ON THE CERTAINTY OF DEATH
Consider first, that there is nothing more certain than death, ‘It is appointed for all men once to die, and after that judgment,’ Heb. ix. 27. The sentence is general – it is pronounced upon all the children of Adam, Eccles. xli. 5. Neither riches, nor dignity, nor strength, nor wisdom, nor all the power of the world, can exempt any one from this common doom. From the first moment of our birth we are hastening towards our death; every moment brings us nearer to it. The day will come when we shall never see the night; or the night will come when the sun will rise no more to us. The day will most certainly come when thou, my soul, who art reading these lines, must bid a long farewell to this cheating world and to all thou hast admired therein, and even to thy own body, the individual companion of thy life, and take thy journey to another country, a strange and unknown land to thee, where all thou settest a value on here will appear like smoke. O learn then to despise all these perishable things, and to set thy heart on nothing, since all must be taken away by death.
Consider 2ndly, that death is not only certain, but generally speaking much nigher than we imagine. If ever we look upon death, ‘tis generally with the wrong end of the perspective glass, that removes the object to a greater distance, when indeed it is very near. We are apt to flatter ourselves, with the worldling in the gospel, Luke xii., with the expectation of many years’ enjoyment of our worldly goods and pleasures, and when we least of all expect it, we are called away; we must suddenly be gone. ‘Thou fool,’ saith our Lord, ‘this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’ Thousands are dying this very hour thoughout the world, and perhaps not one of them all but expected to have lived many more years. We daily hear of sudden deaths; we daily hear of young and strong people carried off by short sicknesses in the very flower of their age, and why will we deceive ourselves? why will we vainly imagine ourselves out of the reach of these arrows of death, that are falling so thick on all sides of us? ‘Ah! fool, why dost thou think to live long, when thou are not sure of one day?’ – Kempis.
Consider 3rdly, the wretched blindness and stupidity of mortals, that think so little of death, and live as if they were always to be here; and by this means expose themselves every day to the dreadful danger of dying in their sins. And yet, alas! all this while they cannot be ignorant that death is continually following them at their heels; they even carry it about with them in the frail composition of their mortal frame. All the things about them, by their continual fading, remind them of their mortality. They daily see or hear of deaths or burials, or meet with the monuments of the dead, who from their silent tombs cease not to admonish them, in the words of the wise man, Eccles. xxxviii., ‘Remember my judgment: for thine also shall be so; yesterday for me, and to-day for thee.’ O my soul, do thou at least give ear to this admonition; keep death always before thy eyes, and when it comes thou shalt have nothing to fear.
Conclude, since thou must quickly be gone from hence, to set thy house now in order, and to make all necessary provisions for that long journey which thou must shortly take; and ever strive to be such in life as thou desirest to be found in death.