It’s hard to know what to say now, but there seems to be a need to say something. The last few weeks have been a very difficult time.
It has been impossible to avoid realising how quickly things change. In a matter of weeks, we lost somebody who had seemed to be in fine health and was giving no indication of how soon their life in this world was going to be ended. There is no stability and no constancy here. Change and decay in all around I see.
It calls loudly for attention too that life here is only preparatory and provisional, a training ground, a workbench. There are only two landmarks in life worth noticing. One is being called effectually, and one is being called home. Regeneration and going to glory. Between these two points, all the work of grace needs to be done. The development that takes place between these points is all the preparation that the Lord’s people are going to get, and all the preparation they need, for life after death. The trajectory established in this life continues after death. For the believer, grace becomes glory.
In the life of others, you can see the love of God in action. Love brings the sinner and the Saviour together in the first place. Love shapes and crafts them, fits and prepares them, through various complex providences, in a custom-designed process of sanctification. Love brings them out of this life into the life above. Because Christ loves his people, he takes them to be with himself. It is an act of love. “The truth is,” an old writer represented Christ as saying to his people, “I cannot live without you: I cannot be at peace till I have you with me.” Dear in God’s sight is his saints’ death.
The certainty of salvation almost exactly counterbalances the sadness of the loss. It’s the loss that’s the most tangible thing. The godly person we knew is no longer here. We have gained a loss. We are accompanied by a blank. There is an empty space. But the souls of believers at their death do immediately pass into glory. This was what the Lord had in mind for them all along. He had always purposed to save them, not just in the sense of bringing them to know him in this context of sin and struggle, but in bringing them to be with him for ever. Our loss is not only their gain, but it is success for the Saviour, the achievement of what he had always intended, the fulfillment of his thoughts of peace towards them. Salvation in its completeness is certain for everyone who belongs to him. None perish that him trust.
Then, there is no excuse if anyone does perish. Our minister preached the gospel: Christ is the Saviour for sinners. He preached it clearly, and unflinchingly, and earnestly, and prayerfully, and out of devotion to the Christ Jesus the Lord. He cared for our souls, and he shepherded the flock by rightly dividing the word of truth. If anyone goes to a lost eternity after hearing the gospel, they have no one to blame but themselves. Why will ye die? There is a Saviour who is able and willing to save.
It is a sorry thing to be a congregation without a minister. New Testament congregations are meant to have one teaching elder and a plurality of ruling elders. A congregation which lacks a teaching elder is an anomaly, no matter how good the interim arrangements might be. But there is still the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and he is able to provide. Our times are wholly in his hands.