"Remain faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." Rev. 2:10

The pathway to heaven is not alike to all. There are those who become speedily ripe for glory--those who reach the close of their journey, before, to human appearance, it has been well begun; while others have to bear the burden and heat of the day, to toil onwards for many stages, and to see the shadows of the evening slowly gathering in upon their weary footsteps. But to all, the words are addressed, "Remain faithful even when facing death"--"be faithful, even should your life be periled--be faithful until the hour of your departure comes." Life is not always to be reckoned by the number of its days; it is possible for the longest to be really briefer than the shortest, for–
"We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs.
He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best."

Yet, as we know not how long the journey may be, we should remember that we are called to be "faithful unto death." It is time that tries a man's love to the Savior--time, with its changes and sorrows, its varying labors and temptations. It is the long dark night that puts to the test the watchful servant, and the winds and storms that beat upon him. It is not the fierce onset that tries the soldier, it is the march through the burning sands--it is passive courage and endurance the soldier requires. And so, it is the passive virtues the Christian has to exercise to the close of life that try his fidelity.

Not far has he journeyed, when he finds, that the road to Canaan is through an enemy's country, that a wilderness intervenes, in which there is many a brier and many a thorn, and that his courage and endurance will be severely tested. Foes lie in wait, to tempt him from his allegiance, at every turn in his path. Wherever he is--in the mart of commerce--when he toils in the workshop--when he returns to his home--when he rests on his bed, in the bustle of the day, and in the silence of the night--in the bosom of his family--in society--alone--in the fields--in the church--in his secret retirement--he can never elude the enemy--he carries the foe in his own breast, the conflict ceases not--there is no intermission of time--no season of rest--there are no truces sounded--no flag is ever unfurled that can be trusted; if he halts, it is at his peril; if he pauses, it is to be wounded; if he temporizes, it is to prove himself unfaithful.

It is a conflict "until death;" until the end, it is true, "we wrestle." The oldest Christian cannot relax his vigilance--cannot lay aside his weapons, if he would be a "faithful soldier of Christ Jesus." Faith must be in constant exercise. He must "put on the whole armor of God:"--righteousness as his breastplate, the hope of salvation as his helmet, the sword of the Spirit, bright and shining--keeping ever near his Captain--looking ever to Him, relying ever on His guidance, and following ever His footsteps. Oh! it is not so easy to remain "faithful," surrounded as we here are by countless enticements to infidelity. It is easy, to live the lives of some Christians--easy, to wander languidly over the soft and flowery meadow--easy, to float dreamily down the smooth and placid stream of time; but, not easy, to climb the rough and craggy cliff--not easy, to stem the tempestuous billows, and resist the downward current. And this is what the faithful Christian has to do. He has to be in the world, yet not of the world; he has to come out of it--not by monastic seclusion, but by mastering its temptations--to be diligent in its duties, yet not absorbed by them--appreciating its innocent delights, yet not ensnared by them--gazing upon its attractions, and yet rising superior to them. If he would be "faithful," he must live surrounded by objects which appeal to the sight, and, yet "endure as seeing Him who is invisible." He must pray, often seeing no answer to prayer, and still pray on--he must war in this warfare, finding fresh foes continually rising up, and still war on--harassed with doubts and fears, he must walk on in darkness, though he see no light, staying himself daily upon his God.

Christian! to be thus faithful is no easy task. It is not in your own might that you will continue steadfast. Like the great apostle, you must look for your "sufficiency" in God. See what Divine strength enabled him to achieve! "He kept the faith" at Antioch, even when the infatuated crowd attempted to drown his voice with their clamor, and "interrupted him, contradicting and blaspheming." He "kept the faith" at Iconium, when the "envious Jews stirred up the people to stone him." He "kept the faith" at Lystra, when the fate of Stephen became almost his, and he was dragged, wounded and bleeding outside the ramparts of the town, and left there to languish, and, for anything they cared, to die. He "kept the faith" against his erring brother Peter, and "withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." He "kept the faith" when "shamefully treated at Philippi," and made the dungeon echo back the praises of his God. He "kept the faith" in Thessalonica, when "lewd fellows of the baser sort accused him falsely of sedition." He "kept the faith" at Athens, when, to the world's sages, he preached of Him whom they ignorantly worshiped as "the Unknown God." He "kept the faith" at Corinth, when compelled to abandon that hardened and obdurate city, and to shake off the very dust from his garments as a testimony against it. He "kept the faith" at Ephesus, when he pointed his hearers, not to Diana, but to Jesus Christ, as their only Savior. He "kept the faith" in Jerusalem, when stoned by the enraged and agitated mob--when stretched upon the torturing rack and bound with iron fetters. He "kept the faith" in Caesarea, before the trembling conscience-stricken Felix, when he "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come." He "kept the faith" before Agrippa, and, by his earnestness, compelled the king to say, "you almost persuade me to be a Christian;" and, even in the closing hours of life--when the last storm was gathering over his head--when lying in the dark and dismal Roman cell--he wrote these triumphant words, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith--henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day."

"Look in and see Christ's chosen saint
In triumph wear his Christ-like chain–
No fear lest he should swerve or faint–
His life is Christ, his death is gain."

Christian! the same strength to continue faithful is promised you--for, to every true believer the assurance is given, that if they abide steadfast by the Cross, they shall fear no evil. The conflict, in which they are to engage, is arduous and incessant, but they are not left without encouragement. They have solid armor--they have a mighty Champion--victory is insured to the brave. Others have stood on the same battle-field--they have contended with the same foes--and, having continued "faithful unto death," they now enjoy their triumph. Not one faithful warrior ever perished--none who ever enlisted beneath the Savior's banner ever fell upon the field, for, upon that banner there is written, in unfading characters, "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper." Our foes are not mightier than the foes they mastered who are now in glory; but our strength is still the same, they overcame by the same blood of the covenant--they triumphed through the same Lord. Let us, then, enter the lists with the enemy, fearless--confiding in Him who has all power in heaven and in earth.

Christians! sheathe not the sword, and it shall never be wrested from you--lay not down the shield, and no fiery dart shall ever penetrate it--face the foe, and he shall never trample you down or drive you back. Listen to your Captain--how He animates you onward, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life." Remember! "here is the time of the enemy, eternity is the time of the conqueror--here is the time of the cross, eternity is the time of the crown--here is the time of the sword, eternity is the time of the palm--here is the time of the tempest, eternity is the time of peace."

Amid your daily struggles--your fightings within and fears without--in the dark hour of sorrow--in the cheerless night of sickness--in the stern conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil--let the eye of faith gaze on the incorruptible crown, the golden harp, and the tree of life--above all, contemplate the blood-stained banner of the Cross which floats over you, and, as you think of its victories, how your glorious Leader once spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them in it, and how prophets and apostles, martyrs and saints, the young, the aged, and the dying, have found Him true and faithful--then be up and doing, be courageous like men, abide steadfast by the Cross as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Lift up your eyes, O Christian, and see your day of glory beginning to dawn. For a season, you must remain here; but, yet in a little while, and the helmet shall be exchanged for the crown of glory, the sword for the palm of victory, and death shall strip you of your armor, while angels throw around you the bright robes of triumph. Never forget the banner under which you serve--never forget that life is the scene of perpetual warfare. Here, children of God! here you are, and must continue warriors, on high you will be conquerors--here you stand upon the battle-plain, on high you will share the honors of victory--here you struggle for a prize, on high you will receive it; and, if at any time your spirits seem to flag in the midst of the strife, and the conflict--if, through manifold temptations, your hearts begin to grow cold in the cause and service of your Lord--then, call to mind your Savior's animating words, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life."

Christian! "be not weary in well-doing, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not." Toil on, patiently and manfully, in the Master's work--do battle with evil, both within and without. Be gaining daily some new victory over sin. Deny yourself. Be a willing cross-bearer for your Savior's sake, and, then, the long, long rest will come--rest, in heaven, from sin and sorrow, from conflict and temptation. Anticipate that rest, and, let the thought of it nerve you for your daily struggle, and stir you up to fight the battle, to which the Captain of your salvation has called you. "Then, in the border land, to you, as to the pilgrims of old, angel voices will come from the heavenly city--the air of the country of Beulah will be sweet and pleasant, and, as you near your home, its glories will expand to your wondering heart. With Hopeful in the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' look up at the Celestial Gate, and see men in bright clothing ready to receive you--see, the shining crown prepared, which is to grace your brow, and the golden harp ready, from whose chords you are to bring the melody of praise, and the seat awaiting you, which you are to occupy as eternal ages roll on."

Christian! be patient--be faithful, "until the coming of your Lord;" let your soul anchor itself on the unshaken Rock of the Divine faithfulness. It is not life, and it is not death, which shall be able to separate you from your Redeemer--all shall be overcome. The triple band of the world, the flesh, and the devil, shall be vanquished in the might of the Triune God; and, when your spirit has departed for the realms of everlasting recompense, angel spirits will chant the anthem over your bier, "Rest, warrior, rest," and surviving relatives take comfort in the thought, "He overcame the world, and the victory was by faith."

Then, "all will be peace--no tempest will beat upon you there, no storms will disturb you there, no foe will assail you there. The tear will be dried, the throbbing heart will be hushed, and the harp, which has often sounded no note, but when fitfully swept by the passing breeze, will be strung for the rich and sweet music of the skies. Then will you take your place triumphant upon the summit of Mount Zion--amid that countless army of the Faithful, who have retired forever from the field of conflict, where every man has been a soldier, every soldier a hero, and every hero a conqueror. With them, you will repose beneath the fig-tree, and enjoy the fruits of peace; and those fruits will be all the sweeter, by the contrast of the perils through which you have passed on the way. In the enjoyment of victory, you will think of the conflict--while waving the palm, you will think of the sword--while there in peace and happiness, you will think of the danger and the peril through which you pressed to reach that blessed world of safety." Believer! be this your prayer–

"O God! enable me, by Your grace, to fight the good fight--to continue faithful unto death, that I may at length receive the crown of life."

"Lay down the shield, and leave the sword,
For now your work is done;
And swiftly towards the glowing east,
Ascends the rising sun.
Angelic guards wait with the day
Your crown of light to bring;
'O grave, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?'

"Bravely first you upheld the shield
The path of conquest trod;
And followed in the battlefield
The banner of your God.
The hour of rest approaches near,
And waiting heralds sing,
'O grave, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?'

"They come, they come, and high in air
Is borne the Victor's wreath,
Who overthrew, in glorious war,
The world, the grave, and death.
There, there they wait to welcome you,
And high their triumphs ring,
'O grave, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting.'"


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