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Written by David Montogmery   

"But I would not have you ignorant Brethren, considering them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as other which have no hope." 1Thessalonians 4:13

We are blessed to live in an age of medical advancement which has increased the longevity of our lives, relieved our physical suffering, and has cured many of the dreaded diseases that haunted those in former days. But there is no medicine made by men that can permanently stave off the eventuality of death. Except the Lord tarries, we will all feel the icy hand of death – upon our loved ones, and finally upon ourselves.

I think it would serve us well, to look backward to a time when people lived closer with death than we do today. In those days, parents lived with the probability that some, if not all, of their precious children would not survive into adulthood. I have read many obituaries of parents informing that ten or more children had been born unto them, but only three or four of those children surviving. Women would fear the travail of labor, not knowing whether she, or her child, would survive.

How did these people cope with such sorrow and dread? By the same way that we must cope with it in our day...by the hope of eternal life through the redemption of Jesus Christ. They sorrowed not as others who do not have this blessed hope of an eternal heavenly existence. Dear reader, as you read the following words and experiences from our departed Brothers and Sisters, I hope they will prove to be a strength to you. Death is just as sorrowful to us today, but the hope of eternal life should be just as sweet.

I turn to the writings of Samuel B. Luckett. It is my opinion that this wonderful man is one of the greatest writers of comfort and exhortation that has ever lived. Let us learn a little about him.

 

He was born in Shenandoah County, VA on March 14, 1830 and lived a long useful life. He was a farmer, spending most of his life in Indiana. He and his wife Mary, were members of the Missionary Baptists for three years, and feeling less and less at home with them, joined the Primitive Baptists and remained with them ever since. He was called by Sylvester Hassell, "one of our ablest, soundest, and loveliest writers." Brother Luckett served as a Deacon, and filled that office well. He and his wife had seven children, five of whom died in early childhood, and a sixth at the age of 24. This, I feel, would lend to his understanding and sympathy to the sorrow experienced by others, and qualified him as a compassionate counselor for the bereaved; as you shall witness.

 

Samuel B. Luckett writing to Elder T.J. Bazemore, on the death of Elder Bazemore's young daughter. Gospel Messenger - April 1904.

Your brief message of 19th is just to hand and I write you at once. How small was the card and few your words, but O! How great the sorrow it contained. What can I say that will bring relief to the stricken household? Nothing, except to assure you that once more we weep with those who weep, and for you we turn our poor petitions to Him whose custom it is to come down to this earthly garden to gather lilies to be transplanted to a fairer clime. "My father is the husbandman" says our incarnate Lord, and while every plant not planted by Him shall be rooted up, the planting of His own right hand shall be given immortal bloom in paradise where Jesus is. And yet how crushed we are to see them go! Dear bereaved ones, how true it is that no chastening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. O, that blessed "nevertheless" ! The chastening was a battle – a conflict of bitterness and pain, but the "fruit" will be peaceable and satisfying at the last.

But I am not writing to the young seeing the first dark shadow of life's checkered path. This is not your first sorrow, nor the hundredth! Long since, you learned that we live in a land of mourning. Storm and tempest and rolling wave sweep the sea while desolate paths intermix o'er the icy earth and burning sand, while blighted hopes and ruined plans remind us not to set our affections on the earth where moths corrupt and thieves break through and steal. We must cross the dark faced river to escape the wilderness where drought and scorpion and fiery serpent contend with us for possession.

Your dear Mamie has crossed that river, and while those of you remaining have other sorrows yet to drink, no tremor of pain will evermore be hers. This removal of one so dear to you will unloose one more earthly tie and be to you anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. Trials like this make earth's beauty fade and increase the attractions of the everlasting kingdom. I pray it will be so with you and your sorrowing dismembered family; and that waiting faith and abounding hope find a resting place in your hearts. There should be sweetness mingled in your bitter cup, my brother, as you call to mind that sweet event seven years ago, when perhaps with beating heart and trembling hand for love's sake you laid your own dear child in the mystic grave that Jesus filled. Like Him, she became the inmate of a second grave, and "today" is with Him in paradise!

We grieve for you dear friends, and tender our loving sympathy. We mourn with you from an experimental knowledge of your present trial. On one of those rounding hills on the outskirts of the city of St. Joseph, overlooking the "mad Missouri" that goes sweeping by, out first born child and her baby brother repose in dreamless sleep; while in another quiet spot, where many kindred rest, close to the beautiful Ohio, lie another brother and sister where nothing can break the slumber that hath bound them. And here at this place, still another brother and sister will no doubt moulder into dust, and there await the cry of our descending Lord, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. One of them, our dear Jessie, already lies "under the stone" – a dear girl, like your own, kind, gentle, and meek, and whose twenty-four years had made her a sweet, intelligent, companion for us. We trust she too, was a Christian. Many and many are the dates and pencil marks on the margin of our Bible made by her when reading its pages. On our return from the beautiful cemetery, and while sitting in the room that seemed so dark and desolate, move by some impulse, I know what from whence, I opened a large volume, that I had not looked into for a year and saw for the first time on the fly-leaf the following lines of her own penmanship:

"Beyond the smiling and the weeping

I shall be soon;

Beyond the waking and the sleeping

Beyond the sowing and the reaping

I shall be soon!

Love, rest, and home! Sweet home,

Lord, tarry not, but come!"

Jessie

Yes, beloved friends, our dear, dead children are beyond these earthly changes. They are free from any of the vicissitudes that may come to us.

Forgive me to alluding to these fadeless memories of bygone years. Every heart has put them there as "pictures of silver" by life's mysterious wand. I meant to have comforted you and have only succeeded in making myself sad. I pray that the Good Samaritan will pass your way and diffuse His oil and wine upon your bruised hearts. To Him your tears are richer than earth's poor rubies, for with such as these the unknown woman washed our Savior's feet. The Lord is even now making up His jewels, and, like Mordecai, we should rejoice that the King has chosen our children.

 

Samuel B. Luckett writing to Sister Bettie Whitley on the death of her mother. Gospel Messenger - August 1913.

Your beautiful postcard is just received, but what of beauty with such a message! I can think the rest. The watchers themselves with labored breath as the last scene of all drew nearer and nearer! How dark the room! How bitter life looked! And then, the sad procession to the city of the dead, and the return to the house of mourning! What a time it is "with many a wee babe, fatherless, and many a widow mourning!" I know from heart experience, something of the solemnities of life and death. Dear Elder Respess in his last card said he was dying by inches. It seems to me I have been dying, dying, for the six years past, and all that time I have been mourning one of the noblest, purest, best of help-meets earth ever knew; and, as the unfeeling clay closed over her form, my lament was, "Thou was too good to live on earth with me, and I not good enough to die with thee." O thou hungry grave, never to have enough till the last one of us pays the gigantic debt we owe to nature! But my sister, there is never a tragic scene of death, it seems so afflicting but there is another more so beyond. Your beloved mother had the lot ----

"To die among his kindred,

To rest his dying gaze,

On the loved familiar faces,

Of his young and happy days."

But think of the fair Virgin-mother when the predicted time had come that a sword should pierce through her own soul. When her own beautiful and dutiful, and mysterious Son hung before her -- transfixed on the shameful, agonizing cross, amidst the jeers and cruel thrusts -- she could not prevent nor hide from her eyes.

Let me commend you dear Sister, in your sorrow, that the same wonderful Son, who, when he saw the multitudes, was moved with compassion on them because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. May you and your nieces and all turn to that compassionate Redeemer in this hour of fiery trial, and may the balm of his love, the strength of his grace be yours till the rider of the pale horse comes your way.

"May Jesus make your dying bed,

Feel soft as downy pillows are,

While on his breast you lean your head

And breath your life out sweetly there."

 Martha Crake writing on the death of her husband.

The Gospel Standard - July 1869.

(This wonderful English Strict Baptist periodical was, at this time, edited by the venerable writer and minister, J.C. Philpot. Below is a portion of the article.)

I must now come to the time when the Lord in his most mysterious providence sent that trying and painful dispensation which caused our removal from Clifton. And consequently from the church at Abingdon and dear friends around, to whom we were so united. Painful as was the trial, the Lord brought our minds into submission to his will, and enabled us both to say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." This was a time to be remembered indeed. This blessed portion was made so sweet to us: "My presence will go with thee, and I will give thee rest." It was made quite clear that our destined place of abode was Eastbourne, to which place we came on the 22nd of December 1868.

My dear husband bore the journey well, and seemed as well in health as usual (he had suffered several debilitating strokes - DM). He rode out every fine day, and showed no distress on account of the change, except once, when he said, "I should like to go home now; I want to go home to die." But the Lord mercifully delivered him from this feeling; and from this time it was quite evident to me he felt the presence of the Lord. The last evening of the old year he went to chapel; he seemed very happy and joined in singing that beautiful hymn:

"Awake my soul in joyful lays."

He kept in tune, and sang loudly. We little thought he would so soon realize the truth of those lines he then sang:

"Soon shall I pass this gloomy vale

To the bright realms of endless day;

To sing with rapture and surprise

Thy loving-kindness in the skies."

On his return from chapel he said, "O I so liked it, it was a good one" (meaning the sermon); but then he said several times, "Never any more;" meaning he would never go to chapel again. He looked so very happy. I was sitting close by him; he took my hand and kissed it several times. I was much struck by his manner. He said, " I shall soon be gone now;" and said several other things which showed how happy he felt. His dear face shone so that I began to fear that his time would not be long. On the 3rd of January, 1869, at noon, he was seized with a severe stroke of paralysis. The fit deprived him of speech; but shortly afterwards, conscienceless returned for a few moments. He was quite aware that he was dying, but apparently very happy in mind, and said several times, "Jesus for ever and ever, Amen;" meaning he would be "for ever with the Lord;" and, speaking of the pain, said, "No more, for ever." When my niece said, "You are going to heaven, uncle;" he said, O so earnestly, "yes, my dear." Another fit came on, followed by severe convulsions. From the time the physicians said hearing, sight, and all sensation were gone. The Lord dealt very gently with him in the end. He lay perfectly still, as though asleep, although breathing very deeply, until 7 o'clock Sunday morning, when his spirit departed to spend an eternal Sabbath above. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

Obituary for John Erastus Robuck, written by his sister.

The Gospel Messenger - June 1891.

On July 16th, our darling John Erastus Robuck was called for. He was born January 31, 1888, and was two year, four month and sixteen days old. He was sick only three days, but his suffering the first and last days were, no doubt, intense. Congestion set in on the last morning, and he grew worse till about two in the evening, when he breathed his last and John was no more. What grieves me so much is, on the last day, medical aid could not be obtained till almost all hope was lost. But "God can work and none can hinder." He lay in a stupor almost all day, till just before he drew his last breath, he "walled" up his eyes and smiled as if getting a glimpse of the blissful shore which he was so fast approaching. Those sweet blue eyes, I can never forget them! But isn't it folly to weep for those who can smile in death? Yea, truly. I believe to be able to smile at such a time is worth thousands such worlds as this.

"Then dear departed ones

Though you have left us,

And our loss we deeply feel,

'Tis God that has bereft us,

And He, every sorrow can feel.

Yet again we hope to meet thee,

When the day of life is fled,

Then in heaven with joy to greet thee,

Where no farewell tear is shed."

 

Obituary for Maley A. Kendrick, written by her father.

The Gospel Messenger - November 1886

She departed this life June 9th, 1886, aged seventeen years and five months, and was born in Tallapoosa, Ala. She worked in the cotton mills, and was much beloved by all her associates and also her bosses. She was taken sick with typhoid pneumonia, and lived one week. No one can tell her suffering. Her mind was on her new home, and she would say, "I am willing to bear the toil and endure the pain, supported by his word." She told her sister that she was not afraid to die, and that there was nothing in her way, if it was the Lord's will to take her. Her mother held her in her arms, when she said, "Oh Mama, sweet Mama, I would love to live to stay with you, but I cannot; so lay me down to sleep in Jesus." She died just like going to sleep. Dear brethren and sisters, please pray for the bereaved mother and father of the dear one who sleeps in Jesus.

Article by Elder John T. Blanchard.

Zion's Advocate - January 1897

I have suffered much of late, and am only anxiously awaiting the summons to go to my long sought home, but I can say, as did the poet:

"I dread death's chilling tide,

Yet, still I sigh for home."

I dreamed night before last of dying, and O! It was so easy. I believed I felt every sensation that one feels in death.

"I want to live a Christian here,

I want to die shouting;

I want to feel a Savior near,

While soul and body's parting."

Dear kindred, I feel that I shall never meet you again in this world, but O! I do hope we'll meet in the sweet beyond, there to spend eternity in songs and shouts of praise to him that loved us and gave himself for us. Farewell, and may heaven's blessings attend your pilgrimage through life and break in on your dying couch with the effulgence of all its glory, is the sincere desire of your most unworthy brother, if one at all.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This study has given me a keener insight into the thinking of our forefathers. These people lived closer to death than we do today. This may sound strange, but it seems they had a much better understanding and thinking about it. There were no funeral homes and mortuary services as we have in this time -- most passed away in their own homes, attended by the family members. The "last words" of a person were closely regarded and noted down. Many of the aged fathers and mothers while on their dying beds, would call in the family members to give them a last exhortation. I read of one experience where a young woman shouted praises to God as she was passing away, which caused those present around her bed to shout with her. Can you imagine leaving this world shouting praises and then entering into Paradise likewise shouting? One wonders, why do we not hear more of this happening? Perhaps it is due to the medication the dying are given which numbs their faculties in those last days. Though great comfort is gained to know that their physical pain and suffering is diminished, it is saddening to lose these very special experiences. One thing is certain; medical science will never be able to probe into that blessed paradise above, nor will it ever prevent those happy chosen, from entering therein.

Finally these....

Last words of Elder Greg Thompson: "Turn me to the Cross of Christ!"

Last words of John Warburton: "Hallelujah!"

Elder S. F. Cayce: Died while preaching on "The Resurrection".

In His service,

David Montgomery

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.