Bondage Through Fear of Death
Hebrews 2:14
For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same…

It is not meant by the inspired writer, that when men are not thinking of death, they are still pressed down by its yoke. Death as yet is only in the future, and to oppress and harass it must of course occupy the thoughts. Those are no exception to the remark who fear not death because they do not allow themselves to dwell upon it: such persons it does not contemplate. And yet after all, perhaps, on closer examination the persons thus denied to be exceptions to the sentiment of the text may be fairly considered not exceptions to it, but examples of it. How comes it, it is reasonable to ask, that these men do not think of death? Are there not mementoes enough all around them? With these aids to reflection, if they still think little about the subject, is it not natural to infer that the subject has been so long avoided that the habit "is complete, and the mind turns from it with an acquired as well as natural instinct? But supposing this the case, how forcibly does it prove the doctrine of the text? Does the mind fear death so much, that it dare not look it in the face, and hold free communion with it? Beyond all doubt, that mind is in bondage. Without running into the extravagances of Stoicism, others have made representations of death, which might lead us to suppose that they did not regard it as an evil. With a kind of poetical philosophy, they would represent it as the glorious sunset of life, as needed repose after sublunary toils, as the retiring of the satisfied guest from the banquet! Now in answer to this it is freely admitted that all the circumstances of our dissolution are not unfavourable. Death does not wear, always or even generally, the most fearful aspect that it might put on. Nature in many respects makes a way for us, and smooths our passage to the other world. But after all allowances, the truth returns again with a force which nothing can resist, that death is the greatest of all evils. Instinct, reason, observation, all tell us this; and we are aware also that it is the Scripture representation. In Scripture it is called " the wages of sin," the "curse," "the king of terrors"; and because it is the most dread calamity which man here witnesses, it is put by a common figure of speech for all the misery which he inherits, or bring upon himself in this world or the next. To this decisive authority may be added, if not for confirmation, yet for the impression which it is calculated to make, the acknowledgment of Rochefoucault. This man, who might not unaptly be called the priest of godlessness, freely admits that "death and the sun are not to be looked at steadily." "The glory of dying resolutely," he remarks, "the hopes of being regretted, the desire of leaving a fair reputation, the assurance of being delivered from present miseries and freed from the caprice of fortune, are alleviating reflections, but by no means infallible. All," adds he, "which reason can do for us is to teach us to avert our eyes and fix them on some other object." But let us come home to our own selves. On what principle can we justify attention to any thing, if not to this? Of all the interests of man the highest are involved in death, and the most reasonable self-love requires us to weigh it well. The question therefore recurs again, why is it that we think of it so seldom and so slightly? I know of no satisfactory answer, but that furnished by the text. It is the fear of death which banishes it from our thoughts. The subject is obvious, meeting us at every turn. It is important, for eternity hangs upon it. It is personal, for it is appointed unto all men once to die. It is interesting — full of thrilling interest, of tragic interest, in its circumstances, nature and consequences. Now, whether this is a correct representation we all can determine for ourselves. If I mistake not we shall find on examination, treat our minds recoil from death because it is a subject associated with no good to us, on the contrary connected with much evil. But it is vain, as already intimated, merely to avert the eyes. The wise man will seek relief some other way. Do we desire peace at the last? Would we count it a privilege to be able to take a near view of death, looking fully at all its horrors without dismay? Do we covet the feelings of St. Paul, when, after a survey of death, he cried out, "Oh, grave, where is thy victory?" There is no way of reaching them, but by the faith of the Son of God. Present thoughtlessness and folly will not do it: they will only aggravate the evil when at last it comes. And, as to philosophy, alas! it may answer some of the lighter purposes of life but can never pillow the soul in death. Most truly has it been said, that "the necessity of dying constitutes the whole of philosophic fortitude." It is a sullen, dogged silence, which utters no sorrow but feels much. It knows nothing of cheerful resignation, of lively hope. Oh, how far beyond its reach the spirit of the apostle on the eve of martyrdom: "I am now ready to be offered." This is exclusively Christian privilege. None can bestow it but He who gives the Christian his name, his character, his all.

(W. Sparrow, LL. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

WEB: Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

A Death Scene
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