. "I am now ready," saith he, "to be offered." If we accept this version he may be supposed to mean that he felt as one standing like a bullock or a lamb, ready to be laid on an altar. He foresaw he would die a martyr's death. He knew he could not be crucified as his brother Peter had been, for a Roman citizen was, as a rule, exempt from that ignominious death. He expected to die in some other manner. Probably he guessed it would be by the sword, and so he describes himself as waiting for the sacrificial knife to be used, that he might be presented as a sacrifice. So I say the words of our translation would lead us to think. But the original is far more instructive. He here likens himself, in the Greek, not to an offering, but to the drink-offering. Every Jew would know what that meant. When there was a burnt-sacrifice offered, the bullock or the victim then slain was the main part of the sacrifice. But sometimes there was a little, what if I say an unimportant, supplement added to that sacrifice a little oil and a little wine were poured on to the altar or the bullock, and thus a drink-offering was said to be added to the burnt-offering. Now, Paul does not venture to call himself an offering, Christ is his offering. Christ is, so to speak, the sacrifice on the altar. He likens himself only to that little wine and oil poured out as a supplement thereto, not necessary to its perfection, but tolerated in performing a vow, or allowed in connection with a free will offering, as you will find if you refer at leisure to the fifteenth chapter of Numbers, from the fourth to the eighth verses. The drink-offering was thus a kind of addendum, by which the person who gave it showed his thankfulness. So Paul is resolved to show his thankfulness to Christ, the great sacrifice, and he is willing that his blood should be poured as a drink-offering on the altar where his Lord and Master was the great burnt-offering. He rejoices when he can say, "I am ready to be presented as a drink-offering unto God." Now we will proceed very briefly to say a word about departure; and then a shorter word still about the time of our departure; and then a little more about the time of our departure being at hand trying here, especially, to bring forward some lessons which may be of practical usefulness to each one of us. It is quite certain we shall not dwell here for ever: we shall not live here below as long as the first man did, or as those antediluvian fathers, who tarried some eight or nine hundred years. The length of human life then led to greatness of sin. Monstrosities of evil were ripened through the long continuance of physical strength, and the accumulating force of eager passions. All things considered, it is a mercy that life is abridged and not prolonged to a thousand years. Amidst the sharp competition of man with man, and class with class, there is a bound to every scheme of personal aggrandisement, a limit to all the spoils of individual despotism, a restraint upon the hoardings of any one's avarice. It is well, I say, that it should be so. The narrow span of life clips the wings of ambition, and baulks it of its prey. Death comes in to deprive the mighty of his power, to stay the rapacity of the invader, to scatter abroad the possessions of the rich. The most reprobate men must end their career after they have had their three score years and ten, or their four score years of wickedness. And as for the good and godly, though we mourn their exit, especially when we think that they have been prematurely taken from us, we remember how the triumphs of genius have been for the most part achieved in youth, and how much the world has been enriched by the heads and hearts of those who have but sown the seeds of faith and left others to reap the fruits. If into less than the allotted term they have crowded the service of their generation, we may save our tears, for our regrets are needless. The summons will reach each one of us ere long. We cannot stop here as long as the grey fathers of our race: we expect, and it is meet that we should prepare, to go. The world itself is to be consumed one day. "The elements shall melt with fervent heat." The land on which we stand we are wont to call terra firma, but beneath it is probably an ocean of fire, and it shall itself feel the force of the ocean. We must not marvel, the house being so frail, that the tenants are unsettled and migratory. Certainly, whether we doubt it or not, we shall have to go. There will be a departure for us. Beloved believer in Christ Jesus, to you the soft term, "Departure" is not more soft than the truth it represents. To die is to depart out of this world unto the Father. What say you about your departure? What say you of that from which you go, and what think you of that land to which you go? Well, of the land from which we go, my brethren, we might say many hard things if we would, but I think we had better not. We shall speak more correctly, if we say the hard things of ourselves. This land, my brethren, has been a land of mercy to us: there have been sorrows in it; but in bidding it farewell we will do it justice and speak the truth concerning it. Our sorrows have usually sprung up in our own bosoms, and those that have come from the soil itself would have been very light if it had not been for the plague of our hearts, which made us vex, and fret over them. Oh, the mercy you and I have enjoyed even in this life! It has been worth while to live for us who are believers. Even had we to die like a dog dieth, it has been worth while to live for the joy and blessedness which God has made to pass before us. I dare not call that an evil country in which I have met my Savior, and received the pardon of my sin. I dare not call that an ill life in which I have seen my Savior, though it be through a glass darkly. How shall I speak ill of that lamb where Zion is built, beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, the place of our solemn assemblies, where we have worshipped God? No; cursed of old as the earth was to bring forth the thorn and the thistle, the existence of the church of God in that land seems to a great degree to have made reparation for the blight to such as know and love the Savior. Oh, have we not gone up to the house of God in company with songs of ecstatic joy, and have we not when we have gathered round the table of the Lord though nothing was upon it but the type and emblem have we not felt it a joyous thing to be found in the assembly of the saints, and in the courts of the Lord's house even here? When we loose our cable, and bid farewell to earth, it shall not be with bitterness in the retrospect. There is sin in it, and we are called to leave it; there has been trial in it, and we are called to be delivered from it; there has been sorrow in it, and we are glad that we shall go where we shall sorrow no more. There have been weakness, and pain, and suffering in it, and we are glad that we shall be raised in power; there has been death in it, and we are glad to bid farewell to shrouds and to knells; but for all that there has been such mercy in it, such lovingkindness of God in it, that the wilderness and the solitary place have been made glad, and the desert has rejoiced and blossomed as a rose. We will not bid farewell to the world, execrating it, or leaving behind us a cold shudder and a sad remembrance, but we will depart, bidding adieu to the scenes that remain, and to the people of God that tarry therein yet a little longer, blessing him whose goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our life, and who is now bringing us to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Communion with saints in like manner know we not what that is? Have we not rejoiced in each other's joys, been made glad with the experience of our brethren? That, too, carried to perfection, will be heaven. Oh, to throw yourself into the bosom of the Savior and lie there taken up with his mind and his love, yielding all things to his supremacy, beholding your King in him! When you have been in that state you have had an antepast of heaven. Your view may have been but as one seeing a man's face in shadow yet you would know that man again even by the shadow; so know we what heaven is. We shall not be strangers in a strange land when we get there. Though, like the Queen of Sheba, we shall say, "The half has not been told me," yet we shall reflect on it thus: "I did surmise there would be something of this sort. I did know from what I felt of its buddings in my soul below that the full-blown flower would be somewhat of this kind." Whither away, then, spirit that art departing to soar through backs to thyself unknown? Thine answer is, "I am away: away to the throne of him whose cross first gave me life, and light, and hope. I am away to the very bosom of my Savior, where I hope to rest and to have fellowship with the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven." This is your departure that you have in near prospect. Remember, too, your Savior went that way. Have you to depart? So Christ departed too. Some of my brethren are always so pleased pleased as some children are with a new toy at the idea that they shall never die; that Christ will come, it may be before the time of their decease; for, "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Well, let him come, ay, let him come; come quickly. But if I had my choice, were it permitted me to choose, I would prefer to pass through the portals of the grave. Those that are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord will not prevent, go before, or steal a march on them which are asleep. But surely they will lack one point of conformity to their Lord, for he disdained not to sojourn awhile in the tomb, though it was impossible that he should be holden of death. Let the seal of death, then, be set upon this face of mine, that my fate in the matter may be like his. Enoch and Elias were exempt from this privilege privilege, I call it of conformity to his death. But it is safe to go by the beaten track, and desirable to travel by the ordinary route to the heavenly city. Jesus died. Through the valley of shadows, the vale of death-shades, there are the foot-prints of Immanuel all the way along: go down into it and fear not. Bethink you, too, dear brethren and sisters, that we may well look forward to our departure, and look forward to it comfortably too? Is it not expedient by reason of nature? Is it not desirable by reason of grace? Is it not necessary by reason of glory? I say, is not our departure needful by reason of nature? Men are not, when they come to hoary age, what they were in the prime of their days. The staff is needed for the foot, and the glass is wanted for the eye; and after a certain number of years, even those on whom Time hath gently laid his hand, find the taste is gone. They might proclaim, like old Barzillai, that they know not what they eat or drink. The hearing fails, the daughters of music are silent, the whole tenement gets very crazy. Oh, it were a melancholy thing if we had to continue to live! Perhaps there is no more hideous picture than that which the satirist drew of men who lived on to six or seven hundred years of age that strange satirical man, Swift. Be thankful that we do not linger on in imbecility. Kind Nature says we may depart; she gives us notice, and makes it welcome by the decays that come upon us. Besides, grace desires it; for it were a poor experience of his kindness as our best and truest friend that did not make us long to see our Savior's face. It is no mere drivelling sentiment, I hope, when we join to sing
"Father, I long, I faint to see The place of thine abode; I'd leave thy earthly courts, and flee Up to thy seat, my God!"
I must confess there was one verse in the hymn we sung just now which I could not quite chime in with. I am not eagerly wishing to go to heaven this night. I have a great deal more to do here; therefore I do not want to take a hasty leave of all below. To full many of us, I suppose, there are times of quiet contemplation and times of rapt devotion, when our thoughts surmount these lower skies, and look within the veil and then, Oh, how we wish to be there! Yet there are other times; times of strenuous activity when we buckle on the armor and press to the front; and then we see such a battle to be waged, such a victory to be won, such a work to be wrought, that we say: "Well to abide in the flesh, to continue with you all for the joy and furtherance of your faith, seems more loyal to Christ, more needful for you, and more in accord with our present feelings." I think it is idle for us to be crying, to go home; it is too much like the lazy workman, that wants Saturday night to come when it is only Tuesday morning. Oh, no; if God spare us to do a long life's work, so much the better. At the same time, as a spark flies upward to the sun, the central source of flame, so does the newborn spirit aspire towards heaven, towards Jesus, by whom it was kindled. And, I add, that glory demands it, and makes our departure needful. Is not Christ in heaven praying that we may be with him where he is? Are there not the saints in heaven, of whom it is said, they without us cannot be perfect? The circle of the skies cannot be completed until all the redeemed be there. The grand orchestra of glory misses some notes as yet. What if the bass be full, there are wanting still some trebles and tenors! There are some sopranos that will be requisite to swell the enchanting melodies, and consummate the worship of the Eternal! What, therefore, nature prepares for, grace desires, and glory itself demands, we have no just cause to shudder at. Our departure need not make us afraid. THE TIME OF OUR DEPARTURE, though unknown to us, is fixed by God, unalterably fixed; so rightly, wisely, lovingly settled, and prepared for, that no chance or haphazard can break the spell of destiny. The wisdom of divine love shall be proven by the carefulness of its provision. Perhaps you will say: "It is not easy to discern this; the natural order of things is so often disturbed by casualties of one kind or another." Let me remind you, then, that it is through faith, only through faith, we can understand these things; for it is as true now of the providence of God as it was of old of the creation of God that "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." Because the mode of your departure is beyond your own ken, it does not follow that the time of your departure is not foreseen by God. "Ah! but," say you, "it seems so shocking for any one to die suddenly, unexpectedly, without warning, and so come to an untimely end!" I answer you thus. If you take counsel with death your flesh will find no comfort; but if you trust in God your faith will cease to parley with these feverish anxieties, and your spirit will enjoy a sweet calm. Dire calamities befell Job when he was bereaved of his children and his servants, his herds and his flocks. Yet he took little heed of the different ways in which his troubles were brought about; whether by an onslaught of the Sabeans or by a raid of the Chaldeans; whether the fire fell from heaven, or the wind came from the wilderness; it mattered little. Whatever strange facts broke on his ear, one thought penetrated his heart, and one expression broke from his lips. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." So, too, beloved, when the time of your departure arrives be it by disease or decay, be it by accident or assault, that your soul quits its present tenement rest assured that "thy times are in his hand;" and know of a surety that "all his saints are in his hand" likewise. Besides this, dear friends, since the time of our departure must come, were the manner of it at our own disposal, I think we should most of us say, "What I shall choose, I wot not." Fevers and agues, the pangs and tortures of one malady and another, or the delirium incident to sickness, are not so much to be preferred to the shock of a disaster, or the terror of a wreck at sea, because one is the prolonging of pain, and the other the despatch of fate, that we need to covet, and desire weeks or months spent in the vestibule of the grave. Rather should we say, Let the Lord do with me as seemeth him good. To live in constant communion with God is a sure relief from all these bitter frettings. Those who have walked with him have often been favored with such presentiments of their departure as no physician could give them. Survivors will tell you that though death seemed to come suddenly to the godly merchant, he had in the last acts of his life appeared to expect and prepare for it, and even to have taken an affecting farewell of his family while in the vigor of health, as though he were aware that he was setting out on his last journey, which a few hours afterwards it proved to be. So, too, the minister of Christ has sometimes fallen, expiring in his pulpit with a nunc dimittis, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace" on his lips; secretly, but surely, made ready to depart and to be with his Lord. There is a time to depart; and God's time to call me is my time to go. In a certain sense, every Christian here may say this; for whatever interval may interpose between us and death, how very short it is! Have you not all a sense that time flows faster than it did? In our childish days, we thought a year was quite a period of time, a very epoch in our career; now as for weeks one can hardly reckon them! We seem to be travelling by an express train, flying along at such a rate that we can hardly count the months. Why, the past year only seemed to come in at one door and go out at the other; it was over so soon. We shall soon be at the terminus of life, even if we live for several years; but in the case of some of us, God knows of whom, this year, perhaps this month, will be our last. I think to-morrow night we shall have to report at the church meeting the deaths of nine members of this church within the last eight or nine days. Since these have gone, some of us may expect to follow them. There are those who will evidently go; disease has set in upon them. Some of those disorders that in this land seem to be always fatal, tell these dear friends that the time of their departure is undoubtedly at hand. And then old age, which comes so gracefully and graciously to many of our matrons and our veterans, shows, past all dispute, "the time of your departure is at hand." The lease of your life is almost up. Not indeed that I would address myself to such special cases only. I speak to every brother and sister in Christ here. "The time of our departure is at hand." What then, dear friends? But if the time of my departure be at hand, and I am satisfied that it is all right with me, is there not a call for me to do all I can for my household? Father, the time of your departure is at hand; is your wife unsaved? Will you pass another night without lovingly speaking to her of her soul? Are those dear boys unregenerate? Is that girl still thoughtless? The time of your departure is at hand. You can do little more for the lads and lasses; you can do little more for the wife and the brother. Oh! do what you can now. Sister, you are consumptive; you will soon be gone. You are the only Christ in the family. God sent you there to be a missionary. Do not have to say, when you are dying, "The last hope of my family is going out, for I have not cared for their souls." Masters, you that have servants about you, you must soon be taken away. Will you not do something for their souls? I know if there were a mother about to go to Australia, and she had to leave some of her children behind, she would fret if she thought, "I have not done all that needs to be done for those poor children. Who will care for them now their mother is gone?" Well, but to have neglected something necessary for their temporal comfort would be little in comparison with not having cared for their souls! Oh, let it not be so! Let it not be a thorn in your dying pillow that you did not fulfill the relations of life while you had the opportunity. "The time of my departure is at hand." If the time of our departure is at hand, let it cheer us amid our troubles. Sometimes, when our friends go to Liverpool to sail for Canada, or any other distant region, on the night before they sail they get into a very poor lodging. I think I hear one of them grumbling, "What a hard bed! What a small room! What a bad look-out" "Oh," says the other, "never mind, brother; we are not going to live here; we are off to-morrow." Bethink you in like manner, ye children of poverty, this is not your rest. Put up with it, you are away tomorrow. Ye sons of sorrow, ye daughters of weakness, ye children of sickness, let this cheer you:
"The road may be rough, But it cannot be long And I'll smooth it with hope, And cheer it with song."
Oftentimes when I have been travelling on the Continent I have been obliged to put up at an hotel that was full, where the room was so inconvenient, that it scarcely furnished any accommodation at all. But we have said, "Oh, never mind: we are off in the morning! What matters it for one night?" So, as we are soon to be gone, and the time of our departure is at hand, let us not be ruffling our tempers about trifles, nor raise evil spirits around us by cavilling and finding fault. Take things as you find them, for we shall soon be up and away. If the time of my departure is at hand, then let me guard against being elated by any temporal prosperity. Possessions, estates, creature comforts dwindle into insignificance before this out-look. Yes, you may have procured a comfortable house and a delightful garden, but it is not your rest: your tenure is about to expire. Yes, you may say, "God did prosper me last year, the bank account did swell, the premises were enlarged, and the business thrived beyond all expectation." Ah! hold them loose. Do not think that they are to be your heaven. Be very jealous lest you should get your good things here, for if you do you will not have them hereafter. Be not lifted up too much when you grasp the pain, of which you must so soon quit your hold. As I said of the discomfort of the hotel, we did not think much of it, because we were going away. So, if it happens to be very luxurious, do not be enamoured of it, for you must go to-morrow. "These are the things," said one, when he looked at a rich man's treasures, "that make it hard to die." But it need not be so, if you hold them as gifts of God's kindness, and not as gods to be worshipped with self-indulgence, you may take leave of them with composure; "knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." I only wish these words about departure were applicable to all here. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." But, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways, and live." O unconverted man, the time for letting loose your cable draws nigh; it is even at the door. You must shortly, set sail for a far country. Alas! then yours is not the voyage of a passenger, with a sweeter clime, a happier home, a brighter prospect in view. Your departure is the banishment of a convict, with a penal settlement looming in the distance; fear all rife, and hope all blank, for the term of your banishment is interminable. I fear there are some of you who may depart ere long full of gloom with a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. I seem to see the angel of death hovering over my audience. He may, perhaps, select for his victim an unconverted soul. If so, behind that death-angel attends there something far more grim. Hell follows death to souls that love not Christ. Oh, make haste, make haste! Seek Christ. Lay hold on eternal life; and may infinite mercy save you, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen and Amen.
"The Treasury Of David." By C. H. Spurgeon. Vols. I & II.
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Paul his Cloak and His Books
A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Morning, November 29th, 1863, by the Rev. C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington
"The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." 2 Timothy 4:13 .
FOOLISH PERSONS HAVE MADE REMARKS upon the trifles of Scripture. They have marvelled why so little a matter as a cloak should be mentioned in an inspired book; but they ought to know that this is one of the many indications that the book is by the same author as the book of nature. Are there not things which our short-sightedness would call trifles in the volume of creation around us? What is the peculiar value of the daisy upon the lawn, or the buttercup in the meadow? Compared with the rolling sea, or the eternal hills, how inconsiderable they seem! Why has the humming bird a plumage so wondrously bejewelled, and why is so much marvellous skill expended upon the wing of a butterfly? Why such curious machinery in the foot of a fly, or such a matchless optical arrangement in the eye of a spider? Because to most men these are trifles, are they to be left out of nature's plans? No; because greatness of divine skill is as apparent in the minute as in the magnificent: and even so in Holy Writ, the little things which are embalmed in the amber of inspiration are far from inappropriate or unwise. Besides, in providence are there not trifles? It is not every day that a nation is rent by revolution, or a throne shaken by rebellion: far oftener a bird's-nest is destroyed by a child, or an ant-hill overturned by a spade. It is not at every hour that a torrent inundates a province, but how frequently do the dewdrops moisten the green leaves? We do not often read of hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, but the annals of providence could reveal the history of many a grain of dust borne along in the summer's gale, many a sear leaf rent from the poplar, and many a rush waving by the river's brim. Hence learn to see in the littles of the Bible, the God of providence and nature. Observe two pictures, and you will, if thoroughly skilled in art, detect certain minute details, which indicate the same authorship if they are by the same hand; the very littlenesses often, to men of artistic eye, will betray the painter more certainly than the more prominent strokes, which might far more easily be counterfeited. Experts detect a handwriting by a slight quivering in the upstrokes, the turn of the final mark, a dot, a cross, or less matters still. Can we not see the legible handwriting of the God of nature and providence, in the very fact that the sublimities of revelation are interspersed with homely, every-day remarks? But they are not trifles, after all. I venture to say, that my text has much in it of spiritual instruction. I trust that this cloak may warm your hearts this morning, that these books may give you instruction, and that the apostle himself, may be to you an example of heroism, fitted to stir your minds to imitation. 1. But what does the cloak teach us? There are five or six lessons in it. The first is this let us perceive here with admiration, the complete self-sacrifice of the apostle Paul for the Lord's sake. Remember, my dear friends, what the apostle once was. He was great, famous, and wealthy; he had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel. He was so zealous among his brethren, that he could not but have commanded their sincere respect. He was attended by a guard of soldiers when he went from Jerusalem to Damascus. I do not know whether the horse on which he rode was his own, but he must have been a man of importance to have been allotted so important a post in religious matters. He was a man of good standing in society, and doubtless, everybody looking at young Saul of Tarsus would have said, "He will make a great man; he has every chance in life; he has a liberal education, a zealous temperament, abundant gifts, and the general esteem of the Jewish rulers; he will rise to eminence." But when the Lord met him that day on the road to Damascus, how everything changed with him! Then he could truly say, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him." He begins to preach away goes his character. Now, nothing is too bad for Paul among his Jewish associates. "Away with such a fellow from the earth, it is not fit that he should live," was the exact expression of Jewish feeling towards him. He continues his labors, and away has gone his wealth he has either scattered it among the poor, or it has been sequestered by his former friends. He journeys from place to place at no small sacrifice of comfort. The wife to whom he was probably once united for no unmarried man could vote in Sanhedrin as Paul did against Stephen had fallen sick and died, and the apostle now preferred a life of singleness, that he might give himself entirely to his work. If in this world only he had hope, he would have been of all men the most miserable. He has at length grown grey, and now the very men who owed their conversion to him have forsaken him. When he first came into Rome they stood with him, but now they have all gone like winter's leaves, and the poor old man, "such an one as Paul the aged," sits with nothing in all the world to call property but an old cloak and a few books, and those are six hundred miles away. Ah! how he emptied himself, and to what extremity of destitution was he willing to bring himself for Christ's name sake. Do not complain that he mentions his clothes: a greater than he did so, and did so in an hour more solemn than that in which Paul wrote the Epistle. Remember who it was that said "They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." The Savior must die in absolute nakedness, and the apostle is made something like him as he sits shivering in the cold. 2. Secondly, dear friends, we learn how utterly forsaken the apostle was by his friends. If he had not a cloak of his own, could not some of them lend him one? Ten years before, the apostle was brought in chains along the Appian way to Rome; and fifty miles before he reached Rome, a little band of members of the Church came to meet him; and when he came within twenty miles of the city, at the "Three Taverns," there came a still larger posse of the disciples to escort him, so that the chained prisoner Paul, went into Rome attended by all the believers in that city. He was then a younger man; but now for some reason or other, ten years afterwards, nobody comes to visit him. He is confined in prison, and they do not even know where he is, so that Onesiphorus, when he comes to Rome, has to seek him out very diligently. He is as obscure as if he had never had a name, and though he is still as great and glorious an apostle as ever, men have so forgotten him, and the Church has so despised him, that he is friendless. The Philippian Church, ten years before, had made a collection for him when he was in prison; and though he had learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content, yet he thanked them for their contribution as an offering of a sweet smelling savor unto God. Now he is old, and no Church remembers him. He is brought to trial, and there are Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus will not some of them stand by his side when he is brought before the emperor? "At my first answer no man stood with me." Poor soul, he served his God, and worked himself down to poverty for the Church's sake, yet the Church has forsaken him! Oh! how great must have been the anguish of the loving heart of Paul at such ingratitude. Why did not the few who were in Rome, if they had been never so poor, make a contribution for him? Could not those who were of Caesar's household, have found a cloak for the apostle? No; he is so utterly left, that although he is ready to die of ague in the dungeon, not a soul will lend or give him a cloak. What patience does this teach to those similarly situated! Has it fallen to thy lot, my brother, to be forsaken of friends? Were there other times when your name was the symbol of popularity, when many lived in your favor like insects in your sunbeam and has it come to this now, that you are forgotten as a dead man out of mind? In your greatest trials do you find your fewest friends? Have those who once loved and respected you, fallen asleep in Jesus? And have others turned out to be hypocritical and untrue? What are you to do now? You are to remember this case of the apostle; it is put here for your comfort. He had to pass through as deep waters as any that you are called to ford, and yet remember, he says, "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." So now, when man deserts you, God will be your friend. This God is our God for ever and ever not in sunshiny weather only, but for ever and ever. This God is our God in dark nights as well as in bright days. Go to him, spread your complaint before him. Murmur not. If Paul had to suffer desertion, you must not expect better usage. Let not your faith fail you, as though some new thing had happened to you. This is common to the saints. David had his Ahithophel, Christ his Judas, Paul his Demas, and can you expect to fare better than they? As you look at that old cloak, as it speaks of human ingratitude, be of good courage, and wait on the Lord, for he shall strengthen thy heart. "Wait, I say, on the Lord." 4. The fourth remark is: see here, how very little the apostles thought about how they were dressed. Paul wants enough to keep him warm; he asks no more. There is no doubt whatever, that the other parts of his garments were getting very dilapidated that he was indeed in a state of rags, and so he needed the cloak to wrap about him. We read in olden times of many of the most eminent servants of God being dressed in the poorest manner. When good Bishop Hooper was led out to be burnt, he had been long in prison, and his clothes were so gone from him, that he borrowed an old scholar's gown, full of rags and holes, that he might put it on, and went limping with pains of sciatica and rheumatism to the stake. We read of Jerome of Prague, that he lay in a damp, cold dungeon, and was refused anything to cover him in his nakedness and cold. Some ministers are very careful lest they should not always be dressed in a canonical or gentlemanly manner. I like that remark of Whitfield's, when some one of a bad character wondered how he could preach without a cassock. "Ah," he said, "I can preach without a cassock, but I cannot preach without a character." What matters the outward garment, so long as the character be right? This is a lesson to our private members too. We sometimes hear them say, "I could not come out on the Sabbath: I had not fit clothes to come in." Any clothes are fit to come to the house of God with, if they are paid for, no matter how coarse they may be. If they are the best God has given you, do not murmur. Inasmuch as the trial of raiment is a very sharp one to some of the poorest of God's people, I think this text was put into the Bible for their comfort. Your Master wore no soft and dainty raiment. His garment was the simple peasant's smock-frock, woven from the top throughout without seam, and yet he never blushed to wear it in the presence of kings and priests. I shall always believe that the Christian ought to cultivate a noble indifference to these outward things; but when it comes to the pinch of absolute want of clothing, then he may comfort himself in this thought, "Now am I companion with the Master; now do I walk in the same temptation as the apostles; now I suffer even as they also suffered." Every saint is an image of Christ, but a poor saint is his express image, for Christ was poor. So, if you are brought to such a pitch with regard to poverty, that you scarcely know how to provide things decent by way of raiment, do not be dispirited; but say, "My Master suffered the same, and so did the apostle Paul;" and so take heart, and be of good cheer. 6. The sixth lesson from this cloak is, we are taught in this passage how precisely similar one child of God is to another. I know we look upon Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, as being very great and blessed beings we think that they lived in a higher region than we do. We cannot think that if they had lived in these times, they would have been Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We suppose that these are very bad days, and that any great height of grace, or self-denial, is not very easily attainable. Brethren, my own conviction is, that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had lived now, instead of being less, they would have been greater saints for they only lived in the dawn, and we live in the noon. We hear the apostles often called "Saint" Peter and "Saint" Paul; and thus they are set up on high as on an elevated niche. If we had seen Peter and Paul, we should have thought them very ordinary sort of people wonderfully like ourselves; and if we had gone into their daily life and trials, we should have said, "Well, you are wonderfully superior to what I am in grace; but somehow or other, you are men of like passions with me. I have a quick temper, so have you, Peter. I have a thorn in the flesh, so have you, Paul. I have a sick-house, Peter's wife's mother lies sick of a fever. I complain of the rheumatism, and the apostle Paul, when aged, feels the cold, and wants his cloak." Ah, we must not consider the Bible as a book intended for transcendental super-elevated souls it is an every-day book, and these good people were every-day people, only they had more grace, but we can get more grace as well as they could, the fountain at which they drew is quite as full and as free to us as to them. We have only to believe after their fashion, and trust to Jesus after their way, and although our trials are the same as theirs, we shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb. I do like to see religion brought out in every-day life. Do not tell me about the godliness of the Tabernacle, tell me about the godliness of your shop, your counter, and your kitchen. Let me see how grace enables you to be patient in the cold, or joyful in hunger, or industrious in labor. Though grace is no common thing, yet it shines best in common things. To preach a sermon, or to sing a hymn, is but a paltry thing compared with the power to suffer cold, and hunger, and nakedness, for Christ's sake. Courage then, courage then, fellow pilgrim, the road was not smoothed for Paul any more than it is for us. There was no royal road to heaven in those days other than there is even now. They had to go through sloughs, and bogs, and mire, as we do still.
"They wrestled hard as we do now
With sins, and doubts, and fears;"
but they have gained the victory at last, and even so shall we. So much then, for the cloak which was left at Troas with Carpus. Our second remark is, that the apostle is not ashamed to confess that he does read. He is writing to his young son Timothy. Now, some old preachers never like to say a thing which will let the young ones into their secrets. They suppose they must put on a very dignified air, and make a mystery of their sermonizing; but all this is alien from the spirit of truthfulness. Paul wants books, and is not ashamed to tell Timothy that he does; and Timothy may go and tell Tychicus and Titus if he likes Paul does not care. He says, "Especially the parchments." I think the books were Latin and Greek works, but that the parchments were Oriental; and possibly they were the parchments of Holy Scripture; or as likely, they were his own parchments, on which were written the originals of his letters which stand in our Bible as the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and so on. Now, it must be "Especially the parchments" with all our reading; let it be especially the Bible. Do you attach no weight to this advice? This advice is more needed in England now than almost at any other time, for the number of persons who read the Bible, I believe, is becoming smaller every day. Persons read the views of their denominations as set forth in the periodicals; they read the views of their leader as set forth in his sermons or his works, but the Book, the good old Book, the divine fountain-head from which all revelation wells up this is too often left. You may go to human puddles, until you forsake the clear crystal stream which flows from the throne of God. Read the books, by all manner of means, but especially the parchments. Search human literature, if you will, but especially stand fast by that Book which is infallible, the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is almost too dark to see him we will find him out in that frightful den! The horrid dungeon the filth lies upon the floor till it looks like a road which is seldom scraped the draught blows through the only little slit which they call a window. The poor old man, without his cloak, wraps his ragged garment about him. Sometimes you see him kneeling down to pray, and then he dips his pen into the ink, and writes to his dear son Timothy. No companion, except Luke, who occasionally comes in for a short time. Now, how shall we find the old man? What sort of temper will he be in? But he is not only confident. You will notice that this grand old man is having communion with Jesus Christ in his sufferings. Turn to the second chapter, at the tenth verse. Did ever sweeter language than this come from anyone? "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saving: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself." Ah, there are two in the dungeon not only the man who is suffering trouble as an evil-doer, even unto bonds, but there sits with him one like unto the Son of Man, sharing all his griefs, and bearing all his despondencies, and so lifting up his head. Well may the apostle rejoice that he has fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. We have not quite concluded with the apostle; for we find him not only resigned, but triumphant. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." See the Grecian warrior just returned from battle. He has many wounds, and there is a gash across his brow; his breast is streaming here and there with cuts and flesh-wounds; one arm is dislocated; he halts, like Jacob, on his thigh; he is covered with the smoke and dust of battle; he is besmeared with many a blood-splash; he is faint, and weary, and ready to die, but what does he say? As he lifts up his right arm, with his buckler tightly clasped upon it, he cries, "I have fought a good fight, I have kept my shield." That was the object of ambition with every Grecian warrior. If he kept his shield he came home glorious. Now, faith is the Christian's shield. And here I see the apostle, though he wears all the marks of the conflict, yet he triumphs in these marks of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I have fought a good fight; my very scars and wounds prove it; I have kept the faith." He looks to that golden buckler of the faith fastened to his arm, and rejoices in it. The tyrant Nero never had such triumph as the apostle Paul, nor all the warriors of Rome, when the multitudes climbed the chimney-tops, and looked down upon the procession. None of them had such true glory as this solitary man, who has trodden the wire-press alone, and of the people there were none with him; who has stood against the lion, a solitary champion, with no eye to pity and no arm to save, still triumphant to the end. Brave spirit! never mind the old cloak at Troas, so long as thy faith is safe. We close, having done with this old cloak, when we say, is it not beautiful as you read this epistle, and, indeed all the apostle's letters, to see how everything which the apostle thought of was connected with Christ; how he had concentrated every passion, every power, every thought, every act, every word, and set the whole upon Christ. I believe that there are many who love Christ after a sort, just as the sun shines to-day; but you know if you concentrate the rays of that sun with a burning-glass, and fix all the rays upon any object, then what heat there is, what burning, what flame, what fire! So many men scatter their love and admiration on almost every creature, and Christ gets a little, as we all get some rays of the sun; but that is the man, who, like the apostle Paul, brings all his thoughts and words to a focus. Then he burns his way through life; his heart is on fire; like coals of juniper are his words; he is a man of force and energy, he may have no cloak, yet for all that he is a great man, and the Czar in his imperial mantle is but a drivelling dwarf by the side of this giant in the army of God. O, I wish we could set our thoughts on Christ this morning. Are we trusting in him this morning? Is he all our salvation and all our desire? If he be, then let us live to him. Those who are wholly Christ's are not many. O that we were espoused as chaste virgins unto Christ, that we might have no other lover, and know no other object of delight. Blind be these eyes to all but Christ; and deaf these ears to any music but the voice of Christ; and lame these feet to any way but that of obedience to him; palsied these hands to anything but work for him; and dead this heart to every joy if Jesus cannot move. Even as a straw floats upon the river, and is carried to the ocean, so would I be bereft of all power and will to do aught but that which my Lord would have me do, and be carried along by the stream of his grace right onward, ready to be offered up, or ready to live, ready to suffer, or ready to reign just as he wills, only that he may be served in my living and dying. It will little matter what cloak ye wear, or if ye have not any at all, if ye have but such a concentration of all your bodily and mental powers, and spiritual energies upon Christ Jesus, and upon him alone. May those of you who have never trusted Jesus be ready to rely upon him now. He did not forsake Paul, even in extremity, and he will not forsake you.
"Trust him, he will ne'er deceive you, Though you hardly of him deem; He will never, never leave you, Nor will let you quite leave him."
Therefore trust him now and ever, for Jesu's sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34