Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Whither? Whither?" Part 1 of 2

"Whither? Whither?"
(Where are you going?)
Horatius Bonar

IN THE beginning of the last century, an old American Christian died, leaving on his death-bed this message to his son,--"Remember that there is a LONG ETERNITY."

But this was not all. He laid upon his family the dying command, that the same message should be handed down to the next generation, and from that to the next again, as long as any of his posterity remained. The command was obeyed. One generation after another received the solemn message, "Remember there is a LONG ETERNITY." And the words, we are told, bore fruit in the conversion of children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

It is of this long eternity that God so often speaks to us in His book, with the words "everlasting," "without end," "for ever and for ever." It is of this long eternity that each death-bed speaks to us,--each shroud, each coffin, each grave. It is of this long eternity that each closing and opening year speaks to us, pointing forward to the endless years which lie beyond the brief days of time,--brief days which are hurrying us without slackening to the life or to the death which must be the issue of all things on earth. Of that eternity we may say that its years shall be as many as the leaves of the forest, or as the sands of the seashore, or as the drops of the ocean, or as the stars of heaven, or as the blades of grass, or as the sparkles of dew, all multiplied together. And who can reckon up these numbers, or conceive the prodigious sum,--millions upon millions of ages. 

A traveller, some years ago, tells that in the room of a hotel where he lodged there was hung a large printed sheet, with these solemn words--- 

"Know these things, O Man,--A GOD, a Moment, an Eternity." 

Surely it would be our wisdom to think on words like these,--so brief, yet so full of meaning.
Richard Baxter mentions the case of a minister of his day, the whole tone of whose life-preaching was affected by the words which he heard when visiting a dying woman, who "often and vehemently" (he says) "did cry out" on her death-bed, "Oh, call time back again, call time back again!" But the calling of time back again is as hopeless as the shortening of eternity. "This inch of hasty time," as that noble preacher calls it, cannot be lengthened out; and if not improved or redeemed, is lost forever. While God lives, the soul must live; for "in Him we live, and move, and have our being."

Our eternal future is no dream nor fable. It will be as real as our past has been,--nay, more so. Unbelief may try to persuade us that it is a shadow or a fancy. But it is not. It is infinitely and unutterably real; and the ages before us, as they come and go, will bring with them realities in comparison with which all past realities will be as nothing. All things pertaining to us are becoming every day more real; and this increase of reality shall go on through the ages to come.

Whither? whither? This is no idle question; and it is one to which every son of man ought to seek an immediate answer. Man was made that he might look into the long future; and this question is one which he ought to know how to put, and how to answer. If he does not there must be something sadly wrong about him. For God has not denied him the means of replying to it aright. 

Whither? whither? Child of mortality, dost thou not know? Dost thou not care to know? Is it no concern of thine to discover what thy existence is to be, and where thou art to spend eternity? Thy all is wrapped up in it; and dost thou not care?

Whither? whither? Dost thou hate the question? Does it disturb thy repose, and mar thy pleasures? Does it fret thy conscience, and cast a shadow over life? Yet, whether thou hatest or lovest it, thou must one day be brought face to face with it. Thou shall one day put it, and answer it. Perhaps, when thou art putting it and trying to answer it, the Judge may come, and the last trumpet sound. "While they went to buy, the Bridegroom came."

Whither? whither? Ask the falling leaf. It says, "I know not." Ask the restless wind. It says, "I know not." Ask the foam upon the wave. It says, "I know not." But man is none of these. He is bound to look into his prospects, and to ascertain whither he is going. He is not a leaf, or a cloud, or a breeze, not knowing whence they come and whither they go. He knows that there is a future of some kind before him, and into that future he must ere long enter. What is it to be to him? That is the question!

Whither? whither? Go to yon harbor, where some score of vessels are lying, just preparing to start. Go up to the captain and ask, Whither bound? Will he answer, "I know not"? Go to yon railway station and ask the guard of the train just moving off, Whither bound? Will he say, "I know not"? No; these men have more wisdom than to go whither they know not, or to set out on a journey without concerning themselves about its end. Shall the children of time be able to answer such question as to their route and destination, and shall a child of eternity go on in the dark, heedless of the shadows into which he is passing, and resting his immortality upon a mere perchance? 

But can I get an answer to this question here? Can I secure my eternity while here on earth? And can I so know that I have secured it that I shall be able to say, "I am on my way to the kingdom: let this present life be long or short, the eternal life is mine"?

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