Fight the good fight and finish the race

JOHN Campbell, who was born in Fife, in 1779, grew up to become a leading Victorian lawyer and eventually Lord Chancellor of England and held that post until his death in 1861. In his spare time, Lord Campbell wrote short biographies of his contempories beginning in 1845.

This was very much a leisure pursuit, without any original research and dependent upon hearsay and anecdotal information. When Campbell reported conversations he had held with the subject of the biography in question there were never notes to refer to, just the writer’s recollections. No attempt was made at objectivity.

When a fellow lawyer had heard that Campbell had begun working upon his life story and was collating material and reminiscences from his friends, Lord Lyndhurst (1773-1863) quipped “Campbell has added another terror to death.”

The terrors of death were real enough, this lawyer thought, without his relatives having to face a volume of memoirs far removed from the truth. It would be another case of being wounded in the house of one’s friends. With friends like Campbell who needed enemies.

The calmness with which the Apostle Paul talked about his own departure from the earthly scene is informative and tells us much about that great man’s inner composure and strength. Often amid persecutions he expressed his hope to be “with Christ”. But his pastoral duties were such that he would have gladly forgone his release so that the Church of Christ would be well established. Such was the Apostle’s concern for the salvation of his fellow country men, he was willing to forgo eternal bliss if that sacrifice would have ensured their ultimate salvation. His Lord did not ask that sacrifice of one of His choicest servants.

When imprisoned in Rome awaiting his martyrdom the apostle wrote his final letter to his young colleague, Timothy, who was ministering in Ephesus. He wrote:

“The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Paul wasn’t worried what friend or foe would say about him after his death. He didn’t fear the prejudiced recollections of the “Campbells” of his day because he had an unshakeable confidence in the justice and vindiction of God. He went to write:

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award me on that day.”

The assurance that his motives, choices and service would be scrutinised and judged by Heaven’s unerring standards, he was unafraid of all human opinion.

The confidence the Apostle expressed is offered to all in the Gospel of Christ. Acceptance in the sight of God in the eternal world is not something we buy or attain. It is the gift of righteousness available through the death of the Saviour to all who by faith receive it. A familiar prayer from the pen of J.H.Newman is our final thought on this subject. It runs like this:

“Lord support us all the day long of our troublous life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, Lord, in thy mercy grant us safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

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