1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
The fear of death is almost universal. It affects individuals in various degrees, but suffers few to entirely escape it. Let us examine, then, the causes which render death so formidable, and then the considerations which will deprive it of its sting, and the grave of its victory. A primary cause, which renders death so formidable to mankind, consists in their natural love of existence. This is an instinct held in common with the brutes. All kinds of life cling to their being with inveterate tenacity. Even the martyr or patriot, sacrificing their lives for their country or faith, experience a secret disinclination to make the offering. The discontented — the wearied — the afflicted in mind, body, or estate — at the last dread, and, if possible, avoid the conflict. God has implanted in man an instinct which will not permit him to yield existence without a struggle or a pang. The solemnities, too, with which we surround it, invest death with many of its terrors. We render it as ghastly as possible. It should rather be regarded as a passage from the troubles of life into the happiness of eternity. Presented under this light it is a joyful occurrence, and therefore should be less drearily apparelled. The obscurity, moreover, which veils the eternal state, arms death with many of its terrors. Unbelievers, of course, labour under no uncertainty. Materialists by conviction, death in their view is followed by annihilation. Or, should this creed be erroneous, condemnation must be the result of their unbelief. Any way their case is lost. Hence, by them death is regarded with peculiar dread. Nor are believers without their misgivings as to the future. Even though certain as to a future state, doubts will arise as to their position in it. They know the conditions of salvation, but have they been fulfilled? is their title good to the promised inheritance? Remorse of conscience, too, with many, produces similar results. Recollection of the past gives sorry promise for the future. While death is distant the harsh monitor may be hushed. But, when nigh, death is sure to rouse it, if guilt lies heavy on the heart. Even the unbeliever cannot avoid its stings, nor the hardened repel them. The sick-bed bears frequent witness to the agonies which they inflict on the stricken reprobate. Neither is the Christian entirely free from them, The best have much to answer for. And, lastly, fear of punishment makes him an object of dread to many. But are there no means of diminishing this influence which death possesses over us? Christians have been known to meet death cheerfully, and for their faith even court its embraces. In Christianity, then, we shall discover the means of emancipation from this slavery. From the gospel we shall obtain power to deprive death of its sting, and the grave of its victory. Are we too enamoured of life? Do we put on it too high a value? Do we cling to it with too much tenacity? Let us learn from the gospel to prize it no higher than its real worth. Surrounded with gloomy pomp, with sombre trappings, do we regard death with superstitious dread? Let us learn from the gospel to strip it of these adventitious terrors. Do we fear death as the tyrant, which separates us from friends and relatives — which entails loss of wealth and honour, of title and substance? Let us learn from the gospel to estimate these advantages at their real value — to consider them as transitory, mutable, and unsatisfactory. Do we doubt as to the state beyond the grave? Is it to us an unknown country? Or, known, do we question our title to its possession? Let us go to the gospel. There life and immortality are brought to light. Is remorse active? Has conscience sharpened its stings? By the gospel, again, we learn that no case is hopeless while life remains; that there is balm for the most wounded spirit, and that to the prayer of repentance and faith no request is denied. And do we dread the retribution beyond the grave? Let us again turn to the gospel. There we shall find words of hope and consolation. There we shall find means of escape from impending judgment. There we shall discover that "with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption."
(John Budgen, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?