A death-bed is a great revealer. What will do for life and health--will not often do for a sick bed and a dying hour. Many people have a religion which will satisfy them while external things go tolerably well with them--but if called to pass through the furnace of affliction, or to do battle with the floods of persecution, it is found to be insufficient.
Not only so--but people possessed of true spirituality, often find that on the bed of sickness, and on the dying pillow--they need something deeper and stronger, than anything they had experienced heretofore. They want to grasp the arm of the Omnipotent more firmly, to rest on the promise more simply, and to trust in Jesus more heartily. Then they see more clearly, and feel more sensibly--the need of the presence, power, and operation of the Holy Spirit. As the mariner often has to cast much overboard in a storm; so the believer in the prospect of death, has to cast away as the ground of his dependence in the sight of a holy God--all his doings and feelings, and to rest simply and alone on the person and finished work of Christ.
I have just been reading of an aged believer, who, after an eventful life, lay peaceful and happy on his dying pillow, waiting for the moment of his departure; who, on being asked as to his hopes for eternity, replied, "I have full confidence in Jesus!" O blessed state! O happy experience! He stood at the gate of the invisible world, death was just turning the key to open it, he was going in a path he had not trodden before--but he had no fear, his mind was unruffled, all was peace, because he had full confidence in Jesus. He knew whom he believed, and was persuaded that he was able to keep that which he had committed unto him, against that day. He sought Jesus in health, he exercised faith in Christ in life; and now while battling with sickness, and facing death--he was happy, for he had full confidence in Jesus. He could now say, if he could not sing, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil--for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me." Like the apostle he could say, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
He had full confidence that Jesus was Divine. He knew him to be God. He had worshiped him as such, and realized sweet communion with him. He could therefore confide in his power--to sustain him; in his mercy--to sympathize with him; in his love--to carry him safely through; and in his faithfulness--to fulfill his Word, on which he relied.
He knew that Jesus was human, and as such knew by experience all his pains, weaknesses, and sorrows. O what a comfort it is to realize, that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are!"
In Jesus, all the glories of the divine nature, and all the excellencies of the human, meet. While he sympathizes with his Father in all his glory, he sympathizes with us also, in all our misery. Through his human nature, he has a realizing knowledge of all we suffer, and all we need; and by his divine nature, he can support and comfort us under the whole. So that at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances, we may have full confidence in Jesus!
He had full confidence in what Jesus had done. He realized that Jesus while on earth, was his substitute. That all he did--he did for him; that all he suffered--he suffered for him; and that the doing and dying of Jesus, constituted a perfect righteousness, in which he could stand justified before God. He felt that the perfect work of Jesus was enough. Having that to plead before God, he knew that he could not be condemned; he knew he would certainly be justified. He had renounced his own righteousness, which is of the law, and desired to be found in Christ, trusting in his righteousness alone. He had placed the obedience of Christ--against the sins of his life; he had placed the sufferings and death of Jesus--against the demerit of his disobedience. And he had peace, yes, he had full confidence, that through what Christ had done and suffered--he would be admitted into heaven, and enjoy everlasting life. He was not therefore tormented with doubts, nor agitated with fears--but exercising full confidence in Christ, he was enabled to joy in God, and face death with courage.
He had full confidence in what Jesus had said. He could trust him, believing him to be faithful and true. Much of our discomfort arises from our lack of confidence in God's Word. If we heartily believed it, and stayed ourselves upon it--we must be happy. He has said, "All whom the Father gives me--shall come to me; and the one who comes to me--I will certainly not cast out." He has said, "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden--and I will give you rest." He has said, "He who believes on me, has everlasting life, and shall never come into condemnation--but is passed from death unto life." He has said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand." He has said, "I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you."
Now if we exercise confidence in these words of Jesus, what have we to fear? Whom shall we fear? Jesus will: save us from sin, sustain us in life, support us in death, and introduce us into his Father's presence with exceeding joy! Believing this, we may lie down in comfort on our sick bed, we may peacefully lay the head on our dying pillow, and, when departing, rejoice in hope. Well therefore may the aged Christian, when asked of his hopes for eternity, say, "I have full confidence in Jesus!"
Reader, how is it with you? Have you any confidence in Jesus. If you know him by the teachings of his Holy Spirit, if you have committed your soul unto him, if by experience you have proved him to be a faithful God, if you believe the Bible to be his book, and carefully consider what he has spoken to you there--then you ought to have not only some, but full confidence in Jesus. He is your Savior. He is your faithful friend. He shed his blood for you. He has given his Word to you. He has pledged his character in giving you his Word--and can you doubt him? Can you even encourage a doubt? Can you attempt to justify a doubt? Is not doubting sinful? What more can he do--to inspire you with confidence? What more can he say-- to deserve your faith? If you do not believe him now, when will you? If you have not confidence in Christ now, what will give you confidence?
Do you say, "O my wicked heart!" What has the wickedness of your heart to do with it? Does that affect his Word? Did he say, "If you have a good heart, or if your heart is pretty tolerable--then I will save you?" Did he not tell you, before you knew it, that your heart was deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked?
Do you say, "But my sins are so many and aggravated!" What has that to do with it? Did he say, "I will save only little sinners? I will only live and die for the moral, the amiable, and the excellent?" There is not one word of this sort in the Bible. He knew all your sins, and your great sinfulness; and therefore he said, "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet--they shall be white as snow, and though they be red like crimson--they shall as white be as wool." He knew what you would feel and fear--and therefore he said, "I came not to call the righteous--but sinners, to repentance."
However depraved the heart, how ever imperfect the life--looking to Jesus, resting on Jesus, exercising confidence in Jesus--we shall be saved. And the gospel, as the good news of free grace, of a full atonement for sin--as containing a hearty welcome to all sinners to come to Jesus and be saved--lays a foundation for the fullest confidence in Jesus.
But someone may read these lines, who has no confidence in Jesus--but is placing confidence in his own poor performances, his good motives, good intentions, and a round of religions duties. My friend, you are building on the shifting sand! By works of law, shall no flesh be justified. Your doings will never save you, nor even help to do so! They may be a hindrance in your way--but they will never help you! God will never regard your motives or intentions, except you have faith in Christ.
But perhaps, you will say, "I do not expect to be saved for these--but God is merciful, and he will take the will--for the deed." God has no mercy for any sinner, outside of Christ. God can only show us mercy through his dear Son, and unless we renounce everything of our own, good and had, and look for salvation, as a gift of free grace, through Jesus Christ alone--we can never obtain mercy from God. Hence, said the Apostle, "By grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." "We," said Paul, "have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ."
If therefore the apostles expected salvation alone by grace--if they believed in Christ, that they might be justified; can we expect to be saved in any other way? If we do, we deceive ourselves; and if we expect to be saved by so doing, we shall be woefully disappointed! There is salvation in Christ alone; and the salvation that is in Christ, becomes ours, by believing in him alone! "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him!"
Holy Spirit, work faith in all our hearts! May we exercise faith in Christ, and enjoy peace with God now, and when we come to die, may we be able honestly to say, "I have full confidence in Jesus!"