Forty Years Hence
James Smith, 1859
"Well, Thomas I have just been thinking where I shall be forty years hence."
"Yes, Edward, and so you may think — but it is impossible for you even to guess, in days like these. Our forefathers were pretty stationary — but we are not likely so be so. We live long, and do much in a short time."
"That's true Thomas; everything must be done by express now."
"Yes, Edward, these are bustling busy times, it's true; making money and losing money seems to be pretty much the business of the day; but it ought not to be. We were not born for time — so much as eternity. We should not be so much taken up with earth — as Heaven."
"Just like you, Thomas; always serious, always thinking about the winding up of things. Well, I dare say you are right — but what with my family, my work, and one thing and another — I seem to have very little time or inclination to attend to these things."
"I am sorry to hear you say so; but the fault lies more in the lack of inclination than in the lack of time. Time would be found — if there was inclination. It is a serious thing, Edward, to think of, that while men admit that they are immortal, that they must live forever — they are obliged to admit, too, that their attention is principally confined to earth and time; and that they have no inclination to attend to the one thing necessary, and secure the salvation of the soul. Just think now, for a minute, what a solemn thing it is — and yet it is as true as it is solemn, that in forty years — yes, in forty days — you may be in Hell, and be in Hell by your own fault; just because you had no inclination to escape from it, and would not give yourself the trouble to seek salvation. You believe there is a Hell, do you not, Edward?"
"Well, yes, I suppose there is. I don't know that I ever doubted it. But then, you know, it would not do for us to think much about such a gloomy subject, as it would unfit us for our work, and we wouldn't be able to enjoy any of the pleasures of life."
"But, Edward, if there is a Hell, as you admit — who do you suppose go there?"
"Well, I can't exactly say — but I suppose sinners go there; but you know God is very merciful, and as we poor men have to work very hard to get a living — I wouldn't suppose that a merciful God would send a poor hard-working man to Hell if he wasn't just everything he ought to be. However, if he does — Hell must be pretty well crowded."
"Edward, you admitted just now that you had no inclination to attend to the concerns of your soul; now, if there is a place of punishment for sinners — and God has told you there is — and if God in a most marvelous way has provided the means of escape from it, and informed you of the same — and he has — and if you treat the whole matter as if it was not worth your serious consideration, and affirm that you have no inclination to trouble yourself about escaping Hell or getting to Heaven — and you have said this — can you expect that God, however merciful he may be — will allow you to trifle with him thus, and not punish you?"
"Well, I confess I have not thought much about it; really, I have so much to think of besides, that all such thoughts are driven out of my head."
"But, Edward, the things you think of are trifles compared with the salvation of your never-dying soul. Thousands perish from neglecting the great salvation, and I am afraid that you are likely to do so. If forty years hence you should be lifting up your eyes in Hell, feeling as if you would give a world, if you had it for a drop of water to cool your parched tongue — would it not add to your torment tenfold to think that you were there — just because you had no inclination to give yourself the time or the trouble to escape from such terrible punishments? O Edward! pardon my earnestness — but I feel deeply for you; I do long for your salvation; therefore I beseech you to remember this solemn truth — No one can force you to Hell. There is no necessity for you to go, unless you create the necessity yourself by your sins, especially by your refusing to be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ. If, therefore, you should go to Hell — you will have no one to blame but yourself! The fault will be all your own. God has no pleasure in the death of any sinner. The Lord Jesus invites you to come to him, and engages to save you if you come. You have frequently felt the strivings of the Holy Spirit, and have resisted him. Ministers have warned you, and entreated you to come to Jesus that you may have eternal life. But all the reply you make is, 'I have very little time or inclination to attend to these things'. Is it enough to fill one with the deepest and most painful feelings for you — seeing you place yourself in such very dreadful circumstances!"
"Well, Thomas, you have read me a pretty good lecture; but I must go now. Good-bye, old chap, I hope I shall think over what you have been saying."
"Most heartily do I hope you will; and if you must go, allow me to say at parting, Edward, that I deeply feel for you, and earnestly long for your salvation. O that God would use my poor words to convince you of your danger, and lead you to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. I must most earnestly entreat you to remember that you are an immortal being, that you are a sinner, that no one can save you but Jesus Christ, that Jesus Christ saves none but those who come to him — but he saves all such, and thus complains of others: 'You will not come unto me — that you might have life!' If you do not come to Jesus, it is because you will not, or, as you have said, because you have no inclination to attend to these things. Consequently, forty years hence you may be suffering the torments of the damned, bitterly regretting the line of conduct you have pursued, and exclaiming in torturing anguish, 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended — and I am not saved!' Farewell, farewell, Edward. I shall still pray for you, and pray for you more than ever, since I have been permitted to have this conversation with you; and I hope that you will pray for yourself. It is possible that we may meet no more; therefore remember, oh, remember, there is salvation in Jesus for such as you — but if you would obtain and enjoy it, you must seek for it, which if you do — you will surely receive it. We must meet at the judgment seat of Christ; may we both find mercy of the Lord in that day."