“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
In today’s text, English translators twice use the present active state of being verb “is.” The Greek text literally reads, “For me to live, Christ, to die, gain.” The Apostle Paul’s focus while living on earth was to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever his physical death would occur, that would be profitable resulting in great gain.
The Apostle Paul summarized his life with these eight words. Today’s text could well summarize, and be the lasting legacy of, Jonathan Edwards.
Shortly after assuming the presidency of Princeton College, there was an outbreak of smallpox. The Mayo Clinic explains that smallpox is a contagious, disfiguring and often deadly disease that has affected humans for thousands of years. Symptoms include fever, overall discomfort, headache, severe fatigue, severe back pain and possible vomiting.
Naturally occurring smallpox was wiped out worldwide by 1980 — the result of an unprecedented global immunization campaign. However, in the 18th century smallpox was common and deadly.
With the sudden outbreak of the infectious disease, Edwards chose to be inoculated with a smallpox vaccine. However, lesions in his mouth and throat caused by the disease prevented him from swallowing. Consequently, his inability to drink a sufficient amount of fluids to combat a fever resulted in his death.
Shortly before his death, Edwards spoke to his daughter Lucy. He said, “Dear Lucy. It seems to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you. Therefore give my kindest regards to my dear wife and tell her that the uncommon union, which as so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever. I hope she will be supported under so great a trial and submit cheerfully to the will of God. As to my children, you are now likely to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.”
Like his late son-in-law Aaron Burr, Sr., Edwards did not want his funeral to involve excessive pomp and cost. He preferred funeral expenses to be used for other charitable means.
Edwards’ last spoken words were “Now, where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never-failing Friend” and “Trust in God, and you need not fear.”
In a letter from Edwards’ Princeton physician to Sarah Edwards, dated March 22, 1758, it says, “This afternoon, between two and three o’clock, it pleased God to let him sleep in that dear Lord Jesus, whose kingdom and interest he has been faithfully and painfully serving all his life. Never did any mortal man more fully and clearly evidence the sincerity of all his professions, by one continued, universal, calm, cheerful resignation and patient submission to the Divine will through each stage of his disease. Death had certainly lost its sting to him.”
Upon receiving the news of her husband’s death, Sarah Edwards wrote, “What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.”
Echoing Sarah Edwards’ words, we are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!