To the Bereaved
James Smith, 1856
"The Lord gave — and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" Job 1:21
So spoke the patriarch Job, when stripped of all his property and bereaved of all his children in one day. Reduced at once from affluence — to poverty, from the highest elevation — to the lowest point of human suffering — he exclaimed, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
Such language befits us; for all that we have is from the goodness of God; it is from His free favor — and not because we have a right to it. All claim upon God was forfeited by sin, therefore all we receive is a proof of his kindness. All we that have — he gave to us; or rather, lent to us. And whatever he has lent to us — he may recall — may recall at any time, and in any way, he pleases. There is nothing upon which we can lay our hand and say, "This is absolutely mine!" All is lent us by a gracious God — lent us to enjoy, improve, and return to its proper owner.
Shall we complain? Shall we repine? Shall we murmur if God takes from us any one thing which he has lent us, especially when he leaves us with so much?
The Lord has just bereaved you. He has taken away your beloved relative. The stroke is painful, very painful. Yon feel it deeply. Your hopes are blighted. Your prospects are now beclouded. The trial is severe. You are touched in a very tender part. You cannot but weep — and perhaps you refuse to be comforted. You dwell upon the excellencies of the departed, upon the plans you had formed, the hopes which were excited in your bosom, the pleasure you anticipated from that beloved one. But death appeared — and you trembled, you used all proper means to ward off the blow — but he "has taken away the desire of your eyes with a stroke!" Your heart feels desolate, the world has lost one of its principal charms; you sit alone and weep.
But beware lest, while you mourn over your loss, your heart should rise in rebellion agninst God. You need consolation, you require sympathy, you need solace for your wounded heart — and the object of these pages is to endeavor to impart it.
The AUTHOR of this bereavement is the Lord! This should silence your objections. It silenced the Psalmist's complaining mind. He says, "I was silent; I would not open my mouth — for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9. Had a creature done it, David might have acted unwisely, or unkindly, or both; but the Lord did it. Whatever was the means — God's hand guided and directed the stroke! It was not by 'chance' — but by Divine direction. "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days like those of a hired hand?" Job 7:1.
"There is a time to be born — and a time to die!" Ecclesiastes 3:2. This time is arranged by God's infinite wisdom. Beware how you cast suspicion upon that wisdom. The Lord has done it — and "the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." Psalm 145:17. He has made no mistake. He has inflicted no injury. He has not infringed upon anyone's right.
You may not, at present, see why he has done it, because "clouds and thick darkness are round about him;" but you are sure that his hand has done it. And he says to you, "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10.
This painful visitation maybe among his choicest mercies; it may be intended to prevent many evils, or to be a source of the greatest good to your soul, or to your family. There is a reason. The Lord has acted worthy of himself; and if you could only see the whole, instead of having your mind fixed upon a part of his plan — you would adore the wisdom, admire the purpose, and bow, in deep submission, before the throne of the God, who is chastening you.
It will be a great relief to you, if, at this time, you
fix your mind upon God's character, as it is revealed in his Word.
There he reveals himself . . .
not only as just — but gracious;
not only as holy — but merciful;
not only as angry with sinners — but as pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin.
Jehovah has revealed himself to us in Jesus. "No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father's side — He has revealed Him." John 1:18. If you would understand the character of God, if you would know him correctly, if you would know him so as to love him, so as to trust in him, so as to be satisfied with all that he does — then study the character, works, preaching, sufferings, and death of Jesus! There, as in a mirror — God is seen. When, therefore, "Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.' Jesus replied, 'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen me — has seen the Father!'" John 14:8, 9.
In Jesus, "God is love." In your present trouble, he invites you to his throne of grace. He is willing to bless you. He waits to see you come before him with humility, in the name of his Son, sensible of your lost state as a sinner — that he may be gracious unto you. And, if you come to him thus, "He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry; when he shall hear it — he will answer you." Isaiah 30:19.
Is your heart full of sorrow, burdened with grief, ready to burst with anguish? He invites you to him, to "Trust in him at all times; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge!" Psalm 62:8. Go then alone, fall upon your knees at his footstool, confess your sin, tell him the tale of your woes, unburden your heart to him, and seek grace from the fullness of Jesus to sanctify your present trouble. This will soothe, and soften, and relieve your heart. He will not upbraid you, he will not frown you away, be will not refuse to listen to your prayer — for he says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble! I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Psalm 50:15. This is a day of trouble — accept his invitation; appeal to his mercy; plead his promise; expect to be accepted, answered, and blessed, only for the sake of Jesus; and he will receive you graciously, love you freely, and turn your sighs of sorrow — into songs of praise.
Read his holy Word, especially . . .
the precious promises,
the sweet invitations, and
the striking answers to prayer, which he has given.
Read these as if written on purpose for you. Read them as immediately beneath the eye of God. By these — God speaks to you. He speaks to you of himself, of your sins, of the way of salvation, of the mercies he has provided, and of the comfort he is willing to impart to all who ask of him in faith.
Nor let your present trial lead you to overlook the many mercies still left to you. God has not taken away your all; he has continued many comforts to you — and be offers you more, for he offers you himself. He proposes himself to fill the place of the dear departed one; and he is worthy of the highest place in your affections and heart. Let not the loss of one comfort — lead you to slight, neglect, or forget the many thousands of mercies which remain.
This solemn dispensation is intended to teach you some very important lessons, and to set before you truths which you are apt to pass over without much attention.
Here you see what are the nature and consequences of SIN. It is that "abominable thing which God hates!" Jeremiah 44:4. Sin is that to which he never can be reconciled. His hatred to sin is infinite and eternal. Sin is an evil so dreadful — that no language can describe it! Its consequences are so fearful — that no heart can adequately conceive them.
Natural death is but one of the consequences of sin. "By one man sin came into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, because all have sinned." Romans 5:12. Every sigh, every sorrow, every pain, every fear, every groan — is the effect of sin; all came into the world by the sin of man — and they can only be banished hence, by the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.
In death, you see the faithfulness of God to his threatening; six thousand years have rolled away since God threatened to punish disobedience with death, and among the many millions who have inhabited our world, only two have escaped from that threatening. If God is so faithful to this one threatening — will he not be equally faithful to all? If the proof of his faithfulness is daily presented to our eye, is it not daring presumption to question whether he will deal with impenitent sinners, in eternity, as he has declared in his Word that he will?
God has said, "If man is disobedient — he shall die!" Man was disobedient — and he died! His posterity sinned — and all his posterity die. God has also said, "The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God!" Psalm 9:17. "Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Luke 12:5. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! They shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power!" 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. These are very dreadful passages, and there are many like them in the Word of God; they point out our danger, they warn us to escape; and, if we despise the admonition — they leave us without excuse!
With such views before us, how important must SALVATION
appear! God has provided a way of salvation — a way by which we can be
delivered . . .
from the guilt of sin — which binds us over to punishment;
from the power of sin — which degrades and defiles us;
from the love of sin — which proves our depravity and enmity against God;
and from the consequences of sin — which are fearful and eternal!
"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," 1 Timothy 1:15. He came to save sinners — by obeying the law which they had broken, and by paying the penalty which they had incurred. He has done all that the law required, he has suffered all that justice demanded for our salvation; and "through his name, whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43. "God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins!" Acts 5:31. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved!" Acts 4:12. "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him, everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses." Acts 13:38, 39.
There is salvation in Jesus for sinners — for all sinners who feel their lost condition, and are willing to be saved by grace, through faith. Ephesians 2:8. There is pardon through the blood of Christ — but through his blood alone; "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7. There is justification through the obedience of Christ — but through that alone; "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!" Romans 8:1. We must be pardoned in this present world — or not at all. We must be justified in time — or we shall be condemned in eternity.
Every unbeliever is now under condemnation; for, "he who believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18.
Every believer is now justified; for Jesus "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 4:25; 5:1, 2. "Whoever believes in the Son HAS eternal life — but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath REMAINS on him!" John 3:36.
Salvation is a present deliverance from sin by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; "not by works of righteousness that we have done," Titus 3:5, not by any of the outward ordinances of Christianity — but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Death and eternity stamp an infinite importance on salvation. Let me therefore ask you, my afflicted friend: Are you saved? Have you a living faith in Christ? Do you depend on his finished work for pardon, peace, and acceptance with God? Do you enjoy peace with God? Do you live in fellowship with God? Do you walk with God in filial confidence, as a child with his father?
These are important inquiries. They are put to you in love. They should be seriously considered, and be honestly answered. Unless you are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus, unless you are sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — you are not made fit for Heaven; and if you are not prepared for Heaven before you die — then you cannot enter there at death. You "must be born again." You must be "created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works." You must be "washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11.
If you have no holiness on earth — you will have no Heaven at death; because there is no fitness, no qualification for the employments and enjoyments of that state.
Your present affliction teaches you also, the proper use of EARTHLY things. They are to be loved, enjoyed, and used — for the Lord's glory. We must not put them in the Lord's place, nor set our hearts upon them. If we make them our idols — then the Lord will certainly correct us, and perhaps by removing them from us. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2.
Is the afflicted reader a Christian? Then this dispensation may be sent to bid you to "make your calling and election sure." Rest not satisfied with probabilities; be not contented with a feeble hope; but seek the Spirit's witness, the inward, well-founded persuasion of your regeneration and adoption.
Have you received Christ? Walk in him. Make more use of Christ. Live upon him as your daily bread. Walk with him as your tried and faithful friend. Consult his will in all things. Watch his hand in all events. Aim at his glory in all you do. Stand ready to surrender whatever he may demand. Hold all that you have, as the property of your Savior. Seek to enjoy his presence with all your mercies, and to extend his kingdom by all your means.
Remember, Jesus gave himself for you, that he might redeem you from all iniquity, and purify you unto himself as one of his peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus 2:14. Live for eternity. You are walking on its margin; become familiar with its solemn realities. God is now saying to you, "Arise and depart, for this is not your rest — it is polluted!"
"As an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord." James 5:10.
Look at Aaron: his two sons are slain by the Lord, burnt with fire in a moment, "And Aaron held his peace." Levit. 10:3.
Eli is told that his two sons shall die in one day, both of them, and his whole family be reduced to poverty, and he says, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems good to him." 1 Sam. 3:18.
David is driven from his throne, his palace, and the royal city, by the rebellion of his wicked son Absalom; the priest and Levites bring the ark of God out of the city with him; but he meekly says, "Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him!" 2 Samuel 15:25, 26.
Remember, also, that God is faithful to his promises. He bids you, "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22. He says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10. Can words be more plain? Can a promise be more positive than this?
He has given you a kingdom, and he will lead you safely home to possess it. Meditate on that precious passage, "He who spared not his own Son — but delivered him up for us all — how shall he not with him also freely give us all things." Romans 8:32.
"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you!" Psalm 84:11, 12.
But should the bereaved reader of these lines be unconverted — one who is living without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world; then we deeply sympathize with you, for you are indeed to be pitied! You have no resource. The promises of God yield you no comfort. The thoughts of eternity afford you no pleasure. Your wounded heart is desolate and dreary. The love of Jesus does not console and cheer your spirit. You have lost a beloved relative — but you have not the Savior to supply his place. Think, beloved friend, think of your dangerous state! What if death arrested you! What if that been your corpse! What if that coffin contained you! Where would your soul now be? In what a dreadful state would your destiny be fixed for eternity!
"Except a man be born again — he cannot see the kingdom of God!" John 3:3. This is the language of the faithful and true Witness. He does not refer to the effect of any religious ceremony — but to a change of heart produced by the Holy Spirit. Your heart must be changed, your nature must be relieved — or you must perish forever; there is no alternative. "Flee from the wrath to come!" Matthew 3:7. "Repent, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin." Ezekiel 18:30. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2.
"Hear the rod, and the One who has appointed it."
Micah 6:9. The Lord calls you to him. He opens the arms of his mercy to you.
He will give you, by his Holy Spirit, the repose that he has promised. He
will . . .
soothe your sorrows,
heal your wounded heart,
pardon your numerous sins, and
make you fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.
The only obstacle in your way, the only bar between you and the Savior, the only hindrance to your salvation, is Unbelief. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Acts 16:31. "You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you." Psalm 86:5.
Lose not the benefit of this painful affliction, turn not away from him who speaks from Heaven. "Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts!" Hebrews 3:15. "Seek the Lord while he may be found." Isaiah 55:9. Seek him at once. Let nothing tempt you to delay; you have already delayed too long — you never will have a more favorable opportunity than the present. The door of mercy is now wide open! The new and living way into the holiest, is consecrated for you. The throne of grace is accessible to you. The Father says, "Come NOW, and let us reason together; though your sins are as scarlet — they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson — they shall be as white as wool." Isaiah 1:18. The Son says, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden — and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:27, 28. "If any man thirsts — let him come unto me and drink." John 7:37. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life!" Revelation 22:17
No one can be more welcome than you are; you will never be more welcome than you are at this moment; therefore do not put away the gracious message from you; for, "no doubt, the kingdom of God is come near unto you." Jesus is able to save you; he is willing. It is only for you to renounce all other grounds of hope, to reject all vain confidence — and to come to him just as you are, and cast yourself upon him, as the foundation which God has laid. His mercy is as infinite as his nature — and more tender than a mother's heart!
He asks, "My son, give me your heart." He complains, "You will not come to me — that you might have life." He repeats his invitation, "Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David!" Isaiah 55:3. He promises, "Him who comes unto me — I will never cast out." John 6:37. And he laments over some, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes!" Luke 19:42
Can anything be more touching than such conduct as this? Is it possible to manifest more tenderness? And all this is to encourage you to go unto him and find salvation in him. May this solemn visitation be made a peculiar blessing to you; and, at last, may you "sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God!" Matthew 8:11, 12.
There is an hour, when I must part
With all I hold most dear;
And life with its best hopes, will then
As nothingness appear.
There is an hour, when I must lie
Low on affliction's bed;
And anguish, pain, and tears become
My bitter daily bread!
There is an hour, when I must sink
Beneath the stroke of death;
And yield to Him, who gave it first,
My struggling vital breath.
There is an hour, when I must stand
Before the judgment seat;
And all my sins, and all my foes,
In awful vision meet.
O Savior, then, in all my need
Be near, be near to me;
And let my soul, by steadfast faith,
Find life and Heaven in thee!