Recently I was informed that a good friend was in the last stage of terminal cancer. He is a fine Christian man and I was able to speak to him over the telephone to encourage him in these remaining weeks before he goes to his eternal reward. We have been learning a new hymn in Sheffield Presbyterian Church, one that was written by a man who spent most of his life in Sheffield. The hymn is 'Forever with the Lord' and the man is James Montgomery. As I discussed the realities of eternal life that only comes through Jesus Christ our Lord, with my friend, we discussed the words of this hymn; they seemed to give him great hope and confidence in the biblical promises of the New Jerusalem!
Here is the first verse of the hymn:
‘FOR ever with the Lord!’
Amen, so let it be!
Life from the dead is in that word,
Here in the body pent, absent from Him I roam,
yet nightly pitch my moving tent a day’s march nearer home.
The last line is humbling but also thrilling. If you are a Christian who is reading this blog post then you should be encouraged to know that you are 'a day's march nearer home'. This last phrase is the title of a new autobiography edited by Iain Murray on the life of J. Graham Miller (J. Graham Miller, 'A Day's March Nearer Home: Autobiography of J. Graham Miller', edited by Iain Murray, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2010).
Later in this hymn, in the last verse, we read:
So when my latest breath shall rend the veil in twain,
by death I shall escape from death, and life eternal gain.
Hopefully, this hymn can pastorally help us all to overcome the fear of death because James Montgomery the author (1771-1854) has longed since escaped death but it is through death that we must enter the true promised land of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. If anyone is interested in the life of James Montgomery there is a good short biography that is published by DayOne Publications. Paul S. Taylor 'James Montgomery: A Man for all People', 2010. There is a providential link with Montgomery and who lived and worked in Sheffield for most of his life. There is a statue to honour the man's life outside Sheffield Cathedral in Sheffield's city centre.
Let us all heed the exhortation and warning from the last chapter of the last book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev. 22:12-17)