Future Events in Which You Are Interested
James Smith, 1856
DEATH. We must die. When we shall die, where we shall die, or how we shall die--are points totally unknown to us. Nor is it worthwhile troubling ourselves about either the when or where we shall die, but the how.
We are so constituted, that we cannot help looking forward sometimes, and anticipating the future; and, within certain limits, this is right and useful. Many things we anticipate may never come to pass--but some things are sure to come; and it is well to look forward to them, and prepare for them. There are two events--solemn events--in which we are all alike interested; we must all meet them, we must all pass through them. Reader, I want your attention for a very few minutes, while I refer to them.
The first is,
HOW shall I die? That will depend on two things:
First, upon my FAITH. Faith influences my life--and it will influence my death. If I die without saving faith--I shall die under God's frown, under God's curse. I shall die the death of a condemned criminal. For "he who believes not, is condemned already--because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God." Condemned! Condemned by God! Condemned already! Condemned for not believing on Jesus! And, to die under condemnation--what a fearful thing is this!
Yet a day never passes but someone dies thus! Alas! How many! What if you should die so! How awful the thought. But if we do not believe in Jesus--it will be so. What will this be like?
Shall I sketch the picture?
There is a man apprehended under suspicion of having been accessory to the murder of the king's son. He is tried, convicted by the clearest evidence, and sentence of condemnation is pronounced. His execution is delayed, for the king is merciful. He sends to him to inform him, that for the sake of that murdered son, he is willing to pardon him, and not only so--but to raise him to an high and honorable station, near to his own person--that all he requires is, that he should be sorry for his sin; come before him and confess it, pleading for pardon in the name of his son.
But he refuses. He receives message after message, for the king is reluctant to execute the sentence. Sometimes the message is in writing, and sometimes by one of his trusty servants. He is exhorted, entreated, yes, the king himself beseeches him to be reconciled. But he will not. He remains obstinate. He perseveres in his obstinacy, day after day, year after year. At length the king says, "Execute the sentence, put the murderer to death!"
He is brought forth to execution--but who can pity him? Who can shed a tear for him? On the very scaffold, the king sends a last message, in the form of an oath, swearing that he has no pleasure in his death--but would rather that he should repent and live. But no, he is sorry to suffer--but he is not sorry for his sin. He would escape the shame and suffering of the execution--but he will not acknowledge his guilt, and plead for pardon as directed. Does he not deserve to die? Is it not just that he should suffer? Who can say that it is not?
But, take heed, reader, how you answer; for if you are living in unbelief, I come to you as Nathan came to David, and I say, (O that the Holy Spirit would apply it to your heart!) "You are the man!" You have been accessory to the death of God's Son; your guilt is as clear as day-light; the sentence of your condemnation is registered--but the execution of your sentence is delayed. You are only living upon sufferance. Every day, God may say, "Death, cut that sinner down!" But he sends to you by his written Word, by the ministry of his servants. He offers you a full and free pardon. More, he offers you a perfect justification. More, he offers to adopt you for his son, give you a mansion for a residence, and to treat you as one of his special favorites, All he asks of you is to believe his Word, confess your guilt, and ask his pardon.
But you will not! He expostulates with you, and most touchingly asks you, "Why will you die?" But you refuse to yield. He uses a solemn asseveration, and says, "As I live, I have no pleasure in your death--but if you will not bow, the law must take its course." You are obstinate still. Day after day, year after year, he follows you with warnings, threatenings, invitations, exhortations, and entreaties; but like the deaf adder--you stop your ear, and refuse to hear His voice.
At length, the command is given to death to cut you down! You are plunged, with all your guilt upon you, into eternity!
Then comes the other event, you mustMEET GOD. You must personally and individually face him. You must account for your conduct. You must account for all the deeds done in the body, especially for that part you took in the death of His Son, and the manner in which you have treated His grace!
What can you say for yourself? How will you answer Him? What reason can you assign? What excuse can you make? Alas! none. You will be like the man at the feast, without the wedding garment--you will be speechless. The justice of your sentence, and the baseness of your conduct--will seal your lips in silence forever!
Now, had you believed in Jesus, had you fled for refuge to the hope set before you--then all your sins would have been pardoned, your person would have been justified, the Spirit of adoption would have been given you, and you would have died in peace. In this sense, all depends on faith or unbelief. Faith admits you to all the blessings and benefits of the gospel--and unbelief excludes you from the whole! But remember, it is your own voluntary unbelief. It is not some blind fate, some dire decree. No, no--you can never charge your condemnation upon God, for He invited you, as Jesus said to the Jews--but you would not come! Like Israel of old, "you have destroyed yourself."
But the manner of your death will depend, secondly, very much on how you LIVE. If, as a professor of religion--you live loosely, walk carelessly, grieve the Holy Spirit, and dishonor God--then you must not be surprised, if your Heavenly Father should put you to death in the dark. This has been the case with many. They have had no candle to read their evidences, no sweet whispers to soothe their pains, no precious promises applied to cheer their hearts, no foretastes of Heavenly glory. But there has been gloomy doubt, dark uncertainty, cutting convictions, heart-rending sorrows, bitter remorse, scalding tears, heavy sighs, and piercing groans!
The death-beds of some of God's own children are anything but pleasant; in their life they sowed the wind--and at death they reap the whirlwind. They are saved--but "so as by fire." They escape Hell--but it is as "by the skin of their teeth!" They are "scarcely saved," instead of having "an abundant entrance ministered unto them into the everlasting kingdom."
Christian, would you die happily? Then walk closely with God, work diligently in God's vineyard, and live for Christ who died for you. God has said, "Those who honor me, I will honor." O, to be called from the field of labor, exhausted with self-denying toil, when death brings me the message to "Come Home!"
The other day I was called to the deathbed of my friend, James Fowles. Between twenty and thirty years ago he lost a beloved nephew, who was to him, as an only son. This event led him to think, and produced conviction; he sought the Lord, he obtained pardon, and tasted the sweets of reconciliation to God. More than twenty years ago I stood with him by the side of the baptismal water, where he was about to be buried with Christ in baptism. He was a quiet, peaceful, persevering Christian. I never heard anyone bring a charge of inconsistency agaist him. He was now seventy years old--but did not look so old. He had been ailing--but I did not anticipate his death so soon. I was summoned to his bedside just as I was preparing to preach the weekly sermon; I hastened to the chamber of death, and there he lay breathing hard--but possessed of all his mental powers. As soon as he heard my voice, he seized my hand, and gave me the last friendly squeeze.
I whispered, "Is it peace with God?" "Yes, O yes!" was the reply. "Have you anything on your mind?" "No, nothing." "Have you any fear of death?" As if surprised at the question, he said, "Oh no, I know that my Redeemer lives!" The candle of the Lord shone upon his head. I sat by the side of his dying pillow repeating precious promises, and verses of sweet hymns, until I was obliged to leave the sick bed for the pulpit. Within an hour he was "absent from, the body, and present with the Lord."
No one that knew him, doubted his eternal safety. His lot was cast in humble life. His faith in Jesus was simple. His walk and life were consistent with the gospel. His end was peace. And I doubt not--but immediately after his dismissal--he stood before God, complete in Jesus. I could not but wish that my last end may be like his.
But I must close my paper. Reader, these two
events are before you:
You Must Die.
You Must Meet God.
There is no escaping. You must. Will you die in Jesus? Will you meet God, washed in His most precious blood, clothed in His glorious righteousness, and sanctified by His Holy Spirit? Are you in Christ now? If so, "there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Are you robed in the righteousness of Jesus now? If so, "it is God who justifies." Are you sanctified by the indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit now? If so you are "made fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light."
Death to you will be the gate of life. It will
simply be a departure from the field of conflict--to enjoy the crown; or
from the field of labor--to receive the promised reward. To stand before God
will be joyous, delightful, blissful to you! It will be to stand before . .
a Father, who has loved you with an everlasting love;
a Savior, who redeemed you at the expense of His own life;
a holy Comforter, who quickened you by His grace, taught you out of His word, led you through the wilderness by His hand, and prepared you for the joys of Heaven.
But if this is not the case, if you continue to listen to Satan, indulge unbelief, and go on in sin--then you will have to experience these dreadful scriptures: "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness!" "The wicked shall be turned into Hell!" "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" "Then they will go away to eternal punishment!"
Reader! Are you prepared for this? What! For an eternity of woe! For an eternity spent in weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth! This will be the exact condition of millions of the human family throughout eternity!
Choose then--seriously, deliberately--Heaven, or Hell! You must DIE! You must MEET GOD in judgement! Will you die as a criminal at the hand of inflexible justice? Or will you fall asleep in Jesus as a babe on its mother's bosom?
Will you meet God as his enemy--who is bound by his Word and the justice of his holy nature to punish you eternally? Or will you meet God as a loving Father, to be welcomed to enjoy his presence and love forever? Which? Which? O which shall it be?