From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)
Thoughts on Death (from chapter 23)
Very soon your life here will end (Job 9:25-26; 14:1-2); consider, then, what may be in store for you elsewhere. Today we live; tomorrow we die; and when we are taken away from sight, we are quickly forgotten. Oh, the dullness and hardness of a heart which looks only to the present instead of preparing for that which is to come!
Therefore, in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to die this very day. If you had a good conscience you would not fear death very much. It is better to avoid sin than to fear death. If you are not prepared today, how will you be prepared tomorrow? How do you know you if you shall have a tomorrow?
What good is it to live a long life if we amend that life so little? Indeed, a long life does not always benefit us, but on the contrary, frequently adds to our guilt. If it is so terrifying to die, it is nevertheless possible that to live longer is more dangerous.
Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day. In the morning consider that you may not live till evening, and when evening comes do not dare to promise yourself the dawn. Always, therefore, be ready. When that last moment arrives, you will have a far different opinion of the life that is now entirely past, and you will regret very much that you were so careless and remiss. How wise and happy is he who now labors to be in life as he wishes to be found at his death.
You can do many good things when in good health, but what can you do when you are ill? Few are made better by sickness. Do not put off the care of your soul until later. Time is very precious. “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2). The time will come when you will want just one day, just one hour, in which to make amends; but you do not now know if you will be granted that time then. Try to live now in such a manner that at the moment of death you may be joyful rather than fearful.
Ah, fool, why do you think that you have a long life yet to live, when you have not one day that is safe? How many have been thus deceived and then suddenly snatched away! Death is the end of everyone and the life of man quickly passes away like a shadow. Do now what you can, because you do not know when you will die. Think of nothing so much as your salvation. Keep your heart free and lifted up to God, for you have here no lasting home.
Psalm 90:12 — Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Hebrews 9:27 — Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.
1 Peter 2:11 — Dear friends, I urge you, as pilgrims and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
Hebrews 13:14 — Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Acts 16:29-31 — The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved; you and your household.”
Dear Lord Jesus, I feel my sins. They bite and gnaw and terrify me. Where shall I go? I will look to you, Lord Jesus, and believe in you. Although my faith is weak, I look to you and find assurance, for you have promised, “He that believes in me shall have everlasting life.” My conscience is burdened and my sins make me tremble, but you have said: “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven and I will raise you up on the last day and you shall have eternal life.” I cannot do any of this for myself. I come to you for help. Amen.
May the eternal God bless us and keep us, guard our bodies, save our souls, direct our thoughts, and bring us safe to the heavenly country, our eternal home, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ever reign, one God for ever and ever. Amen.