John Owen: “The Promise Stands Invincible”

20 12 2011

The following is a letter published in vol. I of Owen’s works.   It is remarkable on numerous fronts, which I shall let you discover for yourself.  I will point out though, that these great men of the 17th century had a remarkable experience of God the closer they drew to death.  I would point you to Richard Baxter’s “Dying Thoughts,” as well as John Owen’s preface to “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” both of which were written while the two men were close to death.  You’ll notice that what comes across in these writings is not a fixation on death, but rather a fixation on Christ.  That’s what makes them so comforting.

Dear Sir,

Although I am not able to write one word myself, yet I am very desirous to speak one more word to you in this world, and do it by the hand of my wife. The continuance of your entire kindness is not only greatly valued by me, but will be a refreshment to me, as it is, even in my dying hour.

I am going to Him whom my soul has loved, or rather who has loved me with an everlasting love, — which is the whole ground of all my consolation. The passage is very wearisome, through strong pains of various sorts, which are all issued in an intermittent fever.

All things were provided to carry me to London today, according to the advice of my physicians. But we are all disappointed by my utter disability to undertake the journey.

I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm. But while the great Pilot is in it, the loss of a poor under-rower will be inconsiderable. Live, and pray, and hope, and wait patiently, and do not despond. The promise stands invincible, that He will never leave us, nor forsake us.

Remember your dying friend with all fervency. I rest upon it that you do so, and am yours entirely,

John Owen





Rob Sturdy: “Jesus will win.” Explaining death to a 3 year old…

20 12 2011

Over the past year or so my son and I have read through the Jesus Storybook Bible multiple times.  He always enjoys the reading and is engaged, but it continually amazes me just how caught up he gets in the four stories in the book that deal with the Lord’s Supper, the trial of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.  Rarely can we begin the Lord’s Supper and not have to read all four stories.  No matter how much I want to wind down the evening, I find it really hard to refuse reading the Bible to my little boy, especially those wonderful and crucial sections of the Gospel.

This past time reading through was different however.  His excitement was still there, but this time he began to ask questions and the one question that he was most interested in I felt totally ill prepared for.

“Daddy, what’s death?”

My mind went racing.  I had no idea how to answer this.  I walked through several generic answers before I was reminded of a metaphor used for death in the Scriptures.  When speaking of death, the Apostle Paul says that death is an enemy that must be destroyed by our hero Jesus (1 Cor 15.26).  The metaphor of death as an enemy works well with my little boy’s mind.  Right now everything is good guys vs. bad guys, superheros vs. villains.  Happy that the scriptures discussed death in these simple terms that my son could understand I replied:

“Well buddy, death is an enemy.”

“An enemy?” he asked.

“Yup.  A bad guy.”

What happened next was quite intriguing and I thank God for the conversation.

“But I’m strong,” said David, and he flexed his muscles and scowled his face like the cartoon superheroes he watches.

“Death is stronger,” I replied.

“But I’m really fast,” he replied, without near as much certainty.

“Death is faster.”  And while I was talking to David about death it began to dawn on me that one day this enemy would come for David and I felt the same pain that any parent feels when something makes them consider this.  Though my typical reaction would be to force this thought as far away as possible, I resisted the urge and pressed on.  ” One day buddy, death is going to come for you and he’ll win.  He’ll always be stronger than you.  He’ll always be faster and one day he will come for you.”

“Oh,” he said.

But we didn’t leave things there and thanks be to God neither does he!

“But David,” I said, “Jesus is stronger than death.  Jesus is faster than death.  One day, when death comes for you, Jesus will be there and he’ll win.  Even though you could never beat death, Jesus can and he’ll be there for you when you need him.”

“Jesus will win?” he asked.

“Yeah buddy, he always does.”  Then we thanked God that Jesus would beat this bad guy, I kissed David on the cheek, gave him three bear hugs, and off he went to sleep.





John Donne: Death, thou shalt die!

19 12 2011

John Donne was an English poet writting in the 1500′s. It is hard to find a more sexually immoral man in the history of English literature (quite an accomplishment!) However, he did experience a heart conversion through the Gospel, after which he became an ordained minister. His sermons can be quite difficult, but nevertheless intensely powerful. He was well aware of the immensity of his own sin, but through the grace of the Gospel he was also keenly aware of the infinite mercy of Christ the savior. Below is a poem he wrote on Christ’s victory over death (1 Cor 15.55; Rev 21.4). Enjoy the poem. I draw special attention to the last line, which is the defiant cry of the Christian at the hour of their own death. By this he shows that man’s greatest fear has no power over him

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne, Divine Sonnet X