On Death
Psalm 23:4
Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me…

This Psalm exhibits the pleasing picture of a pious man rejoicing in the goodness of heaven. He looks round him on his state, and his heart overflows with gratitude. Amidst the images of tranquillity and happiness one object presents itself which is sufficient to overcast the mind and to damp the joy of the greatest part of men; that is, the approach of death. With perfect composure and serenity the Psalmist looks forward to the time when he is to pass through the "valley of the shadow of death." The prospect, instead of dejecting him, appears to heighten his triumph, by that security which the presence of his Almighty Guardian afforded him. Such is the happy distinction which good men enjoy in a situation the most formidable to human nature. That threatening aspect which appalls others, carries no terror to them. Let us consider what death is in itself, and by what means good men are enabled to meet it with fortitude. It may be considered in three views. As the separation of the soul from the body. As the conclusion of the present life. As the entrance into a new state of existence. The terrors of death are, in fact, the great guardians of life. They excite in every individual that desire of self-preservation which is nature's first law. They reconcile him to bear the distresses of life with patience. They prompt him to undergo its useful and necessary labours with alacrity; and they restrain him from many of those evil courses by which his safety would be endangered. If death were not dreaded and abhorred as it is by many, no public order could be preserved in the world...To preserve it within such bounds that it shall not interrupt us in performing the proper offices and duties of life is the distinction of the brave man above the coward, and to surmount it in such a degree that it shall not, even in near prospect, deject our spirit or trouble our peace, is the great preference which virtue enjoys above guilt. It has been the study of the wise and reflecting, in every age, to attain this steadiness of mind. Philosophy pursued it as its chief object; and professed that the chief end of its discipline was to enable its votaries to conquer the fear of death. In what lights does death appear most formidable to mankind.

1. As the termination of our present existence; the final period of all its joys and hopes. The dejection into which we are apt to sink at such a juncture will bear proportion to the degree of our attachment to the objects which we leave, and to the importance of those resources which remain with us when they are gone.

2. As the gate which opens into eternity. Under this view it has often been the subject of terror to the serious and reflecting. We must not judge of the sentiments of men at the approach of death by their ordinary train of thought in the days of health and ease. Their views of moral conduct are then too often superficial. Here appears the great importance of those discoveries which Christianity has made concerning the government of the universe. It displays the ensigns of grace and clemency. What completes the triumph of good men over death is the prospect of eternal felicity. To those who have lived a virtuous life, and who die in the faith of Christ, the whole aspect of death is changed. Death is no longer the tyrant who approaches with an iron rod, but the messenger that brings the tidings of life and liberty.

(Hugh Blair, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Looking into the Great Abyss
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