Arthur N. Lawrence
Lisbon Falls, Aug. 17, 1963
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” – Revelation 2:10
It is hard to conceive of a theme which comes closer to our hearts or makes us think more deeply than that which is concerned with the end of our career in this world and our entrance into the eternal world, in which all who are prepared become eternally happy.
Without a knowledge of the Lord and of His Divine providence over us, as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures, life here cannot be understood.
The first thing that the Bible tells us is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and finally man in the image and likeness of his Creator. Then man was commanded to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.
It is a beautiful world that has been created for us, a world that is able to satisfy our every physical need and desire if we but seek to understand and master it. In symbolic language God tells us, “And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it,” and “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” These words beautifully describe the real situation. We are God’s tenants and caretakers here. We are to subdue the earth, to dress it and to keep it. We are to study it, to enjoy it, and to make the best use we can of it. It is a wonderful task and God has endowed mankind with the capacities which will enable him to carry out His commands.
Men have tried to learn and carry out God’s will. And those who have done so have found tokens of the Lord’s presence among them, and they have learned to do their work faithfully in His service. And they have found life happy and their labors blessed.
What then? When life here is finished, what is to become of these faithful servants, these children of our Heavenly Father, who have felt His presence, and have been made happy by Him? We cannot make sense out of the world if we do not believe in immortality.
Belief in God and in a life after death existed before the Lord’s advent into the world. There has been always and everywhere among all peoples belief in a future existence. But we should not confuse this belief with the belief that came into the world through Jesus Christ. That former belief – for centuries back at least – was of the vaguest description. It amounted to very little more than that our present existence does not come entirely to an end at death.
Throughout the Bible it is taught that man lives after death. Hosea writes, “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up.” And through His resurrection the Lord teaches us that life is continuous. He took on a body like ours, was born as a babe and lived through maturity to reveal to us the way of life.
If we would know the reality of anything, we must get back of sense impressions. The things of the spirit are the real things. There is no fact, however simple, but has something within it as its soul which gives it reality. Rocks, water, trees have something back of them. The human body has something back of it, the human soul, and back of this is God. God, the soul, eternal life – these are no longer mysteries; they are facts, facts of life, realities.
The inner world of the spirit has been revealed many times. The eyes of Elisha’s servant were opened – not the eyes of his body, but of his soul – and he saw into the world of spirit. At the Advent the inner eyes of the shepherds were opened, and they saw about them angels, and heard their words. At the Transfiguration the three Apostles, Peter, James, and John saw the real Christ, not the envelope of His material body which shut His glory out from view.
The things of the spiritual world, the things that outreach the testimony of the senses are the real and living things. We should have no doubt about this. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
We are precious in our Heavenly Father’s sight. He did not create us to destroy us, but that He may bless us to eternity. There are deep philosophic grounds for belief in the life after death. And in the light of common sense it is necessary. Knowledge of it affects our lives, our purposes, our character. Without this knowledge we wander far from the highway of life.
Our friend had no doubts about the continuation of life after the death of the body. He was not afraid. There is no need of my telling you about him. His kindness, his gentleness, his desire to serve the community without any thought of personal gain, his devotion to his family, to his Church, and above all to the Lord Jesus Christ are known to you all.
The last few years have not been easy for him because of severe physical disabilities, but he never complained because he knew that the Divine providence is over all. “Our times are in the Lord’s hands” and it is well that it is so. Now the bright gate has been opened for him. He is restored to health and is stepping forward into a new and beautiful world, where one after another he will welcome those who love him.
Arthur Lawrence holds a place in our hearts and in our memories. And he will always hold this place. We shall think of him often with gratitude for his life among us and for his uses to us and to this community. We are glad that he has lived among us.
Now our thoughts should be of the greater activity, usefulness, and happiness into which he is entering. We should never be sorry for those who pass on. There is the inevitable sorrow for our loss, but we should know that those who pass on do not want us to grieve over them but to live out our lives in happiness, knowing that the Lord has still work for us to do here.
Our Heavenly Father, in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, who hast formed us that we might come more and more into Thine image and likeness, to the end that Thou mayest take us to our eternal home to live in the happiness that can come only in Thy close presence, open our minds to a truer understanding of Thy Word and of Thy purposes for us.
We thank Thee for the friend now taken from our visible presence, through whom Thou hast so mercifully blessed us. Grant that we may profitably read the lesson of life and save the good which Thou hast planted through him. Bless us with faithfulness and devotion, that when our work is finished, we may enter with peaceful hearts into the joy of Thee, our Lord.