THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE BY REGI ALD J.

CAMPBELL MI ISTER OF THE CITY TEMPLE LO DO

" They which are written in the Lamb's book of life." —Rev. xxi. 27. From our infancy we have all been accustomed to hear about the Lamb's Book of Life, but how many of us know where the idea came from, and exactly what it stands for? Is it not possible that some of us have an inadequate and even a perverted notion as to the proper interpretation of the metaphor ? I feel that there is some danger of belittling a grand and inspiring subject by ignoring the original conditions out of w^hich it sprang. I am going to try this morning to show you as briefly as I can what those conditions were. Then let us see whether our use of this scriptural language is worthy of the theme. After that let us reapply its message to our own souls. Like many of the sweetest passages in the ew Testament, the inspiration of this one is derived from the Old. References to the Book of Life are to be found in various parts of the Jewish scriptures, especially after the exile. Those who returned from the Babylonian captivity were enrolled by families in a great book kept for that purpose. The names in this roll were supposed to constitute 284

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 285

the new Israel, the nation which was henceforth a reHgious community, a church and a kingdom in one. To this nation was committed the task of rebuilding the sacred city of Jerusalem, and reinstituting the ancient worship of God on Mount Zion. Babylon, with its heathenism and oppression, had been left behind; the kingdom of liberty and holiness lay before. God had wrought a mighty deliverance for His people. In order to realise the jubilation with which this event was hailed you must imagine yourself to be one of the long procession of Jewish exiles making their way back across the Syrian desert to the little spot they called home. For many weary years they had been afflicted in the cruel city of the plains; they were now free to go back to the land of their fathers and their holy city, Jerusalem. " And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads : They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." But, when they got home, these people were disgusted by the paganism and poor moral quality of their kinsmen whom they found already there. This was the reason why they were so particular about the book of names. They refused to worship with or include in their fellowship those who had intermixed with foreign nations, and degraded the service of God by heathen rites. They therefore became very strict about the qualifications for citizenship in the new Jerusalem which they had now to build. Only those whose names were on the roll as being qualified by character, training,

286 THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE

and descent for membership in the new kingdom were admitted to the altar, or allowed to dwell within the walls. How far these rigorous regulations were actually enforced we do not know, but while the enthusiasm of the restoration lasted, they were no doubt observed to a considerable degree. As time wore on, however, they were relaxed; the level of moral earnestness declined ; there was much disappointment among those who had hoped for great things. ever again was Israel what she had been in her ancient days of independence. But this ideal of a City of God and a Book of Life was never forgotten, and, as you see, it supplied a good deal of the imagery of primitive Christianity, particularly of the Book of Revelation. Henceforth Babylon became a synonym for the Roman Empire, and the Book of Life a metaphor to signify those who were included in the Church of Jesus. ow here is a rather difficult thing for us to grasp. There is no room for doubt that these first Christians really thought of the earthly Jerusalem as still somehow to be the centre of a regenerated world, but as time went on the ideal was transferred from earth to heaven. When we speak of the ew Jerusalem we generally mean heaven, but this was not so at first. Apparently — strange as it may seem — primitive Christianity believed in a state of existence which could be both earth and heaven. This is what to us seems so puzzling. We cannot imagine heaven and earth becoming one, but they could and did. Thus the writer of the chapter which contains our text says : '' I saw tlie holy city. ew Jerusalem, coming

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 287 down from God out of heaven." A close examina-

tion of all that follows shows clearly that in his view heaven and earth now became merged into each other, and there was no longer to be any talk of a material and a spiritual, a hither and a yonder. To describe his vision he finds himself compelled to use the old familiar language about the Holy City and the Book of Life. We have seen where he got it, but we see also that he idealises it. The Book of Life is no longer the roll of those who came back from Babylon and were found worthy of citizenship in the reconstituted kingdom of Judah ; it is the number of those who belong to Jesus in earth and heaven. It meant something, too, far beyond what the ordinary Christian nowadays ever dreams of. Those who were written in the Lamb's Book of Life were supposed to be written there not merely because they gave a formal allegiance to the name of Jesus, but because they were fighting the battle for righteousness with all their might. This was a time of fierce persecution, when men and women, and even little children, were shedding their blood for Jesus every day. It was a terrible time, and upon the fidelity of these suffering ones depended the whole future of the world. An old civilisation was dying and a new one was struggling to the birth. It seems a curious thing to us to read that these Christian martyrs were accused of atheism and immorality, but so it was. The fact was that they stood for a purer religion and a higher morality than that from which men's thoughts were now turning away. ow that the dust of battle

288 THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE has settled we can see clearly that the Christian ideal of losing the life to find it was one which was

fundamentally opposed to the decaying faiths around it. But it was too high for speedy imitation. The world laughed at the ancient gods of Rome, and scorned the superstitions and degrading rites with which some of them were worshipped, but it was not prepared for the social upheaval which would follow upon the wholehearted acceptance of Christian principles. Then, as now, vested interests were strong enough to hold their own against an evangel, and even to repudiate it in the name of something higher. So there was nothing for it but that those who believed in the ideal of Jesus should witness for it by being willing to suffer and die in its service. They did so, with what result you now know. The message of my text is that those who thus died had not really died any more than their Master. Their names were written in His Book of Life. They not only lived in the world unseen, but in the triumph of truth and righteousness in human society as a whole. ow what do we think about the Lamb's Book of Life to-day? (The ancient symbols are losing some of their power, partly because people do not understand them, but I am sure they would love and reverence them again if they could only realise what they originally meant.) Well, I will tell you what it is not. It is not a list of those whom God has agreed to admit to heaven because they firmly believe that some one else has done all that was necessary to get them there. It is God's roll of honour. It is the glorious company of those who have suffered for Christ. It includes all whose

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 289 lives have been willingly and cheerfully offered on the altar of love. The very phrase '' the Lamb's

Book of Life" is a declaration of this, and distinguishes it from every other list of names that was ever written. Those whose names are in the Book of Life are life-givers. They are the servants of Jesus, working in the spirit of Jesus to minister more abundant life to the world. They are believers, it is true; for no w^ork worth doing has ever yet been done apart from the dynamic of faith. But they are not merely believers in the conventional sense; they are living sacrifices, filling up the measure that is behind of the sufferings of Christ in the service of man. When we speak of the Lamb's Book of Life we must never forget this. It is not merely the roll of those who have escaped something; it is the designation of those who have achieved something. o mere pious acceptance of the redeeming work of Christ; no comfortable acquiescence in the belief that He has given everything, and you have only to take, will qualify you for a place in the Book of Life. The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world is still being slain on the altar of human hearts, and wherever that divine sacrifice is offered new power and hope stream into this dark and sorrowful world. Alas, we have almost taken the soul out of this grand conception by the unreal way in which we too commonly regard it now. At the time my text was written men and women were dying for it, and the thing they most needed to hear was that their anguish meant greater glory for their Lord and His ultimate triumph over all the wickedness and all the pain wherewith the souls 19

290 THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE of men were being afflicted. There was nothing of

which they needed so much to be assured as that the work they were doing was not in vain, and that that which was given unto death would presently arise in glorious eternal life. They may or may not have thought of the wicked as doomed to everlasting woe, but that idea finds no place in my text; the stress is placed elsewhere. The one grand, all-dominating principle of it is that those who are crucified with Christ are sharers in His triumph and partakers of His life. Dying to self they live to God; perishing in the conflict with that which is base and foul they find that the seeming death is no death, but the gateway into that higher life which is eternal love and joy. Some of you may be feeling at this point that you are missing something to which you have been accustomed, and which you greatly value. You may be feeling that this explanation of the Lamb's Book of Life is not so sweet and beautiful as the one upon which you have been taught to dwell, and which has been such a help to you in your religious life. You may be saying to yourself : ** I do not like this. I want to owe everything to Jesus. Hitherto I have always thought that my name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life because the Atonement of my blessed Redeemer had won for me a place in the blood-washed throng before the throne of God in heaven. I have thought of Jesus as doing that work alone, without any help, and of myself as His humble beneficiary. I do not want to think anything else, nor can I readily believe that my place in that Book of Life has anything to do with my merit or my struggle,

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 291 or my self-sacrifice, or anything else but the love

of Jesus." Well, I will grant that to all outward seeming there is a great difference between this belief of yours and what I have just been telling you. Perhaps it is not so great as appears, but I shall not attempt to deny it or explain it away. I put it to you — which is the nobler and higher? Which, judging by the circumstances in which this great saying was born, is the nearer to what the first followers of Jesus felt about it? Far be it from me to lessen the worth of Jesus in your regard or even to seem to detract from the value of His atoning life and death. But there is something here that you and I have got to face. We have got to see that the Atonement of Jesus is no use unless it makes us like Jesus. It has got to be repeated in us. As Paul has it, we have to become willing to be delivered unto death for Jesus' sake that the life of Jesus may become manifest in us. There is no salvation which is not this, and the gratitude and reverence that we really owe to Jesus are gratitude and reverence for having made this possible. I put it to you again : which is worthier of Jesus, to believe that He has got us into heaven without any effort of our own — a heaven from which others are shut out — or to rejoice that He has shown us wherein true life consists? I do not care three straws whether I go to heaven or not — using the word for the moment in its conventional sense. But I do rejoice and thank God for that great Master and Redeemer of mankind who has shown me at an unspeakable cost what it is to live the life of love. I wish I could live it, but I am frail

292 THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE and earthly, whereas He was divinely strong, and

the light of God shone in all He said and did. And yet, no sooner have I realised this than my heart rises in loving gratitude to Him once more for the assurance that human weakness and imperfection can and shall be transformed into divine strength and holiness by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. To have shown us God in humanity is to have shown us God in all humanity. To have shown us that humanity invincible once, is to have shown us that it shall be invincible again and yet again until divine love has no more earthly victories to win. O wisest love ! that flesh and blood, Which did in Adam fail, Should strive afresh against the foe, Should strive and should prevail ; And that a higher gift than grace Should flesh and blood refine, God's presence, and His very self, And essence all-divine 1 But, dear fellows-Christians, all of you who really love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, and do not merely make a lip-profession of it — I am well aware that your names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life in the sense that my text really means. Your real creed is often much deeper and truer than your formal one. If you love Jesus you love what Jesus stood for, and your love shows itself in the laying down of your life in His service that you may take it again in the greater good and larger life of all mankind. You cannot be selfish and mean if you belong to Him ; you can no longer hesitate about what to do with

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 293 the opportunity that God has given you ; you cannot shrink from the cross when the cause of truth requires it. You cannot think first and foremost of your own salvation ; as the love of God is shed abroad in your heart you get beyond all that, and seek only to deliver the world from the bondage of all that makes it dark and sad. I say I know this, and you know it too. It is the grand, unifying, spiritual experience which underlies all differences in doctrine and reveals itself in all who are of the fellowship of Christ. " I do not hesitate, therefore, to appeal to all sincere and earnest souls in this congregation this morning in the same spirit as the writer of my text. I do not care what church you belong to or whether you belong to none. I do not care whether your theology is broad or narrow, old or new. The gospel I am preaching to you this morning is the gospel of a great deniandj and I believe from my heart that you will respond to it just because it is that. I do not offer you — I dare not offer you — a salvation that will cost you nothing. The salvation that is spoken of here will cost you everything that you have to give. To have your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life is no mere form of words ; it is a call to death — death to the world that you may save the world, death to self-interest that you may find your own soul, death to the lesser that you may realise the larger good. I am almost afraid of using these terms, for they are now bandied about in religious circles in a way that often amounts to mere cant and formalism. In what sense can any man be said to have renounced the world or died to self while he holds aloof from

294 THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE the world's woe and avoids everything that may jeopardise his security or lower him in the esteem of his fellows ? There is nothing more unreal than the way in which we speak to-day of these high themes and their corresponding obligations. And the world has found it out. When you come to the average man now-a-days with your offer of a full and free salvation which he has nothing to do but accept, and which will secure him entrance into heavenly habitations, he does not listen. But come to him as Jesus came with the sternly loving demand that he should make his whole life an offering to the highest God has given him to see, and you have compelled him not only to listen but to choose. He knows well enough whether or no his name is in the Lamb's Book of Life, for he knows whether he is really trying to give himself for the life of the world or whether he is not. He knows what feelings dominate him most. He knows whether he is serving God or Mammon, or even trying to serve both at once. He knows whether the cause of truth and righteousness is stronger for his advocacy, or whether he has left to others the danger and the pain of helping to hasten its ultimate triumph. When Jesus came with His evangel to the world of nineteen hundred years ago. He came to such men as this not with an offer but with a demand — or rather an offer contained in a demand. So strenuous was that demand that fewwere able to see that it in itself was the evangel. It called men away from base desires and selfish aims and bade them give themselves without reserve to whatever cause needed them the most. To one man His word was, Follow me and be a

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 295 fisher of men. To another : Go and sell all that thou hast and give to the poor. To another : Are ye able to drink of my cup and be baptised with my baptism ? Hardly any two alike, but underneath every summons was the requirement of a perfect self-devotion to the cause of God, which is only another name for the good of man. It is to this that I call you. I respect your manhood too much to offer you anything less. From you God requires the utmost for the whole, and not until you are willing to give it will you begin to discover what life really means, and what a glorious thing it is to live. I reverence Jesus too much to put you off with the lie that He has done everything for you that needs to be done in order to make things pleasant for you in the world to come ; but in His name I summon you to continue His work. To have your name written in His Book is to be of the company of those who have resisted unto blood striving against wrong. The greatest thing He ever did for you or for mankind was to make this a gospel and believe that men would rise to it. For so indeed they have, and ever will when they see it for what it is. I read in one of the daily papers the other day of a thrilling incident which took place amid the scene of horror and consternation which followed the collision of the St. Paul and the Gladiator in the Solent. When the huge American liner crashed into the British warship, two or three seamen on the latter scrambled up the bows of the former into safety. o sooner had one of them done so, however, than he seemed to recollect himself, and called out: " My God, what have I

296 THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE done? What will my captain say?" and immediately jumped back into the sinking ship. Whether he went down with her I do not know; I do not even know whether the story is true, or whether it is a journalistic invention, but I sincerely hope it is true. The spirit which prompted that simple seaman to leap back to his post in the face of death is the spirit which I seek to awaken in you for all the business of living. What will my Captain say ? What is it He calls for ? What does He expect from me ? Those whose names are in His Book of Life are those who have found their salvation in ceasing to trouble about it, and offering themselves instead in response to His call to serve and heal. On the authority of Jesus Himself we have it that some may be in this Book of Life who do not even know it, the criterion of their worth being, " Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me." Dear fellow men, this is the real gospel, the gospel in which you will find redemption from self-seeking, and the joy that no man taketh from you. You cannot live it without God, but to try to live it is to find God. It is high as heaven, and deep as hell. It contains all that you will ever need for this world or the next. Sometimes you are sad and weary, no doubt, with the struggle to live, and the repeated disappointments and failures of life. You have been down in the mud time and again, and bruised and crushed your soul. There are some hideous things in your record, things that you wish could be blotted out for ever, things the very memory of which causes you shame and dread. Then there are times when you feel how

THE LAMB'S BOOK OF LIFE 297 puny you are in face of the sinister forces of the world. You see cruel things done, and you are powerless to stop them. You see the lie triumphant and injustice unrebuked. You hear everywhere around you the cry of human anguish ascending towards a silent heaven, and perhaps you sink in bewilderment under the mystery and horror of it all. If you have a sympathetic heart you must sometimes burn to be able to find a remedy for it — a remedy for your own sin and other people's, a remedy for the darkness and the pain. Well, here it is. If God is to come to you He must come through you to the rescue of the world. If you are to escape from sin you must become a sin-bearer — there is no other way. If you would recover hope and confidence that the best is yet to be, you must be willing to die to make it so. Can you do it? Will you do it? Do you even want to be willing to do it? Courage, then, brother of Christ, your name is written in His Book and graven on His hands. This is life to come, Which martyr'd men have made more glorious For us who strive to follow. May I reach That purest heaven, be to other souls The cup of strength in some great agony, Enkindle generous ardour, feed pure love, Beget the smiles that have no cruelty — Be the sweet presence of a good diffused, And in diffusion ever more intense. So shall I join the choir invisible Whose music is the gladness of the world.

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