“Counsels of the Aged to the Young” – XX. Death


20. I conclude my counsels to the young by a serious and affectionate recommendation to everyone who reads these pages, to make immediate preparation for death. I know that mirthful youth are unwilling to hear us mention the subject of death. There is nothing which casts a greater damp upon their spirits than the solemn fact that death must be encountered, and that no earthly possessions or circumstances can secure us from becoming his victims, on any day.

But if it is acknowledged that this formidable evil is inevitable, and that the tenure by which we hold our grasp of life is very fragile, why should we act so unreasonably, and I may say, insanely, as to shut our eyes against the danger? If, indeed, there was no way of preparing to meet this solemn event, there might be some reason for turning away our thoughts from immediate destruction. But if by attention and exertion it is possible to make preparation for death, then nothing can be conceived more insane than to refuse to consider our latter end.

How often are we called to witness the decease of youth in the midst of all their pleasures and prospects! Such scenes have been exhibited within the observation of all of you. Dear friends and companions have been snatched away from the side of some of you. The grave has closed upon many whose prospects of long life were as favorable as those of their survivors. Now, my dear young friends, what has so frequently happened in relation to so many others—may take place with regard to some of you! This year you may be called to bid farewell to all your earthly prospects, and all your beloved relatives. The bare possibility of such an event ought to have the effect of engaging your most serious attention, and of leading you to immediate preparation.

Do you ask what preparation is necessary? I answer, reconciliation with God, and a fitness for the employments and enjoyments of the heavenly state. Preparation for death includes repentance towards God for all our sins, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and reliance on His atoning sacrifice, regeneration of heart, and reformation of life; and finally, a lively exercise of piety, accompanied with a comfortable assurance of the divine favor. In short, genuine and lively piety forms the essence of the needed preparation for death. With this your death will be safe, and your happiness after death secure.

But to render a deathbed not only safe but comfortable, you must have a strong faith, and clear evidence that your sins are forgiven, and that you have passed from death unto life. Be persuaded then, before you give sleep to your eyes, to commence your return unto God, from whom like lost sheep you have strayed. “Prepare to meet your God.” (Amos 4:12) “So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him!” (Matt 24:44)

Seek deliverance from the fear of death by a believing application to Him who came on purpose to deliver us from this bondage. With His presence and guidance we need fear no evil, even while passing through the gloomy valley and shadow of death. He is able by His rod and His staff to comfort us, and to make us conquerors over this last enemy!

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