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Posts Tagged ‘Sir David Brewster’

 

 

On May 30, 1778, eighty-three year old Voltaire lay dying. His had been a writerly life, as he produced plays, poetry, essays, historical and scientific works, over 21,000 letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets.

Now he would never pick up his pen again.

Some of that writing criticized the Christian faith and the church. He had no use for them personally, asserting that a person could achieve moral character through reason. Wasn’t that what Christianity was all about anyway?

But Voltaire had also decided the way to dissolve the tight alliance between the self-serving state church and the totalitarian government of France was to discredit God and the Bible. Then the people would abandon Christianity and the church would become useless.

To that end he wrote in 1758:

 

 

Those twenty years passed. God was not in a pretty plight.

Voltaire made a new prediction around 1775: “Fifty years from now the world will hear no more of the Bible.”*

Of course, Voltaire was eighty years old by this time. He had no hope of being alive to see if his prediction came true.

Three years later on his deathbed, however, Voltaire was not concerned about his predictions. It would seem he was reconsidering if the Christians and their Bible may have been right after all about the importance of faith in Jesus.

Voltaire’s last words, as reported by his doctor, were these:

 

“I am abandoned by God and man! I shall go to hell!

O Christ, O Jesus Christ!”

 

Such a sad end for a brilliant man. We can only hope his last thoughts expressed the faith he fought against for so long.

But what about dying saints? Are they too tortured by doubt, fear, and aloneness?

Far from it.

“The very happiest persons I have ever met with have been departing believers,” said Charles Spurgeon. As a pastor to thousands over thirty-eight years of ministry, he must surely have visited many.

 

(Charles Spurgeon preaches to a crowd in 1858.)

 

In reality, the last remarks of saints most often offer hope, encouragement, and affirmation.

We can look forward to death, like Sir David Brewster (1781-1868)—a Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor of the kaleidoscope, and writer:

 

 

“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!”

 

Willielma Campbell (1741-1786), patroness of missionary work in Scotland and elsewhere, expressed complete contentment:

 

 

“If this is dying, it is the pleasantest thing imaginable.”

 

And John A. Lyth (1821-1886), a minister who served as a missionary in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), died with his heart bursting with joy:

 

“Can this be death? Why it is better than living!

Tell them I die happy in Jesus!”

 

Another missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), created a delightful visual with his last words:

 

 

“I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.

I feel so strong in Christ.”

 

And the famous evangelist, D. L. Moody, gave us a brief but bright glimpse of what awaits us beyond death.

Moody had been sleeping, although fitfully. When he awoke, Moody said, “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me!” His son thought his father had been dreaming. “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, I must go.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

 

O Father, thank you for this wonderful record of  joy-filled hope for the day when we, too, must go.

Even better, thank you for your great promises that you will be our refuge, even as we die. You will be our guide beyond death. And though we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no need to fear for you are with us. Hallelujah!

(Proverbs 14:32b; Psalm 48:14 (GW); Psalm 23:4)

 

 

*Fifty years after Voltaire’s prediction, the Geneva Bible Society was printing Bibles in the house where Voltaire had lived. They even used Voltaire’s printing presses.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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