A Sermon Preached By Grey Hazlerigg On September 26th, 1883
You and I will have to depart from this world, and what we have to think of is to die right. I want to speak to you tonight of those who died right. It is not every professor who dies right, and I am afraid it is not every professor in this place who will die right. Hearing a good minister a great many years is not enough to prepare you to die right, nor hearing a quantity of good ministers. There must be something more than this. The Psalmist says, “Thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (Ps 51:6). That is it; have you and I got it? Oh, think of it, my friends, not merely truth on our lips, and uprightness in our lives, but truth in the inward parts! What a mercy if this is one day true of you and me, that we “died in faith.”
The Apostle begins this chapter by telling us what faith is. Faith is the certain evidence of things not seen with our bodily eyes or with the eyes of our reason. Now do you and I possess this faith? This description is followed by examples of those who did possess it. Can’t some of us say that we, as well as these dear children of God, “by faith understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God (not that they are a quantity of atoms come together), so that things which are seen were not made of things that do appear”? If we can say this, it must be by faith, not by carnal reason, nor by disputations like the old schoolmen in Greece. Faith is an active principle in the heart.
“A principle active and young,
That lives under pressure and load,
That makes out of weakness more strong,
And draws the soul upwards to God.”
Faith lives under pressure and load, it does not die away like some people’s religion, like that of the foolish virgins, whose lamps went out because they had no oil in them. What a deplorable result followed, the door was shut against them, and they were shut out. Faith is an active principle, and leads men to do things above nature. Faith led Noah to prepare an ark, and enter in with his family while the whole world was drowned. What a good thing if you and I have entered into the house prepared by the Great Noah for the saving of our souls. Oh, have you and I entered in? Do you know anything of that salvation Christ has prepared for His people, of being shut in by Christ? Oh, what a mercy to be eternally shut in. But oh, if you should be shut out! even though like the foolish virgins you may go to meet the Bridegroom! What a sad pity it would be if some of us should have the door shut against us because we have no oil in our lamps, no grace in our hearts!
Faith brings people to do things above nature, and to bear things above nature. What a great deal it enabled some of these Old Testament saints to bear. “They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (verse 37). How would it be with us if we had to go through the things that they did? It is sometimes ail exercise to me how it would be with me. I think if the Apostle Paul dropped down from heaven, he would be amazed to see our comfortable saints in the present day. Oh, where is Christianity gone to? Where is the Christianity now that enables men to give up everything? What a mercy it is to have a right Christianity! What a mercy to have faith while we live, and faith when we come to die! The Apostle tells us what faith does in a dying hour.
In analysing the text, the things for the minister to make remarks upon seem to be:
I. “These all died in faith.”
II. They had not received the promises, but were persuaded of them, and embraced them; and,
III. Their faith did something for them; it made them confess that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Their faith was a practical thing while living and dying.
We have here the pattern of a Christian, not the pattern of a great many professors, but the pattern of a true Christian. True wisdom brings a child of God, to come to the pattern, and to try himself by that. Do you and I answer to it? What is meant by dying in faith? In the margin it reads, “died according to faith.” What is it to die thus? It is not dying in calm philosophy like Socrates, it is not dying in scientific knowledge, it is not dying with blind boldness, but it is dying in faith of the redemption Christ has wrought, and of the resurrection to come. If we die in faith we must be brought to do so by the Spirit of God. Oh, what a blessed thing to die in faith, and what a mercy for our friends to see us dying in faith. We want to be living testimonies while we live, and to leave dying testimonies when we die.
We read, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (verse 8). Some people want to see their way pretty clear before they will go from one land to another. If they were in a boat and were told to get out, they would want to see another boat close before they would obey. But oh, to venture! to venture in a proper way, mind you. Though Abraham did not know where he was going, he knew he was following God, and it is always safe to be following God. O blessed Spirit, lead me to walk in the steps of faithful Abraham.
What faith Job had in the midst of all his troubles, he could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another ” (Job 19:25-27). Oh, those magnificent words! These Old Testament saints had a faith which laid hold of the proper Object, they looked forward. They not only knew the blessed Son of God as being from everlasting, from before the foundation of the world, but they knew that He should stand as a man upon the earth, and give Himself a sacrifice for their sins. Their faith looked forward to a Saviour to come, to redeem them, and they were crying for Him. I wish we were as eager as they were. Oh, these Old Testament saints believed that Christ would fulfil all righteousness, that He would go up to heaven and take His human nature there, and that He would come again in due season, and their bodies, souls and spirits, should be presented faultless before His Father. This gave them sweet resignation in a dying hour; they could say, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” But how is it with us? That is what we want to know. What is the difference between the Old Testament saints and us? Their faith looked forward to Christ’s coming and suffering, and ours looks back upon His sufferings. But we Christians now die in faith as well as the Old Testament saints. It is not giving up our bodies to the grave as a doleful place. Truly there is nothing more doleful and gloomy than to see a wicked man laid in the grave, but it is a sweet thing to look in upon a dear child of God. It was a sweet place where Jesus’ body lay, and as He rose again and is gone to heaven, so at the resurrection day will all His dear people rise who are in their graves, and be for ever with Him. We live by the same faith and die by the same faith as the Old Testament saints.
II. They had not received the promises, but were persuaded of them, and embraced them. This may be helpful to some of you. There is a twofold receiving. They had received the promises in word by the power of the Spirit in their hearts. When God went to Adam and Eve after they had taken the forbidden fruit (oh, it is an awful moment when God finds a sinner out!), He pronounced a curse upon them, but at the same time He made a promise to them, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and later on God made a promise to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed ” (Gen 22:18). And Christ says, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). They had received the promises in a certain sense, and they had been the life of their spirit and the joy of their heart, but they had not received the fulfilment of the promisee as we have. Jesus Christ had not stood as a man upon earth. I want you to distinguish between receiving the Word in the power of it and receiving it in the fulfilment; you may receive a promise about a temporal mercy or a spiritual mercy, and it may not be fulfilled for twenty years. Perhaps you have had a promise about your children, or about some of your temporal concerns, or it may have been about your soul, and there has not only been a long interval between your receiving the promise and the fulfilment of it, but it has seemed to be dead and buried and rotting in the grave. If so, it will as surely come up as Jesus Christ came up out of His grave.
“The promise may be long deferred,
But never conies too late.”
Oh, it is a blessed thing to have had a promise from God, it will make you pray. If God says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean” (Ez 36:25), it will make you cry out, “Lord, do sprinkle clean water upon me.” Or if He says, “I will take away the stony heart, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (verse 26), you will say, “Lord, do take away this heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh.” Whenever a promise comes in, prayer goes out, and though it may be a long time before the fulfilment, yet the promise and prayer shall surely rise again. What our Lord said of Lazarus is true of all promises and prayers, “Thy brother shall rise again” (John 11:23).
But after you have had a promise, and waited a long time for its fulfilment, don’t you have a cold time, a dead time, a distant time, a miserable time? Do not fear, child of God, Christ will surely raise it up again, and “though it were dead, yet shall it live.” With Him saying and doing are the same thing.
“And were persuaded of them.” When the word of God comes, does it not bring a peculiar, secret. Divine light into the soul? It is self-evidencing, you couldn’t disbelieve the word is the word of God. I want you to go on your knees and pray to God for a Divine light to shine on your soul. Oh, faith is a blessed thing.
“It sets time past in present view,
Brings distant prospects home,
Of things a thousand years ago,
Or thousand years to come.”
With God it is all one eternal now. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Why is it some professors are so uncertain about things? Because they have never been brought to a blessed persuasion; the light has not shone into their hearts. Today they are one thing, tomorrow another; today Calvinists, tomorrow Arminians; today Baptists, tomorrow in the Church of England. They have never had Christ revealed to them as Peter had when Christ said to him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). His was not a mere assenting faith. You may have a good creed and a bad credence.
These Old Testament saints who died in faith were not only persuaded of the promises, but they embraced them, embraced them in their hearts. Their religion was a thing of the heart and affections. We read of some who perished, “because they received not the love of the trut” (2 Thess 2:10). You may have an assenting faith, and yet money may be your god, or self may be your god. You must not only be persuaded of the truth in your judgment, but you must embrace it in your heart. God wins the affections and will. A change of opinion is not a change of mind and will.
Many have a change in their opinions, but afterwards are like the dog who is “turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22). Every communication of divine life has a transforming efficacy about it. God makes His people willing in the day of His power.
III. Now, perhaps you will say, “Well, I hope all you have been speaking about has taken place concerning me.” If so, it has produced effects, and practical ones, too. What has been the outcome of it? You say God has worked in your heart; then what has come out? God worked in these Old Testament saints, and this is what came out, “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” They confessed it because it was the truth. It was their real condition, “strangers and pilgrims.” Now is that your condition? Is it mine? They confessed it living, they confessed it dying. They lived in faith, and they died in faith.
We want to look at the figure for a few minutes, “strangers—on the earth,” because it is no use our saying we have faith, if we have not, if there are no results. They professed it before men, and they acted it in their daily life, that they were strangers in a foreign land. They did not count this earth their native country. If we are in a strange land, the customs are different, and the government is different from our own land.
Oh, this is an apt figure, “strangers oil the earth.” If you are “strangers on the earth,” this world is not your native country, you are born from above, you have different customs from the people of this world. These “strangers on the earth” have a different King. God is their King, but the devil is the king of this world. They have different laws, they are born of God, born of His Spirit. They have a higher birth and a more glorious birth than any others. We love our native country. I confess to you I have a little bit of pride in being an Englishman, and a good upright Christian Englishman is not a bad thing. But these “strangers on the earth” have a more glorious birth, they are born of a heavenly country, “citizens of no mean city,” chosen companions of Christ. He counts them as the saints, kings, princes, and nobles of the world, but without earthly coronets; theirs is an incorruptible crown. If you look down on the children of Cod and think much of earthly coronets, I would have you look to it, it is not much like a Christian. These “strangers on the earth” have a different language to the people of the world. “Then will I turn to the people a pure language” (Zeph 3:9). Theirs is a pure language, the language of heavenly Canaan, a heavenly tongue. When men go to a foreign country they may learn the language of that country, so that they can speak it, to be able to make themselves understood to the people there, but they like their native tongue best. In the same way these “strangers on the earth” use the tongue of this world in business with the men of this world, but they like their native tongue best. Is it so? Is it so with you? Is it so with me? I am afraid some Christians hear and speak the language of this world as though it were their own. Again, if you were in a foreign country, you would not be busy getting so many houses there, you would not be exercised about having so many houses and so much land in a foreign country. Then this is not a good exemplification of your case, if you are very busy adding house to house, and getting as much property as you can. It looks suspicious, it looks very much like natives, at any rate, it looks as though you wanted to be naturalised. “Strangers on the earth!” How close the resemblances of the Spirit of God come, how they search us!
“They confessed that they were strangers on the earth.” They are differently minded to the people of this world, and differently affected by passing events. If we were in a foreign country, and there was a riot among the people there, we should not be much interested in it, or if we saw them getting ready their army to fight against another country, not our own; for instance, if we were in France, and saw the army preparing to make an attack upon Germany, we should not be much affected by it. But if we found they were going to attack our native country, England, it would quite alter the case. Godly men and women think differently about, and are differently affected by, what is going on in the nation to the men of this world. But they are not unaffected when the glory and honour of their King is concerned, and war made against His kingdom. We don’t want to see rampant atheists legislators in our land, not a bit of it. I for one am very sorry to see poor Zion in such a low state.
But to finish our subject. These saints who died in faith not only confessed that they were strangers, but also pilgrims on the earth. This completes the picture. It is possible for a stranger in a foreign country to become naturalised after remaining a long time, but it is not so with a pilgrim. He is journeying to some other place, and is anxious to get to his destination; a pilgrim to the heavenly city, not caring very much about what accommodation he gets on the road, not anxious to get a lot of land for himself; no, that would impede his course. A man going on a pilgrimage here would not tie a sack of earth round his neck, he could not get forward with it, and he is contented with poor fare as he journeys along; what he is exercised about is getting to the end of his pilgrimage. Is it so with you? Are you strangers and pilgrims on the earth?
Is it your chief concern to know your interest in the heavenly city? Is the great thing with you, shall I die in faith? how will my end be? If so, it will be the same in this day as it was of old, life, death, and all! things here will sink into trivialities when we think of the heavenly city to which we are travelling.
Grey Hazlerigg (1818-1912) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher and writer. In 1873, he was appointed the Pastor of Zion Chapel, Leicester. Between 1878-1880, he served as the Editor for the Gospel Standard Magazine. He ministered to a large congregation throughout the course of his life, with twenty-four persons baptized during the last year of his life. Jospeh Philpot recounted a childhood memory of him:
“I remember him as a slim, dapper, little man with a pale, thin face and an aristocratic nose." James Popham, then Editor of the Gospel Standard in the year of Hazlerigg’s death, wrote of him—“It would seem that an archangel cannot be employed in a work so honourable, so glorifying to God, so beneficial to elect men as a true minister of the gospel can. And such a minister was the late Mr. Hazlerigg. To how many he was such is known only to God who sent him and made choice of him, that by his mouth many should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. To all such how beautiful were his feet upon the mountains of divine truths, bringing good tidings, publish ing peace, bringing good tidings of good, publishing salvation; saying unto them, ‘Your God reigneth,' (Isa. 52:7). Only those who have heard in such a way, with such power receiving the good tidings of good, can understand the sense of respect, love, and reverence which fills the heart for the messenger of peace. To speak personally, it was my mercy and privilege to so hear this messenger of the Lord once. Though it is now many years since, the memory of it is fresh, warm, and pleasant as I write this. The occasion was the annual meeting at Edenbridge. His text was Matt. 6:9: 'Our Father, which art in heaven,' etc. Powerful was the word, penetrating, assuring, comfort ing. My state of mind on entering the chapel was one full of fear of rebuke; but mercy wrought by God's servant, and effected a marvelous change. How many now in heaven, how many still struggling on their way thither, could have borne, or could bear a similar, perhaps a clearer, more powerful testimony to the glorious work of some deliverance wrought by the ministry of our departed friend! Such hearings are vastly different from the mere ‘hearing well,’ so common, bearing, alas, no fruit in the hearer, giving no comfort to a true minister.”