"Death" (Extract - Things New & Old, Vol. XVI)

Grant Melville

Account Closed
"There are two ways of looking at death - two standpoints from which to view it; and no human language can set forth all that is involved in the solemn and weighty question - 'How do I look at this profound mystery of death?'
Looked at from nature's point of view, death is most terrific - man's last enemy - his most terrible foe. There is nothing which, as a man, I possess, that death will not take from me. Riches, honours, dignities, pleasures, all, in short, that the human heart values - all that goes to make up the sum of human happiness in this world - all that makes life agreeable - all must pass away under the withering touch of the hand of death. If I had enough wealth to pay off the national debt of England; though I were possessed of all the precious gems that glitter on the person of the Persian Shah; though I stood at the very summit of political and literary fame; though I were admired of all admirers; the leader of fashion's votaries; able to live a life of learned leisure and splendid luxury; yea, if it were possible for me to quadruple the wealth and splendour of king Solomon; yet, when death approaches, I must leave all. The wealth of the universe could not purchase one moment's respite from the cruel grasp of the king of terrors. When death, like a mighty dectective, lays hold on me, go I must.
Yes; there is no discharge - no getting out of it. I may weep and lament, beseech and entreat, summon around me the very highest medical authorities, offer fabulous fees, try all the resources of medicine, surround my bed with a circle of friends who would give worlds - if they had them - to detain me. But all in vain. The ruthless tyrant seizes me and will have me away. Yes, away from all my joys, all my pleasures, all my wealth and splendour, my literature, my learning, my fame, my ease and luxury - away from all these things to - what? Ah! this is the question.
And this question must be answered, sooner or later.
There is no possibility of getting rid of it. I may try to reason it away, to laugh it away, to sing it away, to dance it away, to drink it away, to smoke it away, to dance it away, to gamble it away; but it will not do; for, at the other side of all these things stands the grim and terrible foe, death ready armed to carry me off to - what? To judgement and a never-ending eternity. Overwhelming consideration!
But reader, there is another way of looking at this great question. Did your eye ever rest on 1 Corinthians 3:22? There is a most remarkable item set down there in the inventory of the believer's possessions. "All things are yours," says the apostle, and amongst the "all" he sets down "death."
Think of this, what a strange possession! "Death is yours" However can this be? How has it come to pass that man's last enemy - his most dreaded foe - that from which he shrinks with such horror - this terrible thing called death should actually be an item in the Christian's possessions?
The cross furnishes the answer. Christ has died - died the Just for the unjust - died for our sins according to the scriptures. Thus has He taken the sting from death - for the sting of death is sin - and completely changed its character for the believer. He has turned it from being our worst enemy into our best friend. He has gone down into that deep, dark river, put back its terrible flood, made it a pathway for His people whereby they pass over into their glorious inheritance, and left behind in its deths the memorial of His full victory over its power.
Thus it is that death is ours. What a marvellous change! Looked at from nature's standpoint, man belongs to death. Looked at from faith's standpoint, death belongs to man. In the old creation, there is not so much as a single thing which death does not take from us. In the new creation, on the contrary, there is not a single thing which death does not give us. There is not a single dignity, which, as Christians, we possess, that we do not owe to death. We have life, through death; forgiveness of sisn, through death; everlasting righteousness, through death; eternal glory, through death - the precious death of Christ.
Glorious fact! Death is ours. Shall we any longer fear it? Surely not. Its character is completely changed for us, so that if it should come to us, it only comes to do us the very best service, namely, to dissolve our connection with all that is mortal; to snap the link that binds us to a scene of sorrow and trial; to deliver us from a world of sin and wickedness, and introduce us to a scene of ineffable bliss, holy repose, and unbroken communion.
Oh! Why is it that Christians are so afraid of death? It must be because they are looking at it from nature's standpoint instead of faith's. Surely, if we were more living in that region into which the death of Christ has introduced us - if we were dying daily - if we were walking in the power of the heavenly life, our thoughts of death would be very different from what they are. But alas! alas! we live too much in the region of nature - we surround ourselves with natural things and give ourselves too much to them - "we walk as men" - we are not sufficiently familiar with heaven as our proper sphere of being. Hence it is we shrink from that which must break our every link with this present scene.
May the Holy Spirit lead our souls into more profound exercise as to this great subject, so that we may carry ourselves somewhat more consistently in respect of it, and maintain and exhibit that moral elevation above present things which shall be to the praise of Him who has called us into living association with Himself."

"Lord Jesus! we remember
The travail of thy soul
When, through thy love's deep pity,
The waves did o'er thee roll;
Baptized in death's dark waters,
For us thy blood was shed;
For us thou (Lord of glory)
Wast numbered with the dead.

O Lord! thou now art risen,
Thy travail all is o'er;
For sin thou once has suffered -
Thou liv'st to die no more;
Sin, death, and hell are vanquished
By thee the church's head;
And lo! we share thy triumphs,
Thou first-born from the dead."
Extract from 'Things New And Old' - Vol. XVI (1873)