I once knew a godly railroad conductor. He ran an ore train to the Lake Superior mines. One day he met a poor miner. He was an Austrian and knew but little English. But that did not daunt my friend. For him "I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love" was more than the sentiment of a hymn-couplet. To tell men of his Lord was the master passion of his life. Nor did he have any use for the ashes of idle words when God had given him the beauty of the gospel of Christ. So he told his foreign miner friend of the story of Christ's love and sacrifice for him. The poor fellow listened with intense eagerness. He drank in every word he could, with open mouth and listening ears. Day after day, as they met, he repeated the old, old story. The summer ended, and he took his journey southward and homeward. The next spring he returned to his work. The first question he asked was, “Where is John?” They told him he was dead. “How did it happen?” We answered that John had been crushed between an ore car and the loading platform. For two days he lay in agony in a nearby hospital. All through the weary hours of suffering, whether by day or night, there was one sentence which fell from his trembling lips. It was this. “That man—him said—Jesus love me." And when the death-damp was on his brow, and his voice was faint and feeble, the last sentence he uttered was “That man—him said—Jesus love me."
As he turned to me with tears in his eyes, and a ring of triumph in his voice, he said, "I know that man was saved. I know the Spirit of God gave me that message a drive home to his lonely heart. I know I shall someday meet him in the glory and rejoice with him in the presence of our Lord."
That was letting Christ use his lips for the beauty of the gospel, instead of the ashes of idle words. What would it mean for His cause and His glory, if all His servants were doing that!
Last of all,
Jesus Christ will someday give to us
the beauty of a glorified body for
the ashes of a corruptible one.
A little while ago you laid away a loved one in Christ Jesus. Perhaps it was only last week; perhaps only yesterday. Tonight you sat by a desolated fireside which robber death has pillaged of its fairest and its best. Perhaps it was a radiant child; or a strong-hearted husband; or a manly boy, the pride of your heart; or the beloved wife, the companion of a lifetime of unspeakable love and bliss. The wind moans a dirge at your window. Outside the skies are leaden. Inside, your heart is heavy with a speechless grief and agony of soul. A great golf has suddenly yawned in your life which seems tonight to be fathomless, breathless. And one of the keen griefs of it all is this thought—that those arms of love which once encircled you in love must go down into dust; those eyes which searched the love-depths of yours must mingle too with the dust; those lips which often spoke their wealth of that same love must crumble into the same speechless dust. From this tragedy, your soul recoils. This seems to you like a great horror of darkness. But beloved in the Lord Jesus, when your thoughts run out in that way never forget this—
The last great, glorious work of Jesus Christ in His anointed ministry of giving beauty for ashes will be when He comes again to give to your beloved dead in Him the beauty of a glorified body for the ashes of this corruptible one.
For thanks be to God this gospel of ours does not end at the graves’ mouth. It reaches forward through the sullen gates of death, lays hold of the crumbling, corruptible bodies of our dead in Christ, and gives them back to us in the resurrection moment, the deathless glory of Him who shall give his beauty for ashes in a sense and with the riches which our wild dreams of reunion could never have conceived, but of which the eternal Word of God makes us unerringly and undefeatedly sure.
Down by the banks of a noble river in a little town most dear to me are the bodies of five dear sisters of my own. There they sleep amid the wondrous beauty of sky, hill, river, and field. As the shadows are lengthening over this bit of God's acre I slip away and stand beside the mounds which hide their mortal bodies. As I stand my heart is well-nigh overwhelmed with the rush of tender mercies of a joyous, care-free boyhood of a long-ago. Suppose as I linger there one of my boyhood friends draws near and says, "These are your sisters lying here are they not?" And I reply, "I do remember the day the pastor laid them away? Do you recall what he said ‘Earth to earth; dust to dust; ashes to ashes’." These are not my sisters. They're only their ashes. And some glad day Jesus Christ will bestow upon them His wondrous boon of beauty for ashes in the gift of a glorified body. Some sweet day the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise! These ashes shall be touched by the power of Him whose right it is to give beauty for ashes. Then shall He change the body of their humiliation and fashion it back into the body of His glory. But oh what a body of beauty, compared with the ashes which lie under these green mounds! Eyes like unto flaming fire; feet like shining brass; a voice like the sound of many waters. Bodies that know no sickness, pain, nor death; no limitations of mortality and corruption; no weariness, suffering, nor decay. Bodies that at the call of the Lord shall leap like flames of glory into the over-arching heavens waiting to receive them, to exchange the ashes of the corruptness for the eternal glory of the deathless tabernacles. This indeed shall be the transcendent climax of the mighty work of Him who stood among His people, and announced with triumphant certainty and joy unspeakable that God had anointed Him to give to them—BEAUTY FOR ASHES.