by G.J. Stewart
“There’s the inevitable!” This was the expression of one of a party of gentlemen, as they drove together over the hills in one of the pleasantest parts of Australia. They had been conversing cheerily about the prospects of the colony, their own special interests in it, and the beauty of the surrounding scenery, when suddenly, upon the top of a hill, they came upon the newly-formed cemetery, with its few monuments of departed humanity. These seemed to cast a kind of half gloom upon their spirits, as one of them remarked, “There’s the inevitable!”
Such a voice in such a scene must have an effect upon the spirit of any sensitive being. Amid all that makes life here desirable, to be reminded so forcibly upon a sudden, that one cannot remain to enjoy it, is a serious consideration to any who will spare a moment to think of it. This voice cries aloud to each in the language of the poet—
“Inevitably THOU shalt die!”
or, to put it in inspired language—
“It is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27).
But why this inevitable doom? Why this divine appointment? Ah! reader, is it not because of man’s sin, and are you not of that race? “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). See! death passed upon all men, i.e., it is inevitable to each, which means, “it is not to be avoided by windings or bendings.” There is no path that can be taken by mere man that will not end in death.
Oh, how true, how solemnly true it is that the cemeteries planted in never so fair a scene, and decorated by all the embellishments that nature, assisted by human skill, can furnish, still cry aloud to all who have ears to hear—
“Inevitably thou shalt die!”
But death is only the inevitable to those who admit no more than they can see, for there are other things that are inevitable also. To follow up the thought before us a little—First, judgment is inevitable; for part of God’s appointment for man is—
“After death the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
The man that dies must give an account of himself to God; he is a responsible being, and must meet and settle the matter of his stewardship with Him to whom he is responsible. Is the reader prepared for this judgment into which, if unsaved, he must enter, which admits of no escape or evasion, and the issue of which must be the lake of fire with its eternal torments?
If not, perhaps you may be inclined to listen to other things which, because of what God is and what Christ has wrought, are inevitable also. Death and judgment are the inevitable results of man’s sin, as we have seen, because of the holiness and righteousness of God. Now, holiness and righteousness are the outcome of one side of God’s nature, which is light. “God is light,” and let it not be forgotten that these attributes of God will never be forfeited or sacrificed.
If there were nothing else than this in God, then there must be an end of man because he is a sinner. But the very same epistle that declares that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1), declares also that “God is love” (1 John 4); and because of this it was inevitable that a remedy must be provided to meet the need of ruined man, which remedy is presented to the responsibility of man. Scripture gives both the necessity and the responsibility in these words: “The Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world,” &c. (John 3:14-16).
Now, mark! Man as a sinner stands between these two things, viz., the inevitable results of his own sin, which are death and judgment on the one hand, and the offered results of Christ’s death, which in itself was the inevitable outcome of God’s love, on the other; which results, if accepted, include deliverance from both death and judgment, and introduce the soul, in the Person of Christ, into all the favour in which He as a man stands before God. So that responsibility is thrown upon all who have heard this good news to clear themselves of the doom that awaits them by a ready acceptance of the Person and work of Christ, who alone can bring them into divine favour, a favour which no man of the first race has obtained, or can obtain.
How is it with the reader? Why stand with death and judgment before you? Why not flee your awful doom, and seek an interest in Him whose arms are outstretched towards you, and whose voice sounds throughout this world inviting, in terms of tenderest mercy, the weary and heavy laden to come unto Him and find the rest they need, and which He alone can give?
But there is another thing that is inevitable still, and faith writes it upon the tombstones of the inevitable deathyard. It is stated thus in Scripture—
“This corruptible MUST put on incorruption,
and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53).
Ah, yes! Christ has died and risen again. Risen triumphant! Risen leading him captive who had always led man captive, having annulled through death his power. And because of this victory obtained in the very last stronghold of the enemy, death is not only deprived of its sting for the believer, but must yield its prey also, even if the body of the believer shall be laid in the grave, as so many thousands have been. But this is not even inevitable to the believer now, for it is written also—
“We shall not all sleep,”
To faith, then, the cemetery is not only a reminder that death is here as the inevitable result of man’s sin, but that resurrection is just as inevitable as the result of Christ’s work. Yea, that it is already begun, for “now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). Oh, how different the thoughts that are suggested to the believer’s heart from those which, by the same thing, are suggested to the heart of the natural man! Nature sees death and the tomb; faith pierces them both, and enters into the glorious harvest which shall inevitably result from Christ’s death and resurrection, anticipating the moment when all the justified, who are in their graves, shall hear His voice and come forth to the resurrection of life, thus to swell His triumph over all that man, deceived by Satan, has brought in.
May we not ask, What thought does the cemetery suggest to you, dear reader? Do not, we pray you, allow yourself to sink into indifference as to it, which your very familiarity with it naturally induces. How many hard and callous hearts pass through the closest intercourse with the dying and the dead, even to the handling their bodies, in some stage of this most humiliating passage of man’s history, with the most terrible indifference, and pass on into death themselves, without ever giving a thought as to the reason of it, or its consequences?
Blinded dupes of Satan’s malice, they go to spend an eternity in hell with himself, and it awaken when too late to all the awful reality of the “inevitable,” because of man’s sin.
May the reader’s heart be softened and touched by the solemnity of it all, ere it be too late! May he see and own what he has wrought and deserved, and avail himself now by faith of the present results of Christ’s work! He may then await the inevitable consequences of that work in the full display of Christ’s victory over death in the resurrection of life. Thus only can he escape the resurrection to judgment, with its great white throne, and its lake of fire for ever!
The Gospel Messenger 1900, p. 255