A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 8, 1871, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 8/16/2011*8/16/2011
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word:
for my eyes have seen your salvation. (Luke 2:29,30)
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1. Blessed were you, oh Simeon, for flesh and blood had not revealed this to you; neither had it enabled you so cheerfully to bid the world farewell. The flesh clings to the earth — it is dust, and acknowledges affinity to the ground from which it was taken; it loathes to part from mother earth. Even old age, with its infirmities, does not make men really willing to depart out of this world. By nature we hold to life with a terrible tenacity; and even when we sigh over the evils of life, and repine concerning its ills, and imagine that we wish ourselves away, it is probable that our readiness to depart lies only upon the surface, but deep down in our hearts we have no will to go. Flesh and blood had not revealed to Simeon that he saw God’s salvation in that babe whom he took out of the arms of Mary, and embraced with eager joy. God’s grace had taught him that this was the Saviour, and God’s grace at the same time loosened the cords which bound him to earth, and made him feel the attractions of the better land. Blessed is that man who has received by grace a preparedness for heaven, and a willingness to depart to that better land: let him magnify the Lord who has performed so great a work in him. As Paul says, “Thanks be to the Father who has made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Certainly none of us were fit by nature — not even Simeon; the fitness of the venerable man was all the handiwork of God, and so, also, was his anxiety to obtain the inheritance for which God had prepared him. I trust, brethren, while we consider this morning the preparedness of the saints for heaven, and meditate in our mind on those reflections which will make us ready to depart, God’s Holy Spirit, sent from the Father, may make us also willing to leave these mortal shores, and launch upon the eternal sea at the invitation of our Father, God.
2. We shall notice, this morning, first, that every believer may be assured of departing in peace; but that, secondly, some believers feel a special readiness to depart now: “Now let your servant depart in peace”;(a) and, thirdly, that there are words of encouragement to produce in us the similar readiness: “according to your word.” There are words of Holy Writ which afford richest consolation in the prospect of departure.
3. I. First, then, let us start with the great general principle, which is full of comfort; namely, this, that EVERY BELIEVER MAY BE ASSURED OF ULTIMATELY DEPARTING IN PEACE. This is no privilege unique to Simeon, it is common to all the saints, since the basis upon which this privilege rests are not monopolised by Simeon, but belong to us all.
4. Observe, first, that all the saints have seen God’s salvation, therefore, they should all depart in peace. It is true, we cannot take up the infant Christ in our arms, but he is “formed in us, the hope of glory.” It is true, we cannot look upon him with these mortal eyes, but we have seen him with those immortal eyes which death cannot dim — the eyes of our own spirit which have been opened by God’s Holy Spirit. A sight of Christ with the natural eye is not saving, for thousands saw him and then cried, “Crucify him, crucify him.” After all, it was in Simeon’s case the spiritual eye that saw, the eye of faith that truly beheld the Christ of God; for there were others in the temple who saw the babe; there was the priest who performed the act of circumcision, and the other officials who gathered around the group; but I do not know that any of them saw God’s salvation. They saw the little innocent child that was brought there by his parents, but they saw nothing remarkable in him; perhaps, Simeon and Anna, alone of all those who were in the temple, saw with the inward eye the real Anointed of God revealed as a feeble infant. So, though you and I miss the outward sight of Christ, we need not regret it, it is only secondary as a privilege; if with the inner sight we have seen the Incarnate God, and accepted him as our salvation, we are blessed with holy Simeon. Abraham saw Christ’s day before it dawned, and even so, after it has passed, we see it, and with faithful Abraham we are glad. We have looked to him, and we are enlightened. We have beheld the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In the “despised and rejected by men” we have seen the anointed Saviour; in the crucified and buried One, who afterwards rose again, and ascended into glory, we have seen salvation, full, free, and finished. Why, therefore, should we think ourselves less favoured than Simeon? Similar causes produce similar results: we shall depart in peace, for we have seen God’s salvation.
Moreover, believers already enjoy peace as much as Simeon ever
did. No man can depart in peace who has not lived in peace; but he
who has attained peace in life shall possess peace in death, and an
eternity of peace after death. “Being justified by faith we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus has bequeathed
us peace, saying, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”
“For he is our peace,” and “the fruit of the Spirit is peace.” We are
reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Whatever peace flowed in
the heart of Simeon, I am sure it was not of a more divine nature
than what resides in the heart of every true believer. If sin is
pardoned, the quarrel is over; if the atonement is made, then peace
is established, a peace covenanted to endure for ever. We are now led
in the paths of peace; we walk the King’s highway, of which it is
written, “no lion shall be there”; we are led beside the still
waters, and made to lie down in green pastures. We feel no slavish
fear of God, though he is “a consuming fire” even to us; we tremble
no longer to approach into his presence, who condescends to be our
Father. The precious blood upon the mercy seat has made it a safe
place for us to resort to at all times; boldness has taken the place
of trembling. The throne of God is our rejoicing, though once it was
Once ’twas a seat of dreadful wrath,
And shot devouring flame;
Our God appear’d “consuming fire,”
And vengeance was his name.
Therefore, brethren, having peace with God, we may be sure that we shall “depart in peace.” We need not fear that the God of all consolation, who has already enriched us in communion with himself, and peace in Christ Jesus, will desert us at the last. He will help us to sing a sweet swan song, and our tabernacle shall be gently taken down, to be rebuilt more enduringly in the fair country beyond Jordan.
6. Furthermore, we may rest assured of the same peace as what Simeon possessed, since we are, if true believers, equally God’s servants. The text says, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” But, in this case, one servant cannot claim a privilege greater than the rest of the household. The same position towards God, yields the same reward from God. Simeon, a servant; you also, my brother, a servant; he who says to Simeon, “depart in peace,” will say also the same to you. The Lord is always very considerate towards his old servants, and takes care of them when their strength fails. The Amalekite of old had a servant who was an Egyptian, and when he fell sick he left him, and he would have perished if David had not had compassion on him; but our God is no Amalekite slave owner, neither does he cast off his worn out servants. “Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoary hairs I will carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” David felt this, for he prayed to God, and said, “Now, also, when I am old and grayheaded, oh God, do not forsake me.” If you have been clothed in your Lord’s livery of grace, and taught to obey his will, he will never leave you, nor forsake you; he will not sell you into the hands of your adversary, nor permit your soul to perish. A true master considers it a part of his duty to protect his servants, and our great Lord and Prince will show himself strong on the behalf of the very least of all his followers, and will bring every one of them into the rest which remains for his people. Do you really serve God? Remember, “you are the servants of whomever you obey.” Are you taught by the Spirit to obey the commandments of love? Do you strive to walk in holiness? If so, do not fear death; it shall have no terrors for you. All the servants of God shall depart in peace.
7. There is also another reflection which strengthens our conviction that all believers shall depart in peace, namely, this: that up until now all things in their experience have been according to God’s word. Simeon’s basis of hope for a peaceful departure was “according to your word”; and, surely, no Scripture is of private interpretation, or to be reserved for one believer to the exclusion of the rest? The promises of God, which are “Yea and amen in Christ Jesus,” are sure to all the seed: the promise is not made to some of the children but for all the heirs of grace. There are not special promises hedged around and set apart for Simeon and a few saints of olden time, but with all who are in Christ, their federal head, the covenant is made, and stands “ordered in all things and sure.” If, then, Simeon, as a believer in the Lord, had a promise that he should depart in peace, I also have a similar promise if I am in Christ. What God has said in his word Simeon lays hold of, and no one can say no to him; but if, with the same grace given faith, I also grasp it for myself, who shall challenge my right? God will not violate his promise to one of his people any more than to another, and, consequently, when our turn shall come to gather up our feet in the bed and to resign our spirit, some precious passage in sacred writ shall be as a rod and a staff for us so that we may fear no evil.
8. These four considerations, gleaned from the text itself, may give fourfold certainty to the assurance that every believer, at the hour of his departure, shall possess peace.
9. For a moment, review attentively the words of the aged saint: they have much instruction in them. Every believer shall in death depart in the same sense as Simeon did. The word used here is suggestive and encouraging: it may be applied either to escape from confinement, or to deliverance from toil. The Christian man in the present state is like a bird in a cage: his body imprisons his soul. His spirit, it is true, ranges heaven and earth, and laughs at the limits of matter, space, and time; but for all that, the flesh is a poor scabbard unworthy of the glittering soul, a humble cottage unfit for a princely spirit, a clog, a burden, and a fetter. When we would watch and pray, we find very often that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. “We who are in this body groan.” The fact is, we are caged birds; but the day comes when the great Master shall open the cage door, and release his prisoners. We need not dread the act of unlatching the door, for it will give to our soul the liberty for which it inwardly pines, and then, with the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and its feathers with yellow gold, though previously it laid among the pots, it will soar into its native air, singing all the way with a rapture beyond imagination. Simeon looked upon dying as a mode of being freed — a deliverance out of this vile existence, an escape from captivity, a release from bondage. The same redemption shall be given to us. How often does my soul feel like an unhatched chick, shut up within a narrow shell, in darkness and discomfort! The life within labours hard to chip and break the shell, to know a little more about the great universe of truth, and see in clearer light the infinite of divine love. Oh, happy day, when the shell shall be broken, and the soul, complete in the image of Christ, shall enter into the freedom for which she is preparing! We look for that, and we shall have it. God, who gave us to aspire to holiness and spirituality and to likeness to himself, never implanted those aspirations in us out of mockery. He meant to gratify these holy longings, or, else, he would not have aroused them. Before long we, like Simeon, shall depart — that is, we shall be set free to go in peace.
10. I said that the word meant also a release from toil. It is as though Simeon had been standing at the table of his Master like a servant waiting on his Lord. You know the parable in which Christ says that the master does not first ask his servant to sit down and eat bread, but commands him like this, “Gird yourself and serve me.” See then, Simeon stands there, girt and serving his Master; but by and by, when the Master sees fit, he turns around and says to Simeon, “Now you may depart, and eat your own food, your work is done.” Or, we may use another simile, and picture Simeon sitting at the King’s gate, like Mordecai, ready for any errand which may be appointed to him, but at length his time of attendance expires, and the great monarch asks him to depart in peace. Or, yet again, we may view him as a reaper toiling amid the harvest beneath a burning sun, parched with thirst and wearied with labour, and lo! the great Boaz came into the field, and, having greeted his servant, says to him, “You have fulfilled your day like a hireling: take your wages, and depart in peace.” The same shall happen to all true servants of Christ; they shall rest from their labours where no weariness shall vex them, “neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” They shall enter into the joy of their Lord, and enjoy the rest which remains for them. There is much of comforting thought if we meditate upon this.
11. But, notice the words again. You perceive that the departure of the child of God is appointed by the Lord. “Now let your servant depart.” The servant must not depart from his labour without his Master’s permission, or else he would be a runaway, dishonest to his position. The good servant dares not stir until his Master says, “Depart in peace.” Simeon was content to wait until he received permission to depart, and it becomes us all to acquiesce cheerfully in the Lord’s appointment, whether he lengthens or shortens our life. It is certain that without the Lord’s will no power can remove us. No wind from the wilderness shall drive our souls into the land of darkness, no fiends with horrid clamour can drag us down to the abyss beneath, no destruction that is wasting at noonday, or pestilence that is waiting in darkness can cut short our mortal career. We shall not die until God shall say to us, “My child, depart from the field of service, and the constraints of your tabernacle, and enter into rest.” Until God commands us we cannot die, and when he tells us to go it shall be sweet for us to leave this world.
12. Notice, further, that the words before us clearly show that the believer’s departure is attended with a renewal of this divine benediction. God says, “Depart in peace.” It is a farewell, such as we give to a friend: it is a benediction, such as Aaron, the priest of God, might pronounce over a supplicant whose sacrifice was accepted. Eli said to Hannah, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you your petition that you have asked of him.” Around the sinner’s deathbed the tempest thickens, and he hears the rumblings of the eternal storm: his soul is driven away, either amid the thunderings of curses loud and deep, or else in the dread calm which always portends the hurricane. “Depart, you cursed,” is the horrible sound which is in his ears. But, it is not so for the righteous. He feels the Father’s hand of benediction on his head, and underneath him are the everlasting arms. The best wine with him is kept to the last. At eventide it is light; and, as his sun is going down, it grows more glorious, and lights up all the surroundings with a celestial glow, at which bystanders wonder, and exclaim “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” That pilgrim sets out upon a happy journey to whom Jehovah says, “Depart in peace.” This is a sole finger laid upon the closing eyelid by a tender father, and it ensures a happy awakening, where eyes are never wet with tears.
13. I cannot detain you longer over these words: suffice it to add, that whatever belonged to Simeon in this benediction must not be regarded as unique to him alone, but as, in their measure, the possession of all believers. “ ‘This is the inheritance of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from me,’ says the Lord.”
14. II. But now, secondly, we remind you, that SOME BELIEVERS ARE CONSCIOUS OF A SPECIAL READINESS TO DEPART IN PEACE.
15. When do they feel this? Answer: first, when their graces are vigorous. All the graces are in all Christians, but they are not all there in the same proportion, nor are they at all times in the same degree of strength. In certain believers faith is strong and active. Now, when faith becomes “the evidence of things not seen,” and “the substance of things hoped for,” then the soul is sure to say, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” Faith brings the clusters of Eshcol into the desert, and makes the tribes long for the land that flows with milk and honey. When the old Gauls had drunk the wines of Italy, they said, “Let us cross the Alps, and take possession of the vineyards, which yield such generous draughts.” So, when faith makes us realise the joys of heaven, it is then that our soul stands waiting in the wings, watching for the signal from the glory land.
16. The same is true of the grace of hope, for hope peers into the invisible things. She brings the golden gates of the Eternal City near to us. Like Moses, our hope climbs to the top of Pisgah, and sees the Canaan of the true Israel. Moses had a delightful vision of the promised land when he gazed from Nebo’s brow, and saw it all from Dan to Beersheba: so also hope drinks in the charming prospect of the goodly land and Lebanon, and then she exclaims exultingly, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” When heaven is realised and anticipated by hope then it renders the thought of departure most precious to the heart.
And the same, also, is the effect of the grace of love upon us.
Love puts the heart, like a sacrifice, on the altar, and then she
fetches heavenly fire, and kindles it; and, as soon as the heart
begins to burn and glow like a sacrifice, what is the result? Why, it
ascends like pillars of smoke up to the throne of God. It is the very
instinct of love to draw us nearer to the person whom we love; and,
when love towards God pervades the soul, then the spirit cries,
“Hurry, my beloved, be like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains
of separation.” Perfect love, casting out all fear, cries, “Up, and
Let me be with thee, where thou art,
My Saviour my eternal rest!
Then only will this longing heart
Be fully and for ever blest.
18. So I might mention all the graces, but I will just take one of them to conclude with! one which is often overlooked, but is priceless as the gold of Ophir — it is the grace of humility. Is it strange that the lower a man sinks in his own esteem the higher he rises before his God? Is it not written, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?” Simeon had no conceit of his own importance in the world, or else he would have said, “Lord, let me stay, and be an apostle. Surely I shall be needed at this juncture to lend my aid in the auspicious era which has just commenced?” But no, he felt himself so little, so insignificant, that now that he had attained his heart’s wish and seen God’s salvation, he was willing to depart in peace. Humility by making us lie low helps us to think highly of God, and, consequently, to desire much to be with God. Oh to have our graces always flourishing, for then we shall always be ready to depart, and willing to be offered up. Lack of grace entangles us, but to abound in grace is to live in the suburbs of the New Jerusalem.
Another time, when believers are ready to go like this, occurs when
their assurance is clear. It is not always so with even the most
mature Christians, and some true saints have not yet attained to
assurance; they are truly saved, and possess a genuine faith, but
since assurance is the cream of faith, the milk has not stood long
enough to produce the cream; they have not yet come to the flower of
assurance, for their faith is only a tender plant. Give a man
assurance of heaven and he will be eager to enjoy it. While he doubts
his own security, he wants to linger here. He is like the Psalmist
when he asked that God would permit him to recover his strength
before he departed, and was no more. Some things were not yet in
order with David, and he would stay awhile until they were. But, when
the ship is all loaded, the crew on board, and the anchor heaved, the
favouring breeze is desired so that the barque may speed on its
voyage. When a man is prepared for his journey, ready to depart, he
does not care to linger long in these misty valleys, but pants for
the sunny summits of the mount of God, upon which stands the palace
of the Great King. Let a man know that he is resting upon the
precious blood of Christ, let him by diligent self-examination
perceive in himself the marks of regeneration, and by the witness of
his own spirit, and by the infallible witness of the Holy Spirit
bearing witness with his own spirit, let him be certified that he is
born by God, and the natural result will be that he will say, “Now
let me be freed from all things here below and let me enter into the
rest which is assuredly my own.” Oh you who have lost your assurance
by negligent living, by falling into sin, or by some other form of
backsliding, I do not wonder that you hug the world, for you are
afraid you have no other portion; but with those who read their
titles clear to mansions in the skies it will be otherwise. They will
not ask to linger in this place of banishment, but will sing in their
hearts, as we did just now:
Jerusalem my happy home,
Name ever dear to me;
When shall my labours have an end,
In joy and peace and thee?
20. Beloved, furthermore, saints feel most their readiness to go when their communion with Christ is near and sweet; when Christ hides himself we are afraid to speak of dying, or of heaven; but, when he only shows himself through the lattices, and we can see those eyes which are “as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water, washed with milk and fitly set”; when our own soul melts even at that hazy sight of him, as through a glass darkly, oh then we gladly wish to be at home, and our soul cries out for the day when her eyes shall see the King in his beauty, in the land that is very far off. Have you never felt the heavenly homesickness? Have you never pined for the home coming? Surely, when your heart has been full of the bridegroom’s beauty, and your soul has been ravished with his dear and ever precious love, you have said: “When shall the day break, and the shadows flee away? Why are his chariots so long in coming?” You have swooned, as it were, with lovesickness for your precious Saviour, thirsting to see him as he is, and to be like him. The world is black when Christ is fair; it is a poor heap of ashes when he is altogether lovely to us. When a precious Christ is revealed to our spirits, we feel that we could see Jesus and die. Put out these eyes, there is nothing more for them to see when they have seen him. “Black sun,” said Rutherford, “black moon, black stars, but inconceivably bright and glorious Lord Jesus.” How often did that devout man write words of this kind: “Oh if I had to swim through seven hells to reach him, if he would only say to me, like Peter, ‘Come to me,’ I would go to him not only on the sea, but on the boiling floods of hell, if I might only reach him, and come to him.” I will pause here and give you his own words: “I profess to you I have no rest, I have no ease, until I am head over heals in love’s ocean. If Christ’s love (that fountain of delight) were laid as open to me as I would wish, oh, how I would drink, and drink abundantly! I half call his absence cruel; and the mask and veil on Christ’s face a cruel covering, that hides such a fair, fair face from a sick soul. I dare not upbraid him, but his absence is a mountain of iron upon my heavy heart. Oh, when shall we meet? Oh, how long is it to the dawning of the marriage day? Oh sweet Lord Jesus, take giant steps; oh my Lord, come over the mountains at one stride! Oh my Beloved, be like a roe, or a young hart, on the mountains of separation. Oh, if he would fold the heavens together like an old cloak, and shovel time and days out of the way, and make ready in haste the Lamb’s wife for her Husband! Since he looked upon me my heart is not mine; he has run away to heaven with it.” When these strong throes, these ardent pangs of insatiable desire come upon a soul that is fully saturated with Christ’s love, through having been made to lean its head upon his bosom, and to receive the kisses of his mouth, then is the time when the soul says, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.”
21. So again, beloved, saints have drawn their anchor up and spread their sails, when they have been made to hold loosely all there is in this world; and that is generally when they are held most firmly by the world to come. To many this world is very sweet, very fair, but God puts bitters into the cup of his children; when their nest is soft, he fills it with thorns to make them long to fly. Alas, that it should be so, but some of God’s servants seem as if they had made up their minds to find a rest beneath the moon. They are moonstruck who hope to do so. All the houses in this plague stricken land are worm eaten and let in the rain and wind: my soul longs to find a rest among the ivory palaces of your land, oh Emmanuel.
22. Brethren, it often happens that the loss of dear friends, or the treachery of those whom we trusted, or bodily sickness, or depression of spirit, may help to unloose the ties which chain us to this life; and then we are enabled to say with David in one of the most precious little Psalms in the whole Book, the one hundred and thirty-first, “I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned by his mother, my soul is even as a weaned child.” I have often thought that if David had said, “my soul is even as a weaning child,” it would have been far more like most of God’s people. But to be weaned, quite weaned from the world, to turn away from her consolations altogether, it is this which makes us cry, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” Even as the psalmist when he said, “And now, Lord, what am I waiting for? my hope is in you.”
23. Again, saints are willing to depart when their work is almost done. This will not be the case with many here present, perhaps, but it was so with Simeon. Good old man! He had been very constant in his devotions, but on this occasion he came into the temple, and there, it is said, he took the child in his arms, and blessed God. Once more he delivered his soul of its adoration — once more he blended his praise with the songs of angels. When he had done that, he openly confessed his faith: another important work of every believer — for he said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” He bore public testimony to the child Jesus, and declared that he should be “a light to enlighten the Gentiles.” Having done that, he bestowed his fatherly benediction upon the child’s parents, Joseph and his mother; he blessed them, and said to Mary “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” Now, we read that David, after he had served his generation, fell asleep; it is time for man to sleep when his life’s work is finished. Simeon felt he had done all: he had blessed God; he had declared his faith; he had borne testimony to Christ; he had bestowed his benediction upon godly people; and so he said, “Now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace.” Ah, Christian people, you will never be willing to go if you are idle. You lazy lie-a-abouts, who do little or nothing for Christ, you sluggish servants, whose garden is overgrown with weeds, no wonder that you do not want to see your master! Your sluggishness accuses you, and makes you cowards. Only he who has put out his talents to good interest will be willing to render an account of his stewardship. But when a man feels, without claiming any merit, that he has fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith, then he will rejoice in the crown which is laid up for him in heaven, and he will long to wear it. Throw your strength into the Lord’s work, dear brethren — all your strength; spare none of your powers: let body, soul, and spirit be entirely consecrated to God, and used at their utmost ability. Get through your day’s work, for the sooner you complete it, and have fulfilled like a hireling your day, the more near and sweet shall be the time when the shadows lengthen, and God shall say to you, as a faithful servant, “Depart in peace!”
24. One other matter, I think, helps to make saints willing to go, and that happens when they see or foresee the prosperity of the church of God. Good old Simeon saw that Christ was to be a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel; and, therefore, he said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” I have known many a godly deacon who has seen a church wither and decay, its ministry become unprofitable, and its membership become divided; the dear old man has poured out his soul in agony before God, and when at last the Lord has sent a man to seek the good of Israel, and the church has been built up, he has been overjoyed, and he has said, “Now let your servant depart in peace.” It must have reconciled John Knox to die when he had seen the reformation safely planted throughout all Scotland. It made dear old Latimer, as he stood on the fagot, feel happy when he could say, “Courage, brother, we shall today light such a candle in England as shall never be blown out.” “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” Indeed, that we do, and we vehemently desire her prosperity, and if we can see Christ glorified, error defeated, truth established, sinners saved, and saints sanctified, our spirit feels she has all she wishes. Like dying, David, when we have said, “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory,” we can fall back upon the pillows and die, for our prayers like those of David the son of Jesse are ended. Let us pray for this peace and this prosperity, and when we see it come, it shall bring calm and rest to our spirits, so that we shall be willing to depart in peace.
25. III. I shall call your attention now, for a little while, to the third point, that THERE ARE WORDS TO ENCOURAGE US TO A SIMILAR READINESS TO DEPART. “According to your word.”
26. Now let us go to the Bible, and take from it seven choice texts all calculated to cheer our hearts in the prospect of departure, and the first is: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4) “We walk” — the Christian does not quicken his pace when he dies; he walked before, and he is not afraid of death, so he calmly walks on. It is a walk through a “shadow.” There is no substance in death, it is only a shadow. Who needs fear a shadow? It is not a lonely walk — “You are with me.” Neither is it a walk that needs to cause us terror; “I will fear no evil”: not only is there no evil, but no fear shall cloud my dying hours. It shall be a departure full of comfort: “Your rod and your staff” — a twofold means shall give us a fulness of consolation. “Your rod and your staff comfort me.”
27. Take another text, and so follow the direction, “According to your word”: “Observe the perfect man, and see the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalms 37:37) If we are perfect, that is sincere; if we are upright, that is honest in heart; our end then assuredly is peace.
28. Take another text: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15) It is no ordinary thing for a saint to die; it is a spectacle which the eyes of God are delighted with. As king’s delight in their pearls and diamonds, and consider them precious, so the deathbeds of the saints are God’s precious things.
29. Take another: “He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.” (Isaiah 57:2) Here is an entrance into peace for the saint, rest on his deathbed, rest for his body in the grave, rest for his spirit in the bosom of his Lord, and a walking in his uprightness in the immortality above. “According to your word.” Oh, what force there is in these few syllables! When you can preach the word of God you must prevail. Nothing has such marrow and fatness in it as a text of Scripture. It has a force of comfort all its own.
30. Consider also: “For all things are yours: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” (1 Corinthians 3:22) Now, if death is yours, there can be no valid reason why you should be afraid of what is signed over to you as a part of your inheritance.
31. Read in the same epistle: “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) With such a text we need not fear to depart.
32. And so that other text, the seventh we shall quote, and in that number seven dwells perfection of testimony: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’ ” (Revelation 14:13)
33. Now, I dare say, many of you have said, “I wish I had a word from God, just like Simeon had, to cheer me in my dying moments.” You have it before you; here are seven that I have read to you, most sure words of testimony, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place. These promises belong to all believers in our precious Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Do not fear, then, do not be afraid, but rather say, “Now let your servant depart in peace.”
34. My sermon is done, but we must add a rider to it. Just a word or two for those of you who cannot die in peace because you are not believers in Christ: you have never seen God’s salvation, neither are you God’s servants. I must deal with you as I have dealt with the saints. I have given them texts of Scripture, for the text says, “according to your word”; and I will give you also two passages of Scripture, which will show you those who may not hope to depart in peace.
35. The first one is negative: it shows who cannot enter heaven, and, consequently, who cannot depart in peace. “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9) the unjust, the oppressive, cheats, rogues, “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” I will read these words. I need not explain them, but let everyone here who comes under their lash submit to God’s word. “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators,” — plenty of them in London — “nor idolaters,” — and you need not worship a God of wood and stone to be idolaters, worship anything except God, you are an idolater — “nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards,” — alas, some of these come to this house regularly, — “nor revilers,” that is, backbiters, quibblers, gossips, swearers, and such like, “nor extortioners,” — you fine twenty percent gentlemen! You who grind poor borrowers with usurious interest. None of you shall inherit the kingdom of God, not one of you. If you are in this list, unless God renews your hearts and changes you, the holy gates of heaven are shut in your face.
36. Now, take another text, of a positive character, from the passage: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful,” — that means the cowardly, those who are ashamed of Christ, those who dare not suffer for Christ’s sake, those who believe everything, and nothing, and so deny the truth, because they cannot endure to be persecuted; “the fearful and unbelieving,” — that is, those who do not trust a Saviour — “and the abominable,” — and they are not scarce, some among the poor are abominable, and there are Right Honourables who ought to be called Right Abominables; indeed, and greater than that, too, whose vices make them abominable to the nation: and “murderers,” — “he who hates his brother is a murderer”; and “fornicators and sorcerers”; those who have or pretend to have dealings with demons and spirits, your spirit rappers, (b) the whole batch of them; “and idolaters, and all liars,” and these swarm everywhere, they lie in print, and they lie with the voice; “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:7,8)
Now, these are not words of mine, but the words of God; and if they
condemn you, you are condemned; but, if you are condemned, flee to
Jesus. Repent and be converted, as the gospel says, and forgiveness
shall be yours, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Luke 1:46-55,67-75 2:25-35]
(a) Nunc Dimittis: Latin for “Now you depart.” Editor.
(b) Spirit Rapper: One who professes that he can induce spirits to communicate with him by means of rapping. OED.
Our usual Penny Almanac is now ready, and we hope it will be as much approved of as its predecessors have been. We have also with no small labour, written an Almanac for the walls, which is called John Ploughman’s Sheet Almanac. Our friends tell us that it will have an unprecedented sale, and we only hope it may, but not to the detriment of the older one. They are quite distinct things, and very different in all respects, except that they are by the same author, cost the same price — one penny, and are available from the same publishers, Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster. — C. H. S.