How Augustus Toplady confronted death from tuberculosis makes remarkable reading. As he faced ‘the last enemy’ he entered into deep communion with Christ and the Lord gave him the most ravishing experiences of God’s love for his soul.
Common to man
Each one of us will have to die. Whatever our circumstances, whether or not we can pay for private medical care, however kind and loving our family or friends may be, whatever financial resources we may have, no matter what our influence or possessions, very soon we shall all have to face death. Death, like birth, is an experience common to all men. Surely, we need to make preparations to die well? The unbeliever is totally unprepared to meet God. The believer is not in that position, but this does not necessarily mean that he is prepared for death.
We must start preparing for dying now. It will be too late to prepare when death begins to knock at the door. Most Christians today are quite unprepared for death. We love this life too dearly, and do not sufficiently meditate upon things to come. In addition, we neglect vital communion with our Lord. The hope of the gospel holds before us the prospect of seeing our Lord and entering into the glory everlasting. And yet many of us give the impression that we are not particularly looking forward to it. In these days Christians in general do not die well. This is a great weakness in our testimony, for surely the real test of a man’s faith, and of his gospel, is whether it can sustain him in that ‘tremendous hour’.
A popular notion, entertained by believers and unbelievers alike, is that the best way to go is to go quickly. People call it a ‘happy release’. We can well understand why unbelievers hold this view. They want to escape from dying, because they live for this life alone and have no hope of anything beyond it.
But the believer who is given time by God to anticipate death, and what lies beyond, is being shown a great mercy. He is being given time to reflect upon the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious inheritance he shares with his Saviour. He is able to savour something of God’s abundant grace in bringing him to the borders of the Promised Land. He can spend time exalting in the prospect of eternal blessedness and in the joyous anticipation of entering the presence of his beloved Lord. And all this is what Augustus Toplady did to a remarkable degree, despite his suffering, weakness and pain.
It happens to be a fact that those men and women who have died well are generally those who have lived well and done most in serving their own generation. The man or woman who spends time facing the awesome reality of death, resting upon the merits of Christ alone, is not living with their head in the clouds. That person is rejoicing in the prospect of a sure heaven.