Thoughts on the Life of John Marshall
In the life of faith, what ultimately matters is not how well you begin, buthow well you end. The history of the church from the days of Adam is litteredwith the sad wreckage of men and women who, for a time, appeared to be trueChristians. They spoke like Christians, worshiped like Christians, witnessedlike Christians and even prayed and preached like Christians. They could"walk the walk and talk the talk." Tragically, however, though theyappeared to begin well, they did not end well. For whatever reasons, they fellaway. This is not a modern church phenomenon. The apostle John wrote of thosewho "went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if theyhad belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showedthat none of them belonged to us."
It is a solemn fact that "only those who endure to the end will besaved." This is why the death of a still faithful Christian should be acause of the greatest rejoicing for other Christians. We know that the Lordwill not lose one of those given to him by his Father. But no less do we know thatwithout perseverance there has been no election. Paul’s all but final words toTimothy are therefore full of deep poignancy. They are also words full ofunbounded assurance: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished therace, I have kept the faith." The end was near, the executioner’s swordwas about to fall, the day of his "departure" was at hand – and Paulwas still to be found confessing the Lord Jesus Christ. Saving faith is not inany sense a temporary grace (as some even within the Reformed faith arepresently arguing). It is a grace that unites us indissolubly and indefectiblyto our Lord Jesus. It may be eclipsed for a season and lie buried beneath anavalanche of doubts and fears and sins. But if it is truly faith, it can neverbe erased from our lives.
So it was with our brother in Christ, John Marshall. When John breathed hislast on the 29th August, he was yet trusting in the Lord who had saved him fromsin and death and hell. Many fulsome tributes could, and no doubt will, bewritten about John. He was a ‘Valiant-for-Truth,’ a man who unyieldingly, andyet with great grace, proclaimed the unsearchable riches of God’s grace in hisSon. He was an undaunted Christian believer. He was an encourager to many, notleast his fellow gospel ministers. The one thing, however, that I want to sayabout John is this – he died, as he had lived, in the faith of his Saviour. Hefought the good fight; finished the race and kept, by God’s grace, thefaith.Â A failing body did not dim hisconfidence in the promises of God. The prospect of death did not jaundice himspiritually.Â He quietly committed hissoul into the hands of a faithful Creator. And so "there came a summonsfor Mr Standfast… that he must prepare for a change of his life, for hisMaster was not willing that he should be so far from him any longer", andso, in the twinkling of an eye, the perishable was clothed with theimperishable and the mortal with immortality.
Allow me then to ask you, what I first ask myself. Are you going on? Are you,depending on the promised grace of God, pressing on to win the prize? Will theday of your death find you yet trusting in the Lord Jesus, the only Saviour oflost sinners? You may have begun well. You may even now be continuing well. Butare you resolved, by God’s promised grace, to end well? Will it be said of youand of me, ‘they fought the good fight, they finished the race, they kept thefaith?’ May the Lord keep us all, guard all our ways, preserve us from theworld, the flesh and the devil, and bring us at the last to see his face and beforever with our great, glorious and gracious God.
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