For more than a century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon's sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author's own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today's reader, the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they came from the pen of the author in the nineteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations, simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Spurgeon's meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
"How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan?" [Jeremiah
The Land of Canaan may be used as a picture of two states or conditions in the Christian's life. It was the land of rest to the children of Israel after a exhausting pilgrimage in the wilderness. Now it is written that "we who have believed enter that rest." A true Christian possessed of strong faith will not have a wilderness state on earth, rather it will be a land flowing with milk and honey, because his faith will give him the things he hoped for and make him certain of what he does not see. Many disciples live a life of depression, anguish, and discomfort, which would be completely changed if they had faith in God, and lived a higher life of devotion and love. Canaan may be considered as a picture of that better state of Christianity which some enjoy. It is not altogether free from pain; the Canaanites still live in the land, and there still are wars and conflicts; but still there is rest, and there is the spirit of service in the cultivation of the promised land. But Canaan, the Promised Land, is generally used as a picture of "the rest which is waiting for the people of God" beyond the skies. Heaven is frequently described as corresponding to the earthly inheritance of the JewsIt is our hope, the end of our pilgrimage. It contains our Jerusalem, and the temple, "not built by humans hands."
When this is the view taken, then the Jordan river naturally equates to death. Its dark waters form a picture in our minds of the cold stream through which we must wade through in our dying hour. It is a beautiful emblem, and most likely we have all sung Dr. Watt's hymn with great feeling
"There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day eliminates the night,
And pleasures banish pain."
There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers;
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heavenly land from ours."
Taking "the swelling of the Jordan" [meaning the Jordan at flood stage] to represent the precise time of our death, the question really is, what shall we do when it is our time to die? or "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan?"
I. We notice, in the first place, that this is an EXCEEDINGLY PRACTICAL QUESTION.
How will you manage? Is the question. There are some subjects which are more or less matters of pure faith and personal feeling; and though all Christian doctrines bear more or less directly upon the Christian life, yet they are not commonly considered practical subjects. Our text, however, brings us face to face with a matter which is essentially a matter of doing and of acting; it asks how will we conduct ourselves in the hour of our death.
We sometimes hear the remark made by those who object to doctrinal preaching, that we are too speculative, and that we utter our own opinions, which feed men's fancies, but do not regulate life. Now we believe that every promise leads to a doctrine, and every doctrine has its purpose and duty; but here we have a subject that is clearly practical, I am only afraid it will be a little too practical for some; and will only affect their emotions and feelings, and therefore they will fail to act on the truth and put it into practice, and demonstrate its power in the last days of their lives.
Christians may differ from others on some points, but I am sure that here we are united in beliefwe must all die, and none of us should die unprepared. There is a difference of opinion as to what we ought to do at the beginning of our Christian life; I maintain that we ought to follow Christ, and be baptized by being immersed in water, for "it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness;" others oppose that as being unnecessary, unwise, or what not; we differ at the beginning of life, but we agree in the end; we must all die; and we all want to die the death of the righteous.
II. We notice, in the second place, that it is UNDOUBTEDLY A PERSONAL QUESTION.
How will you manage? It individualizes us, and makes each one of us come face to face with a dying hour. Now we all need this, and it will be good for each one of us to take a brief look into the grave. We are too apt to regard all men as mortal except ourselves. Somehow we can see the frailty of life much more clearly in other people than we can in ourselves. We are far too blind to our own weakness, and would do well to ask ourselves, each one of us, "My soul, how will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan?" "How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
The ancient warrior who wept because he realized that a hundred years later, his immense army would be gone, and not a man would remain to tell of their accomplishments. That warrior would have been wiser, if he would had also wept for himself, and left his bloody wars, and lived as a man who must one day die, and find after death a day of judgment.
Each one of us must die. If I were addressing all the philosophers of the world, I would say, "All your combined wisdom cannot lengthen the days of one of you even a single minute. You may calculate the distance of the stars, and the weight of the planets, but you cannot tell me when one of you will die, nor how many minutes are left until the exit of each spirit from the world." Now, I say to you, that the wisest of you must die; and you do not know not how soon that may be. It is also true with the mightiest, and the richest of men. Samson was mastered by someone stronger than man, and the wealthiest of man cannot bribe death to stay away for a single hour. We all come into the world one by one, and will go out of it in the same wayall alone. Loved ones come to the edge of the dark stream, but there they shake hands and say "good-bye," and we go on alone.
The prophet Elijah's companion and successor, Elisha, followed his master until the fiery chariot came to take his leader away; but when the messengers of God came, they left the Elisha behind, who cried out in vain, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" In light of this, we had better be ready to answer the question as individuals, seeing that it is one which is asked only of individuals, and we will be unable to answer it or deal with the situation with the help of any earthly friend. I say to the young, to the old; to the rich, to the poor; to each one of you todayI ask you, as if you were alone before God"How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
III. As a third thought, we call attention to the fact that it is one of the MOST SOLEMN questions.
According to the law, and it is that law under which every Jew is born, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Now there never was, and never will be any man or woman who did, or could "continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law," and consequently every man and woman come under a curse; and it must be a dreadful thing for a person to think of dying under the curse of his own religious faith; and yet it is true for every Jew, cursed by his own Book of Law, cursed forever. What comfort will that yield him when he comes to the swelling of the Jordan. What comfort will that provide him when it is his turn to die?
I have also thought, that I would like to ask the atheist, the unbeliever, this question, "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
He tells me, perhaps. That he believes in annihilation: but he will need comfort when he is lying on that painful death bed; will he get it from the doctrine of annihilation? The dreary emptiness of total destruction, of ceasing to be; is there anything to help a spirit when it lies there in the great need of consolation, tossing back and forth in pain and weakness? I do not think so.
I would also like to put the question to a Roman Catholic; for how will he manage "in the swelling of the Jordan? How will he fare when it is his turn to die?"
Some time ago you will remember when a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church died: where did he go? I would not like to judge anybody's soul, but on the coffin of the Cardinal we find engraved a request that we should pray for his soul. Thus, there have been masses said for his souls peacefulness. It is evident, therefore, that the Cardinal's soul went somewhere, where it needs to be prayed for, and that it is some place where it is not at rest or at peace. Now if this is the fate of a Cardinal Archbishop, there is no hope for an ordinary Roman Catholic professor; if a Cardinal in the Church dies, and does not go to heaven as he had been hoping, not to eternal rest, but to a place where he needs our intercession, and where he has no peace for his soulthen it must be a dreadful thing to die with such a religious belief as that. I would sooner have a pillow of thorns to rest my head on, than to trust in the Catholic faith for my salvation.
Oh, we want something better than this, a hope more rapturous, more divine, more full of immortality than the certainty of going to a place where there is no rest, and where our souls need the prayers of sinful men on earth. Because these people refused to listen to the truth, therefore, there is nothing we can do for their souls, they must go their own way; and if they are found to be wrong on the day of judgment, we are so sorry that it has to be so, but our own business is certainly the first matter at hand. Therefore, forgetting them, let the question come to each of us, "How will we manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will we fare when it is our time to die?"
IV. Remember, in the fourth place, that this question was part of a REBUKE to the prophet Jeremiah.
This ought to be a rebuke to every Christian who is subject to the fear of man. I do not believe that any preacher will be in the pulpit very long without having the temptation to be afraid of some man or woman, and if he does not stand very firmly on his integrity he will find some of the best of his friends getting the upper hand with him. And this will never do with God's minister. He must deal out God's Word impartially to rich or poor, to good or bad; and he must determine to have no master except his Master who is in heaven; no bit nor bridle for his mouth, except that of prudence and discretion, which God himself shall put there. For if we are afraid of a man that shall die, and who can be crushed like a moth, how fearful shall we be when we have to talk with the grim king of terrors! If we are afraid of puny man, how shall we be able to stand before the dreadful ordeal of the day of judgment? Yet I know some Christians that are very much embarrassed by the world's opinion, by the opinion of their family circle, or of the opinion of their coworkers. Now after all, what does it matter?
He that is content to be damned in order to be fashionable, will pay heavily for what he gets. Oh, to dare to be singular, if to be singular is to be right; but if you are afraid of man, what will you do in the swelling of the Jordan? The same rebuke might be applied to us when we get fretful over the little troubles of life. You have losses in business, exasperation in the familyyou all have crosses to carrybut my text comes to you, and it says, "If you cannot bear this, how will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
If your religion is not equal to the ordinary emergencies of each day, then what will you do when you come to that extraordinary day, which will be to you the most important day of your life?"
Come my friends, do not be overwhelmed with these things, bear them cheerfully, since there is much harder work to do than any that you have met with in the battle of life. And the same reproof might come to us when we become irritable with our bodily pains, for there are some of us, who as soon as we get the slightest pain, become so fretful, that our friends avoids us; we can scarcely have a little depression of spirit, but right away we are ready to give up everything for lost, and like Jonah we say, "it is better for me to die than to live."
Now this should not be. We should be quiet, and not be perturbed with these little streams; for if these sweep us away, what shall we do when the Jordan river is swollen to the brim, and we have to pass through it? When one of the martyrs [Pommily] was condemned to be burned at the stake, his wife was also charge with heresy. She had determined to die with her husband, and she appeared, as far as most people could judge, to be very firm in her faith. But the jailer's wife, though she had no religion, took a merciful view of the case as far as she could do so, and thought, "I am afraid this woman will never stand the test, she will never burn with her husband, she has neither faith nor strength enough to endure the trial;" and therefore, one day she called the condemned woman out from her cell, she said to her, "Young lady, run to the garden and get me the key that is lying there." The poor woman willingly ran to the garden; she picked up the key and it burned her fingers, for the jailer's wife had made it red hot; she came running back crying with pain. "I see, you wicked woman," said she, "if you cannot bear a little burn on your hand, how will you bear to have you whole body burned;" and this, I am sorry to add, was the means of causing her to recant the faith which she professed, but which had never been in her heart.
This true story applies in this way: If we cannot bear the little insignificant pains which come upon us in our ordinary circumstances, which are but as it were the burning of our hands, what shall we do when every pulse beats with pain, and every throb is an agony, and the whole body begins to crumble about the spirit? Come, let us strengthen our courage! We have to fight the giant yet! Let us not be afraid of these dwarfs! Let the ordinary trials of every day be laughed at! In the strength of divine grace, let us sing with our poet,
"Weak as I am, yet through Your strength,
I can perform all things."
For if we cannot bear these, how will we manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will we fare when it is our time to die?"
This is what the text was primarily meant to teach us. We will now use it for a further purpose.
V. The question may be asked as A MATTER OF CAUTION.
In this assembly today, there are some who have no hope, and no faith in Christ. Now I think, if they will look within their own lives, they will find that they are by no means completely at peace. The pleasures of this world are very sweet; but how soon they sicken the appetite. After a night of partying there is often the morning of regret. "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine."
It is almost a universal confession that the joys of earth promise more than they produce, and that in looking back on them, the wisest must confess with Solomon, "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." Now if these things seem to be meaningless while you are in good physical health, how will they appear when you are sick? If they are meaningless while you can enjoy them, what will they appear to you when you must say goodbye to them? If it was meaningless to the rich man while he was dressed in the finest of clothes, and lived luxuriously every day, what greater vanity it must have been when it was said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
How will you manage in the Jordan, how will you fare when it is your time to die? How will you manage when these earthly joys vanish, and there will be only a depressing emptiness before you? Moreover, you already feel that your conscience is troubling you. You cannot live without God and be at peace, unless you are one of those few who are blind to His justice and have hardened your heart. You will not set aside an hour to quietly think about yourself and your state, rather you simply go to your bed and fall asleep. You know that the only way some of you can keep any peace of mind at all, is by going from one gala affair to another, and from one party to another, or else from business to business, and from care to care. Your poor soul, is like the infant which is to be thrown into the fiery arms of the false god Moloch [mow-lock], it screams, but you do not hear its cries, because you drown it with the noisy drums of this world's pleasures and cares; but still you are not at rest; there is a worm in your fair fruit, there is filthy residue at the bottom of your sweetest cups, and you know it. Now, if even now you are not perfectly at peace; if in this land of peace where you have placed your trust you are getting tired of these things, then "how will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
Moreover, you sometimes have, if I am not mistaken, very strange fears. I have known some of the most reckless sinners who have had fearful times, when nobody could cheer them up; when a certain fearful expectation of judgment has haunted them. The most superstitious people in the world are those who are the most godless. It is a strange thing that there is always that weak point about those who seem to be most hardened. But you that are not yet hardened, you know that you dare not look forward to death with any pleasureyou cannot; to go to a gravesite is never a very joyous experience for you. If you were certain that there would be no more death, it would be the best news that you have ever heard; whereas to some of us it would be the worst news that could ever come. Well! if the very thought of death is bitter, what will the reality be? And if to gaze at it from a distance is too hard a thing for your mind, what will it be like to know that the poison of death is flowing through your veins? What will you do? "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
Well, I will not describe what you will do. I have seen how others in your situation have acted: the man is awakened, and sees the dreadful doom to which death is driving him, and he pulls back and shrinks from the wrath to come, and cries and shrieks, and perhaps swears that he will not die; and yet he must die and be dragged down to that place where he must lift up his eyes and see nothing that can give him hopenothing that can take away the sharpness of his anguish. May God use these words as a warning to many of you who are now listening to this sermon. Some of you men and women may be nearer to death than you realize. I want you to answer two questions, "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare when it is your time to die?"
VI. But now I intend to use the question as EXCITING MEDITATION in the hearts of those who have given their lives to Christ, and who consequently are prepared to die whenever the summons may come.
Well, what will you do, how will we behave ourselves when we come to die? I sat down to try and think this matter over, but I cannot, in the short time allotted to me, even give you a brief view of the thoughts that passed through my mind. I began this way, "How will I manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will I fare when it is my time to die?"
Well, as a believer in Christ, perhaps, I may never come there at all, for there are some that will be alive at the coming of the Son of Man in the Rapture, and these will never die. For so says the Apostle: "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changedin a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet." This thought we wish to keep ever before us. My real hope is in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would far rather see the Master return than see the messenger of Death. I regulate my life as one who is looking for and accelerating the coming of The Son of Man. I will not pay more attention to the servant than to the Lord of all. "Come, Lord Jesus! yes, come quickly," is the prayer of our hearts continually; and as the bride of Christ, we ought to have our hearts filled with rapture at the thought of his return to claim us as his own. If he sends for us before that time, "It is good;" but it would be even better if we can see him return for us, bearing our salvation. A sweet truth, which we place first in our meditation, I may not die, but I must and shall be changed.
Then I thought again, "How will I manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will I fare in the hour of my death?" I may go through it in the twinkling of an eye. Remember that good man, who some time ago was getting ready to preach as usual, but the sermon was never delivered on earth, how quickly was he taken to his rest; and how happy it is just to close one's eyes on earth, and open them in heaven. Such also was the death of one of God's aged servants, Mr. Alleine, who had fought hard for the truth. He was suddenly taken ill, and was advised to go to bed. "No," he said, "I will die in my chair, and I am not afraid to die." He sat down, and only had time to say, "My life is hid with Christ in God," and he closed his eyes and fell asleep in Christ.
When Ananias, a martyr knelt to lay his white head on the chopping block, it was said to him as he closed his eyes to receive the stroke of death, "Shut your eyes a little, old man, and immediately you shall see the light of God." I envy such a calm departing. Sudden death, sudden glory; taken away in Elijah's chariot of fire, with the horses driven at the rate of lightning, so that the spirit scarcely knows that it has left the clay, before it sees the brightness of the divine vision. Well, that may take away some of the apprehension of death, the thought that we may not be even a moment in the swelling of the Jordan.
Then again, I thought, if I must pass through the swelling of the Jordan, yet the real act of death takes no time at all. We hear of suffering on a dying bed; the suffering is all connected with life, it is not death. The actual thing called death, as far as we know it, is not painful; it is the life that is in us, that makes us suffer, death only gives a little pin-prick, and it is all over. Moreover, if I pass through the swelling of the Jordan, I may do so without suffering any pain. A dying bed is sometimes very painful; with certain diseases, and especially with strong men, it is often hard for the body and soul to separate from each other. But it has been my happy experience to see some deaths so pleasing, that I could not help remarking, that it was worth living, only for the sake of dying as some have died. We have seen death by tuberculosis for instance; how very often it gently takes down the frame; how quietly the soul departs; and in old age, and feebleness, how easily the spirit seems to get away from the cage that was broken, which only needed one blow, and the imprisoned bird flies straight away to its eternal resting-place.
Well, since I cannot tell in what physical state I may be in when I come to die, I just tried to think again, how will I manage in the swelling of the Jordan? I hope I will do as others have done before me, who have built on the same rock, and had the same promises to be their help. They cried, "Victory!" So shall I, and after that die quietly and in peace. If the same transporting scene may not be mine, I will at least lay my head upon my Savior's chest, and breathe my life out gently there. You have a right, Christian, to expect that as other Christians have died so shall you. How will you die? Why, you will die as your sainted mother did; you will die as your father did. How will I die? Why, as I meditated on this I took down my little book of "Promises," for I thought, I shall certainly do as God says I shall. Well, how is that? "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you." And again, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." And again, "he will swallow up death forever." And again, "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, your God, is with you. I will not fail you or forsake you." You know how many dying pillows God has made for his dear people in the hour of their departure. "How will I manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will I fare at the time of my death?" Why, I will be courageous and patient, if God shall keep his promise as we know he will.
Now let me speak to you all againI mean you that are in Christ. "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare in the hour of death?" Why, you will do as a man does who has had a long day's walk, and he can see his home. You will clap your hands. You will sit down upon rock to rest with tears in your eyes, and wipe the sweat from your face and say, "It is good, it is over. Oh how happy it is to see my own home, and the place where my best friends, and my family lives. I shall soon be at homeat home forever with the Lord."
How will you manage? Why we will do as a soldier does when the battle has ended; he takes off his armor, stretches himself out on the ground to rest. The battle is all over. He forgets his wound, and thinks of the glory of the victory and the reward which follows. This is what we will also do. We will begin to forget the wounds, and the uniforms splattered with blood, and we will think of the "the crown of glory that will never fade away."
How will we manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will we fare at the hour of our death? We will do as men do when they leave for a foreign country. They look back upon those they leave behind, and wave their hands as long as they can still see their loved ones; but they are soon gone. And we will bid good-bye to our loved ones; they shall have the tears, but we shall have the joy, for we go to the islands of the blessed ones, the land of eternity, the home of the sanctified, to live with God forever. Who will weep when he starts on such a voyage, and launches out on such a blessed trip!
What will we do when we come into the swelling of the Jordan? Why I think, dear friends, we shall then begin to see through the veil, and to enjoy the paradise of the blessed which is ours forever. We will make that dying bed a throne, and we will sit and reign there with Christ Jesus. We will think of that river Jordan as being one tributary of the river of life, which flows at the foot of the throne of the Most High. We will live in the land of promise on the edge of the Jordan, with our feet in the cold stream, singing of the better land. We will hear the songs of angels, as celestial breezes bring them across the narrow stream. And sometimes we will have in our hearts some of the spices from the Mountains of Myrrh, which Christ shall give us across the river.
We are not looking forward to death with any fear, with any dread. When we get ready for bed tonight, we shall begin to take off our garments one by one. We will not shed a tear. Nor will we when we come to die.
"Since Jesus is mine, I will not fear undressing,
But gladly put off these garments of clay;
To die in the Lord is a comfort and blessing,
Since Jesus to glory through death led the way."
This is how we will do it in the swelling of the Jordan. We will take off our garments to put on celestial robes. Just as the bridegroom longs for the marriage day, and as the bride waits until she is joined to her husband in wedlock, even so our spirits wait for God. As the exiled person pants to be delivered, and the galley-slave to be separated from his oar, so we wait to be set free for glory and immortality. As the wife longs for her absent husbands return, as the child longs to reach his father's house and to see his father's face, so do we.
I must finish, for time has gone. But I meant to have said a word or two of warning. I can only do so now briefly, abridging them and compressing the thoughts as tightly as I can. "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare in the time of death?" may be well used as a warning.
I think, dear friends, you ought to ask yourselves one question. Some of you never think of dying, and yet you should. You say you may live long: you may, and you may not. If there were a great number of loaves of bread on this table, and you were to eat one every day; if you were told that one of those loaves had poison in it, I think you would begin eating each one with great caution; and knowing that one of them would bring your death, you would take each up with silent dread. Now, you have only so many days to live, and in one of those days there is the poison of death. I do not know which one. It may be tomorrow; it may not be until many a day has gone by. But I think you ought to handle all your days with holy jealousy. Is this not a fair allegory? If it is, then let me ask you to think upon the question, "How will you manage in the swelling of the Jordan? How will you fare in the hour of your death?"
You grant that you will die, and you may die soon. Is it not foolish to be living in this world without a thought of what you will do at your hour of death? A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order his wine, his dinner, and his sleeping accommodations; there is no delicacy which he forgets to order, there is no luxury which he denies himself. He stops at the inn for some time. In time there comes the bill, and he says, "Oh, I never thought of thatI never thought of that!" "Why," says the owner of the inn, "here is a man who is either a born fool or else a swindler. What! Never thought of the amount coming duenever thought of settling your accounts!" And yet this is how some of you live. You have this, and that, and the other thing in the world's inn (for it is nothing but an inn), and soon you have to go your own way, and yet you have never thought of the day when you must settle your accounts!
You have either been a dishonest man, or else you must be supremely foolish, to be spending every day in this world's inn, and yet to be ignoring the thought of the great day of accounting. But remember, though you may forget it, God does not. Every day is adding to the score. Photographed in heaven is every action that you perform. Your very thoughts are photographed upon the eternal mind; and in the day when the book shall be opened it will not go well with you. Perhaps you will say, as one did in the Book of Kings, "Well, I was busy here and there", "I was looking after my family and my property; I was looking after politics; I was seeing after such-and-such an investment; and now my soul is gone." What will it profit you, though you gain the whole world and lose your own soul.
It is not any of my business what happens to you, except this, that I desire to talk with you about your soul, that if you do perish it will not be charged to my neglect. What would you say to that soldier who was told by his commanding officer to fight with the enemy on the field of battle, and the so-called soldier were to reply, "I don't know anything about battles or fighting; I never thought of the battle field, I can do anything but fight!" The general would be angry and amazed. He would want to know what the soldier lived for, if it were not to fight and defend his country in the hour of his country's need.
What do we live for, if it is not to prepare for the life after death? We were sent into this world and told that we are to "prepare to meet our God," but then if we do everything else but this one thing: this will not be wise; and when the Lord of the whole earth shall come out of his place to judge the sons of men, bitterly shall we regret our foolishness. Be wise now, remember this, and consider you are coming to the end of your life. What words shall I use to urge you to consider the subject and take my warning. Is heaven a place you would like to enter? Is hell a place you would like to avoid, or will you make your bed in it forever? Are you in love with eternal misery that you insanely run after it? Oh, stop; Turn! Turn! Why will you die? I pray that you stop and consider. Consideration does no man harm. Second thoughts here are for the best. Think and think, and think again, and oh, may God lead you, through thinking to feel your danger, and may you then accept that gracious remedy which is in Christ Jesus; for whoever believes in him is not condemned, whosoever trusts in Christ is saved. Sin is forgiven, the soul is accepted, the spirit is blessed the moment it trusts the Savior.
Before I close the subject, I must guide your thoughts to what is the true preparation for death. Three things present themselves to my mind as being our duty in connection with our dying hour.
1. First seek to be washed in the Red Sea of the dear Redeemer's blood, come in contact with the death of Christ, and by faith in his death, then you will be prepared to meet your own.
Without giving an opinion on the merit of that system of medicine which professes to cure diseases by producing an effect on our bodies that is like the original disease, or as they put it, "inoculation," we recommend it in spiritual things; come into union with Christ's death, and that will take away the evil and sting of your own. Be buried with him in baptism unto death, and have a part with him in the reality symbolized in that blessed ordinance, and you will not dread Jordan's swellings, because the full tide of the Redeemer's blood has rolled over you, and you are washed and clean. If guilt is on your conscience, it will be as a millstone around your neck and you will sink to endless woe; but if the love of Jesus is in your heart, it will keep your head from sinking and keep you safe, so that although your heart and flesh fail you, you will have God to be the strength of your heart and your portion for ever.
2. Learn from the Apostle Paul to "die daily."
Practice the duty of self-denial and the chastening of the flesh till it will become a habit with you, and when you have to lay down the flesh and part with everything, you will be only continuing the course of life you have pursued all alone. No wonder that dying should prove to be hard work if you are completely unused to it in thought and expectation. If death comes to me as a stranger, I may be startled, but if I have prepared myself to receive him, he may come and knock at my door and I shall say, "I am ready to go with you, for I have been expecting you all my life."
How beautiful is this expression of the Apostle, "I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure." He was waiting for death as for a friend, and when it came, I am sure he was very pleased to go. He tells us he had a "desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Even so may we learn to look at the time when we shall hear the summons, "Come up here," as a time to be longed for rather than dreaded. Learn to daily submit your will to God's will. Learn to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross, so that when the last conflict comes it may find you able by the grace of God to bear the brunt of the final contest with unflinching courage. And as the last preparation of the end of life, I advise a continual course of active service and obedience to the command of God.
I have frequently thought that no happier place to die could be found, then that of one's post of duty. If I were a soldier, I think I should like to die with victory shouting in my ear, or as Nelson died in the midst of his greatest success. Preparation for death does not mean going off alone to our bedrooms and retiring from the world, but rather it means active service, "doing the duty of the day." The best preparation for sleep, the healthiest sedative, is hard work, and one of the best things to prepare us for sleeping in Jesus, is to live in him an active life of going about doing good. The attitude in which I wish death to find me is, waiting and watching; at work, doing my allotted task, and multiplying my talent for the master's glory. The lazy person may not anticipate rest, but workers will look forward to the hour when they will hear the words, "It is finished."
3. Keep your eye on the reward.
Lay up treasures in heaven, and thus will you be ready to cross the river and enter the loved land, where heart and treasure have gone beforehand, to prepare the way. Washed in the blood of Christ, accustomed to submit to whatever God wills, and to find our pleasure in doing his will on earth as we hope to do it in heaven, joined to a life of holy service, and I am persuaded that we shall be prepared to say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith," and with him, calmly and joyfully to anticipate the crown which does not fade away. God bring you to this point, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Online since 1986