Thursday, December 29, 2005

A New Year's Solemn Warning

The following is excerpted from a sermon by John Angell James entitled: A New Year's Solemn Warning.
This is what the Lord says: "I am going to remove you from the face of the earth. You will die this year!" Jeremiah 28:16

Standing as you now do upon the threshold of another year, and looking with something of curiosity and suspense, if not with anxiety and dread, upon the dark curtain which wisely and mercifully conceals the future from your view, it behooves you in deep seriousness to inquire and consider, not only what may happen—and be prepared for the worst that can happen. For though there is one sense in which we ought not to take "thought for the morrow," there is another in which we ought. It is as much our duty wisely to provide for coming time, as it is to abstain from unnecessary, useless, and distressing worry. Concerning many the decree is fixed, and the sentence gone forth, which was denounced on Hananiah, "You will die this year!" This may be the case with any one of the readers of the present address, and therefore every one of them should seriously reflect upon such a possibility.

This year you may die—for you must die some time—and that time may as likely come this year as any other.

This year you may die—because you have no revelation from God that you shall not.

This year you may die—because you are ever and everywhere exposed to the causes that take away life.

This year you may die—because life is the most uncertain thing in the world, and you have not the assurance of a single moment beyond the present.

This year you may die—because some among your friends and acquaintances have died; and all the liabilities to death still remain for the rest who yet live.

This year you may die—for it is all but certain that many of the readers of this address will die this year—and why not you?

This year you may die, although there is now no indication of approaching death; for many during the past year have been cut off, and many during the present year will die, who may now seem very likely to live—and why not you?

How many, then, are the probabilities that before next new year's day, your place will be vacant in the family, at the scene of your daily occupation, and in the house of God! Ought not this to induce a habit of solemn, pensive, devout, practical, profitable, reflection. Bring home the thought. Take up the supposition, and say, "Yes, it is possible, by no means improbable, that I may die—this year!"

Suppose you should let me, on the ground of this supposition, ask you a few QUESTIONS.

Are you really prepared for your latter end, by being a partaker of genuine faith, the new birth, a holy life, and a heavenly mind? Or are you a mere nominal professor, having a name to live, while you are dead? Are the fruits of a living branch in the true Vine brought forth by you? Do you recognize in yourselves, and do others see in you, the marks of a state of grace? Put the question to your own hearts, ask yourselves, "What am I? Am I a spiritual, heavenly, humble, waiting, working servant of God? Am I really crucified with Christ, dead to the world, ripening for glory? Is there anything heavenly about me? Is my assurance well settled, my joy established, my temper sanctified, my walk consistent? Am I thus ready for death, and like one waiting for the coming of the Master, ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with my lamp lit?"

Do, with your grave open before you, inquire into this matter. Are you living as you would wish to be found, when the summons comes? Is your soul in that state in which you would desire it to be found when death strikes? Are you, in your devotional habits, your temper, your general behavior, as you should be—with eternity so near? Would you like to look up as you are, just as you are now, while reading these lines, and see your Master at his coming? Would you desire to die—just as you are now?

Is there no part of your conduct as a professor, which, upon the supposition you may die this year, you should alter? Nothing in the family, the closet, the shop, the church, the world—you should amend? What! death so near—and nothing to be done to meet it with confidence and joy?
Act upon the supposition that this may be your closing year. How appropriate is the admonition of Solomon, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might—for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, where you are going." Whatever is to be done—or ought to be done now. Whatever you can find to do—do it. Look about, and consider what will you wish you had done—in the hour of death! Or if you could look out of your grave after you had entered it, what would you regret you had not done, for your own soul, for your family, for your friends, for the church, or for the world?

What would you do—if you knew for certain this were your last year? Think how you would then act as regards your personal piety. How laboriously you would mortify remaining corruption! How carefully you would watch against sin! How anxiously you would examine your soul, with a view to supply every defect! How regular and earnest would be your prayers! How constant your attendance on all the means of grace! How diligent and strenuous your endeavor after universal holiness! You would say, "O my soul, you have but a few more months to grow in grace, to die to the world, to be fitted for heaven, to do anything for your own eternal welfare, to gain a lofty seat in glory—and will you not be diligent to the very last exertion? Will you not lay aside every weight, and the sin that does most easily beset you—when you are so near the end of your race? Will you be lukewarm, careless, negligent in anything—when so near eternity? Up and be doing!" "Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep," for now is your salvation very near.
Whether, however, you die this year or not, you must die some year! And compared with the millions of millions of years, measuring eternity by the revolutions of time—what is the longest life, even that of Methuselah, if it could be attained, but a moment, and the twinkling of an eye? Remember the apostle's impressive admonitions, "Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil." Ephes. 5:15, 16. "And I say this, brothers: the time is limited, so from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use the world as though they did not make full use of it. For this world in its current form is passing away." 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Remember that though you may not die this year, you must die some time, and therefore never let the subject be long absent from your minds. Live as at the grave's mouth! Die daily! Feel yourself a stranger and pilgrim upon earth! Be ever looking on with faith and hope to the time when you shall die—and go home to God!

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