Machen Death Day 2018

From Samuel J. Allen, “The Last Battle of Dr. Machen,” Presbyterian Guardian, Jan. 23, 1937:

Thursday evening I had a precious visit with him. I prayed with him. After prayer he told me of a vision he had. He said that he thought he had already died. “Sam, it was glorious, it was glorious.” One could see that he had had a vision of heaven. He had already seen his Lord. He ended by saying, “Sam, isn’t the Reformed Faith grand?” This conversation was enough in itself to cause me to dedicate myself anew to propagate the Reformed Faith as God gave grace, wisdom, and strength.

The nurse told me that he was resigned and had repeatedly told her, “Let God’s will be done.”

New Year’s Eve at 11.30 P. M. I called on the nurse who told me that he was doing poorly. In the morning he was very low, but still had a chance. I stayed in the hospital, sometimes outside of his room and sometimes in the room. At rare intervals he would awake. He was fighting for breath. His lungs were fast closing up. One time he was telling Charlie Woodbridge something, and then Paul Woolley. Then the nurse told him that Sam Allen had called. He said, “Fine fellow, Sam. Give him my regards.” Then his eyes saw me and he said, “I’m just about conscious, Sam, just about conscious.” This was the only time I know that his mind wandered even for a minute. This was about 2.00 P. M: Friday. I never dreamed that he would ever regain consciousness again. To my surprise, when I went to his room at 4.00 P. M. with the Rev. E. E. Matteson and the Rev. C. A. Balcom he was conscious and his mind was clear as crystal, and he said, “Sam, old boy, everything is all right.”

I was quite excited at this turn for the better and left the room,not wishing to hurt his chances any. I knew that there was only a very small part of the left lung remaining to breathe through, but I hoped against hope and prayed for a miracle. He was very desirous of seeing his beloved brother, Arthur, and his sister-in-law. He had thought they were coming on the noon train and it was tragic to see his disappointment when they failed to appear. I do not know why he had the idea that they were coming on the noon train, but he surely thought they were. When his brother and his brother’s wife were pulling into Bismarck at 7.45 P. M. this great soul, – this marvelous, cultured, child-like, noble, courageous, Christian leader breathed his last, and his soul went to be with his Lord.

His last words were put down in a very precise way in a message to John Murray, “I’m so thankful for active obedience of Christ: no hope without it.” His nurse took this message.

When I could finally think after seeing one go whom I loved as much as I loved any human, three Scripture passages come to my mind. Philippians 1: 23, 24-it was indeed better for him to be with Christ and it did seem to me that it was absolutely necessary for him to abide in the flock to continue to lift up our hands; II Samuel 3: 38-a prince and a great man had fallen in Israel, and II Timothy 4: 7-1 have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

“Dassie” kept telling me that I wasn’t seeing him at his best, but I believe that the Lord gave me the privilege of seeing him at his very, very best. I know that his last few days will always inspire me, for they gave me a picture of a truly humble, courteous, Christian gentleman, and of an indomitable spirit controlled by a passionate desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

Postscript: see also the Dakota Datebook.

9 thoughts on “Machen Death Day 2018

  1. I’ve heard some folks talk about hoping for a good death. I’d like to think that they have in mind something like Machen’s example. What a great reflection on his tragic passing.


  2. This is a famous, true, story. His last words to Murray are etched in many of our minds—a small yet grand profundity to be regularly pondered. Thanks for posting this!


  3. B.B. Warfield: “What has come to the ‘Clementine Homilies’ is surely already a Christian commonplace.” (God-Inspired Scripture)

    “And Simon said: ‘If you maintain that apparitions do not always reveal the truth, yet for all that visions and dreams, being God-sent (‘ta horamata kai ta enupnia theopempta onta ou pseudetai’) do not speak falsely in regard to those matters which they wish to tell.” And Peter said: ‘You were right in saying that, being God-sent, they do not speak falsely (‘theopempta onta ou pseudetai). But it is uncertain if he who sees has seen a God-sent dream (‘ei ho idon theopempton eoraken oneiron’).”
    Clementine Homilies, xvii. 15.

    Machen, even on his deathbed, would doubtless agree.


  4. To have a vision any time that is really truely a vision is to experience something wonderful and incredible. To have that part of your being in tune with the source of your belief in Him is exceptional , and I think not to be doubted or put up to criticism. When someone expresses their faith in this way it is worth listening to and considering. This universe itself is a miracle. Why would I want to limit my thinking as to what is possible for God to communicate through one of His believers ? The gospel message itself was about the miraculous. I hear of things like what is talked about here and I marvel. I don’t think that I need to question what God is doing in times like this. I am glad that you shared this.


  5. End-of-life visions are common in Xian history. Whether true or just the result of neurological conditions they may tend to reveal the concerns and priorities of the vision haver. I worry about those who have them in the woods or on a park bench under normal physical conditions.


  6. Hebrews 11: 39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

    Hebrews 9: 26 now Christ has come one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, the judgment— 28 so also the Messiah, HAVING BEEN offered ONCE to bear the sins of many, will APPEAR A SECOND TIME, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

    I Corinthians 11:25 after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood.DO THIS, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, YOU SAY the Lord’s death UNTIL HE COMES

    I Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ has not already been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins and those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. …20 But Christ has already been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep….each in his own order–Christ, the first fruits. Afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ.

    Romans 6: 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death,we WILL certainly also be in the likeness of His RESURRECTION.

    Romans 6: 8 if we died with Christ, we believe that we WILL also live with Him,

    Romans 8:11 He who raised Christ from the dead WIILL also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you.

    I John 3: 2 We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.


  7. Old life @oldlife tweet “Officials with the beatification cause of Sister Lucia dos Santos have collected thousands of pages of materials testifying to the holiness of the nun” …
    The active obedience of Christ; no hope without it.

    Amen thousands of pages? only a tiny little sliver of a page needed where each saint’s name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, testifying to their gift of faith.

    Therefore, HOLY brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession –
    Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end –
    Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be HOLY and blameless.


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