I Would Have Been in Hell!
James Smith, 1859
A short time ago, a man who now loves and adorns the gospel, was speaking to me of his former wicked life, and referring to an illness, which brought him down to the gates of death, he said with deep solemnity, "Ah, sir, if I had died then, I would be in hell now." What a solemn thought this! And yet many of us in looking back, can remember seasons, when most clearly there was but a step between us and the burning lake. We seemed to totter on its brink, and the slightest accident might have plunged us in! But God in his mercy prevented it, and thus delivered our souls from the lowest hell.
An immortal soul in hell, must be the most fearful sight in existence. If only one soul was there, and we were informed of it, how much it would occupy our thoughts. But there are millions there! We were all almost there. We must have been there, if it had not been for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ah, if we were in hell now--how dreadful it would be! In hell, no ray of cheering light is there! In hell, no drop of water is ever allowed to cool the parched tongue there! In hell, there hope never comes, ease is never felt, mercy is never exercised, nor is deliverance ever enjoyed! And yet we were very near going to hell! At this moment we might have been in hell, how dreadful!
We must die soon. But suppose we were to die now--where would we be five minutes after death? Have we a title to heaven? Everyone knows, that it is folly to claim an estate, if we can show no title to it. And it will be the greatest folly to expect the inheritance of the saints in light, if we cannot show a title to it. Look to it, friends, look well to it, that you have now a title to heaven, for it will be the height of folly to expect to be admitted to it at death--if you have not.
Nor is it less foolish to think of going to heaven, if we are not prepared for it. There must be a qualification, before there can be any enjoyment. Heaven is such a pure and holy place, that nothing can be admitted into it, which is at all polluted or defiled. Only the pure in heart, can see God with pleasure. Without holiness, no one can see God with joy. Death or dying, makes no one holy—it cannot fit or prepare anyone for heaven. If we are prepared at all, it must be before death comes.
No one can prepare us for heaven--but the Holy Spirit, because we must be new created, or begotten of God, or born again; which expressions represent a thorough change of nature, "Except a man be born again--he cannot see the kingdom of God." The work of Christ for us, gives us a title to heaven; and the work of the Holy Spirit within us, makes us fit to enter and enjoy heaven. No one can tell that he is savingly interested in the work of Christ--but by the work of the Holy Spirit; or in other words, no one can tell that he has a right to go to heaven--but as he is made fit to go there.
What then should we, as immortal beings, as placed between heaven and hell, as surrounded by diseases, dangers, and death, do? We should make sure of heaven, and make sure at once. An accident may plunge us into hell at any moment, for we are all by nature prepared to go there; but no accident can raise us to heaven, only a saving interest in the Lord Jesus, can carry us there. We should therefore seek the Holy Spirit, who is promised to everyone who asks for him; nor ever rest satisfied, until we have received him into our hearts, as the pledge of the inheritance, and are sealed by him unto the day of redemption. Brethren, a living faith in Christ alone, will apprehend and appropriate the title to everlasting life; and the possession and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit alone, will make us fit to be partakers of the inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away, and which is reserved in heaven for all the children of God.