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Earth’s Most Powerful Preacher


Copyright © 20111

by
Percy Gutteridge

Psalm 19

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
  2. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge.
  3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
  4. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
  5. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.
  6. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hidden from the heat thereof.
  7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
  8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  9. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
  10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
  11. Moreover by them is your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
  12. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.
  13. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
  14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Who Is Earth’s Most Powerful Preacher?

Let’s consider the question, “Who is the most powerful preacher that God has ordained on earth?” And understand that I’m not talking about a human being. I am not going to pick out one of today’s famous evangelists or ministers and say, “This one is the most powerful preacher,” because none of them has the worldwide audience or impact of God’s sovereign choice. So then, let’s refine the question and ask, “What is the most powerful preacher that God has ordained on earth?” as we examine potential candidates.

The Sun?

How about the sun? Is the sun earth’s most powerful preacher? Our Scripture passage says that the sun is really a preacher; it comes out of its chamber as a bridegroom. It comes up in the morning and goes down at night, going right over the whole circuit of heaven, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. It preaches of light, it preaches of energy, it preaches of power, it preaches of judgment, it preaches even of love. It preaches also of life, because there would be no life without the sun. The sun preaches to us about so many things.

But men don’t take any notice. In fact, some foolish people even worship the sun. Right through the centuries, through the millennia, people have not listened to what the sun has to say on God’s behalf, and they worship the sun rather than its Creator. Nevertheless, the sun is a great preacher; but it isn’t earth’s most powerful preacher.

The Heavens?

Well, what about the heavens? Psalm 19 tells us, “The heavens declare.” That means the heavens are saying something. What are the heavens teaching us? They are also among God’s great preachers, with all those amazing stars in the heavens.

Sir James Jeans, who was Astronomer Royal in England, stated some years ago that the number of the stars is as the number of grains of sand on all the seashores of all the world. Have you ever gone down to your nearest oceanside, where the sand is? Have you ever picked up a handful of sand and tried to count the grains? Wouldn’t that be a task? Suppose you had to count all the grains of sand in your hand. Then think, not just of all the grains of sand on that beach, but of all the grains of sand along the Pacific Coast — from the west coast of Alaska all the way down to Mexico and Central America, then along the coasts of Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile to the tip of South America at Tierra del Fuego. Think not only of all that great coast, but all the seashores of all the world; and the number of the stars that God made in heaven is as the number of all those grains of sand!

And the Bible says that because God is strong in power, not one star fails, and He calls them all by name (Isaiah 40:26). It is a problem for astronomers to give all the stars a name. For instance, starting off with the name of a constellation, say Ursa Major, they generate names for the constellation’s stars, such as Ursa Major Alpha, Ursa Major Beta, and go all through the Greek alphabet and so on, because it’s a difficult job to think of so many different names. But fancy God being able to give every one of those stars a name and to call them! That means when He tells this star to do something, it does it. The Bible tells me so. The One who made them can give them orders. As the old hymn once said,

The Voice that rolls the stars along
Speaks all the promises.
2

So “the heavens declare.” Ah, if only we knew the names of the stars as Abraham knew them. When God brought Abraham out and said, “Look at the stars” (Genesis 15:5), and Abraham looked up, he saw something different from what you and I see. I look up and I see that beautiful evening star which is the same as the bright morning star; the Bible tells us that lovely star, which is there in the morning or evening, is a type of Jesus, who is the bright morning star.3 Men have changed its old Hebrew name, and now call it Venus, the goddess of lust and impurity and brothels. We have even changed the names of the stars and called them all by heathen names like Andromeda and Perseus. We even changed the one that represents the ark in the sky and call it Argo, the ship in which Jason and his companions sought the Golden Fleece.

Do you see what we have done? We have obscured God’s original revelation in the stars. When Abraham looked up, he could read in the stars the coming destiny of the world. In the names of the constellations God had given, he could read what was going to happen: how a virgin would conceive and have a child who would become the Lion, who would be the conquering one, the one who would defeat that one we call Draco, the dragon — and so on.4

I tell you the heavens declare; they are preachers. God speaks the truth when he tells us that the stars, the heavens, are one of God’s great teachers. “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Psalm 19:3-4). God says so. But the stars aren’t earth’s most powerful preacher.

Nature?

As a matter of fact, all nature preaches; but we have lost the key. No longer do men study science to discover how God made the earth, how God made the worlds, how God created. They study science to bring in all sorts of theories to prove that God didn’t do it at all. With each report of a new interplanetary probe, the newspaper says, often on its front page, “Scientists are hoping to discover how life came into existence.” Yet the Bible is quite clear on the matter. Many of us have recited that centuries-old statement of Christian faith, the Nicene Creed, which says:

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

Isn’t it marvelous to believe in the Holy Spirit? Some people are recovering the ancient belief in the powerful, ever-living Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And that’s as it should be. “The Lord and Giver of life” was there at the beginning of the creation. All nature teaches, but people have lost the key. They no longer can read “sermons in stones,” as Shakespeare put it.5 They no longer can see in all nature the glory of the Lord. No, nature is not earth’s greatest preacher.

The Holy Spirit?

Since we have touched on “the Lord and Giver of life,” what of the Holy Spirit? Well, He is in a sense the greatest of all, but He is not earth’s most powerful preacher because the Bible says of the Spirit that He is the One “whom the world cannot receive” (John 14:17). He doesn’t speak to the world — He speaks to God’s children. It is “My sheep” who “hear My voice” (John 10:27). The Holy Spirit speaks expressly to God’s people.

The Bible?

What about the Bible, then, God’s marvelous Book? Every page is stained with the blood of the martyrs, who shed their blood that we might have it. Is this divinely inspired Book earth’s most powerful preacher? I sadly answer no — because people don’t read it! Some homes have a great big family Bible, which is displayed as a conversation piece, a bit of family heritage; but it’s never read, it’s never worn out. I gave my daughter a very beautifully bound Bible the other day, as a birthday present, and I asked her to wear it out, and then I would give her another one. How about you and your beautifully bound Bible? Is it wearing out as you read it and re-read it, cover to cover? Wear it out! I would that all Christians did. Nevertheless, the Bible is not earth’s most powerful preacher.

The Preacher Revealed

No, there is a preacher that is God’s most powerful preacher, that preaches to everyone, and everyone has to hear. God has a most powerful preacher that preaches to rich and poor, to black and white, to Russian and American, that preaches to everyone. Can he reach the heart? Yes, he reaches the heart and often breaks it. Is he welcomed? Rarely is he welcomed, but whether he is welcomed or not, he very brusquely breaks in. Often he is hated. Very rarely is he loved, although a few have loved him. He is God’s universal preacher. He preaches as powerfully in the palace or in the White House as he does in the most miserable hovel. He has preached eloquently from the great icy wastes of Antarctica, where he once took Captain Scott for a text,6 to the burning plains of Africa, in the equatorial belt, where he took David Livingstone as a text.7

What is his name? The name of God’s universal, most powerful preacher is Death.

No one escapes Death’s message. Doesn’t he preach as eloquently from the local cemetery as he does from the great war graves at Arlington National Cemetery? Doesn’t he preach as eloquently from a humble churchyard as he does from Westminster Abbey in London, England? Is there any street in any city where he has not preached? Doesn’t he preach everywhere and to all? Remember that old poem by Thomas Gray:8

The curfew tolls the knell of passing day.
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lee.
The plowman homeward plods his weary way
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glittering landscape on the sight
And o’er the world a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.

Then he says,

Beneath yon hoary elm, yon yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the earth in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

* * *

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn;
Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees, the envious kiss to share.

Then he concludes, not the poem but the theme,

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour;
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

* * *

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the departed dead?

Yes, without any doubt, if all other preachings were silenced, Death would preach on. For six thousand years he has preached. What has he been saying? He has been saying, as God records in Hebrews 9:27: “It is appointed unto men once to die.” Can anybody doubt it? Can anyone contradict it? No one can contradict earth’s most powerful preacher. You may not be a Christian. You may be an atheist, you may have stumbled across these pages as a scoffer of divine things, someone who mocks at the Bible, someone who has listened to and believed the lie that the Bible is full of contradictions. But you can’t deny what I am saying, what Death preaches: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

What is the first lesson that this great teacher preaches? It is the fact of sin. Death is, because sin is. If there had been no sin, there would have been no death. So Death preaches this: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12).

Now I must logically face the conclusion. The first lesson is this: “It is appointed unto men once to die.” The second lesson is “after that the judgment.” Why? Because sin has entered into the world and death by sin: “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have had liberals, and we still have them; we have had higher critics, and we still have them. Germany, the birthplace of higher criticism, ended up with Naziism, a logical, true child of the higher criticism. When the liberals have mocked at us for believing in the inerrancy of Scripture; when the liberals have mocked us for believing in the fall of man; when they jeer at us for believing that God made a human pair and the human pair sinned, and so death passed upon all men; and when they jeer and say that if there was a fall it was a fall upward, Death confutes them all, and through his bony jaw says to them, “Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Death is utterly uncontradictable. He is God’s most powerful preacher. The murderer may for now escape the electric chair or the gallows or lethal injection, but he cannot escape death. Death passes upon all men.

And you can’t bribe Death. When Queen Elizabeth I9 was dying, she didn’t know how to die; she refused to die; she was getting older and older and older, and at last she even refused to go to bed. She had to be propped up with cushions on the floor. She feared to die, and she thought that if she wasn’t in bed, perhaps she could prolong the dying; but at last the doctor had to tell her counselors she only had a little while to live. And Sir Hugh Cecil, that great statesman, a great friend of Queen Elizabeth, finally had to break the news to her that there was no further hope. What was her agonizing cry? “All my possessions for a moment of time!” But you can’t bribe Death. He won’t take all your possessions for a moment of time.

Then there was that great American financier named Andrew Carnegie.10 At last Carnegie came to his deathbed, “for death passed upon all men.” When his physician was forced to break the news that there was no further hope for him, Carnegie said, “I will give you thousands of dollars, if you will only prolong my life for a quarter of an hour.” And the physician had to reply, “Sir, we have done our best, and we cannot prolong your life even if you gave us all your vast fortune.”

Nor can you deride Death. The infidel scorner may not believe in Death, may mock at it, may mock at what God is saying — perhaps because he is drunk and his brains are addled. Shakespeare has his character Cassio lament,

Oh, that men should put an enemy
in their mouths
to steal away their brains!11

Some folks mock death because they have just had their brains addled. Or there are those who are drugging themselves in their folly. There are others who are going to all manner of sin, but the time surely comes when God says, “You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you” (Luke 12:20). And what can you do then? When the infidel scorner, or the atheist who mocks at death, at last comes to death’s door, what does Death say to him? Death comes and says, “I come first, and after me the judgment.” “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.”

In the late 1800s, an American known as “The Great Agnostic,” Robert Ingersoll,12 was swaying many millions in America with his eloquence and his charm, being a very able speaker. An agnostic is one who says, “I don’t know whether there is a God.” They used to say that an agnostic was an atheist with a silk hat on. An agnostic doesn’t have the bluntness of an atheist to say, “I don’t believe in God”; he just says, “I don’t know whether there is one or not.” But the result is the same.

Now when Ingersoll charmed his audiences, he had thousands listening to him. One of his very interesting, popular addresses that made everybody laugh was his description of the Christians’ hell; he charmed people into believing its existence was a folly. But though he became a very rich man from his public speaking, it was appointed unto Ingersoll to die as well. On his deathbed, Ingersoll is purported to have said, “I would give a hundred thousand dollars to the man who can prove to my satisfaction that there is no hell.” Yes, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after that the judgment.” In health he had scorned it and scoffed at it, but when death came, it was a different matter altogether.

Bringing It Home

How will you die? And after death, what? There may be a lovely plaque about you in a church; there may be a magnificent funeral. The gangster Al Capone was given a wonderful funeral with tens of thousands of bouquets of flowers, a handsome memorial. But of what use was that to him? This I know: If you are unrepentant, you will die in your sins, as the Bible says.

When will you die? I think of the story of the immoral theology student. (Some theological students have been the very worst for sinning. Sometimes candidates for the ministry, theological students, have been some of the greatest offenders when they get out and go downtown.) This young man was off for a night on the town when he met his theology professor and said, “Sir, how long do I need for repentance?”

The professor thought, and said, “You could repent and get your sins forgiven in five minutes.” (We know that is true from the Gospel record of the dying thief on the cross in Luke 23:42.)

So the dissolute young theologian turned to go away, with a relieved smile on his face – only five minutes were needed to repent.

“Stop, sir,” said the professor. “When are you going to die? You need five minutes for repentance, true; but do you know when are you going to die? And will you have the five minutes in which to repent?” No wonder the Bible sweetly says, “Now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Don’t miss the opportunity while God is speaking to you to get right with Him. Don’t leave it to the end. How foolish we are! Always the devil says there is some better day than today; some better time than now. But God says, “Now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” I say get right with God now. Lift up your heart to Him and say, “Please forgive me.” I am certain that anyone who genuinely says to God, “Please forgive me for Jesus’ sake” gets instantaneously forgiven. That’s my commission, to tell you that. “Now is the accepted time.” You see, Death destroys all vain hopes.

When I was a much younger man, just after World War II, I was in a church in Colne, up in the northeast of Lancashire, England, a very beautiful little place. That was my first full-time pastorate, and I really tried to do my best to make the word of the Lord known. So I used to advertise in the local press what I was going to preach on the next Sunday. At that time, just after the war, there was a general saying everywhere, “Well, the war is over, but where do we go from here?” Everybody wondered, “What do we do next? We have won the war, but where do we go from here?” So I took that phrase to preach on the following Sunday.

Well, the notice appeared in the paper, and as I was walking along to church that evening, I had to pass by “The Hole in the Wall,” an open public house, which is a kind of open tavern in England. And as I was just about to pass this pub, a man whom I knew accosted me. He was an atheist and he loved just to scoff. I had met him in more than one public house, because in those days I used to go round the public houses and speak to the people inside, just to sit with them and talk with them. I didn’t drink, of course, but I talked to them about Jesus. From previous encounters I knew this man was a really pronounced atheist. So he said, “You are going to preach about ‘where do we go from here.’ I know what you are going to talk about. You are going to talk about heaven, aren’t you?”

I said, “Well, that’s where I’m going, anyway.”

He said, “This is my heaven,” and gestured toward the public house.

It was only a few days later that this man unexpectedly met earth’s most powerful preacher — Death. Hours later his daughter came to see me. She said, “Would you mind burying Father? He always had a great respect for you. You know Father was a very religious man.”

I almost said, “You are telling me!” You see, Death destroys all vain hopes. He went into his “heaven,” which was a boozing place; but in a few days he was gone eternally.

The Bible says that he who despised Moses’ law, who broke Moses’ law, died without mercy (Hebrews 10:28). Will you die without mercy? You must get it now. Thank God there is a mercy seat.

There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads,
A place than all beside more sweet;
It is the bloodstained mercy seat.
13

There is a mercy seat. No, it isn’t those benches in church where you may kneel and get right with God. The mercy seat is Jesus. He is the mercy seat, and He is there, right at your side. And while you’re reading, you can turn to Jesus at the mercy seat, the bloodstained mercy seat. You reach it by saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” as the penitent publican did, and you, like he, will “go home justified” (Luke 18:13-14).

God inscribes an epitaph on the tomb of many: “Died without mercy” (Hebrews 10:23). How much better is the epitaph described in Hebrews 11:13: “These all died in faith.” I trust that will be your epitaph as well: “This one died in faith.” Those who die in faith believe God during this life on earth; therefore they believe Him when they die. And so they ever live, for the gift of God is eternal life to everyone who believes.

Contrasting Encounters with Death

Finally, hear the difference between how the atheist, the scoffer, the unbeliever dies, and how a saint of God dies. Colonel Ingersoll, previously mentioned, when he faced the death of his favorite brother, was asked to speak at the funeral service. It was an atheist funeral — hopeless and empty. When the corpse in the coffin was lowered into the grave, Ingersoll spoke these words: “We are in a narrow, barren valley, hemmed in by unscalable mountains beyond which we cannot see, between two eternities.” What do you think of that? Any hope? None whatsoever! “Having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

How different that is from the saints, set apart for Jesus, cleansed in His precious blood, knowing that their sins are forgiven, knowing that they are on their way to heaven! What do they say? They don’t say when they come to die, “I am in a narrow, barren valley, hemmed in by unscalable mountains.” They say,

There is a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith I can see it afar.
And the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.

In the sweet by and by
We shall meet on that beautiful shore,
In the sweet by and by
We shall meet on that beautiful shore
.14

O happy child of God, safe forevermore!

What happened when Josef Stalin died? Do you know? That vile man of blood was guilty of the murder of millions and millions of Russians, and millions of Christians. When Stalin came to die, his daughter was present at his death and she gave this record:

His breathing became shorter and shorter. For the last twelve hours the lack of oxygen was acute. His face altered and became dark; his lips went black and the features grew unrecognizable; the last hours were nothing but a slow strangulation. The death agony was terrible. He literally choked to death as we watched. At what seemed the very last moment, he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane, or perhaps angry, and full of fear of death. The glance swept over everyone in a second. Then something incomprehensible and terrible happened that to this day I can’t forget and don’t understand. He suddenly lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something up above and bringing down a curse on us all. The gesture was incomprehensible and full of menace, and no one could say to whom or what it might be directed. The next moment, after final efforts, the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh.15

What did he see? He saw what one of those arch persecutors of the early church saw. When Maximinius Daza,16 the last, most awful persecutor of the Christian church in the east, died, as he was dying in a dreadful fear, he said, “I see Christ, the Christ coming, and he is surrounded with men in white raiment and they are coming to judgment.” That’s what Stalin saw. He saw the coming of the Lord in judgment; and he was saying to those who had helped him in his deeds of blood, “He’s coming to judge you.”

In contrast, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10) I was reading a hundred-and-fifty-year-old book that I have in my possession. It tells the story of something that happened two hundred years before the book was written. In it I read about the death of one of those great old Scottish Covenanters who witnessed so greatly and boldly for the Lord, Robert Bruce,17 who died in August 1631. This old saint of God, who had lived only for his Lord, rose that morning to have breakfast with his family. Having eaten an egg, he asked his daughter to get him another one.

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Suddenly he changed, and started meditating. And then, with an attitude of deep meditation, he said, “No, hold, daughter; my Master calls me.” He asked for someone to bring him the family Bible. But when they brought the Bible, he found that he had lost his sight, so he asked them to turn to the eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans and find verses 38 to 39. “Now,” he said, “have you found the place? Read it to me.” So they read, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” “Now,” he said, “put my finger on the place.” Having put his finger on the place, he said, “Then God be with you, my children. I have breakfasted with you this morning; this evening I shall sup with my Lord in glory.” And he died. Hallelujah! “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”

I think also of that wonderful man, John Wesley, when he came to die at the age of eighty-eight. At eighty-seven years of age he was still preaching. At that advanced age he walked the streets of London in January, ankle deep in half-melted snow. He did this for a week, begging money for the poor, hundreds of pounds for the poor, because they needed food and clothes and coal in the cold weather. Such was his heart for God’s poor. When he came to die, he called for a hymn as he lay on his deathbed. And he didn’t call for one of his own hymns or his brother’s. (John and Charles Wesley between them wrote six thousand hymns, every one a good one.) He called for a hymn of Isaac Watts:

I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath
And when my voice is lost in death
Praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne’er be passed
While life or thought or being last,
Or immortality endures.
18

Those who had gathered around his deathbed sang it with him. Wesley’s last words were an attempt to sing it again, but he couldn’t do it. Nevertheless with his dying breath, he repeated the first two words of the hymn: “I’ll praise, I’ll praise.”

It reminds me of one of those wonderful hymns that his brother Charles wrote:

Happy if with my latest breath
I may but gasp his name,
Preaching to all, and cry in death,
Behold, behold the Lamb!
19

I say, brothers and sisters, isn’t it worth saying Hallelujah?

That great poet, Lord Tennyson,20 a Christian, wrote a most lovely poem, called Sunset:

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning at the bar
When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound or foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark.
May there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark.

For though from out our bourne21 of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

No Fear of the Preacher

Once we were so afraid, because we dreaded the voice of earth’s most powerful preacher. We were afraid to die. And then Jesus came, taking away the fear of Death and the fear of judgment. Now we long to be with our heavenly Father, and with our blessed Lord Jesus, that we might see them face to face. Death ushers us into their presence!

We have been taught, too, about the great hope of the Church, that some of us are not going to die. Some are going to be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

We are looking for Jesus with glory to come,
‘Twas Jesus who died on the tree,
A crowd of bright angels to carry me home,
O that will be heaven for me.
22

We are looking for the Lord Jesus, anticipating the day. We are hoping to hear His lovely voice calling us so we won’t have to go through the valley of the shadow of death. But, if not,

Though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for Thou art with me.
— Psalm 23:4 —

Whichever path God chooses for us, we give ourselves to Him again. We want

Our residue of days or hours
Thine, wholly thine, to be;
And all our consecrated powers
A sacrifice to be.
23

O that we might live every coming moment for Jesus!

Earth’s most powerful preacher — Death — speaks to all: “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.” But to those of us who have heard that message, repented, believed in God’s only Son, and have obtained “salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10), Death whispers a different message when he comes: “Depart, and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). We will close with the words of Francis of Assisi, who, with a saint’s view of earth’s most powerful preacher, might surprise unbelievers today, as he addresses “thou most kind and gentle Death,” saying,

Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
24

Amen.


Footnotes:

  1. Copyright held by Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship, Inc. Edited and annotated by Jim Kerwin. Co-edited by Denise Kerwin.
  2.  From the Isaac Watts hymn Begin, My Soul, Some Heavenly Theme.
  3. See Numbers 24:17, 2 Peter 1:19, and especially Revelation 22:16.
  4. To readers interested in pursuing a study of this topic, Pastor Gutteridge would have recommended E.W. Bullinger’s book The Witness of the Stars.
  5. As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 1
  6. Explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) died on an expedition to reach the South Pole.
  7. David Livingstone (1813-1873) was the famous pioneer missionary and explorer in Africa.
  8. Thomas Gray (1716-1771), English poet, classics scholar, and professor at Cambridge University. Pastor Gutteridge is quoting from Gray’s most famous poem, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
  9. Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) reigned from 1558-1603.
  10. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
  11.  Othello, Act 2, Scene 3
  12.  I.e., Robert G. Ingersoll, 1833-1899. Because of his service as an officer in the American Civil War (1861-1865), he is sometimes called “Colonel Ingersoll.”
  13. These lines are from Hugh Stowell’s hymn, From Every Stormy Wind That Blows.
  14.  This verse and chorus come from Sanford Fillmore Bennett’s well-known hymn, There’s a Land That Is Fairer Than Day.
  15.  These are the words of Svetlana Alliluyeva (1926-2011), Stalin’s only daughter, from her book entitled Twenty Letters to a Friend.
  16. Also known as Maximius Daia (a.d. 270-313), Roman emperor from 308 to 313.
  17. Not to be confused with King Robert Bruce (or Robert the Bruce), 1274-1329.
  18.  This is the opening verse of Watts' hymn I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath.
  19.  From the hymn, Jesus, the Name High Over All.
  20.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) holds the honor of having served as Great Britain’s Poet Laureate longer than any other person so appointed (1850-1892).
  21.  Bourne (also bourn): an archaic word meaning bound or limit, realm or domain.
  22.  From J.E. French’s song, We Find Many People Who Can’t Understand, also recognized by its chorus This Is Like Heaven to Me.)
  23.  From Charles Wesley’s hymn, Sing to the Great Jehovah’s Praise.
  24.  From the translated lyrics now famously known as All Creatures of Our God and King.

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