« PreviousContinue »
There is nothing strange in this. Men naturally shrink back from the tomb, whether surrounded by affluence or by poverty. And what is the cause? They are unprepared to die.
How often do we hear persons say, “I hope I shall get to heaven.” Hope to get to heaven? Alas! they find when called to die, they are not fit for such company as they would meet there. Hope to get to heaven? when one half hour, nay, perhaps a few minutes of religious worship here is not only weariness, but trouble; when anything rather than the society of religious persons is preferred; when one word about God and Christ jars on the ear, and stirs up all the animosity of the unrenewed mind. How could such persons take pleasure in the eternal worship and employment of the blessed in heaven?
Reader, have you considered this question ? for, in truth, your everlasting destiny hangs upon it. Whatever your condition, you cannot face death save with reluctance, unless fitted here for the company and employment of heaven. A few words will make this clear.
To enjoy anything we must take pleasure in it. To be happy in the company of others we must delight in the same pursuits, desire the same objects. Now ask yourself this question, and let conscience answer: “ What is my chief source of pleasure, and what company, what pursuits do I most delight in?” For depend upon it, as the tree falls, so it must lie. As you are, when dying, so will be your everlasting state, whether it be “death unto death,” or “ life unto life.” If you take pleasure only in what this world affords, if its company is your solace and delight; it is clear beyond a doubt that in such company you must continue. No very great punishment this, many would be ready to say. But consider—where? not in the theatre or ball-room; not on the racecourse or in the cockpit; not in the tavern or place of public resort, where mirth and revelry are,-where man tries to consume the present, and banish every thought of the futurebut in that place of everlasting woe, where his companions will be his tormentors, and all the faculties for enjoyment he was endowed with become so many sources of anguish. He must go to the place "prepared for the devil and his angels." It is not said, prepared for man; but if he be not fitted for the kingdom of Christ, there is no other place for him to go to, and no other company will he be fit to associate with. Reader, if not made meet for heaven, were it possible for you to get there, to witness the worship and love rendered to that God whom every moment you neglect and despise, would be torment to you.
Did you but fully know the evil of your own heart; could you really feel the exceeding sinfulness of sin, you would in some measure realize in your own bosom the worm that dieth
ARE YOU FIT TO Die?
not bear such a discovery; it is reserved for the spirits of the wicked alone to know, and endure the full extent of this disclosure in the lake of “unquenchable fire.” It is related that an aged minister, fearing that he did not feel sufficiently the evil of sin, prayed for a clearer discovery of its heinous nature. His prayer was granted; but said he, “ I prayed much more fervently that the veil might be again let down: for had that horrid sight continued long, I think it would have crushed me."
And yet “fools make a mock at sin.” A mock at that which made Him who bore its weight, and who alone knew its awful malignity, "sweat as it were great drops of blood;" which made the sun withdraw its light, the earth to quake, and the rocks to rend; which made the Son of God himself cry out in the very extremity of anguish, such as no mere created being could have endured, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And the weight and burden of sin, reader, is what you must endure to all eternity, unless you believe and rely on that Saviour who bore it in the stead of every repentant sinnerbore their “sins in his own body on the tree.” This stupendous fact-a fact which not all the united wisdom of men and angels could have imagined-a plan of mercy that had never entered into the heart of man to conceive, can alone enable you to meet death without alarm-nay with triumph, if you repent and believe in the Saviour.
But nothing short of this will do, because God's justice must have satisfaction for every sinful thought, word, and deed since the day of your birth. What can be the result? You owe all, and yet have nothing to pay. You only " add sin to sin.” “Consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” He has sent unto us a Saviour and a great one; one fully equal to all our wants, and who is engaged to save all who come unto him ; for it is written, “ Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Neglect this great salvation and you are lost to all eternity; for “ there is salvation in none other.” Neither the good deeds, the gifts and bequests of the rich, nor the wants and afflictions of the poor, can make them willing to die, and fit their souls for heaven.
Reader! are you not ready to say is it not the language of your heart-" I could be happy enough here; and, if I might have my desires, I should not want to go to a better place ?".
This, whatever men pretend, is the feeling of every one whose heart has not been renewed, who has not repented of sin; who has not “ fled for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel," and has not been pardoned and accepted through the righteousness and merits of Christ Jesus, imputed to him through faith, “ without money and without price." Remember, “ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" and
ameet deatheart of mana plan ofnited wisdie
if not Christ's, whose is he?- This is an awful question, and if seriously, properly considered, might strike the stoutest heart with terror.
A young man had been warned in his youth by one who said to him, “You are not too young to die; seek, ere it be too late, to find shelter from that eternal wrath which must overtake every one who is not sheltered in Christ.” But he became dissolute and wicked, and was reduced at length to poverty and degradation. His early impressions however were not wholly forgotten, and would sometimes revive ; and in moments of thought he wished he were “ fit to die.” At length, under peculiar circumstances which recalled his early warning, the words came to his mind with great force; “ Seek, ere it be too late, to find shelter from that eternal wrath which must overtake every one who is not sheltered in Christ." Conscience was awakened and spoke loud within. He felt as though already exposed to that unmitigated wrath he had so long deserved, and defied; that his day of grace was past, and that a terrible fate awaited him. He was not fit to live, and still less fit to die. He could not flee from his tormentors. The secret, and hitherto unfelt sins of the heart rose before him. The more he strove to repress the view of them, the more hideous they became, until life was indeed a burden, and he was often tempted to end it.
One night he had wandered out alone. It was bright, calm, and starlight. Nature looked all loveliness and repose, but brought no peace to his soul. " The law worketh wrath !" He sat down by a little stream, on which the beautiful face of heaven was reflected. He thought of the might, majesty, omnipotence of the Creator of all; and felt as a sinner in the grasp of, and under sentence of condemnation from, his offended Judge. The very calm and serenity about him only added to his terror. In the extremity of his anguish he lay with his face on the grass, and, with Job, was ready to curse the day of his birth. Suddenly a thought crossed him. He started up, “ If I perish, I perish," said he aloud,“ but it shall be crying for mercy!” and, as one just ready to sink, and almost without hope of deliverance, he cried out, “Lord, save; or I perish !" The cry was heard. In a while he felt light, life, and deliverance in his soul, and that Christ Jesus was the only way of access—the only shelter. He soon sang the songs of Zion; and in the spirit of the words which had been made instrumental to his conversion, could now say, “ I am not afraid to die, for I have sought, and found shelter."
Much happiness and many benefits arise from friendship; and the ties with which it unites two hearts are strengthened, when great kindness has been shown by one friend, and fervent thankfulness is felt by the other. Togral Osman was captured in a Turkish vessel, and carried as a prisoner and a slave to Malta. To a French officer, named Arnaud, he said, “ Can you do a generous and gallant action ? Ransom me; and take my word you shall lose nothing by it." Arnaud, interested by Osman's air and manners, complied with his request, and paid nearly three hundred pounds for his ransom. From that time Osman showed the most fervent gratitude to his benefactor. He soon returned the money, and added valuable presents. In 1731, he rose to be the first minister of the Ottoman empire. He now sent for Arnaud, that he might further display his gratitude. Arnaud arrived, bringing with him twelve Turkish prisoners whom he had ransomed. Osman received them in the presence of the great officers of state, with strong marks of affection; then, pointing to the ransomed captives, said to those about him, “Behold these your brethren, now enjoying the sweets of liberty after having groaned in slavery; this Frenchman is their deliverer. I was myself a slave, loaded with chains,
streaming with blood, and covered with wounds; this is my benefactor, to whom I am indebted for life, liberty, and fortune, and everything I enjoy. Without knowing me, he paid a large ransom for me, sent me away upon my bare word, and gave me a ship to carry me. Where is there a mussulman capable of such generosity ?”
If such were the feelings of a man to his benefactor, how much more should we feel towards the Lord Jesus Christ ! He has paid for man a more costly ransom ; he delivers from a more degrading and wretched slavery. He is the Friend that has no equal; far excelling all friends besides, and in all things their superior.
He excels all others in his person. For what are my friends, however estimable and dear? They are dying mortals, from whom I soon must part: but he is * the First and the Last," who was dead and is alive; the King of kings and Lord of lords; “God manifest in the flesh;": "over all, God blessed for ever,” Rev. i. 17; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Rom. ix. 5. They wither like a flower; He imparts life and health, and is the Ĝiver of eternal life. They are going to the dust; but He has “ ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things," Eph. iv. 10.
He far excels also in the greatness of his love. The strongest affection that can glow in a human heart is feeble compared with that of Jesus. It is related that in a time of bloodshed at Rome, a servant, anxious to preserve his master's life, whose destruction was sought, changed clothes with him, sent him out privately from the house, and then pretending to be the master, lay down on his bed, and there was slain in his stead. Greater love hath no man than this; but even this bears no more comparison with the Saviour's love than a spark to the sun, or an atoin to the world ; for He, in a mysterious way, stooped from the height of infinite glory, and took our nature purposely to suffer and die : “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." " Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," 2 Cor. viii. 9; Phil. ii. 6. He laid down his life as the substitute for sinners, that they might have life instead of death, and heaven instead of hell, and endured the hiding of his Father's countenance so as to cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " that the lost and undone might come near to God, and be with him for ever and ever.
In 1741, at Northampton assizes, a poor Irishman was sen