Charles Spurgeon Sermon - Page 2
Death, too, we may be sure from this statement cannot be any serious detriment to the believer after all; it cannot be any serious loss to a saint to die. Looking upon the poor corpse, it does seem to be a catastrophe for death to have passed his cold hand across the brow, but it is not so, for the very death is precious; therefore, it is no calamity. Death if rightly viewed is a blessing from the Lord's hand. A child once found a bird's nest in which were eggs, which it looked upon as a great treasure. It left them, and by-and-by, when a week or so had passed, went back again. It returned to its mother grieving: "Mother," said the child, "I had some beautiful eggs in this nest, and now they are destroyed; nothing is left but a few pieces of broken shell. Pity me, mother, for my treasure is gone." But the mother said, "Child, here is no destruction; there were little birds within those eggs, and they have flown away, and are singing now among the branches of the trees; the eggs are not wasted, child, but have answered their purpose. It is better far as it is." So, when we look at our departed ones, we are apt to say, "And is this all thou hast left us? Ruthless spoiler, are these ashes all?" But, faith whispers "No, the shell is broken, but amongst the birds of paradise, singing amid unwithering bowers, you shall find the spirits of your beloved ones; their true manhood is not here, but has ascended to its Father, God." It is not a loss to die, it is a gain, a lasting, a perpetual, an illimitable gain. The man is at one moment weak, and cannot stir a finger; in an instant he is clothed with power. Call ye not this a gain? That brow is aching; it shall wear a crown within the next few tickings of the clock. Is that no gain? That hand is palsied; it shall at once wave the palm branch. Is that a loss? The man is sick beyond physician's power; but he shall be where the inhabitant is never sick. Is that a loss? When Baxter lay a dying, and his friends came to see him, almost the last word he said was in answer to the question, "Dear Mr. Baxter, how are you?" "Almost well," said he, and so it is. Death cures; it is the best medicine, for they who die are not only almost well, but healed for ever. You will see, then, that the statement of our text implies that the aspect of death is altogether altered from that appearance in which men commonly behold it. Death to the saints is not a penalty, it is not destruction, it is not even a loss.
II. But now, secondly, I want your earnest thought to a further consideration of the text. THE STATEMENT HERE MADE IS OF A MOST UNLIMITED KIND.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." It is a broad statement, wide and comprehensive, and I want you to observe that there is no limit here as to whom. Provided that the dying one be a saint, his death is precious. He may be the greatest in the church, he may be the least: he may be the boldest confessor, he may be the most timid trembler; but if a saint, his death is precious in God's sight. I can well conceive the truth of this in respect to martyrs; to see a man enduring torments, but refusing to deny his Lord; to behold him offered life and wealth if he will recant, but to hear him say, "I cannot and I will not draw back by the help of God:" to mark every nerve throbbing with anguish, and every single member of his body torn with torment, and yet to see the man faithful to his God even to the close, -- why, this is a spectacle which God himself might well count precious. The church embalms the memories of her martyrs wherever they die -- precious in God's sight must their deaths be. The deaths too of those who work for Christ, until at last weary nature gives out, when body and brain are both exhausted, and the man can no longer continue in his beloved labor, but lays down his body and his charge together, never putting off harness until he puts off his flesh -- methinks the deaths of such men must be precious in God's sight. But, not more so, mark that not more so than the departure of the patient sufferer, scarcely able to say a word, solitary and unknown, only able to serve God by submissively enduring pains which make night weary and day intolerable. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of the consumptive girl who gradually melts into heaven; the death of the pauper in the workhouse, without a friend, but uncomplainingly bearing God's will, is as precious (not perhaps under some aspects), but as truly precious in the sight of the Lord as that of the most useful preacher of the word. Precious to Jehovah is the death of the least in the ranks, as the death of those who rush to the front and bear the brunt of the battle well. There are no distinctions in the text; if you be a saint no one may know you, you may be too poor and too illiterate to be of much account in the world, you may die and pass away, and no record may be among the sons of men, no stone set up over your lonely grave, but precious in the sight of the Lord in every case is the death of his saints. There is no limit as to whom.
And, mark you, there is no limit at all as to when. It matters not at what age the saint dies, his death is precious to God. Very delightful to those who observe them are the deathbed scenes of young children who have early been converted to God. There is a peculiar charm about the pious prattler's departing utterances. He can hardly pronounce his words aright, but he seems illuminated from above, and to talk of Jesus and his angels, and the harps of gold, and the better land, as if he had been there. Some of you have had the privilege to carry in your bosoms some of those nurselings for the skies, unfledged angels sent here but for a little while, and then caught away to heaven, that their mothers' hearts might follow them, and their fathers' aspirations might pursue them. I confess to a great liking for such books as "Janeway's Token for Children," where the deaths of many pious boys and girls are recorded with the holy sayings which they used. The Lord sets a high value on his little ones, and, therefore, frequently gathers them while they are like flowers in the bud. When these favored children die, Jesus stands at their little cots, and, while he calls them away, he whispers, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Equally precious, however, are the deaths of those who depart in middle life. These we usually regret most of all, because of the terrible blanks which they leave behind them. What, shall the hero fall when the battle wants him most? Shall the reaper be sent home and made to lay down his sickle just when the harvest is heaviest, and the day requires every worker? To us it seemeth strange, but to God it is precious. Oh, could we lift the veil, could we understand what now we see not, we should perceive that it was better for the saints to die when they died, than it would have been for them to have lived longer lives. Though the widow mourns, and the orphans are left penniless, it was good that the father fell asleep. Though a loving church gathered round the hearse and mourned that their minister had been taken away in the fullness of his vigor, it was best that God should take him to himself. Let us be persuaded of this, that no believer dies an untimely death. In every consistent Christian's case that promise is true, "With long life also will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation;" for long life is not to be reckoned by years as men count them. He lives longest who lives best. Many a man has crowded half a century into a single year. God gives his people life, not as the clock ticks, but as he helps them to serve him; and he can make them to live much in a short space of time. There are no untimely figs gathered into God's basket; the great Master of the vineyard plucks the grapes when they are ripe and ready to be taken, and not before. Saintly deaths are precious in his sight.
And, dear brethren, if the Lord's providence permits the saint to live to a good old age, then is his death precious too. The decease which has lately occurred among us will abide in my memory as one of my choice treasures. I say but little of it to-day, for on another Sabbath morning I may be able to tell you some of those choice things which our dear brother and venerated elder uttered which charmed and gladdened us all as we lingered about his bed. You knew him; you knew what a man he was in life; he was just such a man in death. But a day or so before he died, while he could scarcely draw his breath, he told me with a smile that it was the happiest day of his life. As he was always wont to rejoice in God while he was here among us, so he was kept in the same blessed spirit even to the end. "See," said he, "what a blessed thing it is to be here." "Here!" I said. "What, on a dying bed?" "Yes,' said he, "for I am Christ's, and Christ is mine; I am in him, and He is in me; what more would I have? It is the happiest day of my life," and again he smiled serenely. It was all joy with him, all bliss with him. Pain might rack him, or weakness might prostrate him, but ever did his spirit magnify the Lord, and rejoice in God his Savior. Yes, these ripe ones, like the fruits of autumn, fall willingly from off the tree of life when but a gentle breeze stirs the branches. The deaths of these are precious unto God. There is no limitation as to when.
And, again, there is no limitation as to where. Precious shall their deaths be in his sight, let them happen where they may. Up in the lonely garret where there are none of the appliances of comfort, but all the marks of the deepest penury, up there where the dying workgirl or the crossing sweeper dies -- there is a sight most precious unto God; or yonder, in the long corridor of the hospital, where many are too engrossed in their own griefs to be able to shed a tear of sympathy, there passes away a triumphant spirit, and precious is that death in God's sight. Alone, utterly alone in the dead of night, surprised, unable to call in a helper, saintly life often has passed away; but in that form also precious is the death in God's sight. Far away from home and kindred, wandering in the backwoods or on the prairie, the believer has died where there was none to call him brother; but it mattered not, his death was precious in the sight of the Lord. Or, a bullet has brought the missive from the throne which said, "Return and be with God," and falling in the ditch to die amongst the wounded and the dead, with no onlooker but the silent stars and blushing moon, amidst the carnage the death of the believing soldier has been precious in the sight of Jehovah. Ah, and run over in the street, or crushed, and bruised, and mangled in the railway accident, or stifled in the pit by the coal damp, or sinking amidst the gurgling waters of the ocean, or falling beneath the assassin's knife, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. They are everywhere in the sight of God when they die, and he looks upon them with a smile, for their death is precious to his heart.
There is no limit as to where, and, dear brethren, there is no limit as to how. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Their deaths may happen suddenly; they may be alive, and active, and in a moment fall down dead, but their death is precious. I could never understand that prayer which is put into the prayer-book, that God would deliver us from sudden death. Why, methinks, it is the most desirable death that a person could die, not to know you die at all, to have no fears, no shiverings on the brink, but to be busy in your Master's service here, and suddenly to stand in the white robe before his throne in heaven, shutting the eye to the scenes below, and opening it the scenes above. I know, if I might ask such a favor, I would covet to die as a dear brother in Christ died, who gave out this hymn from his pulpit: --
"Father, I long, I faint to see
The place of thine abode
I'd leave thine earthly courts, and flee
Up to thy seat, my God."
Just as he finished that line in the pulpit he bowed his head, and his prayer was answered, he was immediately before the throne of God. Is there anything in that to pray against? It seems to us much to be desired; but at any rate, such a death as that is precious in God's sight. But if we linger long, if the tabernacle be taken down piece by piece, and the curtains be slowly folded up, and the tent pins gently put away, precious in the sight of the Lord is such a death as that. Should we die by fierce disease, which shakes the strong man, or by gentle decline, which slowly saps and undermines, it matters not. Should a sudden stroke take us, and men call it a judgment, it is no judgment to the believer, for from him all judgments are past, and the true light of love shineth on him. Die how he may, and where he may, and when he may, and let him be in what position he will when he dies, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
III. And now, thirdly, coming to the very soul and marrow of the text, we notice that THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT MAY BE FULLY SUSTAINED AND ACCOUNTED FOR, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," is a most sober and truthful declaration.
First, because their persons were, and always will be, precious unto God. His saints! Why, these are his elect; these are they upon whom his love was set before the mountains lifted their heads into the clouds; these are they whom he bought with precious blood, cheerfully laying down his life for their sakes; these are they whose names are borne on Jesus' breast, and engraved upon the palms of his hands; these are his children; these are members of his body; these are his bride, his spouse; he is married unto them: therefore, everything that concerns them must be precious. Do I not look with interest upon the history of my child? Do I not carefully observe everything that happens to my beloved spouse? Where there is love the little becometh great, and what would seem a matter of no concern in a stranger is gilded with great importance. The Lord loves his people so intensely that the very hairs of their heads are numbered: his angels bear them up in their hands lest they dash their foot against a stone, and because they are the precious sons of Zion, comparable unto fine gold, therefore their deaths are precious unto the Lord.
Precious are the deaths of God's saints next, because precious graces are in death very frequently tested, and as frequently revealed and perfected. How could I know faith to be true faith if it would not stand a trial? The precious faith of God's elect is proved to be such when it can bear the last ordeal of all; when the man can look grim death in the face, and yet not be staggered through unbelief, when he can gaze across the gulf, so often veiled in cloud, and yet not fear that he shall be able to overleap it, and land in the Savior's arms. Believe me, the faith which only plays with earthly joys, and cannot endure the common trials of life, will soon be dissipated by the solemn trial of death; but that which a man can die with, that is faith indeed. Faith, moreover, brings with it, as its companions, an innumerable company of graces, amongst which chiefly are hope and love. Blessed is the man who can hope in God when heart and flesh are failing him, and can love the Lord even though he smite him with many pains, yea, even though he slay him. The death of the body is a crucible for our graces, and much that we thought to be true grace disappears in the furnace heat; but God counts the trial of our faith much more precious than that of gold, and therefore he counts deathbeds precious in his sight. Besides, how many graces are revealed in dying hours. I have known plants of God's right hand planting that had always been in the shade before, and yet they have enjoyed sunlight at last; silent spirits that have laid their finger on their lips throughout their lives but have taken them down, and have declared their love to Jesus just when they were departing. Like the swan, of whom the fable hath it, that it singeth never till it comes to its end, so many a child of God has begun to sing in his last hours; because he has done with the glooms of earth, he begins to sing here his swan song, intending to sing on for ever and ever. You cannot tell what is in a man to the fullness of him till he is tried to the full, and therefore the last trial, inasmuch as it strippeth off earth-born imperfections and developes in us that which is of God, and brings to the front the real and the true, and throws to the back the superficial and the pretentious, is precious in God's sight.