Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Sunday, March 20, 2016

THE LOVE OF CHRIST, AS MANIFESTED TO HIS PEOPLE IN THE HOUR OF DEATH

David Harsha, 1856

"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 mortal remains–
"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 to live.

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 dying."

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."

4 comments:

Darrel said...

What a great comfort is brought to us by this brother. May the Lord calm our every fear and help us to grow in grace and in the trust of Him who holds us.

lyn said...

Yes, I found this writing very encouraging. Death is a welcome event for those who belong to Christ, it is the end of our journey here and the beginning of our eternal bliss!

Susan said...

I've been pondering on the difference between the saved and unsaved as to the 7 trumpets...have you ever heard of Jacob Prasch Lyn? What do you think about his teachings on Bible prophecy? I'm in agreement with him on some things, but on the topic of 7 trumpets he believes there are 2 different types of trumpets (in Old testament Judaism) so he believes the 7 trumpets in the book of Revelation are the Shofar (ram's horn) trumpets of judgement in the Old testament, and the "Last Trump" or the Trumpet of the Lord" are the same as what the Old Testament would have as trumpets of warning (silver trumpet) for the elect....but my husband and I agree that they seem to be the same trumpets but viewed differently depending on whether you are saved or damned. If you are saved it is a beautiful sound, calling and warning but with a sound that draws you, but for the unsaved it only gives dread and extreme fear. Same trumpets, but depending on the hearer, completely different effects. What do you think?

lyn said...

I have heard of him but I am not familiar with what he believes or teaches. I haven't really studied in-depth the trumpets, with that said, what you state makes sense. It is something I haven't really taken time to investigate, it may be time to change that!