When Vanity Meets Ultimate Reality

Ezekiel 18:30; Jeremiah 13:15; Job 18:14
       I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways, saith the LORD GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
       Hear ye and give ear: be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.
       His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Man’s ultimate problem is his pride.

J. B. GOUGH (1817-1886): The Venetian ambassador wrote of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey:* “I do perceive that every year he groweth more and more in power. When I first came to England, he used to say, ‘His Majesty will do so and so;’ subsequently, he said, ‘We shall do so and so;’ but now he says, ‘I shall do so and so.’”

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): This man, whose pride had attained the highest pitch, thought himself the equal of kings. He used to sit in a chair of gold, sleep in a golden bed, and a cover of cloth of gold was spread on the table at his meals…Cardinal Wolsey administered everything in church and state. He filled his coffers with money procured both at home and from abroad, and yielded without restraint to his dominant vices, ostentation and pride. Whenever he appeared in public, two priests, the tallest and comeliest that could be found, carried before him two huge silver crosses, one to mark his dignity as archbishop, the other as papal legate. Chamberlains, gentlemen, pages, sergeants, chaplains, choristers, clerks, cupbearers, cooks, and other domestics, to the number of more than five hundred, among whom were nine or ten lords and the stateliest yeomen of the country, filled his palace. He generally wore a dress of scarlet velvet and silk, with hat and gloves of the same colour. His shoes were embroidered with gold and silver, inlaid with pearls and precious stones.

J. B. GOUGH: But history records how Wolsey’s pride went before destruction, and his haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ: [Cardinal Wolsey’s gentleman-usher] Cavenish ran to him, exclaiming “Good news, my lord! Sir William Kingston and twenty-four of the guard are come to escort you to His Majesty.”
      “Kingston!” exclaimed the cardinal, turning pale, “Kingston!” And then, slapping his hand on his thigh, he heaved a deep sigh. The news had crushed his mind. One day a fortune-teller whom he consulted had told him: “You shall have your end at Kingston;” and from that time the cardinal had carefully avoided the town of Kingston-on-Thames. But now he thought he understood the prophecy―Kingston, the constable of the Tower of London, was about to cause his death…**
      “Alas, Master Kingston,” exclaimed the cardinal, “if I had served God as diligently as I have served the king, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs!” And then he added with downcast head: “This is my just reward.” What a judgment upon his own life!

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): When the day is ended, and this life’s lease expired, what have men of the world’s glory, but dreams and thoughts? O happy soul for evermore, who can rightly compare this life with that long-lasting life to come, and can balance the weighty glory of the one with the light golden vanity of the other.

JOHN ANGELL JAMES (1785-1869): If the man that trembles at death be a coward, he that trifles with it is a fool.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): The world affords not a sadder sight than a poor Christless soul shivering upon the brink of eternity. To see the poor soul that now begins to awake out of its long dream, at its entrance into the world of realities, shrinking back into the body and crying, Oh I cannot, I dare not die! And then the tears run down. Lord, what will become of me, and what shall be my eternal lot? This truly is as sad as sight as the world affords.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): To the wicked, death is a trap-door to hell―hence their loath to depart.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): To a wicked man it is an east wind, a storm, a tempest that hurries him away in confusion and amazement, to destruction.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Some go out of the world without a fear, but they know not and feel not the magnitude of sin. To have one’s sins all in review before the mind’s eye, and eternity in view—this is a reality, and it needs the Trinity to comfort and support the sinking ship.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): Did they but consider what God intends to do with those that live and die in a natural state, it would either sink them into despair, or make them fly for refuge to the hope that is set before them.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The wrath of God does not end with death…The most terrible warning to impenitent men in all the world is the death of Christ. For if God spared not his own Son, on whom was only laid imputed sin, will He spare sinners whose sins are their own?

THOMAS BOSTON (1676-1732): Beware of any standing controversy betwixt God and you; for if there be such, it will stare you in the face in a dying hour.

HUGH LATIMER (1483-1555): Study therefore to live in the favour and grace of God, in repentance, in amendment of life; and then diest thou well.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Take care of your life and the Lord will take care of your death.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might pray for the blessing of God; in nothing which you could review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): If you die wrong the first time, you cannot come back to die better a second time.

*Editor’s Note: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was the most powerful, proud, ambitious, and devious Roman Catholic churchman in England during the reign of King Henry VIII.
**Editor’s Note: Wolsey did not actually die by the hand of Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, nor at Kingston-on-Thames. As Sir William was escorting him towards London to appear before the king on a charge of high treason, Wolsey took sick and died at Leicester Abbey, which demonstrates the deceitful mistiness of fortune-tellers and occultic astrologers, and the foolishness of those who pay any credulous heed to them.


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