“There was no other way to shake off the gloomy dominion of death, only by the incarnation of the Only Begotten.
This was why He appeared as we are.”
“There was no other way to shake off the gloomy dominion of death, only by the incarnation of the Only Begotten.
This was why He appeared as we are.”
“We give thanks to You, almighty, eternal, and merciful God and Father, because on account of Your inexhaustible mercy among us, You have gathered the Church to Yourself through the Word and Spirit, and You have revealed to us that only and solid comfort in Your Word, which we all know– we who breathe our last in true faith and with the invocation of Your name.
We give thanks not only because You granted to us the use of this life, and up to this point have kindly preserved us, but because You have also begun that spiritual and eternal life in us, and You embraced us in such great love that on our behalf You delivered up Your only begotten son to death, so that all who would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
And You have called us to that blessed fellowship of Your son, and by the work of Your Holy Spirit You have kindled true faith in us, and You have mercifully protected us up to this day against the force and attack of the Devil.
You have guarded us in the truth known. And finally, You have fortified our hearts with this steadfast comfort, that temporal death is our entrance into eternal life.
We ask, O eternal God, that You would cause the pure and sincere teaching of the Gospel to enlighten us and our posterity forevermore, for the sake of the glory of Your name and our salvation.
Always raise up faithful ministers in place of those who have passed on, and send out many into Your harvest. Also strengthen and protect the good work that You have begun in us.
Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from eternal death, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Likewise, daily mortify our corrupt nature until at last we lay down the burden of sins, under which we frequently grow weary in this life. Cause that we are comforted with a firm faith in the blessed resurrection of our flesh to eternal glory.
Guard us against the temptations of Satan. Be at hand and help us especially when we must leave this life.
Cause us to be rendered compliant, ready, and thankful to Your divine will in our life and death, and let us rejoice in pain and suffering, because we are being conformed to our head, Christ.
Grant constancy to us, increase of faith, and holiness of life. Cause that we deny ourselves and seek things above, where Christ is, and let us not seek our joy in the desires of this world but in meditation upon Your Word.
And finally, pour out in our hearts the Spirit of grace and prayer so that we may always be vigilant, and let us pray that we would not fall into temptation but be ready, so that whenever it would please you, we would pass to you through a blessed, noble death, and bring us boldly to the tribunal of Your Son.
All this, what You would most mercifully lavish upon us, through and on account of Your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with You forevermore, Amen.”
–Zacharius Ursinus, “A Godly Meditation Upon Death, (1564)” in Faith in the Time of Plague: Selected Writings from the Reformation and Post-Reformation, Eds. Stephen M. Coleman and Todd M. Rester (Glenside: PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2021), 269-270. Ursinus wrote this treatise in 1564 when a plague “was prowling about widespread along the banks of the Rhine.”
“Friend, let me whisper in thine ear: expect to lose thy dear ones still, for death is not destroyed.
Look not upon any of thy friends as though they would be with thee tomorrow, for death is not destroyed yet. See thou the word ‘mortal’ written upon all our brows.
The most unlikely ones die first. When I heard during this week of several cases of dear friends who have gone to their reward, I could have sooner believed it had been others, but God has been pleased to take from us and from our connexion many whom we supposed to be what are called good lives, and they were good lives in the best sense, and that is why the Master took them; they were ripe, and he took them home; but we could not see that.
Now, remember that all your friends, your wife, your husband, your child, your kinsfolk, are all mortal.
That makes you sad. Well, it may prevent your being more sad when they are taken away.
Hold them with a loose hand; do not count that to be freehold which you have only received as a leasehold; do not call that yours which is only lent you, for if you get a thing lent you and it is asked for back, you give it back freely; but if you entertain the notion that it was given you, you do not like to yield it up.
Now, remember, the enemy is not destroyed, and that he will make inroads into our family circle still.
And then remember that you too must die.
Bring yourself frequently face to face with this truth, that you must die. Do not forget it, Christian friend.
No man knows whether his faith is good for anything or not if he does not frequently try that faith by bringing himself right to the edge of the grave.
Picture yourself dying, conceive yourself breathing out your last breath, and see whether then you can look at death without quaking, whether you can feel, “Yes, I have rested upon Jesus, I am saved, I will go through death’s tremendous vale with his presence as my stay, fearing no evil.”
If you have no good hope, may God give you grace at this moment to fly to Jesus, and to trust in Him, and when you have trusted in Him death will be to you a destroyed enemy.
May God grant his blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Last Enemy Destroyed,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 12 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), 12: 647–648.
“You may tell how serious it is to lose the soul, from its intrinsic value.
The soul is a thing worth ten thousand worlds; in fact, a thing which worlds on worlds heaped together, like sand upon the sea shore, could not buy.
It is more precious than if the ocean had each drop of itself turned into a golden globe, for all that wealth could not buy a soul.
Consider! The soul is made in the image of its Maker; “God made man,” it is said, “in his own image.”
The soul is an everlasting thing like God; God has gifted it with immortality; and hence it is precious. To lose it, then, how fearful!
Consider how precious a soul must be, when both God and the devil are after it.
You never heard that the devil was after a kingdom, did you? No, he is not so foolish; he knows it would not be worth his winning; he is never after that; but he is always after souls.
You never heard that God was seeking after a crown, did you! No, he thinketh little of dominions; but he is after souls every day: his Holy Spirit is seeking his children; and Christ came to save souls.
Do you think that which hell craves for, and that which God seeks for, is not precious?
The soul is precious again, we know, by the price Christ paid for it.
“Not with silver and gold,” but with his own flesh and blood did he redeem it. Ah! it must be precious, if he gave his heart’s core to purchase it.
What must it be to lose your soul?”
You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.
He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.
He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?
But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.
Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.
If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!
Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:
“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?
Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?
It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’
He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.
To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.
You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.
But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”
This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)
Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.
You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’
With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.
Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.
But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.
We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.
We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.
We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”
–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.
“To my dear father, John Luther, citizen in the valley of Mansfeld:
Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
My brother James has written me that you are seriously ill. As the weather is bad and the season dangerous, I am very anxious about you, for though God has given you a strong, tough body, yet your age and the inclemency of the weather give me disquieting thoughts.
None of us is, or should be, sure of his life at any time. I should have come to you personally with the greatest willingness, but my good friends advised me against it and have persuaded me not to, and I myself thought it better not to tempt God by putting myself in peril, for you know how lords and peasants feel toward me.
It would be the greatest joy to me if it were possible for you and mother to come hither, which my Katie and all of us beg with tears that you will do. I hope we are able to take good care of you.
Therefore I am sending Cyriac to see whether your weakness will allow you to be moved.
However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it would be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again and with filial piety and service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the Fourth Commandment.
In the meantime I pray from the bottom of my heart that our Father, who has made you my father, will strengthen you according to His immeasurable kindness and enlighten and protect you with His Spirit, so that you may receive with joy and thanksgiving the blessed teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to which doctrine you have now been called and to which you have come out of the former terrible darkness and error.
And I hope that His grace, which has given you such knowledge, and thereby begun His work in you, will guard and complete it to the end of this life and to the joyous hereafter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
God has already sealed this teaching and faith in you and has testified to it by such marks as that you have suffered much slander, abuse, obloquy, mockery, scorn, hatred, and odium for His name’s sake, as we all have done. These are the true marks of our likeness to the Lord Christ, as Paul says, that we may be like Him also in future glory.
Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all His angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground.
He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and He is so heartily true and kind that He cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask His help without doubting.
He has said, promised, and pledged this. He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.
“Ask,” says he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) And elsewhere: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.
I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I may become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for His holy Word, which He has richly and graciously given us at this time.
If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, He will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.
This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels. Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave. Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until He comes again to wake us with joy. Amen.
I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself.
He has proved His love in taking your sins upon Himself and paying for them with His blood, as He tells you by the gospel.
He has given you grace to believe by His Spirit, and has prepared and accomplished everything most surely, so that you need not care or fear any more, but only keep your heart strong and reliant on His Word and faith.
If you do that, let Him care for the rest. He will see to it that everything turns out well. Indeed, He has already done this better than we can conceive.
May our dear Lord and Saviour be with you so that, God willing, we may see each other, either here or yonder. For our faith is certain, and we doubt not that we shall shortly see each other in the presence of Christ.
Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be from here to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.
I hope that your pastor and preacher will point out such things to you in faithful service, and so you will not need what I say at all. Yet I write to ask forgiveness for my bodily absence, which, God knows, causes me heartfelt sorrow.
My Katie, little Hans, Magdalene, Aunt Lena, and all my household send you greetings and pray for you faithfully. Greet my dear mother and all my friends.
God’s grace and strength be and abide with you forever. Amen.
Your loving son,
February 15, 1530.”
–Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 30-32.
[John Luther, Martin’s father, died on May 29, 1530, three months after this letter of consolation was written. On June 5, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “John Reineck wrote me today that my beloved father, the senior Hans Luther, departed this life at one o’clock on Exaudi Sunday. This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strong in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem.” (30)]
“The simple annals of a country pastor’s daily life are uniform and uneventful, and afford little scope for the biographer’s pencil. Interesting and precious as any work done on earth in Heaven’s eyes, it is the obscurest possible in the world’s regard.
Angels look down upon it; busy, eager, bustling men heed it not. A calm routine of lowly, though sacred duties, a constant unvaried ministry of love, it flows on in a still and quiet stream, arresting no attention by its noise, and known alone to the lowly homes it visits on its way, and the flowers and the fields it waters.
The young pastor of Dun was no exception to this.
He preached the Word.
He dispensed the sacred Supper.
He warned the careless.
He comforted the sorrowing.
He baptized little children.
He blessed the union of young and loving hearts.
He visited the sick and the dying.
He buried the dead.
He pressed the hand, and whispered words of peace into the ear of mourners.
He carried to the poor widow and friendless orphan the charity of the Church and his own.
He slipt in softly into some happy home and gently broke the sad news of the sudden disaster far away.
He lifted up the fallen one from the ground.
And he pointed to Him who receiveth the publicans and the sinners.
These things and such as these, he did in that little home-walk for twenty successive years day by day; but that was all.
There is much here for the records of the sky, but nothing, or next to nothing, for the noisy annals of time.
Such as the work was, however, he did it, as all who knew him witnessed, faithfully and well, with a calm, serious, conscientious, cheerful, loving diligence that was the fruit of faith and prayer; always at his work, and always happy in it, and desiring nothing better or higher on earth.”
–Islay Burns, The Pastor of Kilsyth: The Life and Times of W.H. Burns (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1860/2019), 43-44.