"O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all
The late Countess of Huntingdon was not only rich in this world, but rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom. When she was about nine years of age she saw the dead body of a little child of her own age carried to the grave. She followed the funeral; and it was there that the Holy Spirit first opened her heart to convince her that she needed a Saviour. My dear little children, when you look upon the year that has come to an end, may the Holy Spirit bring you to the same conviction; may the still small voice say in your heart, Flee now from the wrath to come. Fly to the Lord Jesus without delay. "Escape for thy life: look not behind thee."
1. Because life is very short.— "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Even those who live longest, when they come to die, look back on their life as upon a dream. It is "like a sleep." The hours pass rapidly away during sleep; and when you awake you hardly know that any time is passed. Such is life. It is like "a tale that is told." When you are listening to an entertaining tale it fills up the time, and makes the hours steal swiftly by; even so "we spend our years as a tale that is told."
You have seen a ship upon the river when the sailors were all on board, the anchor heaved, and the sails spread to the wind, how it glided swiftly past, bounding over the billows; so is it with your days: "They are passed away as the swift ships." Or perhaps you have seen an eagle, when from its nest in the top of the rocks, it darts down with quivering wings to seize upon some smaller bird, how swiftly it flies, — so is it with your life: it flies "as the eagle hasteth to the prey." You have noticed the mist on the brow of the mountain early in the morning; and you have seen, when the sun rose with his warm cheering beams, how soon the mist melted away. And "what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
Some of you may have seen how short life is in those around you. "Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?" How many friends have you lying in the grave? Some of you have more friends in the grave than in this world. They were carried away "as with a flood," and we are fast hastening after them. In a little while the Church where you sit will be filled with new worshippers — a new voice will lead the psalm — a new man of God fill the pulpit. It is an absolute certainty that, in a few years, all of you who read this will be lying in the grave. Oh, what need, then, to fly to Christ without delay! How great a work you have to do! How short the time you have to do it in! You have to flee from wrath — to come to Christ — to be born again — to receive the Holy Spirit — to be made meet for glory. It is high time that you seek the Lord. The longest lifetime is short enough. Seek conviction of sin and an interest in Christ. " Oh, satisfy me early with thy mercy, that I may rejoice and be glad all my days."
2. Because life is very uncertain.— Men are like grass; "In the morning, it groweth up and flourisheth: in the evening, it is cut down and withereth." Most men are cut down while they are green. More than one-half of the human race die before they reach manhood. In the city of Glasgow alone, more than one half of the people die before the age of twenty. Of most men it may be said,— "He cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down." Death is very certain, but the time is very uncertain. Some may think they shall not die because they are in good health, but you forget that many die in good health, by accidents, and other causes. Again, riches and ease and comforts, good food and good clothing, are no safeguards against dying. It is written, "The rich man also died, and was buried.'' Kind physicians and kind friends cannot keep you from dying. When death comes, he laughs at the efforts of physicians — he tears you from the tenderest arms. Some think they shall not die because they are not prepared to die; but you forget that most people die unprepared — unconverted — unsaved. You forget that it is written of the strait gate, "Few there be that find it." Most people lie down in a dark grave, and a darker eternity. Some of you may think you shall not die because you are young. You forget that one-half of the human race die before they reach manhood. The half of the inhabitants of this town die before they are twenty. Oh, if you had to stand as often as I have beside the dying bed of little children — to see their wild looks and outstretched hands, and to hear their dying cries — you would see how needful it is to fly to Christ now. It may be your turn next. Are you prepared to die? Have you fled for refuge to Jesus? Have you found forgiveness? "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
3. Most that are ever saved fly to Christ when young.— It was so in the days of our blessed Saviour. Those that were come to years were too wise and prudent to be saved by the blood of the Son of God, and he revealed it to those that were younger and had less wisdom. "I thank, thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." "He gathers the lambs with his arm, and carries them in his bosom." So it has been in almost all times of the revival of religion. If you ask aged Christians, the most of them will tell you that they were made anxious about their souls when young.
Oh, what a reason is here for seeking an early in-bringing to Christ! If you are not saved in youth, it is likely you never will. There is a tide in the affairs of souls. There are times which may be called converting times. All holy times are peculiarly converting times. The Sabbath is the great day for gathering in souls — it is Christ's market-day. It is the great harvest-day of souls. I know there is a generation rising up that would fain trample the Sabbath beneath their feet; but prize you the Sabbath-day. The time of affliction is converting time. When God takes away those you love best, and you say, "This is the finger of God," remember it is Christ wanting to get in to save you: open the door and let him in. The time of the striving of the Holy Spirit is converting time. If' you feel your heart pricked in reading the Bible, or in hearing your teacher, "quench not the Spirit;" "resist not the Holy Ghost ;" "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God." Youth is converting time. "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." Oh, you that are lambs, seek to be gathered with the arm of the Saviour, and carried in his gentle bosom. Come to trust under the Saviour's wings. "Yet there is room."
4. Because it is happier to be in Christ than out of Christ.—Many that read these words are saying in their heart, It is a dull thing to be religious. Youth is the time for pleasure — the time to eat, drink, and be merry — to rise up to play. Now, I know that youth is the time for pleasure: the foot is more elastic then — the eye more full of life — the heart more full of gladness. But that is the very reason why I say youth is the time to fly to Christ. It is far happier to be in Christ than to be out of Christ.
First, it satisfies the heart.—I never will deny that there are pleasures found out of Christ. The song and the dance, and the exciting game are most engaging to young hearts. But ah! think a moment. Is it not an awful thing to be happy when you are unsaved? Would it not be dreadful to see a man sleeping in a house all on fire? And is it not enough to make one shudder to see you dancing and making merry when God is angry with you every day?
Think again. Are there not infinitely sweeter pleasures to be had in Christ? "Whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." "In thy presence is fulness of joy: at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." To be forgiven — to be at peace with God — to have him for a Father — to have him loving us and smiling on us — to have the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts, and making us holy — this is worth a whole eternity of your pleasures. "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand." Oh to be "satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord!" Your daily bread becomes sweeter. You eat your meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God." Your foot is more light and bounding, for it bears a ransomed body. Your sleep is sweeter at night for "so he giveth his beloved sleep." The sun shines more lovingly, and the earth wears a pleasanter smile, because you can say, "My Father made them all."
Second, it makes you glad all your days.—The pleasures of sin are only "for a season;" they do not last. But to be brought to Christ is like the dawning of an eternal day: it spreads the serenity of heaven over all the days of our pilgrimage. In suffering days, what will the world do for you? "Like vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart." Believe me, there are days at hand when you will "say of laughter, It is mad and of mirth, What doth it?" But if you fly to Jesus Christ now, he will cheer you in the days of darkness. When the winds are contrary and the waves are high, Jesus will draw near and say, "Be not afraid; it is I." That voice stills the heart in the stormiest hour. When the world reproaches you, and casts out your name as evil — when the doors are shut— Jesus will come in and say, "Peace be unto you." Who can tell the sweetness and the peace which Jesus gives in such an hour? One little girl that was early brought to Christ felt this when long confined to a sick bed. "I am not weary of my bed," she said, "for my bed is green; and all that I meet with is perfumed with love to me. The time, night and day, is made sweet to me by the Lord. When it is evening, it is pleasant; and when it is morning I am refreshed."
Last of all, in a dying day, what will the world do for you? The dance and the song and the merry companion will then lose all their power to cheer you. Not one jest more. Not one smile more. "Oh that you were wise, that you would understand this, and consider your latter end." But that is the very time when the soul of one in Christ rejoices with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. "Jesus can make a dying bed softer than downy pillows are." You remember when Stephen came to die; they battered his gentle breast with cruel stones; but he kneeled down and said, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit." John Newton tells us of a Christian girl who, on her dying day, said, "If this be dying, it is a pleasant thing to die." Another little Christian, of eight years of age, came home ill of the malady of which he died. His mother asked him If he were afraid to die? "No," said he, "I wish to die, if it be God's will: that sweet word, Sleep in Jesus, makes me happy when I think on the grave."
"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again till Christ be formed in you," if you would live happy and die happy, come now to a Saviour. The door of the ark is wide open. Enter now, or it may be never.
From The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. 2 vols. New York: Robert Carter, 1848-1850.
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