“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Now we shall consider how God’s Providence will be of singular use to us in our dying hour: It will sweeten our death to us and greatly assist our faith in this last encounter. We find that when Jacob died, he reflected upon the dealings of God with him in the various providences of his life. In like manner, we find Joshua recording the providences of God when at the brink of the grave. They were the subject of his dying discourse. And I cannot but think it is a sweet close to the life of any Christian. It must needs sweeten the deathbed to recount there the several remarkable passages of God’s care and love to us from our beginning to that day, to reflect upon the mercies that went along with us all the way when we are come to the end of it. Oh, Christian, treasure up these instances for such a time as that is, that you may go out of the world blessing God for all the goodness and truth he has performed for you all your life long.
The time of death is when souls are usually most violently assaulted by Satan with horrid temptations and black suggestions. We may say of that figurative, as it is said of the natural serpent, “he never exerts his utmost rage till the last encounter,” and then his great design is to persuade the saints that God does not love them, has no care nor regard for them or their cries. Though they pray for ease and cry for sparing mercy, they see none comes. He handles them with as much roughness and severity as other men; yea, many of the vilest and most dissolute wretches endure less torments and are more gently handled than they. “There are no bands in their death,” whereas you must go through a long lane of sickness to the grave.
But what credit can these plausible tales of Satan obtain with a Christian who has been treasuring up all his life-long the memorials of God’s tender regard, both to his needs and prayers, and who has carefully marked the evident returns of his prayers and gracious condescensions of God to him from his beginning to that moment? In this case, his faith is mightily assisted by thousands of experiences which back and encourage it, and will not let the soul give up so easily a truth that he has so often felt and tasted. I am sure, says he, God has had a tender fatherly care of me ever since I became His. He never failed me yet in any former difficulty, and I cannot believe He will do so now. I know His love is like Himself, unchangeable. “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
At death, the saints are engaged in the last and one of the most eminent works of faith–even the committing of themselves into the hands of God–when they are launching forth into that vast eternity and entering into that new state which will make so great a change in a moment. Oh, what a sweet thing then it will be to close our lives with an honourable account of the ways of God, and to go out of the world blessing Him for all the mercies and truth that He has performed to us! – John Flavel