“PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD”

Wayne S. Walker

“…Prepare to meet thy God…” (Amos 4.12). “It is appointed unto men
once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9.27)

INTRO.: A song which uses the language of the prophet in ancient
Israel to encourage people today to be prepared to meet God in judgment
is “Prepare To Meet Thy God” (#297 in “Hymns for Worship Revised” and
#633 in “Sacred Selections for the Church”). The text was written and
the tune (Heed the Warning) was composed both by James Henry Stanley
(1869-1964). I have no information about Stanley and very little
information about the song itself except that many older books carry a
note, “From a sermon by Rev. J. F. Haley, July, 1909.” One would assume
that Haley was a denominational preacher, and it is at least possible
that Stanley was a denominational preacher as well.

Apparently, the song was produced in 1909 and copyrighted by
Stanley, since he is identified as the owner. However, none of the
books, even older ones, that I have ever list an actual copyright date.
Among the older books in my collection, it is found in Will Slater’s 1940
“Praise and Revival Songs,” Marion Davis’s 1940 “The Complete Christian
Hymnal,” Tillit S. Teddlie’s 1943 “Standard Gospel Songs,” and the Firm
Foundation’s 1944 “The New Wonderful Songs.” These were smaller,
regionally-prevalent songbooks used mostly in the west and south.
The first nationally-used book among churches of Christ to include
the song was “Sacred Selections” in 1956. Since then, it has been in
most books published by brethren, including “Majestic Hymns No. 2” in
1959, Marion Davis’s “The Hymnal” in 1960, “Abiding Hymns” in 1963,
“Christian Hymnal” in 1963 (chorus only), and “Hymns of Praise” in 1978.
Today, in addition to “Sacred Selections” it can be found in “Songs of
the Church” (1971), “(Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns” (1978/1983), “Songs
of the Church 21st C. Ed.” (1990), and “Praise for the Lord” (1992), as
well as “Hymns for Worship.”

In my experience, this has been a very popular and much-used
invitation song.

I. Stanza 1 issues an invitation
“Careless soul, why will you linger, Wandering from the fold of God?
Hear you not the invitation? O prepare to meet thy God.”
A. It is sad that too many lost souls continue to linger in sin, like
Lot in Sodom: Gen. 19.16
B. As long as such sould continue to linger, they are wandering from the
fold of God: Lk. 15.4-7
C. Therefore, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, issues an invitation for all who
labor and are heavy laded to come to Him for rest: Matt. 11.28-30

II. Stanza 2 asks a question
“Why so thoughtless are you standing While the fleeting years go by,
And your life is spent in folly? O prepare to meet thy God.”
A. The unprepared soul is asked why he stands thoughtless and idle, as
were the men at the eleventh hour in the pareable of the vineyard
workers: Matt. 20.1-6
B. What makes this question so important is that our time here to
prepare is not unlimited because the years are fleeting by: Ps. 909-12
C. And it is even more sad because as those years are fleeting by, the
unprepared soul is spending his life in folly, just as the prodigal son
wasted his substance in riotous living: Lk. 15.11-13

III. Stanza 3 contains a pleading
“Hear you not the earnest pleading Of your friends who wish thou/thee/you
well?
And perhaps before tomorrow You’ll be called to meet thy/your God.
A. The gospel is designed to plead with or beseech people to be
reconciled to God: 2 Cor. 5.19
B. The sinner’s friends who make up the bride or church join with the
Spirit in pleading with him to come: Rev. 22.17. (There is some
variation in this stanza, due to Stanley’s apparent misunderstanding of
the Elizabethan pronouns. Our modern English “you” is both nominative
and objective. However, in Old English, “thou” is always nominative, as
in “Thou art merciful, O Father,” whereas “thee” is always objective, as
in “Still he calls for thee.” Some books correct it to “Of your friends
that wish THEE well.” Other editors, apparently not liking to mix the
old with the new, change it to “Of your friends that wish YOU well” and
also at the end of the stanza “You’ll be called to meet YOUR God.”
“Hymns of Worship eliminated the problem completely by omitting the
entire stanza!)
C. This pleading needs to be heard and heeded because at any time one’s
life may be called, as was that of the rich fool: Lk. 12.16-20

IV. Stanza 4 gives a warning
“If you spurn the invitation Till the Spirit shall depart,
Then you’ll see your sad condition, Unprepared to meet thy God.”
A. Unfortunately, a lot of people do spurn the invitation, refusing to
accept and obey the gospel, as did many in Antioch of Pisidia: Acts
13.45-46
B. I understand the clause “Till the Spirit shall depart” to mean either
until one’s heart becomes so hardened that the call of the Spirit no
longer has any appeal–cf.: Heb. 3.13-15; or perhaps more likely, until
one dies after which he is no longer in a condition where the Spirit will
plead with him (Heb. 9.27)
C. So, if a person dies in such a condition, he will certainly see a sad
ending to his existence as one who has not known God or not obeyed the
gospel: 2 Thess. 1.7-9

CONCL.: The chorus continues to invite, ask, plead, and warn the
lost soul:|
“Careless soul, O heed the warning, For your life will soon be gone;
O how sad to face the judgment, Unprepared to meet thy God.”
Certainly, gospel preaching should appeal to the sinners based on the
love of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and the blessings of the Spirit.
However, they must also be made aware of the consequences of not
responding to the Lord’s invitation, as we encourage each one to “Prepare
To Meet Thy God.”

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