The Christian View of
I shall offer several considerations calculated to help
the people of God in time of sickness, to keep their hearts loose from all
earthly objects, and cheerfully willing to die:
1. Death is harmless to the
people of God; its shafts leave no sting in them. Why then are
you afraid that your sickness may bring you to death? If you were to die in
your sins; if death were to reign over you as a tyrant, to feed upon you as
a lion does upon his prey; if death to you were to be the precursor of
hell—then you might reasonably startle and shrink back from it with horror
and dismay! But if your sins are blotted out; if Christ has vanquished death
in your behalf, so that you have nothing to encounter but bodily pain, and
possibly not even that; if death will be to you the forerunner of heaven—why
should you be afraid? Why not bid it welcome? It cannot hurt you; it is easy
and harmless; it is like taking off your clothes, of taking rest.
2. It may keep your heart from shrinking back, to
consider that death is necessary to fit you for the
full enjoyment of God. Whether you are willing to die or not,
there certainly is no other way to complete the happiness of your soul.
Death must do you the kind office to remove this veil of flesh—this animal
life which separates you from God—before you can see and enjoy him fully.
"While we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." And who
would not be willing to die for the perfect enjoyment of God? I think one
would look and sigh, like a prisoner, through the grates of this
mortality—"O that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at
rest!" Indeed most men need patience to die; but a saint, who understands
what death will introduce him to, rather needs patience to live. On his
deathbed he should often look out and listen to his Lord's coming; and when
he perceives his dissolution to be near, he should say, "The voice of my
beloved! Behold he comes, leaping over the mountains, skipping over the
3. Consider that the happiness
of heaven commences immediately after death. That happiness will
not be deferred until the resurrection; but as soon as death has passed upon
you, your soul will be swallowed up in life. When you have once loosed from
this shore, you shall be quickly wafted to the shore of a glorious eternity!
And can you not say—I desire to die, and to be with Christ? Did the soul and
body die together, or did they sleep until the resurrection, as some have
fancied, it would have been folly for Paul to desire to die, for the
enjoyment of Christ; because he would have enjoyed more in the body than he
could have enjoyed out of it.
The Scripture speaks of but two ways in which the soul
can properly live—that is, by faith and vision. These two comprehend its
present and future existence. Now, if when faith fails, sight should not
immediately succeed, what would become of the soul? But the truth on this
subject is clearly revealed in Scripture. See Luke 23: 3; John 14: 3, etc.
What a blessed change then, will death make in your condition! Rouse up,
dying saint, and rejoice; let death do his work, that the angels may conduct
your soul to the world of light!
4. It may increase your willingness to die, to reflect
that by death, God often removes his people out of
the way of great troubles and temptations. When some
extraordinary calamity is coming upon the world, God sometimes removes his
saints out of the way of the evil. Thus Methuselah died the year before the
flood; Augustine a little before the sacking of Hippo; Pareus just before
the taking of Heidelburg. Luther observes that all the apostles died before
the destruction of Jerusalem; and Luther himself died before the wars broke
out in Germany. How it may be that by death you will escape some grievous
trial, which you could not and need not endure. But even if no extraordinary
trouble would come upon you, yet God desires by death to relieve you from
innumerable evils and burdens which are inseparable from the present state.
Thus you will be delivered from indwelling sin, which is the greatest
trouble; from all temptations from whatever source; from bodily illnesses
and failings; and from all the afflictions and sorrows of this life. The
days of your mourning will be ended, and God will wipe away all tears from
your eyes. Why then should you not hasten to depart?
5. If you still linger, like Lot in Sodom, what are your
pleas and pretenses for a longer life? Why are you
unwilling to die? Are you concerned for the welfare of your
relations? If so, are you anxious for their temporal support? Then let the
word of God satisfy you: "Leave your fatherless children to me, I will keep
them alive, and let your widows trust in me." Luther says, in his last will,
"Lord, you have given me a wife and children, I have nothing to leave them,
but I commit them unto you. O Father of the fatherless and Judge of widows,
nourish, keep and teach them."
But are you concerned for the spiritual welfare of your
relations? Remember that you cannot convert them, if you should live; and
God can make your prayers and counsels effectual when you are dead.
Perhaps you desire to serve God longer in this world. But
if he has nothing further for you to do here, why not say with David, "Here
am I, let God do what seems good to him." He is calling you to higher
service in heaven, and can accomplish by other hands what you desire to do
further here. Do you feel too imperfect to go to heaven? Consider that you
must be imperfect until you die; your sanctification cannot be complete
until you get to heaven.
But,' you say, 'I lack assurance; if I had that I could
die easily.' Consider, then, that a hearty willingness to leave all the
world to be freed from sin, and to be with God—is the direct way to that
desired assurance; no carnal person was ever willing to die upon this