Have You Any Hope in Death?
My attention has often been arrested by the many contrasts between the death of the unrighteous and the death of the faithful child of God. The writer of Proverbs presented this contrast when he wrote: “The wicked is banished in his wickedness, but the righteous has a refuge (hath hope, KJV) in his death” (Proverbs 14:32). Many have been the incidents which have illustrated this great truth.
One illustration of such was manifested in a conversation which occurred on the beautiful hills at a place not far from where this is being written. The conversation took place in the early 1800’s at what is now Bethany, West Virginia (Brooke County). The conversants were Robert Owen, noted skeptic of the nineteenth century, and Alexander Campbell, gospel preacher. Owen and Campbell were at Bethany, Campbell's home, planning their upcoming debate. One day, as they were out walking while discussing plans for the debate, they came to Campbell's family cemetery. Owen stopped, turned to Campbell and said, “There is one advantage I have over the Christians-I am not afraid to die. Most Christians have fear in death, but if some few items of my business were settled, I should be perfectly willing to die at any moment.”
Campbell then answered, “You say you have no fear in death: have you any hope in death?” After a solemn pause Owen answered, “No.” “Then,” rejoined Campbell (pointing to an ox standing near), “You are on the level of that brute. He has fed till he is satisfied, and stands in the shade whisking off the flies, and has neither hope nor fear in death” (Richardson 242-243).
Christianity provides the most sensible, rewarding way to live now, but it also looks beyond, takes the gloom out of the grave, and gives a hope steadfast and sure.
Richardson, Robert. Memoirs of Alexander Campbell. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1870.