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Why Should We Start, and Fear to Die?

SACRED To the memory of
JOHN NORTON
Who was born July 14th 1808
and died March 15th 1847.
----------------------------------
Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on his breast I lean my head
And breathe my life out sweetly there.
The poetic finale of John's epitaph is from a hymn written by Isaac Watts about 1707 entitled "Why Should We Start, and Fear to Die?"

Why should we start and fear to die?
What tim’rous worms we mortals are!
Death is the gate of endless joy,
And yet we dread to enter there.

The pains, the groans, the dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
Still we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay.

O, if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul should stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through death’s iron gate,
Nor feel the terrors as she passed.

Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.

Mr. John Norton rests in Lawrenceville Historic Cemetery at Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Comments

pugbug said…
When I wrote my 'worm' post, I was thinking that the two final verses would make good epitaphs--and here it is! Bet we'll find more...
Anonymous said…
I'm glad you posted the whole hymn. It's amazing. Which hymnal does it come from?
S. Lincecum said…
Cyberhymnal.org says it's from "Hymns and Spiritual Songs." I'll bet you can find it in more than one place, though... Sorry for the 4-days-later reply! :-)

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The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."

Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!' Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live...'" (Ezekiel 37:1-5, NKJV)