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Of Living as Strangers

The Christian life is often spoken of as a “pilgrimage.” John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress made this image lively and plain. If the life is one of “pilgrimage”, then one must know the rules of the travel. Many travelers have found themselves ruined by being ignorant. In his sermon, “Of Living as Strangers” (vol. 1 collected works), David Clarkson demonstrates the place of this doctrine in the Christian life and then provides a rebuke and instruction on how the Christian must live, to live as a stranger.

This sermon would be a useful teaching tool and test for Christian discipleship.

An outline of the sermon follows:

And confessed that they were strangers.—Hebrews 11:13

“Obs. Those that would die in the faith, should live as strangers and pilgrims.”


I.  The believer is everywhere shown to be a stranger in this world.

A.  This is shown throughout the Bible:

1.  Jacob. Gen. 47:9

2.  God tells the people that they will be strangers, even after they enter the land, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev. 25:23).

3.  David calls himself a stranger while he reigns as kin.

4.   This continues in the NT, 1 Pet. 2:11.

B.  What does it mean to be a “stranger” or “pilgrim?”

1.  It means that we live in this world only a short while.

a. At best, we can only know this world as an inn; a place of temporary lodging.

b. The laws and customs of the people of God and this world will differ. “The laws of their own country have no place here: the law of faith, love, self-denial, loving enemies, &c. Such a country is the world to the people of God, a strange country; and in this respect they are strangers.”

2.  “In respect of their design, their motion, it is still homewards. This strange country likes them not, nor they it; they are travelling towards another, that which is, that which they account, their home, that better country, that heavenly country, that city prepared for them, that city whose builder and maker is God.”

3.  The believer must travel through the land, taking all only what is fit for the journey: “Much would be a burden, a hindrance to them in their journey; they have more in hopes than hand….Though they be princes, sons of God, heirs of a crown, their Father sees it best, safest for them, to travel in a disguise.. ..Their treasure, their crown, their glory is at home, their Father’s house; till they come there they are strangers.” The believe must expect no more than is fit for a traveler.

4. “In respect of their usage. They are not known in the world, and so are often coarsely used. In this strange country they meet with few friends, but many injuries.”

5. “In respect of their continuance. Their abode on earth is but short. A stranger, a traveller stays not long in one place.”

6. “In respect of their relations. Their dearest relations are in another country. Their Father, their Husband, their Elder Brother, their dearest Friend, their Comforter, and the far greatest part of their brethren and fellow-members, are all in heaven. He that lives at a distance from his relations may well pass for a stranger.”

II.        Use of the Doctrine

A.   The Christian must not live on earth, thinking himself to be a home.

1.  All the hope must be elsewhere.

2. Clarkson gives this rebuke, “No wonder if these people be unwilling to die, since they must part from the world as one parts from his own country to go into banishment. They that thus live in the world cannot expect to die in the faith. Whose image and superscription do they bear?”

B.  He then encourages and directs Christians how to live as strangers here.

1.  Don’t let the pleasures and comforts of this world be your comfort and custom. 1 Peter 2:12; Romans 12:2.

2. Be patient in suffering:  You are stranger here; you cannot expect better. Leave vindication to the Lord.

3.  Be content with what you have: it is only temporary: “it is but a while, and you will be at home, and then you will find better entertainment, and more plenty.”

4. Don’t set your heart on this world. Remember, you’re leaving.

5.  Hurry home: don’t stray out of the way and after sins, vanities and deceits. Think of dear God is to you – and you to God. “Oh let the sight, the thoughts of Jesus, quicken your pace. And while you are absent in the body, let your hearts be at home, your hearts in heaven, where are your treasure, your joys, your crown, your glory, your inheritance, your husband. Oh, is not here allurement enough? This is the way to be at home while you are from home.”


6. Be not too fearful of death. It is a sleep now; Christ’s death did change the property of it? and will a pilgrim, a weary traveller, be afraid of sleep? When you are come to the gates of death, there is but one step then betwixt you and home, and that is death. Methinks we should pass this cheerfully, the next step your foot will be in heaven.