Let us now hear and consider what pious men and women had to say about Christ at the hour of death. Stephen, the first martyr, with his dying breath said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Polycarp, when the wicked Roman pro-consul was urging him to deny Christ, said “I have served him eighty-six years, and He has not once hurt me: and shall I deny Him?” The custom was to tie the martyrs to the stake, but this most excellent man desired and asked that he should stand untied, saying, “Let me alone, I pray you; for He that gave me strength to come to this fire, will also give me patience to abide in the same without your tying.”
Ignatius said, “I have the pain to be ground with the teeth of beasts that I may be pure bread for my Master’s tooth.” “Let fire, racks, pulleys, yea, and all the torments of hell come upon me, so I may win Christ,” said Lucius to Urbicius, a corrupt judge, threatening death; “I thank you with all my heart that free me and release me from wicked governors, and send me to my good God and loving Father.” Ambrose said to his friends about him: “I have not so lived that I am ashamed to live any longer; nor yet fear I death, because I have a good Lord.” It was Ambrose who said to Emperor Valentinian’s eunuch Calligon threatening death “Well, do you that which becomes an eunuch, I will suffer that which becomes a bishop.” Theodosius said “I thank God more for that I have been a member of Christ, than an emperor of the world.”
Hilarion says “Soul, get thee out; thou hast seventy years served Christ, and art thou how loath to die, or afraid of death?” Basil said to Emperor Valen’s viceroy, offering him respite, “No! I shall do the same to-morrow. I have nothing to lose but a few books; and my body is now so crazy that one blow will end my torments.” Gorgius said to the tyrant, offering him promotion: “Have you anything more worthy than the kingdom of heaven?”
Julitta said: “We women received not only flesh from men, but are bone of their bone, and, therefore, ought to be as strong and constant as men in Christ’s cause.” Symeones said “Thus to die a Christian is to live, yea, the chief good and best end of man.”
It is quite an easy matter to multiply instances about dying martyrs, and the Lord’s people in general that are still extant to show how sweet the death of the righteous is when the mid-night call comes, but are we prepared to die? If not, we must die, and never cease dying, and yet never come to the end of dying! “The wages of sin is death!”
We would be all saints at death, all of us would desire to go to heaven, at least to a good place, a place of happiness; but are we born again; are we mourning over sin, over errors, ignorance, unbelief, and praying, and crying for a clean heart, for the broken body and shed blood of the Redeemer through the Word? Friends, let us turn to our Bibles, searching them diligently; for in it we can meet the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of lost sinners. He is there, and will be there to the end of time – devils nor higher critics shall not dislodge Him.
Let us be assured of this, once Christ is found in the Bible there will be real earnestness. Simon Peter and John were never so quick running from place to place on the resurrection morn in quest of Him than the soul will be from henceforth searching, seeking, looking, and longing for the sweetest and fairest among men. Christ and His imputed righteousness will make us everlastingly happy. It will fit us to live, to die, and live for ever more. Christ must be all and in all. The Holy Ghost is ready and willing to open our eyes to convince us of sin, and unite us to Christ by faith. Christ is willing to accept and embrace us. Are we to say, No! If so, what wonder if that proud soul shall hear from Jesus Christ at the great day, “depart from me, I never knew you”? The soul that is enabled to say “I will go with this man” – the man Christ Jesus – will be welcomed at death into heaven by Angels, the spirits of just men made perfect, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit receiving and welcoming the just home to glory. The Lord Jesus is able to save us. O! friend, flee to Him in mercy as a foul, guilty sinner that needs to be washed in His blood.
Rev James Macleod