25 January 2009

To Fetch Me Home

posted by Frank Turk

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. It's a double-dose this weekend. The following excerpt is from "The Death of the Christian," a sermon on Job 5:26, delivered Sunday morning, 9 Sept 1855, at New Park Chapel, Southwark.
This morning, we shall consider the death of Christians in general; not of the aged Christian merely, for we shall show you that while this text does seem to bear upon the aged Christian, in reality it speaks with a loud voice to every man who is a believer. "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season."

There are four things we shall mark in the text. First, we shall consider that death is inevitable, because it says, "Thou shalt come." Secondly, that death is acceptable, because it does not read, "I will make thee go to thy grave," but "thou shalt come there." Thirdly, that death is always timely: "Thou shalt come to thy grave in full age." Fourthly, that death to the Christian is always honourable, for the promise declareth to him, "Thou shalt go to thy grave in full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season."

I. The first remark, namely, that death, even to the Christian, is INEVITABLE, is very trite, simple and common, and we need scarcely have made it, but we found it necessary, in order to introduce one or two remarks upon it. How hackneyed is the thought, that all men must die, and therefore, what can we say upon it? And yet we blush not to repeat it, for while it is a truth so well known, there is none so much forgotten; while we all believe it in the theory and receive it in the brain, how seldom it is impressed on the heart? The sight of death makes us remember it. The tolling of the solemn bell speaks to us of it. We hear the deep-tongued voice of time as the bell tolls the hours and preaches our mortality. But very usually we forget it. ...

II. And now comes a sweet thought, that death to the Christian is always ACCEPTABLE—"Thou shalt come to thy grave." Old Caryl makes this remark on this verse—"A willingness and a cheerfulness to die. Thou shalt come, thou shalt not be dragged or hurried to thy grave, as it is said of the foolish rich man, Luke 12. This night shall thy soul be taken from thee. But thou shalt come to thy grave, thou shalt die quietly and smilingly, as it were; thou shalt go to thy grave, as it were upon thine own feet, and rather walk than be carried to thy sepulchre." The wicked man, when he dies, is driven to his grave, but the Christian comes to his grave. Let me tell you a parable. Behold two men sat together in the same house: when Death came to each of them. He said to one, "Thou shalt die."

The man looked at him—tears suffused his eyes, and tremblingly he said, "O Death, I cannot, I will not die." He sought out a physician, and said to him, "I am sick, for Death hath looked upon me. His eyes have paled my cheeks, and I fear I must depart. Physician, there is my wealth, give me health and let me live." The physician took his wealth, but gave him not his health with all his skill. The man changed his physician and tried another, and thought that perhaps he might spin out the thread of life a little longer. But, alas! Death came and said, "I have given thee time to try thy varied excuses, come with me; thou shalt die." And he bound him hand and foot, and made him go to that dark land of shades. As the man went, he clutched at every side post by the way; but Death, with iron hands, still pulled him on. There was not a tree that grew along the way but he tried to grasp it, but Death said, "Come on! thou art my captive, and thou shalt die." And unwillingly as the laggard schoolboy, who goeth slowly to school, so did be trace the road with Death. He did not come to his grave, but Death fetched him to it—the grave came to him.

But Death said to the other man, "I am come for thee." He smilingly replied, "Ah, Death! I know thee, I have seen thee many a time. I have held communion with thee. Thou art my Master's servant, thou hast come to fetch me home. Go, tell my Master I am ready; whene'er he pleases, Death, I am ready to go with thee.

A Christian has nothing to lose by death. You say he has to lose his friends. I am not so sure of that. Many of you have may more friends in heaven than on earth; some Christians have more dearly beloved ones above than below. You often count your family circle, but do you do as that little girl of whom Wordsworth speaks, when she said, "Master, we are seven." Some of them were dead and gone to heaven, but she would have it that they were all brothers and sisters still. Oh I how many brothers and sisters we have up stairs in the upper room in our Father's house; how many dear ones, linked with us in the ties of relationship, for they are as much our relations now as they were then! Though in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, yet in that great world, who has said that the ties of affection shall be severed, so that we shall not even there claim kindred with one another, as well as kindred with Jesus Christ? What have we to lose by death? ...

III. Then thirdly, the Christian's death is always TIMELY—"Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age." "Ah!" says one, "that is not true. Good people do not live longer than others. The most pious man may die in the prime of his youth." But look at my text. It does not say, thou shalt come to thy grave in old age—but in a "full age." Well, who knows what a "full age" is? A "full age" is whenever God likes to take his children home. There are some fruits you know that are late in coming to perfection, and we do not think their flavour is good till Christmas, or till they have gone through the frost; while some are fit for table now. All fruit: do not get ripe and mellow at the same season. So with Christians. They are at a "full age" when God chooses to take them home. They are at "full age" if they die at twenty one; they are not more if they live to be ninety. Some wines can be drunk very soon after the vintage. Others need to be kept. But what does this matter, if when the liquor is broached it is found to have its full flavour? God never broaches his cask till the wine has prefected itself. ...

IV. Now the last thing is, that a Christian will die with HONOUR: "Thou shalt come to thy grave like a shock of corn cometh in in his season." You hear men speak against funeral honours, and I certainly do enter my protest against the awful extravagance with which many funerals are conducted, and the absurdly stupid fashions that are often introduced. It would be a happy thing if some persons could break through them, and if widows were not obliged to spend the money which they need so much themselves, upon a needless ceremony, which makes death not honourable, but rather despicable. But, methinks that while death should not be flaunted out with gaudy plumes, there is such a thing as an honourable funeral which every one of us may desire to have.

... Your burial shall not be that prophesied for Jehoiakim—the burial of an ass, with none to weep over him; but devout men will assemble and say, "Here lies the deacon who for years served his Master so faithfully." "Here lies the Sunday-school teacher" will the child say "who early taught me the Saviour's name;" and if the minister should fall, methinks a crowd of people following him to the tomb would well give him such a funeral as a shock of corn hath when "it cometh in in his season." I believe we ought to pay great respect to the departed saints' bodies. "The memory of the just is blessed." And even ye little saints in the church, don't think you will be forgotten when you die. You may have no grave-stone; but the angels will know where you are as well without a grave-stone as with it. There will be some who will weep over you; you will not be hurried away, but will be carried with tears to your grave. ...

In a few years more you and I shall be carried through the ether on the wings of angels. Methinks I die, and the angels approach. I am on the wings of cherubs. Oh, how they bear me up—how swiftly and yet how softly. I have left mortality with all its pains. Oh, how rapid is my flight! Just now I passed the morning star. Far behind me now the planets shine. Oh, how swiftly do I fly, and how sweetly! Cherubs! what sweet flight is yours, and what kind arms are these I lean upon. And on my way ye kiss me with the kisses of love and affection. Ye call me brother. Cherubs; am I your brother? I who just now was captive in a tenement of clay—am I your brother? "Yes!" they say. Oh, hark! I hear music strangely harmonious! What sweet sounds come to my ears! I am nearing Paradise. 'Tis e'en so. Do not spirits approach with songs of joy? "Yes!" they say. And ere they can answer, behold they come—a glorious convoy! I catch a sight of them as they are holding a great review at the gates of Paradise. And, ah! there is the golden gate. I enter in; and I see my blessed Lord. I can tell you no more. All else were things unlawful for flesh to utter. My Lord! I am with thee—plunged into thee—lost in thee just as a drop is swallowed in the ocean—as one single tint is lost in the glorious rainbow! Am I lost in thee, thou glorious Jesus? And is my bliss consummated? Is the wedding-day come at last? Have I really put on the marriage garments? And am I thine? Yes! I am. There is nought else now for me. In vain your harps, ye angels. In vain all else. Leave me a little while. I will know your heaven by-and-bye. Give me some years, yea give me some ages to lean here on this sweet bosom of my Lord; give me half eternity, and let me bask myself in the sunshine of that one smile. Yes; give me this. Didst speak, Jesus? "Yes, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, and now thou art mine! thou art with me." Is not this heaven? I want nought else. I tell you once again, ye blessed spirits, I will see you by-and-bye. But with my Lord I will now take my feast of loves. Oh, Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Thou art heaven! I want nought else. I am lost in thee!

Beloved, is not this to go to "the grave in full age, like as a shock of corn," fully ripe? The sooner the day shall come, the more we shall rejoice. Oh, tardy wheels of time! speed on your flight. Oh, angels, wherefore come ye on with laggard wings? Oh! fly through the ether and outstrip the lightning's flash! Why may I not die? Why do I tarry here? Impatient heart, be quiet a little while. Thou art not fit for heaven yet, else thou wouldst not be here. Thou hast not done thy work, else thou wouldst have thy rest. Toil on a little longer; there is rest enough in the grave. Thou shalt have it there. On! on!