Let's Talk About Death - Your Death

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings Pilgrims,

A word on my qualifications to talk about death.

My Introduce Yourself post was on April 15th, 2015. Since then, I've made 2,502 posts and have received nearly that many reactions. And it occurred to me tonight that I don't think that I ever posted on the subject of death and dying--and that is very strange. Let me explain.

I first came to "know God, or rather to be known by God" (Galatians 4:9) when I was 20. I am now 71. Since then, there is no subject that I have spent more time meditating on, or reading about, than my death. Just ask my wife, and she'll tell you I drive her totally crazy with the subject. The best way I can illustrate this to you is to tell you about the first year of my salvation and this past week. I'll leave it to your imagination to fill in the 51 years in between.

As a brand new Christian, I would often visit a cemetery and pray and meditate about everything, but especially about my coming death and how it could come suddenly before I take my next breath. I've had a difficult time for the past month or so, but the point I want to make is where I turned for encouragement this past week. Any guesses? Give up? In the past week, I read all 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes three times, stopping to meditate and study a verse here and there, but mainly just taking it all in. The first time I was completely alone on the Appalachian Trail and read through all 12 verses at one time. And something so neat happened when I read the very last verse of the last chapter. I was smiling ear to ear and fantasized, thinking, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Lord took me right now? How utterly appropriate that would be."
Perhaps Spurgeon said it best:
“He who does not prepare for death is more than an ordinary fool. He is a madman. Seek grace to live, therefore, as one prepared to die temporally, and to die as one prepared to live eternally."

Well, I've said too much already, so I'm going to turn it over to what I think is a relatively obscure portion from the Westminster divines' Directory for the Public Worship of God. Did you know that in the ten years they deliberated on the Standards, the first order of business was this directory on the public worship of God?

Concerning Visitation of the Sick

It is the duty of the minister not only to teach the people committed to his charge in public, but privately; and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove, and comfort them, upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time, strength, and personal safety will permit.

He is to admonish them, in time of health, to prepare for death; and, for that purpose, they are often to confer with their minister about the estate of their souls; and, in times of sickness, to desire his advice and help, timely and seasonably, before their strength and understanding fail them.

Times of sickness and affliction are special opportunities put into his hand by God to minister a word in season to weary souls: because then the consciences of men are or should be more awakened to bethink themselves of their spiritual estate for eternity; and Satan also takes advantage then to load them more with sore and heavy temptations: therefore the minister, being sent for, and repairing to the sick, is to apply himself, with all tenderness and love, to administer some spiritual good to his soul, to this effect.

He may, from the consideration of the present sickness, instruct him out of scripture, that diseases come not by chance, or by distempers of body only, but by the wise and orderly guidance of the good hand of God to every particular person smitten by them. And that, whether it be laid upon him out of displeasure for sin, for his correction and amendment, or for trial and exercise of his graces, or for other special and excellent ends, all his sufferings shall turn to his profit, and work together for his good, if he sincerely labour to make a sanctified use of God’s visitation, neither despising his chastening, nor waxing weary of his correction.

If he suspect him of ignorance, he shall examine him in the principles of religion, especially touching repentance and faith; and as he seeth cause, instruct him in the nature, use, excellency, and necessity of those graces: as also touching the covenant of grace; and Christ the Son of God, the Mediator of it; and concerning remission of sins by faith in him.

He shall exhort the sick person to examine himself, to search and try his former ways, and his estate towards God.
And if the sick person shall declare any scruple, doubt, or temptation that are upon him, instructions and resolutions shall be given to satisfy and settle him.

If it appear that he hath not a due sense of his sins, endeavours ought to be used to convince him of his sins, of the guilt and desert of them; of the filth and pollution which the soul contracts by them; and of the curse of the law, and wrath of God, due to them; that he may be truly affected with, and humbled for them: and withal make known the danger of deferring repentance, and of neglecting salvation at any time offered; to awaken his conscience, and rouse him up out of a stupid and secure condition, to apprehend the justice and wrath of God, before whom none can stand, but he that, lost in himself, layeth hold upon Christ by faith.

If he hath endeavoured to walk in the ways of holiness, and to serve God in uprightness, although not without many failings and infirmities; or if his spirit be broken with the sense of sin, or cast down through want of the sense of God’s favour; then it will be fit to raise him up, by setting before him the freeness and fulness of God’s grace, the sufficiency of righteousness in Christ, the gracious offers in the gospel, that all who repent, and believe with all their heart in God’s mercy through Christ, renouncing their own righteousness, shall have life and salvation in him. It may be also useful to show him, that death hath in it no spiritual evil to be feared by those that are in Christ, because sin, the sting of death, is taken away by Christ, who hath delivered all that are his from the bondage of the fear of death, triumphed over the grave, given us victory, is himself entered into glory to prepare a place for his people: so that neither life nor death shall be able to separate them from God’s love in Christ, in whom such are sure, though now they must be laid in the dust, to obtain a joyful and glorious resurrection to eternal life.
Advice also may be given, as to beware of an ill-grounded persuasion on mercy, or on the goodness of his condition for heaven, so to disclaim all merit in himself, and to cast himself wholly upon God for mercy, in the sole merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, who hath engaged himself never to cast off them who in truth and sincerity come unto him. Care also must be taken, that the sick person be not cast down into despair, by such a severe representation of the wrath of God due to him for his sins, as is not mollified by a sensible propounding of Christ and his merit for a door of hope to every penitent believer.

When the sick person is best composed, may be least disturbed, and other necessary offices about him least hindered, the minister, if desired, shall pray with him, and for him, to this effect:

“Confessing and bewailing of sin original and actual; the miserable condition of all by nature, as being children of wrath, and under the curse; acknowledging that all diseases, sicknesses, death, and hell itself, are the proper issues and effects thereof; imploring God’s mercy for the sick person, through the blood of Christ: beseeching that God would open his eyes, discover unto him his sins, cause him to see himself lost in himself, make known to him the cause why God smiteth him, reveal Jesus Christ to his soul for righteousness and life, give unto him his Holy Spirit, to create and strengthen faith to lay hold upon Christ, to work in him comfortable evidences of his love, to arm him against temptations, to take off his heart from the world, to sanctify his present visitation, to furnish him with patience and strength to bear it, and to give him perseverance in faith to the end.

“That, if God shall please to add to his days, he would vouchsafe to bless and sanctify all means of his recovery; to remove the disease, renew his strength, and enable him to walk worthy of God, by a faithful remembrance, and diligent observing of such vows and promises of holiness and obedience, as men are apt to make in times of sickness, that he may glorify God in the remaining part of his life.

“And, if God have determined to finish his days by the present visitation, he may find such evidence of the pardon of all his sins, of his interest in Christ, and eternal life by Christ, as may cause his inward man to be renewed, while his outward man decayeth; that he may behold death without fear, cast himself wholly upon Christ without doubting, desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, and so receive the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul, through the only merits and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, our alone Saviour and all-sufficient Redeemer.”

The minister shall admonish him also (as there shall be cause) to set his house in order, thereby to prevent inconveniences; to take care for payment of his debts, and to make restitution or satisfaction where he hath done any wrong; to be reconciled to those with whom he hath been at variance, and fully to forgive all men their trespasses against him, as he expects forgiveness at the hand of God.

Lastly, The minister may improve the present occasion to exhort those about the sick person to consider their own mortality, to return to the Lord, and make peace with him; in health to prepare for sickness, death, and judgment; and all the days of their appointed time so to wait until their change come, that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, they may appear with him in glory.

Concerning Burial of the Dead

When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial, and there immediately interred, without any ceremony.

And because the custom of kneeling down, and praying by or towards the dead corpse, and other such usages, in the place where it lies before it be carried to burial, are superstitious; and for that praying, reading, and singing, both in going to and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living; therefore let all such things be laid aside.
Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends, which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for public burial, do apply themselves to meditations, and conferences suitable to the occasion; and that the minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, while he was living.

Just in case you're interested, this is how I first planned to introduce this subject.

1) Dying under "the sun" vs 2) dying under the "Son" Which?

1) Ecclesiastes 9:3‭-‬6
This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

2) 1 Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
HI Ed, @ 74, with friends, relatives, acquaintances dropping like flies here lately I think about my death more than I used to.
May I recommend this book, by Richard Steele, 'A Discourse Concerning Old Age', which is a treatise on preparing for that inevitable transition from this vale of tears, to heavenly bliss. On sale and the best eight bucks I've spent lately.


Also .... following M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan in the morning I'm reading a few pages each day of Gurnall's 'The Christian In Complete Armour.' I mark page numbers, and the subject matter, for passages that are particularly meaningful to me in the flyleaf in front of the book.
Pages 250 - 256 are on dying. If you've got a copy laying around loose I'd recommend reading that material.
I thank God that He has revealed such wisdom to you. I too think about the vanities of life and surety of death quite often. In my early years I suffered badly with asthma, which terrified me and almost killed me quite a few times. Then in my early 20s I came down with a sickness that made my body very weak, and gave my heart real bad palpitations. It's things like those that have helped shape my personality, and have caused me to always be ready to meet the Lord. As Peter said, those who suffer in the body are done with sin. Throughout suffering, the reality of what will happen to us stays in focus, which causes us to ponder death, Heaven, and living by faith in righteousness.
A few months ago my reading highlighted this point: man is unique in the universe because we are made from the dust of the earth and the breath of God.

Since I read that, I've developed an as yet undiagnosed medical problem that resembles a condition that nearly killed me five years ago.

I have thought over and over about our creation and have been deeply comforted because there is no place physical or spiritual that is apart from God or what he has created us to be. The Psalmist certainly thought along these lines: "If I make my bed in the depths you are there." And Paul comforted us with "Nothing can separate us from God's love." But it is the surety of how God created us that makes me totally unafraid.
Also .... following M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan in the morning I'm reading a few pages each day of Gurnall's 'The Christian In Complete Armour.' I mark page numbers, and the subject matter, for passages that are particularly meaningful to me in the flyleaf in front of the book.
Pages 250 - 256 are on dying. If you've got a copy laying around loose I'd recommend reading that material.

Thanks, Jimmy,

I'm about a third of the way through Gurnall's TCICA and have fallen in love with it. Here's an example of something wonderful he talked about.

How Sincerity Covers the Saints’ Failings - from Gurnall's, The Christian in Complete Armour​


I know most of you’ll be sad​
and grieve​
my presence no longer among you​
— not that I was so good​
but rather​
the Saviour lived in my heart​
and gave me grace​
to be His brother​
And when the day actually comes​
I want you to remember​
this poem​
and the attitude of my heart​
toward death,​
for it is not an enemy to me​
but a friend​
and the entrance to Heaven​
for Paul said to be absent from the body​
is to be present with the Lord,​
and that when we depart​
we go to be with Christ,​
and I trust this will be the case with me​
for I cleave to the Saviour​
as to my very life​
and all my righteousness​
so when I breathe my last breath​
and my heart finally lies still​
(having beat so strongly​
with such fierce blood​
all these years!)​
I will fairly quickly appear​
(either by angelic lift, or God’s decree)​
in the Land of glory and light​
and I will be in my spirit-body (the resurrection​
of our bodies and New Earth yet to come)​
astonished, standing, rejoicing​
at the beauty God has prepared​
for those who love Him​
and I will kiss the ground of Heaven​
and worship the Holy One​
my faithful Shepherd​
and I will likely be very busy​
getting oriented to my heavenly home,​
visiting old friends and family,​
seeing the sights​
of the City of God,​
talking with the men and women​
whose lives we saw in the Bible​
and who touched our hearts all through this life​
dare I​
say it,​
setting my eyes upon​
and conversing with​
His Majesty Himself​
the Almighty God, King of Heaven and earth​
Jesus Christ my dearest friend​
So when I am gone​
from this life to the next​
grieve my absence if you will​
but remember with joy​
that I walk in newness of life​
in City Celestial​
and with all your hearts​
lay hold upon the mercy of the Saviour​
that you yourselves may join me​
in an eternity of wonder and bliss​
in the Everlasting Kingdom​
of the people of God;​
so get hold of His Book​
and forsake all that would keep you​
from walking with God​
in the way of His Son​
And to my beloved Pola,​
wife and friend and fellow pilgrim,​
I will await your own entrance here​
to your eternal rest and great reward,​
and please know how grateful I am​
to have had a companion like you​
to walk and lie by my side​
in the world of this life.​
So when I am gonefrom this life to the nextgrieve my absence if you willbut remember with joythat I walk in newness of lifein City Celestialand with all your heartslay hold upon the mercy of the Saviour


There are seasons when waiting for "my change to come" is unbearable.

On the one hand, I am working and praying very hard, trying to prepare for the support of my wife when I'm gone.
On the other hand, when it comes to my opinion of myself, I feel deeply that I have been of little or no use to the wonderful God who loves me so dearly.

Any and every "good work" (if any at all) I have ever attempted are only those "which God hath before ordained." (Ephesians 2:10). Any and everything I have brought to the work was only sin and weakness. A month or so ago, we had a visiting minister whose sermon affected me deeply. His text was Luke 17:10. After the message, I went and talked to this preacher to tell him how much I was moved by his message. Then, unexpectantly I could not hold the tears back. I apologized for my lack of control and, with broken words and weeping, I said to him, "My greatest aspiration in life is that I would come up to the standard of an unprofitable servant." Then I added, "but I am pretty certain I will never reach that goal."

The water of life Jesus gives to me is a "well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14). It is a wonderful thing indeed that His water is constantly "springing up" because I am just as consistently muddying it up with my feet. (Ezekiel 32:2)
But even though I spoil everything, His amazing grace exchanges the righteous life of Christ for my sin and failure and still attributes it to my account as though I did the work.

V. We cannot, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done, but our duty, and are unprofitable servants; and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.​
VI. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.​

O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!​
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.
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