« PreviousContinue »
to believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, the welcome of the Lord will bless you with a reception joyful beyond all imagination ; but there, if you have not trusted and loved him, and have no part in him, he will reject you, and you will be overwhelmed with dark, deep, everlasting despair. How important is it, therefore, to believe in and receive him now; and thus to seek that interest in him which will enable you, without a doubt, to offer as your last prayer the prayer of his first dying martyr, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” Acts vii. 59.
Stephen, who uttered this prayer, was at that time dying in agony under the stones which his murderers were casting at him. The short narrative of his martyrdom contains many precious truths, but none more precious than those presented in this prayer, which, offered first by him, has since been the . dying prayer of many other servants of Christ.
He addressed the Lord Jesus, his God and Saviour. He had loved and served hirn, had been “ full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," and had zealously laboured for the glory of his Saviour; but his work on earth is ended; he looks up to heaven, and expects a welcome there, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”. He looked to Jesus whom he had trusted, loved, and followed. The blood of Jesus had cleansed his sins. The Holy Spirit had changed his heart. His love had saved him, and would receive him now. Jesus had been his help in danger, his comfort in sorrow, his 'strength in weakness; he was his life in death. To the Lord Jesus he looked as an unfailing Friend. Others cannot help him now, but Jesus can; the murderers' hands are upon him, but the Lord can keep the deathless soul committed to his care, and that no murderers can injure. “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
The blessedness prayed for, that Jesus may receive the dying Christian's spirit, and which you who read these lines must have, or be unhappy for ever, deserves peculiar notice. Here was no request for anything below. The dying saint had, doubtless, often prayed before, and sought the various blessings that the Saviour gives. He had assuredly sought pardon through Christ's atoning blood, and grace to walk with God. He had, doubtless, implored strength to resist temptations, and to discharge the duties of his course; wisdom in perplexity; and guidance when bewildered; help in danger; comfort when depressed ; and the Holy Spirit's indwelling power. But now all these petitions are reduced to one—the only one that a dying believer need offer: “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He had asked many blessings from Christ, who had crowned him with many mercies. He now asked Christ to complete the wonders of his love ;. to give but one blessing more. He asked not for future help, for
A CHRISTIAN'S LAST PRAYER.
He asked not for strength, for he had done with the world where it is wanted. No earthly good did he crave, for he is dying, and leaving the world; but only prays, “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” “ Thou hast the power to welcome and to bless me ; for all power in heaven and earth is thine. Thou canst introduce me to mansions in thy Father's house ; for all that the Father hath is thine, John xvi. 15. Thou canst give them to whom thou wilt, and all I want is there: • Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Take it to thyself, and fix it as a happy dweller in the peaceful abode where thou art. Fulfil thy promise, · Where I am, there shall also my servant be,' John xii. 26. Unworthy as I am, welcome me as thy faithful follower, and in thy boundless condescension, say, Come in, thou blessed of my Father.' 'Lord Jesus,' thus receive my spirit !'"
Happy are they who with cheerful confidence can offer such a prayer. They are blessed beyond the power of any tongue to describe, and of any ages to unfold. Oh, inquire, " Will this happiness be mine?” There is but one way in which you can be thus blessed. Believe from the heart on Jesus. Flee to him as your refuge. Commit your soul to him. Seek him as your Saviour and your all. Implore and depend on the help of the Holy Spirit; follow where he leads, and this good will all be your blissful portion. But who can imagine what is felt and enjoyed when this prayer is answered ? The aspiring soul that presented it has left the house of clay ; that tabernacle has to mingle with the dust, awaiting the resurrection.
They die in Jesus, and are bless'd;
How kind their slumbers are !
And freed from every snare.
Far from this world of toil and strife,
They're present with the Lord;
End in a large reward.
Quietude is a very imperfect emblem of the sweeter calm which the ransomed spirit finds in heaven. The Saviour has answered the last prayer, and received the soul of his disciple to himself. Sorrow and pain have ceased ; labour and toil are ended. Cares, doubts, and fears are over. Every conflict and every trial is finished. Of evils to be encountered below, the last has concluded for ever. The valley of the shadow of death is safely passed. Even if it were dark, its darkness matters nothing now, for the light of eternal day has succeeded its gloom; and the brightness of eternal joy causes its pains and struggles to be forgotten. What was the object of faith is now enjoyed in full fruition. The gates of the heavenly city have been entered, and the ransomed spirit forms one of the multitude that have come out of great tribulation, and “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." God himself is with them, and is their God; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
But feeble and unsuccessful must be every attempt to describe their happiness. Many a dying believer has even here felt joy that is unspeakable; what, then, must be the joy of heaven! An intelligent young Christian was visited in her last illness by a minister well known to the writer. Her amiable, tranquil, and happy state of mind, and deeply spiritual conversation, often refreshed his soul. On his last visit he found her dying, but perfectly sensible. She remarked, “I am dying; I feel no pain. There is a numbness about my feet.” “ Are you still as happy as you have been ?” he asked her. “Yes, oh yes !” she replied; “ far beyond what it would be possible to express ! My soul is full of joy and transport." Her strength failed her; he leaned his head forward to catch her last whisper; her eyes brightened, and, with an energy and delight of tone and manner which he could never forget, she exclaimed, “ My SOUL IS ON THE ROCK!” She pressed his hand, and died.
Reader, inquire, “Is the prospect of such a departure mine? Is Jesus my Saviour and my Lord ? Could I die in humble, joyful faith, offering the martyr's prayer, · Lord Jesus, receive my spirit?'" To these inquiries what does conscience say ? If it bears witness that you have ground for such confidence, then rejoice, and cleave to the Saviour, to whom you owe so much. But if you have no reason to believe you are the Lord's, pity yourself, repent, pray, and flee to him before it be too late. Nothing can prepare you for such a peaceful departure from this world, and such a joyful welcome to the world of bliss, but salvation enjoyed through faith in the blood of Christ, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; without this you can find no welcome in that blessed world. If not received by Christ, you will be delivered up to Satan. Then what horrors will overwhelm your wretched soul! Flee from sin and misery! Flee to Jesus. Receive him now, and then you may cheerfully pray with your latest breath, “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit !"
Awake, my soul ; thy way prepare,
And die in smiles at thy command.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE GOSPEL ? This is not a trifling question, nor must you turn away from it as one which does not concern you. On your understanding and receiving the gospel, your eternal happiness depends. Though you have “all knowledge," yet if you understand not the gospel, you are in great danger. That you may see how important a thing the gospel is, consider the terms in which the Scriptures speak of it. It is there called “glad tidings ;" “the gospel of God;" “ the gospel of Christ;" “ the gospel of glory;"*" the gospel of peace ;' "the gospel of salvation ;” and “the everlasting gospel.” He that believes this gospel shall be saved; he that believes it not shall be condemned.
A clear view of the gospel is, then, above all things, necessary. Failing to understand, or misunderstanding it, you are blind to the only light by which you can see the way to eternal life, and deaf to the only voice that can teach you the things that belong to your everlasting peace. Your mind, naturally sinful, must remain unchanged; your guilt unremoved, and eternity must be to you the "blackness of darkness for ever.”
The gospel is a message from God. Many think of the gospel as wholly made up of deep and dark mysteries, and they imagine that, in order to understand it, much learning and labour are requisite. For these things, they say, they have not opportunity, and they hence conclude that in not understanding the gospel they are free from guilt; but there is a great mistake in this view of the subject. The gospel of salvation is a plain message to be received. It is a message; and, as messages should be, is easy to be understood. In the gospel itself all that is necessary to be known for salvation is simple-nothing doubtful. It is a specific communication from God, having a definite end, and couched in definite terms. A message from God! How impressive and encouraging is the thought! It is a proof that God has not cast us off ; that, whilst we on our part have done all we can to disunite ourselves from him, he still holds himself linked to us. We might have expected that the proud and rebellious spirit of man, and his many transgressions, would have alienated the Creator from the work of his hands, and cut off all intercourse on his part. But no: he still holds communion with us; the bonds of his intercourse are not yet severed. He sends to us a message. This message is not, as we deserve, conveyed in terrible language, but it is tender, suited to the ear, and easy to be understood. This message, coming from God, who is Love, is full of love, of kindness, and of grace, in all respects framed so as to invite us to receive it.
A most important character of this message is, that it is to every one. It is a message to you. “Preach the gospel,” said Christ, “ to every creature." You are not to view the gospel merely as sent to mankind in general, but as sent to yourself in particular. To you it applies as directly and particularly as though you were alone in this world. God's eye is fixed on you. His mind is turned towards you, and to you is his message addressed. The mighty God has spoken. To whom? To you, Where? In the gospel.
What then is the gospel message, or good tidings, which we are to understand and receive? The apostle Paul calls it “ the gospel of THE GRACE OF GOD,” Acts xx. 24, which in other words is “ the good news of the mercy or favour of God.”
The grace or favour itself, here spoken of, is SALVATION FOR SINNERS, for the sake of Jesus Christ the Son of God, which salvation, God, in love and mercy to mankind, has provided, by giving his Son Jesus Christ to live and die, and rise again; and has published by him; “ for," as Christ himself declared, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,