Something to Think About: 2

We have observed how men and women who have given themselves to God--who earnestly love and obey Him--have died. They confidently declared at the portals of death, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me." (Psalm 23:4).

The Apostle Paul said, "To die is gain" (Philippians 1:21), and "O death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). But to so many others death is a fearsome, dreadful thing.

So now the entire picture changes. We leave the deathbeds of Christians and visit the deathbeds of atheists.

Aristotle wrote: "Death is a dreadful thing, for it is the end!"

John Donne, the English author, wrote: "Death is a bloody conflict and no victory at last; a tempestuous sea, and no harbor at last; a slippery height and no footing; a desperate fall and no bottom!"

Rousseau cried, "No man dares to face death without fear."

The infidel, Robert Ingersoll, when standing at the grave of his brother, said, "Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the height. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word."

After the death of Alexander the Great one of his generals, Ptolemy Philadelphus, inherited Egypt and lived a selfish life amid wealth and luxury. As he grew old, he was haunted by the fear of death, and even sought in the lore of Egyptian priests the secret of eternal life. One day, seeing a beggar lying content in the sun, Ptolemy said, "Alas, that I was not born one of these!"

We shall discover that the last words of the atheists are far different than those who love and honor their Creator. For example, when Phineas T. Barnum, the famous circus showman of yesteryear, died in his 82nd year, his last words were a question about the big show's gate receipts at their latest Madison Square Garden performance. Then he was gone!

But, for most atheists, their concerns are far more dramatic. Here are the dying words of atheists:

Voltaire, the most influential atheist of Europe in his day, cried out with his dying breath: "I am abandoned by God and man; I shall go to hell! I will give you half of what I am worth, if you will give me six months life."

Honore Mirabeau, a leading political organizer of the French Revolution: "My sufferings are intolerable: I have in me a hundred years of life, but not a moment's courage. Give me more laudanum, that I may not think of eternity! O Christ, O Jesus Christ!"

Mazarin, French cardinal and advisor to kings: "O my poor soul! what will become of thee? Wither wilt thou go?"

Severus, Roman emperor who caused the death of thousands of Christians: "I have been everything; and everything is nothing!"

Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher and sceptic who corrupted some of England's great men: "If I had the whole world, I would give anything to live one day. I shall be glad to find a hole to creep out of the world at. I am about to take a fearful leap in the dark!"

Caesar Borgia: "I have provided, in the course of my life, for everything except death; and now, alas! I am to die, although entirely unprepared!"

Sir Thomas Scott, chancellor of England: "Until this moment, I thought there was neither God nor hell; now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty!"

Edward Gibbon, author of "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire": "All is dark and doubtful!"

Sir Francis Newport, the head of an English infidel club to those gathered around his deathbed: "You need not tell me there is no God for I know there is one, and that I am in His presence! You need not tell me there is no hell. I feel myself already slipping. Wretches, cease your idle talk about there being hope for me! I know I am lost forever! Oh, that fire! Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!"

M.F. Rich: "Terrible horrors hang over my soul! I have given my immortality for gold; and its weight sinks me into a hopeless, helpless Hell!"

Thomas Paine, the leading atheistic writer in American colonies: "I would give worlds if I had them, that The Age of Reason had never been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! . . No, don't leave; stay with me! Send even a child to stay with me; for I am on the edge of Hell here alone. If ever the Devil had an agent, I have been that one."

Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor who brought death to millions to satisfy his selfish plans: "I die before my time, and my body will be given back to the earth. Such is the fate of him who has been called the great Napoleon. What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ!"

Aldamont, the infidel: "My principles have poisoned my friend; my extravagance has beggared my boy; my unkindness has murdered my wife. And is there another hell yet ahead?"

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln: "Useless! Useless! The terrors before me!"

Thomas Carlyle: "I am as good as without hope; a sad old man gazing into the final chasm."

David Strauss, leading representative of German rationalism, after spending a lifetime erasing belief in God from the minds of others: "My philosophy leaves me utterly forlorn! I feel like one caught in the merciless jaws of an automatic machine, not knowing at what time one of its great hammers may crush me!"

Tallyrand was one of the most cunning French political leaders of the Napoleonic era. On a paper found at his death were these words: "Behold eighty-three passed away! What cares! What agitation! What anxieties! What ill-will! What sad complications! And all without other results except great fatigue of mind and body, a profound sentiment of discouragement with regard to the future, and disgust with regard to the past!"

Some 15 years before his death, Mohandas K. Gandhi wrote: "I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism, as I know it, entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad and Upanishads."

Just before his death, Gandhi wrote: "My days are numbered. I am not likely to live very long-perhaps a year or a little more. For the first time in fifty years I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness; I am praying for light."

"What did you do to our daughter?" asked a Moslem woman, whose child had died at 16 years of age. "We did nothing," answered the missionary. "Oh, yes, you did," persisted the mother. "She died smiling. Our people do not die like that." The girl had found Christ and believed on Him a few months before. Fear of death had gone. Hope and joy had taken its place.

In a Newsweek interview with Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin, she told of her father's death: "My father died a difficult and terrible death . . God grants an easy death only to the just. . At what seemed the very last moment he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane or perhaps angry. . His left hand was raised, as though he were pointing to something above and bringing down a curse on us all. The gesture was full of menace. . The next moment he was dead."

Charles IX was the French king who, urged on by his mother, gave the order for the massacre of the Huguenots, in which 15,000 souls were slaughtered in Paris alone and 100,000 in other sections of France, for no other reason than that they loved Christ. The guilty king suffered miserably for years after that event. He finally died, bathed in blood bursting from his veins. To his physicians he said in his last hours:

"Asleep or awake, I see the mangled forms of the Huguenots passing before me. They drop with blood. They point at their open wounds. Oh! that I had spared at least the little infants at the breast! What blood! I know not where I am. How will all this end? What shall I do? I am lost forever! I know it. Oh, I have done wrong."

William E. Henley, an atheist, wrote a famous poem, the last two lines of which have often been quoted:

"Out of the night that covers me,
"Black as the pit from pole to pole,
"I thank whatever gods may be. 

"Beyond this place of wrath and tears
"Looms but the horror of the shade;
"And yet the menace of the years
"Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

"It matters not how strait the gate,
"How charged with punishment the scroll,
"I am the master of my fate;
"I am the captain of my soul."

Men who have been bold in their defiance of God have lauded Henley's poem, but most of them were not aware that William Henley later committed suicide.

Few men in Europe have tried to eradicate the Bible and the knowledge of God from the minds of the people as did the French infidel, Voltaire. The Christian physician who attended Voltaire during his last illness later wrote about the experience:

"When I compare the death of a righteous man, which is like the close of a beautiful day, with that of Voltaire, I see the difference between bright, serene weather and a black thunderstorm. It was my lot that this man should die under my hands. Often did I tell him the truth. 'Yes, my friend,' he would often say to me, 'you are the only one who has given me good advice. Had I but followed it, I should not be in the horrible condition in which I now am. I have swallowed nothing but smoke. I have intoxicated myself with the incense that turned my head. You can do nothing for me. Send me an insane doctor! Have compassion on me-! am mad!'

"I cannot think of it without shuddering. As soon as he saw that all the means he had employed to increase his strength had just the opposite effect death was constantly before his eyes. From this moment, madness took possession of his soul. He expired under the torments of the furies."

Well, we have looked at the hour of death. But the rest of our life is just as revealing.

An American tourist in France went to the hotel keeper to pay his bill. The French hotel keeper said, "Don't you want a receipt? you could be charged twice." "Oh, no," replied the American, "if God wills I will be back in a week. You can give me a receipt then."

"If God wills," smiled the hotel keeper, "do you still believe in God?" Why, yes," said the American, "don't you?" "No, said the hotel keeper, "we have given that up long ago."

"Oh," replied the American, "well, on second thought, I believe I'll take the receipt after all!"

It was over a century ago, and a man and his nephew were traveling west through the Colorado mountains. But they had lost their way, and finally came upon a cabin among the trees. The country was still wild, and they were nervous when they knocked on the door. Could they sleep for the night? they inquired.

As they prepared for bed, they heard low mumbling words in the adjoining room where the family (a husband, wife, and grown son) were. Almost in terror by now, the two men feared for their lives. They were carrying considerable money. What should they do? they only had one revolver.

After a time, they heard the chairs move, a shuffling, and more low mumbling. This must be it! A plot was afoot to kill them. With beads of sweat on his cold brow and hands, the nephew crept softly to the door and peered through the keyhole.

Coming back to the bed, his entire demeanor was changed. "Everything is all right," he whispered, and explained what he saw. Immediately both fell soundly asleep and did not wake until morning.

Through the keyhole the young man had seen the family kneeling. They had read from the Bible, pushed back their chairs, and were praying.

The two men knew they had nothing to fear; they were in the home of genuine Christians.

"Have you studied Voltaire, Tom Paine, Robert Ingersoll, or any of those fellows?" asked a passenger as he stood by the captain at the wheel of a steamship.

"No," replied the captain.

"Well, you should. You can't fairly turn down their argument until you have thoroughly investigated for yourself," the passenger replied.

"I've been captain of this ship a long time," said the captain. "The charts that I work with tell me the location of the deep water, so I can safely guide the ship into port. When I first became a sea captain, I decided that I would not investigate the rocks. The experience I've known other chaps to have with the rocks has been sufficient warning for me.

"Over the years I've watched the lives of men who have read the Bible everyday and loved God. Those were the men who had solid families, stayed away from drink, and helped other people in the community.

"And I've also seen the others: the drunkards, drug addicts, criminals, and all the rest. Those are the ones who have nothing to do with God and the Bible, and who never attend church.

"No, I've made my decision; I stay away from the rocks. My mother taught me the Bible when I was little, and I worship and serve the God of heaven who made all things. I'm not a bit interested in anything that Ingersoll, Voltaire, and Paine have to offer."

The preacher was on the street corner telling the passing crowds about Jesus Christ. A crowd had gathered and was listening intently. Then a hoarse voice spoke up from the back.

"Preacher, you've got it all wrong. Atheism is the answer to humanity's problems. People get into trouble and go crazy when they hear about Christianity. Religion is bad for minds and ruins lives. Come on now--prove to me that Christianity is real, and I'll be quiet."

Everyone was interested to see what would happen next. The preacher held up his hand for quiet, and then said this:

"Never did I hear anyone state, 'I was undone and an outcast, but I read Thomas Paine's Age of Reason and now I have been saved from the power of sin.' Never did I hear of one who declared, 'I was in darkness and despair and knew not where to turn, until I read Ingersoll's Lectures, and then found peace of heart and solutions to my problems.'

"Never did I hear an atheist telling that his atheism had been the means by which he had been set free from the bondage of liquor. Never did I learn of anyone who conquered hard drugs by renouncing faith in God.

"But I have heard many testify that, when as hopeless and helpless sinners, they had turned in their great need to the Son of God and cast themselves upon Him for forgiveness and enabling power to overcome sin-they were given peace of heart and victory over enslaving sin!"

Then, turning to the atheist, he said:

"Who starts the orphanages, the city missions, and the work among the poor? It is the Christians. Who owns and operates the taverns, and manufactures the liquor sold in them? It is the atheists. Who risk their lives to help poor people in mission fields all over the world? It is the Christians. Who runs the abortion mills and the houses of prostitution? It is the atheists. Who are the most solid, kindly, industrious people in the nation? It is the Christians. Who operates the gambling halls and the crime syndicates? It is the atheists.

"Who are the swindlers, bank robbers, and embezzlers? It is the atheists. Who helps men put away their sins, live to bless others, and prepares men for death and eternity? It is the Christians.

"Yes, professed Christians sometimes do bad things. But it is infrequent enough to be newsworthy. If an atheist does a criminal act, it is to be expected. But if a church leader does it--it will make the headlines, because it is such a rare event.

"What leads men to throw away the bottle and stop beating their wives? It is Christianity, not atheism. What saves the wayward girls, the teenage boys, and the rest of us out of lives of sin? It is Christianity, not atheism.

"Christianity offers eternal happiness that begins now. Atheism can only offer doubt, skepticism, a miserable end, and eternal death."

Then the crowd turned to the atheist to give an answer, but he was gone. He had crept away without answering a word.

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