2Ti_4:7-8. 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: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
CHRISTIANITY adapts its comforts to every part of our existence; but its influence is peculiarly visible at the close. St. Paul, when expecting death, was not without the most comfortable reflections,
In his review of the past—
He had had different views of life from what are generally entertained—
[Many think they have little to do but to consult their own pleasure; but St. Paul had judged, that he had many important duties to fulfil.]
He had devoted himself to the great ends of life—
[He had maintained a warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil: he had run his race with indefatigable zeal and ardour [Note: 1Co_9:26.]: he had kept the faith with undaunted courage and constancy: he had disregarded life itself when it stood in competition with his duty [Note: Act_20:24; Act_21:13.].]
Hence the approach of death was pleasant—
[He enjoyed the testimony of a good conscience: he could adopt the language of his Lord and Master [Note: Joh_17:4.]—he was a prisoner without repining, or wishing to escape: he was condemned, and could wait with complacency for the tyrant’s stroke.]
In consequence of this, he was happy also,
In the prospect of what was to come—
He had long enjoyed the earnest of eternal blessings [Note: Eph_1:14.]. He looked forward therefore now to the full possession of them—
[A crown of righteousness means a most exalted state of holiness and happiness in heaven; nor did he doubt but that such a reward was laid up for him.]
He did not however expect it on account of any merit in himself—
[He speaks of it indeed as bestowed in a way of “righteous” retribution; but he expected it wholly as the “gift” of God through Christ [Note: Rom_6:23.].]
Nor did he consider it as a gift peculiar to himself as an Apostle—
[The “longing for Christ’s second coming” is a feeling common to all Christians [Note: 2Pe_3:12.]. For them also is this crown of righteousness reserved [Note: Heb_9:28.].]
Infer— [Note: If this were the subject of a Funeral Sermon, it might be improved in reference to the deceased and the survivors, to shew that the former resembled the Apostle, and to stimulate the latter to a due improvement of their time.] 1.
How does the Apostle’s experience condemn the world at large—
[The generality are strangers to spiritual consolations: but there is no true religion where they are not experienced. Let all consider what would be their reflections, and prospects, if they were now dying: Let all live the life of the righteous, if they would die his death.]
How amply does God reward his faithful servants!
[Poor and imperfect are the best services that they can render: yet how different is their state from that of others, both in and after death! Let all then devote themselves entirely to God.]