Part 9 in a series
Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last. What do men in heaven say of it? And what do men in hell say of it? And what do men at death say of it? And what do converted souls, or awakened consciences, say of it? Is it then followed with delight and fearlessness as it is now? Is it then applauded? Will any of them speak well of it? Nay, all the world speaks evil of sin in the general now, even when they love and commit the several acts.
Will you sin when you are dying?
Richard Baxter (1615-1691) didn’t pull any punches then, and I’m sure he would speak even more eloquently to us today if the curtains of Heaven were drawn back to allow him to speak to us.
Will you sin when you are dying?
We all know we’re born dying. Life is a terminal condition. And yet we prefer not to acknowledge that fact…or at least we assure ourselves that our end must not happen for many years.
Have you ever come face-to-face with your own mortality? It’s a powerful experience, and one that we should regularly seek.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that we should become daredevils, seeking some spiritual high through reckless, life-threatening acts. My thoughts go along with the Psalmist’s:
Psalms 90:12 (NKJV)
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Will you sin when you are dying? Are you even willing to know that you are dying?
A few hundred years after Baxter, Spurgeon picked up this theme in his own eloquent way. (Remember that, up until around the time of this sermon, the usual custom had been to bury the dead in the churchyards. Cemeteries that were separate were fairly new.)
IT IS QUITE CERTAIN that there are immense benefits attending our present mode of burial in extra mural cemeteries. It was high time that the dead should be removed from the midst of the living—that we should not worship in the midst of corpses, and sit in the Lord’s house on the Sabbath, breathing the noxious effluvia of decaying bodies. But when we have said this, we must remember that there are some advantages which we have lost by the removal of the dead. Now, I believe the sight of a funeral is a very healthful thing for the soul. The soul can there find much food for contemplation, and much excitement for thought.
We remember how when the funeral came now and then, the tolling of the bell preached to all the villagers a better sermon than they had heard in the church for many a day, and we recollect, how as children, we used to cluster around the grave; and we remember the solemn thoughts which used to arise even in our young hearts when we heard the words uttered, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The solemn falling of the few grains of ashes upon the coffin-lid was the sowing of good seed in our hearts. And afterwards, when we have in our childish play climbed over those nettle-bound graves, and seated ourselves upon those mossgrown tombstones, we have had many a lesson preached to us by the dull cold tongue of death, more eloquent than aught we have heard from the lip of living man and more likely to abide with us in after years.”
(Excerpted from Sermon #200, June 13, 1858.)
I’ve already written about how God brought me face-to-face with my own mortality, and how He powerfully used that experience to bring me closer to Himself. But it shouldn’t take a traumatic experience like that to remind us that we’re only on the very shortest leg of our journey, and that most of our living (or dying) happens beyond the grave.
Another event (my recent time of waiting for biopsy results) once again reminded me how fragile life is. But as soon as the favorable results came through, did I forget all over again?
I know it’s almost a trite-sounding question, but don’t let its importance escape you, and I pray it won’t escape me again either:
How would our lives be different if we knew we were going to die in one month? Or maybe tomorrow?
Think how quickly the years of your life have already flown by, and remember this:
Psalms 39:5 (NKJV)
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.
And remember what Jacob said when Pharaoh asked him his age:
“My pilgrimage has lasted 130 years. My years have been few...” (Genesis 47:9 HCSB)
No matter how long your pilgrimage or mine might be, it will seem so short once it’s gone.
Will we sin when we are dying…and when eternity is so close at hand?