May and Must
Or, Present and Future
James Smith, 1865
The present differs very materially from the future. There are many things which we may do now — and there are many which we must do by and bye.
We may refuse to come to the Lord Jesus Christ now, that we may have eternal life; but if we do, we must suffer the bitter pangs of eternal death, and forever reap the due desert of such wickedness and folly!
We may refuse to come to God's mercy-seat as invited by his mercy now; but we must stand before Christ's judgment-seat, when summoned by his justice by and bye.
We may refuse to confess our sins, that they may be pardoned; but we must give an account and suffer the just punishment of them, if we do.
We may refuse to humble ourselves before God's feet; but we must be humbled under his power, if we do.
We may refuse to receive what free grace presents to us in the gospel; but we must endure what his justice awards in eternity, if we do. He who will not be saved by free grace — must be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
We may be saved now; but if we are not, we must be lost forever.
We may become the friends of God now; but if we do not, we must be treated as his enemies forever.
We may be united to the person of Jesus here; but if we are not, we must be banished from his presence in eternity.
The future depends on the present. As we sow — we reap. As we treat God now — he will treat us through eternity. He bears with as at present, he is loath to punish us; but mercy has its bounds, and forbearance has its limits. When these are reached — then all is over, for then nothing remains but "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation!" When once God gives us up — all is over. When he says, "Let him alone!" then our destiny is eternally fixed. But this is never done until justice requires it. If a man will not be saved — ought he not to be left to the consequences of his own choice and determination? If he refuses to hear God's voice, to listen to his solemn warnings, or to accept his loving invitations — what can be done? God himself asks, "What can I do more than I have done?"
Reader, what can God do more for you? When Israel would not hearken to his voice, he gave them up (Psalm 81:11, 12). And shall God act differently toward you, to what he did toward his own favored people? You stand on solemn ground. Your situation requires the most serious thought. Death, judgment, and eternity are just before you — an eternal Hell, an eternal Heaven — and one of them must be your portion.
You may go to Heaven — but if you will not, you must go to Hell. If you go to Hell, it will be because you chose to walk in the way to it! and chose to do so in preference to walking in the way to Heaven. God will never send you to Hell — except death finds you in the way to it; and if it does, what can you expect — but to arrive at the place to which you have been journeying by choice? What can you expect from a just and holy God — but to receive the wages for which you have been laboring? "The wages of sin are death," eternal death; or the separation of both soul and body from God, from holiness, from happiness, forever.
This must be dreadful — but who can say that it will not be just? What! work hard in the ways of sin for twenty, forty, or sixty years, with the express understanding that the wages of sin are death — and then say it is not just to be paid the wages for which you have so long, so diligently, and so determinedly labored! Is this consistent? If you will do the work — then you must expect the wages. If you will travel the road — then you expect to arrive at the end to which it leads. If you will live as God's enemy — then you must not expect to be treated as if you had been his friend. No, no, be consistent. If you wish to go to Heaven — take the road that leads to it, and be sure you take the right road. If you wish to dwell with God in eternity — be reconciled to him in this. If you wish to be happy in eternity — then seek to be holy in time.
Well, friend, how is it to be with you? You may go on in sin — or you may repent and turn to God. You may reject the Savior — or you may receive him as God's free gift. You may come to Jesus and have life — or you may refuse to do so, and sink into eternal death. God has set before you in his word — the way of life, and the way of death; therefore choose life that you may live. He has opened a way for sinners, by the sacrifice of his dear Son; and He is willing to give his Holy Spirit to sinners, if they ask him, in fervent prayer. You may be happy in Heaven — but if you will not, you must be forever miserable in Hell.
You may, this is of pure mercy; you must, that is of strict justice. You may, this lays you under great responsibility; you must, and this calls for the most solemn consideration. You may, and therefore should bless God for his kindness; you must, and therefore beware how you trifle with his grace. You may, oh, seize and improve the opportunity! you must, oh, flee, flee from the wrath to come! You may, oh, lose not one moment, for there is no time to spare! you must, oh, delay not, for delays have landed thousands in Hell! "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." The Scriptures must be fulfilled. God must be faithful. We must repent of sin, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and come unto God by him, or we are undone forever!