A Useful Test
James Smith, 1859
We are sometimes a little at a loss, to know if we are doing just the right thing, and if we are doing it at the right time. Perhaps it would not be possible to find any one test which would apply to all subjects and all times. But I have met with one, in the form of a question, which may prove of use in reference to many things — and very often! I am sure that if I had properly used it — it would have prevented my doing many things, which I have had to regret after they have been done. It is this — in whatever engaged, ask the question, "How will this impact on eternity?"
We have all to do with eternity. It is just ahead of us. All that we do in time, in some way impacts upon it. We ought therefore to keep eternity before us, in the formation of all our plans, and in the execution of all our purposes. If I propose to do anything of importance, as for instance, change my residence, my state of life, my employment, or anything that appears to depend on my own judgment and choice, let me ask, "How will this impact on eternity?"
We are all more or less guilty of the folly of living and acting, as if we were to live here forever: or at least were certain of living here for a long time. Whereas we know not what a day may bring forth. "We know not what shall be on the morrow. We may be within a step of death, and therefore within a step of eternity. We ought therefore to keep eternity always in view, and act in every place, as those who carry about with them a consciousness of their immortality, and who realize that for all they do, they must give an account to God. O the evils that would be prevented! O the sins that would be avoided, if we so lived, and daily asked ourselves the question, in reference to all our doings, "How will this impact on eternity?"
I am sadly afraid, that much that I have done, in the business, in the closet, in the family, in the world, and in the church of God, will impact unfavorably on eternity. I have sometimes done good with my tongue — but I have often done mischief. I have done some good with my pen — but I fear I have at times done harm instead of good. My influence has occasionally been beneficial — but, alas! it has often been injurious. When giving way to temper, when yielding to pride, when talking at random, when walking without respect to the rule — I have forgotten, or neglected to ask, "How will this impact on eternity?"
Reader, how do you feel on this point? I confess I do not feel comfortable at all. Would you not have escaped many snares, would you not have prevented many evils, would you not have secured some good things which you have missed — if you had constantly kept before you the question, "How will this impact on eternity?"
Over the past we may grieve — it is past, and we cannot recall it. But how shall it be in future? There may be a short future before us. But are not our days few? Shall we not soon go the way whence we shall not return? May we not make the present and the future important? We may surely sow a few seeds, which may spring up, and bear good fruit, when we are gone hence, and are no more seen. If we can, ought we not? If we can, shall we not? Yes, yes, let us determine in the Lord's strength, and seeking grace from him, at present, and often in future, ask when about to act, "How will this impact on eternity?"
But if my reader is unconverted, his whole life and conduct will impact unfavorably on eternity. Every action has been the act of an enemy to God. Every word has proceeded from an heart that is enmity against God. The whole of the life, and every part of it, calls to the justice of God for punishment. O how sad, so to live, as to have one's whole life, testify against oneself at the judgment-seat of Christ, and in eternity!