Sermons in Gravestones!

A small volume of Spurgeon’s collected sermons is titled “Sermons in Stones”. It uses illustrations from nature and history and geology and mineralogy to base a series of Christian sermons on.

In the course of my family researches I have spent a great deal of time searching the cemetery and reading the inscriptions on headstones.tombstones-in-graveyard

No doubts for many, Cemeteries are dreary depressing places; sometimes I find them so as well.

From the Christian as well as historical perspective they are places of great interest and full of meaning. They are after all; all that most people leave behind to testify their existence and mark their passing, at least as far as the general public are concerned.

In our local cemeteries the classic headstone is becoming a thing of the past except for the few who can afford it or desire to express their love despite the cost.

In looking at many of the older gravestones they are inscribed sometimes with more than just name, birth and death dates.

Some record the cause of death for example, as a mining accident. I found one young man’s grave who died in a mine fall in the late 1850’s at little Bendigo not far from where I live, he was only 23.

Death due mine accident was common in Ballarat; my great, great grandfather was killed in a mine accident in 1898.

Some Gravestones give the cause of Death, death by drowning, death by railway accident or by car, even death by sunstroke. Some people whose sons were killed overseas in the First World War and were buried there added their son’s names to their family grave here.

(The puritans used to say that you would always find a grave your size in the “churchyard”.)

Some mark the place of their birth. Many people of “Cornish “descent came to Australia and Ballarat to engage in gold prospecting and mining. (Some of my forebears came from Redruth, although their family was English originally. Some of my family came from a place called Sancreed in Cornwall. Some from Devon and Somerset)

Others in the cemetery originated from various places in the British Isles and other European countries. There are also many of Chinese descent as well.

The Cornish people were largely “Methodists” and their gravestones testify to their faith in Christ and hope of the resurrection and second coming of Christ. They are not alone in that many a believers’ grave is inscribed with a verse from a hymn, scripture text or Christian hope.

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When one reads a Christian witness like this it is like a candle in the midst of death’s darkness and we can only pray that we could leave a like Christian testimony behind us.

Others seek to testify to their love for their departed parents, wife or child others wish for their peace and rest after trials and sickness in life.

Others leave behind a testimony to their being freemasons. You often find the wife will have a small cross above her name and the husband will have a “compass “above his. I confess I shudder when I see this because although some older professing Christians are members of a Masonic lodge, it is my firm conviction that free masonry is contradictory to Christianity.

Many modern grave plaques testify to the person’s devotion to golf or fishing. Others profess their religious devotion to a particular football team.

I do wonder what comfort their relatives get by the remembrance of this “profession of faith”.

Unless alive at the Lord’s return, we will all get a grave or if cremated a container. The Lord Jesus Himself had a tomb but because death could not hold him it is an empty one.

It is because of this glorious fact of history that those who die in Christ will not remain in the grave but will rise again to be ever with the Lord.

Woe to those who die with no greater hope but that their football team will keep winning Grand finals or that the fish they chase all their lives will finally get caught.

 

I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be up at the cemetery on the day Christ returns and see the various reactions among the people to the sight of Christ in His Glory. Some of the people will rejoice to be united again with their resurrected bodies and their glorious Lord. The rest will wish that they had stayed in their graves.

Let us pray that we will be found among those who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that we can leave behind us testimony and a witness to our belief and faith in him.

A Christless sermon is a worthless sermon.

It is like bread made without flour: the essential element is lacking.

Of such a sermon we may say — “They have taken away my Lord,

and I know not where they have laid him.” The writer is of the

same mind as John Berridge, who wrote, —

“Some fast by Calvin hold,

Some for Arminius fight,

And each is mighty bold,

And seemeth surely right:

‘Well, though with Calvin I agree,

Yet Christ is all in all to me.”

Quoted by C.H. Spurgeon in the “Salt Cellars”.

“Do-Gooders”

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”  Titus 3:1-8

Although not justified in God’s sight by the good works we have done, the Christian is to be known by what they do as much as by what they say.

Paul in the last years of his life and ministry seeks to impress upon Titus the need to persevere in exhorting his congregation to live holy, useful and Christ-like lives.

In this portion He hammers home the need for Christians to be good citizens and submissive to authority and government in lawful things. (It is only when obedience to man conflicts with obedience to God that we are to obey God rather than man.)

Our obedience to God shows itself in our obedience to those He has placed in authority over us and in the believer’s readiness and willingness for every good work.

It is also show by their avoiding of quarrelsomeness and exhibiting gentleness and courtesy, even in the most difficult situations.

Paul reminds us all, that by nature we are born sinners like those around us and full of the selfish and frictional tendencies which provoke hostility and conflict.

It is only the grace of God working in us that makes us to differ and seek to emulate those characteristics which abounded to the full in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We owe all to the great mercy and love of Christ who contrary to our deserts, suffered and died in our stead and reconciled us to God.

Through Him we have an eternal hope which colours our attitude to this present world and prompts us to live the heavenly life, here and now.

This scriptural reminder of the foundation of Christianity and its visible expression to the people around us, is one to which we need to pay close attention today.

Many “Christians” so called are regarded by the people around them as being little different from themselves and judge them as being motivated by the same earthy considerations and pleasures as everyone else.

This is one reason why the message of Salvation is disregarded and the Church relegated to merely the place for weddings and funerals.

Perhaps if we were the Christians we should be, we would see our friends and neighbors drawn to like faith in Christ.

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Sermons in Gravestones!

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