“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” Luke 16:22
Observe how all classes alike come to the grave. Lazarus died–and the rich man also died. As different and divided as they were in their lives–they had both to drink of the same cup at the last. Both went to the ‘house appointed for all living’. Both went to that place where rich and poor meet together. Dust they were–and unto dust they returned. This is the lot of all men. After all our scheming, and contriving, and planning, and studying–after all our inventions, and discoveries, and scientific attainments–there remains one ‘enemy’ we cannot conquer and disarm–and that is Death! The chapter in Genesis, which records the long lives of Methuselah, and the rest who lived before the flood, winds up the simple story of each, by two expressive words, “He died.” And now, after thousands of years, what more can be said of the greatest among ourselves? The histories of Washington, and Napoleon, and Shakespeare arrive at the same humbling conclusion. The end of each, after all his greatness, is just this, “He died.”
Death is a mighty leveler! He spares none, he waits for none! He will not tarry until you are ready. He will not be kept out by doors, and bars, and bolts. The Englishman boasts that his home is his castle–but, with all his boasting, he cannot exclude death. An Austrian nobleman forbade death to be named in his presence. But named or not named, it matters little–in God’s appointed hour, death will come! One man rolls lazily along the road in the smoothest and handsomest carriage which money can procure; another toils wearily along the path on foot–yet both are sure to meet at last in the same long home! One man, like Absalom, has fifty servants to wait upon him and do his bidding; another has none to lift a finger to do him a service–but both are traveling to a place where they must lie down alone! One man is the owner of millions; another has scarcely a dollar that he can call his own property–yet neither one nor the other can carry one penny with him into the unseen world. One man is the possessor of half a county; another has not so much as an inch of land–and yet ‘six feet’ of dirt will be amply sufficient for either of them at the last! One man pampers his body with every possible delicacy, and clothes it in the richest and softest apparel; another has scarcely enough to eat, and seldom enough to put on–yet both alike are hurrying on to a day when “ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,” shall be proclaimed over them! Fifty years hence, none shall be able to say, “This was the rich man’s bone–and this the bone of the poor man.”
Reader, I know that these are ancient things. I do not deny it for a moment. I am writing stale old things that all men know–but I am also writing things that all men do not feel. Oh, no! if they did feel them, they would not speak and live as they do. We see ‘death’ gradually thinning our congregations; we miss face after face in our assemblies; we know not whose turn may come next! We only know as the tree falls–there it will lie, and that “after death comes the judgment!” Oh, that men would learn to live–as those who must one day die! Truly it is poor work to set our affections on a dying world and its short-lived comforts–and lose a glorious immortality! Here we are toiling, and laboring, and wearying ourselves about trifles, and running to and fro like ants upon a heap–and yet after a few years we shall all be gone, and another generation will fill our place!
Live for eternity, reader! Seek a portion which can never be taken from you!
J.C. Ryle–“Riches and Poverty” (1878)