"And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement" - Hebrews 9:27.
A group of American soldiers were gathered, for the last time for entertainment, in England. The next morning they were to ship out. One man stood to thank their British hosts; and, then, as an afterthought, said to them, "Tomorrow morning we will cross the channel to France. There we will go to the trenches, and very possibly, of course, to death. Can any of our friends here tell us how to die?" There was silence in the room.
When it comes, death frequently comes suddenly and unexpectedly. It is today that we must prepare for what will come as a certainty for tomorrow.
Dying words of famous Christians:
Benjamin Parsons: "My head is resting very sweetly on three pillows: infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite love."
Catherine Booth, wife of the founder of the Salvation Army: "The waters are rising, but so am I. I am not going under, but over. Do not be concerned about dying. Go on living well; the dying will be right."
Charles Dickens, the famous author: "I commit my soul to the mercy of God, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ."
Earl Cairns, lord high chancellor of England: "God loves me and cares for me. He has pardoned all my sins for Christ's sake, and I look forward to the future with no dread."
George Washington, an earnest Christian and the first president of the United States: "Doctor, I am dying, but I am not afraid to die."
H W Longfellow: "For the Christian, the grave itself is but a covered bridge leading from light to light, through a brief darkness."
Henry Van Dyke wrote this very accurate statement: "Remember that what you possess in this world will be found at the day of your death and belong to someone else; what you are will be yours forever."
John A. Lyth: "Can this be death? Why, it is better than living! Tell them I die happy in Jesus!"
John Nelson Darby: "Beyond the grave comes heaven. Well, it will be strange to find myself in Heaven, but it won't be a strange Christ - One I've known these many years. I am glad He knows me. I have a deep peace, which you know."
John Pawson, minister: "I know I am dying, but my deathbed is a bed of roses. I have no thorns planted upon my dying pillow. In Christ, heaven is already begun!"
John Quincy Adams: "This is the last of earth. I am content!"
Lady Powerscourt: "One needs a great many Scriptures to live by, but the only Scripture that a person needs to die by is 1 John 1:7, and that verse never was sweeter to me than at this moment."
Margaret Prior: "Eternity rolls before me like a sea of glory!"
Martha McCrackin: "How bright the room! How full of angels!"
Mary Frances: "Oh, that I could tell you what joy I possess! The Lord doth shine with such power upon my soul!"
Owen, the Puritan, lay on his deathbed, and his secretary was writing a letter, in his name, to a friend: "I am still in the land of the living," he wrote, and read what he had written to Owen. "No, please do not write that," Owen said. "I am yet in the land of the dying; but, later, I will be in the land of the living!"
Richard Baxter, the English martyr: "I have pain, but have peace. I have peace!"
Sidney Cooper, a member of the Royal Academy of Science in London: "I have full faith in Thy atonement, and I am confident of Thy help. Thy precious blood I fully rely on. Thou art the source of my comfort. I have no other. I want no other."
Sir David Brewster, scientist and inventor of the kaleidoscope: "I will see Jesus; I shall see Him as He is! I have had the light for many years. Oh how bright it is! I feel so safe and satisfied!"
Sir Henry Havelock, when felled by an attack of malignant cholera and told that he could not survive, calmly replied: "I have prepared for this for forty years," and then he added to those around him: "Prepare to meet thy God!"
Sir Walter Raleigh, English admiral, before his beheading: "It matters little how the head lies if the heart be right. Why doest thou not strike?"
William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, statesmen, orator, and prime minister: "I throw myself on the mercy of God, through the merits of Christ."
But now the entire picture changes. We leave the deathbeds of the Christians and visit the deathbeds of the atheists. The Apostle Paul said, "To die is gain" (Philippians 1:21) and "0 death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). But to so many others death is a fearsome, dreadful thing.
Dying words of famous atheists:
Cesare Borgia: “When I lived, I provided for everything but death; now I must die, and I am unprovided to die.”
Charles Altamont:“Hell is a refuge if it hide me from Thy frown!”
Charles IX, the French king: What blood, what murders, what evil councils have I followed. I am lost! I see it well!”
David Strauss, leading representative of German rationalism, after spending a lifetime erasing belief in God from the minds of others: "My philosophy leaves me utterly forlorn! I feel like one caught in the merciless jaws of an automatic machine, not knowing at what time one of its great hammers may crush me!"
Edward Gibbon, author of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: "All is dark and doubtful!"
George Bernard Shaw, “The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. It’s counsels which should have established the millennium, led, instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.”
Honore Mirabeau, a leading political organizer of the French Revolution: "My sufferings are intolerable: I have in me a hundred years of life, but not a moment's courage. Give me more laudanum, that I may not think of eternity! 0 Christ, 0 Jesus Christ!"
John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln: "Useless! Useless! The terrors before me!"
M.F. Rich: "Terrible horrors hang over my soul! I have given my immortality for gold; and its weight sinks me into a hopeless, helpless Hell!"
Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor who brought death to millions, to satisfy his selfish plans: "I die before my time, and my body will be given back to the earth. Such is the fate of him who has been called the great Napoleon. What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ!"
Severus, Roman emperor who caused the death of thousands of Christians: "I have been everything, and everything is nothing!"
Sir Francis Newport, the head of an English infidel club to those gathered around his deathbed: "You need not tell me there is no God, for I know there is one, and that I am in His presence! You need not tell me there is no hell. I feel myself already slipping. Wretches, cease your idle talk about there being hope for me! I know I am lost forever! Oh, that fire! Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!"
Sir Thomas Scott, chancellor of England: "Until this moment, I thought there was neither God nor hell; now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty!"
Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher and skeptic who corrupted some of England's great men: "If I had the whole world, I would give anything to live one day. I shall be glad to find a hole to creep out of the world at. I am about to take a fearful leap in the dark!"
Thomas Paine, the leading atheistic writer in the American colonies: "I would give worlds if I had them, that The Age of Reason had never been published. 0 Lord, help me! Christ, help me! . . No, don't leave; stay with me! Send even a child to stay with me; for I am on the edge of Hell here alone. If ever the Devil had an agent, I have been that one."
Voltaire, the most influential atheist of Europe in his day, cried out with his dying breath: "I am abandoned by God and man; I shall go to hell! I will give you half of what I am worth, if you will give me six month's life."