THE SEA GIVING UP HER DEAD.
S. Clement, November 23.
"ANOTHER BOOK WAS OPENED, WHICH IS THE BOOK OF LIFE: AND THE SEA GAVE UP THE DEAD WHICH WERE IN IT."--REV. XX. 12,13.
I CAN tell you one name that was written in that Book of Life. S. Clement, whose memory we keep to-day, was told, while he was yet in this world, that his name was there. S. Paul says in the Epistle to the Philippians, "Clement, and other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the Book of Life." Others of GOD'S servants have gone on hoping and fearing, struggling and mourning, lest, as S. Paul says, "after they had preached to others, they themselves should be cast away." With S. Clement it was not so. The HOLY GHOST, That cannot lie, assured him that he should be saved.
And next to the Apostles, he was one of the greatest Saints of the early Church. He wrote two Epistles to the Corinthians, which for many years were read as a part of the Bible. After he had for some time been Bishop of Borne, he was banished into a wild and savage country, which we now call Georgia, and there he preached CHRIST to the barbarians. At length, he was taken by the officers of the Emperor, and thrown into the sea, with an anchor round his neck: and thus he finished his course with joy. He is therefore painted with an anchor; and the charity boys of S. Clement Danes church in London have an anchor on their buttons.
But now think: suppose it were told us by the HOLY GHOST, as it was told S. Clement, that we should certainly be saved, should we not be apt to grow careless at once? Should we not say, It matters not what I do, or what I leave undone, I shall get to heaven at last, and so I will take my fill of this world's pleasures now? I am afraid we should. And it shows the great love to GOD that was in the heart of this blessed Saint, that though he was sure of the prize at the end, still he went on labouring for it, still he went on fighting for it, and at last he laid down his life that he might obtain it.
No; it is a merciful thing for us not to be told it, though our name should be in the Book of Life. And think what a book that must be, in which are written the names of all GOD'S true servants, from righteous Abel, down to the last infant that shall be baptized before the Judgment Day! Think how, if we could be shown it, we should tremble with exceeding great trembling, as we turned over its leaves, to see whether our names were written there or not! That we shall never know for certain, while we remain in the flesh. But, by the grace of the HOLY GHOST, we may go on, making our salvation more and more sure; so that, at last, when we are called to go out of the world, we may have a strong consolation, an assured hope, that we shall not be cast out.
See now how the Devil, who delights in spoiling all GOD'S works, brings death and sin out of this very Book of Life. He has taught some wicked persons to say thus: "GOD knows at this moment whether I am to be saved or not. If I am to be saved, nothing can hinder me: if I am not to be saved, nothing can help me. If I am to be saved, I shall be saved, do what I will: and if I am to be damned, I shall be damned, do what I can." You must all know that there are many people who say, and who teach this; and there are many, now in hell, who might have been saved, but for believing it.
How is the truth then? Why, this. We must believe both things. It is certain that GOD has a Book of Life, in which all those who are to be saved are written down: and yet it is also certain that any of you may be saved who will. Perhaps no man can fully understand how both these things can be true together. Ever since the beginning of the Church, there have been bitter disputes about this, and there have been fearful mistakes on both sides. It is enough for you to believe this firmly; that GOD wills you and every man to be saved; that GOD gives you and every baptized person grace sufficient to be saved; that you and every one else may be saved, if you will; that if you do will, and go on persevering to the end, then your names will be found in the Lamb's Book of Life; but if you do not will, or do not go on willing to the end, then they will not be found there. And S. John tells us what will follow: "And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life, was cast into the lake of fire."
This is enough for us to know; and we may leave others to dispute how this can be, or how that can be.
Our LORD might say to us, as He did to S. Peter, "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me." And always let us say, as S. Paul did, "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark."
Thus we shall follow the example of S. Clement. He knew that he was to be saved, and yet he resisted unto blood. We can only hope it, and yet how slothful we are in our Christian life!
But there is another part of the text:--"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it." And S. Clement will be one of those. What a glorious thing it is to be a Christian, and to know this! Why, if it is difficult to fancy how bone will come to bone, muscle to muscle, tooth to tooth, of those that have mouldered away in the earth, how much more difficult of those that have been cast into the sea! The waves have washed them to corruption; rocks have dashed them in pieces; dreadful sea-monsters have swallowed them; that which was their flesh, who can tell where it is, or what it is? It has formed the food of fish, it is turned into other substances:--But what of that? "The sea gave up her dead." If you say, how can these things be? I shall only answer you as S. Paul does, "Thou fool!" "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." Now, every child can tell you this: time has been when the wisest men on earth could not. Of those that have been buried in the sea, this fish may have eaten one part, and that fish eaten another part; and both those fishes may have been eaten by a third fish, and that third fish have utterly perished these thousand years, and yet GOD at this instant knows where every particle of that man's body is,--limbs, eyes, teeth, hair, all are safe. How can these things he? "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die."
And consider this. When, in spring, we have fine warm weather, and we say that it will bring things forward, what do we mean? Why, that it will cause the seeds we have sown to decay more quickly, the young green shoots to burst from the poor worn-out husk, till the plant comes up in all its beauty. And, in like manner, all the changes of this world are bringing forward the bodies that have been sown in it, to what they will be. Every summer, every winter makes them nearer to their last glorious change. They decay more and more thoroughly; they become a little dust, the dust changes to something else; and so, from one change to another, till, " in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet shall sound, and this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
When I was away from you last year, I came to a wide burial ground, with a great gate that led into it: and over the gate, in large letters, were written these words:--"SEED, SOWN BY GOD, TO RIPEN IN THE DAY OF SHEAVES." And so indeed it is.
"The dead in CHRIST," says S. Paul, "shall rise first." And no marvel that S. John says, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first Resurrection." In that S. Clement will have a portion; and GOD grant that we may also!
And now to GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.