Death at Hand!
James Smith, 1855
"There is but a step between me and death!" 1 Samuel 11:8
So said David of old — and so may each one of us say.
Death is a very solemn event, for . . .
it is the consequence of sin,
it is the end of our course on earth,
it terminates our probation, and
it introduces us into an unchangeable state.
After death, there is LIFE for the godly:
a life of certainty — no doubts or fears;
a life of peace — no foes or conflicts;
a life of holiness — no sin or impurity;
a life of service — no idleness or illness;
a life of happiness — perfect and perpetual happiness.
After death, there is the SECOND DEATH for the ungodly —
a separation . . .
from all friends and comforts;
from all hope and cheerful prospects;
from all enjoyment either of body or mind; and
from God, who is the fountain of health, holiness, and happiness.
Physical death happens but once, "It is appointed unto all men once to die — and after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). A mistake made here, can never be rectified. If we die in sin — we must forever suffer. If we die without Christ — we must remain separate from Christ forever. This is a solemn thought, and should have our most serious consideration.
Death is very NEAR to us — there is but a step between us and it. Nothing is more uncertain than life — for we are not sure of one day, one hour, yes, one minute! Sudden death is by no means uncommon; and if others have died suddenly — why may not we? We may be corpses before night — for death is near at hand! Men place it at a distance; but this is folly, the distance exists perhaps only in the man's imagination. Men endeavor to forget it; but this is equally foolish, for death will come whether we think of it or not!
Most do not prepare for death — one would think they must be insane. Who would propose a journey to some foreign shore — and make no preparation for that journey, or for comfort at its end? Yet men know that they must cross the ocean of death, and land on the shores of the eternal and invisible world, and make no preparation for it. Surely, as the wise man said, "Madness is in their hearts while they live!" (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
Men are often surprised by death — and yet no one should be. The Savior has said to every one of us, "Be ready!" Others have been taken away to their eternal destiny — and your turn will soon come! Your days are numbered. The hour of your death is fixed. The messenger stands ready to execute the sentence of justice. The axe is laid at the root of the tree, at any moment it may be taken up, and then, with one stroke perhaps, the tree falls!
My dear friends, we should become familiar with death. We should think of it, prepare for it, and daily stand ready. We should make sure that we are in Christ, that our faith is genuine, our repentance sincere, and our lives regulated by God's holy Word.
Thoughts of death as so very near should make us . . .
active in God's cause,
devout in our spirit and temper,
attentive to all the means intended for our salvation,
hold all earthly things very loosely.
We ought not to live one moment undecided, or in a state of uncertainty.
But though death is so near, and so uncertain — yet many thoughtless people feel secure. No alarm agitates their hearts. No concern regulates their minds. They see others die, they hear of the number that are daily carried off — but they are not in the least affected. Truly they are dead in trespasses and sins!
Others think occasionally of death, and at times the importance of a preparation for death; but they put the matter off, thinking that a more convenient season will arrive. My dear reader, the present is the only convenient season. Now, the way of salvation is just before you — the gate of life stands wide open — the Son of God is willing to receive you — and all Heaven will rejoice in your repentance and conversion to God.
If there is but a step between us and death — there ought not to be a step between us and Christ. He alone can deliver us from the power of death. He alone can save us from sin, and introduce us to eternal life. Let us, therefore, make sure of a saving interest in Christ, of union to Christ, and possession of the Spirit of Christ — so shall we have nothing to fear even if there be not a step between us and death — but shall perhaps rather say with the apostle, "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ — which is far better!"