Some words to a scared, dying man

Clement Read Vaughan, writing to his old friend who was about to die and fearing death, wondering if he’d have enough faith to die well. He gave the metaphor of a traveler coming to a chasm over which a bridge was built:

What does he do to breed confidence in the bridge? He looks at the bridge; he gets down and examines it. He don’t [sic] ┬ástand at the bridge-head and turn his thoughts curiously in on his own mind to see if he has confidence in the bridge. If his examination of the bridge gives him a certain amount of confidence, and yet he wants more, how does he make his faith grow? Why, in the same way; he still continues to examine the bridge. Now, my dear old man, let your faith take care of itself for awhile, and you just think of what you are allowed to trust in. Think of the Master’s power, think of his love; think how he is interested in the soul that searches for him, and will not be comforted until he finds him. Think of what he has done, his work. That blood of his is mightier than all the sins of all the sinners that ever lived. Don’t you think it will master yours?…

Now, dear old friend, I have done to you just what I would want you to do to me if I were lying in your place. The great theologian, after all, is just like any other one of God’s children, and the simple gospel talked to him is just as essential as it is to a milk-maid of a plow-boy. May God give you grace, not to lay too much stress on your faith, but to grasp the great ground of confidence, Christ, and all his work and all his personal fitness to be a sinner’s refuge. Faith is only an eye to see him. I have been praying that God would quiet your pains as you advance, and enable you to see the gladness of the gospel at every step. Good-bye. God be with you as he will. Think of the Bridge!

Your brother,


From Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon, cited from The Life And Letters Of Robert Lewis Dabney (1903), by┬áThomas Cary Johnson

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