|Ripe Early for Eternity
The Lord takes home those of his household. Some young, and some old. That is never too early or too late. All have to serve out Gods counsel. Hell always misses its mark, because Gods Church is safe in the hands of a triune God.
But in the gathering of His Church it sometimes pleases the Lord to manifest the glory of His attributes in a peculiar manner.
I was thinking of this in my upper chamber. The following is indelibly imprinted upon my life. There is much resistance against the ministration of free grace. Especially when the Lord uses it to the gathering of His Own. The enmity against it can oppress greatly, and weigh heavy, but it can also drive out to the Throne of Grace.
In a peculiar manner the Lord can and will give testimony to His divine omnipotence and good pleasure.
On many places the official labors in the church ask our attention. Among them are certainly the visiting of the sick in the hospitals. On such a visit I encountered the following.
In the hall of the hospital, I saw a mother sitting in front of the childrens ward. She was staring ahead of her with a sad expression. I recognized her as a woman out of our community. One of the deacons had spoken of the needs in her family, One of her children, a twelve-year-old boy, was in the hospital for a few weeks already. He had a terminal illness. There was no hope of recovery. With an inner urging in my heart I took place at her table. Out of sympathy I asked her about the condition of her boy. She told me of the course of the sickness, to which I listened, deeply moved. When I was ready to leave, she asked me to visit her boy. I was hesitant to concern myself with the official labors of others, but she told me that no other clergy visited him. This gave me liberty to go to the childrens ward with her.
When I came to the room where her boy was cared for I saw the boy, whose name was Adrie. He was seriously ill, and because of his pain, he could hardly stand any clothes on his body. I took place at his bedside. How should I deal with him? How poor and needy I felt myself. What must I say to a twelve-year-old boy, who only had a short time to live? Common phrases are of no value. Here I met a boy before the gates of eternity. My soul cried to the Lord for wisdom and truth.
The Lord gave wisdom to deal honestly with him, without taking anything away from Gods omnipotence and good pleasure. In the conversation the Lord opened His Word. I asked: Adrie, do you know how sick you really are? If you do not recover, how shall it be with you? There is a life after this life, and then we shall be inside or outside. With liberty I was given to point to the possibility to be saved from Gods side. After that in my prayer I might leave the boy in Gods hands, as He took over the matter. It was hid for me how the matter would fall, but I may leave it with the Lord. But the Lord gave me to take along the matter in thought and prayer.
It was a few days later, early in the morning, when I saw Adries father coming to the parsonage. I said to my family: I will open the door, because I think I will receive a difficult message, I thought he came to tell me his son had passed away. I welcomed him at the open door, and to make it easier for him I said: I suppose you have no easy message to bring me.
He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said: I have a message from Adrie. Will you come to see him? He is speaking of matters which we do not understand.
A while later we walked together to the hospital. I saw Adrie sitting upon his bed. There was a remarkable radiance on his face. I said: Well, boy, you asked to see me. What do you have to tell me? While I am writing this, again my heart is deeply moved, because it is indelibly imprinted upon my life.
Simply and childlike he told me the following. After you left me, I became very uneasy. In your prayer I felt that you called upon a God which I did not know. I became so jealous of people who may know such a God. Then the Lord showed me I had but a short time to live. I felt that I soon have to die and meet that God. Oh, I was so afraid, I had to die and I could not die. The Lord showed me my whole life. I had lived without that God, and had to die without that God. I could not eat anymore, and I didnt want to sleep anymore. I wanted to be alone, because the nurses did not understand it. Neither did my mother and father. At three oclock last night, I could not call any- more. I had no more strength. But then something happened which is so wonderful. Suddenly something was said in my heart: A door is opened in the valley of Achor. Then there came rest in my heart. The oppression of my heart left me and I felt so joyful. This morning my father and mother came and saw that there was something, and asked what it was. I have told them of the past few days, and what happened last night, but they do not understand it. Therefore I have asked if you would come.
Quietly, I listened to what this twelve-year-old boy told me. How careful I had to deal with this tender, young life. In a simple way I have tried to tell him about the breach between God and man. That because of sin man is separated from God, and that these matters are learned by grace. How a way is thought out by which man can be saved again. That in this past night the Lord had pointed to a judgment over sinful man. That when we may accept of our guilt, the Lord points to a door of hope, through which the Lord can reveal Himself again in mercy. In this manner, I sat by a child speaking about God and grace. Everyday, in the late evening, I went to him in the hospital. It was remarkable how much instruction the Lord gave him about the work of the Mediator. Often I listened in amazement to what he told me. In this way a few weeks passed by. I will relate especially of one more encounter with him. Once I came at his bedside when he looked somewhat tired and dismayed. I asked him: What is the matter, boy? Are you having a difficult time?
He said: I have been vexed and assailed for hours.
I asked: Tell me, by whom?
Then he related the following: They said in my heart, there is no heaven, and there is no hell, there is no God, and there is no Christ.
I listened in amazement and asked: And what have you answered?
For a moment his sunken face lit up and he said: Keep quiet, for your head is cut off anyway.
In this way hell tried to oppress this young life.
His strength began to fail and on a Friday evening he asked me: Will you come tomorrow at 1 oclock?
I asked: Why on a Saturday at one oclock?
Still I see that sincere, solemn face. I believe that I am going to die now, and I want to say farewell to everyone yet. Saturday afternoon I came into his room. It was filled with people. He had invited his friends, the teacher of his school, the nurses and the doctor. There we were together with a dying child. He began to speak. He said that he believed he would die on Sunday. He spoke of the hope of his life. After that he began to give away his earthly possessions. He gave away his books, his train, his bike. Everyone received something as a keepsake. The Lord had made him loose of everything. I observed it quietly. What a remarkable child. After that he looked at his father. He had just turned 12 years old, and had still received a wrist watch from his parents. He reached out his slender hands and said: Father, this watch is for you, will you take it off my arm? Deeply moved his father took it off. Then he said: Father, will you look on this watch when I die, then you know at what time I have died. And will you remember how I have died? It was a solemn moment. Father, now put it on yourself. After that he said: Father, in times past we have often sung together. Will you sing with me once more? And looking at us he said: Will
you sing along too? I thought, what shall it be? Then, in a soft voice he said: I want to sing:
When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.
In the room there was more weeping than singing. The rustlings of Gods footsteps were in that room.
Then it became quiet. He reached out to me with his slender hands. I said: What is it, boy?
May I ask you something?
Certainly boy, go ahead.
Do you want to do my funeral?
A twelve-year-old boy, asking me to do his funeral service! I said: Yes boy, I am willing to do that.
He said: Will you then speak not only ofAdrie. but if the God of His people? I said: I hope to do that my boy.
Thereafter we read Psalm 17 and prayed together. In the way he said farewell to everyone. He had a word for everyone. After we left the room, the childrens doctor came to me. He said: May I ask you something?
Yes, certainly doctor.
He said: Is that grace now?
The answer was not difficult. I said: Yes, doctor this is now free and sovereign grace. It laid impressions upon many in the hospital. To be sure, there were also those who mocked with it. Also there were some who did not accept it as the work of God. There is nothing new under the sun. But the greatest wonder was that so much testimony was given by Gods true people.
On Sunday morning after the church service, I walked to the hospital with a holy curiosity what we would encounter. He was sitting in his bed, quietly and calmly. I said: Well, my boy, are you still here?
He related: I awoke and have prayed; Lord. "If today is not Thy time yet, then I can wait for Thy time. He could rest in that. On Sunday evening he lost consciousness. For several days we sat with him.
At eleven oclock one evening I came in the sickroom. His mother greeted me and said: He still has not regained consciousness. I took his hand and suddenly he opened his eyes. With a very weak voice he said: This is what I have waited for. Now I will die. Hearty thanks for everything. Then he reached out his hands to his mother. For a while we stood like this at his bedside.
His last words were: Goodbye, mother. That was the moment when the Lord said it was enough. Out of the mouth of babes the Lord has ordained strength.
After that some wondrous days were experienced. The home was a gathering place of Gods true people. The voice of gladness and salvation, was in the tents of righteousness. There we adored the Lords deeds of free grace. There was, such a unity among one another. From many places those that feared the Lord came to the home where Adries body was kept until the funeral (In Holland it is kept at the home.)
On the day of the funeral Adrie was carried out of his parental home. With liberty and testimony from heaven we administered the Word out of Matthew 1 1:25, I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
The Lord gave testimony also on the cemetery. Death is swallowed up in victory.
The children of his class sang Ps.439:3, Whom have I, Lord, but Thee on high? A large gathering was at the grave side. Many of Gods children among them. Adries teacher spoke of the great things the Lord had done. We all went home with deep impressions.
The Lord is taking home His household. Some young, and some older. But we must also meet God. Then Gods free and sovereign grace must be our portion. Outside of that we can have no existence before God. Our confession will be too short. Our wisdom cannot help us. Then we must be reckoned in the labors of Him who spoke to John on Patmos, I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.
It is now many years ago that this wonder of grace was glorified in Adrie. I related it to the boys and girls in catechism class. Will this death have left fruits behind for eternity? I am writing this in the upper-chamber. In the last years we hear so little of the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of young people.
The world has the upper hand so much in life, and the impressions of death and eternity are so banned out. Out of our upper chamber arose a sigh to the God of Israel:
Remember Thy inheritance,
Thy Church, redeemed by grace;
Remember Zions mount profaned,
Thy ancient dwelling place.