During the Revolutionary War a young officer in the British army, before embarking for this country with his regiment, became engaged to a young lady in England. In one of the battles of the Revolution the officer was badly wounded and lost a leg. He accordingly wrote to his affianced bride, telling her how he was disfigured and maimed, and so changed from what he had been when she had last seen him and they had plighted their troth that he felt it his duty to release her from all obligation to become his wife. The young lady wrote an answer not less noble than that which she had received from the young man. In this letter she disavowed all thought of refusing to carry out the engagement because of what had happened to her fiance in battle, and said that she was willing to marry him if there was enough of his body left to hold his soul!
James Russell Lowell once remarked that a fitting epitaph for him would be: "Here lies that part of James Russell Lowell which hindered him from doing well."
Sometimes the body is not only a handicap but also an enemy of the spirit, for "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit" (Gal. 5:17). A weak back, a dim eye, a poor voice, has often opposed and interfered with the expression of the spirit. But the image of the heavenly shall be an image emancipated from the bonds of the flesh. It shall be perfectly adapted to the spiritual life, just as the body in this life was perfectly suited to man's physical and intellectual life. That, I am sure, is what Paul meant when he said of the body at death, "It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spirtual body." (I Cor. 15:43-44.) Then a corruptible body shall have been turned into an incorruptible, a mortal body into an immortal one. Then no great act or labor or desire shall be unattempted or left unfinished for the lack of strength. Then no sickness shall waste our strength or lower the wing of our aspiration, and no cry of anguish and pain shall break the silence of the night or mar the beauty of the day; for there shall be no more pain.
In the old cemetery of Christ Church, at Fifth and Arch streets, Philadelphia, the passerby can see through the iron railing the grave of one of America's greatest men and one of the world's most versatile geniuses. If you have made a pilgrimage to that quiet acre of the dead, walled off from the city's roar and traffic as if to comment upon the vanity of it all, you will have observed that the flat stone over Franklin's grave bears no trace of the epitaph which he composed. It was as follows:
Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,
Lies here food for worms;
But the work shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believes) appear once more
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected by the Author.
No statement in the great and beautiful narrative of the Resurrection so brings out the majesty and the completeness of Christ's victory over death as that sentence from the Gospel of Matthew (28:2): "The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it." The angel rolled away the stone and sat upon it! Death was conquered! The grim and sinister powers of evil and darkness were routed by the powers of heaven.
Some years ago a popular English novelist wrote a book called When It Was Dark. The story centers about the efforts of a wealthy unbeliever to discredit Christianity. He endeavors to do this by attempting to discredit the Resurrection. In that respect his logic is sound, for if the Resurrection can be discredited Christianity is overthrown. This man hired venal archaeologists to fake a discovery of the body of Jesus in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. On the tomb was an inscription testifying that the owner of this sepulcher stole the body of Jesus and hid it there. The novel then goes on to describe the ultimate effect of such a discovery, if accepted as truth, upon the Christian world, upon the Christian Church, and upon civilization in general. In powerful passages he shows how, gradually, the Christian Church crumbles and collapses; how men and women go back to lust, cruelty, and animalism; and how the flame of hope dies out in every human heart.
Had the body of Christ ever been found, or a grave in which it could be proved that his body had been placed, other than that of Joseph of Arimathea, the Church would indeed disappear and the sun of human hope would set in the darkness of an ever-ending life. But thanks be to God, now is Christ risen from the dead! On that empty tomb is the epitaph written by the angels, the epitaph that ends all other epitaphs—"He is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him!" (Luke 16:6).
A small boy from a non-Christian home had been brought into the Sunday school. His mother was not only unsaved, but she had a morbid fear of death. After her little boy became interested in the Sunday school he begged her to come to church with him, but she persistently refused his entreaties because she was afraid that the preacher might say something about death or dying. On Easter Sunday the teacher noticed the lad's rapt attention while she told the beautiful story of the risen Christ. The child hastened home with a shining face, and exclaimed, "Oh, Mother, you needn't be afraid of dying any more, for Jesus went through the grave and left a light behind Him!" Gradually the fear in her heart melted under the influence of her son's words about "the light behind Him." Early one evening she had put him to bed and heard him pray as he did nightly that God would make her a Christian, "and do it right quick!" he added. Later that evening a neighbor persuaded the mother to go to church. The Heaven-sent message brought conviction, and that night her little boy's prayer was answered!—Sunday School Times.
A missionary in Turkey wished to teach to a group of people the truth of the resurrection of Christ. He said: "I am traveling, and have reached a place where the road branches off in two ways; I look for a guide, and find two men: one dead, and the other alive. Which of the two must I ask for direction, the dead or the living?" "Oh, the living," cried the people. "Then," said the missionary, "why send me to Mohammed, who is dead, instead of to Christ, who is alive!"—Christian Endeavor World.
I read once of a little girl whose home was near a cemetery, and in order to go to the store, she had to follow a path that led through the cemetery. But this little girl never seemed to have any sense of fear, even when she returned through the cemetery at dusk. Someone said to her, "Aren't you afraid to go through the cemetery?" "Oh, no," she replied, "I'm not afraid, for my home is just beyond."
Are you afraid of the cemetery?
Not if you are a Christian, and know that your Home is just beyond.—The Biblical Echo.