“O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?”

The following derives all its interest from the remarkable leading of God’s Spirit in bringing the writer and subject of this paper together a very few days before the Lord took the latter home to Himself. She was a child of sorrow and suffering, indeed; the mother of a family, all of whom had fallen under death’s hand, leaving herself and her partner a solitary couple. The weight of her sorrow pressed her down, and disease of a trying nature began to develop itself. Living now next door to her, and seeing the frequent visits of the medical attendant, and occasionally the clergyman of the parish, I felt a deep interest and a yearning anxiety, which they only know who have had it, as to her true state and condition. Did she know a Savior’s love?—Was she looking to Him?—Was the prospect before her dark or bright? were often-weighed questions in my mind; and many a time did I speak to the Lord about her, and find my only solace and comfort there; for I should say this pressure on my spirit about one of whom I had known nothing personally, and whom I had never seen, was new to me; for I am not an evangelist in the true sense of the word, but greatly desire to have a deeper interest in, and concern for, immortal souls.
Thus matters went on for weeks, until at last, on my return home one afternoon, I heard she was much worse, and that death was evidently very near. After looking to the Lord, I sat down and wrote a very few lines to her husband, asking after her, expressing my deep sympathy with him, and also the earnest hope that she knew the Savior, whose blood cleanseth from all sin; adding, that I myself, as a poor needy one, had known what it was to trust Him. I had occasion to make a call a little way from the house, and on my return found that she had meanwhile sent a message to me, requesting me to call and see her. I hastened to her bedside, and, as I took her hand, she said with great earnestness, “Ah, I have been longing for some weeks to see you, and now I feel so thankful the Lord has sent you to help me on my way.” As it was advanced in the evening, and she was very weak, I did not remain long with her. When leaving, she requested me to see her again next morning. I did so, and again the same evening, and so on, almost each day until she fell asleep.
From the first evening I saw her I found out that she was a soul awakened to a sense of her need of Christ, and His sufficiency for the deepest need. I have since found out that the gracious Lord wrought this in her in various ways, mostly, perhaps, through sorrow and family bereavement, of which she had no small share. I was in no wise instrumental in this; but I had the joy of seeing in her the power of God’s delivering grace in many ways, and the blessedness of His Word in quieting her natural fear of death. One little circumstance of this kind I may record. She expressed on one occasion to me her fear, in prospect of death—not, she said most decidedly, as to her acceptance in any way, but she had a shrinking from death and the suffering of it. The nature of her disease, too, was very likely to lead to such suffering. I read her part of Josh. 3, calling her attention to the fact, that when the children of Israel were crossing Jordan, it was on the ark, not on the waters of the river, their eyes and thoughts were to be fixed. “When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place and go after it.” As soon as I had finished, she said with great earnestness, “That ark is Christ.”
I said, “Thank God, it is so.” She never lost sight of that, and it comforted her many a time afterwards. The last time I was with her she had all her family around her bedside. It was the last time they saw her. She herself wished and arranged it so. Her simple acknowledgment of perfect confidence in Christ, and rest in Him, was very sweet. And then she asked for the hymn –
“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear.
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.”
And the earnest way in which she sang it, weak though she was, and exhausted, was very touching. This was my last visit to her. I called as usual next day, but she was unable to see me; and that evening, without the struggle she at first dreaded, peacefully and calmly she fell asleep, so quietly, so gently, that “they thought her dying when she slept, and sleeping when she died.”
It is the living power of the Word of God in quieting fear, and fixing, through the Holy Ghost, the eye of the soul on Jesus, that is so blessedly set forth in this case; and it is recorded to His praise and glory who went before His beloved people through the dark waters of death, measured them all Himself, taking every sting out of them, and leaving nothing behind save gain for them; thus enabling them to say—“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
In the ninth chapter of this epistle is set forth, in the most complete argument, the manner in which sins are put away by the one offering of Jesus Christ; whereas in this chapter, the subject is, how this is applied to the conscience, so purging it, that no dread of God’s judging because of sins any longer remains. This is the meaning of “no more conscience of sins.” So full, perfect, and sufficient is Christ’s offering, that by Him all who believe are not only justified from all things, but are entitled to be within the Holiest, and to know it. Could anything be more wonderful or excellent?—inside the veil, where of old only one man, of one tribe, of one nation, on one day of the year, could enter; there, too, not by sufferance, but by right and title, and suited for such a place, having a conscience so purged that it is fit for the presence of God. I may just observe in passing, that Hebrews shows the two-fold position of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. As regards heaven, he is, as in this chapter, within the Holiest now; as regards this world, his place is outside the camp, as in ch. 13. On this latter I do not now enlarge; it does not come within my present purpose.
Let us look a little at the foundation of this great salvation. First, as we have it in v. 10, “By the which will we are sanctified.” God willed not, and had no pleasure in the death of a sinner, nor had He pleasure in the sacrifices offered by the law, which could never make the worshiper perfect. In these repeated sacrifices there was a remembrance of sin every year: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me; in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” Thus we are let into the secrets that passed between the Father and the Son in the council chamber of eternity before the foundation of the world. It was the will of God, and the Son sets Himself to do that will, “A body hast Thou prepared Me.” Oh, how different from man’s natural thoughts of God! How eclipsed, even the very best thoughts about His character and love! He willed it, and what His heart conceived, the Son of his love will undertake to accomplish. Will you, beloved reader, say what are your thoughts about God? Whoever could have stooped so low in a love that removed out of the way all that hindered its expression, and that too at the cost of all that was dear to itself! Such, then, was His will, which is the great source and spring of this wonderful display of grace.
Second, we have the person and work by which it has been accomplished. The person, the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Son of the Father, He it was who took a body prepared for Him by God, and in it glorified Him, as well as established a righteous ground upon which God can be “just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Hear His own words—“Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again.” “I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” He was the One who shed His blood. The righteousness of God demanded the blood of such a victim, so perfect and so blessed. Sin could be put away by nothing less; and for the purging of the conscience there was nothing wanted more. He it was who, by the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God (and only He could); and now that very same righteousness of God raises Him up from the dead, from the very death by which He glorified God, and sets Him in glory, and likewise rends the veil from the top to the bottom. Could anything be more wonderful? “This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down (that is, sat down in perpetuity) on the right hand of God . . . for by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” This one offering accomplished what the blood of bulls and of goats, shed from the beginning of the world, could never do. This one offering needed no repetition, so there remaineth no more offering for sin.
Lastly, we have the way by which it is known and enjoyed, in those words—“Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us . . . their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Oh, how blessed to have the knowledge and enjoyment of this! Could there be anything equal to the blessed certainty in the soul, founded on God’s will, Christ’s offering, and the Holy Ghost’s testimony? The Holy Ghost could not have come down until Jesus was glorified; but Christ being glorified out of the very judgment by which He for ever put away sin, the Holy Ghost comes down. Wherever I look I see infinite power and infinite love—the love that gave Christ, and brought Him down to the grave, and the power that raised Him up and set Him at the right hand of glory.
‘‘Note: This also appeared in Helps in Things Concerning Himself, vol. 3.