Revelation 7:13
Then one of the elders addressed me: "These in white robes," he asked, "who are they, and where have they come from?"
The Church TriumphantR. Green Revelation 7:9-13
A Glimpse of the Redeemed in GloryJames Hamilton.Revelation 7:9-17
All SaintsAbp. Trench.Revelation 7:9-17
HeavenJ. A. James.Revelation 7:9-17
Humanity in HeavenB. D. Johns.Revelation 7:9-17
Society in HeavenF. D. Maurice, M. A.Revelation 7:9-17
The Great MultitudeH. Bonar, D. D.Revelation 7:9-17
The Great MultitudeH. Melvill, B. D.Revelation 7:9-17
The Human Population in HeavenD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 7:9-17
The Redeemed in GloryJ. T. Woodhouse.Revelation 7:9-17
The Redeemed in HeavenCharles Hargreaves.Revelation 7:9-17
The Redeemed in HeavenD. M. Inglis.Revelation 7:9-17
The Saints in HeavenR. M. McCheyne.Revelation 7:9-17
The Saints in HeavenH. C. Haydn, D. D.Revelation 7:9-17
The Saved a Great MultitudeW. Baxendale.Revelation 7:9-17
The Song of the Church in Heaven and on EarthThe Christian MagazineRevelation 7:9-17
The Worship of HeavenS. Martin, D. D.Revelation 7:9-17
What They Wear and Do in HeavenT. De Witt Talmage.Revelation 7:9-17
All Saints' DayH. Melvill, B. D.Revelation 7:13-14
All Saints' Day a Witness of GraceJ. S. Bartlett, M. A.Revelation 7:13-14
Character Formed by TribulationJ. R. Miller, D. D.Revelation 7:13-14
Final Blessedness of the SaintsJames Clayson.Revelation 7:13-14
Saints Made from SinnersJ. H. Jowett, M. A.Revelation 7:13-14
The Blessed State of the RedeemedJ. Kirkwood, M. A.Revelation 7:13-14
The Human Population in HeavenD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 7:13-14
The Memory of Grief and WrongA. P. Peabody.Revelation 7:13-14
The Ministration of SufferingH. W. Beecher.Revelation 7:13-14
The Richer Flowerings of Character Caused by TrialRevelation 7:13-14
The Sainted in HeavenS. Clarke.Revelation 7:13-14
The Sufferings of the RedeemedJ. R. Macduff, D. D.Revelation 7:13-14
The Worshippers in the Heavenly TempleC. Bradley, M. A.Revelation 7:13-14
Tribulation Ministers to ManhoodA. M. Fairbairn, D. D.Revelation 7:13-14
What and Whence are TheseC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 7:13-14
Whence Come the SaintsDean Vaughan.Revelation 7:13-14
White RobesJ. E. C. Welldon, M. A.Revelation 7:13-14
Why the Heavenly Robes are WhiteC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 7:13-14
The Eternal BlessednessR. Green Revelation 7:13-17
The Human Population in Heaven (No. 2)D. Thomas Revelation 7:13-17

The vision is yet heightened. A further brightness overspreads the scene, The comfort of hope is yet expanded. Arrested by one of the elders, the seer lowlily refrains from declaring who constitute the triumphant host, and receives the consoling assurance that they are from the fields of earthly suffering, toil, and danger. They are now exalted far above all worldly power. The final blessedness of the righteous is -

I. BLESSEDNESS FOR WHICH THEY ARE PREPARED BY EARTHLY TRIBULATION. Even the rugged ways of earthly obedience lead to heaven's gates. But all toil and tribulation are o'er.

II. The final blessedness is BASED ON AN ATTAINED SANCTITY. "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

III. This blessedness INCLUDES:

1. Recognition. They are "before the throne of God."

2. Perpetual service. They serve God "day and night in his temple."

3. They enjoy the perfect protection of the Divine presence. He that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.

IV. IT SECURES THEM EXEMPTION FROM THE SORROWS OF THE EARTHLY LIFE. "They hunger no more, neither thirst any more," nor shall the sun or any heat strike upon them.

V. THE FINAL BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS HAS ITS FRUITION IN A GRACIOUS ALLIANCE WITH THE ETERNAL The Lamb "shall be their Shepherd," and shall guide them to the perpetual fountains of life and felicity; and God shall himself exempt them from all further sorrow or suffering. He "shall wipe away every tear from their eyes." Thus every trace of the tribulation of earth shall be removed; and blessedness of the highest possible character shall be the final lot of them who now endure for truth's sake. Thus in the midst of the earthly raging power is the persecuted Church of God assured, in all ages, of a final, a certain, and an ample recompense. - R.G.

What are these which are arrayed in white robes.
I. Concerning the bright spirits in heaven — WHENCE CAME THEY? "These are they which came out of great tribulation."

1. They were then like ourselves, for, in the first place, they were tried like others.(1) The saints now glorified were not screened from sorrow. I saw to-day a number of lovely flowers; they were as delightful in this month of February as they would have been in the midst of summer; but I did not ask, "Whence came they?" I know very well that they were the products of the conservatory; they had not been raised amid the frosts of this chill season, else they had not bloomed as yet. But when I look upon God's flowers blooming in heaven, I understand from the voice of inspiration that they enjoyed no immunity from the chill breath of grief; they were made to bloom by the master hand of the Chief Husbandman, in all their glory, amid the adversities and catastrophes which are common to men.(2) They were not even screened from temptation. To the child of God, temptation to sin is a greater grievance than the suffering of pain. Storms on any sea are to be dreaded; but a whirlwind raised by Satan on the black sea of corruption is horrible beyond conception. Yet, do not say you cannot enter heaven because you are tempted, for all those snow-white bands attained their glorious standing through much temptation, as well as through much affliction.(3) They were men who as keenly felt trial and temptation as we do. Good men, because they are good, are not the less sorrowful when their beloved ones are taken from them: gracious men are not by grace petrified so as to despise the chastening of the Lord. Jacob mourned for Rachel, and David for Jonathan. Peter wept bitterly, and Paul had continual heaviness. Tribulations abounded and afflictions were multiplied to the first disciples, and we wrong both themselves and us if we dream that it was easier for them to suffer than for us. I grant you that they possessed a secret something which enabled them to endure, but that something was not homeborn in their nature any more than it is in ours. They were fortified by a secret strength which they found at the throne of God in prayer, a patience which the Holy Ghost wrought in them, and which He is equally ready to work in us.

2. The saints who are now in heaven needed trial like others. To what end do men need tribulation? We reply, they often require it to arouse them; and yonder saints who serve God day and night in His temple, once slept as do others, and needed to be bestirred. They required adversity to educate them into complete manhood, for they, too, were once babes in grace. They needed tribulation, moreover, that they might be made like their Saviour.

3. The children of God who are in heaven in their trials had no other support than that which is still afforded to all the saints.

4. If there was any difference between those saints and ourselves, it lay in their enduring superior tribulations, for "these are they that came out of great tribulation."

II. WHAT ARE THESE? The reply was, "They have washed their robes," etc.

1. All those in heaven were sinners, for they all needed to wash their robes.

2. All who are in heaven needed an atonement, and the same atonement as we rely upon. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Not one of them became white through his tears of repentance, not one through the shedding of the blood of bulls or of goats.

3. The saints in heaven realised the atonement in the same way as we must do. The act which gave them the virtue which lies in the atonement was the act of faith. There is nothing to do, and nothing to feel, and nothing to be, in order to forgiveness; we have but to wash and the filth is gone.

III. Now, WHAT OF ALL THIS? Why, first of all, we must not draw the conclusion that trouble and temptation are any argument that a man will get to heaven. I add a caution. I would, however, have you learn that no amount of trial which we have to suffer here, if we are believers in Jesus, should lead us to anything like despair, for however trouble may encompass us to-day, those in heaven came through as great a tribulation, and why may not we?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"Whence came they?" Heaven, then, itself has a retrospect as well as a fruition. Heaven itself is a sequel and a consequence as well as a fact, and a present. Heaven is an arrival; heaven is a development; heaven is a result, in one aspect, however infinite its capacities of attainments beyond. "Whence came they?" Then they were somewhere before. These same persons, different as they are, transfigured as they are from anything that we see, yet were once here. We have seen such persons; we have talked with some of them. The dark river was known not to them, and it was no unmaking and remaking of them to us. "Whence came they?" They came from this earth, and they are perfected. But the question as It is answered in the context has a fuller meaning than this — it pre-supposes this, and passes on. "From earth," of course is the answer, but from earth how conditioned and how used? Heaven is a sequel and a consequence — a consequence of what sort of earth? Heaven is a consummation, though never itself to be consummated. Then of what experience is it the consummation? He calls it two things: two only — pain and purification. "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes." The simplicity, the brevity of the answer may surprise us? "Whence came they?" We might have expected in answer, From every possible variety of condition, private or public, humble or conspicuous, adverse or prosperous; wealth and length of days, or else sickness, privation, distress, and woe. Not so. The kind of earth from which they came was one and but one. "These are they that came out of great tribulation." Pain, then, is the common feature of the earth, of which the terminus is heaven. It is a thought which has exercised Christian people, and we cannot wonder at it. If those who wear the white robes came out of great tribulation, what prospect is there for me to whom tribulation is an experience unknown? The question ought to press upon us. It is easy to say, You cannot force, you need not invite, and you must not simulate pain. If pain does not come the fault is not yours. Pain may be on its way — you must bear it when it comes. This is true, but it is not all the truth. If life smiles on you personally, if it supplies your abundant needs, if its occupations are pleasant, if its friends are many, if its bereavements are few and far between; if, therefore, you cannot affect not to be happy, it is plain that as regards yourself, the only two questions on this head can be — Are you thankful? and Are you kind? Do you receive your blessings from God, and do you share them generously with men? But much more than this. The compass of pain is not thus limited. If neither bodily pain nor mental is yours, we go on to ask, What of spiritual? Is it no pain to feel myself so sinful, that when I would do good evil is present with me; when I would feel the wonderful love there is no response; when I would mount up into the heaven, which is God's, I faint, and fall back into the dreamy world where God is not? But while spiritual pain is one kind, one ingredient of the great tribulation, there is another — the purely unselfish pain: the pain which looks upon the animate creation groaning in travail, and travails in pain with it; the pain which looks on this anguished England, with food not enough, and work not enough for its toiling millions; feels, too, with the foolish misled dupes of the so-called sympathy or philosophy which leads them on to quagmires and quicksands unfathomable. Yes, there is an unselfish as well as a spiritual tribulation; and I think some of the white-robed in heaven have come out of it. So, then, pain is one of the two earths out of which heaven is made. Now for the other. We have called it in one word, purification. They washed their robes down here and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Purification: the being made white; Oh, who shall give me that for this black thing, this spotted, sullied, sordid blackening which is all around me? I feel it, I am ashamed, I am unhappy. Oh, for the whiteness, oh, for purification. Is it a name; is it a dream; or is it a reality? These white-robed ones in heaven, they have it; nay, they had it down here. So then justification, which is in other words the forgiveness of sins, sets in motion sanctification, which is purification, too. But, lastly, we would bid you all ask, are you in process of purification? "Who can say," a Scriptural writer asks, "Who can say I have made my heart clean? I am pure from my sin?"

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. THE PREVIOUS CONDITION OF THE PERSONS HERE PRESENTED TO JOHN'S NOTICE. One unacquainted with God's ways, or with the history of our race, would have been, perhaps, ready to conclude that, in their journey hither, their path had been strewed with flowers and gladdened with perpetual sunshine. This we ourselves would be apt to desire. But the ways of God are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. The zeal of saints for the truth of God; their opposition to the sinful practices which abounded around them; their diligence in the cultivation of holy affections; and their zeal in the discharge of private and public duties — all standing forth in marked contrast with the maxims and customs of a world lying in wickedness — have ever exposed them to innumerable trials, to reproaches, and sufferings. In addition to the causes of tribulation which we have now specified as the peculiar lot of the Christian, I mention farther the remains of sin within him.



(James Clayson.)

I. THE TEMPLE HERE SPOKEN OF. It is a heavenly temple; a holy place, standing not on this perishable world, but on the everlasting hills of heaven. All other temples have been erected by man, but this temple has been built by Jehovah Himself, to be the eternal dwelling place of His Church, and the seat of His own glorious throne. The most glowing descriptions that language can convey, and the most exalted conceptions to which our imaginations can reach, fall infinitely short of that dazzling splendour which fills the courts of the living God. The world which we inhabit, though defiled by sin and under the curse of God, has yet so much beauty and magnificence in it, that we are often delighted and astonished as we contemplate its scenes. What, then, must be the glory of that world which has never felt the polluting touch of sin, which was prepared before the foundations of the earth were laid? Happy are they who dwell in such a templet Blessed is the man who is but a doorkeeper in such a house!


1. The former condition of these worshippers.(1) It was an earthly condition. They were not, like the angels, always in this house. They were natives of an apostate world.(2) Their condition, too, was a sinful one. There is not one among them who was not a transgressor while on earth, and who has not to this very hour a remembrance of his guilt.(3) They were also in an afflicted condition. Many of them came here out of a state of peculiar distress and suffering.

2. Their present condition.(1) It is a state of peace, a state of freedom from pain and sorrow. The billows of adversity which once filled them with fear still swell and rage, but they are all raging far beneath them, and can never again toss them with their waves.(2) It is also a state of purity. "They have washed their robes," etc. They were indeed continually contracting fresh defilement as long as they remained on earth, and were constrained to wash again and again in the same fountain that cleansed them at first; but if this fountain had left the unpardoned guilt of only one sin upon their souls, that one sin would have disqualified them for the pure services of the habitation of God, and have barred for ever its sacred doors against them. This free and full pardon of sin is not, however, the only blessing which the heavenly worshippers have obtained through the blood of the Lamb. The same fountain that freed them from the guilt of sin, washed away sin itself, and freed them from its power. Not that they were at once brought into this state of perfect purity. Years passed away before some of them were completely sanctified, and made meet to minister among the saints in light; and they were all harassed to their dying hour, in a greater or less degree, with the struggling corruptions of their evil hearts. But sin could not follow them beyond the grave.(3) The state of these worshippers in the temple of God is one of triumph. They have "palms in their hands."

3. The greatness of their number. Satan does not number among his subjects all the inhabitants of our globe. The Redeemer has a people on the earth. Who can tell how many an humble Christian has been travelling to the land of rest, while almost all around him, and even the honoured instrument that first turned his soul to God, have been ignorant of his faith?Lesson:

1. The gospel of Christ does not promise to its followers any exemption from the calamities of life.

2. How great is the contrast between the present and the future condition of the followers of Jesus!

3. A loud call to self-examination.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. THE WHITE ROBES OF INNOCENCE. The devil stains our souls. The world, too, stains them. Alas! we stain them by our own folly and fault.

II. THE WHITE ROBES OF PROMISE. These are the baptismal robes.

III. THE WHITE ROBES OF CLEANSING. God gives us not one start alone in life; He gives us many. We make our promises, and we break them. But God never bids us give up hope. Try to do better. Lift up your hearts.

IV. THE WHITE ROBES OF VICTORY. It will not always be striving here. It will not always be staining our robes and cleansing them anew, and then, alas! staining them once more. If we persevere, we shall win. It is not failing to succeed which is so bad, but failing to try. And all who try, however feeble they may be, however often they may give in to the forces against them, shall at the last "stand...clothed with white robes," etc.

(J. E. C. Welldon, M. A.)


1. This should teach us contentment under our trials.

2. This should inspire us with magnanimity under our trials.


1. Their appearance.

2. Their employment.

3. Their companionship.

4. Their blessedness.


1. They were originally polluted.

2. The self-sacrifice of Christ has a purifying influence.

3. Their cleansing by this influence had taken place when on earth.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. THE BEINGS TO WHOM ATTENTION IS DIRECTED. They were not the unfallen, in other words, the natives of that better country: they were redeemed human spirits. They were born of human parentage, and nursed upon a human breast. Their first expression on coming into existence was a wail, and their last, perhaps, a groan. And between those periods they had known their share of human suffering. If they had suffered, they had also sinned. No lingerers on the margin of wrong, no prodigals of a day, they had wandered into a far country, and theirs had been the alienation of years. And, if they had sinned, they had repented under the influence of the Holy Ghost; their hearts had turned in longing towards their Father's house. Nor had their experience ended here. Young Christians, in the first joy of forgiveness, are apt to think heaven very near to them — that the celestial shores will soon loom upon their view. In passing through a Christian career, there are trials to be endured, Men were they "of whom the world was not worthy." Into their labours we have entered. The harvests of their life we reap. "They came out of great tribulation." Again, they went to heaven by the way of death.


1. They are before the throne of God. The meaning of the throne of God we know not. Heaven is said to be His throne, and earth His footstool. The presence of His infinite nature is diffused throughout all things; but, purged from the grossness of earth, the glorified have a more vivid sense of His presence than is given us. Then notice their glorious appearance: "Clothed in white robes"(1) As being typical of their parity. No evil is there lurking within the blessed, and they shrink not beneath the Divine scrutiny.(2) White robes are significant of triumph.(3) White robes are significant of rest. The man who has laboured throws aside the garments worn in toil, and puts on others in which to repose. In this world, the condition of the Christian is not that of rest but of labour.

III. THE EMPLOYMENT OF THE REDEEMED. A very natural thought is that contained in the line of the American poet, when, speaking of a departed friend, he says: "Day after day we think what she is doing." The rest of heaven is not that of death, but of infinite life. The repose of the redeemed does not consist in cessation from employ, but rather in the constant prosecution of congenial labour. Multiform will be the character of life in heaven.

1. There will be social life. There the golden chain of love will link all souls together, binding them to the throne of God. There a feeling of common love will flow through every heart. All will be at home.

2. There will be an intellectual life. The glory of man is his mind. To cultivate this stands among the highest duties of the present life. The present is the infancy of our being, but there is before us a majestic maturity.

3. The employment of heaven will be religious. In this, more than even his intellectual nature, man is capable of unlimited improvement. Even in this life no bounds can be set to faith, and hope, and love, so will it be in the future. Oh, it overwhelms us to think of the position of unfallen spirits, our brain grows dizzy from the height, our eyes dazzle in the excess of glory. Yet is there no altitude where created being now stands, but what man may attain to in the upward career of his moral progress, and for ever; and for ever will he continue to advance through the infinitudes of his nature's possibilities.

(S. Clarke.)


1. They came out of a state of tribulation. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward."(1) Disease, perhaps, sows its poisonous seeds in his frame.(2) Death bereaves him of those who were the desire of his eyes.(3) Adverse providences involve him in disappointment and indigence; the malice of men, in vexation and disgrace; and his own errors and imprudence in inextricable difficulties.(4) Existence itself may become a burden through a complication of calamities.(5) It is generally thought, however, that there is here an allusion to those sorrows which are peculiar to Christians. Like Stephen, they winged their way from martyrdom to the presence of God.

2. They came out of a state of impurity. The earth on which they dwelt is one wide scene of disobedience and rebellion against the Majesty of the universe. The taint of moral pollution adheres to all its intelligent inhabitants, and introduces disorder into its very frame.


1. By washing their robes, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, they acquired a title to be before the throne.

2. By washing their robes, and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, they acquired a meetness to be before the throne. They are freed from their inability to love and enjoy God; they are blessed with an incipient and growing meetness for heaven.


1. They are raised to an exalted station. Those before the throne of God witness His glory in its brightest manifestations, and enjoy the most intimate communion with the Father of their spirits. The near sight which they obtain of God gives them more distinct apprehensions of His nature — produces more complete assimilation to His image, and fills with livelier joy. The servants who stood in the presence of Solomon must have caught something of the wisdom of their master; and those who are before the throne of God, cannot fail to advance in everything heavenly and divine.

2. They are engaged in the most exalted employments.

3. They are freed from all the infirmities, imperfections, and sufferings of the present life.

4. They make continual advances in the knowledge and enjoyment of God.

(J. Kirkwood, M. A.)

Putting aside those festivals in the Church's year which speak to us of the life and death of our Blessed Lord, there is no festival so sublime as that which we keep to-day. We commemorate to-day, not the life of any one servant of God, but the life and example of all; of those whose very names we know not, save that we know that they are written in the Book of Life. There is a threefold lesson which speaks to all of us through this festival.

1. The lesson of faith. Especially is this a festival which tells of faith, inasmuch as, above all others, it bridges over the gulf which separates this world from the world beyond the grave. This life is to the future state what the bud is to the flower, the blade in the ear to the full corn. This is a truth of especial importance to us to-day, when we commemorate the faithful dead, whose warfare is accomplished. For it teaches us that there is a real fellowship between them and us; that their relation to us is not done away by death; that their souls are not sleeping idly; that they are living more truly, and in a nobler sense, than we ourselves. In this world, men of noble birth desire — and a right feeling it surely is — to keep the brightness of their name untarnished, not to disgrace the title which their fathers bore. "My ancestors," such an one will say, "were brave and pure; they helped to vindicate liberty; I will try to be not less brave, not less upright, not less generous and true, than they." Canst thou remember this, O Christian, and forget of what spiritual lineage thou art come? so noble, so pure, so ancient, that by its side the noblest title of this world is but of yesterday? that thou art of the communion of God's saints, and they thy fathers and ancestors in the faith? Canst thou remain cowardly, remembering that they were brave?

2. But again, the doctrine of this festival is a witness for Christian endurance. It is difficult not to feel sad when we think what multitudes of our fellow-creatures are living sordid burdened lives, whose earthly course seems little else than a constant round of suffering and care. Yet let us observe, that wherever a ray of light shines in on this mystery of suffering, it is from the blessed thought of a life unseen. Or, take the case of one, whose life is often burdened by a consciousness of sin — who finds himself compassed with infirmity; who is often wearied of this constant struggle against besetting sins, "Oh, blessed day," such an one may well say, "when this strife shall cease; when God in His pardoning mercy shall make me to become that which I long and pray to be."

3. But again, this blessed festival, inasmuch as it thus throws rays of brightness on the sorrows of earth, teaches us a lesson of final perseverance and spiritual joy. We need to remember that in the dreariest November, the gloomiest days of the decaying year, there still stands out a festival of summer gladness, telling of that meeting beyond the grave, where no parting shall ever mar the unity of perfect love; that gathering on the eternal shore, as when the apostles beheld on the shore of the Lake of Galilee the presence of their risen Lord.

(J. S. Bartlett, M. A.)

We are not the first travellers; we are followers of those who have inherited the promises; and, far as the eye can reach, there is one long line of precursors all looking back to assure us that the proposed path is the right. Shall it then be questioned, that the greatest confirmation for faith is to be obtained from the memories of the worthies who have tried and verified the Christian religion? If there were a flaw in its proofs, it must have been long ago detected: if there were forgery in its documents, it must have been long ago exposed. And now how mighty are the external evidences of Christianity — evidences which the labours and events of centuries have piled up as an impregnable bulwark. It is enough for my private conviction, that Christianity is eighteen hundred years old. But this only applies generally to the truth of Christianity. Suppose me convinced of its truth, then how is my faith strengthened by the memory of those who have gone before me to heaven? We reply at once, that whatever man's theoretical persuasion that Christianity is from God, there will be nothing like a practical exhibition of its energy to prevail on him to put faith in its disclosures. The great object of Christianity is to induce me to throw aside all dependence on my own moral strength, and to trust implicitly to the merits of a surety. If I will, indeed, do this, I shall find myself strengthened for conflict with my own evil nature, and at last made more than a conqueror over sin and the grave. Yet there may be misgiving, and if we were the first to put the promises to the proof, we might almost be pardoned for hesitating ere we dared take them to ourselves. The very greatness of the thing promised, and the smallness of the condition prescribed, might cause us to question whether we had not been deceived in concluding the Bible divine. And, therefore, oh, for the history of men who have made the experiment, and proved by experience that believers in Christ gain all which is promised! Here it is that we are vastly advantaged by being followers instead of forerunners in the Christian course. You cannot show me a promise in the Bible of whose fulfilment I cannot bring you evidence in the registered experience of some believer in Christ. Does the promise refer to support in affliction? Then what is that voice that rolls in upon us from the caves of the earth, where the persecuted have taken refuge — "God is a very present help," a most "strong tower" to all who flee to Him for refuge? Is the promise that of immortality — glorious announcements that entrance shall be ministered abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our God and Saviour? Indeed, you may tell me that no biography can exhibit the fulfilment of this promise. I cannot track the burning flight of the emancipated spirit delivered from the flesh, and launched into immortality. We own this. But, nevertheless, we can show you that these promises have sustained men in the very hour of dissolution. And though this does not show you that the promises are made good after death, yet proving them accomplished up to the very moment at which our inspection must cease, proving that they die not when everything that has not in it the breath of immortality does die, we call it nothing better than evasion, if you would plead the want of evidence of its fulfilment, because we cannot with our eyes of sense pierce the deep secrets of futurity. Now, hitherto we have spoken only of that confirmation of faith which is derivable from the experience of the righteous whom we this day commemorate; but let us now briefly consider how we may be strengthened also in patience; for those who are "clothed in white robes" are they who "came out of great tribulation." The fact that afflictions have been the portion of the faithful should remove all surprise that we ourselves have to wrestle with sorrow; the fact that God hath not forsaken the faithful, but brought good out of evil, should scatter all fears that we may be left to perish in our distress. And what will they reply if we ask them whether they regret what they suffered for Christ, or whether, if they had to live over again, they would wish to pass through the same painful discipline? Oh! for melodious sounds in which to syllable their answers. The harshness of human speech ill suits the music of their whispers. They tell you with one voice, one peal of grateful acknowledgment, that the "sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory" revealed in them.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Professor Hy. Drummond addressing a meeting, said that as he walked through the city that morning, he had noticed a cloud like a pure snow-white bank resting over the slums. Whence came it? The great sun had sent down its beams into the city, and the beams had gone among the puddles, even the nauseous puddles and drawn out of them what they needed, and taken it aloft, and purified it, and there it was, above the city a cloud as white as snow! "And God," said the professor, "can make His saints, who walk in white, out of material equally unfavourable; He can make a white cloud out of a puddle, He can make saints out of the most depraved."

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

These are they which came out of great tribulation
Let us, in some few points, contrast suffering on earth with its fruits in heaven.

1. Earthly suffering seems to come either as a vengeance or as a calamity upon men. It is still a surprise until we have been long wonted to it. But the heavenly side, as disclosed in the apocalyptic vision, shows that suffering ordinarily comes neither as a vengeance nor as a calamity; for, although we may understand that God sometimes employs suffering for purposes of punishment, yet such an employment of it is special. Suffering is intercalated upon the course of nature, and is part of a universal experience. Storms may be most destroying, overflowing the land, tearing up foundations, sweeping away bridges, and submerging harvests; but this result of storms is exceptional. The fall of rain and the sweep of winds are part of the economy of mercy. It is not for destruction, but for benefit. And so sufferings may, at times, in the hands of God, be punitive, but ordinarily they are not. Suffering is intended to make us let go of things that are lower, and to rise a grade higher. Here it seems as if God were angry; but in heaven it is seen that He was dealing in mercy. Here it seems as if great disaster had overwhelmed us; but there the breaking of the cloud over us appears as the waters of a bath from which we shall emerge purer, cleaner, and more manly.

2. Suffering seems to some contrary to the course of nature; an interruption and violation of natural order; but the revelation of the effects of suffering upon the future state shows that it is in accordance with the course of nature. It would seem rational to suppose that God built the enginery of the human mind for happiness; that the way of growth ought not to be through bafflings; that men should not find their stability by overthrow, and their liberty by restraint. At first view everything apparently tends towards freedom and full development. Men fail to see, however, that while there is one tendency toward liberty, there is another toward restraint. If anything can be shown by the indications and facts of nature, it is that man never grows to a man's full estate without the ministration of suffering; and that suffering is a part of nature, or it could not be universal.

3. The contrast between the earthly appearance of suffering as something that weakens and beats us down, and the glorious light of the heavenly side is very striking; for while on earth suffering seems, in all its immediate tendencies, to take away from man, it is, in point of fact, adding to him. It seems to beat him down; but when we look forward to the full disclosure, we find that it is building him up. While the storm pelts, men shrink. While the thunder sounds, they slink down. While the tempest rages, it is as if they were ruined. But when the violence abates a little, they begin to lift up their head, and to perceive that it was not all dark, that it was not all thunder, that it was not all beating, that there was an element of good in it; and gradually they learn the sweet bounty and benefit that God meant to bestow upon them by afflictions.

4. The seeming cruelty of much of suffering, and the unnaturalness of it, are contrasted with great relief with this vision of the final state of those who have suffered in this world. The fatherliness and benevolence of suffering does not appear in its mere earthly relations. In heaven it is clearly pictured. There we see what it has wrought out. Human nature is very much like some elements of vegetation. In tapioca, one of the most harmless of all articles of food, there is one of the most deadly of all poisons. But the poison is of such a volatile nature, that when it is subjected to heat it escapes, and leaves only the nutriment of the starch. I think that the heart of man originally is full of poison, but that, when it is tried by affliction, little by little the poison, the rancour, the virus exhales, and leaves all the rest wholesome indeed.

5. Earthly suffering seems to weaken, to discourage them, and to destroy them; but the fact is, that it does not really destroy or weaken them. That part in us which suffering weakens is usually that very part which ought to be weakened. The great trouble in turning flax into thread or cloth is caused by that which gives the green plant its very power; for when the flax is growing, it needs two things — one is its ligneous or woody structure, and the other is its gluten. But when it has grown enough, and man wants it to make garments, to furnish the queen in the palace and the peasant in the cottage, he must get rid of these two things. And how is the flax separated from them? It is plucked and thrown into the field, that, under the influence of repeated rains and dews, the wood may rot; then the flax is taken and put through the brakes, until every particle of the stiffness and strength that it had is destroyed, and all but the stringy fibres can be shaken to the winds; then it is subjected to certain chemical processes by which the gluten is taken away; and not till then is it in a proper condition to be carried to the spinning-wheel and the loom, and manufactured into materials for use. So it is with men. There are a great many qualities which they need up to a certain point, but which beyond that are a disadvantage to them. We need a given amount of self-will and independence; but after these qualities have been carried to a certain point, the necessity for them measurably ceases, and there must be superinduced on them opposite qualities. For man is made up of contraries. He is to be as firm as iron, and as yielding as silk; he is to be persevering, and yet most ready to give up; he is to be as steadfast as a mountain, and yet easy to be entreated; he is to abhor evil, and yet to love with an ineffable love; he is to be courageous, and yet to have that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Certain qualities, when they have served their purpose, must give place to opposite qualities. Afflictions, under the supervision of Divine Providence, are working out in those that are exercised thereby beneficent results; so that suffering, while it seems frequently to be wasting and destroying men, is only wasting and destroying that part of them which they are better without than with.

6. Suffering on earth seems to set men apart from their fellows. Sometimes it puts them into obscurity. It is an experience full of solitude, voluntary and yet inevitable. Every heart knows its own bitterness. There is a delicacy in grief often. And though sometimes it is clamorous and vocal, oftener it is silent. But there is a process quietly going on, though it may not be apparent, by which those who seem to be separated in the present shall in the future be gathered together by sorrow. Those that weep apart on earth shall joy together in heaven. Those who in their sorrows are cast out from the sympathies of their fellow-men shall be gathered into the fellowship and sympathy of the heavenly host. This separation and disintegration are only apparent. Really, it is a preparation for fellowship in the world to come.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Whether a race of finite and imperfect beings could have been trained for any worthy end, or have reached a state of conscious happiness, without the ministry of suffering, we are not competent to say. Whether this be the case or not, it is certain that very many of our happiest experiences, and of our best frames of mind and traits of character, are to be traced, if not to the direct agency, at least to the memory, of grief and wrong. I might remind you, in the first place, that the lowest degradation into which a human being can sink is a state in which there is no retentiveness, nay, hardly a transient consciousness, of painful emotion. Let a child, born in sin, be cast in very infancy upon the bleak world, without shelter, education, or guidance, exposed to the pelting of the elements, spurned and buffeted at every hand's turn, that child becomes in his very infancy almost invulnerable to every outward influence, and incapable of feeling neglect or injury, but in this process he grows up an absolute brute. He is incapable of attachment and of gratitude. Gentleness cannot tame him, nor can severity awe him. As the frozen limb must be made sensitive to pain, before it is capable of healthy circulation or free motion, the first step towards making him happy will be to unseal the fountain of sorrow. He must weep before he can enjoy. Take next the ease of one who has fallen into loathsome degradation from a favoured and happy early lot. That fall was not without frequent and severe suffering, probably not without full as much wrong received as committed. But the degraded being has lost his sensibility. Rags, hunger, blows, the alms-house, the prison-cell, have become congenial; and the traces of every new hardship or infliction are like those of the arrow in the air. Nor yet can you excite penitence or remorse by any moral representation, however pungent or attractive, of the evil and misery of guilt or the loveliness of virtue. You must go back to the days of innocence — to the earliest steps in the evil path. You must awaken the remembrance of obsolete wrong and sorrow. You must recall the prodigal's first wretched pilgrimage from the father's house. Let us pass now to experiences that lie more within our own sphere of consciousness, and, first, to domestic happiness. We can hardly be aware how much of the joy, how much of the purity and tenderness, of our home relations springs from the very events which we most dread, or from the shadow or apprehension of them. Two young hearts are plighted to each other in the most fervent love, and enter on their united life under the most prosperous auspices and with the highest hopes. Let everything answer to their anticipations — let their life flow on without grief or fear, and their love is either suddenly exhaled, or gradually frittered away. They grow mutually intolerant of their necessary differences of taste, opinion, and feeling. If they remain without mutual discord or dislike, it is through the negative power of passive good nature, while the heart-ties are all the while growing weaker, so that their dissolution would be more and more slightly and transiently felt. But, with their first weighty cares or solicitudes, they are drawn into an intimacy of feeling closer than they had ever imagined before. A similar view presents itself with regard to our religious characters. Could those of us, who are endeavouring to live in the fear of God and the love of Christ, trace back the growth of the religious life in our hearts, we should find that, while the germ was there before care or sorrow had taken strong hold upon us, yet in many instances its first decided development and rapid increase were in connection with pain, perplexity, or grief. It was the clouding over of earthly prospects, that opened to us a clear and realising view of heaven. It was the failure of fond hopes that sealed our determination to lay up treasures where hope cannot fail. It was the falling away of objects of our most confident dependence, that cast us upon the Most High as our only enduring refuge and support. I have spoken of the sheltered scenes of home, and of the interior life of the soul. In the outward relations of society, we are equally indebted to the ministry of affliction. How many are the pure and virtuous friendships, now sources of unalloyed gladness and improvement, which had their commencement in a common grief, or in a burden of solicitude or sorrow, which one, whom previously we had not known how to prize, hastened to bear with us, or we with him! In old age we can also trace the genial influence of sorrow. As the cloud, that has flashed its angry lightnings and poured its desolating showers, retreats fringed with gold and crimson, and spanned with the glorious bow of God's unchanging promise, so do the griefs that have been the heaviest and the most cheerless, when they lie in the remote horizon of the past, glow with celestial radiance and Divine beauty. As the aged Christian looks back on the conflicts and sorrows of earlier years, every cloud has its rainbow, every retreating storm dies away in whispers of peace. It is the softened, painless memory of trial and of grief that feeds the spirit of patient, cheerful resignation, reconciles the soul to dissolution as it draws near, and sustains the willingness to depart, the desire to be with Christ. I have spoken chiefly of the sorrows that come to us by the direct appointment of Providence. Are there any of us who can look back on wrong and injury done to us by our fellow-men? Even this, if we were wise, we would not wish to forget. Far more noble is it to remember in full and yet forgive, to retain our sensitiveness unimpaired, and yet to take the offending brother to our hearts as if he had done us no wrong. Thus only can we make the wounds of carelessness, unkindness, envy or malice, permitted, though not wrought by Providence, coincide in their blessed ministry with the griefs that flow from the hand of God. Thus do we turn our enemy into a benefactor, by making him the unconscious instrument of calling out in our hearts traits more elevated, Christlike, Godlike, than without his agency we could have put into exercise. Finally, the connection in which our text stands leads us to extend the benign ministry of sorrow to the world where sorrow is unknown. The frequent trials of the present state, its disappointed hopes, defeated plans, withered joys, may, far along in the heavenly life, supply the term of comparison, reveal the measure of our happiness, quicken the flow of adoring gratitude, and sustain a full consciousness of the felicity in which we are embosomed.

(A. P. Peabody.)


1. The white robes show the immaculate purity of their character. White signifies perfection; it is not so much a colour as the harmonious union and blending of all the hues, colours, and beauties of light. In the characters of just men made perfect we have the combination of all virtues, the balancing of all excellences, a display of all the beauties of grace. Are they not like their Lord, and is He not all beauties in one?

2. By "white robes we also understand the fitness of their souls for the service to which they are appointed; they were chosen before all worlds to be kings and priests unto God, but a priest might not stand before the Lord to minister until he had put on his appointed linen garments; and therefore the souls which have been taken up to heaven are represented in white robes to show that they are completely fitted for that Divine service to which they were ordained of old, to which the Spirit of God called them while they were here, and in which Jesus Christ leads the way, being a Priest for ever at their head.

3. "White robes" also signify victory. I should think that in almost every nation white has indicated the joy of triumph. True, the Romans adopted purple as their imperial colour, and well they might, for their victories and their rule were alike bloody and cruel; but the Christ of God sets forth His gentle and holy victories by white: it is on a "white cloud" that He shall come to judge the world, and His seat of judgment shall be "the great white throne."

4. White is also the colour of rest. Well may the redeemed be thus arrayed, for they have finally put off the garments of toil and the armour of battle, and they rest from their labours in the rest of God.

5. Chiefly, white is the colour of joy. Almost all nations have adopted it as most suitable for bridal array, and so therefore these happy spirits have put on their bridal robes, and are ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb.


1. Those characters were not so pure, or, in other words, those garments were not so white by nature. They are washed, you see, and therefore they must once have been stained. Original sin has stained the character of all the sons of Adam. Do not think of one saint who has gone to his reward above as being in any way different in nature from yourselves; they were all men of like passions with us, men who had within them the same tendencies to sin. But it might be suggested that perhaps they came to their rest by a cleaner way than that which now lies before us. Possibly there was something about their surroundings which helped them to keep their garments white. No, it was not so; they passed along the road of tribulation, and that tribulation was not of a less trying kind than ours. Their road was just as miry as ours, and perhaps even more so. How this ought to assist us to feel that albeit our pathway is one in which we meet with innumerable temptations, yet inasmuch as all the glorified have come up white and clean from it, by virtue of the atoning blood, even so shall we.

2. Their garments came to be white through a miracle of grace, because they came through the great tribulation, where everything tended to defile them. I do not think that the text refers to some one great persecution, but to the great conflict of the ages in which the seed of the serpent perpetually molests and oppresses the seed of the woman. The enmity takes all sorts of shapes, but from the beginning even until now it is in the world. Now the white robed ones had come out of that continuous and general conflict uninjured: like the three holy children who came out of the furnace with not so much as the smell of fire upon them. Some of them had been slandered: men of the world had thrown handfuls of the foulest mud upon them, but they washed their robes and made them white. Others of them had come out of remarkable temptations from men and devils; they were tried by the most defiling of temptations, but they overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and were delivered from every polluting trace of the temptation by the efficacy of the atoning sacrifice. It was by the operation of the blood of Christ, and by nothing else, that the glorified saints were made clean.

3. Some of the trials of the saints are evidently intended, by those who are the instruments of them, to make them sin. Tribulation has a tendency to create, even in good men, new sins: sins into which they have never fallen before. "Brother," thou sayest, "I shall never repine against God." How knowest thou that? Thou sayest, "I have never done so unto this hour." Art thou not in health and strength? Why, then, shouldst thou murmur? But suppose the Lord were to strip thee of all these things, O man, I fear me thou mightest murmur as others have done. In some men tribulation works a very fierce temptation to distrust.

4. So, too, great trials are wonderfully apt to reveal the weakness of our graces and the number of our infirmities. Spiritual storms make a man discover what utter weakness he is, and then he is wise to fly to the blood of the Lamb. Oh, what a sweet restorative is found in the atoning sacrifice!


1. I would say to you, first, meditate on it. A sight of Christ in His agony is a wondrous sure for our agonies.

2. But the chief thing is this — in all times of tribulation the great matter is to have the blood of Christ actually applied to the soul.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

God's Word does not conceal, but, on the contrary, rather forewarns, that the road to Heaven is one of trial. Christ prepared His people for the highway thither being hedged with tribulation. "Beloved," says St. Peter, "think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rejoice." These trials are the ladder-steps by which the immortal spirits in this vision attained their bliss. We can almost imagine ourselves listening to their varied testimony. "God laid me," would be the experience and retrospect of one, "on a bed of sickness. I was living a life of engrossing worldliness. I was taking my health as a thing of course. I had no thought of death. He who gave me the abused talent stretched me on a couch of pain. Year after year I was familiarised with the dim night-lamp — the sleepless vigils — the aching head. But He allured me into the wilderness that He might speak comfortably unto me. I now praise Him for it all. Through the chinks of the battered earthly tabernacle were admitted the first rays of the heavenly glory. In the solitary night-watches my lips were first tuned for the heavenly song." "I was reposing in the sunshine of earthly prosperity," would be the testimony of another. "The fabled horn of plenty exhausted its ample stores in my lap. Riches increased; ah! I set my heart upon them; my closet, my Bible, my family, were sacrificed in the demon scramble. At an unexpected moment the crash came — the whole fabric of a lifetime (the golden fabric) fell to the ground. Seated amid empty coffers, and dismantled walls, and blighted hopes, I was led to bring the perishable into emphatic contrast with the eternal. I too thank my God for it all. But for that simoom-blast which swept over ms, burying the hoarded treasures of a vain existence, I would have died the fool that I lived." "I was an idolater of my family," another would tell. "I was leaning too fondly and tenderly on some cherished prop — some gourd in the earth-bower of my happiness. The prop gave way — the gourd withered. But as some gentle spirit (be it that of husband, or wife, or child, or brother, or sister) winged its flight to the realms of glory, It brought me, as I was never before, into near and holy contact with the Unseen. The tie snapped on earth bound ms to the throne of God. These thorns inserted in the earthly nest drove me to the wing, and suffered me not to stay my flight until I had reached the golden eaves of the heavenly home!"

(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

It is said that gardeners sometimes, when they would bring a rose to richer flowerings, deprive it for the season of light and moisture. Silent and dark it stands, dropping one faded leaf alter another, and seeming to go down patiently to death. But when every leaf is dropped, and the plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is even then working in the buds, from which shall spring a tender foliage and a brighter wealth of flowers. So, often in celestial gardenings, every leaf of earthly joy must drop before a new and divine bloom visits the soul.

I saw a beautiful vase, and asked its story. Once it was a lump of common day lying in the darkness. Then it was rudely dug out and crushed and ground in the mill, and then put upon the wheel and shaped, then polished and tinted and put into the furnace and burned. At last, after many processes, it stood upon the table, a gem of graceful beauty. In some way analogous to this every noble character is formed. Common clay at first, it passes through a thousand processes and experiences, many of them hard and painful, until at length it is presented before God, faultless in its beauty, bearing the features of Christ Himself. Spiritual beauty never can be reached without cost. The blessing is always hidden sway in the burden, and can be gotten only by lifting the burden. Michael Angelo used to say, as the chippings flew thick from the marble on the floor of his studio: "While the marble wastes the image grows."

(J. R. Miller, D. D.)

You may in the conservatory rear the trailing vine or rear the tropical plant, but put into it hardy English oak, Or the tall Norwegian pine, and they, within the conservatory, would die — their life is exposure. Give them the heaven, the wind of heaven in their branches; give them the dew and the rain of heaven on their leaves: give them the great spacious earth beneath into which they can send their roots in search of moisture, and in search of strength; and they will live, and become things of beauty and joy for ever. So let man in the grace, and by the strength of God, face life; stand in front of it, with all its trouble, with all its tempest, with all its sorrow, with all its suffering! The tribulation will work patience, make the more of a man of him, make him the more able to stand in the presence of God as a servant approved.

(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

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