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Personal Application

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Personal Application}

If the heavenly trade is the best trade, then it is strange that so few set upon this trade. People who are starting on some course of life and want to live well in the world are willing to take the best trade that is attainable by them, to which they would be admitted,254 and for which they have the resources to engage in it. Who would spend his or her time and strength in low, sordid, and menial services that cannot provide a decent living, much less make one rich, if a challenging, honorable, and remunerative calling within one’s abilities offered itself? Knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is readily available.255 Yet, such is the folly of most people that they are ready to choose anything but godliness and take up any proposed religion or activity rather than the work of salvation. People are wise in their time, and in other things, know how to choose the best bargains. But in the things concerning their souls, they are foolish and content to pursue shadows and let go of the substance. They lay out all their desires, hopes, and labor for a life that perishes and neglect the vast concerns of another world and the welfare of their immortal souls. Is this not folly? Poor sinners,256 let me reason a little with you, if possible, to give you understanding. Come, be your own judges. Do you think it is in your best interest to venture your very self, all you are, for things that, when obtained, do not last, and if they do last, do not satisfy? These things can be with you only until you are in the grave. If they accompany you to the funeral home, there they will leave you, except perhaps they may show you the way to Hell also. Is it not madness to venture your souls for career, pleasures, and treasures for such a short time and so little real advantage? These are things that you will be shortly as weary of as you are now longing for them, and will throw them to the bats and moles (Isaiah 2:20)257 of the earth that you may go into the rocks to hide yourself (Revelation 6:15–16)258 from the fury of a sin-avenging God. Will you spend everything for earthly time and save up nothing for eternity? Is it rational to think that you will reap where you never sowed, or that you will possess the benefit of that trade you never pursued (Galatians 6:7–8)?259 Do you think you will reach Heaven hereafter and never walk one foot of the way to it here? Certainly, what people sow is what they will reap. Can you imagine the things of heaven to be so cheap that they may be obtained without effort? Alas, things far inferior cannot be so easily obtained. It may cost some of you much effort, much sweat, much labor, and much expense to get just a little of this world. And do you think you will get this assayed fine gold without buying it or digging for it? Do you think it is a wise bargain to purchase your desirable comforts with the loss of your souls? Is it wise to give up the possibility of having Heaven so that you may gain just a little of this world? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 ESV). And are you sure you will get even part of the world? And, what if your hopes fail in this world—and you fall short of Heaven also? What if you never get what you looked for on earth—or a place in Heaven? Will not your case be then dreadful? Oh, foolish souls that could be happy, but refuse. You could get into a course of life that enriches you both here and forever, but you refuse it. You prefer a poor beggarly life rather than a rich and noble state. You choose to trade with demons rather than God. You choose to swap away a delightful eternity for an eternity of anguish and an extremely valuable salvation for swinish pleasures. This is a sad exchange that may be bewailed, but not remedied [after death]. What! To barter away strength for weakness, desires for emptiness, [useful] labors for vanity, hope for despair, precious souls for perishing shadows, an open door of grace for a closed door that shuts out glory, mercy for misery, and earth for Hell? Oh, thoroughly complete fools! You have let go a bargain that would have forever made you [a glorious creature], and once lost at death, can never be regained. In its place you will repent for eternity of your time of folly; your tears and cries will be too late. Mercy will not be available to you. There will be no chance to repent. No heart will yearn for you. God’s everlasting arms will be no help to you (Matthew 25:10).260 This is your danger, sinners. This may be your case. You refuse wisdom’s counsels and choose death rather than life. You will have none of wisdom’s wares or work, but value the devil’s counterfeit money rather than Christ’s gold. You value the pleasures of sin, which are only for a season, rather than the treasures of grace and glory, which are eternal. You walk according to the flesh and serve various lusts until your life ends. Your life, during which you may trade for Heaven, [may be] almost over. Alas sinners, for all you know, there may be just a few trading hours left for you in this world. It may be scarcely a Sabbath261 more between some of you and Hell. In what state will you be in, you who never set upon this heavenly trade to this very day? And should you now go out of this world as strangers to this employment, what a horrid state your souls will be in forever! When you come to possess the eternal fruit of your bad bargain, if anybody were able to put his ear against the gates of Hell and listen to your cries, he would hear language such as this from your lips: “Folly, folly, woe, woe, eternity, eternity.”

254There is far more economic freedom today than in Ashwood’s England, but still, not everybody can get into the Iron Workers union or medical school, for example.

255Obviously this is not true everywhere, but it was true in Ashwood’s England, and likely true for most readers of this book.

256Sinner is used in two ways theologically. First, all humans are, by nature at birth, sinners and rebels against God; even the holiest of people on earth are still sinners and thus sin. But, it also can mean those who do not practice Christianity, but reject the Gospel. Sinners was used in this sense in the Lord Jesus’s time for those who did not practice the Old Testament religion.

257In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats” (Isaiah 2:20 ESV).

258Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb’” (Revelation 6:15–16 NASB).

259Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8 NASB).

260And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10 ESV).

261Sabbath: the first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath.

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