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S E R M O N X X XIII.
G00D MEN WAIT FOR THE DAY OF THEIR DEATH.
JANUARY 23, 1820.
If a man die, shall he live again * All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change corne. — JoB, xiv. 14
MUTABILITY cleaves to all mankind from the cradle to the grave. They change from childhood to youth, from youth to manhood, and from manhood to old age. They change from health to sickness, and from prosperity to adversity. Most of these changes Job had already experienced, and some of them in a very sudden and singular manner. But all these changes he viewed as nothing, in comparison with another great and important change which he continually anticipated. He calls it emphatically “my change;” as though he never did and never should experience any other. “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Job was a perfect and upright man. He had served God from pure and disinterested motives. He had committed his body as well as his soul into the hands of his Redeemer, whom he expected to see in the morning of the resurrection. He habitually realized the grave as his house, and eternity as his home, and death as the means of bringing about the great and desirable change which he was patiently waiting for. All good men have similar views and feelings respecting their appointed change. They not only realize the certainty and importance of it, but anticipate it with holy hope and confidence, as one of the blessings contained in the covenant of grace. They would not live alway, but would have this earthly tabernacle taken down, that they may be absent from the body, and present with the Lord. This allows us to say with truth and propriety,
That the godly have good reasons to wait for their appointed change of death. I shall show, I. That death is an appointed change. II. What is implied in the godly's waiting for their appointed change. And, III. That they have good reasons to wait for it. I. I am to show that death is an appointed change. We have no reason to think that such a change as death would have ever happened, if it had not been for the first sin of our first parents. It was in consequence of that first offence that a sentence of mortality was passed upon the whole human race. It was then appointed to all men once to die. This general appointment of death is universally believed by all who believe the gospel. But Job speaks of a more particular appointment. “All the days of my appointed time will I wait.” This implies what he had just before said in this chapter of every man's appointed time. His days are determined, the number of his months, and the bounds are fixed over which he cannot pass. There is a difference, some suppose, between such a particular and a general appointment of death. Accordingly we find many who allow that God has appointed death to all men; but deny that he has appointed the time, or place, or means of any particular person's death. This then is the point now to be considered. Since it is asserted in scripture, and universally allowed, that God has appointed death to all men, we may justly conclude that he has appointed, how many years, how many months, how many days, and even how many moments, every individual of the human race shall live. Job believed that God had determined not only how many years, but how many months, and days he should continue this side of the grave. He says, “all the days of my appointed time will I wait.” He viewed the day of death as a very important day to himself. And the day of death is indeed a very important day to every one of our dying race, whether he does, or does not, realize its vast importance. It is certain, however, that God knew from eternity how important death would be to every one of mankind, and can we suppose that he would leave such a serious and interesting event to mere chance or accident? Besides, it seems difficult to conceive how it was possible for God to appoint death to every individual, without appointing the time, the place, and the means of his death. If any one of these circumstances was left unappointed, the death of any individual might never take place. Supposing the time, and place, and means of Christ's death had not been appointed, could God, or Christ, or any being in the universe, have known beforehand that he would have died on the cross? This holds true of every living man. If the days of his life, and the time and circumstances of his death, were not appointed, it could not be known beforehand that he would ever die. But we find that God has been able to foretel the death of individuals. He foretold the time, the circumstances, and the instruments of Christ's death. He foretold the death of the king of Assyria, by the hands of Hazael. He foretold the death of Ahab at Ramoth-Gilead. He foretold the death of Hananiah the prophet, who had taught rebellion in Israel. And there is no doubt but that he could foretel the death of every person in the world. He perfectly knows when, and where, and by what means, every person will come to his last end. And he knows this, because he has appointed every death, and every circumstance attending it. It is as plain from scripture that the time and means of every death is appointed, as that the great change itself is appointed. Every person will live all the days of his appointed time, and no longer. God has appointed the bounds which he cannot pass. And he has revealed this appointment for the instruction and admonition of the living, while he has concealed the time and circumstances of their dying hour. They know, therefore, that they ought to stand in the posture of servants watching and waiting for the coming of their Lord.
I proceed to show,
II. What is implied in the godly's waiting for their appointed change. None but those who love and serve God sincerely, like Job, do properly wait for the day of their decease. The wicked, instead of desiring and waiting for death, dread its approach. It is one of the rare and distinguishing traits in the character of the godly that they wait for their appointed change; which implies,
1. The habitual expectation of their dying hour. We never wait for a person whom we do not expect will come, nor for an event that we do not expect will exist. Waiting always carries the idea of expectation. And when the godly properly wait for death, they really expect it will come at the appointed time. It is likely Job in his afflictions and bereavements had a lively sense of his own mortality, and really expected the time of his living was short, and the day of his death was very near. Nor had he only such an occasional and transient sense of his dying condition; but he habitually maintained a lively apprehension of the certainty and growing nearness of death. David as well as Joshua said, “I am this day going the way of all the earth.” And the eminent saints before them confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and ardently desired a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Paul declared, “I die daily.” Good old Barzillai lived in continual expectation of his dying day, and would not suffer himself to be in a situation to divert his attention from it. It is true, good men do not, and ought not, to think of nothing else but dying, or to expect that every moment will be their last. But they ought and do live in the habitual expectation of death, and realize that it may come at a day or hour that they had not anticipated. And this is one thing necessarily implied in waiting for their appointed change. 2. This also implies an habitual contemplation, as well as expectation of death. It is one thing to expect death, and another to contemplate upon it. When a person is waiting for any event, he naturally revolves it in his mind, and contemplates it in various points of view. So good men, who are really waiting for death, keep it much in mind, and contemplate upon the antecedents, concomitants, and consequences of exchanging worlds. Like Paul, they die daily, and seriously revolve in their minds whatever can be considered as naturally connected with it. They frequently place themselves in a dying situation, and anticipate as far as possible what must be their views and feelings whenever they shall be seized with a mortal disease, laid upon a bed of pain and languishment, surrounded by their friends and acquaintance, expecting every moment to close their eyes upon all things here below, and go immediately into the presence of God and the untried scenes of etermity. While good men are waiting for death, they have time, and a strong disposition to contemplate, in such a manner, upon their appointed and expected change. They not only place themselves by the side of the grave, but carry their thoughts into eternity, whither they are going, and from whence they shall never return. They endeavor to make the circumstances and consequences of death familiar to their minds, that so when it comes they may meet it with calmness and composure. They often reflect how this world will appear, and how eternity will appear, when they shall actually make the transition out of the one into the other. Some such serious and affecting contemplations upon death are always implied in waiting for it. 3. Good men's waiting for death farther implies that they view themselves prepared for their great and last change. Men never properly wait for any event, unless they think they are prepared to meet it, in all its consequences. So good men do not wait for death unless they are inwardly persuaded that they are prepared to exchange this for a better world. They may indeed be really prepared for the state of the blessed, while they fear they are unprepared. But while their fears outweigh their hopes, they do not wait for death. There are undoubtedly some good men who are never confident that they are prepared for their appointed change, but are all their life time subject to bondage, through fear of death. Such persons are not waiting for, they are dreading, the coming of their Lord. But Job was not one of such feeble, fearing, doubting saints. He knew to his own satisfaction that his Redeemer lived, and that he should see him at the latter day in glory. He had loved God so sincerely, devoted himself to him so entirely, and submitted to him so unreservedly, that he entertained no doubt that he was prepared for the inheritance of the saints in light. Hence he habitually waited for the time of his departure out of this world, and for his entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Such a good hope through grace is always implied in waiting for the day of death. While David was waiting for the day of his decease, he could appeal to God and say, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness.” Those who habitually wait for their appointed change, live in the habitual belief and hope that they are friends to God and God is a friend to them; that he will never leave nor forsake them, but will safely conduct them to and through death, to the kingdom of glory. It is only in this way that even good men wait for their appointed change. I must add, 4. That their waiting for death implies that they desire the time may come for them to leave the world. We wait for what we desire, not for what we dread; and for what we hope, not for what we fear. Those who fear and dread death, cannot be said to be waiting for it in the sense of Job. He waited all the days of his appointed time, as the weary laborer waits for the setting sun, or as a man waits for his coming friend. He said of life, “I loathe it; I would not live alway.” He said, “as the servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as the hireling looketh for the reward of his work,” so he waited for the close and reward of life. Good old Simeon waited for his appointed change, and his waiting carried in it a desire for its approach. He said to God, “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” And he represented christians in general as having the same desire to leave the world. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Christ knew the time of his departure out of the world, and really desired that it might soon come, though he clearly foresaw all the pains and agonies of his cruel death.