Set Your House in Order!
James Smith, 1860
It is not of every event, that we can say that all are interested in it; and there may be events in which all are interested — but all are not equally interested. But there is one event in which all are interested, and all are equally interested in it, and that event is DEATH. All must die, and each one must die for himself; no substitution is admitted here. Each one must die alone — no friend is allowed to accompany him through that dark valley. A few words on this subject may be profitable.
Let us then, very briefly, consider the message sent to king Hezekiah, for a similar message will soon be sent to every one of us. "Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order — because you are going to die; you will not recover." Isaiah 38:2.
Death is a very solemn event. The most solemn event in a man's history. Death is certain, for it is appointed unto man once to die, and there is a time fixed when each of us must die. Vain is the surgeon's experience, vain the physician's skill, and vain the kindness of friends — we must die! But to us, the hour of death is very uncertain; there may be but a step between us and it. At any moment, for anything we can tell — we may die.
But the consequences of death are either dreadful — or delightful.
To the unconverted sinner, how dreadful! He comes at once into contact with the wrath of God — and of all dreadful things, the wrath of God is the most dreadful. It has been pent up all the days of his sojourn on earth — but it now bursts forth like a long smoldering fire, to feed upon and torment him forever!
After death is the judgment, the righteous judgment of God; then the sinner is to be tried, publicly condemned, and the degree and kind of his punishment fixed for eternity!
Then comes the infliction of that punishment — the casting him into the lake of fire, the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. O how terrible, how inconceivably terrible are the consequences of death to the soul that dies in sin!
But to the Christian, they are equally delightful. He dies, and ascends to Heaven, enjoying the approbation of his God. He goes to the judgment, not as a criminal to be punished — but as a just person to be publicly acquitted, and eternally rewarded. To him, after death, nothing remains but perfect holiness, and perfect happiness. He goes to see Jesus — that Jesus whom he has loved and served here below. He goes to be with Jesus — that Jesus who loved him, and laid down his life for him. He goes to inherit the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. He enters into peace, rests from his labors, and is forever with the Lord! O how delightful, how inconceivably delightful are the consequences of death to the believer in Jesus!
Yet when the message comes suddenly, it is sometimes startling. "Set your house in order — because you are going to die; you will not recover!" Prepare for the most solemn event in life's history. Settle your affairs for time and eternity.
If your will is not made, make it. For no Christian should live a day without a will, if he has property to leave. Making the will will not hasten death — but it may prevent much sin, and preserve peace among relatives. If therefore the disposal of your property is not settled, settle it.
Prepare to stand before God. Be ready to render your account, whenever called upon to do so. Get your sins pardoned, if they are not, while the fountain is open, and the promise stands good. Get your person justified; not only get acquitted from all charges — but get the righteousness of Jesus into your possession, that you may plead it, and wear it before God. Get your nature sanctified, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. Get into union with Christ, that so you may be entitled to the merit of all he did for sinners, and to all he has for those who believe on his name. Get clear evidences for Heaven, that so you may have no doubts or fears — but arise, and with confidence, accompany the messenger when he comes. In one word, get a well-grounded assurance of salvation, arising from a sense of freedom from condemnation, and a persuasion that you can never be separated from the love of God in Christ.
Settle your affairs at once, you will die safer, and happier.
Let us then think of the importance of death, consider how uncertain it is, whether we shall have time to prepare for it in future, and therefore get ready at once. God sends the message to us in mercy, he sends it beforehand, so giving us time, and thus takes away all excuse, if we are not found prepared. Death often comes suddenly. It comes to many when least expected. It finds multitudes unprepared; all their affairs, both temporal and spiritual, in confusion — and without pity, with a stroke cuts them down!
Lost sinner, you shall die. I do not know when — but it may be very soon. I do not know where — but it may be where no friend will be found to pray by you, or point you to the way of life. I do not know how — but it may be by an accident, a stroke, a spasm at the heart, or by some fever that renders you insensible, and forbids the possibility of preparation then. But though I know not when, where, or how you will die — I know that you must die, and therefore I present the solemn message to you, "Set your house in order — prepare to meet your God!"
Believer, you shall die. But the time when, the place where, and the means by which — are wisely, and in mercy concealed from you. Get ready, therefore. Live as for eternity. Become familiar with death, by dying daily. "Set your house in order," let everything be arranged and settled there. Set your heart in order, and see to it that all is right there. Keep your faith steadily fixed on Jesus, who conquered death for you, and is the resurrection and the life. Keep your hope fixed on the inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away, which is reserved in Heaven for you. Keep your love centered in God, as your Father and Friend in Jesus. Keep your affections set on things above, not on things on the earth. Let the eye, the heart, and the aim, be directed, not to the things which are seen, and which are temporal; but to the things which are not seen, which are eternal. So shall your life be spent in honorable service, so shall your days peaceably pass away, and so shall your death be happy, and the end shall crown the whole. You shall only sleep in Jesus.
Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep!
From which none ever wakes to weep;
A calm and undisturbed repose,
Unbroken by the last of foes!
Asleep in Jesus! oh, how sweet
To be for such a slumber meet:
With holy confidence to sing
That death has lost its venomed sting!