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reason for postponing this inquiry, form a most powerful reason for instantly commencing, and vigorously prosecuting it.
Am I then ready to die? Were God this night-this moment, to require my soul, what would be my condition for eternity? If the reader be really desirous of ascertaining this point, he will probe the matter to the bottom; a superficial examination will not suffice. If his object be merely to come to a favourable conclusion, whether correct or not, he may probably find it an easy matter to persuade himself that all is well; but if his object be to come to a correct conclusion, whether favourable or not, he will be afraid or self-deception. He will examine the matter thoroughly, knowing that his highest and dearest interests are involved in the inquiry. He will prosecute it according to the directions of the word of God, with earnest prayer that he may be guided aright, and with a deep and settled conviction of the tendency of his heart to self-deception.
May the Lord the Spirit condescend to direct the writer while he endeavours to assist in this deeply interesting inquiry, Am I ready to die?
Not unless your sins are pardoned. Every thing depends on this; unpardoned sin constitutes unpreparedness for death. Of this, every reader may satisfy himself. What is it which renders any man afraid to die? Is it not a consciousness of guilt, and a consequent dread of the wrath of God? How can this fear be removed, but by lightening the conscience of this load? But the object ought not to be merely to get quit of the load by any means, but to get quit of it by scriptural means and dreadful, indeed, will be the disappointment of those who are deluded with a false peace, and whose preparation for death will not abide the judgment.
Does the reader entertain any hope on this head, from supposing that he has made, or is intending to make, his peace with God, by repentance and reformation, and from a general persuasion, that whatever is wanting, will be made. up by the mercy of God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Let him not deceive himself. Oh! my friend, this kind of preparation will not do. It will not abide the test of God's word, and therefore we are sure it will not abide the test to be applied in the judgment. Hear what God says in his word; "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Gal iii. 10. 66 By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Gal. ii. 16. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Heb. xi. 6.
But preparation for death results exclusively from the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, who has made atonement for sin, and thus unstinged death.
The first and prominent ingredient in a state of preparation for death, is the pardon of sin. The question then, Am I ready to die? may be answered by another, Are my sins pardoned? This blessing is enjoyed through faith in the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ his beloved Son, in whom he has made himself known as well pleased. Preparation for death is thus imparted to, not wrought out by any sinner; is freely offered to all, without money and without price; and is enjoyed by those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus. In him, believers "have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of divine grace." "There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." But the reader, who is sincerely desirous of knowing if he be ready to die, may perhaps feel that he has not yet advanced one step towards the conclusion. He has been told, perhaps convinced, that the question, "Am I ready to die?" may be answered by the question, "Are my sins pardoned?" but he finds himself as much at a loss to ascertain this latter point, as the former.
The writer is verily persuaded that the Bible affords the means of determining this point too, and humbly prays that he may be enabled to bring forward the doctrine of Scripture in reference to it. He would remark, however, that the information as to the pardon of sin which the Scriptures authorise men to expect, is not communicated to any by name, nor by any peculiarity of impression irrespective of character. There are some who seem to wish for such intimation, an assurance to them personally, as by name, and to which they may ever after revert, as establishing the important fact that their sins are pardoned, and their condition for eternity secure. Is it too much to advance a step farther, and say, that as some wish for such an intimation, others assert that they have received it, and maintain the confidence of their sonship," "their acceptance in the Beloved," and "their final salvation," though living in sin, and indulging in self-righteousness, pride, censorious judging, evil-speaking, hypocrisy, and worldly-mindedness?
This information of the forgiveness of sin most assuredly does not proceed from the God of truth, but from the father of lies. Such intimation, it is hoped, the reader does not It would ruin him, and that for ever, even as Ahab
was hurried on to destruction, by a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.
The information which the Scriptures impart on this point is always connected with character, with faith and obedience, with present faith and present obedience. The nature of this connexion will perhaps best appear by a short series of scripture passages bearing on this subject. To the members of the churches in Galatia, the Apostle Paul said, Gal. iii. 26, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" thus pointing out their sonship, and the means through which that high honour was enjoyed. Chap. iv. 6, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father;" connecting thus their inestimable privilege with their endearing relation. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Gal. v. 22–25; delineating thus the character of those who are the sons of God; the genuine disciples of Christ, and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. "And if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Romans viii. 13-16; thus authoritatively invalidating all pretensions to the Christian character, on the part of those who are living after the flesh, that is, in sin, and who are not led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit thus beareth witness, by imparting not a foolhardy, but a childlike confidence; childlike dispositions, and a conformity in desire, and principle, and conduct to his own character, and to the character delineated in the word of God, as that of the genuine Christian. Without these, all pretensions to connexion with Christ, and to a participation in the blessings of pardon, acceptance, and final salvation, are vain and presumptuous; for it stands as an absolute maxim, in the faithful word of God, "If any man," be his pretensions, or reputation, or attainments, or usefulness, or character, what they may, "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
HE IS NONE OF HIS.'
The importance of this subject, it is hoped, will justify us
in presenting another series of scripture passages, varying the light in which the subject is presented, but conducting to the same final result, and thus confirmatory of it.
'By him all that believe are justified from all things." Acts xiii. 39. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. v. 1. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence" (that which gave us confidence at the beginning,) "stedfast unto the end." Heb. iii. 13. "Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man" (he) "draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we," said the apostle, are not of them who draw back unto perdition but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Heb. x. 38, 39. "And you that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight; if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven." Col. i. 21-23. "Now he who stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." 2 Cor. i. 21, 22. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thess. ii. 13, 14. "Of him (that is God) are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. i. 30. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans viii. 1.
In summing up the purport of these several quotations, I remark, that they certainly teach us that the pardon of sin, or in other words, that preparation for death, is enjoyed by none who do not believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; by none who are living in known sin, indulging either in the lusts of the flesh or of the mind; by none, who have not experienced, in some measure, the sanctification of the Spirit, and who, under his gracious influences, are holding fast the beginning of their confidence, rejoicing in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus as the sole ground of their justification, and, at the same time, following after personal holiness, as that without which no man shall see the Lord.
And these quotations certainly teach us, on the other hand, that immediately on believing the gospel, an individual passes from a state of condemnation into a state of justification; that he enjoys peace and good hope through faith; that his peace and hope, are, by faith, maintained; and that though his obedience does not in the smallest degree form the ground of his justification, it does form the best evidence of it.
Let the reader, then, examine himself by these infallible tests; and may the Holy Spirit enable him to make an honest and unreserved application of them to his case, that the decision to which he comes on the important question, Am I ready to die? may be according to the mind of God. Preparation for death, then, implies the forgiveness of sin, which is enjoyed through faith in Jesus; and the reality and genuine nature of faith are best known by its fruits, especially the fruits of righteousness. If the reader finds that the inquiry cannot, by this mode of investigation, be brought to a favourable result now, let him be persuaded, that neither would it at the judgment-seat.
Renouncing absolutely and for ever all confidence in his own character, as not having been worse than that of others; in his intended reformation, or in his pious resolutions, let him trust his eternal interests to the efficacy of that sacrifice which was offered on mount Calvary, when Jesus bowed his head, and said, "It is finished." Then was sin, which constitutes the sting of death, atoned for. Then was accomplished the deliverance of those who must otherwise, through fear of death, have been all their lifetime subject to bondage. Then was wrought out that righteousness through which the guilty are accepted before the throne of God, and through the glorious efficacy of which an innumerable multitude shall finally be ransomed from the loathsomeness of the grave, and enjoy eternal glory in a state of holy conformity to God and to the Lamb.
With humble confidence may every believer say,
"I will not fear to meet my God,
For Christ the Lamb was slain."
But the inquiry, Am I ready to die? is one which Christians will do well to institute. On believing the gospel, men do pass from death unto life, and shall not thereafter come into condemnation; but if any man, from a persuasion that he has thus passed from death unto life; that he is thus freed from condemnation; if any man, I say, from this persuasion, shall indulge in sin, not merely in the grosser sins