In a few years
“For we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.” Job 8:9. “He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.” Job 14:2.
“Only a few years will pass before I go on the journey of no return!” Job 16:22. “My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.” Psalm 102:11. “Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.” Psalm 144:4. How transient is human life–yet no one lays it to heart. With the magnificence of eternity before us—let fleeting time, with all its fluctuations, dwindle into its own littleness. In a few years our heads will be laid in the cold grave, and the green turf will cover us. The children who come after us will tread upon our graves. They will weep for us a few days. They will talk of us a few months. They will remember us a few years. Then our memory shall disappear from the face of the earth, and not a tongue shall be found to recall it! The character with which we sink into the grave at death–is the very character with which we shall reappear at the final judgment! “O God, impress upon me the value of time–and give regulation to all my thoughts and to all my actions. O God, help me to live for Your glory. As the years roll over me, may I withdraw my affections from time, and feel that in moving through the world, I am moving toward eternity!” “So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. (Thomas Chalmers, 1780-1847)
They hope that they shall not have two Hells!
Because men suffer in this world–they assume they shall be freed from sufferings in the world to come. Because they have a Hell here–they imagine that they shall escape Hell hereafter. They hope that they shall not have two Hells! Poor, deluded soul! You may and must have two Hells. Cain, and Judas, and millions of reprobate men and women, have two Hells–one in this life, in torments of body–and another in the life to come, in unquenchable fire. You may have a prison on earth–and a dungeon in Hell. You may now lack a crumb of bread–and hereafter lack a drop of water. You may now be the reproach of men–and hereafter the scorn of God Himself. Affliction alone is not enough to evidence a man to be a saved man. Blows may sooner break the neck, than the heart! Afflictions are in themselves, the fruit of divine wrath–and therefore cannot possibly of themselves make the least argument of God’s love to the soul. God forbid that a man should take that for his security from Hell–which may be but the foretaste of Hell! Present afflictions, may be the pledge of endless misery. In many cases it is to be feared that the cup of affliction, is a vial of wrath–and that the plagues of this life, are but some drops of that coming storm of fire and brimstone, wherein impenitent sinners shall be scorched and tormented forever! (Thomas Case, “The Rod and the Word, A Treatise on Afflictions” 1653)
Afflictions make Heaven appear as Heaven indeed!
To the weary, Heaven is rest;
to the banished, it is home;
to the scorned and reproached, it is glory;
to the captive, it is liberty;
to the soldier, it is victory;
to the hungry, it is hidden manna;
to the thirsty, it is the fountain of life;
to the grieved, it is fullness of joy; and
to the mourner, it is pleasures forevermore.
In a word, to those who have lain upon the dunghill of affliction and walked in holiness, Heaven is the throne on which they shall sit and reign with Christ forever and ever! (Thomas Case, “The Rod and the Word, A Treatise on Afflictions” 1653)
The Family Disease: “He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous.” Luke 18:9. The sin which our Lord here denounces, is “self-righteousness.” We are all naturally self-righteous. It is the family disease of all the children of Adam. From the highest to the lowest–we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. We secretly flatter ourselves that we are not as bad as some, and that we have something to merit the favor of God. We forget the plain testimony of Scripture: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” “What is man, that he could be pure; or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?” “There is no one righteous, not even one!” The true cure for self-righteousness, is self-knowledge. Once let the eyes of our understanding be opened by the Spirit–and we shall talk no more of our own goodness. Once let us see what sin there is in our own hearts, and what the holy law of God requires–and self-conceit will die. We shall lay our hand on our mouths, and cry with the leper, “Unclean, unclean!” Leviticus 13:45. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32. “Christ died for the ungodly!” Romans 5:6. (J.C. Ryle)
Let us gather with grateful boldness around the infant in the manger, and behold our God! “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins!” Matthew 1:21. The great object of our Lord’s coming here was not to live, but to die. He appeared, not so much to subdue sin by His teaching, or to manifest goodness, or to perfect an example for us to imitate–but “to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” The modern teachers of error would thrust the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus into the background–but our Lord placed it in the forefront. He came to take away our sins. Do not think of Jesus without remembering the design of His coming. We preach Christ–so do a great many more. But, “we preach Christ crucified!” 1 Corinthians 1:23. We preach, concerning our Lord–His cross, His blood, His death! Upon the blood of His cross we lay great stress, extolling much “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” by putting away their sin “by the sacrifice of Himself.” We will not deny, or conceal, or depreciate His master-purpose–lest we be found guilty of trampling upon His blood, and treating it as an unholy thing. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst!” 1 Timothy 1:15. (Charles Spurgeon, “Christ’s Incarnation, the Foundation of Christianity”)
Who but Christ? Think of GOD a moment. Your thoughts cannot reach Him. He is infinitely pure–the heavens are not clean in His sight. He even charges His holy angels with folly! That is one side of the picture. Now look at YOURSELF–a worm that has rebelled against its Creator, loathsome with sin, defiled through and through! When I see a beggar and a prince stand together, I see a distance–but ah! it is but an inch compared with the infinite leagues of distance in character and nature between God and the fallen man. Who but Christ could have lifted us up from so low an estate, to so high a condition; from fellowship with devils, unto communion with Jehovah Himself? The distance was inconceivable. We are lost in wonder at the greatness of the love that made it all to vanish. “Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us–that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1. (Charles Spurgeon, “Our Glorious Transforming”)
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God! “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” Hebrews 10:31. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God, because, as He is the all-knowing and Almighty God, so He is the just and righteous God; and will be so forever, for He is the living God. His righteousness and justice are everlasting–and this makes Hell so dreadful. As it is the great comfort of believers to have such a Mediator and Surety, such a high priest to live forever to make intercession for them–so this is the great misery of lost sinners: to fall into the hands of that God, whoever lives to avenge Himself on their unbelief and rebellion. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God who knows all their sins, who is so holy–that He must punish them, who is so powerful–that He can punish them, who is so just–that He does punish all impenitent sinners forever! (Matthew Mead, “Falling into the Hands of the Living God!” 1629-1699)