The gospel minister must help his people live well. But more importantly, he must prepare his people to die well. Those of us who are young and healthy can scarcely imagine what comfort the gospel of Jesus Christ provides for dear saints in their dying days.

John Newton tells a story of visiting a young woman who died too soon from “a lingering consumption.” She was wise, but plain. She could read her Bible, but had read little else. Newton supposes she never traveled more than twelve miles from home. A few days before her death, Newton prayed with her and “thanked the Lord that he gave her now to see that she had not followed cunningly-devised fables.” At this last remark the woman repeated Newton’s words and said, “No, not cunningly-devised fables; these are realities indeed.” Then she fixed her eyes steadfastly upon her pastor and reminded him of his weighty vocation.

Sir, you are highly favoured in being called to preach the gospel. I have often heard you with pleasure; but give me leave to tell you, that I now see all you have said, or can say, is comparatively but little. Nor, till you come into my situation, and have death and eternity in full view, will it be possible for you to conceive the vast weight and importance of the truths you declare. Oh! Sir, it is a serious thing to die; no words can express what is needful to support the soul in the solemnity of a dying hour.

Fellow preachers, our people are asking for living bread tomorrow. Do not give them a self-help stone. Our people may not know the weight of which we speak until they come to their end. And at that moment they will be infinitely glad they received ballast instead of blather.