"And they sang a new song." Revelation 14:3
"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had His Father's name written on their foreheads." Revelation 14:1
And who were these 144,000, "who had His Father's name written on their foreheads?"
Not Bs for "Baptists,"
nor Ws for "Wesleyans,"
nor Es for "Established Church."
They had their Father's name and nobody else's. What a deal of fuss is made on earth about our distinctions! We think such a deal about belonging to this denomination and the other.
Why, if you were to go to Heaven's gates, and ask if they had any Baptists there, the angel would only look at you, puzzled. If you were to ask if they had any Wesleyans or members of the Established Church, he would say, "Nothing of the sort!" But if you were to ask him whether they had any Christians there, "Ay," he would say, "an abundance of them! They are all one now—all are called by one name. The old brand has been obliterated, and now they have not the name of this man or the other. They have the name of God, even their Father, stamped on their brow."
Learn then dear friends, whatever the denomination to which you belong, to be charitable to your brethren and kind to them, seeing that, after all, the name you now hold here will be forgotten in Heaven, and only your Father's name will be known there.
It is said of all these worshipers that they learned the song before they went there. At the end of the third verse it is said, "No man could learn that song but the 144,000 who were redeemed from the earth." We must begin Heaven's song here below, or else we shall never sing it above.
The choristers of Heaven have all had rehearsals upon earth before they sing in that orchestra. You think that, die when you may, you will go to Heaven, without being prepared. Nay, sir, Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people; and unless you are "made fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light," you can never stand there among them. If you were in Heaven without a new heart and a right spirit, you would be glad enough to get out of it; for Heaven, unless a man is heavenly himself, would be a Hell. A man who is unrenewed and unregenerate going to Heaven would be miserable there. There would be a song—he could not join in it. There would be a constant hallelujah, but he would not know a note. And besides, he would be in the presence of the Almighty God, even in the presence of the God he hates, and how could he be happy there? No, sirs; you must learn the song of paradise here, or else you can never sing it. You must learn to sing,
"Jesus, I love your charming name,
'Tis music to my ears."
You must learn to feel that "sweeter sounds than music knows mingle in your Savior's name," or else you can never chant the hallelujahs of the blessed before the throne of the great "I AM." Take that thought, whatever else you forget; treasure it up in your memory, and ask grace of God that you may here be taught to sing the heavenly song, that afterwards in the land of the hereafter, in the home of the beatified, you may continually chant the high praises of Him that loved you.
And now we come to the most interesting point, namely, THE LISTENING TO THEIR SONG. "And I heard a sound from Heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps." Singing how loud, and yet how sweet!
First, then, singing how loud! It is said to be "like the roar of rushing waters!" Have you ever heard the sea roar, and the fullness thereof? Have you ever walked by the sea-side, when the waves were singing, and when every little pebble-stone turned chorister, to make up music to the Lord God Almighty? And have you ever in time of storm beheld the sea, with its hundred hands, clapping them in gladsome adoration of the Most High God? Have you ever heard the sea roar out His praise, when the winds were holding carnival—perhaps singing the dirge of mariners, wrecked far out on the stormy deep—but far more likely exalting God with their hoarse voice, and praising Him who makes a thousand fleets sweep over them in safety, and writes His furrows on their own youthful brow? Have you ever heard the rumbling and booming of ocean on the shore, when it has been lashed into fury and has been driven upon the clifts? If you have, you have a faint idea of the melody of Heaven. It was "as like the roar of rushing waters!"
But do not suppose that it is the whole of the idea. It is not the voice of one ocean, but the voice of many, that is needed to give you an idea of the melodies of Heaven. You are to suppose ocean piled upon ocean, sea upon sea—the Pacific piled upon the Atlantic, the Arctic upon that, the Antarctic higher still—and so ocean upon ocean, all lashed to fury, and all sounding with a mighty voice the praise of God. Such is the singing of Heaven.
Or, if that illustration fails to strike, take another. We have mentioned here two or three times the mighty falls of Niagara. They can be heard at a tremendous distance, so awesome is their sound. Now, suppose waterfalls dashing upon waterfalls, cataracts upon cataracts, Niagaras upon Niagaras, each of them sounding forth their mighty voices—and you have got some idea of the singing of paradise.
"I heard a voice like the roar of rushing waters!" Can you not hear it? Ah! if our ears were opened we might almost catch the song. I have thought sometimes that the voice of the Aeolian harp, when it has swollen out grandly, was almost like an echo of the songs of those who sing before the throne; and on the summer eve, when the wind has come in gentle zephyrs through the forest, you might almost think it was the floating of some stray notes that had lost their way among the harps of Heaven, and come down to us, to give us some faint foretaste of that song which hymns out in mighty peals before the throne of the Most High God.
But why so loud? The answer is, because there are so many there to sing. Nothing is more grand than the singing of multitudes. Many have been the people who have told me that they could but weep when they heard you sing in this assembly, so mighty seemed the sound when all the people sang,
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow!"
And, indeed, there is something very grand in the singing of multitudes. I remember hearing 12,000 sing on one occasion in the open air. Some of our friends were then present, when we concluded our service with that glorious hallelujah. Have you ever forgotten it? It was indeed a mighty sound; it seemed to make Heaven itself ring again.
Think, then, what must be the voice of those who stand on the boundless plains of Heaven, and with all their might shout, "Glory, and honor, and power, and dominion unto him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever!"
One reason, however, why the song is so loud is a very simple one—namely, because all those who are there think themselves bound to sing the loudest of all. You know our favorite hymn—
"Then loudest of the crowd I'll sing,
While Heaven's resounding mansions ring
With shouts of sovereign grace!"
And every saint will join that sonnet, and each one lift up his heart to God: then how mighty must the strain of praise be, that will rise up to the throne of the glorious God our Father!
But note next, while it was a loud voice, how sweet it was. Noise is not music. There may be "a sound like the roar of rushing waters," and yet no music. It was sweet as well as loud; for John says, "I heard the voice of harpers playing their harps." Perhaps the sweetest of all instruments is the harp. There are others which give forth sounds more grand and noble, but the harp is the sweetest of all instruments. I have sometimes sat to hear a skillful harper, until I could say, "I could sit and hear myself away," while with skillful fingers he touched the chords gently, and brought forth strains of melody which flowed like liquid silver, or like sounding honey into one's soul. Sweet, sweet beyond sweetness—words can scarcely tell how sweet the melody.
Such is the music of Heaven. No jarring notes there, no discord, but all one glorious harmonious song. You will not be there, formalist, to spoil the tune. Nor will you be there, hypocrite, to mar the melody. There will be only those there whose hearts are right with God, and therefore the strain will be one great harmonious whole, without a discord. Truly do we sing—
"No groans to mingle with the songs
That warble from immortal tongues."
And there will be no discord of any other sort to spoil the melody of those before the throne. Oh! my beloved hearers, that we might be there! Lift us up, you cherubs! Stretch your wings, and bear us up where the sonnets fill the air. But if you must not, let us wait our time,
"A few more rolling suns at most
Will land us on fair Canaan's coast!"
and then we shall help to make the song which now we can scarcely conceive, but which yet we desire to join.
Why is the song said to be a new song? It will be a new song, because the saints were never in such a position before as they will be when they sing this new song. They are in Heaven now; but the scene is something more than Heaven. It refers to the time when all the chosen race shall meet around the throne, when the last battle shall have been fought, and the last warrior shall have gained his crown. It is not now that they are thus singing, but it is in the glorious time to come, when all the 144,000—or rather the number typified by that number—will be all safely housed and all secure.
I can conceive the period. Time was once—but eternity now reigns. The voice of God exclaims, "Are my beloved all safe?"
The angel flies through paradise and returns with this message, "Yes, they are!"
"Is Fearful safe? Is Feeble-mind safe? Is Ready-to-Halt safe? Is Despondency safe?"
"Yes, O King, they are," says he.
"Shut to the gates," says the Almighty," they have been open night and day—shut them now."
Then, when all of them shall be there, then will be the time when the shout shall be louder than roaring waters, and the song shall begin which will never end.
There is a story told in the history of brave Oliver Cromwell, which I use here to illustrate this new song. Cromwell and his Ironsides before they went to battle, bowed the knee in prayer, and asked for God's help. Then, with their Bibles at their bosoms, and their swords in their hands—a strange and unjustifiable mixture, but which their ignorance must excuse—they cried, "The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge;" and rushing to battle they sang—
"O Lord our God, arise and let
Your enemies scattered be,
And let all those that do you hate
Before your presence flee."
They had to fight up hill for a long time, but at last the enemy fled. The Ironsides were about to pursue them and win the booty, when the stern harsh voice of Cromwell was heard, "Halt! halt! now the victory is won; before you rush to the spoil, return thanks to God!" And they sang some such song as this, "Sing unto the Lord, for he has gotten us the victory! Sing unto the Lord." It was said to have been one of the most majestic sights in that strange, yet good man's history. (I say that word without blushing, for good he was.) For a time the hills seemed to leap, while the vast multitude, turning from the slain, still stained with blood, lifted up their hearts to God. We say again it was a strange sight, yet a glad one.
But how great shall be that sight, when Christ shall be seen as a conqueror, and when all His warriors, fighting side by side with Him, shall see the dragon beaten in pieces beneath their feet. Lo, their enemies are fled; they were driven like thin clouds before a Biscay gale. They are all gone! Death is vanquished, Satan is cast into the lake of fire, and here stands the King himself, crowned with many crowns, the victor of the victors.
And in the moment of exaltation the Redeemer will say, "Come, let us sing unto the Lord!" and then, louder than the shout of many waters, they shall sing, "Hallelujah! the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" Ah! that will be the full carrying out of the great scene. My feeble words cannot depict it.
I send you away with this simple question, "Shall you be there to see the conqueror crowned?" Have you "a good hope through grace" that you shall? If so, be glad; if not, go to your houses, fall on your knees, and pray to God to save you from that terrible place which must certainly be your portion, instead of that great Heaven of which I preach, unless you turn to God with full purpose of heart.