This sermon was preached at Rosskeen at the close of the Communion Sabbath [20th June 1858]. The Rev. John H. Fraser, minister of Rosskeen, said: ‘I can yet recall the appearance of the vast crowd, as in his closing appeals he became most pathetic, and the echo from the gable of our church seemed to second him.’ Details of Campbell’s life can be found here.
‘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’ (2 Tim. 4:8).
After reviewing the period of his life which had passed since Christ met him, the Apostle alludes to the comfortable frame of mind which he then enjoyed. As if he had said, I have wrestled and pressed toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; and in all my difficulties, trials, and temptations, I have by grace been able to keep the faith. In the text we have the glorious prospect which the Apostle had before him: ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’ I am now ready to be offered – the time of my departure is nigh. My fightings and my wrestlings with enemies from within and without, will soon be at an end, I am ready to enter the eternal world, into the joy of my Lord.’ Let us now consider the following points: (1) The crown here spoken of; (2) The Person by whom this crown will be bestowed; (3) The time when it shall be given; (4) The character of those who shall receive it.
1. The crown here spoken of, which the Christian warrior has in view, and shall attain. This is a crown of righteousness. You know that a crown is the symbol of power and dignity, and those who wear earthly crowns are raised to the very summit of earthly power and glory – to the place where all earthly happiness and power are supposed to centre. What an idea this gives of the heavenly mansions, where every saint wears an immortal, unfading, everlasting crown. The crown here mentioned signifies the whole happiness of heaven, a crown purchased by the blood of Christ; attained by the Christian warrior in the way of holiness. This crown signifies perfect and eternal conformity to the law of God. The gems of it are perfect holiness.
2. The Person by whom the crown shall be bestowed. Who shall give it? – ‘The Lord, the righteous Judge.’ This illustrious person is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the righteous Judge, and is well fitted for this great and important work. He knoweth all the actions of men, and sees the motives from which they all proceed. He can distinguish the least spark of grace from the fairest profession of the hypocrite. He shall be righteous in dooming the wicked to eternal misery, and in awarding to the righteous life eternal.
3. The time when it shall be given – ‘On that day,’ that is, the day of his appearing; when in a particular sense he will place the crown of eternal glory on the head of all his followers. That, however, does not mean that they shall remain in a state of inactivity from the day of death till that of the judgment; nor that there is an intermediate state between death and judgment, to prepare for heaven. No! for no sooner is the soul of the believer released from his body, than he is with God. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, ‘This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ ‘On that day’ – a day pregnant with happiness and misery; terror and joy. The last day when Christ shall raise the bodies of his saints, and fashion them like his own glorious body. That day when the elements shall melt with fervent heat. That day when Christ shall separate between the righteous and the wicked. On which hand will you be in that day? What will be the words that will be addressed to you?
4. The character of those who shall receive this crown – ‘They who love his appearing.’ Paul loved and longed for the second coming of Christ. He knew that though his head might be cut off, and his body burnt, and his ashes cast to the four winds of heaven, nothing could separate him from his Saviour and crown. But Paul is not the only one who shall receive this crown, ‘but also all who love His appearing.’ Believers, all of them, love and long for the appearing of Jesus. For, on that day, all their enemies will be subdued; Satan shall no longer tempt, and secret sins shall no longer harass them. Death as a handkerchief shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away, and they will be for ever with the Lord.
In conclusion: (1) See here the blessed and happy end of believers. At the latter end they shall attain to perfect deliverance from sin, and perfect knowledge of their God and Saviour. (2) There is a reality in religion. It is no fancy – no imaginary dream, but a spiritual, substantial reality. It supports and comforts the Christian under the trials and bereavements of this world. At the moment of dissolution it sweetly calms the mind, and supports the soul. At that dread hour, which no child of Adam can avoid, when all earthly things fly away, and eternity opens to view in all its solemnity, it assuages his fears and raises his hopes, leading him through Jordan’s waters, till it conducts him safely to Immanuel’s land.
Friend, what think you of this? What have you been doing since you had a being? Adding actual transgressions to original sin? What have you been doing here today? You are journeying to eternity, you know not when you may be called to enter it. Oh! have you entered on the Christian Course? Take these things to heart. Where shall this great multitude before me now be in thirty years? The greater number in heaven or hell. What a thought! Ross-shire hearers – after all your privileges, will the greater number remain despisers of the precious Saviour, and rejecters of the great salvation? Better that you had never had a being than that from listening to the voice of mercy, you harden your hearts, and delay coming to Christ. All things are ready. Yet there is room. Hear, and your soul shall live.