The End of Man

James Smith, 1855

"But a man dies and fades away; he breathes his last—and where is he?" Job 14:10

"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."

"It is appointed unto men once to die — but after this, the judgment."

Reader, you must die — you cannot avoid it.

Three things secure death:
disease, and
God's righteous sentence.

Our days are but as an hand-breath — a shadow when it declines. "What is your life? It is even a vapor which appears for a little while, and then vanishes away."

Disease is in our system; it spoils us of our beauty, strength, and mental abilities — rendering us the objects of pity, if not of disgust! We are cut off from society, temporal comforts, and our favorite pursuits, and at length we waste away by corruption in the grave. How humiliating the consideration — that . . .
the grave will soon receive us,
the worms will feed sweetly on us, and
the eye that now lingers over us in love will see us no more!

Man delivers up his spirit, for God requires it. "You turn people back to dust, saying: Return to dust, you mortals!"

The soul cannot cease to exist, for it is immortal; it is capable of existing apart from the body, and it does so. It is given up either into the hands of angels — to convey it to paradise; or into the hands of devils — to plunge it into Hell. How solemn, then, is the inquiry, "Where is he?"

Reader, where will you be when called to depart hence?

There are but two classes of character in the world — the saints and sinners. And there are but two states beyond the grave — Heaven and Hell.

When Lazarus died, he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom — the place of repose, rest, and quiet. Our Lord promised the penitent thief a place with him in paradise — the seat of plenty, pleasure, and peace. Paul desired to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than remaining below. Heaven is the abode of happiness, holiness, and glory; and to Heaven the soul of the saint is conveyed when it leaves the body. Therefore, if a saint dies, and the question is asked "Where is he?" we reply, without hesitation, "In Heaven!"

But there is also a dreadful Hell — a prison for the punishment of all impenitent sinners. "The rich man died and was buried, and in Hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments!" He was in torments as soon as he left the body — and in torments he remains. Hell is called a "lake of fire." Hell is the abode of devils and the damned. It is the place where Jehovah's tremendous curse is executed, and his wrath is felt forever. It is the bottomless pit, from which there is no redemption. The sinner is scorched in a devouring flame, and denied a drop of water! He is reminded of his past life, and agonized with bitter reflections on his folly.

"And Abraham said" to the rich man in Hell, "Son, Remember." Oh, how tormenting to be directed to look back over the page of his past history, and to be reminded of the good things he once enjoyed — but which were now lost, and lost forever!

Reader, if you should go to that place, you also will be reminded of the present; you will be called upon to remember the good things now given you to lead you to repentance — and your abuse of them. You will remember particularly the warnings which are now given you, and the messages of mercy sent to you. Oh, how wounding to the feelings — to be reminded of warnings slighted and messages of mercy rejected! You will remember the earnestness of the Lord's ministers when speaking to you of the concerns of the soul and eternity, and the carelessness and indifference manifested by you. You will think of the unbelief you indulged, and the false hopes you encouraged. You will be reminded how readily you complied with temptations, and the presumption you nourished in your bosom — for every impenitent sinner under the gospel is a presumptuous sinner. He presumes on mercy, while he lives insulting God.

You will then call to mind the patience of God towards you, and the convictions you stifled and destroyed. Oh, the bitter reflections in which you will indulge on . . .
the purposes you formed and violated, the opportunities you once had of escaping from Hell — but which are lost, and lost forever;
the character of the gospel you rejected, and which increases your condemnation;
and the numerous and aggravated sins you have committed.

What wretched employment must this be! But you will remember, for memory will be strengthened, and will set before you in the most tormenting form — all that has been committed to it in time.

The remembrance will convince you of the justice of your doom, and forever shut your mouth from replying against God. It will deeply impress your mind with a distressing sense of the greatness of your folly and wickedness, and aggravate your misery throughout eternity. O sinner! remember now, now that you are in the land of hope — now that there is a way of escape!

You are under no necessity of going to Hell; if you go there — it must be your own fault. There is no decree that sentences you to damnation, except you live and die an enemy of God, resisting the Holy Spirit, and trampling under foot the Son of God. Hell and damnation are simply the natural effects of sin — but salvation is the display of free and sovereign grace.

Remember, Jesus does not take pleasure in condemning — but he does in saving sinners. He did not come to condemn the world — but to procure a pardon for the vilest offenders. He would rather suffer, bleed, and die upon the cross — than condemn sinners. His heart is tender; for he says, "I have no pleasure at all in the death of him who dies — but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live; therefore turn and live." His blood shows him to be reluctant to condemn, for he shed it to cleanse from all sin — and his practice proves the point. He forgave Mary the sinner, the Samaritan adulteress, the robber on the cross, Saul of Tarsus, and his own murderers on the day of Pentecost. Yes, he has forgiven every applicant who has appeared at his throne — pleading his Word, trusting his blood, and seeking salvation by his grace.

Reader, your life is wasting away — you will soon die. But where will you be? Let me ask, "What are you now?" Are you a true believer on the Son of God? Are you a saint? Have you been washed from sin, justified from transgression, and sanctified to the service of God, by the Spirit of our God? If so, when you depart — you will be with Christ. You will be forever with the Lord. But if you are a careless sinner, or as the generality of men are — you will be lost forever; "for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leads unto life, and few there be who find it."

What solemn, what alarming words are these! Are there only few who find the way? Then there can only be few saved; that is, few in comparison with the world of sinners who perish in their sins. Let me beseech you not to presume — for what if you should not be one of that few! What if you should be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth — how awful it would be! Repent, therefore, of your sins, and beseech God to save you by Jesus Christ; for "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21)

Almighty Maker of my frame,
Teach me the measure of my days;
Teach me to know how frail I am,
And spend the remnant to your praise.

My days are shorter than a span;
A little point my life appears;
How frail at best is dying man!
How vain are all his hopes and fears!

Vain his ambition, noise, and show!
Vain are the cares which rack his mind!
He heaps up treasures mixed with woe,
And dies, and leaves them all behind!

Oh, be a nobler portion mine!
My God, I bow before your throne;
Earth's fleeting treasures I resign,
And fix my hope on you alone!