Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
I. THE MEANING OF THE WORD "PRECIOUS." It is used frequently in a like sense, and means:
1. God will not suffer death to come to his saints save as he permits; and never shall his saints cease from off the earth. The fact of the old age to which they commonly attain seems to confirm what the text affirms. But:
2. The word "precious denotes also the mind of God in contemplating the death of his saints. He delights in all their life - in its beginning, its progress, and now its end. This is the last step of the saint, and our text tells with what loving regard the Lord looks down upon it.
II. THE REASON OF THIS DIVINE ESTIMATE.
1. Because of his love and sympathy. His saints are dear to him.
2. At the time of their death there is more than ever a response of trust and desire made to the heart of God. In the full vigor of life we are apt to forget, or to think but seldom and slightly, of God; we do not feel our dependence upon him as we should. But when heart and flesh fail - when all our strength is gone, then there is that utter casting of the soul upon God in which God delights.
3. The wondrous witness to others on behalf of God which the death of many a saint has borne. See how Paul never forgot the dying speech of Stephen. The blood of the martyrs has been ever the seed of the Church. And in calmer deaths than these witness for God has also been borne, and with power unknown before.
4. The precious blood of Christ is glorified. For at such times that is all their trust, During life we discuss all manner of questions, doctrines, and beliefs; but when we come to die, it is, Thou, O Christ, art all I want!"
5. It is the moment of their safe ingathering. Till then, they have been, as the sheep in the wilderness, liable to wander, exposed to peril, watched for hungrily by the wolves of hell, often all but lost. But death is God's angel gathering them safe within the eternal sheepfold. Such are some of the grounds wherefore "precious in the sight," etc.
III. BUT NOTE THE CONCLUSIONS THIS WARRANTS CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
1. Death cannot end all. How could such death be "precious?"
2. Nor can it introduce us into a state of mere unconsciousness. Death for God's saints is not a sleep, but the entrance on fullness of life with Christ.
3. Still less into any purgatory. Scripture has nothing to say of such condition for God's saints. But:
4. It is a departing and being with Christ, which is far better. Surely we may "comfort one another with these words."
IV. THE ONE LIMITATION OF THIS STATEMENT.
1. It is not as to time. We may die at any moment.
2. Nor as to place. It may be anywhere.
3. Nor as to manner. It may be in deep peace or dreadful pain.
4. But it is as to character. Of the saints of God alone is it said that their deaths are "precious in," etc. Therefore, by surrender to Christ, be one of God's saints. - S.C.
I. AS THE SUPREME CRISIS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. This life is a life of changes, of pains, of destructions. But all are dwarfed by that change, that pain, that destruction.
I. THE STATEMENT HERE MADE IMPLIES A VIEW OF DEATH OF A PECULIAR KIND. Death in itself is terrible. But to the saint death is by no means such a thing as happens unto the unregenerate. The change lies mainly in the fact that it is no more the infliction of a penalty for sin upon the believer. To him it is a privilege to die. The Head has traversed the valley of death-shade, and let the members rejoice to follow. We know that to die is not to renounce existence; we understand that death is but a passage into a higher and a nobler existence. The soul emancipated from all sinfulness passes the Jordan, and is presented without fault before the throne of God.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
I. TO GOD DEATH MEANS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPLY EVERY NEED OF HIS CHILD. Health means conscious strength. While we are well, we may feel that we are equal to taking care of ourselves. Dying means absolute helplessness. Such is God's opportunity. When physicians give up the case, He takes it up. After human help has failed, the Lord delights to be to us all that we need.
II. TO GOD DEATH MEANS THE MOST INTIMATE COMMUNION. He rejoices to have all to Himself those whom He loves. He said of Israel, "I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." No one else can help us die. Through the valley we must go alone — yet not alone, for Jesus accompanies.
III. TO GOD DEATH MEANS REST. Jesus said, "Come unto Me," etc. It was His delight to quiet the heart and give rest to the weary mind. The voice from heaven said, "Blessed are the dead," etc. "There remaineth a rest," etc. To us death looks like a rest of the body — the lifeless form no longer suffers; it sleeps until the waking on the resurrection morning. God sees the rest of soul, and the event which introduces His children into this restful state is precious to Him.
IV. TO GOD DEATH MEANS LARGER LIFE. Christ came to give life, and to give it more abundantly. Whatever imparts and increases the life of God's people is of great value. While to us death seems to be the cessation of life, to God it is an increase of life. The last words of Drummond Burns were, "I have been dying for years, now I shall begin to live." It is passing from the land of the dying into the land of the living.
V. TO GOD DEATH MEANS JOY. All through the Bible we are exhorted to "Rejoice, rejoice evermore!" The joy of His children is precious to God. Dying, Rutherford exclaimed, "I feed on manna; oh, for arms to embrace Him!" President Wingate, of Wake Forest College, whispered to his wife with his last breath, "I thought it would be sweet, but I did not think it would be so sweet as this." It is passing from shadow into sunshine; from the discords of earth into the music of the celestial harps; from contraction into everlasting expansion.
VI. TO GOD DEATH MEANS MINISTRY TO THE LIVING. Through death Jesus entered the family of the Jewish ruler, and the death of our friends often leads us to invite the Man of Sorrows to our homes. The departure of loved ones opens a window of heaven, and gives us a glimpse into the beyond; and in leaving us, they, in a very true sense, come to us. We appreciate them as we never did before; we see their virtues and forget their faults; they are to us transfigured, while everything about them shines with a peculiar glory.
(A. C. Dixon, D.D.)
II. THE STATEMENT HERE MADE IS OF A MOST UNLIMITED KIND.
1. 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.
2. There is no limit as to when. 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.
3. There is no limitation as to where. 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 work-girl 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.
4. There is no limit as to how. Their deaths may happen suddenly; they may be alive, and active, and in a moment fall down dead, but their death is precious.
III. THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT MAY BE FULLY SUSTAINED AND ACCOUNTED FOR. "Precious in the eight of the Lord is the death of His saints," is a most sober and truthful declaration.
1. Because their persons were, and always will be, precious unto God. His saints! These are they whose names are borne on Jesus' breast, and engraven upon the palms of His hands; these are His bride, His spouse; therefore everything that concerns them must be precious.
2. Because precious graces are in death very frequently tested, and as frequently revealed and perfected. You cannot tell what is in a man to the fulness of him till he is tried to the full, and therefore the last trial, inasmuch as it strippeth off earth-born imperfections and develops 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.
3. Because precious attributes are in dying moments gloriously illustrated. I refer now to the Divine attributes. In life and in death we prove the attribute of God's righteousness, we find that He does not lie, but is faithful to His word. We learn the attribute of mercy, He is gentle and pitiful to us in the time of our weakness. We prove the attribute of His immutability, we find Him "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
4. Because it is a precious sheep folded, a precious sheaf harvested, a precious vessel which had been long at sea brought into harbour, a precious child which had been long at school to finish his training brought home to dwell in the Father's house for ever. God the Father sees the fruit of His eternal love at last ingathered: Jesus sees the purchase of His passion at last secured: the Holy Spirit sees the object of His continual workmanship at last perfected.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
II. AS AFFIXING THE SEAL TO HUMAN CHARACTER.
III. AS THE ENTRANCE INTO NEW FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:2, 3). To the wicked, such nearness of the soul to God, with all disguises stripped away, must be an embrace of fire; but to those that are the saved of the Lord, an ineffable blessedness. The children are at school now, and the time is often a time of weary waiting; but there shall be the homecoming then!
IV. AS THE BEGINNING OF A BOUNDLESS LIFE. The intermediate waiting, be it what it may, shall be but "as a watch in the night." And then? Then a perfect manhood, a perfect world, a perfect progress for ever! The long waiting is all for this crowning joy; the many hindrances and oppositions are but a discipline to prepare for this consummate blessedness; the great salvation finds its full completion in the all-perfect life whose beauty dawns immortal at last.
(T. F. Lockyer, B.A.)
1. Appropriation. They are "His" saints — saints through Him and in Him, saints of His making and modelling and establishing.
2. Devotedness. They are holy unto the Lord, sanctified or set apart to His service, self-surrendered to the adorable Redeemer.
3. Resemblance. Such characters are emphatically Godlike, holy and pure; children of their Father which is in heaven; certifying to all around their filial relationship to Him, by their manifest participation of His nature, by their reflection of His image and likeness.
II. THEY ENJOY NO IMMUNITY FROM BODILY DEATH. Waiving whatever is occasional, arising out of circumstances peculiar to individuals, it is easy to see that, though this is so painful for the time being to God's dear children, it is well adapted to promote such important ends as these; — the trial and improvement of their present grace, — the consequent heightening of their happiness in the future state , — the arresting of the sinner's attention, — the encouragement of many feeble and wavering believers through their dying testimony, — the illustration, in a stronger light, of the awful evil of sin, — the demonstration, too, of the spiritual and superior nature of Christian joy, and its absolute independency on artificial circumstances, and its true character, the joy of the Holy Ghost, — and the complete, eventual display, in the sight of heaven, and earth, and hell, of the conquest of Christ, and of His religion, over suffering, and death, and hell.
III. YET, EVEN IN DEATH THEY ARE THE CONTINUED OBJECTS OF GOD'S COMPLACENT REGARD.
1. He watches over, and sets a high value upon the holy and useful lives of His people, and will not lightly allow those lives to be abbreviated or destroyed.
2. He exercises control over the circumstances of their death.
3. When they are dying, He looks upon them and is merciful unto them.
4. He attaches great importance to their deathbed itself. The close of a Christian's career on earth, his defiance, in the strength of his Saviour, of his direst enemy, the good confession which he acknowledges when he is enabled to witness before those around his dying bed, all these are precious and important in the sight of the Lord, and ought to be so in our view, and redound, not only to his own advantage, but to the benefit of survivors, "to the praise and glory of His grace."
5. He evinces his estimation of their character, and of their circumstances, by providing for their recovery from the grave, and their enjoyment of a glorious immortality.
(W. M. Bunting.)I. THE DEATH OF THE SAINTS IS A GREAT AND MOMENTOUS EVENT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
II. IT AFFORDS SUPREME GRATIFICATION TO HIS PATERNAL LOVE. O believers, it is precious to the Father to see your trials close, to see you entering on the glories of the spotless bride of Christ, to see all tears wiped from your eyes and your voices tuned to the song of Moses and the Lamb, to see you lay aside the cross and take up the crown.
III. IT EXERTS A POWERFUL INFLUENCE ON THE SALVATION OF OTHERS. Can you forget the prayers breathed out for you amid uttered longings to depart and be with Christ?
IV. THE PLACE IT OCCUPIES IN THE SALVATION OF THE SAINT HIMSELF. The time of death is a most precious time for God to work. It is the time when all pride is laid in the dust, and the soul, emptied of itself, is ready to be filled with the fulness of Christ. It is a time when lusts and passions have lost their power, and the poor sinner is ready to acquiesce in salvation by free grace. It is the time of man's extremity which is God's opportunity; a time when all human help fails, and Jehovah comes in mercy to aid.
V. The saint's death is so precious to the Lord that HE TAKES CARE TO ORDER ALL THINGS RESPECTING IT FOR THE SAINT'S GOOD AND FOR HIS OWN GLORY.
(J. Walken, D. D.)I. WHENCE IT IS THAT THE DEATH OF THE SAINTS IS DEAR TO GOD.
1. Because then they are delivered from all their sufferings.
2. Because an end is then put to all their labours.
3. That He may approve their conduct, and confer upon them a glorious recompense.
4. Because they are then made capable of serving Him better than in this present world.
II. THE PRACTICAL INFLUENCE WHICH THE CONSIDERATION OF THE DEATH OF THE SAINTS BEING DEAR TO GOD SHOULD HAVE UPON US.
1. It should make us ambitious to attain their character.
2. It teaches us that none are exempted from mortality. All the ingenuity of the sons of men hath not been able to discover an antidote against mortality, and the saints must submit to it as well as others. What, then, remains for us to do? Surely to live the life of the righteous, that we may have our last end like his,
3. The death of the saints should fill us with the deepest regret. I may call them the pillars of the earth, which preserve it from destruction. When these are removed, there is reason to apprehend approaching desolation.
(D. Johnston, D.D.)I. CONSIDER WHY GOD CLAIMS SAINTS AS HIS OWN.
1. He has set them apart for Himself, in His original purpose of redemption.
2. He has enstamped His moral image upon them.
3. They have freely and sincerely given themselves away to Him.
II. SHOW THAT GOD TAKES PECULIAR CARE OF THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS.
1. He always takes care when His saints shall die.
2. He takes care that they shall die, not only at the best time, but under the best circumstances.
3. God takes care of His saints, when their pure and immortal spirits leave their clayey tabernacle, and take their course to the world of light. He knows that death is a great and solemn change, and He will not forsake them while passing through it.
1. If God treats His saints in such a manner as has been said, then we may learn the extent of His sovereignty towards all mankind.
2. In the view of this subject, we may see that real saints have a permanent source of comfort, to which all who disbelieve and reject the Gospel are entire strangers.
3. Since God claims all real Christians as His own, and always takes a gracious care of them, they ought to make their calling and election sure to themselves. They are absolutely secure in His view, and they ought to be absolutely secure in their own view.
4. If the death of saints be precious in the sight of the Lord, then it ought to be precious and desirable in their own sight. They ought to live in hope, and not in fear of death.
5. Since God claims saints as His own, and takes peculiar care of them both living and dying, it infinitely concerns sinners to become saints, and live a holy and devout life.
6. If God takes peculiar care of saints in life, and often gives them a peaceful death, then their death ought to be peculiarly regarded as very precious and instructive.
7. If God claims all real saints as His own, and takes peculiar care of their death, which is precious in His sight, then pious mourners have ground of support and consolation under the bereavement of their pious relatives and friends.
(N. Emmons, D.D.)I. HE WILL NOT PERMIT IT TO TAKE PLACE AT THE WILL OF HIS ENEMIES, OR WHENEVER THEY IN THEIR MALICE MAY SEEK TO COMPASS IT. He who turned the hearts of Joseph's brethren rather to sell him into slavery than to slay him and conceal his blood; He who preserved the three Hebrew children in the midst of the fiery furnace, and brought Daniel unhurt out of the lions' den; He who sent His angel and delivered Peter out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews; He who, when His servant Paul was pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that he despaired even of life, but had the sentence of death in himself, delivered him from so great a death as that which he feared, has still the hearts of all men in His hands, and all events at His disposal. He knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished.
II. HE WILL NOT PERMIT THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS TO TAKE PLACE BUT FOR PURPOSES WORTHY OF BEING GAINED EVEN BY SUCH A PRICE.
1. The impression it may make on others who remain for a time behind those who are taken away.
2. The acceptable homage which God may purpose to derive to Himself from the death of His saints.
3. The purpose of their death to the saints themselves, which is to usher them into a blessed immortality.
(J. Henderson, D.D.)I. Precious, therefore, in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints, BECAUSE IT BRINGS THEM NEARER TO GOD. How strange, indeed how absurd, this life would be if death ended all! Think of a man like Gladstone, who lived under a high sense of duty, whose life was one of prayer, who sang "Praise to the Holiest in the height" amid the sufferings of his last days; — just imagine all this ending in nothingness! Why, it reminds one of the famous Amblongus pie of the nonsense book. It was a pie of most elaborate construction. Particular directions were given as to the making of it, what was to be put in, and in what quantities. It was to be very carefully compounded, and most scientifically baked, and then the final instructions were to "open the window and pitch it out as fast as possible." Just as laughable, so to speak, is the idea of a man, trained to high thought and holy feeling and submissive will, being, at the last, simply "cast as rubbish to the void." But Christ hath brought life and immortality to light.
II. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints, BECAUSE IT ENDS THEIR STRUGGLE. There is no surer thing about life here than that it is a struggle. The road is uphill all the way, and you must wrestle on towards heaven. But it is just this struggling that makes us, and gives us a character worth taking into the next world. It is told of the mother of Mr. Balfour that, on one occasion, when her sons were going to play in a football match, some friend advised her to keep them from going because of the danger. "Would you have me spoil a character?" was the mother's reply. She herself was anxious about them, and didn't like their playing; but to keep them back from joining their comrades merely because of any risk, she felt, would do more harm than good. All the same, you may be sure, it would be a relief to her to see them safe home again after it was all over. And so God does not separate us from the need for struggle here, and the risks attending it. We have to face them all. He wants us to gain and acquire character through a well-fought fight. But will not He too be pleased, — relieved, might we say? — when all the struggle is safely over, and death brings His children home?
III. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints, BECAUSE IT ENDS THEIR IGNORANCE. It is said, and with a good deal of truth, that most people who do any good in the world die without knowing it. That is very hard. Surely such, above all, deserve to know at least the good they have done. But often not till they are gone is the value of their work realized. They may have thought they were failures, they may have longed to be taken away as useless; and yet, when they are gone, others rise up and call them blessed. "Ah!" we say, "if they had only known, if they had only had the satisfaction of knowing that while they were with us!" But do you not think they know now? We may be sure that death ends their ignorance as to that, and as to many of the things that men here have for ages desired to look into.
(J. S. Maver, M. A.)
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
(D. Fraser, D.D.)
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