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Richard Fuller on Death

One usually doesn’t find great statements about death while reading a sermon on “Joy in the Lord,” but such was the case for me recently. I was reading a sermon by Richard Fuller, the third president of the SBC, from Series One of Sermons by Richard Fuller, and came across the following passage.

It is a noble spectacle to behold a Christian calmly meeting the last struggle, enduring with patience the pains of a protracted illness, and resigning himself tranquilly to the necessity of dying. But is it thus a Christian ought to die? Oh, no. It is the privilege of every child of God to have a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better; to long with holy imparience for the Redeemer of his soul; to close his eyes upon the whole world and feel the sublime attractions of eternity; to exclaim, “My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of theLord, me heart and my flesh crith out for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” It is the privilege of every child of God not only to rejoice when fig tree and vine and olive wither, but when the whole universe is receding from his vision. Then, when flesh and heart shall be failing, it will be your privilege, Christian, you consolation and joy, to look up and see the heavens opened, to triumph in an Almighty Saviour who is the strength of your heart and your portion forever, to rejoice in the Lord, to exult with transports ineffable and full of glory in the God of your salvation.

Fuller brings up an important distinction. Too often Christians speak of “dying well” as just resigning oneself to death–not whining, not complaining, just dying. Rather, “dying well,” is longing to be with Christ, longing to be free from this life, longing to see one’s God and Savior. “Dying well,” is a privilege that Christians have because of Christ and his work, and it is a privilege of which Christians too often do not avail themselves. We can and should do more than just resign ourselves to death. Even pagans and atheists can do that. The philosopher Epicurus said, “Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.” But this stiff-upper-lip kind of resignation to death is not the Christian’s portion. Rather, we have a hope, secure in heaven. We have a righteousness seated at the right hand of the Father. We have a reason to long to be free from this life that the unbeliever does not have. Let us change our thinking so that we long with a holy longing, even from the earliest ages, to be with Christ, which is far better.