How Long Have I to Live?
James Smith, 1842
"How long have I to live?" 2 Samuel 19:34
The living know that they must die; but how seldom do even the Lord's people ask, "How long have I to live?" or pray, "Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom!" Yet the question is of solemn importance.
We must die;
we may die soon;
it is possible we may die suddenly.
None ever regretted that they made too great preparation for death; many have grieved that it so little occupied their minds. New Testament saints were very conversant with death, its nature, and end.
It is a very profitable question, "How long have I to live?" At most, not long; then let me live well, the little time I have to spend on earth.
Death is calculated to check our pride; shall we be proud within a step of our dying pillow, our shroud, our grave? Surely the grim visage of death will lead us, if rightly viewed, to be low in our own eyes, and to lie low before the Lord.
Death will check our worldliness and carefulness about the things of time; shall we be over-anxious to get — what we know we cannot keep; or fear that we shall be left to need — within a few steps of the door of our Father's house?
Death will have a tendency to quicken us, in seeking for that grace which will enable us to die well. What is of most importance to a dying man? To be assured that he is saved from sin, savingly interested in Jesus, and appointed to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; to have the witness, seal, and pledge of the Spirit in His heart; to enjoy the love of Jehovah the Father, and a sense of relation to Him. And surely, if we see these to be the most important things, and life so fast hastening to a close — we shall seek them with renewed vigor, earnestness, and fervor.
It is desirable to have our friends about us at the closing scenes of life; and in this, the Christian who dies daily, is particularly favored; he will have his best friend about him. Let us have what friends we will about us at death, there is no one who stands round our dying pillow who knows what it is to die by experience! No human friends have passed through it, none are acquainted with its immediate precursor, or what follows it. But the consistent Christian may make sure of the presence of a friend, who "was dead and is alive again, and has the keys of Hell and of death; one who knows what it is to meet death in its most frightful forms, and in the most fearful circumstances; one who has experienced the cold death-sweat, the breaking of the heart-strings, and the separation of the soul and body; one who knows the weakness of human nature, the extremity of pain, and the strength of death; one who suffered and is able to support; who is touched at the heart with all his pains and woes; and who has said, "My strength shall be made perfect in weakness."
Yes, the humble believer has Jesus to . . .
smooth his dying pillow,
comfort his failing heart,
and wipe his falling tears!
In death and dying, He answers the many prayers put up in health and strength, and proves Himself the faithful friend, who loves at all times, and sticks closer than a brother.
It is the wish of every truly scriptural believer, not only to die comfortably — but to die usefully, that others may be benefitted; that if unconverted relatives are present, they may be convinced of the blessedness of a saving interest in Jesus, and be led to seek mercy before they are brought into such a state; that if fearful and doubting Christians be present, they may see how Jesus supports according to His word, and gives living comforts in dying moments; that they may see that death to the Christian is but a shadow without a substance, a falling asleep rather than a dying; that, like the setting sun, they may shed some rays of comfort, hope, and peace, on those around them, before they retire behind the cloud of death.
Reader! are you in the habit of asking, "How long have I to live?" Let me exhort you so to do. When the world tempts you, and would draw you aside from the path of duty, put the question, "How long have I to live? I may be on the border of eternity, I cannot consent!" When tempted to neglect the Bible, private prayer, or the services of the Lord's house, especially on week-day evenings, then ask, "How long have I to live? I may have but few more opportunities! the things of time are of small consequence, if compared with eternity; therefore, though I would not neglect any known duty — yet I will not admit of any excuse; nothing shall prevent me from filling up my place — but sound reasons, such as will stand a scrutiny of which I shall not repent on the bed of death, or be ashamed of at the throne of judgment."
The time is short! The temptations to loiter are many! The designs of our enemies are cruel! The call of Jesus is kind!
"Be ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of man comes!" The exhortation of the Apostle is necessary, "Let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." The caution is merciful, "Beloved, beware, lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." The question is seasonable; "How long have I to live?"