by Archibald Alexander

His dominion is wide as the world; his subjects, all men except two. His tyranny is inexorable. By no art, by no flight, by no concealment, by no resistance, can we escape. DEATH is the doom of every man. And whatever we do, wherever we are, his approach is relentless. Every moment lessens the narrow span between us and death. It is in vain that we shut our eyes to the reality of his nearness; this only serves to make the surprise more terrible when he, at an unexpected hour, pounces on us!

Death is terrible, because he cuts us off from all our possessions. However painfully and unjustly wealth has been accumulated, and however cautiously the soul clings to its treasure, death forces it away. As “naked we came into the world, so naked we must go out.” Death severs the strongest, tenderest bands of nature; it takes away the beloved wife at a stroke, or the kind husband; it snatches children, tenderly beloved, from the affectionate embrace of their parents—even the only loving son is not spared. The bond of friendship is rudely sundered, and the affections of the heart are torn and left bleeding with hopeless sorrow. All plans and projects are in a moment frustrated, and anticipated pleasures and honors are left behind.

Death is a terror to men, because it drives them into a world unknown. We look into the grave and inquire anxiously. “What is the condition of our departed friend? Does he still exist in a conscious state?” We see no sign of life; he gives no token by which we can learn anything respecting him. We consult the oracle of reason, but there is no satisfactory response; she mutters some ambiguous and uncertain answer, but casts no light on the darkness of the grave. Oh, how awful, to be obliged to go down into a world of darkness–not knowing where we are going, or what is our destiny!

This obscurity is not all that terrifies; there is something far worse. This king of terrors comes armed with a tremendous sting. ‘Conscious innocence’ would inspire us with courage; but guilt, a sense of sin, a feeling of ‘deserved punishment’, above all other things, renders death terrible. In the gaiety and bustle of life, men may drown the voice of conscience; or by repeated violations of its dictates, men may enjoy temporary ease; but when death comes near, the voice of the monitor within sounds an alarm. The guilty soul would give worlds to be delivered from the stings of conscience. Nothing so corrodes the soul with anguish indescribable as remorse.

A celebrated statesman and orator of our own country, when arrested by this king of terrors, wrote on a card this awful word, ‘remorse’, and nothing more, and then died. The sting of death is sin. The time of death is commonly an honest hour. When a man is about to appear before his Judge, what need is there of any concealment? Yet sometimes the pride of character and dread of disgrace lead men to pretend even at the hour of death.

What a transition, from time to eternity—from ignorance and unbelief, to the realities of the judgment!

Thus far, there is nothing in death but terrors. Has he no other aspect? Does no animating light from any quarter shine upon the darkness of the tomb?

Yes! I see One rising from the sepulcher with the air of a conqueror. I hear him proclaiming, “I am the resurrection, and the life. Whoever believes in me shall never die.” I hear a voice from heaven, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” I see, through the narrow vista of the grave, a shining light. It brings to view the gates of the celestial city. By faith, I behold many of the dead entering in, clothed in robes of light. I hear them singing a song of praise and triumph to their great King; who has by his own death redeemed them from the power of the grave. Death is then no more “the king of terrors.” He now appears with the face of an angel! Welcome death! Welcome the hour of complete deliverance from sin and sorrow, and all the evils to which fallen man is heir. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, and receive a soul ransomed by your blood into your bosom.

“There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast!