Death Sermon Illustrations

Death Sermon Illustrations

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On November 20, 1847, there died at Nice, France, a retired and long-time-ill Church of England curate, Henry Frances Lyte, who had worn himself out in charitable labors in the slums of London. At his death his family found the almost illegible manuscript of a poem he had written during those last days, now a hymn which has sung itself around the world. It was this:

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

There was a man whose faith in Christ enabled him to get the best of death, and the hymn which he left behind has helped multitudes of other souls to gain that great victory.


Those who visit the chapel at Washington and Lee University, where the great Confederate captain lies buried, are conducted to his study. There everything is just as he left it when he went out of that office for the last time.

How are things in the office and study of your life? Is everything just as you would wish to leave it—leave it never to be changed ?


After the Battle of Bull Run, Imboden asked Stonewall Jackson, who had received a painful wound in the battle, "General, how is it that you can keep so cool and appear so utterly insensible to danger in such a storm of shell and bullets as rained about you when your hand was hit?"

"Captain," answered Jackson in a grave and reverential manner, "my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready no matter when it may overtake me." Then, after a pause, he added, "That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."


On a dark afternoon in September, 1583, in a stormy sea near the Azores, the Golden Hind, commanded by Sir Walter Raleigh, sailed close to the Squirrel, a smaller vessel commanded by Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The captain of the Golden Hind cried out to Gilbert, who was sitting in the stern of his vessel with a book open in his hand, and urged him for his safety to come aboard the larger vessel. This Gilbert refused to do, saying he would not leave his companions in the Squirrel. Then Raleigh heard him call out over the waves, "Heaven is as near by sea as by land." At midnight that night those on the Golden Hind saw the lights on the smaller vessel suddenly go out, and in that moment Gilbert and his ship were swallowed up by the dark and raging sea.

Heaven is as near by sea as by land! That is a true Christian sentiment. That is what Paul meant in that great sentence of his, "Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." Live in that faith, and fear will no longer have dominion over you. And this will be the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith.


One of the many dramatic incidents in the tragedy of the Ides of March was the dream of Calpurnia, Caesar's wife. Before and on the day of his assassination there were many events to warn Caesar of his fate. As Plutarch puts it in his sketch of Caesar, "Fate, however, is to all appearance more unavoidable than unexpected." When Caesar was signing some letters the day before his death, a question arose among his friends as to what sort of death was the best. Before anyone could speak, Caesar answered, "A sudden one!"


There was great sorrow in England at the death of Prince William, the only son of Henry IV—the atheling, as the English fondly styled the child of their beloved Queen Matilda. Returning from Normandy to England, the prince with a number of nobles took passage in the White Ship, which lingered behind the rest of the royal fleet. When the vessel finally swept out to sea, it struck a rock at the mouth of the harbor and went down with all hands, leaving behind it only a terrible cry echoing through the royal fleet. When the news reached the king, his father, he fell unconscious to the ground—and rose never to smile again. All England, too shared his grief over the popular prince.

In ancient Israel all ranks and class mourned for Abijah. Children were held up in the arms of their parents and to to imitate his life as his funeral cortege went by. In many a home there was sorrow as if for a child of their own.


What is the inevitable word? What is the word that to each man seems unnatural when applied himself but natural when applied others? What is the word that God never intended man to pronounce? What the word that man began to speak on after he had pronounced the saddest word? What is the word that reduces all men to the same rank? What is the word that strips Dives of his millions and Lazarus of his rags? What is the word that cools avarice and stills the fires of passion? What is the word that men struggle not to pronounce, and yet all must pronounce—the prince and the peasant, the fool and the philosopher, the murderer and the saint? What is the word that none is too young to lisp and none too old or too weary to whisper? What is the word that frustrates ambition and disappoints hope—and yet all the power to solve all problems and heal all wounds of life? What is the word that men one day shrink from, and yet on another day, and in different circumstances, desire and seek after more than hid treasure? What is the word that men fear, and yet the word which, if men will listen to its voice, can teach them the meaning of all other words in life?  That word is "Death." "It is appointed unto men once to die." (Hcb. 9:27.)


One of the stories told of Buddha treats of the shock and amazement with which men first look on death. The only child of the young mother Kisagotami was dead. The mother clasped the child to her breast and went about from house to house, seeking medicine that would cure him. Finally a Buddhist convert told her that Buddha might tell her of a medicine that would restore the child. When she approached the sage he told her he could cure the child, but that she must bring to him mustard seed secured from some house where no parent or husband or son or slave had ever died. Eagerly and hopefully she set out to get the mustard seed. But at each house, after she had been given the mustard seed and had asked if any had died there, the reply was always the same: "Lady! what is this that you say? The living are few, but the dead are many." At length she began to understand that all must die; and, leaving her child in the wood, she returned to the sage and, bowing to the impermanence of all things, entered the life of contemplation.


Under the great dome of the Church of the Escorial, in Spain, is the high altar, with the kneeling figures of Charles V and his wives. There you look through the opening through which the dying Philip could glance with glazing eye toward the altar and the kneeling effigy of his great father. For fifty days he who had visited so much suffering upon men for conscience' sake lay dying in a little cell, suffering a living hell from the pains of a revolting disease, yet bearing it all with patience, fortitude, and Catholic faith. To his son and heir he wrote at this time: "I should have wished to save you this trial; but I want you to see how the monarchies of this earth end. Behold!God has stripped me of all the glory and majesty of sovereignty, that they may pass to you. In a few hours I shall be covered only with a poor shroud and girded only with a coarse rope. The kingly crown has already fallen from my brow, and death will soon set it upon yours. The crown will fall from your head one day as it now falls from mine. You are young, as I have been. My day draws to a close; the tale ol your life God alone can see, but it must end like mine."

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