« PreviousContinue »
are poor, others rich; some are now young, others old; some have many comforts and much knowledge, and others are tried, and possess but little information. But none of us brought anything into the world. We were born helpless infants, and were thrown upon the care of parents and friends. In one sense we were altogether dependent on them for a continuance of the life which God had given us; for if they had not watched us, and been kind to us, we should have died nearly as soon as we were born. But how thankful soever we may be to them, we must remember God's kindness and love, and say with David, “By thee have I been holden up from the womb,” Psa. lxxi. 6. And shall we not be thankful to the Lord of our lives ? for, all that we have of comforts, or friends, we owe to him. The man that is now very rich, whose income, it may be, amounts to many thousands a-year, did not bring a sovereign, no, nor a farthing, with him into the world. And the good man abounding in excellences and usefulness, did not bring with him the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which now adorn and beautify his character.
Now, the apostle Paul says, “It is certain we can carry nothing out of the world.” We must go out. Generations after generations have gone out before us, and we must go to make room for those who are to follow. We are under sentence. “ It is appointed unto men once to die,” Heb. ix. 27. Death is no respecter of persons. The young and the old, the wealthy and the indigent, the learned and the illiterate, must all die. Princes and peasants, parents and children, masters and servants, must all die. Those who sow the fields and reap the harvests ; those who tend on flocks and cultivate gardens; those who weave, make, and sell garments ; those who build and furnish houses, must all die. Soldiers and sailors must die. Shopmen and shopwomen, clerks and apprentices, errand-boys and porters, must die, “We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again,” 2 Sam. xiv. 14. But as we brought nothing with us, so when we die wę must leave everything behind us. Speaking of the rich mạn, the psalmist says, “ Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dieth he shall carry nothing away with him; his glory shall not descend after him," Psa. xlix. 16, 17. Whatever may be his possessions, he must, at death, part with them all. “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither," Job 1. 21. I must die, and I may die soon. My earthly occupations and pursuits will soon come to an end. I am not far from my long home, and the last step of my journey to the grave will, when taken, separate me from time, and connect me with eternity. Houses, lands, riches, business,
WHAT SHALL I CARRY WITH ME INTO ETERNITY?
me when I depart to another world. Should I not think, then, more about eternity and the concerns of my soul, and less about this life and the wants of the body?
But a very important question remains ;-" Though no earthly possession can go with me into eternity, is there not any thing else that can ?" Yes! the character or state of my soul. For what we are when we die we shall be after death, and for ever. It is not said, what we have when we die we shall possess after death; but, what we are when we die we shall be after death. Character of soul makes the man. A man is just what this character is. A man and his possessions may, yea, must part; but a man and his character cannot part-they are one. The rich man, of whom we read in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel by Luke, whilst he lived, was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day ; but when he died, he left his wealth behind him, and took his character with him. And every man that dies must retain, throughout eternity, all that essentially constitutes his soul's character at death. “ He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; he that is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still,” Rev. xxii. 11. Solemn consideration! Die in sin, you are lost for ever. Die in Jesus, you are blessed for ever. “ The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. vi. 23.
Now let it be carefully noted how this affects those who die in an unconverted state.
1. Many of them would carry their earthly treasures with them, if they could; but they cannot. A man's heart cleaves to his idols, and he cannot bear the thought of being cut off from all those things in which he has delighted. Judging from the attachments of some men, it would not be difficult for us to believe that if their will could be law, they would go on buying and selling and getting gain, and then either consume it upon their lusts, or hoard it in their coffers, for ever and ever.
2. Again : How many worldly persons, when they die, would be glad to leave some parts of their character behind them. But they cannot do this. - The wicked is driven away in his wickedness,” Prov. xiv. 32—not from his wickedness, but in it, in the midst of it, and his wickedness accompanies him. He does not altogether commit precisely the same sins after death that he does while alive ; for some of the transgressions of which he is now guilty, are such as can be committed by him only while he is on earth. But though many of his habits are broken up and destroyed by death, the principles out of which these habits grew live after death ; and he cannot annihilate these principles. Therefore,
3. An ungodly man must take his unholy nature with him
into eternity. He cannot leave this behind; nor can he throw off a single fetter by which it is bound, nor wipe out a single blot by which it is disfigured, nor root out a single passion by which it has been polluted. The man dies; and the whole man, however depraved, lives again. Death makes no change in character. It does not, it cannot, regenerate the soul. So that he who leaves this world an enemy to God by wicked works, enters the next world as a rebel against him and an alien from him. And the elements of hell lie in character. Every man who will suffer the torments of the lost, in the bottomless pit, will do so because he will carry with him to that abode of darkness unpardoned guilt and unsubdued depravity. There is an ancient fable of an eagle which carried to its nest, from a heathen altar, some of the sacrifice, having a hot coal adhering to it, by which the nest itself was set on fire and burned. And men that die in their sins take with them the gnawing worm and the quenchless fire. A life passed and closed in unbelief and wickedness, must result in personal misery. Men reap in eternity only what they sow in time, Gal. vi. 8. And so close is the connexion between a man's actions and the consequences of them, that he who neglects the great salvation, and serves Satan and sin, is heaping up to himself wrath against the day of wrath, Rom. ji. 5, to endure through all eternity
Who, then, would not tremble at the idea of taking with him into eternity a benighted understanding, a rebellious will, an impure and unholy heart, a defiled imagination, and a memory stored with bitter recollections ! Does not the reader dread this? Ask yourself the question, “ What shall I carry with me into eternity?" and do not be misled by a false answer. The Bible alone can determine this question. Study the Bible. Pray over the Bible. Seek the teachings of God's Holy Spirit, that you may understand the Bible. Go, depending on God's grace, to that Saviour of whom the Bible testifies; rely on his atoning death, wash in his atoning blood, seek his sanctifying grace, submit to his justifying righteousness, and do this without a moment's delay. It will then be well with you for ever; for when you depart hence, all your infirmities and weaknesses will be cast away, and, with a new heart and a regenerated spirit, you will pass to heaven, there to enjoy the presence of God and of the Lamb, in a state of perfect purity, of undisturbed tranquillity, of unending joy.
“ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
Character is the only thing a man can take with him into eternity !
“So he turned and went away in a rage.” And why did Naaman go away from the prophet in a rage ?
He was a great and honourable man at the court of Syria, a mighty and victorious general, and a favourite of the king—but he was a leper. In compliance with the advice of a little captive Jewess, he took princely gifts, and went to the prophet Elisha to be cured. Naaman arrived in state at the prophet's dwelling, where he expected to be received with deference and respect, but Elisha simply “sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” Then “ Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage," 2 Kings v. 11, 12
The directions of the prophet and the manner of conveying them were mortifying to his pride, and therefore Naaman was offended. Had it been the poorest servant of his household, with no retinue, no rank, and not a shekel of silver to call his own, he could not have been received with less distinction, and would have been equally able to obtain a cure on terms such as these.
Again: the directions given were entirely different from the notions he had formed of the way of obtaining a cure, and therefore he was offended. He seems to have made up his mind that he was to be cured like a great man; and he had brought his talents of silver and pieces of gold to pay for it. But no; instead of standing and receiving his cure from the hands of the prophet with an unhumbled heart, he must lay aside all his lofty notions, and do an act which should prove that his heart was humbled, and his pride subdued. He must go and wash seven times in Jordan.
And more: if Naaman was displeased with this mode of cure, there was no other way presented to him, and therefore he was offended. He must either go and dip himself seven times in Jordan, or he must live and die a leper. Surely, he seems to have thought, Elisha might have told me of a way more agreeable to my feelings. “So he turned and went away in a rage."
Ah, perhaps the reader may say, this was very foolish in Naaman, to reject for such reasons the means of escaping so dreadful a disease.
But may it not be said, as by Nathan to David, THOU ART THE MAN? Thou art afflicted with a disease worse than that of Naaman--the leprosy of sin; and unless thou art healed by the only means which Christ, the good Physician, has prescribed, the result will be not the death of the body merely, but the ruin of the never-dying soul.
As Naaman was told by Elisha how to be cured of his leprosy, so have you been told that“ there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” but the name of Jesus Christ, Acts iv. 12. You have been told that “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" and that “ he that believeth on the Son of God hath life, but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him," John iii. 16, 36. And while you have heard the only way of salvation faithfully proclaimed, and the consequences of neglecting it solemnly pointed out, perhaps,