THE AGED CHRISTIAN READY FOR HIS DEPARTURE
A tenth letter to an elderly person
One would think that the longer a person lived, the more willing he would be to leave his present abode. But this is not always the case.
Sometimes, alas! we see very aged persons clinging to life more tightly even than the young. We see them close to death, and yet loving the riches, the pleasures, the trifles of this world, with all their affections. Oh, this is a sad sight. It is sad to see a poor dying creature entering upon an awful eternity, with a heart glued to the world which he is leaving, and full of its concerns!
When this is the case, God often in mercy sends us some affliction. He withers our gourds which have grown up around us, that he may lead us to seek a truer and a safer shelter. He sees that we are too fond of these clay cottages of ours; so He makes the walls to crumble, that we may be content to leave them at His call.
Look at your growing infirmities, dear friend, as so many mercies. Let them serve to remind you that you will not always be here, and that ‘this is not your rest’. Let them make you long for that happier land, where there shall be no more old age – where sorrow and sighing shall be unknown – and where ‘the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.’ Oh, it is well for us that all is not health, and strength, and sunshine here; else we should be even fonder than we are of our present home. I do not ask you to take a gloomy view of this world, and to be full of anxiety to quit it. I do not wish you to look on it as a dungeon from which you are impatiently longing to escape. No, whilst we are here, we should ‘use the world’ thankfully. We should look upon it, not as our lasting home, but as our appointed dwelling-place for a while. Well is it, if we are contented and happy here, and at the same time ever ready for our departure. Well indeed is it, if we ;an say with Paul, as this world closes in on us, ‘I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: and now there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’
Sit as loose then as you can to this world, and be always in a state of readiness to quit it. Arrange all your worldly concerns. The more cares you have on your hands, the more will your dying thoughts be disturbed, and your last work interrupted. Our death-bed moments are solemn ones; and therefore it is very desirable to have nothing then to do but to die.
Above all, let not the work of salvation be undone. Every funeral you hear of or see, every pain and infirmity you feel, seems to say to you, as Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Set thy house in order.’ It is a poor
thing to leave to the last the soul’s great concern. It is often too late to seek the Saviour then. The body will then perhaps be too weak, and the mind too feeble, to begin to seek the Lord. Perhaps too the saviour, when we most need Him, will then be far off from us. Having rejected Him, He may turn away His face from us, and leave us in that trying hour to ourselves. Oh, then, ‘seek the Lord’ now Â•while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.’
There are many elderly people, who, if you question them about the future, will say they hope all will be well. But if you press your question a little more closely, you will find that perhaps they have no ground for their hope. They trust that God will be merciful to them; but they cannot say with the Apostle, ‘I have obtained mercy.’ They have never sought it in Christ, where alone it is to be found. They have never fled for refuge to the Saviour. They love Him a little, but they have not given Him their hearts. All is uncertainty with them. This world is slipping away from them; and they have no sure footing in the heavenly shore.
It is a fearful thing to take the last and most important steps of our journey alone in the dark – not to know where we are going, whether to heaven or hell – not to be sure whether we have the friendship of God or not. Dear friend, it must not be so with you, or /our deathbed will be a cheerless one.
Suppose any one was going to take a long journey; he ought to be ready for it. His travelling clothes should be prepared. Nothing should be left unsettled. Everything should be put in order. He ought to know all about the way he is going to take. He ought to have no misgivings about his journey. His mind should be quite made up.
And should we be less ready for that great and important step which we are all going to take? Our happiness – our eternal safety depends on it. Oh, that we may be able to say, I die daily;’ ‘The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world;’ ‘To me to live is Christ: to die is gain.’ Live as a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth;
daily look forward to your home, and be hastening towards it. Live much with Christ now; and then, instead of dreading death, you will heartily welcome it when it comes. You will not look on it as your foe, but as your friend. It will be to you as the gateway, through which you will pass to your joyful resurrection. You will feel no lingering attachment to the world you are leaving behind you; but you will have ‘a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better.’