Many people think that if a person's religion will stand the crucible of death it must needs be a good one. Say they, "Give us a religion to die by"; which, as a test infallibly to try truth and falsehood in religion by, will not universally hold. I have been led to consider this by reading the triumphant and happy obituaries in the Methodist Magazine; and I am well persuaded that persons dying in the Methodistical denial of imputed righteousness and personal election, and in the blazing advocacy of duty faith, free will, and man's power, cannot be saved. The devil himself, as far as I can see, might as well go into heaven as such a person. Thus, "the vitals" of Methodism are a total disqualification for heaven. And are not the general Dissenters refined Arminians? Secondly, I have been led into a persuasion that a happy death (as it is nicknamed) is no sure manifestation of a person's going to heaven. And why? First, for this and other reasons, because the devil "has the power of death" by God's permission. (Heb. 2:14) And I believe that the father of lies, that old magician, uses death as his fearful subject to still further blind the eyes of those who believe not with the faith of God's elect. And when people can cant and say of any notorious opponent against the truth, "Ah! what a happy death such a one died," the true-born child of God says, "If he died happily, and truly happily, I am deceived altogether; for the very vitals of that man's (the happy dier's) religion and mine are totally contrary; so that his heaven cannot be my heaven; for there was no change in him before he died, and scripture assures me there is no change to be effected after death; so that I am wrong or he is wrong; and I have the internal witness, supernaturally felt, of God and of my own conscience, with that of holy Scripture, that I am right." Therefore, according to the measure distributed to me of God, I cut off all these diers-happy with their doctrinal and unrepented-of lies; for, as Huntington says, a saved man a repentance shall be as public as his villainies. Therefore, we must look to what a man was in his life (in doctrine and practice, experimentally) before we can draw any conclusion from his dying happy, as the term is. Again, thirdly, Does not Asaph say that the carnally and profanely wicked have no bands in their death? (Psa. 73:4) And will a dead professor of Christianity be better thus than the profane? Will not an empty profession rather strengthen the draught of opium administered by "him that has the power of death, that is, the devil?" Will not even the profane be eclipsed by the false light in the dead or false doctrinalist? Will not death be gilded to those who are "twice dead"? Will not, as I have said, the opium be the stronger? A double death in sin and false religion bears away the palm thus from even the profane. Hence the happy obituaries in the Methodist and other magazines.
As for my part, I can only pronounce happiness in death to the perfect and upright. (Psa. 37:37) "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." A sensible union with God, thereby feeling our perfection; a supernatural religion; truth, and not lies; repentance for sin; the beauty-producing imputation of Christ's righteousness, internally and externally; the innocency-producing blood of Christ; these things felt; thus being the workmanship, husbandry, habitation, and building of God, "builded for an habitation of God through the Spirit" experiencedly in the soul; these are the things, more or less felt, by which alone I can allow of happiness truly in death to a man.
The devil lurks "in secret places", in the villages of undefended religion; he boweth down with his eyes to the ground; he croucheth; he humbleth himself. And why? To catch those who cannot pray with the spirit and with the understanding. He gets them in his net. He points them to the false crackle and blaze of a falsely happy death; and when he has lulled people, by God's permission, into the doubly deathful sleep of sin, and of a corpse-like dead religion, he then bows down, with his eye behind the bulrushes of bodily death, (soothed and inflamed with his infernal opium and "false light",) and thus he devours hundreds. Thus, many that sleep in the dust of this earthly religion shall awake to everlasting shame and contempt. And, as Paul says, "It is high time to awake out of the sleep of confusion. (Rom. 13:11)
Abingdon, IK (John Kay)
The Gospel Standard, 1841
Signs of the Times
Volume 150, No. 12 - December 1982