The Death of Beth Brown
I cannot imagine anything more delightful to a believer than the privilege of raising a child and knowing it is one of God’s elect. What could be more comforting and gratifying than standing by the grave of your son or daughter with unshaken confidence that the darling you miss, whose loss you grieve, is forever seated with the white-robed throng of the redeemed in heaven? Such confidence may be had for some parents.
Last week, a friend of mine buried his thirty-one year old daughter. She had been a great burden, in many ways, to her family all her life. You see, Beth was, from birth, a mentally handicapped child, severely so. Such a child, while dearly loved, is the cause of much pain and requires much more attention and care than other children in the household. She is well now. The Lord God has graciously taken her from this world of great sorrow into his arms of everlasting joy. I have no hesitancy at all in stating that those who die as infants, and those who die without ever maturing mentally, are numbered among God’s elect, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and saved by grace.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Pastor, how can you be sure?” As a pastor this is much more than a matter of idle curiosity or a point of theological speculation. I have been called upon, on may occasions to minister to grieving parents whose child died either in infancy or after a life of mental retardation. At such times I want to do what I can to comfort the mourning parents, and yet be thoroughly honest regarding the teachings of Holy Scripture.
I see no reason at all for treating the death of an adult whose mind never matured any different from the death of an infant. There are many who say that "The baptized babies of believing parents go to heaven." But the Word of God nowhere places any saving efficacy in the ordinance of baptism. And the Bible plainly forbids the practice of baptizing babies. Only those who are themselves believers are to be admitted to the ordinance of baptism; and then it is to be performed only by immersion (Acts 8:36-39).
Some people, out of mere sentimentalism, say that, "Infants who die become the angels of heaven." But those who read the Bible know that the heavenly angels were created by God to minister to his elect people (Heb. 1:13-13). A few people even say that, "Those who die in infancy and those who die as imbeciles are lost." The Bible certainly does not teach that. When David's servants told him that his baby boy had died, David went into the house of the Lord and worshipped God, and said, "He is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (1 Sam. 12:23). David's clear implications was that he hoped to meet his son again in heaven when he died." But we still want something more personally satisfying, when we take the tiny coffin of an infant, or of one like Beth to the grave. I want to share with you some things that have helped me to deal with this problem.
WE KNOW THAT ALL ARE BORN WITH DEPRAVED, SINFUL HEARTS. Sin is not something boys learn at school, Sin is the inbred disease of the human race. All are born in sin. David said, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). He tells us that all men "are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born speaking lies" (Ps. 58:3). Through the sin and fall of our father Adam, we all become sinners. We are all born, spiritually dead sinners. Paul said, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
EVERY BABY BORN INTO THE WORLD IS BORN A SINNER, GUILTY OF ADAM'S TRANGRESSION, DESERVING ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. Even that baby who dies in infancy must have an atonement for sin through the blood of Christ, and must have a new nature by Divine regeneration, or it cannot go to heaven.
YET THE BIBLE TEACHES US THAT NO ONE IS EVER SENT TO HELL BECAUSE OF ADAM'S SIN. The Bible addresses and deals with us as responsible, reasonable, and accountable beings. Every warning and every promise is addressed to people who are morally responsible to God for their own actions. While all are deserving of God's wrath because all are sinners by nature, none are ever said to be judged guilty by God except those who willfully transgress his law, which infants and those who are mentally retarded cannot be said to do. In fact the Bible seems to imply that God will not eternally condemn anyone solely upon the basis of Adam's transgression. The Lord himself declares, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Duet. 24:16).
Knowing my heavenly Father's character, that he is just, righteous, and good, when I read statements such as David made about his son, and consider the whole Revelation of God in Scripture, I can, with confidence and joy say, Yes, Beth Brown is in heave today, because she was chosen of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and born again by the almighty grace of God the Holy Spirit. Like all of God's elect, she has been saved by the pure, free, sovereign grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Grace Baptist Church of Danville - Grace For Today Radio Message #871
2734 Old Stanford Road - Danville, Kentucky 40422-9438 -- Donald S. Fortner, Pastor