A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
To one who has so lived as to obtain the good name, hie dying day will be better than his birthday, quite downweighing all the vanity and misery of life in this world.
I. SOME TRUTHS CONTAINED IN THIS DOCTRINE.
1. However men live, they must die.
2. The birthday is a good day, notwithstanding all the vanity and misery of human life. It is a good day to the relations, notwithstanding the bitterness mixed with it (John 16:21). And so it is to the party, too, as an entrance on the stage of life whereby God is glorified, and one may be prepared for a better life (Isaiah 38:19).
3. The dying-day is not always so frightful as it looks; it may be a good day too. As in scouring a vessel, sand and ashes first defiling it makes it to glister; so grim death brings in a perfect comeliness. The waters may be red and frightful, where yet the ground is good, and they are but shallow, passable with all safety.
4. Where the dying-day follows a well-improved life, it is better than the birthday, however it may appear. There is this difference betwixt them, the birthday has its fair side outmost, the dying day has its fair side inmost; hence the former begins with joy, but opens out in much sorrow; the latter begins with sorrow, but opens out in treasures of endless joy. And certainly it is better to step through sorrow into joy than through joy into sorrow.
5. The dying-day in that case is so very far better than the birthday, that it quite downweighs all the former vanity and misery of life.
6. But it will not be so in the ease of an ill-spent life. For whatever joy or sorrow they have been born to in this world, they will never taste of joy more, but be overwhelmed with floods of sorrow when once their dying-day is come and over.
II. IN WHAT LATITUDE THIS DOCTRINE IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD.
1. As to the parties, those who have so lived as to obtain the good name. It is to be understood of them —
(1) Universally, whatever different degrees be among them in the lustre of the good name.
(2) Inclusively, of infants dying in their infancy, before they are capable of being faithful to God, or useful to men; because, having the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, whereby they are united to Christ, they are the friends of God.
(3) Exclusively of all others. They that have not so lived as to obtain the good name have neither part nor lot in this matter (Proverbs 14:32).
2. As to the points in comparison, the birthday and the dying-day, it is to be understood of them —
(1) In their formal notion as days of passing into a new world. It is better for him when he has got the good name to leave his body a corpse, than it was to leave the womb of his mother when he was a ripe infant.
(2) In all circumstances whatsoever. The saint's dying-day compared with his birthday does so preponderate, that no circumstances whatsoever can east the balance; suppose him born healthy and vigorous, dying in the most languishing manner, or in the greatest agonies; born heir to an estate or a crown, dying poor at a dyke-side, neglected of all; yet the day of his death, in spite of all these advantages of his birth, is better than the day of his birth.
3. As to the preference, it stands in two points.
(1) The advantages of the saint's dying-day are preferable to the advantages of his birthday.
(2) The advantages of the saint's dying-day downweigh all the disadvantages of his birthday.
III. DEMONSTRATE THE TRUTH OF THIS PARADOX, this unlikely tale, That the saint's dying-day is better than his birthday.
1. The day of the saint's birth clothed him with a body of weak and frail flesh, and so clogged him; the day of his death looses the clog, and sets him free, clothing him with a house that will never clog him (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
2. The day of his birth clogged him with a body of sin; the day of his death sets him quite free from it, and brings him into a state morally perfect (Hebrews 12:23).
3. The day of the saint's death carries him into a better world than the day of his birth did.
(1) The day of his birth brought him into a world of uncertainty, set him down on slippery ground; the day of his death takes him into a world of certainty, sets his feet on a rock.
(2) The day of his birth brought him into a world of sin and defilement; but the day of his death brings him into a world of purity (Hebrews 12:23).
(3) The day of his birth brought him into a world of toil and labour; but the day of his death brings him into a world of rest (Revelation 14:13).
(4) The day of his birth brought him into a world of care and sorrow; but the day of his death brings him into a world of ease and joy (Matthew 25:21).
(5) The day of his birth brought him into a world of disappointment; but the day of his death brings him into a world surmounting expectation (1 Corinthians 2:9).
(6) The day of his birth brought him into a world of death; but the day of his death takes him into a world of life (Matthew 10:30).
4. The day of his death settles him among better company than the day of his birth did (Hebrews 12:22).
(1) The day of his birth brought him at most into but a small company of brothers and sisters; perhaps he was an eldest child, or an only one; but the day of his death lands him in a numerous family, whereof each one with him calls God in Christ Father (Revelation 14:1). Whatever welcome he had in the day of his birth from neighbours or relations, the joy was but on one side; though they rejoiced in him, he could not rejoice in them, for he knew them not; but in the day of his death the joy will be mutual; he that in the day of his birth was not equal to imperfect men will in the day of his death be equal to the angels. He will know God and Christ, the saints, and angels, and will rejoice in them, as they will rejoice in him. Whatever welcome he had into the world in the day of his birth, he had much uncomfortable society there in the days of his after life that made him often see himself in his neighbourhood in the world, as in Mesech and Kedar (Psalm 120:5), yea, dwelling among lions' dens and mountains of leopards (Song of Solomon 4:8). But in the day of his death he will bid an eternal farewell to all uncomfortable society, and never see more any in whom he will not be comforted to be with them.
5. The day of his death brings him into a better state than the day of his birth did.
(1) The day of his birth sets him down in a state of imperfection, natural and moral; the day of his death advances him to a state of perfection of both kinds (Hebrews 12:23).
(2) The day of his birth brought him into a state of probation and trial; but the day of his death brings him into a state of retribution and recompense (2 Corinthians 5:10).
(3) The day of his birth brought him into a state of changes, but the day of his death brings him into an unalterable state (Revelation 3:12).
6. The day of the saint's death brings him to, and settles him in better exercise and employment than the day of his birth did. He will spend his eternity in the other world better than he did his time in this world, how well soever he spent it (Revelation 4:8).
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.