THE LOVE OF CHRIST, AS
MANIFESTED TO HIS PEOPLE IN THE HOUR OF DEATH
"Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort
me." Psalm 23:4
"And when the closing scenes prevail,
When wealth, state, pleasure, all shall fail;
All that a foolish world admires,
Or passion craves or pride inspires;
At that important hour of need,
Jesus shall prove a friend indeed.
His hand shall smooth your dying bed,
His arm sustain your drooping head;
And when the painful struggle's o'er,
And that vain thing, the world, no more
He'll bear his humble friend away,
To rapture and eternal day."
It is a solemn truth that you and I must die. Death will soon overtake us.
Before the termination of the present year; yes, before the sun shall have
again passed the horizon, the hand that now writes these lines, and the eye
that now reads them, may both have felt the chill of death.
Oh, what is human life? A vapor; a dream; a tale that is soon told; a feeble
spark of vitality, emitting its light for a moment, and then forever
extinguished! "How frail is humanity! How short is life, and how full of
trouble! Like a flower, we blossom for a moment and then wither. Like the
shadow of a passing cloud, we quickly disappear." "My days are swifter than
a weaver's shuttle flying back and forth. They end without hope. O God,
remember that my life is but a breath."
Our continuance on earth is but for a short moment. "Our days on the earth
are as a shadow, and there is none abiding." "As for man, his days are as
grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourishes; for the wind passes over
it, and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more." "For what
is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then
vanishes away." How short, how uncertain is life; but how certain is death!
How true it is that God will bring us to death, and to "the house appointed
for all living." "It is appointed unto men once to die." Millions have
fallen before the irresistible stroke of death. All mankind are dying
creatures, and are pressing onward to the grave.
Reflect upon the past history of mankind. "Generation after generation,"
says a beautiful writer, "have passed away. Time was, when they were alive
upon the earth, and active amid its busy scenes. They had their joys and
their sorrows. They flitted across life's busy stage, and disappeared
forever behind the curtain of mortality. They have gone. The winds of
centuries have swept over their graves."
As it was with them, so it will soon be with us. Look at the future. It is
computed that eight hundred million people constitute the population of our
globe: these, in less than a century, will all be lodged in the grave. The
grave receives alike as its victims the inmate of the cottage, and him who
sits on his throne and sways the scepter of nations. The paths of glory and
honor lead but to the grave. Here come the nobles with their titles, kings
with their crowns, and scholars with their volumes. Here is the home of the
mighty hero, who once with his steel-clad millions thundered over the field
of battle, and with an arm of power shook the foundations of kingdoms.
"How populous, how capacious is the grave!
This is creation's melancholy vault."
O look at the brevity and vanity of human life, and learn a solemn lesson.
Though you have soared in fame, or have accumulated wealth in abundance;
though you glory in human power, and, like Alexander, could ride
triumphantly over the ruins of desolated nations, yet the time will soon
have arrived when the feeble tenement of clay shall moulder, leaving its
only epitaph upon the crumbling marble; when it may be pronounced, over your
"How loved, how valued once, avails you not;
To whom related, or by whom begot:
A heap of dust alone remains of thee;
'Tis all you are, and all the great shall be."
But death does not annihilate our existence. We are immortal beings. Human
life is but a prelude to an immortal state of being. As we close our eyes on
the visionary scenes of time, we open them amid the solemn realities of
eternity; we enter upon that life which will never end. To die, then, is but
Oh! how important it is that we should become interested in the atonement of
Christ; that we may find redemption in his blood, and forgiveness of sins,
that we may be in peace. All must tread the dark valley alone. All must
cross the Jordan of death. But the humble follower of Christ is, through
grace, enabled to exclaim, as he approaches the dreadful precipice that
hides the view of mortality: "Even when I walk through the dark valley of
death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your
staff protect and comfort me."
Christ's presence is with believers in the hour of death; he cheers their
departing spirits. They have fled for refuge to him, and he sustains them in
their trying hour. Then he is a friend indeed; a friend that sticks closer
than a brother. This love is manifested to them; it enables them to shout
forth triumphantly, in the face of the last enemy, "O death, where is your
victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in
death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us
victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
It is to the believer in Jesus, and to him alone, that death comes disarmed
of his terrors; being only a faithful messenger to convey him to his dear
Lord and Savior: so that in the prospect of dissolution, he can express a
desire with Paul, "To depart and be with Christ, which is far better." He
knows that Christ is his loving friend, that he is watching over his dying
bed, ready to receive his departing spirit, and he can confidently say with
Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And with David, "Into your hand I
commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth." "I will behold
your face in righteousness. I will be satisfied, when I awake, with your
likeness." And with Simeon, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace
according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation."
Such is the peaceful end of the Christian's mortal career. He dies in peace.
He passes the swellings of Jordan, cheered by the Savior's presence, and
animated by the manifestation of his love. It is in the trying hour of
death, when flesh and heart fail, that the love of Christ is amazingly
manifested to believers.
It is when the 'swellings of Jordan' come almost over the poor believer's
soul; when he is ready to sink beneath the boisterous waves, that Christ
reveals to him his wonderful love, which fills his heart with joy; which
enables him to shout forth joyfully upon his bed, and be more than a
conqueror through Him that loved us. "Let the saints be joyful in glory: let
them sing aloud upon their beds." "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the
death of his saints." And at that solemn period, when the last sands of life
are running out, when life's last hour is closing, he visits them
individually, and unfolds the riches of his grace, and the wonders of his
love. He whispers in their ears his gracious promises. "Do not be afraid,
for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you
go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go
through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the
fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume
you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
And they find him faithful to his promises; yes, when they tread the verge
of Jordan, they find him like the high priest of old, who bore the ark of
the covenant, standing in the midst of the waters, that they may safely pass
through its proud waves to the heavenly Canaan, that glorious land of
promise- the happy home of the believers, the heaven of eternal rest. "They
were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven."
Jesus Christ, our blessed high priest, himself has passed through the Jordan
of death. He has dipped his feet into this stream. He has rolled back its
swelling waves. He has made a safe and easy passage for all his followers.
Christian, why then are you afraid to die, to plunge into this stream, when
you see the very footprints of your Savior in the bottom? "Who is he that
condemns? It is Christ who died." His eyes have been closed in death. O,
believer! Christ has been laid in the cold and silent grave before you. He
has felt the chill of death. But he has removed its sting. Through death, he
has destroyed him that had the power of it. Fear not, death is a vanquished
foe. Christ says concerning his people, "I will ransom them from the power
of the grave. I will redeem there from death O death! I will be your plague;
O grave! I will be your destruction."
Christian, death cannot hurt you. It is but a sure step into glory! Are you
in bondage through the fear of death? Christ has delivered you from this
bondage. "Because God's children are human beings—made of flesh and
blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For
only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the
power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he
deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of
Thus, the children of God are safely conducted through death to mansions of
glory, and awake amid the splendors of are immortal day. How happy they,
who, when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, find that Jesus
is their friend and companion!
"How glorious he! how happy they,
In such a glorious friend!
Whose love secures them all the way,
And crowns them at the end."
Thus, while the believer is standing on the verge of the grave, and looking
back on his past life, his past conflicts, his earthly pilgrimage, he can
exclaim in the language of the Apostle Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I
have finished my course, I have kept the faith;" and as he looks forward
into a vast eternity, and sees the rich rewards that are shortly to be his,
the kingdom that he is going to possess, the crown of glory that is soon to
he placed upon his brow, he triumphantly adds, "And now the prize awaits
me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give
me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for
all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return." At last, he hears that
happy approbation, and joyful invitation, "Well done, good and faithful
servant, enter into time joy of your Lord."
The solemn scene closes. The dark valley is passed. Jordan is crossed. No
more struggles. No more pain. No more tears of sorrow, and affliction. No
more death. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe
away tears from off all faces." The believer is "absent from the body, and
present with the Lord." In the Savior's perfect love, he rests, and finds
his eternity of joy. In his dying moments he could say, "God will redeem my
soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me." "For this God is
our God, forever and ever; he will be our guide, even unto death." And he
has experienced a happy realization of these promises. That Savior who loved
him in life, also manifests his love to him in the hour of death. His love
is abiding, it is not subject to mutation; it knows no change. "Having loved
his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end."
As the believer's mortal career is about to terminate, the Savior stands by
him, and encircles him with the arms of his love. He sheds abroad his love
in the believer's heart. He sustains him amid the agonies of dissolving
nature. He strengthens him by his grace. The dying Christian cries, "My
flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion
forever." "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our
spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite
small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably
great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can
see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the
troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever."
Thus he finishes his earthly course with joy. His end is peace. "Mark the
perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace." With
him all is calm, and peaceful. The heavens are serene. The thunders of the
law are hushed. Calvary is in his view. Around him all is sprinkled with
atoning blood. No wonder, then, that he should die in peace; for, "being
justified by faith," he has "peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
He has obtained the victory over death, the last enemy. Hence, many a dying
Christian has been able to say, with Goodwin, "Is this dying? Is this the
enemy that dismayed me so long, now so harmless, and even pleasant?"
Not so with the end of the wicked. To him, death is terrible; the grave,
gloomy; and eternity, dark. "The wicked are crushed by their sins, but the
godly have a refuge when they die."
The death-bed of the Christian is a glorious, happy place– "The chamber
where the good man meets his fate, Is privileged beyond the common walk of
virtuous life, Quite on the verge of heaven."