When Solomon wrote that it’s better to go into the house of mourning than mirth—that funerals really are better than frat parties—he meant it as a reminder to number our days so we could appreciate how valuable life is. Meditating on death does not need to be a sorrowful endeavor. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There is a kind of joy that makes one serious.” That holds true, for true and lasting joy does make one serious about the time spent. God created us to find our supreme and lasting joy in Christ.
“Words and actions are transient things, and being once past, are nothing; but the effect of them on an immortal soul may be endless.”
― Richard Baxter, Dying Thoughts
I came across this little book by Richard Baxter when my fiancée and I, along with some friends, decided to go through the Tim Challies 2019 reading challenge.
Though short, it has been a wellspring of encouragement as I dwell on life, death, and days to come.
Baxter was an English Puritan who lived in the 17th century; and he wrote Dying Thoughts at an aged 76. Reflecting on Philippians 1:21 (“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”), Baxter wrote his book after losing many friends to old age, sickness, and martyrdom. In light of his age, and his life, Dying Thoughts makes a powerful read and an insightful look into the mind of a man who wanted to ensure his love for Christ was genuine.
Baxter examines himself, confesses weaknesses, asks forgiveness, and encourages us to do the same while also calling us to find our hope and joy in Christ.
Nothing morbid is to be found in Baxter’s focus on death. There’s neither frivolity nor callous jokes—simply an old preacher dwelling on the implications of “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
And as Baxter’s book lacks morbidity, so does my reading it. His book is a sobering reminder.