And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
I. WHAT DEATH IS TO THE BELIEVER.
1. A sleep. The expression conveys a sweet idea of placidity and calmness. The day of life declines; the shadows of its evening fall around; wearied and exhausted nature needs repose; its strength is weakness, yea, it may be labour and sorrow, and in the appointed moment the believer falls "asleep."
2. Nor is it a troublous rest: it is a peaceful sleep. "Mark the perfect man... for the end of that man is peace." The stroke of death — the pain of dissolution, is, as it were, but the kind alarm which leads a child of God to shelter himself more closely in the bosom of God's paternal love. Since the Redeemer died, death has been abolished in its penal terror. By descending, too, into the grave, He has dispelled the grave's dark horrors, and sanctified the resting-place of His dear and believing people. The grave, therefore, is now no more than the bed where the mortal remains of the believer rest in peaceful hope.
3. A sleep from which he shall awake. "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" to reward them. The night of the grave will pass away; the morning of the resurrection-day will dawn, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Nothing shall resist the voice which will say, "Come forth."
4. A sleep into which, when once awakened, he will fall again no more. "Death hath no more dominion over" Christ: death shall have no more dominion over one that believes and loves and serves Him, and is "risen together with Him." As surely as "He that was dead, is alive again and liveth for evermore," so surely shall the believer rise to live for ever. In the new heavens and the new earth "there shall be no more death." The purified and ennobled powers of a glorified saint, will be too vigorous ever to need repose again. No "second death" awaits the believer. The gift of God is eternal life; "whoso liveth and believeth in Him shall never die." Thus "the righteous hath hope in his death."
II. WHENCE IT IS HE DIES SO CALMLY. Simply because he is a believer. By faith he becomes interested in all the benefits which result from "the meritorious cross and passion" of Jesus Christ. Like the martyr Stephen, the believer —
1. Partakes of the Holy Ghost.
2. Sees Jesus standing on God's right hand — not indeed as Stephen visibly, but by faith. And "where He is those who believe on Him may be also." In a persuasion of this sweet truth, the believer may smile in death.
3. Has a Friend, to whose care he may commit his departing spirit. Unspeakably precious is this privilege. Our earthly friends may go with us, in their kind solicitude, to the verge of death; but there the dearest ties must be severed, and a last adieu be bidden. One there is, however, that can be with us in the shadowy vale, support and cheer us through it, and while our mortal eyes are closing on all terrestrial objects, He can give to our faith such brightening views of celestial glory as will enrapture our departing spirits, and fill them with desire to wing their upward flight. As amidst the ocean's billows the shipwrecked mariner will cling with increasing tenacity to the floating plank, so amidst the agonies of death the believer lays a firmer and still stronger hold upon the hope of life in Christ. He sees his Lord above him: and whilst he hears the gracious words, "Fear not, for I am with thee," "Receive my spirit," may he cry; and very gracious will the Lord be to him at the voice of his prayer. "So the Lord giveth His beloved sleep"; and hence it is the believer dies so calmly.In conclusion let me exhort you —
1. To awake from the slumbers of sin. How many, alas! are there "dead in trespasses and sins"! While they continue so, they cannot possibly "sleep in Jesus" or "die in the Lord." Do not be saying in your heart, "A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep." Take care lest your sleep in the death of sin be perpetuated till you sleep in the death of nature. Take care lest when "many of them who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake," you rise — not to shine as the firmament and as the stars for ever and ever, but to shame and everlasting contempt.
2. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, to die peacefully, in the Scripture sense of the word, would be impossible.
3. To do immediately what you purpose doing. "Now is the day of salvation."
(W. Mudge, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.