The Good Soldier's Prospect
James Smith, 1864
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus!" 2 Timothy 2:3
"There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day; and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing!" 2 Timothy 4:8
The soldiers of Christ have everything to stimulate and encourage them. Their present position is honorable, their future prospects are glorious! Their Captain will try them — but never trifle with them. Suffer they may — surrender they should not. They are more than a match for all their foes, for never was one left dead on the field. Their lives are insured — and their crown is prepared. This being the case, they ought to be courageous, confident, and constantly at their post!
Christian soldier, for encouragement in every conflict — look up to your Captain for supplies — and look forward to the glory that awaits you! The war will soon be over. Your discharge will soon be signed and sent to you. Home is even now in view. But how different your end — to your beginning! Think of what you were before you enlisted — what you were when a raw recruit — what you have often been through — doubts, fears, and misgivings — and then at what you will be. What a contrast! How striking! How surprising!
A crown is reserved for you! Not a corruptible crown of laurel, or myrtle — but a diadem. A diadem of glory. More durable than gold, more costly than any earthy monarch's crown. Gold, pearls, or precious stones, are not to be compared to it. Its gems will sparkle brighter that the stars on a winter's evening! As a whole, it will shine brighter than the sun on a summer's noon. It is a crown of glory, a most glorious crown. Not merited by your labors or sufferings in the Lord's service — but graciously promised, and gratuitously bestowed. Promised by your glorious Leader, preserved most carefully in the palace of the Most High God — to be presented to every faithful soldier at the final and grand review.
Yes, it will be placed on your brow by His hands — who won you to His service, led you to the battlefield, made you victorious, and will rejoice in your honor and happiness forever. It will be worn before God's own throne, before the angelic hosts, among God's saints forever. What thrilling joy, what ecstatic pleasure, what inconceivable delight — will you realize, when you first feel it rest on your brow! What a look will your Savior give you, when you lift up your head that He may place it on you, and your eye meets His, in his Father's presence! Surely, surely we ought to be fired with love, filled with zeal, and prepared for every conflict — however arduous, by such a glorious prospect!
But shall I be crowned? Brother soldier, will you? Yes, if we are indeed loyal soldiers. If we are engaged in the holy war. If we are attached to Immanuel and his cause. And the crowns we shall wear, will remind us of the conflicts we have endured below — of the foes we have conquered on earth — of the desires kindled and nourished while engaged in the campaign, and of the faithfulness of our king to the promises he made. We shall see that not one thing has failed. We shall realize that he has done for us exceeding and abundantly above all that we asked of him, or thought that he would give! The promised land will be far above our greatest expectations. The glory to be revealed will far exceed our most enlarged desires. The weight of glory will transcend our most comprehensive thoughts.
Grace, free grace will shine most gloriously on that day! The atonement of Jesus, as the procuring cause of all our blessedness, will be radiant with glory then.
The songs of the enraptured company will be divinely sweet. O how our blessed Savior's heart will dance for joy! How his eyes will sparkle with delight! His mighty spirit will realize full satisfaction, to see the whole of His redeemed people collected, arranged, and glorified before him.
Not one missing!
All that the Father gave him — there!
All for whom he offered up himself as a sacrifice — there!
All to whom he sent the Comforter — there!
All who enlisted under his banner and were sworn into his army — there!
Those who were once wounded, weeping, and lagging behind the regiment — there!
His great enemy completely defeated. His cause honorably carried. His troops passing again under the hand of him that counts them. Blessed be God for a certain salvation! A salvation, secured by the oath of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the veracity of the Holy Spirit. A salvation, secured by all the attributes of God's nature, the honors of the divine throne, and the stipulations of the covenant of grace. Glorious salvation, in which every poor, maimed, weather-beaten, discouraged soldier of the cross shall share!
But the crown we shall wear is called "a crown of righteousness" — a righteous crown. A crown to which we have a right. A right, founded in God's most free, sovereign, and glorious grace! A right, revealed in Christ's most glorious, gracious, and everlasting gospel. A right, secured by the most simple, magnificent, and precious promises. A crown, which will eternally prove that God his faithful to his Son, his soldiers, and his word. A crown that will show that God "is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works."
The right crown will be on the right head. It will fit perfectly. It will sit easy. It will look graceful. It will never be taken off — unless when each one takes it off himself, to cast it at the feet of his beloved Lord. It is a crown of life — an unfading crown of glory.
Reader, what a prospect is this! How bright, how glowing, how enchanting! Is it your prospect? Is there a crown laid up for you? Are you looking forward, and longing for the day when it shall be placed on your head, and when you shall wear it to the honor of free grace forever? Are you indeed a soldier of Christ?
Can you look back and remember when the thought first came into your mind to enlist into his army — the exercise of soul you had before you came to the final decision? The feelings with which you put forth your hand to receive the King's coin? The thrill which passed through your heart when you realized, "I am enlisted — I am a soldier — I cannot go back!"
Do you remember how you felt when you went to be sworn in, and the solemnity which filled your mind, when as with the heart-searching eye of God resting upon you, you pledged your word to be the Lord's, for life — forever?
Do you remember the exercises of your spirit when taken into the stripping room, and how you felt as your rags were removed from you, until the last, your once fondly loved self-righteousness was gone? Do you remember the sensations you experienced when the glorious blood-red regimentals were put upon you? How nicely they fitted, how you held up your head; how erect you walked, how singularly peaceful and happy you felt?
Were they not happy hours when all was thus new — the sun shone bright, the south wind blew softly, the birds sung sweetly, our comrades all spoke cheerfully — and it was as much like Heaven as anything on earth can be? The pocket was filled with the bounty money, the eye was flashing with delight in the prospect of glory, the heart was swelling with satisfaction — and we forgot our own family and our father's house. No life then appeared like the life of a soldier! No being then appeared so glorious as our Captain. No company could then equal our troops. The banners, the weapons, the armor, the discipline, the officers — all appeared to be as nearly perfect as they could be. We knew nothing of the battlefield, the confused noise, the groans of the wounded, or the garments rolled in blood, then.
But, reader, do you know anything of these things now? Remember, no cross — no crown. No conflict — no conquest. The crown is only for overcomers! We cannot overcome unless we come into the battle — unless we fight — unless we throw and disable our foe.
Are you fairly enlisted? Are you wearing the King's regimentals? Are you in one of the King's regiments? Do you understand the true military discipline? Have you ever taken the field? Did you ever return from the conflict like David, with the head of some Goliath in your hand? Do you prefer a soldier's life with all its toils, privations, sufferings, and dangers — to all others?
These are searching questions! I beseech you to lay them to heart. Let them be carefully considered and honestly answered.
Brother soldier, you who have for some time served the Lord Christ, I greet you in his most holy name. I give you joy, and rejoice in your honorable connection. Allow the word of exhortation — your General sends it, I give it in his own words, "Be faithful unto death — and I will give you a crown of life!"
Be faithful to your engagements, your oath, and your Sovereign Lord.
Never crouch to his foes.
Never compromise in his cause.
Never take off any part of your armor.
Never neglect any of your orders.
Walk erect and show a manly bearing.
Use your sword daily — and keep it bright.
Watch your foes closely — for they are crafty, cunning, and determined.
Let nothing daunt or discourage you.
Go straight forward and cut through all and everything that opposes.
Keep your ears open to your Commander's voice — and your eye fixed on the crown of glory in his hand. He will stand by you. He will fight for you. He will conquer through you. Soon, very soon, you will say, if you cannot just now, "I am a conqueror, and more than a conqueror, through him who loved me!"
And when we meet on the plains of the promised land, when we are waiting for the conclusion of the war, that the whole host may be crowned together — we will talk of our perils and dangers, of our conflicts and conquests, of the past and the present; and above all of the love, care, kindness, faithfulness, forbearance, and grace of our glorious King, and bless his holy name forever and ever! Then, O with what rapture we will sing, "Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father — to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever! Amen."