The Death of a Baby
Percy John Henry Topping: Born 26 March 2015; died 4 April 2015. Aged 9 days
An address given at Bethel Chapel, Luton by Mr. Ben A. Ramsbottom, on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 at the funeral service.
Readings: Mark 10:14; Job 19:25-27; Job 1:21; Psalm 23; Jeremiah 31:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 5l-57.
Hymns: ‘Sovereign Ruler of the skies’ (Tune: Chester); ‘Around the throne of God in heaven’ (Tune: Singing Glory).
Beloved friends, there is an exceedingly beautiful verse in the Gospels, and it is this: ‘And Jesus called a little child unto him.’ And that is the reason why we are here today. Jesus. It is the desire of Adrian and Rhoda Topping that the crown might be put on the head of the Lord Jesus today for what he has done and the help that he has given to them, for the gift of dear little Percy, and the sweet hope that now he is for ever with the Lord.
There is a great mystery in it – why a tiny child should be born into this world and almost immediately taken out of it. We cannot understand the Lord’s ways. He does work in a mysterious way, but it is not mysterious to him, and we know this: that the Lord Jesus makes no mistakes, and that all that he does is not only in a way of infinite wisdom and divine sovereignty, but also in grace, also in love. It is the Lord Jesus who has been so kind and so gracious to Adrian and Rhoda at this time – the answer to their prayers, the answer to the prayers of so many of the brethren, sweetly proving that the consolations of God are not small; that miracle of grace that the world knows nothing of, that in the depths of sorrow, through the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost the divine Comforter, the Lord’s people can know peace, and they can be satisfied that what the Lord does is right.
But our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ died and rose again. In dying and rising again he took the sting from death, the victory from the grave for all his people. What a death his was! We have to say:
Thine was a bitter death indeed,
Thou harmless, suffering Lamb of God!
Thou hast from hell Thy people freed,
And drowned destruction in Thy blood.
And beloved friends, that is the ground upon which we believe in infant salvation – not on the grounds of innocence, because death is the result of sin and all sin in Adam our federal head. ‘Sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.’ It is on the grounds of the merit and finished work of the dear Redeemer that we believe today that dear little Percy is in heaven.
I am sure many of you will be familiar with that well-known word. I think originally it was found on a gravestone in Bunhill Fields, and it is this:
Bold infidelity, turn pale and die.
Under this stone a baby’s body lies;
Say, is he lost or saved?
If death’s by sin, he sinned, for he lies here;
If heaven’s by works, in heaven he can’t appear;
Ah reason, how depraved!
Revere the Bible! (sacred page) the knot’s untied;
He died, for Adam sinned; he lives, for Jesus died.
But that beautiful word: ‘Jesus called a little child unto him.’ ”Tis but the voice that Jesus sends, to call them to His arms.’ And this is what seemed very beautiful to me: ‘Jesus called a little child unto him’ – unto himself. Well, you say, dear little Percy, where has the Lord Jesus called him to? To die; to the grave; to heaven; to himself.
There are many very blessed descriptions of heaven in the Word of God, but I am sure there is nothing more blessed than this: being called to himself, to his loving arms. That is what Stephen saw, the martyr Stephen. It was a bitter death; it was a terrible death. O, but he said, ‘Behold, I see … the Son of man standing on the right hand of God’ – the only time we ever read of the Lord Jesus standing after his death and resurrection. He ‘sat down on the right hand of God,’ because his work was etrnally finished. But it appears that when a sinner saved by grace enters into heaven, the dear Saviour stands there, waiting to receive him. So it is this: unto himself, his loving arms
‘I’ll take these little lambs,’ He cries,
‘And fold them to My breast.
On the sweet bosom of My love
They shall for ever rest.’
It truly is, ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His loving breast.’
Dear Adrian and Rhoda, I thought about a word for you also, and it came to me like this: this same Lord Jesus, that stormy sea, that tempest, that ocean, but Jesus lovingly, sovereignly, majestically walking over it right where his disciples were and right where you are.
‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.’
It just remains for me to speak a word of loving warning to each one present, old and young. We read there is ‘a time to be born, and a time to die,’ and the Word of God does not promise any time in between. With dear little Percy there were only nine days in between. With many there are many years in between. But it is still that point: ‘It is appointed … once to die, but after this the judgment.’ O, may it be your concem and mine to be made right, to be made ready, that that day may not come upon us unawares.
Then O my God, prepare
My soul for that great day;
O wash me in Thy precious blood,
And take my sins away.
The Lord himself be with you all.
Adrian and Rhoda Topping, Percy’s parents, added this word.
Before we learnt that Percy’s condition was so complex that it was inoperable, we both felt persuaded of the Lord that he was calling Percy to himself, and we were made willing to give him back to him that gave him, and not to forbid him, by those words in Mark 10:14: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’ The bitter cup of sorrow in losing our dear little son has been sweetened by the Lord’s presence and blessing. The sting has been removed, feeling assured that Percy has fallen asleep in Jesus, and been taken to glory in those kind arms. ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Taken with permission from that fine young people’s magazine Perception, Summer 2015.
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