By William S. Plumer, 1875
I. We all must die. That is certain. The thing is fixed.
"It is appointed unto men once to die." Heb. 9:27. None but fools deny this.
II. Death to men comes by sin. It is the fruit of
transgression. A part of the sentence passed upon man for eating the
forbidden fruit was, "Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return." Gen.
3:19. The same is taught by Paul; "Death entered by sin." "By one man's
offence death reigned by one." "The wages of sin is death." Romans 5:12, 17;
III. No wonder then that death among men is often so
painful, either to undergo or to behold.
IV. Nor can anyone tell at what moment he must die, nor
by what means he shall die. It may be with long and painful warning; or it
may be without the least notice.
V. The corruption of the body which soon follows death is
very distressing. Even the most loving friend wishes his dead buried out of
his sight. Gen. 23:4. We cannot divest ourselves of interest in the changes
which our bodies undergo. It makes us sad that they must become loathsome.
VI. We often spend time in thoughts upon the means used
for removing men from the world. But God often strikes with death when we
can see no means whatever. He has the keys of death and the grave. "You turn
man to destruction." Psalm 90:3.
VII. Death forever ends the day of grace. "There is no
work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave where you go."
Eccles. 9:10. To those who die in sin mercy is never again offered. If men
persist in wickedness until they leave this world, they will never have
another call to light and life.
VIII. Godly men do not really die as the wicked. To them
death has no sting. 1 Cor. 15:56. The good man is taken away from the evil
to come. Isaiah 57:1. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the
end of that man is peace." "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." Psalm
37:37; Rev. 14:13.
IX. Seeing God is not angry with his people, why does he
allow his children to die? He did not allow Enoch and Elijah to die: but
every other good man has died or shall die. We may not know all the reasons
why God allows his people to taste of death. But if all wicked men died, and
all the righteous were taken to heaven without seeing death, there would be
a great deal of distress in this world; for it would be known in this life
who was saved and who was lost. Besides, it is very right that, as their
Lord entered the grave and rose again, so his people should die also. Their
death is blessed. They sleep in Jesus. 1 Thess. 4:14. It is enough that the
disciple be as his Lord.
X. Death is not an everlasting sleep. The soul cannot
sleep. "God is not the God of the dead but of the living." Matt. 22:32. When
Lazarus died he was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. God has
promised eternal life—a conscious, happy existence—to all who love his Son
and keep his commandments. At death the spirits of just men are made
perfect. Heb. 2:23. All Christ's people shall be like him, for they shall
see him as he is. 1 John 3:2. Nor are the wicked without sense or thought
after death. The rich man awaked in hell, being in torments. Luke 16:23. At
death the wicked pass into the pit of woe. Their doom is awful. Read Isaiah
XI. Many have expressed great wonder that the mass of
men, even in Christian countries, think so little about dying. Even some of
the heathen seem to have thought a great deal on the subject. Xerxes wept in
reviewing his great army, when he remembered that in a hundred years not a
man of them would be living. Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the
Great, required a servant to awake him every morning by crying at his
chamber, "Philip, remember you are mortal. Philip, remember you are mortal.
Philip, remember you are mortal." The more light one has respecting the
immediate consequences of death on the soul, the less is he disposed to
think of the matter at all, unless he is prepared or preparing to meet God.
XII. Mere familiarity with the subject of death makes no
man wiser or better. It is well known that public executioners and soldiers,
who often witness death in its worst forms, are but little affected by it.
XIII. There is also a strong and a strange delusion in
many minds respecting one's own mortality. "All men think all men mortal but
Very firm health often strengthens this foolish
impression. Some men have such an even tenor to their lives that they vainly
think it shall always be so. God has spared them a long time, and they say
he will never call them to an account. "Because sentence against an evil
work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is
fully set in them to do evil." Eccles. 8:11. It is a great weakness in men
to think that because all is calm now, there will never be a storm. They
have good days now; but let them remember that the night comes when no man
can work. John 9:4. It is not wisdom, it is fool-hardiness to cry, "Tomorrow
shall be as this day, and more abundant."
XIV. The thoughts of men as to what constitutes full
preparation for death are very various. Some seem to think a few words of
mournful prayer, when one is about to breathe his last, will be ample
preparation. Others rely on their almsgiving. Many others intend to repent
and change their course of life. A few, who are taught from heaven, believe
that the whole heart must be changed, and the whole nature renewed in this
world. Dying will not convert an enemy of God into a friend of God. It is
not the bitterness but the holy nature of our repentance that will prove it
to be saving. Lost men and lost angels weep and howl for vexation of spirit;
but they sin on.
XV. No one can be fit to die who does not hate every
false way, who does not turn from all sin, and lay fast hold on the merits
of the Redeemer. Out of Christ God is a consuming fire. There is mercy for
the chief of sinners who believes in Jesus. But there is no salvation for
the proud, the self-righteous, the covetous, the envious, the malignant, the
thief, the liar, or even for the decently moral man, to whom Jesus Christ is
as a root out of a dry ground, without form or loveliness. To all who
renounce themselves, their works and worth and will, and accept salvation as
it is freely offered in Jesus Christ, eternal life is certain.
XVI. One of the wonders in the plan of salvation is that
by death Jesus Christ destroyed him that had the power of death. His death
gave hope beyond death. It showed us the path of life—a life so blessed and
so lasting, that it is one of the names given by inspired men to the
immortal bliss which the Redeemed shall enjoy in the bosom of God forever.
XVII. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1
Cor. 15:26. He has tyrannized over the world for a long time, and his power
will be more or less felt until death and hell shall be cast into the lake
of fire. Thenceforth he shall have no power even to mar the bliss of the
saints. Mighty is the power and wondrous is the grace of him who can destroy
the tyrant who for centuries has gone forth conquering and prostrating
before him one generation after another. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.