Sermon 1373. Our Last Journey
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 9, 1877,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"When a few years are come, then I shall go the way from where I shall not return." Job 16:22.
THE season of the year may well remind us of our mortality. The corn, which a few weeks ago was green and vigorous, has now,for the most part, yielded to the sickle. Many flowers which adorned our gardens have exchanged their bloom for ripening seed.The year has commenced to die-its glory and prime have gone. The dews of evening are heavy and the mists linger in the morning,for the summer heat is declining. The leaves are just upon the turn and the fall of the year is close at hand. These are Creation'swarnings, reminding us that the Lord has set a harvest for us and that we all fade as a leaf.
Nature has her prophets as well as Revelation and Autumn in his rugged garb is one of them. He has now come to us with thissolemn message, "The harvest is passed and the summer is ended; prepare to meet your God!" In addition to the warnings ofNature, we have lately been saluted by voices from Divine Providence. Loud calls have come to us, of late, from almost everypart of our Church work. Death is come up into our windows and is entered into our palaces. Death, who seldom comes into theOrphanage, has forced his cruel hand into our nest of young ones and has taken from there the widow's child.
A funeral has left our gates and little boys have gathered around a grave to see one like themselves laid in the silent earth.Death has set his axe, also, against the College and has cut down one of our growing trees, upon which there were abundanttokens of future fruitfulness. Our brother Winter had sharpened his sword for the conflict and was just about to leave usfor actual service, when, in a few days his strength departed and he was not. Death has come, also, among the ministers whowere once our students and were our crown of rejoicing as laborers for the Lord.
One of the ablest and best of them has put a whole town in mourning, for he has been taken Home at an early age, when he hadalready become foremost for usefulness. Middlesborough mourns our brother Priter with no common sorrow. Beyond all this, almostevery day we have reports of this one and that one in the membership and in the congregation going home. These dying onesare God's voices to us and I should be unworthy of addressing you if I did not, first, hear them in the silence of my ownsoul and then endeavor to interpret them for you.
All these things bring to my mind the language of our text, "When a few years are come, then I shall go the way from whereI shall not return." Will they not have the same effect upon you? He that has ears to hear let him hear! My subject is oneupon which it would be quite impossible to say anything new, since death is neither novel nor uncommon, for from the daysof Abel until now it has honeycombed the earth with graves. Nor need I seek out elegancies of speech, for these would be incongruouswith such a theme.
When we speak of eternal things, the less attempt we make at fluent language the better-such solemn topics are most powerfulwhen suffered to have their own natural voice and speak for themselves. Begone all trifling thoughts! Let the mind put offall joyous apparel and wear, awhile, the shroud. Instead of rising with gaiety, let the imagination bow with solemnity, fornow we have to do with the dying chamber, the grave and the Judgment Throne. The blast of the archangel's trumpet is ringingin our ears and we are to anticipate the day in which we shall receive our final sentence from the Judge of all the earth!
Solemnity, therefore, should possess our minds. Let us shut out the present world and become familiar with the world to come.Very simple and self-evident will be the considerations which I shall set before you. But if you are already moved to a solemnframe of mind, you will be prepared to derive profit from them. May God the Holy Spirit bless the Word and by its means prepareus for our last day of which the text speaks so plainly.
First, then, let us realize our inevitable journey-"I shall go the way from where I shall not return." Secondly, let us contemplateits nearness-"When a few years are come." Thirdly, let us consider our non-return from the journey- "From where I shall notreturn." And then we shall close, in the fourth place, by enquiring where we are going. We are going from where we shall notreturn, but to what place are we bound? Is it endless bliss or ceaseless woe?
I. First, then, let us REALIZE OUR INEVITABLE JOURNEY. I desire that these words may be earnestly taken up in a personal mannerby each of us. The language is in the singular number. "I shall go the way from where I shall not return." Let us apply it,each one, to himself. The fact that all men are mortal has little power over our minds, for we always make a tacit exceptionand put off the evil day for ourselves. We acknowledge ourselves to be mortal, but do not expect to die just now. Even theaged look forward to a continuance of life and the consumptive dream of possible recovery.
I will not, therefore, remind you so much of the general truth, but place before you the individual, pointed, personal declarationof the text. "I." The preacher. You, each one of you looking upon the preacher now-"I shall go the way from where I shallnot return." As surely as you live, you will die! It may help you to realize this fact if I ask you to accompany me, firstof all, into the chamber of a dying man. As you look upon him I entreat you to remember that you, yourself, will lie therein the same condition before long.
It is sometimes my duty-and a very hard and painful task it is-to communicate to sick and dying persons the fact that it isnot possible that they should recover. One beats about the bush a little, but at last you come with tenderness to the sadpoint and say, "Friend, do you know that there is very little hope, if any, that you can recover? In fact, it is as nearlycertain as a thing can be that you must die. Your physicians are compelled to believe that your end is near." The news istaken in different ways-sometimes it is not believed. At other times it occasions a thrill of pain which wounds your heartand cuts your soul to the quick.
In many cases it is received with calm, patient resignation, but frequently I have the tidings accepted with joy and the manof God has said, "It is a thing I have longed for! Now shall I be rid of this weary pain and see the face of Him whom my soulloves." Yet it is a solemn business. Take it how you may-solemn to those who tell the news and more solemn, still, to thosewho hear it. Look, then, at the poor dying man wasting away before your eyes. He must now go to his long home. He must go.No one can delay his departure. The chariot is at the door. If he could offer all the gold of the Indies he could not bribeinexorable Death. No, he may be master of a mint of treasure, but it cannot buy him an hour's life. His time is come and hemust go.
His beloved wife would gladly detain him, but he must be torn from her embrace. His children weep, but he must not stay todry their tears. A kind friend would almost make an exchange and die in his place, but there can be no proxies here. Thereis no discharge in this war. It is appointed unto all men once to die and die he must. The hour is come! His pulse is slow!His eyes are glazing! Look at him! Do you not feel for a man in such solemn circumstances? There must you, also, lie-and thusmust you, also, depart. I ask you to place yourself in his place and try, this morning, to feel as he must feel, seeing itis absolutely certain that to such a condition you, also, must come, unless, indeed, the Lord should descend from Heaven witha shout, of which we know so little as to when it may be.
How the individuality of a man comes out in his dying hour! What an important being he becomes! You think more of that oneman, while dying, than of all the thousands of the living who parade our streets. No matter who he is, he is dying and wetread softly. Poor man, he must now die and die alone. And now how important his character becomes! His life, his own life,is now being put into the balance and he is looking back upon it. It is the most important thing in the universe to him. Hisoutward circumstances are now a small matter-his life is the main consideration. Was he righteous or wicked? Did he fear Godor despise Him?
Whether he was rich or poor, his rank and station are subjects of indifference. The hangings of the bed are of very smallaccount-the man who lies there is the only concern. Whether he is now waited upon by the best physician, hired by the costliestfee, or whether he lies in the hospital tended by gentle charity, it is the man, himself, the man's soul, the man's personalcharacter that is now seen in all its grandeur, demanding his whole thought. Whether he is a peer or peasant, king or serf,it is much the same to each man to die. Differences on the dying bed arise out of character and not out of rank.
Now he has to face, for himself, the great things of eternity and cannot leave them to another. He used to hear about eternityas one of the mass, but now he has to experience it alone-by himself. Into the cold river his own feet must descend, the coolwaves must chill his blood, death must close his eyes and into the unknown future he must plunge! No brother's hand can grasphis when he has quit the body. No fellow mortal can fly side by side with him through the unknown tracks. How vividly theindividuality of the man comes out and the need of a personal interest in the great salvation!
How much it is to be desired that it could be made quite as plain under happier circumstances. And yet how clear it is thateach one of us must believe in the Savior for himself. We must each serve God personally and each have a good hope throughDivine Grace worked in his own soul. Will men never think of this till they come to die? And now that candle burning in thesick man's chamber sheds a strange light upon his past life. Some said he was fortunate, but if he was sinful, where is hisgood fortune? Men said he was a poor unsuccessful muddler. But he will be worth as much, in a short time, as if he had beenthe most prudent and had prospered in the world-for here all men are the same-"Naked came I out of my mother's womb and nakedmust I return there."
So must it be. In death the financial element looks contemptible and the moral and the spiritual come to be most esteemed.How did he live? What were his thoughts? What was his heart towards God? Did he repent of sin? Does he still repent? Doeshe believe in Jesus? Is he resting upon the finished work of Christ, or not? He, perhaps, failed to ask himself some of thosequestions a little while ago, but now, if he is in his sober senses, he is compelled to put his soul through its paces. Howdoes his heart answer when cross-examined? Now he must reach down the accounts, the memoranda and the day-book of his life-andhe must look to what he did and what he was-and what he is.
Ah me! How will the reckoning end? What will the sum total be? It matters little what he was before his fellow men, whosejudgments are fallible. The question is, what was he before the all-searching eyes of the Most High God? Such an account youwill have to render. The individuality of the man is clear-and the man's character before God. And now it is also evidentthat death tests all things. If you look upon this poor dying man you see that he is past the time for pretences and shams.You yourself, if you knew but little of him before, feel very concerned to know whether the religion he professed was truthfulor not-whether he was really regenerate or merely dreamed that he was. If you wish to answer that question, how much moredoes that poor dying man want to know for himself?
Here let me tell you that very much of the comfort with which we wrap ourselves up in days of health proves to be very sorrystuff when we come to die. While you are in good health and strength, you often derive a measure of peace of mind from thingswhich will not stand the fiery ordeal of an approaching eternity. Some of the best men that ever lived have found this out.You may know the name of Mr. Durham, the author of a famous book on Solomon's Song, one of the most earnest of Scotland'sancient preachers.
Some days before he died, he seemed to be in some perplexity about his future well-being, and said to his friend, Mr. Carstairs,"Dear Brother, for all that I have written or preached, there is but one Scripture which I can now remember or dare grip unto,now that I am hastening to the grave. It is this-'Whoever comes unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.' Pray tell me if I darelay the weight of my salvation upon it." Mr. Carstairs justly replied, "Brother, you may depend upon it though you had a thousandsalvations at hazard."
You see, it was a plain,, sinner's text that he rested on. Just as Dr. Guthrie wanted them to sing a bairn's hymn, so do dyingsaints need the plain elementary doctrines of the Gospel to rest upon. Those fine ideas and dainty notions of our nearingperfection and becoming completely sanctified, dissolve like the hoar frost in the sun when we come face to face with eternity!Those grand excitements, those high enjoyments and those deep experiences which lead us to think ourselves to be somebodiesin the Church of God are of small account in dying moments! Men cannot die on stilts! Death finds out the truth of our conditionand blows away, with his cold breath, a heap of chaff which we thought to be good wheat!
Then a man has to look to the mercy of God, to the blood of the Covenant and to the promises of the Gospel-and to cling asa poor needy, guilty sinner to free, rich, Sovereign Grace, or else his spirit will utterly sink. When life is ebbing, nothingwill do but the faithful saying, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." I have heard children of God speak intheir last moments just as seeking souls speak. They come to God, again, just as they came at first-and they find in Jesusall their hope! Dying men need realities! They need a sinner's Savior! They need atonement for guilt, for
only then can they pass out of the world with hope! Oh, Brothers and Sisters, follow after that which is solid and real, fornothing else will serve your turn when you come to die.
Keep your eyes on that dying man whom I have tried to picture-he is vividly before me now. He must go. There is no alternative.He cannot resist the power which now summons him to depart. Willing or unwilling, it matters not-he must go. The sheriff'sofficer has him in his grip and he must go. Is he prepared? Pray God he may be! But whether he is or not, it makes no difference.He must leave all and take his journey. Has he children dependent upon him and a wife who needs his support? Their necessitiescannot detain him, he must go. Has he made his will, or has he left all his business affairs in a tangle? Whichever it is,he must go.
The tide which bears all before it has seized his boat and even now it drifts down the stream. That man who must go is yourself-projectedonly a little way further into time! Can you not realize what will certainly be the fact? Can you not already hear the tickingof the watch at your bed in the silence of your last night? Can you not anticipate that mysterious consultation of physicians,when each one admits to his colleagues his incompetence to suggest a remedy? It is clear that the hour is come-you must go.This must happen to every mortal man and woman sitting or standing in this house this morning. Will you not lay it to heart?
Now survey another scene to help you realize your departure. Look no longer on the dying, but bend over the dead. It is allover. He has breathed his last and he now lies upstairs in a darkened chamber. A loving one has stolen in and tremblinglylifted the coffin lid to gaze once more upon the dear face and say another adieu-but there can be no more of this. The friendshave gathered and the mourners must go through the streets and bear him to the tomb. That funeral is yours! The corpse isborne to the grave and on the road it silently preaches to all passersby. Archbishop Leighton one morning was asked by a friend,"Have you heard a sermon?" He said, "No, but I met a sermon, for I met a dead man carried out to be buried."
Let every funeral be a discourse to you. Within a short time it will happen to each one of us that we must lie within thenarrow limits of the coffin. And then will come, for us, the opened grave, the lowering of our corpse and the gathering ofmourners around it. Upon your coffin lid and mine the mold shall fall-"Earth to earth, dust to dust and ashes to ashes." Agreen mound, a daisy or two amid the grass, a friend to bring a few fading flowers to scatter on our graves. Perhaps a head-stone,perhaps not-to this we must all come. "Here he lies" is the universal epitaph. On the lap of earth you will lie. There shallI, also, lie. Realize it-it is so near, so sure! When a few years shall come we shall be with the unnumbered throng!
Now let your realization go a little further. Can you picture the spirit of a man as it leaves the body? I confess my imaginationdoes not enable me to picture it, myself, and certainly my words are not competent to convey to you what little I can realizein my mind. The soul finds itself rid of materialism-how will it feel when it has shaken itself loose of its shell of clay?I cannot tell. We all love this earthly house of our tabernacle and leave it with reluctance-
"For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey, This pleasing anxious being ever resigned, Left the warm precincts of the cheerfulday, Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?" But it does not matter what lingering looks we cast, our soul will havedone with the body in its present fashion and it must, for a while, dwell apart from all materialism.
At once it must come before God! Its state will immediately, after death, be known to it beyond a question. In a moment itwill know beyond all doubt whether it is accepted before God! And beyond all hope it will know whether it is reprobate andcondemned! That knowledge will at once commence its happiness, a happiness which will be increased as ages roll on-or thatknowledge will at once commence its misery, which will deepen evermore! The soul will abide in the disembodied state for awhile. And then will come the clarion note of the Resurrection trumpet and the body shall rise again to be again inhabitedby the soul.
What will the meeting be? What will be the sensation of the remarriage of mind with matter, of soul with body? We know not.The Resurrection is the blessed hope of the Christian, but it is a terrible dread to the ungodly. The soul shall never morereturn to the world's cares, nor to the world at all as the world now is, but it shall again inhabit the body and stand beforethe Judgment Seat of Christ to receive the verdict from the lips of Him who is appointed Judge of all
mankind! The Divine verdict is given and the soul must continue its journey. Still onward must it go-whether accepted or condemned-onwardit must go.
Onward, exulting in a bliss unspeakable like to the Divine, if Christ pronounces it blessed! Onward, in a misery unutterableif Christ pronounces it "cursed." I do not know whether you are able, in imagination, to place yourself in such a condition,but in such a condition you will certainly be found before long. You will be stripped of this house of clay and so you willdie, but you will live again, yes, live forever! You will live to be judged, to be justified or to be condemned! And thenyou will live forever in happiness or torment-and all this you will know in a short time to come. Thus I have helped you asbest I could and, I fear, but poorly, to realize the inevitable journey.
II. Now, let us very briefly CONTEMPLATE ITS MEANING. Very soon we shall have to start upon our solemn and mysterious pilgrimage.If we should fulfill the entire tale of our years, the allotted period of human life is but short. The text in the Hebrewspeaks of "years of number." They are so few that a child may count them. At the commencement of life, the view before uslooks like an endless avenue, but as we advance along the path, the end seems very near and we perceive how short our timereally is.
Middle life has but a short view, either backwards or forwards. As for some of you, upon whom age is descending, you shouldbe well enough aware how short, for certain, your time for lingering here must be. Your lease has almost run out! Do you doubtit? What are 70 or 80 years, if we live so long? But we are further warned by the consideration that we cannot safely reckonupon the whole of that brief period, for children are carried away and young men are cut down by the scythe-and we frequentlysee the maiden, before she reaches the full bloom of her years, carried off with Death as her bridegroom.
Does not the text say, "a few years"? Read it months, read it days, read it hours, read it minutes, for we cannot tell howsoon we must set sail for the far-off land! In a short time we must join the great caravan and cross the desert to a landfrom where we shall not return. Life is so short that we have scarcely begun to live before we are called to die! Therefore,dear Brothers and Sisters, if there is anything grievous to be borne, we may well bear it cheerfully, for it cannot last long.When a few years are come we shall be gone from the thorn and the briar which now prick and wound!
Therefore, if there is any work to be done for Jesus, let us do it at once-or else we shall never do it-for when a few yearsare come we shall have gone from where we shall not return! Therefore, if there is salvation to be sought, let us seek it,for soon we shall be where salvation is no more proclaimed! And if worldly goods are possessed by us, let us hold them veryloosely, for in a short time we must leave them! Let us lay them out for God's Glory, for our stewardship will not last longand we shall soon have to give an account! And therefore, above all things, we must realize the need of being always preparedto die. Oh, Brothers and Sisters, he who is to die next had need be ready. Who is he?
An old man who used to sell goods from house to house had an eccentric cry of his own which he was known to utter wheneverhe sold goods at the door. He would cry out aloud, "Who'll be the next? Who'll be the next?" One day a funeral passed justas he had given out his usual cry and, strange enough, sounded the question-"Who'll be the next?" I may ask with solemn emphasiswhenever the cemetery's gates are opened and the funeral passes through, "Who will be the next? Who will be the next?"
Your hymn says, "Who will be the next to follow Jesus?" But I must ask, this morning, "Who will be the next among us to becarried to the silent tomb?" To be ready to depart is wisdom. It is the mark of the beast that it looks not beyond the presentmouthful of grass which it crops from the ground-it never thinks of the butcher's knife and the shambles. Be not as the bruteswhich perish, but, being gifted with minds, use them to look before you! It is the mark of the fool that he never looks beforehe leaps but is content with present enjoyments though they leave him penniless! Be not as the fool, but be prudent and lookbefore you and consider your latter end!
It is the mark of the worldling that he confines his thoughts within the narrow range of time. The Christian looks into theeverlasting future as an immortal being should do. Be not worldlings, lest you perish with them! May God make you wise untosalvation! To be prepared to die is an immediate duty-will you neglect it? Some imagine that to be prepared to die would involvea life of perpetual gloom. If it did so, it were well to face it! When a man comes to die and finds himself prepared, evenif he had endured 50 years of perpetual anguish of heart and had denied himself every worldly comfort, he would think himselfwell repaid to have the prospect of a blessed future!
Heaven at any price is well secured. A good hope through Grace is worth a thousand worlds. But it is a mistake to supposethat melancholy attends upon fitness to die. Why should it? To be unprepared for death and to know that it may come at anymoment is a fair reason for sadness-but to have that great matter secure must surely be a source ofjoy! To be prepared todie is to be prepared to live! To be ready for eternity is, in the best sense, to be ready for time. Who so fit to live onearth as the man who is fit to live in Heaven? Who has brightness of the eyes? Is it not the man who has looked within thegate of pearl and seen his place prepared among the blessed?
Who has lightness of heart? Is it not the man who is unloaded of his sin and has found mercy through the blood of Christ?Who can go to his bed and sleep in peace and wake with joy-who but the man that is reconciled to God by the death of His Son?Who has the best of this world as well as the world to come? Is it not he to whom death has now become a changed thing, acherub that has lost its way-no longer destruction, but rather development and admission into a higher and nobler life? Sincereadiness for death is peace and happiness and is, above measure, necessary in prospect of the eternal state, let us see toit at once!
We are to be gone so soon-let us gird up our loins for our solemn journey. There is no time to spare! The end is drawing near.Every flying moment is hastening on our last hour. It is high time to awake out of sleep and in earnest make ready to meetthe Bridegroom who is already on His way!
III. Now, thirdly, I want you to CONSIDER THE FACT THAT WE SHALL NOT RETURN-"When a few years are come, then I shall go theway from where I shall not return." To the occupations of life-to sow, reap, and mow. To the abodes of life-to the store andto the country house. To the pleasures of life-the festival and the family-we shall not return. To the engagements of thesanctuary, the communion table, the pulpit, or the pew-we shall not return. To the chamber of love, to the hearth of affection,to the walk of friendship-we shall not return. To hopes, fears, joys and pains-we shall not return. To summer's flowers andwinter's snows we shall not return.
To our brothers, children, husband, or wife, we shall not return. To nothing that is done under the sun shall we return! Soul,unsaved Soul, to the land of the Gospel and the Mercy Seat you shall not return! If you die unsaved you will not be able tocome back to the House of God to hear the ministry of reconciliation! You will hear no more invitations and expostulations,neither will Jesus be set before you as your hope! You will not be able to come back to the Prayer Meeting and to the earnestentreaties of a godly mother and other loving friends-nor even back to your Bible and to the opportunity of searching it thatyou may find eternal life!
You will not return to find space for repentance, nor a second opportunity for prayer, nor another season for believing inJesus. It shall be said concerning you, "He which is filthy, let him be filthy still." Where the tree falls there must itlie. Once pass the barriers of life unsaved and you cannot return to a new probation. The die is cast. Beloved Christian Friends,we need not wish to return! What is there here that should either tempt us to stay in this world or induce us to return toit if we could? Still, I could suppose, in a future state, some reasons for wishing to return. I can suppose we might haveit in our hearts, for instance, to wish to undo the mischief which we did in life.
If a dying man should receive mercy in his last moments, one might imagine him as desiring to return to earth to tell theglad tidings and beseech his family and friends to seek salvation. Who would not wish, for once, to plead with his childrenif he felt that he had neglected his duty to them? A man might wish, even if he were in the unquenchable flames, to come backto earth or to send a messenger, as the rich man did, to tell his brothers and sisters lest they should come into the placeof torment. Selfishness might wish to be spared the reproaches of those we helped to ruin. But you cannot come back or sendback to undo your ill deeds!
Therefore seek to mend matters now. Avoid the doing of evil and, as for that which is already done, confess it before Godand seek to administer the antidote by an earnest and godly life. You cannot come back to carry out those good resolutionswhich, as yet, are as unripe fruit. Young man, you mean to do good some day, do you not? You have it in your heart to leada grand life. Well, you must do it now, for you cannot come hack to revise your conduct. It will not be possible to correctand amend it, for death stereotypes all. After death you cannot return to develop your promises into performances! Thereforeresolve to do them now.
We shall not be able to come back to finish the work we have began. The half-built house will never be completed by our labor.We have many projects which are but half-developed-we had better proceed with them or they will never be completed. If weleave our ships on the stocks, we shall not be able to return to launch them. When our lives below are at
an end we have reached the finis of our earthly career. Neither can we come back to rectify any mistake we have made in ourlifework, or even return to look after it, in order to preserve that which was good in it.
I sometimes think if I were in Heaven I could almost wish to visit my work at the Tabernacle, to see whether it will abidethe test of time and prosper when I am gone. Will you keep to the Truth of God? Will you hold to the grand old doctrines ofthe Gospel? Or will this Church, like so many others, go astray from the simplicity of its faith and set up gaudy servicesamid false doctrine? I think I should turn over in my grave if such a thing could be. God forbid it! But there will be nocoming back and, therefore, we must build well, rejecting all wood, hay and stubble, using nothing but gold, silver and preciousstones!
We must build quickly to get the work done, but fast as we labor we must do it surely and honestly and thoroughly, for thefire will try it when we are gone. It will be a pity that our work should suffer loss, even though we, ourselves, should besaved. We cannot return to save the burning mass, nor to rebuild the ruin, but we shall, doubtless, see and know what comesof it. "Establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, the work of our hands establish it." Therefore, dear Brother, if yourhands find anything to do, do it at once with all your might. If your heart suggests anything that should be done, let itbe done at once!
See to the bringing up of your children, the conversion of your neighbors, the laying out of your talents for Christ, theconsecration of your substance, the propagation of the precious Truths of God which have been revealed to you. If a good workis to be done, do it! Do it, do it at once. The curfew of time is sounding. Your own vesper bell is ringing out and theseare the words which I set to its music-"What you do, do quickly, for when a few years are come, you must go where you willnot return." Again I say, "He that has ears to hear, let him hear!"
IV. And now, lastly, let us ENQUIRE TO WHERE WE SHALL GO? In some respects it happens alike to all, for all go upon the longjourney. All go to the grave, which is the place of all living. It matters very little where our grave shall be-whether beneatha weeping willow or in the solemn deeps. The best of all, I think, that can happen to any of us is to be laid where we shallquickly mold into the common earth, that none may afterwards profane our bones. But if they do, what does it matter? We shallknow nothing of it and precious in the sight of the Lord will our dust be, though it is trod under foot or blown by the winds!We shall all die and then we shall all pass into the disembodied state.
But of what character shall my death be and where shall I spend the time of waiting? May I urge upon you to ask yourselvesthis question? May I press a second enquiry upon you? If at this very instant you were to leave your body, where would yoursoul be? You may know very readily. Where does it delight to be now? I once visited an aged Christian woman who said to mewhen she was near death, "Sir, I do not think that God will appoint me my portion with the ungodly, for I could never beartheir company. I hope I shall be among His people, though I am very unworthy, for I never was so happy as when I was withthem."
Yes, you will keep the same company forever! The sheep shall be with the sheep and the goats with the goats. Your delightprophesies your destiny. What you have chosen here shall be your portion hereafter. The scoffer, the drunk, the liar, theunchaste-they shall be your comrades in Hell if you were so here. If you love sin, you shall be steeped up to the throat init-and it shall burn around you like liquid fire! If you have loved the wages of unrighteousness, you shall receive them infull tale, for the wages of sin is death-and Death shall rage about you and gnaw you with his undying worm. But if your delightshave been with your God, you shall dwell with Him! If you have rejoiced in Christ Jesus, you shall reign with Him! And ifyou have loved His people, you shall abide with them forever!
Your disembodied state shall be spent either with Christ and His people or with sin and sinners. If not in Paradise with Jesus,you know where you must lie. Did not our Lord, Himself, tell us of the great gulf which cannot be passed and of the tormentof those upon the other side? You may know it all before yon clock strikes again! Think of it and tremble! Then, as I havealready stated, we shall all go forward in our journey towards Resurrection. We shall, every one of us, stand in the latterday upon the earth. To the righteous this is the greatest joy. "And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet inmy flesh shall I see God." Oh, blessed hope! It were worthwhile to die with this in prospect! A child of God who died notlong ago said to one who stood by, "I have enjoyed more, in the two hours I have been dying, than in the 50 years that I wasliving. It is so blessed a thing to die, for I have a clear prospect of the Resurrection!"
But, oh, to have no blessed Resurrection before you! Instead, to have the certainty of rising to shame and to everlastingcontempt! To have nothing but the rising so that both body and soul may be cast into Hell till the tongue
that now dares to curse will ask in vain for a drop of water to cool its burning! To know that your every limb shall be madeto suffer because it yielded itself up to be an instrument of unrighteousness and of rebellion against God! Which shall yourresurrection be-a blessing or a horror? God help you to decide!
Yes, may the Holy Spirit so work upon your heart and will that you may lay hold on Jesus at once and find eternal life inHim! Speedily shall come the great and terrible scene of the Judgment, when all that are on the earth and in the sea shallstand before the Great White Throne. What an assembly! These mighty gatherings in the Tabernacle and the crowds we hear ofon great festival days, are but as a drop in a bucket compared with the innumerable hordes of men that shall spring up fromtheir graves when the last trumpet sounds!
If you can think of anything, then, besides your Judge, you will cast your eyes as far as you can see, and over hill and daleyou will see myriads of our race. Men have been so numerous a host that they will cover every speck of earth! Yes, and thesea, itself, shall yield, for once, a solid basis for them to stand upon-and all shall teem like a hive when the bees swarmaround it-the world shall appear black with the multitude of men! And what a sight when the Assessor shall sit upon His Throneand He shall begin to divide them as the shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. To the right! To the left! Blessed! Cursed!Come! Depart!
Oh, the terror of that voice which shall pronounce a separate sentence upon each of the two great classes into which the populationof earth shall then be divided! On which side would you be if, now, instead of this poor voice saluting your ears, there shouldsuddenly be a transformation scene and Christ should sit upon His Throne-and you and I are there to be judged before Him?And then, after the judgment comes the end, but what then? Do not flatter yourselves with the idea, you ungodly, that youshall be annihilated! You have chosen sin. You have deliberately rejected Christ and if you continue to do so you have settledyour own destiny-and settled it forever! Look the danger in the face like honest men-and then escape from the wrath to come!
But if you believe in Jesus now, look your future in the face and rejoice, for your redemption draws near! See body and soultogether-and both perfect-and Christ the Judge acquitting you, saying, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdomprepared for you from before the foundation of the world." Can you conceive your overflowing joy, your ecstatic delight? Thepresence of angels! The fellowship of perfect saints! The sight of your Savior! Communion with your God! And all this foreverand forever! Why, I think it makes me willing to use my solemn text no longer as a dirge, but as a sonnet and say right joyously,"When a few years are come, I shall go from where I shall not return, nor ever wish to return, but shall be forever with theLord." Amen, so let it be!