PREPARATION, INDISPENSABLE AND DESIRABLE
Address given at Funeral of Mr. John Kemp at “Ebenezer” Luton on Friday, 23rd January, 1970, by Mr. V. Farley.
I am certain that, if it is to be well with us, we do need to be divinely prepared for death and, contemplating that word “prepared” or “preparation”, I find, according to the Scripture and God’s way, it falls under two headings. One preparation is indispensable; the other preparation is desirable, though not indispensable.
Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3, 5. That is an indispensable and necessary thing. Likewise, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13, 5. It is that, without which, we cannot possibly be saved, inasmuch as nothing can enter the gates of pearl that defileth or maketh a lie.
Another vital thing is faith. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3, 36.
These are such things that the Scripture lays down as a needful, a vital and an indispensable preparation to a blessed eternity.
Again, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” John 6, 53. Here is another vital thing that cannot possibly be dispensed with. It is one of those things that most certainly accompanies salvationÂ— to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. What is this but faith’s repast, receiving both His Person and His work, the atonement, the righteousness, embracing it in the heart so that it becomes the vital food of the soul, supporting the hope, sustaining the person throughout the vicissitudes of life, so maintaining their spiritual strength that they endure unto the end. The Saviour affixes this word to those statements, “Except;” so those things belong to the vital preparation of the heart. “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16, 1.
This vital preparation I feel confident our dear esteemed departed friend was the subject of. Some of your have heard from his lips the testimony of his call by grace, that same new birth, the separating work of repentance, the raising up of his faith to anchor and fix in the finished work of a precious Christ. You have heard his testimony to the Lord Jesus being made precious to his soul, granting him in the days of spiritual youth to walk in that liberty wherewith Christ makes His people free. Along with that was connected the walk and obedience of love and faith. This was very manifest in his long and useful life. Our beloved friend had these vital matters pertaining to Christ’s great salvation.
I pass to the second point. There is a preparation which is highly desirable, though not indispensable to salvation. “What do you mean?” I mean this, that the dispensation of grace to God’s saints in the closing chapter of their life, their dying hours, does vary tremendously, so that in many cases there is clearly no possibility of the so-called dying testimony. How many are taken away in a moment so that this comfortable dying testimony is not forthcoming! Likewise we must confess and recognise that not all God’s dear saints do enjoy in their last days the lifting up of the countenance of God upon them and the shining of the witness of the Holy Ghost. Not all, perhaps few, are favoured to cross the river “telling the triumphs of their King,” as not all at that time are sweetly anticipating the heavenly glory. Not all have the anticipation of heaven in their souls at the time and circumstance of their passing away. In short, we must, and have to recognise with very many of God’s dear saints their sun sets in a cloud. This is a proved fact. It is a sovereign matter, the letting down of heaven into a man’s or woman’s soul at the time of dissolution, and a thing we must recognise and submit to, for various reasons. There may be a cloud upon the spirit. Evidences may be hidden. Comfortable assurance may be withdrawn. The joy and delight of the day of espousals may not be felt as desired. The dispensation of grace is a sovereign thing with GodÂ—the letting down of favours, the shining of the sun, the delights of the Gospel, a
sure and holy confidence, the high degree of assuranceÂ—these things are very intensely desirable, but not indispensable to the well-being of a saint. His salvation depends upon union. His comfort depends upon communion. His salvation depends upon the intrinsic work of the Holy Ghost in him and the work of Christ for him, but his comfort and his rest of mind depend on a special gift of the Holy Ghost bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. This matter is very frequently withheld, and it is not for us to assign a reason, except that the dear Lord knows
precisely what is needful and what is according to His gracious will.
Perhaps we may think these latter remarks apply to the closing days of our beloved friend in some sense. There was a cloud, but let me say it was but a cloud, and the clouds pass away. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30, 5. Some of us may die under a cloudÂ—we cannot tell. It is in higher hands. But, be that as it may, it will not prejudice the salvation of the man, the woman that hath believed in Jesus, and has tasted that the Lord is gracious.
“Once in Him in Him for ever,
Thus the eternal covenant stands.”
“Because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14, 19. The giving of comforts and the withholding of them does in no way prejudice or impair the safety of a believer who has once anchored in Jesus Christ. Therefore, cloud or sunshine, light or dark, we can safely sayÂ—it is well with the righteous. Said the wise man, “It shall be well with them that fear God.” Ecclesiastes 8, 12.
And, as to our beloved friend, in the course of his life he has blessedly indicated where his faith rested, on Whom his hope was built and from Whom he drew his expectation of life eternal. We therefore bless God for that testimony, the foundation laid in his soul, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, Colossians 1, 27, the foundation of repentance, of faith, of obedience, laid in the soul, that sure work, for “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1, 6. That work is now performed, completed. The work of grace is done and the spirit hath fled “To be with Christ; which is far better”, Philippians 1, 23, though the mortal remains are before us to rest awhile until Christ shall come and redeem them from the power of corruption and fashion them like unto His glorious Body. We feel that confidence today. We feel that sweetness in contemplating the work of God, believing it to be sure and stedfast, and that now it is completed and perfected as regards the happy spirit.
Our coming here today can in no wise affect that part, but we are assembled here for some secondary purposes, first, to give thanks unto the Lord for His gift. Among the many gifts to the churches, we find there were pastors, evangelists and teachers, and so on. We bless God together for the gift which He conferred
upon the churches and upon this church in particular in the person of dear John KempÂ—by the grace of God he was what he wasÂ—thankful for the most useful gift which he exercised so well and faithfully for so long a time. What would he say? “By the grace of God I am what I am.” 1 Corinthians 15, 10. We might add, “And His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15, 10.
In closing, I am led to contemplate the words, “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death.” Hebrews 7, 23.
The ablest, the most useful, the choicest of these saints are not suffered to continue. There is no priority in this matter. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9, 27, and on this account the dear saints and ministers of God have no preference and thus they cannot, they do not continue here. What does this suggest? That we esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake while they are here. That we seek to uphold their hands, and comfort them, not grieve them, and by the grace of God that we consider “the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Hebrews 13, 7. It suggests also from the fact they do not continue, they must decrease, they must pass from public view, that we might set our hearts higher than the man in the pulpit, not lean too heavily on this broken reed. He is but a man, but a creature, highly esteemed, but at times very faulty. “Not suffered to continue.” They are not foundations; they are not our saviours. No, they are to be kept in the right place. But they pass from viewÂ—striking thought. Moses and Elias at the transfiguration passed from the scene, and the disciples looking up “saw no man, save Jesus only.” Matthew 17, 8.
“But this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7, 25.
“He must increase.” He is the true, the only, the most glorious Object of our faith and trust, our love, devotion and service, while the dear servants of God recede away to their reward.
We bless God, then, for His dear servants, what they have been made to us, but we look higher than these, even to their message which was this, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1, 29. Amen.