Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
I. THE GENESIS OF TEMPTATION. (Vers. 13, 14.) The sacred writers very rarely deal in such abstract psychological analysis as we have in this passage. These verses remind us that there is natural history in the moral world as well as in the physical - "the law of sin and of death" as well as "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." There are two conflicting theories always prevalent regarding the origin and development of temptation.
1. The false theory. (Ver. 13.) Men are prone to ascribe the authorship of temptation to God. This heresy is as old as the garden of Eden and the Fall. Our first parents blamed God for the first sin. And the world has adopted the same excuse, in various forms, ever since. Systems of philosophy have done so. Pantheism, for example, says that man is only a mode of the Divine existence, and that good is God's right hand, while evil is his left, Fatalism teaches that all events - good and evil - come to pass under the operation of a blind necessity. Materialism in our day regards the vilest passions of bad men and the holiest aspirations of believers as alike only products of our physical organism. And the same dreadful error prevails equally in common life. Superstitious persons, from the time of James until ours, have had the impression that their misdeeds are necessitated by the Divine decrees. Some blame their nature for their sins, and ascribe to their Maker the origination of their corrupt propensities, as the poet Burns did once and again in lines of daring blasphemy. Others trace their sins to their circumstances, blaming God's providence for surrounding them with evil influences, which, they submit, lay them under an inevitable necessity of sinning. But the apostle advances reason and argument against this impious theory. Think, he says, of the purity and perfection of the Divine nature. Moral evil has no place in God. There is nothing in him that temptation can take hold of. And if he is not himself open to the seductions of sin, it is impossible that he can be a tempter of others. God is the infinite Light, and sin is darkness. God is the eternal Righteousness, and sin is crookedness. God is the unchangeable Beauty, and sin is deformity. So, he will not and cannot solicit men towards what is opposed to his own nature. He tries and tests men; but he does not tempt them. He does not cause sin; he simply permits it. When we pray, as Christ has taught us to do, "Bring us not into temptation," we beg that God may not in his providence place us in circumstances from which our hearts may take occasion to sin.
2. The true theory. (Ver. 14.) Temptation originates within the heart of the sinner himself. It is in vain for him to blame his Maker. Sin is no part of our original constitution, and it is not to be excused on the plea of an unfavorable environment. A man sins only when he is "enticed" by the bait, and "drawn away" by the hook of "his own lust." That is, the impelling power which seduces towards evil is the corrupt nature within us. The world and the devil only tempt effectually when they stir up the filthy pool of depraved personal desire. "Lust" includes, besides the appetites of the body, the evil dispositions of the mind, such as pride, malice, envy, vanity, love of ease, etc. Any appeal made from without to these vile principles and affections can be successful only with the consent of the will. Every man is personally responsible for his sin; fur each man's sin takes its rise in "his own lust." Conscience brushes away the cobwebs of the false theory, and assures us all that we are "merely our own traitors." Only one Man has ever lived within whose soul there was no hook or bait of corrupt desire on which any evil suggestion could fasten; and no one but he could say, "The prince of the world cometh, and he hath nothing in me."
II. THE GENEALOGY OF SIN. (Ver. 15.) "Lust" is throughout this passage personified in allegorical fashion as a harlot, ever striving, like the harlot Folly of Proverbs 9:13-18, to allure and captivate the will. First, she draws the man "who goes right on his way" out of the path of sound principle and wholesome pleasure; and then she entices him into her embrace with the siren strain, "Stolen waters are sweet." Lust may be said to "conceive," when it obtains the consent of the will, or disarms its opposition. The man who dallies with temptation, instead of meeting it with instant and prayerful resistance, will be sure eventually to succumb to it. From the guilty union of lust with the will, a living sin is born. The embryo corruption becomes developed into a deed of positive transgression. And this is not all. Sin, the progeny of lust, itself grows up from the infancy of mere choice to the adult life of settled habit; and "when it is full-grown," it in turn becomes, as the result of union with the will, the mother of death. It was so with the sin of our first parents in Paradise. It was so with the sin of Achan (Joshua 7:21); he saw, coveted, took, and died. It is so with the sin of licentiousness, which has suggested the figure of this passage; the physical corruption which the practice of sensuality entails is just a sacrament of spiritual death. Death is the fruit of all sin. Sin kills peace; it kills hope; it kills usefulness; it kills the conscience; it kills the soul. The harlot-house of lust and sin becomes the vestibule of perdition. As Milton has it, in a well-known passage of bk. 2. of 'Paradise Lost' - a passage suggested by this very verse - Sin is
"The snaky sorceress that sat while Death, her son, is "the grizzly Terror" on the other side, which stood "Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell." III. THE GLORY AWAITING HIM WHO ENDURES. (Ver. 12.) This comfortable word reminds us of the Beatitudes. The blessedness of which it speaks belongs not only to all Christians who - " letting patience have its perfect work " - endure "temptations" in the sense in which the word is used in ver. 2, but to all also who escape victorious from the solicitations of evil desire, referred to in the verses which we have been considering. Notice here: 1. The character of the blessed man. He "loves the Lord," and in the spirit of this love he "endures temptation." Love is the substance of the Christian character, and love "endureth all things." Love alone will enable a man to stamp out lust. 2. His glorious reward. "He shall receive the crown of life." Not a chaplet of parsley, not even a diadem of gold; but a crown composed of life. Eternal life itself will be the believer's reward. Temptation unresisted, as we have seen, is always pregnant with sin and death; but holy endurance entails upon one the gracious reward of spiritual life, which shall be confirmed in spotless purity forever and ever. This glorious blessing is guaranteed; the believer has for it a definite warranty from his Redeemer. 3. The time and condition of its bestowal. It is "when he hath been approved;" i.e. tested as gold or silver in the white heat of the refiner's fire. The one way to the kingdom is the way of persevering endurance. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." LESSONS. 1. Flee from spiritual death. 2. Crucify sin. 3. Mortify lust. 4. Cultivate the grace of endurance. 5. Watch and pray against outward occasions of evil. 6. Sprinkle the conscience with the blood of atonement, and wash the soul in the laver of regeneration. - C.J.
while Death, her son, is "the grizzly Terror" on the other side, which stood
"Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell." III. THE GLORY AWAITING HIM WHO ENDURES. (Ver. 12.) This comfortable word reminds us of the Beatitudes. The blessedness of which it speaks belongs not only to all Christians who - " letting patience have its perfect work " - endure "temptations" in the sense in which the word is used in ver. 2, but to all also who escape victorious from the solicitations of evil desire, referred to in the verses which we have been considering. Notice here: 1. The character of the blessed man. He "loves the Lord," and in the spirit of this love he "endures temptation." Love is the substance of the Christian character, and love "endureth all things." Love alone will enable a man to stamp out lust. 2. His glorious reward. "He shall receive the crown of life." Not a chaplet of parsley, not even a diadem of gold; but a crown composed of life. Eternal life itself will be the believer's reward. Temptation unresisted, as we have seen, is always pregnant with sin and death; but holy endurance entails upon one the gracious reward of spiritual life, which shall be confirmed in spotless purity forever and ever. This glorious blessing is guaranteed; the believer has for it a definite warranty from his Redeemer. 3. The time and condition of its bestowal. It is "when he hath been approved;" i.e. tested as gold or silver in the white heat of the refiner's fire. The one way to the kingdom is the way of persevering endurance. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." LESSONS. 1. Flee from spiritual death. 2. Crucify sin. 3. Mortify lust. 4. Cultivate the grace of endurance. 5. Watch and pray against outward occasions of evil. 6. Sprinkle the conscience with the blood of atonement, and wash the soul in the laver of regeneration. - C.J.
III. THE GLORY AWAITING HIM WHO ENDURES. (Ver. 12.) This comfortable word reminds us of the Beatitudes. The blessedness of which it speaks belongs not only to all Christians who - " letting patience have its perfect work " - endure "temptations" in the sense in which the word is used in ver. 2, but to all also who escape victorious from the solicitations of evil desire, referred to in the verses which we have been considering. Notice here:
1. The character of the blessed man. He "loves the Lord," and in the spirit of this love he "endures temptation." Love is the substance of the Christian character, and love "endureth all things." Love alone will enable a man to stamp out lust.
2. His glorious reward. "He shall receive the crown of life." Not a chaplet of parsley, not even a diadem of gold; but a crown composed of life. Eternal life itself will be the believer's reward. Temptation unresisted, as we have seen, is always pregnant with sin and death; but holy endurance entails upon one the gracious reward of spiritual life, which shall be confirmed in spotless purity forever and ever. This glorious blessing is guaranteed; the believer has for it a definite warranty from his Redeemer.
3. The time and condition of its bestowal. It is "when he hath been approved;" i.e. tested as gold or silver in the white heat of the refiner's fire. The one way to the kingdom is the way of persevering endurance. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life."
1. Flee from spiritual death.
2. Crucify sin.
3. Mortify lust.
4. Cultivate the grace of endurance.
5. Watch and pray against outward occasions of evil.
6. Sprinkle the conscience with the blood of atonement, and wash the soul in the laver of regeneration. - C.J.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.
Evangelical Preacher.I. IN THE PRESENT LIFE MEN ARE EXPOSED TO TEMPTATIONS,
1. Men are tempted when assailed by Satan.
2. Men are tempted by their fellow-creatures.
3. Men are tempted by the afflictions and privations of life.
II. MEN ARE REQUIRED TO ENDURE TEMPTATION.
1. When it is borne in a spirit of unflinching piety.
2. When it induces the cultivation of a spirit of dependence on God.
3. When it is not allowed to hinder progress in piety.
III. THE REWARD OF SUCH AS ENDURE TEMPTATION.
1. Great dignity.
2. The enduring character of their reward.
IV. THE SECURITY OF THIS REWARD.
(A. C. Watson, B. D.)i.e., as the word implies, we must meet them with a cheerful constancy. I know how hard all this sounds, and is, to the ordinary man. And even if, as yet, we feel that we ourselves cannot endure heavy trials with cheerful fortitude, do we not count those happy who can? do we not wish we were as strong as they? We must admit, then, that St. James is simply uttering an obvious truth when he exclaims, "Happy is the man that endureth trial!" But why is he happy? The apostle hints at one reward in the words, "when he is approved," and distinctly states another reward of constancy in the words, "he shall receive the crown of life." For the phrase, "when he is approved," points to a figure often employed both in the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Both the prophets and the apostles represent God as a refiner, who sits by the furnace, assaying and purifying gold and silver, and who, when He has purged them of their cross, stamps them as true metal of sterling worth. He has proved them, and He approves them. That a man should like trial for its own sake is no more to be expected than we could expect gold, were it rational and sensitive, to like the fire. But even gold, if it were rational as well as sensitive, might well be content to endure the furnace by which its purity and value are enhanced, by which its alloys and defects are searched out and purged away. Nor does St. James demand that we should like trial for its own sake, but for the sake of the happy effects it will produce on us if it be borne with constancy. How happy, then, is the man who endures trial with a cheerful constancy — happy in that his character is at once refined and approved! This twofold reward we might deem sufficient. But God giveth liberally, with a full hand. To the cheerful endurer He is a cheerful Giver. And hence St. James goes on to promise "the crown of life" to as many as endure. But what is this crown of life? It is simply a life victorious and crowned; or, in other words, it is a royal and perfected character. Now I suppose there is no one thing that a thoughtful man, who takes his life earnestly, so much desires, as the reward St. James here promises to those who endure. In every one of us there are two men, two worlds, at strife, each of which gains the upper hand at times, neither of which ceases to struggle for its lost supremacy. It is because of this doubleness of nature, and the incessant strife between them, that we are so restless. What is there that we so heartily crave as the power to rule ourselves, to subdue, pacify, and harmonise the conflicting energies, whose ceaseless strife carries havoc through the soul? St. James tells us how we may attain it. Trials, he says, come for this very end, to make us perfect and complete men. If we endure them with steadfast patience, they will work in us a noble character, a royal dignity; they will put a crown on our heads, the crown of life. And, mark, he is not dealing with mere figures of speech; or, rather, he is dealing with figures of speech, but with figures that accurately express facts which we may all verify for ourselves. The phrase, "when he is approved," points to the figure of the refiner's furnace. But drop the figure, and is it not true that trials, wisely borne, refine and elevate character? Do not those who have patiently endured many sorrows acquire a gentleness, a tenderness, a quick sympathy which, to mere polish of manner, is as tinsel to gold? That other phrase, "the crown of life," is also a figure, which indicates the royalty of character that makes a man lord of himself and equal to any fate. And if, at first, the promise sounds a little extravagant, is it not nevertheless a literal statement of fact? Look around you and mark who are the men of whom you are most sure, whom everybody trusts, to whom all are glad to run for counsel or succour. Are they not those who have been tested by divers kinds of trial, and have borne them with manly resolution and cheerfulness? Are they not those who are known to have long ruled themselves in the fear of God, who have governed their passions and cravings with a firm hand; men who, when need was, have planted themselves against the world, and have overcome it? Ah! happy and blessed men! They have endured temptation, and they are approved by God and man. They have risen to that royal sway over themselves which is the true crown of a true life. The life eternal is theirs, even as they pass through the fleeting and changeful hours of time. Every part of St. James's promise, then, accords with the plain facts of human life. Trials borne with constancy do refine men, do manifestly win for them the approval of God, do give them a royal self-mastery and control. But we must not expect to "receive" this promise until we have fulfilled its condition. The reward of constancy is only for the constant. What is the secret of that constancy of which the reward is so great? The apostle reveals this secret. "The crown of life," he says, is promised "to them that love Him, i.e., to them that love God; or, as we cannot love the Father whom we have not seen without loving the brother whom we have seen, this crown is promised to those who love God and man. Those who endure are those who love.
(S. Cox, D. D.)
I. TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS ARE IN THIS LIFE TO BE EXPECTED. From some ardour of temperament, from some vanity of self-esteem, from some inadequate idea of the station in which religion places us in this world, or some inadequate idea of the duties it requires, we are prone to flatter ourselves that we are going to find it not a very difficult thing, and not very severe to the flesh, to preserve the integrity of a Christian's virtue. But this is a dangerous delusion. Rut we do say, that in this life believers should expect temptations, and be on their guard. They will not find it easy to be always faithful to their Master.
1. There is nothing said in the Scriptures which gives us any reason to suppose that it is an easy thing to be faithful Christians. Provision is made for us to vanquish assaults; but the security and peace of heaven do not belong to us here.
2. The express declarations of the Holy Scriptures assure us that believers will, in this life, have very much to tempt and try their fidelity.
3. The character of the believer is such, that it is impossible he should be free from temptation. He is sanctified only in part. Now every feeling and every principle of the believer which are not wholly sanctified, are so many weak points at which he is exposed to injury. More than this, there are so many living, active enemies exerting their energies to drive him into sin. We shall find it difficult to endure. When we little think it, some propensity to evil will solicit gratification. There is almost an infinite variety in those ways in which corruption operates. The heart is the fountain of a thousand streams. One of them turned from its channel will often seek out another, and flow onward with accelerated speed. Another, checked in its course, will often accumulate its energies for a more terrible rush. We ought not to feel secure.
4. Whatever we may hope, there is no situation in this world which places us beyond danger. There are temptations of adversity. There are temptations of prosperity. There are temptations of youth. There are temptations of middle life. There are temptations of old age. How difficult for the man of years to give up the world! There are temptations of health. There are temptations of sickness.
5. If we look at the course in which God has led His own people, we shall find that they have been tried so as by fire. Can we find among the biographies of the saints any one that entered into his rest by a smooth path?
II. NOW THE OBJECT OF ALL THESE IS OUR TRIAL. "When he is tried," is the language of our text. There may be some obscurity lingering around this idea. Certainly our God does not try us for the same purposes that men make trials. He knows perfectly what we are and what we shall do in every situation, and needs not the evidence of a trial to enlighten His knowledge.
1. The trial may be designed for our improvement. Surely, those who have had the most mature fitness for entering into the assembly of the first-born had been indebted for it, under God, to those circumstances of difficulty which "tried men's souls." Grace is a gift, but it is the nature of grace to improve by action. No man can be of strong body whose muscles have not been used to hard work. No mind can attain much vigour without much severe exercise. And the temptation which tries grace may be necessary for that perfection of grace which fits for heaven.
2. The trial may be designed as a proof to the creatures of God.
III. Whatever may be our trials or the design of them, both DUTY AND INTEREST DEMAND OUR UNSHAKEN FIDELITY. God is a righteous rewarder. There is no difficulty or temptation which will excuse us for unfaithfulness. There is no want of gracious resource in God.
IV. What shall we do? WHAT SHALL BE OUR RESOURCE AMID THE TEMPTATIONS THAT BESET US — these outward fightings and inward fears? The text holds up a crown of life upon our view; it points to the promise and speaks of the love of God. Listen to three ideas on this point.
1. You will find but little to fortify your souls by hope against temptation, if you do not look beyond time. Here few joys will you have. Your peace will be often interrupted — your pleasures vanish — and many a poisoned arrow enter into your heart! But there is another and a better world. Look forward to it.
2. And remember the gift is certain. The text mentions a promise. It is the promise of Him who cannot lie. Resort, then, to the promises of God when temptation assails you.
3. But hope and faith need assistance. Things unseen and eternal are not, always, as living realities to such creatures as we. You may muster resolution, array arguments, multiply resolves, and do whatever else you will for your security; but the love of God is worth more than all. Christians often resort to vain contrivances.
(I. S. Spencer, D. D.)I. THE MAN WHO IS BLESSED. We read in Job, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth." So James says here, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." Here we are to understand troubles, afflictions of whatever kind, all that calls for submission, endurance — all that causes pain, anxiety, apprehension. It may be outward in its nature. It may be personal or domestic affliction. It may be disease. It may be poverty with its toils and cares. It may be persecution, with its reproaches, injuries, and penalties. It may be family difficulty, for what crosses arise from heat of temper, perverseness of disposition, incongruity of character, &c.? Or the temptation may be more internal, spiritual in its nature. It may lie in the buffetings of Satan, in seasons of darkness and depression, in peculiar and painful experiences, in terrible fears and fightings within. Every Christian has to pass through the furnace, while in the case of some it is heated seven times, Now mark, the blessed man is he that endureth temptation. The emphasis lies on the endureth. That is equally removed from two extremes (Hebrews 12:5). We are not to manifest a proud, defiant spirit under trial, to summon up resolution and refuse to bend under the blow, to treat it with a stoical indifference. That is not Christianity. We are to give scope to the sensibilities of our nature, within due limits. And it is only thus it can serve the purpose of trial, can prove and improve our graces. We are to see the hand of our heavenly Father in all that befalls us, to recognise ever His power, wisdom, faithfulness, and love, to guard against everything like charging Him foolishly, like questioning either the equity or the goodness of any of His dealings. We are to apply to Him for needful guidance and strength, to repress the risings of impatience, unbelief, self-will, and to fall back ever on the sure promises of His Word and provisions of His covenant. Thus to wait, thus to suffer, and so to have an unquestionable title to the blessing pronounced by the apostle.
II. THE RESPECT IN WHICH HE IS BLESSED. "When he is tried" — that is after he has been thus tested. "He shall receive the crown of life" — shall receive it then, at the last, after the completion of this process of sifting. The reference is to the future inheritance of the saints. It is the prospect of that which makes the believer blessed for ever. It is indicative of spiritual triumph — of the battle fought and the victory won. It is conferred only on him that overcometh. It is also, and in its own nature, a symbol of honour and power. It is the accompaniment and expression of royal dignity and authority. And so it tells us that, whatever the humiliation of the believer here below, whatever the contempt heaped on him, he is to be highly exalted; all reproach is to be wiped away, and as in the case of the Lord Himself, the cross is to be exchanged for the crown. And mark the crown, which elsewhere is described as one of righteousness and of glory, is here spoken of as one of life — that is, it consists in life; it is, as it were, composed of this material. It is here literally and exactly the life — that is to say, the well-known life which is promised to those who fight the good fight of faith, and triumph in the conflict. Here is life worth the having — life most blessed, never-ending, all-perfect — life in comparison with which every other is little better than death. But is the man that endureth perfectly sure of this imperishable crown? Here is his warrant, his guarantee, "which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." The apostle thus condenses what is spread out at large in many of the exceeding great and precious promises. The believer does not earn the crown by his trials; he does not procure it by means of personal merit. No; the crown is the fruit of the Cross; not any cross borne by us, but that which was endured by the Lord Jesus. All spiritual life is the result and the reward of His atoning death. He alone is worthy; and it is as united to Him by faith that His people are in any sense entitled to the eternal recompense. As it is thus gracious, so the blessedness is not present but future, in respect of its full possession and enjoyment. It is a thing as yet not given, but only promised, so long as the believer is here below. He is here the heir rather than the proprietor, the man of large prospects rather than of large possessions. But the issue is absolutely certain, secured, as it is, by the promise of that God. Not only so, he is favoured with present pledges and earnests of the future glory. In the hope of it he has an element of strength and comfort, by which he is invigorated and gladdened amidst all his struggles and sorrows. On whom is this crown to be bestowed? The question is an important one; and we are not left without a perfectly distinct answer. The Divine Word brings clearly out who may, and who may not, warrantably appropriate the provisions of the covenant, the sure mercies of David. So here the crown is said to be promised "to them that love Him," that is, to those who thus prove themselves the Lord's people. Their love does not constitute their title to it, but it establishes and manifests that title (see John 14:21; Matthew 10:37; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Romans 8:28; James 2:5). And this statement serves to bring out the only true spring and the only scriptural kind of endurance. The source of it is love to God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is this which sweetens the most bitter cup, and cases the heaviest burden. It keeps down dark suspicions and rebellious murmurs. It enables us to take a right view of the gracious design of the Divine dealings, and to kiss the rod which is seen to be held in a Father's hand, and used not for His pleasure, but solely for our profit. It changes the whole aspect of Providence, and imparts a peace and a strength which sustain under the severest temptations or trials. And any constancy, perseverance, which has not this element in it, yea, which is not rooted in it, is not Christian and cannot be crowned with the life everlasting.
(John Adam.)I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERMS TRIAL AND PROBATION.
1. The power and opportunity — the danger of proving unfaithful, and of incurring the final displeasure of our Maker and Judge.
2. The power and opportunity of doing right; the blessed possibility of answering the purpose of our being; of proving obedient and faithful, and of our so doing this, as to secure at last, the approbation of our Almighty Judge.
II. OUR PRESENT EXISTENCE IS PROBATIONARY.
III. IT IS GOD HIMSELF WHO PROPORTIONS AND REGULATES THE TRIAL THROUGH WHICH WE HAVE TO PASS. He is too just, too wise, to appoint a trial low and inadequate; and too good to appoint one more severe than the strength He has imparted can sustain.
IV. EVERY AGE, EVERY SITUATION IN LIFE, IS A STATE OF TRIAL; it therefore behoves us to be on our guard against that particular danger to which our particular situation exposes us.
V. IT WILL BE OUR WISDOM NOT TO MURMUR AT THAT PARTICULAR KIND OF TRIAL TO WHICH WE ARE SUBJECTED, but to endure its severity and avoid its danger.
VI. THE PERIOD OF OUR PROBATION WILL CONTINUE NO LONGER THAN IS STRICTLY NECESSARY.
VII. A GREAT AND GLORIOUS REWARD is promised to the man who is faithful to his trial. Such a crown as is worn by those who are kings and priests to God; a crown that shall shine with undiminished splendours, when the light of the sun is extinguished, and the stars shall glitter no morel
(James Bromley.)I. Let us inquire into THE ORIGIN OF TEMPTATION. HOW does temptation arise? Temptation, one of the darkest facts of human life, arises, strange to say, from two sources which are man's peculiar heritage and glory — his moral nature and his moral perfectibility. We can be tempted because we know right from wrong; because right carries with it a feeling in ourselves of obligation to do it; and because with this feeling come into frequent conflict inducements to do the wrong. We can be tempted because the vision of the ideal opens itself out to our inward eye; because we are conscious of the possibility of better things; and because the sluggishness of the natural man prompts us to remain content with present attainments, and represents to us the arduous effort that is necessary if we would reach the things that lie beyond. Let us look at these two points with a somewhat closer attention. We of all creatures on the earth are the sole possessors of what deserves to be called a moral nature. We are sensible that we ought to do this and ought not to do that, that we owe the doing and the not doing to our own life and well-being and to the life and well-being of mankind. The highest moral natures among men are such as feel most strongly that, to use the weighty words of Ruskin, "a duty missed is the worst of loss." But here, as I say, in this moral nature of ours, and in the feeling of duty that has its seat in it, is found one of the two sources whence temptation arises. God, speaking to us through the universe in which we live, through the age-long experience of the human generations of the past, has set before us the acts that lead to life and blessing, and the acts that lead to death and the curse. But again and again we choose death instead of life. Again and again, under the thoughtless impulse of the moment, we prefer the present to the future, immediate gratification to lasting good; the pretty flower that we know will wither in our hand to the seed which, if only we wait for it, will live again. In a word, we know our duty, and yield to the temptation to refuse to do it. In these temptations to neglect of duty lies the virtue that there is in doing it; and from the feeling of duty implied in our moral nature these temptations come. Furthermore, the second source of temptation is, as I have said, the perfectibility, the capacity for increasing progress, of the mortal nature of man. For you must bear in mind that the present is the child of the past, and accordingly has upon it the marks of its parentage. Everybody knows how much in common man has with the animals beneath him. His physical frame is fashioned after a pattern in many respects similar to theirs. In the same way, the spiritual elements in him have not yet shaken themselves free from the elements pertaining to his animal life. Greed, passion, appetite, the instinct that prompts him to pursue his own happiness without any regard to the good of others; self considered, not as related to society, but as independent of, even if not opposed to it — these characteristics of the lower nature from which the higher has developed, still remain. In the best men they are faint and weak; in the worst men they are pronounced and strong; in all men, except Him who is the Ideal Man — Jesus Christ — something of them still appears. Hence temptation arises — the temptation to sink back again into the brute instead of going on and ever on to the likeness of the Son of God. To proceed. We have sought, in the first place, to answer the question, How does temptation arise?
II. We will now, in the second place, endeavour to answer the question, WHAT IS ITS END? For let us be well assured that no fact of the universe is there as a thing of chance. It has its function in the vast cosmic machinery that is working out the final purposes of God. Sable though its livery may be, still it is a servant in the Divine household. Question it with meekness and reverence, and you will find it not without an answer. It seems, then, that the end of temptation is threefold.
1. First of all, it is an education in self-knowledge. We find out our weak points, we learn where we are strongest, we get to know what we possess of moral resource, we discover where we stand in the upward path. Our Father in heaven sets us in the world of temptation that we may come to know what we are. The knowledge is beyond price, for through self-knowledge, wisely used, comes self-conquest.
2. Then, in the second place, it is through temptation that there arises the strengthening of the moral nature, Mere innocence is not the highest moral state; and innocence does not grow into virtue until it has been exposed to temptation, and the right has been voluntarily chosen, and the wrong voluntarily eschewed. Go to the shed where a potter is working. See around him the products of his art. They are beautiful in form, in design. But take one into your hand. Ah! you have marred it; its shape is spoiled. The clay was soft. It has as readily taken the impress of your unskilled touch as it took the impress of the potter's skilful hand. Why? Because it has not yet been put in the fire to have its beauty made permanent. Similar is it with the soul. We should not have been even what we are, if we had not been tempted, and largely by the same means shall we come to be what we hope — souls perfected in goodness, possessors of a will whose currents, deep and strong, flow ever toward the right.
3. We come to the end of temptation — the creation of sympathy between man and man. Self-knowledge is good; moral strength is better; sympathy is best of all. And it is through similarity of experience that sympathy between man and man is produced. It counts for next to nothing that my neighbour sins in different ways from me. We both sin — that is the central fact. What I may feel with regard to his sin and its consequences is a different matter. They deserve denunciation, but he sympathy. Am I without a stain to cast stones at him? All, no! the Holiest this earth has seen was the friend of publicans and sinners. Like Him, I should sympathise with my sinful brethren; like Him, myself having suffered being tempted and suffering it every day I live, I should seek, by the power of sympathy, so sweetly strong, to succour them that are tempted.
(H. Farley, B. A.)
I. Let us behold my. BLESSED IN THIS LIFE. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." It does seem very startling at first sight that the blessed man should be described in this way. Notice, it does not say, "Blessed is the man that is tempted," nor "Blessed is the man that is beset by temptation." No. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." That is to say, the man who bears up under it, survives it, is not led. aside by it, but endures it as gold endures the fire. You need to have a religion which is tested every day in the week, and which stands you in good stead because it can endure the test. You are blessed if you have a religion which God gives, which God tries, which God sustains, which God accepts. As an uncultivated garden is no garden, so untried godliness is no godliness. A faith that will not bear strain and test is no faith. A love that cannot endure temptation is no love to God at all. The men who bear affliction in a gracious manner, these are the blessed people, for they have a patience that has been tested, a faith that has passed the ordeal, a love that has been more than a conqueror in trial. These according to our text are the blessed people.
1. And they are blessed among other things for this reason: because they have endured temptation through their love to God. To cease from evil ways because the Lord Jesus Christ has loved you and given Himself for you, and you have been led to put your sole trust in the merit of His precious blood — this is a genuine work of grace.
2. Then there arises out of the endurance of temptation a sense of God's acceptance. The text saith, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is approved": that is the new version, and a very correct one, too. Not so much when he is tried, but when he has been tried — when he has been put into the fitting pot, and has come out warranted to be real unalloyed gold; when he is proved, and therefore approved, then he shall receive the crown of life." After the tried man has stood against temptation, God says of him, "Now I know that thou fearest Me," as He said concerning Abraham after He had tried him. "Now I know that thou fearest God," This approval of God breeds a holy delight in the soul.
3. There comes over the back Of this a number of things to help to make such a man blessed: for he has great thankfulness in his soul. You remember Bunyan's description of the feelings of Christian when he had passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and was able to look back by the intoning light. tie was struck with awe to think that he had ever passed through such a war as that, with an abyss on one side and. a quagmire on the ether. The road was haunted with sprites and hobgoblins, and beset with traps and gins and snares beyond all count; and yet he had actually come through that way in safety. When he saw what he had escaped, what could he do but down on his knees and bless God with all his heart that he had been protected through so great a peril? It helps to make a man blessed when his mind is filled with holy gratitude to God who has preserved him.
4. Besides, another feeling comes over him — that of deep humility. "Oh," says he, "what a wonder of grace I am! However is it that I have escaped such peril? With such a base nature as mine, how have I been kept from destruction? I shall to-morrow perish and fall unless the Lord Himself be still my helper." Putting his trust in God, that sense of his own nothingness, accompanied with a sense of his perfect security in God, makes him feel exceedingly happy.
5. And, once more, he enjoys a fearlessness of heart. The forked tongue of slander has no power with him: he has an antidote against the venom of malice. The noise and strife of this world can little distress him, for innocence walls him up against the onslaught of the enemy. He stands like a rock in the midst of the raging billows, for God has given him steadfastness of soul; and is not that blessedness?
II. WHAT THE BLESSED MAN IS TO BE BY AND BY.
1. He shall receive a crown. That crown which is promised us is not for talk, nor thought, nor vow, but it records something done. It was something appreciated-appreciated by Him that gave the crown. It will be no small heaven for God Himself to appreciate our poor lives 1 It is our blessedness both now and for ever to be accepted in Christ Jesus. A crown meant reward. Now, in the gospel system there is room for a reward, though it is not of debt, but of grace. The child of God, like Moses, has "respect unto the recompense of the reward." He does not run to win a crown by his own merit, but he runs knowing that there will be a crown given to him according to the love and goodness of the God of grace.
2. Now go an inch farther in the text: "A crown of life." What must that be! What is life? To live means to be in health, to be in force, in joy, in fit condition, to have one's whole self in order, and to enjoy all that surrounds you with all that is within you. God will give to all His people by and by such a crown of life. There shall be no sickness, no weakness, no dulness, no emptiness, no sense of depletion, nor of want; we shall be for ever filled with all the fulness of God. There shall be no pain, no misery, but a plenitude of enjoyment at His right hand where there are pleasures for evermore. We shall possess and enjoy all that manhood can desire. Life shall crown all. All your life shall be crowned; and all the crown shall be life! "A crown of life." Does it not mean, however, as well a living crown? The crown they gave in the Olympic games soon faded. That bit of parsley, or olive, or laurel, was soon turned into faded leaves. But you shall have a living crown; that is to say, it shall never be taken from you, nor you from it. When yon sun grows pale with weariness; when his bright eye grows dim with age; when yonder moon shall redden into blood as her brightness is o'ershaded, then shall your crown be as resplendent as ever. Did you ever try to indulge a speculation as to what the crown of life shall be? I mean this: You have a bulb in your hand of an unknown plant. I have had several lately from Central Africa. The missionary said, "Put it in your stove-house"; and I did. It did not look to me worth a half a farthing; it was an uncomely root. But it bus developed large green leaves; it is growing rapidly; and "it doth not yet appear what it shall be." I am speculating upon the colour of the flowers, and the form of the fruit. I guess by the delicate velvetness of its leaves that it is going to turn out something very remarkable; but I cannot prophesy what it will be. Man by nature is that uncomely bulb. When he dies, you know what a poor dried-up bulb he seems to those who lay him in his coffin. Yet even here, when God gives spiritual life, what a beautiful thing the Christian is! There is an amazing comeliness about the heavenly life even here below; yet we do not know what it is going to be. We know what spiritual life is, but we cannot guess what the flower of that life will be. Whatever it is to be, God will give that glory to those who by His grace endure temptation because they love Him. You gentlemen who believe in evolution, as I do not, tell us what a man will come to when God has sanctified him fully by His grace, and He has passed through ages of blessedness. What will he be when his life develops into the crown of life? We make poor guess-work of it. But I will tell you what I mean to do. I pray you follow me therein. I mean to go and see what this crown of life is like. We do not know what we shall be, but we have heard a soft whisper say, "When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
(C. H. Spurgeon.)mean merely that you do not yet know whether the untempted man is thoroughly sincere or not. I mean more than that. I mean that the passage through temptation actually makes a change in the man. The very same principles which he held before he was tempted he may, to all appearance, hold still; but though they are the same in form, and if you were to put them into words, you would have to put them into the same words, they are not the same in reality. The passage through the fire of temptation has ennobled — has sanctified them. Of course it will be inevitable, if we are to be disciplined by temptation, that we shall sometimes fall. How often, must depend on the energy with which we fight. But what is the use of seeking palliations? Seek as we may, the fact remains that here was the means provided by the Providence of God for disciplining our souls; and, instead of using it as we ought, we have made it an occasion for doing ourselves harm. What is the use of thinking what we might have done if we had not been tempted? It is silly for a man to talk to his own heart in a tone which implies that he could have contrived a better arrangement of the circumstances of his own life; and that if he were left to arrange his own trials and his own temptations he could give himself a proper discipline without the same dangers. We must take the circumstances of our lives as we find them, and make the best use of them. And if we have failed to make the best use of them, we must still learn not to lay the fault on them; for whatever they were, we might as well have done the best that could be done. Even after you have fallen you may still make a better use of the temptation than trying to lay the fault upon it. You may seek out how far you can avoid it, and take care to do so. Why, it there were no danger where would be the soldier's honour or reward? where would be his means of proving his devotion to his duty? why should he even exist? And so too, without temptation, where would be the Christian's crown? or why should we be Christians at all? A general does not send a soldier whom he cannot trust into a service of difficulty. Neither does Christ employ servants whom He does not love on difficult acts of obedience. On the other hand, it is very important to notice that it is not every apparent victory over temptation that is a real victory. There are two ways of resisting and overcoming temptation. You may turn away from the tempter with a cheerful, resolute will, heartily throwing yourself into your duty, endeavouring to find there, not your duty only, but your happiness also, turning out of your head cheerfully but resolutely even the thought which hankers after what is wrong. Or you may resist the temptation, and even overcome it, with anger at your heart, and an eager longing for the forbidden pleasure still ruling your soul; with eyes looking back to what you are quitting, with discontent at the hard duty which has divided you from your wish, with secret complaining and bitterness at the hardness of your trials. Now this last way of overcoming temptation is not that which St. James declares to be blessed. The type of the character is Balaam, the wicked prophet. He obeyed; exactly obeyed what he was plainly commanded. But it is clear as day that his obedience was merely outward. He did not surrender himself heart and soul to the command. Was he much benefited by having overcome the temptation of Balak's offers? Or was he not rather hardened in a subtler but wickeder sinfulness? Yet this kind of victory is by no means uncommon. You are, for instance, plainly called to do some act of unselfishness. Your conscience points out to you that here is an occasion for self-sacrifice; perhaps not only points out that here is an occasion, but that hero is a distinct call which you cannot rightly turn away from. You are too conscientious not to listen to the call. You sacrifice your own wish to the wish, the pleasure, the feelings of others. But in what spirit? How very natural is it to indemnify one's self, as it were, by cherishing an angry discontent at having been called on to make such a sacrifice; perhaps to despise the one who has benefited by it, even though he is not in the least degree conscious of the benefit; perhaps to long for some happy, turn of accident that shall make the sacrifice unnecessary, and give one the double satisfaction both of enjoying one's wishes and of having sacrificed them; perhaps to brood over it often afterwards, and complain of one's lot, or even of life altogether, so full as it is of hardships like these. How can we expect that unselfishness like this will strengthen the character, will bring us nearer to God. But the same issue is also possible in fighting with other temptations — temptations to vanity, frivolity, idleness; to indulgence of bodily appetite; to pride; to love of power; to wrong ambition, may be resisted, and may be overcome; and yet he that, overcometh may not be blessed, because he has not overcome the inward enemy but only the outward. The evil spirit may have been driven out, and vet may have left behind him a spirit of discontent to keep his place; and that spirit, if left unmolested, shall do as much harm as the spirit that has been expelled. To overcome temptation, not in outer act merely, but with heart and soul, that is what wins the crown of life; the crown emphatically of life, for he who has passed through temptations victorious, he it is who emphatically lives. He has in him the richness of his own experience. He is not using words without meaning, or words with a vague, hazy, indistinct idea, when he speaks of the battle of the Christian,. or of the help of his Redeemer. His principles are not mere sentiments, but living powers, whose strength has been tried and proved. His doctrines are not mere forms of speech; they correspond with needs of his soul, which he has probed to the bottom in the hour of difficulty. The Bible is not to him a beautiful and awful book, full of wonderful promises which sound like words in a foreign tongue, full of awful threatenings which seem too fearful to be literally true; but a record of realities into which he has himself entered, a world of spirits where he can find his own place, see his own work, obtain his own helps. This is the crown which buds here and blossoms hereafter, and fills all the soul on which it falls with the power of its beauty; and this crown is given to him who, when temptations come, gives himself mind and soul, and will and heart, to fulfil the law of Christ.
(Bp. Temple.)1. Afflictions do not make the people of God miserable. There is a great deal of difference between a Christian and a man of the world: his best estate is vanity (Psalm 39:5); and a Christian's worst is happiness.(1) Afflictions cannot diminish his happiness. In the greatest want of earthly things there is happiness, and comfort enough in a covenant-interest.(2) Sometimes afflictions increase their happiness, as they occasion more comfort and further experience of grace: God seldom afflicted in vain. They that count God their chiefest good know no other evil but the darkening of His countenance; in all other cases, "Blessed is he that endureth": they lose nothing by affliction but their sins.
2. Of all afflictions those are sweetest which we endure for Christ's sake.(1) That it be for Christ.(2) That your heart be right for Christ. The form of religion may many times draw a persecution upon itself, as well as the power; the world hateth both, though the form less. Oh! how sad is it that a man cometh to suffer, and he hath nothing to bear him out but an empty form.
3. Before crowning there must he a trial. The trial doth not merit heaven, but always goeth before it. Before we are brought to glory, God will first wean us from sin and the world, which the apostle calleth a being "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12). He that passeth his life without trial knoweth not himself, nor hath opportunity to discover his uprightness.
4. It is good to oppose the glory of our hopes against the abasure of our sufferings. Here are trials, but we look for a crown of glory.
5. No enduring is acceptable to God but such as doth arise from love. The victory is less over outward inconveniences than inward lusts; for these, being more rooted in our nature, are more hardly overcome.
(T. Manton.)I. BLESSED IS THE MAN THAT ENDURETH TEMPTATION! The same word means both trial and temptation. And it is not at all surprising that there should be but one expression for these two things, because though the things seem to be different, yet the difference is more in appearance than in reality. At all events, they generally accompany each other: trials, very commonly, prove temptations to sin; and temptations, when rightly viewed, are the very heaviest of all trials. The temptations, however, of which St. James is speaking were what we more usually denominate trials. They were the outward troubles and persecutions attending a Christian life in his days. Persecution became a temptation to the man to go back, to give up his Christian profession, and return to the world. I might specify many other things which are felt to be trials, and which actually are temptations. But these are sufficient to show how extensively the language of St. James may be applied. Let us, then, apply it to ourselves. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation! But let us come more particularly to religious trials. Every man among you knows, in his conscience, that he ought to seek, above all things, the salvation of his soul. You feel convinced, whenever you think upon these subjects, that it is your duty to repent, to believe in Christ Jesus, to lead a holy life, and to separate yourself, so far as may be practicable, from worldly and irreligious companions. But there are many difficulties attending such a course of life. Still, however, you know that these difficulties do not alter the real state of the case. They may tempt you to disregard religion.
II. THE CROWN OF LIFE WHICH IS HERE HELD FORTH TO THE MAN THAT ENDURETH TEMPTATION HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY PROMISED, IT SHOULD SEEM, TO THEIR THAT LOVE THE LORD. This is, in fact, but another expression describing the same characters. It will supply us, however, with further materials for examining whether we ourselves are of the happy number. Do we, then, love the Lord? Surely, if such be really our character, there will be some clear manifest tokens of this Divine affection visible in our conduct. Love is a feeling which cannot dwell in the heart without producing a perceptible influence upon a man's whole behaviour towards the person whom he loves. On this part of my subject let me give you one necessary caution. God must be loved according to His real character, and not according to any imaginary character which, in our ignorance, we may think fit to ascribe to Him. He must be loved as a God that hateth all sin, and as a God who has given His only Son to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Some think Him "a God all mercy" — too kind to punish a single sin.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
(J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
(J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
(J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
(J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
(J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
1. They may fail of that which may be their best result. We may have the troubles of life — indeed, we must have them — and yet we may fail of the discipline.
2. They may be made seductions to evil, and yielded to.
3. They may be suffered just as brutes suffer pain.
4. They may be "endured." Blessed is the man who has this last experience, who accepts the troubles of life as trims, who endures them, going on his way of duty as speedily in the storm as in the sunshine, obeying the injunction, "Let those who weep be as though they wept not." These are the blessed ones. There is no blessing for the untried man, as there is no currency for the unstamped bullion — for the metal, however precious, which is not marked so as to show that is has been tested and is now approved. There is no blessing for the man who yields to temptation or fails under trial. There is no blessing to him who has brutal insensibility to the pains of trial, or unconsciousness of the process, as the anvil is unconscious of the blows of the hammer. But there is a blessing for the man who knows what is going for. ward; who understands the intent, and appreciates the object, and desires the result of the process. For when he has become approved, after the testing and by reason of the testing, "he shall receive the crown of life."
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)
(F. M. Miller.)
(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)
(W. W. Champneys, M. A.)
He shall receive the crown of life.I. Temptation, a testing, As INEVITABLE EXPERIENCE, a necessity of our condition. Needful to prove us, and develop strength and symmetry of character. Teaches us to feel for others.
II. Temptation to be STEADFASTLY ENDURED TILL CONQUERED. Yielding is weakening. Love endures, God's grace sustains.
III. CROWNING OF THE CONQUERER. Not of merit, but grace.
(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)I. First of all, we shall take a view of THE TRIED BELIEVER, because he belongs to a very large class of God's family. The buffetings of Satan. What a mercy it is that all he can do is to buffet us. He has buffeted me about my belief. Ah, they are high doctrines, and crude notions. Then he will buffet the Church of God about their birthright. Ah, it is all presumption, he will tell you. How do you know that you are born of God? Go on to the blessings. Satan will buffet us about them. The promises, the spirit of adoption, the joys of God's salvation. Very precious all these; but has the devil never said to you, "These are only the movings of the natural passions"? Now I pass on from these things, though I might write a volume upon them, and look, under the term "tempted," at life's calamities, and exercises, and cares. But just go on to mark the exercise of experimental conflicts. I presume my hearers are fully aware that every corruption belonging to the old Adam nature is at war with, and will be at war with, every grace of the Holy Spirit. Now for the sustaining power by which we endure. Why have not you and I made shipwreck of faith? We would have done so long ago but for that sustaining power of which the Lord spake by the prophet, "Fear not, for when thou passeth through the fire, I wilt be with thee, and the flames shall not kindle upon thee; and through the floods, they shall not overflow thee, I will uphold thee, I will sustain thee with the right hand of My righteousness." "Blessed is the man that endureth," — patiently, with resignation, I may add with satisfaction. To endure with patience. "It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good." To endure with resignation. "Good is the word of the Lord concerning me." To endure with anticipation. "When He has tried me, I shall come forth like gold." This is what I call enduring; not merely bearing because I must bear, and cannot help myself, but approving the will of God; and the point I want to reach is that which I last named — satisfaction. My faith has got it, but my feelings have not,. Well, then, I want to endure so as to suck some honey out, as Samson did.
II. Now about THE HIGH ATTAINMENT. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." With regard to the word "tried," I take a different view of it altogether to that which we have just indulged in with regard to temptation. I understood it in the very same way that I understand that portion of Scripture in which it is said, "It came to pass that the Lord tempted Abraham when he was tried"; and if you read the sequel, you can come to no other conclusion than that it means that He put his graces to the test; and I believe that all our temptations, all our trials, are intended for this very purpose, that the Spirit's graces may be put to the test as to whether they are genuine. You must be aware that there is much among professing multitudes in our day that is spurious. Well, now, how shall we know whether they are genuine or spurious? "When he is tried." There is a blessedness in this. The devil may take his bellows, and blow the fire, and bring his fuel, and ply his temptations — there is faith in lively exercise. "He is my Lord and my God." There is hope entering into that within the veil — there is love glowing, so that the very mention of the name of Jesus, so dear to me, brought a flood of tears of delight. So of all the other graces. I tell you, it is in this way that the believer is blessed as well as tried. His graces are tried, to see whether they are genuine; and if they are proved to be so, they will endure, they will shine brighter, after all they have been called to experience. Then mark the establishment, the establishment of the soul in every feature of vital godliness. That is true blessedness. I suppose you have read that sweet Scripture of the apostle, "It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, and not with meats." Now I meet with but few established Christians. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." If temptations kill his religion, the sooner it is killed the better, but if his religion endure the temptation he shall get the blessedness, and stand fast in the Lord, in the power of His might. O how precious is Christ to such a soul! A. word more here. The Divine glory is and must be thus promoted. Referring again to be good old patriarch, it is written, that he was "strong in faith, giving glory to God."
III. Now ABOUT THE END. "When he is tried he shall receive the crown of life." "The crown of life." There are many crowns spoken of in the Scripture. The Church in the Apocalypse is exhorted to hold fast that which she had, that no man "take her crown" — her crown of distinction, and dignity, and attainment. Our Lord Himself was seen wearing many crowns — but these are not to our point. Then again He was crowned with thorns. What a mercy that you and I can never be crowned with them. He may mean that life which is manifested in this world first of all — and there is a crown — for if spiritual life be uppermost, and Divine life the life of God in the soul, it contains the idea of reigning — a crown — "The crown of life." A man may have mental life, but it is not worth calling a crown. He may be crowned in some attainments with honours, literary honours, and the like, but to have a crown of life is to have a life that is supernatural, the life of God in the soul — life that cannot live on earth without visiting heaven every day — a life that shall last for ever — a life that lives upon spiritual and eternal realities — a life of a dignified description. But I apprehend the precise meaning to be the crown of eternity which the apostle elsewhere calls a crown of glory. It cannot be withheld. What is that poor tired soul, tempted, harassed, ready to die in this wilderness journey to be crowned? Ah! but he must strive first, and he must strive lawfully. Just mark further here, that this crown is appointed and said in my text to be given. And who is it to be given by? "The Lord." The Lord hath promised it. He never promises without giving — His promises and performances are always inseparable, But do just mark the naming of the recipients — "Them that love Him." It is not to them that hate Him — it is "to them that love Him." It is not to them that care nothing about Him — not to them that are strangers to Him — it is "to them that love Him." Ask then the question, Do I really love the Lord — love Him so as to take Him at His word — love Him so as to delight in no company like His — love Him so as to cleave to Him with purpose of heart — love Him so as to lay out my life to honour, and exalt, and glorify Him.
(J. Irons.)2 Timothy 4:7, 8). But he had referred just before, in explicit terms, to his approaching death. "The time of my departure is at hand"; and thus the crown of righteousness was his consolation, when he had nothing more to expect in and from this earthly life. Yet do not the beatitudes at the beginning of our Lord's Sermon on the Mount relate to the present life? and does not St. Paul declare "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come?" "He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life." Yes, such is the fact. Have we learned in our humiliation to glory in our exaltation, and in our exaltation to glory in our humiliation? Do we endure the manifold temptations to which we are exposed, and preserve our faith unimpaired? How glorious is the crown of life, even already on our heads, invisible to men of the world, who are sensible only of external pomp and splendour, but visible to the children of God, to whom Divine wisdom is justified in all her ways. Only let this crown adorn us, and we will consent to.lie in the dust, the scorn and by-word of the people. Our apostle was stoned to death; but among the martyrs his countenance would appear like that of the first martyr, Stephen, "as the face of an angel." That was his crown here below. That adorable head, which on earth had not a place where to lay itself, wore no visible crown but a crown of thorns; but those who looked upon it with the eye of faith, beheld it still replendent with the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even when He hung upon the Cross; and that was His crown even on earth. But at the right hand of God His crown shines still more gloriously; and there also the crown of the Christian will shine with its full lustre.
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