Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old…
I. DEATH IS INEVITABLY CERTAIN. All men must submit to its destroying stroke; for "it is appointed unto all men once to die." Christians themselves are not exempted from it. Peter and Paul and John died. Death is certain.
1. In consequence of the original sentence which has been pronounced upon our apostate race.
2. The constant reiteration of this fact demonstrates the certainty of man's mortality.
3. Constituted as human nature now is, it is impossible that we should enter upon the spiritual employments and blessedness of the heavenly world. The mind in its disembodied state is capable of entering upon the enjoyments and employment of heaven; but the body made up of decaying and material particles, requiring the constant refreshment of sleep and food, and occasionally of medicine, would not be a meet companion for the mind in future bliss, unless it should undergo a previous process of dissolution and resurrection, so that it may become fitted to take its part in the worship, and felicities of a spiritual heaven. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Either then there is the necessity of dying, or there is the necessity of undergoing a change, which is fully tantamount to dying.
4. The certainty of death will appear, if you consider the conformity which must be preserved between Christ the Head, and all the members of His mystical body. Jesus has died, and there is something of especial propriety that where the head has laid, there the members should lay.
II. THE SPECIFIC FORM AND MANNER OF OUR DEATH IS WISELY PREDETERMINED AND ARRANGED BY GOD.
1. There is a great variety of forms and modes in which the life of man is terminated. Some quit the world naturally, and others violently; some suddenly, and others by lingering steps. This depends very much on the particular conformation of the frame, on the habits of life,and a variety of incidental circumstances. Some are called to depart by diseases of the lungs, other by affections of the heart. Amidst all this vast variety of liabilities, it is wonderful that our frame exists as we find it, and that we are so long kept from the grasp of death.
2. This is not left to the choice of the subjects of this great change, nor to the volition of others, nor to mere chance and accident. God knows and God predetermines, not only the event of your death and the time, but the exact form and character. "My times are in thy hand." He could signify it to you but it is wisely concealed. "We know not at what hour the Son of Man cometh." Man may talk of certain constitutional predisposing causes, of primary organization, habits of life, accidents of infancy, &c., as all having a bearing and relation to the manner of our removal out of the world. But these are only so many of the minuter links in the great chain of cause and effect; and the first link of that chain is fastened to the throne of Deity.
III. HOW IT IS THAT THE CHRISTIAN DOES GLORIFY GOD IN HIS DEATH, IN WHATEVER PARTICULAR FORM IT MAY OCCUR.
1. He meets the first intimation of approaching dissolution with tranquility and resignation. There is an hour coming when he will observe no equivocal indications of the decay of the outward man; then does he not glorify God when he can say, I have no will of my own; here I am; let the Lord do with me as seemeth good in His sight.
2. By the avowal of a penitent mind. The sentiment of the publican becomes us in our last hour as well as in our initial moments — "God be merciful to me a sinner."
3. When he is enabled to exemplify a firm and unshaken confidence in the Redeemer as the object of his sole and undivided reliance. "I know whom I have believed," &c.
4. By their manifest detachment and disengagement of heart from the objects and interests of the present world. "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" &c.
4. When they are enabled to exemplify unwearied patience and submission amidst the pains and the sorrows of declining years.
5. By the devout spirit which he breathes while he lies upon the bed of death, waiting for his great change: for he who has lived much in the air of devotion while active, will carry the same spirit to the bed of death.
6. By the spirit of sweet and fervent charity which he is enabled to exemplify in his departing hours. In conclusion, permit me to ask you, Are you thus prepared to glorify God? In order to answer this let me propound another — Are you concerned to glorify God while you live? — for this is the best pledge and presage that you will glorify him when you come to die.
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
WEB: Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don't want to go."