Death: No Fear Of It, For You Follow God
The Sunday School books emphasize the gravity of death, but also remind us that we have nothing to fear from earthly suffering and death if we have faith in God. Secular works are not able to claim this same sense of confidence, showing instead a terror of hell, or the unknown which unbelievers must fear. Many of the Sunday School books in the collection deal with the harsh realities of death, portraying them as something awful which should sober, but not terrify those who have faith in Christ.
One of the Sunday School books discusses earthly torture and death in the context of the Tower of London:
As a prison, the Tower has kept in captivity the bodies of men, but it never yet could confine their souls, nor withhold the follower of the Redeemer from entering into glory. Let us, then, fear neither dungeons, nor bonds, nor chains, but trust in Him who hears 'the groaning of the prisoner,' and proclaims 'liberty to the captive'.
Though death is indeed awful, God rescues His people. Christians have nothing to fear from torture, for all it can lead to is death, and all death leads to is eternal life. It is through faith that death is no longer something that can maintain a hold on Christians. Rather, even in death there is life.
However, without faith, life in death is not a reality. As a result, secular works display a horror and a right dismay at the prospect of death. James Harvey’s Meditations Among the Tombs says of those who are about to die, “the wicked seem to lie here, like malefactors, in a deep and strong dungeon reserved against the day of trial. ‘Their departure was without peace.’ Clouds of horror sat lowering upon their closing eyelids, most sadly foreboding the ‘blackness of darkness forever’.” Death for them was a horror that only precluded more horrors. There is nothing beyond it; no continuation of a soul, because death is the end. As a result, death is something to be feared by those who believe that there is nothing beyond it.
Death in the Sunday School books was not something to be feared to the same extent as in the secular books. While it is horrible and dreadful, for Christians it is the gateway to heaven. For nonbelievers, however, it is the end of all that they know. Both the comfort of heaven and the idea of salvation come as takeaways for the readers of the Sunday School books. It is important to recognize that death is a reality and that there is tragedy within it. There is nothing that suggests otherwise within the plotlines within the collection. While the Sunday School books themselves strive to show the comfort and safety in death that is only obtained through the death of Jesus Christ, they also remind the reader that it is only through faith that the comfort and safety can be gained. Without faith, death is an unknown, a misery, and a tragedy that no one can escape.
For other Sunday School books that exemplify this theme, in addition to those mentioned above, see The Sin of Cruelty Exposed and Rebuked, The Ruined Deacon A True Story, Easy Lessons for the Little Ones at Home, Are You Going to the Circus. African Orphan Boy, and The Village Funeralin the collection here:
James Harvey. Meditations and Contemplations. London. 1851. Print.
Unknown. The Tower of London. American Tract Society, 18--. Print.