In his sermon on Luke 23:43, John Flavel impresses upon his hearers the importance of meditating on eternity, especially with respect to their own destiny: heaven or hell; eternal life or eternal death. It appears to me that his words are entirely fitting for a time in which so many people are being lulled to sleep in spiritual complacency. With this in mind, I have pulled from the sermon those thoughts I found to be the most compelling. May these words, then, stir your heart to “seek the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
“Is there an eternal state, into which souls pass after this life? How precious then is present time, upon the improvement whereof that state depends. O what a huge weight has God hanged upon a small wire! God has set us here in a state of trial: “According as we improve these few hours, so will it fare with us to all eternity.” Every day, every hour, nay, every moment of your present time has an influence into your eternity. Do you believe this? What! and yet squander away precious time so carelessly, so vainly! How do these things consist?… How can you do it? Surely, our prodigality in the expense of time, argues we have but little sense of great eternity.”
“How rational are all the difficulties, and severities of religion, which serve to promote and secure a future eternal happiness? So vast is the disproportion betwixt time and eternity, things seen, and not seen as yet, the present vanishing, and future permanent state, that he can never be justly reputed a wise man, that will not let go the best enjoyment he has on earth, if it stand in the way of his eternal happiness. Nor can that man ever escape the just censure of notorious folly, who, for the gratifying of his appetite and present accommodation of his flesh, lets go an eternal glory in heaven… It was Moses’ choice, and his choice argued his wisdom, he chose rather “to suffer afflictions with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season,” Heb. xi. 25. Men do not account him a fool, that will adventure a penny, upon a probability to gain ten thousand pounds. But sure the disproportion betwixt time and eternity is much greater.”
“If there certainly be such an eternal state into which souls pass immediately after death; How great a change then does death make upon every man and upon every man and woman? O what a serious thing is it to die! It is your passage out of the swift river of time, into the boundless and bottomless ocean of eternity. You that now converse with sensible objects, with men and women like yourselves, enter then into the world of spirits. You that now see the continual revolutions of days and nights, passing away one after another, will then be fixed in a perpetual NOW. O what a serious thing is death! You throw a cast for eternity when you die. If you were to cast a die for your natural life, O! how would your hand shake with fear, how it would fall! But what is that to this?”
1. Flavel, John. The Works of John Flavel, Volume I. “Sermon XXXII: The third of Christ’s last Words upon the Cross, illustrated.” (Luke xxiii. 43). Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968, pages 397-398.