A Believer’s Privilege At Death
From “Body of Practical Divinity”
by Thomas Watson
To a believer death is great gain. A saint can tell what his losses for Christ are here, but he cannot tell how great his gains are at death. “To me to die is gain.” Death to a believer is crepusculum gloriae, the day-break of eternal brightness. To show fully what a believer’s gains are at death were a task too great for an angel; all hyperboles fall short of it; the reward of glory exceeds our very faith. Let me give you some dark views and imperfect lineaments only of that infinite glory the saints shall gain at the hour of death. “To me to die is gain.”
Believers at death shall gain a writ of ease from all sins and troubles; they shall be in a state of impeccability: sin expires with their life. At death all troubles die.They shall behold the glorified body of Jesus Christ; and if it be pleasant to behold the sun, how blessed a sight will it be to see Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, clothed with our human nature, shining in glory above the angels! The saints at death shall not only have a sight of God, but shall enjoy his love. There shall be nor more a veil on God’s face, nor shall his smiles be chequered with frowns, but his love shall discover itself in all its orient beauty and fragrant sweetness. Here the saints pray for his love, and they have a few drops; but there they shall have as much as their vessels can receive.
Believers at death shall gain a celestial palace, a house not made with hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1. Here the saints are straitened for room; they have but mean cottages to live in; but they shall have a royal palace to live in hereafter.
Believers at death shall gain the sweet society of glorified saints and angels; which will add to the felicity of heaven, as every star adds some lustre to the firmament.
Believers at death shall gain perfection of holiness. Here grace is but in cunabulis, in its cradle, very imperfect; so that we cannot write a copy of holiness without blotting: here believers receive but primitias Spiritus, the first-fruits of the Spirit. Romans 8:23. At death the saints will arrive at perfection; their knowledge will be clear; their sanctity perfect; their sun will be in its full meridian splendour. They need not then pray for increase of grace; for they shall love God as much as they would love him, and as much as he desires to have them love him. They shall be in respect of holiness as the angels of God.
At death, the saints will gain a royal magnificent feast.
Believers at death shall gain honor and dignity; they shall reign as kings. When all worldly honor shall lie in the dust, the mace, the star, the robe of ermine, the imperial diadem, then shall the saints’ honor remain; not one jewel shall be plucked out of their crown. At death they shall gain a blessed eternity. If the saints could have the least suspicion or fear of losing their glory, it would cool and imbitter their joy; but their crown fadeth not away. 1 Peter 5:4. As the wicked have a worm that never dies, so the elect have a crown that never fades. Ever is a short word, but it has no end. “The things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. “At thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11. Who can span eternity? Millions of ages stand but for ciphers in eternity. Ever in Christ’s bosom is the elah, or highest strain of the saint’s glory.
Question. How come the saints to have all this gain?
Answer. They have a right to all this gain at death upon several accounts, as by virtue of the Father’s donation, the Son’s purchase, the Holy Ghost’s earnest and faiths acceptance. Therefore, the state of future glory is called the saint’s proper inheritance. Colossians 1:12. They are heirs of God and have a right to inherit.
Use 1. See the great difference between the death of the godly and the wicked. The godly are great gainers, but the wicked are great losers at death. They lose four things:
They lose the world; and that is a great loss to the wicked. They laid up their treasures upon earth, and to be turned out of it all at once is a great loss.
They lose their souls. Matthew 16:26-27. The soul was at first a noble piece of coin, upon which God stamped his own image. This celestial spark is more precious than the whole globe of the world; but the sinner’s soul is lost: not that the souls of the wicked are annihilated at death, but tormented.
They lose heaven. Heaven is sedes beatorum, the royal seat of the blessed; it is the region of happiness, the map of perfection. There is the manna which is angel’s food; there is the garden of spices, the bed of perfumes, the river of pleasure. Sinners at death, lose all these.
They lose all hope. Though they lived wickedly, they hoped God would be merciful, and they hoped they should go to heaven. Their hope was not an anchor, but a spider’s web. At death they lose their hopes, and see they did but flatter themselves into hell. “Whose hope shall be cut off.” Job 8:14. It is sad to have life and hope cut off together.
Use 2. If saints gain such glorious things at death, well may they desire it. Does not every one desire preferment? Faith gives a title to heaven; death gives the possession. Though we should be desirous of doing service here, yet we should be ambitious of being with Christ. Philippians 1:23. We should be content to live, but willing to die. Is it not a blessed thing to be freed from sin, and to live forever in the bosom of divine love? Is it not a blessed thing to meet our godly relations in heaven, and to be singing divine anthems of praise among the angels? Does not the bride desire the marriage day, especially if she has the prospect of a crown? What is the place we now live in, but a place of banishment from God? We are in a wilderness, while angels live at court. Here we are combatting with Satan, and should we not desire to be out of the bloody field, where the bullets of temptation fly fast, and receive a victorious crown? Think what it will be to have always a smiling look from Christ’s face! To be brought into the banquet-house, and have the banner of love displayed over us!
O ye saints, desire death; it is your ascension-day to heaven. Egredere, anima, egredere! said Hilarion on his death-bed, “Go forth, my soul, Go forth!” Another holy man said, “Lord, lead me to that glory which I have seen through a glass; haste, Lord, and do not tarry.” Some plants thrive best when they are transplanted; so believers, when transplanted by death, cannot but thrive, because they have Christ’s sunbeam shining upon them. What though the passage through the valley of the shadow of death be troublesome! Who would not be willing to pass a tempestuous sea, if he were sure to be crowned so soon as he came to shore!
The above abridged quotations illustrate something of what will be found in full throughout the whole 221 pages of this work. We judge that the reader will not be long in coming to agree with Spurgeon’s opinion – “Thomas Watson’s ‘Body of Practical Divinity’ is one of the most precious and peerless works of the Puritans; and those best acquainted with it prize it most. Watson was one of the most concise, racy, illustrative, and suggestive of those eminent divines who made the Puritan age the Augustine period of evangelical literature.”
-“The Banner of Truth Magazine Issues 1-16, Sept. 1955-Aug. 1959.” The Banner of Truth Trust, pages 286-288.