Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Chronicles 29:15 - 29:15

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Chronicles 29:15 - 29:15


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DISCOURSE: 392

SAINTS STRANGERS ON EARTH

1Ch_29:15. We are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.

THE more truly pious we are, the more shall we be clothed with humility. On no occasion had David evinced more exalted piety, than in his preparations for the building and furnishing the temple, which he was not permitted in his lifetime to erect. “He had prepared for it with all his might,” “because he had set his affection to the house of his God [Note: ver. 2, 3.].” He contributed to the amount of about eighteen millions of money: and his people also shewed a similar liberality, according to their power. And what reflections did these efforts generate in his mind? Was he filled with self-complacency? or did he assume any merit to himself? No: he gave to God the glory of all that had been done, acknowledging that the power to do it was the effect of his bounty, and the disposition to do it the fruit of his grace. A more sublime ascription of praise will scarcely be found in all the Book of God, than that which he uttered on this occasion. He bore in mind, that, as his continuance here was but of short duration, it became him to exert himself with all possible zeal, whilst any opportunity to serve God remained. The expressions which he made use of in my test will lead me to shew you,

I.       The state of man as it is here represented—

Man is but “a stranger and sojourner” upon earth—

[This world is not our home. If we are saints indeed, we have been born from above: we are children of a heavenly Father: we are of “the family of which Christ is the head,” and the glorified saints and angels are the members: and heaven itself is the inheritance to which we are begotten [Note: 1Pe_1:3-4.]. This world is but a wilderness, through which we are passing to our Father’s house. We are mere pilgrims here. The people amongst whom we sojourn are governed by different laws, and speak a different language, and are strangers to us, even as we are to them. Our communion with them is such as necessity alone requires. Wherever we are, we are only like travellers in an inn. Our stay is of uncertain duration. If our accommodations be good, we are thankful for them; but not much elated, because we regard them as merely momentary, and have our minds intent on far higher joys to come. On the other hand, if our accommodations be of a less comfortable nature, we feel no great disappointment. We consider that as incident to our state as travellers; and are consoled with the thought, that in due season we shall reach our home, where there is fulness of joy for evermore.

This has been the state of all the saints, from the beginning: the patriarchs “confessed it to be theirs;” and gloried in the thought that they were “seeking a better country,” which they should inhabit for ever [Note: Heb_11:13-14.].]

This representation is confirmed by actual experience—

[“Our days on earth are but as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” Behold the shadow of a cloud passing over the fields; how rapidly does it proceed! and how speedily does it vanish, not leaving the slightest trace of it behind! Thus generations pass away, and “the places where they have lived know them no more.” “No one has found here any continuing city.” The antediluvians lived for eight or nine hundred years; yet they died at last. How short, then, is our continuance, now that the term of life is reduced to seventy or eighty years! Let the oldest of us look back: our life seems to have been but “a mere span:” it has “declined as a shadow [Note: Psa_102:11.];” it has come to an end, “as a tale that is told [Note: Psa_90:9.];” it has been “as a vapour, that appeareth for a moment, and then vanisheth away [Note: Jam_4:14.].” Thus it has been with all, however great, or however good. The kings of the earth, that have made all the world to stand in awe of them, have passed away; yea, and their very empires have vanished with them. Where are now the Assyrian, Babylonish, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires? They have been swallowed up, as it were, and lost; together with the monarchs by whom they were established. In like manner, “the Prophets and Apostles, where are they?” they filled but an appointed time, and then were taken to their eternal rest. But, in truth, the very place where we are assembled gives us a convincing evidence, that, whether by choice or not, the same character pertains to every one of us; we are but pilgrims upon earth, hastening every moment to our destined home.]

Let us, then, mark,

II.      The conduct which the consideration of that state is calculated to inspire—

Frequently is the consideration of that state urged upon us, as a motive to that habit of mind which the state itself demands. “I beseech you, then, as strangers and pilgrims [Note: 1Pe_2:11.],”

1.       Be moderate in your regards for earthly things—

[A man intent on reaching his destined home, would not think of making a place his rest, because of its beautiful prospects or its comfortable accommodations. He would be pleased with them, and thankful for them as refreshments by the way; but he would not think of resting in them as his portion. So must we look beyond these transient things, and rest in nothing short of our destined home. To this effect is the counsel of the Apostle Paul: “This I say, Brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away [Note: 1Co_7:29-30.].” “Let your moderation, then, be known unto all men:” and “set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.”]

2.       Be diligent in the prosecution of your journey heaven-ward—

[You have no time to lose. Whether your stay in this wilderness be more or less protracted, you will find every hour short enough for the making of such a progress as will ensure a happy termination of your labours. You are not merely in a journey; but in a race, which requires the most strenuous and unremitted exertions. Whatever advance you may have made, you are to “forget what is behind, and to press forward to that which is before, that so you may attain the prize of your high calling.” And never are you to be weary of well-doing; for “then only will you reap, if you faint not.”]

3.       Avail yourselves of the aids which God has provided for you by the way—

[To his people in the wilderness, God gave a daily supply of manna from the clouds, and of water from the rock that followed them. And similar provision has he made for us also, in our way to the promised land: and, in the strength of it, we may prosecute our journey without fear. If we are “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” what may we not undertake, with a full assurance of success? We need not draw back from any labour; for “the grace of Christ shall surely be sufficient for us:” nor need we fear any enemy; for we shall be “more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”]

4.       Keep your eye fixed on heaven, as your home—

[What would ever divert your steps, or retard them for an instant, if you contemplated, as you ought, the blessedness that awaits you at the close of your journey? To be in your Father’s house, in the very mansion prepared for you; yea, and in the very bosom of that Saviour, who went, as your forerunner, to prepare it—to have all your trials for ever terminated, and all your dangers for ever past, and all your labours for ever closed; and to have nothing but an eternity of bliss, such as no words can express, no imagination can conceive—what joy will you feel in the retrospect, what exultation in the prospect, and, above all, what recollections as arising from the stupendous mystery of redemption, whereby the whole has been accomplished for you! Set before you this prize; and then tell me, whether you will ever need any thing to carry you forward in your heavenly course. Truly, the contemplation of that glory will swallow up every thing else, even as the stars of heaven are eclipsed by the meridian sun. Joys will be no joys, and sorrows no sorrows—I mean, not worth being so accounted—if only you keep heaven in your view: for neither the comforts “nor the sufferings of this present life are worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us [Note: Rom_8:18.].” Moses [Note: Heb_11:24-26.], and Paul [Note: Act_20:24.], and all the saints [Note: Heb_11:35.], yea, and even the Lord Jesus Christ himself [Note: Heb_12:2.], were animated by this thought: and, if it fully possess your mind, you can never faint, nor ever come short of the rest that remaineth for you [Note: 2Pe_1:10-11.].]