A great man of the world, a prominent figure, an outstanding character has “crossed the Stygian ferry!” Our nation mourns his death, many nations join with us in their expressions of sorrow and sympathy and even those nations which are in their death-throe in the struggle which besets the world must admit his greatness.
Never before in the history of our country has there been a man who aspired to and obtained the vote of the majority which placed him in the highest office of the land for a possible four consecutive terms. But the sand in the hourglass of life has run out and the bills of mortality became due and were paid, nature collected her debt and he has passed on to the Stygian shore before that fourth term could be scarcely more than begun. And with all the pomp, dignity and solemnity befitting his rank, his mortal coil has been placed in the necropolis—the city of the dead.
To the members of the armed forces he was commander-in-chief, to the citizens of this nation he was the president, to the oppressed who received material benefits through means which he devised or promoted, he was a great humanitarian, to his political friends and enemies he was a shrewd politician, to his social acquaintances he was a charming personality, but—to God he was a son of Adam conceived and born from the womb of sin and iniquity whose breath was in his nostrils and who could no more than the lowliest peasant say to the Giver of life and the Sender of death, “What doest Thou?”
Hailed as a defender and promoter of democracy not only for this nation but for the whole world, he has gone to and succumbed to a true type of democracy—the democracy of the grave! For truly the grave is dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal! In that narrow house are no more rulers and subjects, bond-men or free, rich or poor. No more ranks, although the polished marble headstone may be inscribed with facts pertaining to the past but which are powerless to continue that rank or station unto that land which lies beyond.
And it matters not whether your cerement be a ragged loin cloth, a soldier’s blanket or the purple robe. The democracy of the grave knows of no distinction. That yawning hole receives them all alike whether they be borne there by springless caisson or fall into that cadaverous abyss by the crack of the executioner’s rifle. She cares not for age nor youth, race, color or creed. She is a sarcophagus glutton whose appetite cannot be satisfied. And even now as we walk on this side she has laid her claim upon this mortal body. And the tips of her icy fingers even now clutch out and daily we approach nearer to her abode. Some she clasps with startling suddenness to her icy breast while others seem almost miraculously to escape her horrible clutch for many, many years. Yet inevitably and mercilessly she catches them all. Death is her henchman and relentlessly he stalks his prey and casts his unwilling victims into her ravenous and voracious mouth.
And that grave is waiting for you and for me. That henchman—death—is stalking us night and day and we know not when he shall fall upon us and we shall be borne to that abode of the dead! Dare you, my friend, lay you down to sleep? Dare you spend your waking hours in vanity? What shall we say and how shall we evaluate these inevitabilities? No beautiful dirge, no man-made eulogy, no sweet smelling flower bedecked bier or richly embroidered coffin can remove that sting or lessen the anguish of those who remain! No sophistry of the world, no fine poetical rhetoric or references to mythical gods of the ancients, as we have done in our introduction, can comfort when the grave claims her own! And if you have sought to thus reassure yourself, my friend, beware when you lay you down to sleep or even pursue your daily tasks!
But, there is a deliverance, though not an escape, from that grave. There is One Who came down from heaven and also entered into that grave and conquered both death and the grave and through faith in Him we too may believe that that grave no longer has its victory over us. Let us stand in awe at the mighty Hand of God Who brings destruction and confusion unto man who will not bow his stiff neck in humble submission and child like trust.
Happy is that people who has such a conception and assurance of the purpose of death and the grave.