The Followers of the Lamb
“These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” — Revelation xiv. 4, 5.
WHATEVER the saints are in heaven, they began to be on earth. There is, no doubt, a perfection of character in the world to come; but the character must be formed here. In the next world there will be no real change; where the tree falls, there it will lie; he that is filthy will be filthy still, he that is holy will be holy still. I am going to talk to you to-night about those who surround the Lamb, and are with him in the blaze of his glory, singing to his honour. I say that what they were in heaven they were in a measure on earth. The life of glory is the life of grace. That life which men have in heaven comes to them in regeneration on earth. When they are born again, they are born for heaven; then it is that they receive the life which lives on throughout the eternal ages. If you do not have that life here, you will never have it. If you die dead in sin, there is nothing for you for ever but the abode of the dead, “where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” To-day is the only time which we have for character-forming. Earth is the great place for making instruments of music; here they are tuned and prepared; up there, they play them; but they will never play them there unless they have had them made and tuned here.
The subject of my discourse will be, first, a survey of the outline of character of those who are to be with Christ hereafter; and then, secondly, a contemplation of the perfect picture of the saints with Christ in glory, where I trust we, too, shall be, in the Lord’s good time.
I do not know whether these verses describe all the saints in heaven. If they do, then you must be like them, or you can never be among them. If , however, they describe the elect of the elect, the innermost circle of heaven, if they describe the body-guard of Christ, the immortals that perpetually surround him, nearest to his person, the most divinely like him, if they describe a kind of aristocracy of the skies, the nobility of heaven,— and it seems to me that they do, for they are the firstfruits, and the rest of the righteous may be regarded as the harvest afterwards reaped,— if these words describe some special saints, then we should seek to be like them. I would cultivate a holy ambition to be among the brightest stars of God. Why should we not reach to the highest prize of our high calling? If there be any speciality among the redeemed above, should it not be our earnest desire to attain to that standard?
I. So, first, here is AN OUTLINE OF THE CHARACTER OF THOSE BLESSED ONES WHILE THEY ARE HERE.
And, first, notice their adherence to the doctrine of sacrifice while they are here: “These are they which follow the Lamb." There are some professing Christians who talk much about the example of Christ, but deny the efficacy of his atoning blood; they are not of those who will be in heaven. There are some who magnify the philosophy of Christ; all his ethical teaching is greatly to their taste; but, as to his being a Substitute offered up as a sacrifice on account of human guilt, they cannot away with it. Very well; they cannot enter heaven, for “these are they which follow the Lamb;” not Christ only, mark you, but Christ as the Lamb of God’s passover, Christ as the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world, Christ as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. You cannot be of that blessed number, if you reject Christ as a sacrifice. As for me, and I trust for you also, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Christianity without the blood of Christ is a dead Christianity; it has nothing to give life to it, “for the blood is the life thereof.” If you take away the doctrine of sacrifice, you have taken away the core, the heart, the pith, the marrow of all Christianity. You have left bones for dogs; but you have not left food for immortal spirits. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he should believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Look, look, look unto him, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for he is God, even the bleeding Saviour, he is God, and beside him there is none else. May it be said of you all, dear friends, that you followed the Lamb by your adherence to his atoning sacrifice!
Many have thus followed the Lamb in spite of fierce persecution. Remember that brave woman, Ann Askew. When they had racked her, and pulled every limb out of its place, so that she ached all over in her exquisitely delicate frame, yet she sat on the stone floor of her cell, and still defended the sacrifice of Christ. When she had an opportunity to write her thoughts, she penned that quaint verse,—
“I am not she that list,
My anchor to let fall,
For every drizzling mist;
My ship’s substantial.”
She thought that being vexed by Popish priests and torn to pieces on the rack was only a drizzling mist, for which it was not worth while to cast her anchor. She was more than a match for fifty priests. God raise us up a race of such men and women! The devil seems to have taken the backbone out of most people. May we begin to know what we do know, and to believe what we do believe, and to put our foot down, and say, “God helping me, I will not forsake my God, nor turn away from his truth.” You remember how Martin Luther, when he stood at the Diet of Worms, closed what he had to say when they bade him recant, and he would not. He said, “Here I stand; I can do no other, so help me God;” and thus, invoking the help of his divine Lord, he committed his body to the flames, if need be, sooner than he would renounce a single Word of the Most High, or sin against the light which he had received.
And, next, it is clear of these people that they followed the Lamb by practically imitating Christ’s example, for it is written, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” They so believed in him that—
“They mark’d the footsteps that he trod,
His zeal inspired their breast,
And following their incarnate God,
Possess the promised rest.”
You cannot be with Christ unless you are like Christ. If you have really trusted in Jesus, he will transform you, he will take away from you those evil tendencies and vile propensities which are contrary to holiness, he will work in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure. And the highest holiness for you is to be like Christ. The very noblest possible character to which you could ever reach is to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, in obedience to God, in love to man, in self -sacrifice, in humility, in gentleness, in love. You must follow him whithersoever he goeth, and do what he did, so far as your position makes it fit for you to do it. I mean that you cannot do as he did as God, but you can do what he did as man. Try to put your feet down in the footprints that he has left you. Do aim at complete conformity to Christ; and wherein you fail to reach it, mark that you come so far short of what you ought to be. To be like Christ is that which God intends for you; and unless you have some measure of it now, you will never be with him, for all they who are with Christ above are the people who were made like to Christ here below. Note that very distinctly, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”
Will you, dear friends, labour to take Christ for your pattern? Do not come and take his name, and then dishonour his character. There are among you some who are very much like your Master; you are the joy of the church. There are among all the churches some who bear Christ’s name, but are not like him. My venerable predecessor, Dr. Rippon, used to say of his church that he had in it some of the best people in England; and then he used to add in a low voice, “and some of the worst.” I am afraid that I have to say the same; but I am very sorry that I should have to say it. The worst people in the world are those who profess most and do least. Do not be among that unhappy number; but do, I pray you, by the blessing of God, and the help of his Spirit, be among those who at least endeavour to “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”
Now, notice in the sketch of these people that they recognized a special redemption: “These were redeemed from among men.” Christ had done something for them that he had not done for others. They were not redeemed “among men”, but “from among men” They recognized the speciality of Christ’s sacrifice. They could read, for instance, a passage like this, and understand its meaning, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it,” for his church, for his body. “These were redeemed from among men.” Come, beloved, do you belong to this company of persons who have been fetched out from the rest of mankind by the power of the Spirit of God, and also by the merit of the precious blood? Do you feel that you are marked with the blood as others are not? Do you belong to a people who are not of the world, even as he that bought them was not of the world? Are you henceforth not of the common multitude, but one who has been bought and paid for by that redemptive price which was found in the veins and the heart of the Redeemer, and are you so redeemed as no longer to be one of the great mass of mankind, but fetched out, called out, chosen, “not your own, but bought with a price”? These are they that will be with Christ hereafter, as specially redeemed ones.
And as they recognized a special redemption, you will observe that they made a full surrender of themselves to God and to the Lamb: “These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” On a certain day, when the harvest was getting ripe, a man went down to the fields, and plucked an ear here, a handful there, and another handful further on, and he passed along the field, and gathered ears here and ears there, and when he had collected enough for sheaves, he tied them up, and took them to the temple of God, and presented them to the Lord as an offering, to signify that he owed all the harvest to God, and he brought him the first ripe ears as a sacrifice to him. Now, beloved, has the grace of God plucked you out from among the rest of mankind, and do you feel that now you belong to Christ, that you belong to God, that you are not to be gathered with the mass of men for the great condemnation, but that you are presented unto God, and belong to him altogether? It is a very easy thing for me to talk about this; but, believe me, it is by no means an easy thing to carry it out. I see numbers of people who profess to belong to God; but they live as much for money-making as anybody else, they live quite as much for self -seeking as the world does; and it would be difficult, even if you had microscopes on both your eyes, to see any difference between them and worldlings. This will never do. “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” If you are the firstfruits unto God, be so; if you belong to yourself, serve yourself; but if, by the redemption of Christ, you are not your own, but bought with a price, then live as those who are the King’s own, who must serve God, and cannot be content unless their every action shall tend to the divine glory, and to the magnifying of Christ Jesus. Now this is what all of us who are truly the Lord’s have in outline. Oh, that the sketch might be properly filled up, that we might become more the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb!
I must take you a little further. These people who are to be with Christ, the nearest to him, are a people free from falsehood. “In their mouth was found no guile.” Brethren, if we profess to be Christians, we must have done with all craft, policy, double-dealing, and the like. The Christian man should be a plain man, who says what he means, and means what he says. I know of no worse suspicion against any man who professes to be a Christian than the suspicion of not being transparent. It were better for us to be simple as fools than to be cunning as hypocrites, even though our cunning should place us in the front rank of the governors of mankind. The Christian man should scorn to tell a lie; exaggeration and equivocation should be strangers to his lips. “In their mouth was found no guile.” The Lord Jesus Christ was a great speaker of plain truth; and those whom he chooses to be near him, to be his personal attendants in heaven, must also be free from guile. "With many a mistake, with many a weakness, yet, beloved, the saints are free from falsehood. They are true, whatever may be their mistakes. Look to yourselves, and see whether it is so; as I would look to my own soul, I charge you to look to yours.
And then, once more, it is said that they are free from blemish; “they are without fault before the throne of God.” “Oh!” says one, “I am not without fault.” No, but there is the outline of that character in you if you are, indeed, one of the Lord’s people; you have already got rid of many faults, and you are getting rid of more; you grieve over what remains, and you will never rest till every sin is conquered. Is it not so, beloved? Saints are not only men of honour, but men of holiness; we would not tolerate any known sin in ourselves. Whenever we are carried into a fault by temptation or by inbred sin, we feel unhappy; we bow low in the dust, and we cry to God for grace, that we may not commit the like sin again. But God’s people are a blameless people, after all. If you are to find pure and right characters, where will you find them but among the followers of the Lamb? You know and I know many believers in Christ whose lives are blameless; we would not say that they are absolutely without fault, but still, the grace of God so works in them that we may safely take them for examples, and do as they have done. It was so in the olden time, and it is so now; and unless your character is such that your children may safely imitate it, and your servants may tread in your footsteps, and your neighbours may act as you do without going wrong, how can you hope to be where Jesus is? Jesus Christ receives sinners, but he makes them saints. The gospel opens a great hospital, not for sick men to lie in it and remain sick, but that there they may recover health, and may be made strong. He that believes in Christ is saved, saved in this sense among others, that he is saved from the power of sin, and turned from an unholy and godless life into a life of purity, honesty, and uprightness. “Be not deceived,” any of you, to-night, “God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” If there be not about you a likeness to Christ, if there be not at least the sketch which I have tried to depict, then, surely, you are not among those who will be for where Jesus is. I have seen an artist make his crayon drawing; he just took a piece of charcoal, and marked out what he was going to draw. I am afraid that is about all that is done with us here. There is an outline made with the charcoal; all the lines of beauty and all the glory of character are yet to be laid on as we grow in grace and in likeness to Christ. But, at least, there must be that sketch. If you have not that, come humbly to the feet of Jesus, and pray that he would begin in you his good work which he will carry on and perfect in the day of his appearing.
Thus much upon the outline of the character of saints while they are upon the earth.
II. Now indulge me for just a few minutes while I try to give you A GLIMPSE OF THE PERFECT PICTURE IN HEAVEN. I Cannot really show you the picture; that is in the upper gallery in glory, and you must go up there to see it. I can only tell you my idea of what that picture is like when it is finished.
Well, first, those who are with Christ enjoy perfect fellowship with him. Up there, they “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” They are always with him. There were certain young princes chosen in certain courts to attend upon the king. Wherever the king went, they went; where the court was, there was their abode; their one business was to behold the king’s face, and to abide near him. That is the business of the glorified ones of whom I am speaking. When will the day arrive that you and I shall enjoy this perfect fellowship with our glorious King, never absent from him, never doubting his love, never cold in our affection towards him, but being—
“For ever with the Lord”?
Shall I go on with the verse?
“Amen! so let it be!
Life from the dead is in that word,
Some of you have dear children who have outstripped their mother, and are enjoying this felicity even now. Others of us have mothers, brothers, friends who were very dear to us, who follow the Lamb in glory. How many who once sat amongst us here are now up there, following the Lamb, and he leads them unto living fountains of waters, and all tears are wiped away from their eyes! Oh, to think that wherever my Lord shall go I shall go! When he shall descend from heaven with a shout, we shall come with him. When he shall sit upon his throne to judge the world, his saints shall sit with him. When he shall reign amongst his ancients gloriously for a thousand years, we shall reign with him on the earth. When he shall return to the Father’s throne,—
“All his work and warfare done,”
we shall partake of his triumph, following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. I vote to cast in my lot with my Lord in life and in death; what say you? My Master, where thou dwellest, I will dwell; if men put thee to shame, I will be put to shame with thee; if thou diest, I will die with thee, that I may for ever live with thee in thy glory above. Say you not the same, beloved? Say it deep down in your heart to-night.
Well, now, notice in this complete picture, next, that up there they are perfectly accepted with God: “These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” God always accepts them; he always looks upon them as his firstfruits, bought with his Son’s blood, and brought by his Son into his heavenly temple, to be his for ever. Sometimes here we mar our service; but they never mar it there. Our songs get out of tune, but theirs never know a discord. We praise the Lord, and yet groan, being burdened; but in heaven there are—
“No groans to mingle with the songs
Which warble from immortal tongues.”
We doubt; we fear; we grieve the Holy Spirit; sometimes we get very sadly out of gear with God. It is never so there; fully redeemed from sin, they are accepted in the Beloved, and to the very top of their bent they know it, and enjoy it. Happy day, happy day, when you and I shall be of them and among them!
Observe, also, that they have perfect truth there in heart and soul: “In their mouth was found no guile.” “No lie,” says the Revised Version. Here, dear friends, we do fall into error inadvertently, and sometimes, I fear me, negligently. We say, not knowingly, more than the truth. How often we say much less than the truth, and almost necessarily so when we speak of divine things; but up there they are not only free from wilful guile and deceit, but they are free from all error and mistake. Happy day! Happy day! Do you not long to be there to be rid of every false doctrine, every wrong opinion, every error, every mistake, so that in your mouth there shall never be guile again? This is what they are above, made perfect. He who washed their hearts here has washed their tongues there. As they loved the truth here, they know the truth there. As they sought it here, they have found it there. As they were willing to die for it here, they live in the enjoyment of it there, and shall do so for ever.
One more feature of that perfect picture is this, they enjoy perfect sinlessness before God: “They are without fault before the throne of God.” That text brings back to my recollection the second sermon I preached to this church, one Sabbath evening, when we were but few: “They are without fault before the throne of God.” I had great joy, as a youth, in expatiating upon the perfect blessing of being altogether “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” If there were any fault in them there, they are where it would be seen, for they are before the throne of the all-seeing God; but even there, in that matchless place of light in which there is no darkness at all, they are declared to be without fault, without blemish. Can you think that you will be of that happy number one day? I had to put it very mildly just now when I spoke of saints being without blame here; but you may put it as strongly as you please when you speak of their being without sin there. They were once, perhaps, before conversion, the very chief of sinners; but in heaven there shall be no trace of their sin. They will bless the grace that came to them when they were up to their neck in the filth of sin; but there will be no trace of their filthiness left. There is no blood stain on Manasseh, there is no brand of blasphemy on Saul of Tarsus now; they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Some of these men were by nature and by practice, too, so depraved that it looked as if they could never escape from their evil habits. We might have said of them, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may these men, who are accustomed to do evil, learn to do well.” Yet so has the grace of God changed them, that there is no trace of any evil tendency, no propensity to lust, or lewdness, or blasphemy, or any kind of fault.
What a wonderful change it will be for those who were once great sinners to be found without fault; not only without great crime, not only without gross vice, but without fault, and that, too, as I have said, before the throne of God, where, if there were a fault, it would be seen! They are cleansed from all the guilt of sin, and from all the depravity which the habitude of sin brings to men. “They are without fault before the throne of God.” Truly, if you had never heard this before, it might make you laugh for joy to think that it should ever be possible that the very chief of sinners, through faith in Christ, might be made so clean as one day to be without fault before the throne of God. I do think that, when we get there, part of the joy of heaven will be a long surprise, an endless wonder; and if we are permitted there to recollect what we used to be, some of you will recall a night of sin, and say, “And yet I am here.” You will recall, perhaps, some dreadful passion, some atrocious outburst of foul language, or some terrible occasion of sin, and you will say, “Yet here am I, clean as the driven snow, washed in the blood of Jesus, and renewed by the Spirit of God.” Although they always praise God, I think that they must every now and then have a fresh outburst of hallelujahs when they begin to review the past. One says, “I, even after conversion, was a poor, limping Christian, and I was thrown back once or twice with terrible backslidings. My Christian friends despaired of my ever holding on; and yet here I am, without fault before the throne of God. Hallelujah!” Will not a man be obliged to break out like that, and do you not think that all the saints around him will take up the Hallelujah, too, till it goes in swelling chorus all round the choirs of heaven, “Hallelujah to God and the Lamb”? And another one will say, “And I, after I had long known the Lord, fell, oh, so sadly, so grievously! But he would not give me up, he followed me; and by his mighty grace, I was restored, my broken bones were set again, and I was made to sing of free grace and forgiving love. He created in me a new heart, and renewed a right spirit within me; and now I, even I, am here without fault, without a single fault.” You can hardly imagine it, can you? You begin to think, “Well, surely that cannot be,” for, if you look within, you see so many faults over which you groan; but you will look without and look within, when you once get there, and neither without nor within, in any respect whatever, will you have any kind of fault; for “ they are without blemish before the throne of God.”
I do not feel inclined to preach any more, but just to shout, “Hallelujah,” again and again, at the very thought that I shall be there. Oh, it is hard to go to heaven from such a place as that which I occupy! Your eyes sometimes startle me in my dreams, these thousands of eyes fixed upon one poor mortal man, who has to try to lead you to Christ, and lead you to heaven. Your eyes at times seem to pierce me like so many daggers. I think, sometimes, “What if I am not faithful, if I do not preach plainly, if I do not warn them, if I do not invite them earnestly, if I do not with all my heart cry, ‘Come to Christ’? What shall I do in eternity if six thousand pairs of eyes are for ever seeming to stick, like daggers, into my heart?” Oh, but it will not be so! I believe in him that justifieth the ungodly; and I have fully preached him to you, and all my great congregation. My hope is in the precious blood that cleanseth from all sin; and I have pointed all my hearers to that precious blood; and the day will come when I, with all who believe in Jesus, shall be without fault before the throne of God. The very thought of it makes me cry “Hallelujah,” and with that I finish. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Say “Hallelujah,” all of you. [“Hallelujah” from the congregation.] Hallelujah! Hallelujah to God and the Lamb! The Lord bless you, for Christ’s sake! Amen.