By C. H. Spurgeon, 1834-1892
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." [Philippians 1:21]
Surely death is loss. When I look upon thee, thou clay-cold corpse, and see thee just preparing to be the palace of corruption and the carnival for worms, I cannot think that thou hast gained! When I see that thine eye hath lost light, and thy lip hath lost its speech, and thine ears have lost hearing, and thy feet have lost motion, and thy heart hath lost its joy, and they that look out of the windows are darkened, the grinders have failed, and no sounds of tabret and of harp wake up thy joys, O clay-cold corpse, thou hast lost, lost immeasurably.
And yet my text tells me that it is not so. It says, "To die is gain." It looks as if it could not be thus; and certainly it is not, so far as I can see. But put to your eye the telescope of faith, take that magic glass which pierces through the veil that parts us from the unseen. Anoint your eyes with eyesalve, and make them so bright that they can pierce the ether, and see the unknown worlds. Come, bathe yourself in this sea of light, and live in holy revelation and belief, and then look, and oh, how changed the scene! Here is the corpse, but there the spirit; here is the clay, but there the soul; here is the carcass, but there the seraph. He is supremely blest; his death is GAIN.
Come now, what did he lose? I will show that in everything he lost, he gained far more. He lost his friends, did he? His wife, and his children, his brethren in church fellowship, are all left to weep his loss. Yes, he lost them; but, my brethren, what did he gain? He gained more friends than ever he lost. He had lost many in his lifetime, but he meets them all again. Parents, brethren and sisters who had died in youth or age, and passed the stream before him, all salute him on the further brink. There the mother meets her infant, there the father meets his children, there the venerable patriarch greets his family to the third and fourth generation, there brother clasps brother to his arms, and husband meets with wife, no more to be married or given in marriage, but to live together, like the angels of God.
Some of us have more friends in Heaven than in earth; we have more dear relations in glory than we have here. It is not so with all of us, but with some it is so; more have crossed the stream than are left behind. But if it be not so, yet what friends we have to meet us there!
Oh, I reckon on the day of death if it were for the mere hope of seeing the bright spirits that are now before the throne; to clasp the hands of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, to look into the face of Paul the apostle, and grasp the hand of Peter; to sit in flowery fields with Moses and David, to bask in the sunlight of bliss with John and Mary Magdalene.
Oh how blest! The company of poor, imperfect saints on earth is good; but how much better the society of the redeemed! Death is no loss to us by way of friends. We leave a few, a little band below, and say to them, "Fear not little flock," and we ascend and meet the armies of the living God, the hosts of his redeemed. "To die is gain."
Yes, brethren, "TO DIE IS GAIN."
Take away, take away that hearse, remove that shroud; come, put white plumes upon the horse's heads, and let gilded trappings hang around them. There, take away that fife, that shrill sounding music of the death march. Lend me the trumpet and the drum. O Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah; why weep we the saints gone to glory; why need we lament? They are not dead, they are gone before. Stop, stop that mourning, refrain thy tears, clap your hands, clap your hands... "They are supremely blest, have done with care and sin and woe. And with their Saviour rest."
What! weep! weep for heads that are crowned with coronals of heaven? What, weep for hands that grasp the harps of gold? What, weep for eyes that see the Redeemer? What, weep for hearts that are washed from sin, and are throbbing with eternal bliss? What, weep for men that are in the Saviour's bosom?
No; weep for yourselves, that you are here. Weep that the mandate has not come which bids you to die. Weep that you must tarry. But weep not for them. I see them turning back on you with loving wonder, and they exclaim, "Why weepest thou?" What, weep for poverty that it is clothed in riches? What, weep for sickness, that it hath inherited, eternal health? What, weep for shame, that it is glorified; and weep for sinful mortality, that it hath become immaculate? Oh, weep not, but rejoice. "If ye knew what it was that I have said unto you, and whither I have gone, ye would rejoice with a joy that no man should take from you." - "TO DIE IS GAIN."
Ah, this makes the Christian long to die - makes him say, "Oh, that the word were given! O Lord of Hosts, the wave divide, and land us all in heaven!"
And now, friends, does this belong to you ALL?
Can you claim an interest in it? Are you living to Christ? Does Christ live in you? For, if not, your death will not be in gain. Are you a believer in the Saviour? Has your heart been renewed, and your conscience washed in the blood of Jesus? If not, my hearer, I weep for thee. I will save my tears for lost friends; there, with this handkerchief I'd staunch mine eyes forever for my best beloved that shall die, if those tears could save you.
O, when you die, what a day! If the world were hung in sackcloth, it could not express the grief that you would feel. You die. Oh death! Oh death! how hideous art thou to men that are not in Christ! and yet, my hearer, thou shalt soon die. Save me thy bed of shrieks, thy look of gall, thy words of bitterness! Oh that thou couldst be saved the dread hereafter! Oh! the wrath to come! the wrath to come! the wrath to come! who is he that can preach of it?
Horrors strike the guilty soul! It quivereth upon the verge of death; no, on the verge of hell. It looketh over, clutching hard to life, and it heareth there the sullen groans, the hollow moans, and shrieks of tortured ghosts, which come up from the pit that is bottomless, and it clutcheth firmly to life, clasps the physician, and bids him hold, lest he should fall into the pit that burneth. And the spirit looketh down and seeth all the fiends of everlasting punishments, and back it recoileth. But die it must. It would barter all it hath to coin an hour; but no, the fiend hath got its grip, and down it must plunge.
And who can tell the hideous shriek of a lost soul? It cannot reach heaven; but if it could, it might well be dreamed that it would suspend the melodies of angels, might make even God's redeemed weep, if they could hear the wailings of a damned soul. Ah! you men and women, ye have wept; but if you die unregenerate, there will be no weeping like that; there will be no shriek like that, no wail like that. May God spare us from ever hearing it or uttering it ourselves! Oh, how the grim caverns of Hades startle, and how the darkness of night is frighted, when the wail of a lost soul comes up from the ascending flames, whilst it is descending in the pit.
"Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Christ is preached to you. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Believe on him and live, ye guilty, vile, perishing; believe and live. But this know - if ye reject my message, and despise my Master, in that day when he shall judge the world in righteousness by that man, JESUS CHRIST, I must be a swift witness against you. I have told you - at your soul's peril reject it.
Receive my message, and you are saved; reject it - take the responsibility on your own head. Behold, my skirts are clear of your blood. If ye be damned, it is not for want of warning. Oh God grant, ye may not perish.
[Excerpts taken from C. H. Spurgeon's sermon,
The Good Man's Life and Death,
NPSP Vol. 3, Year 1857, pages. 314-316, Philippians 1:21]
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