I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
Some of the Scripture figures of death are full of the sweetest poetry for sensitive souls. Illustrating Hezekiah's figure, an Eastern traveller says, "It was in the bleak season of a cold autumn, by the side of a large moor, that I one day saw a shepherd's tent. It was composed of straw and fern, and secured under the warmer side of a hedge, with a few briars and stakes. Thither for about a week, he took shelter, until the herbage failed his flock, and he removed I knew not whither. His tent was, however, left behind. A few days after I rode that way, and looked for the shepherd's tent, but it was all gone. The stormy winds had scattered its frail materials, and only a few fragments strewed the ground, to mark out that once, for a brief day, the tent had its residence, and the shepherd his solace, there. And such is this life, and such are all the airy expectations, and imaginary felicities, and hoped-for ports and places beneath the sun. Time scatters them, as the storm did the fern and straw of the shepherd's tent" "What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away;... My days are swifter than the post;" "They are passed away as the swift ships, as the eagle hasting to the prey;" "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle;" "Oh, remember, that my life is wind." With what exquisite pathos it is said of wrestling, crafty, managing Jacob, "He gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people"! In view of his long and passionate affection for Rachel the beautiful, how tender is that last expression! Death for us is but passing from the fellowship of one company of beloved ones to join the other company that has gone on before. David speaks of the dead as "going down into silence." Is not that also most expressive? The man who has been so full of anxious cares and worldly troubles just steps aside to rest - passes from the bustle of life to the stillness, the silence, of death. The Apostle Paul says, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved," broken up, the pins removed, the ropes loosened, the canvas folded, "we have a building of God," no mere tent, a substantial building," a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." So the decay of our body is only our removal to a new house, built for us, fitted for us, and, as we pass into it, the old tent-body is taken down, folded up, and put away. Dr. A. Raleigh dwells very beautifully on one of the most familiar figures of the grave, "There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest." "This is man's long home. Other homes are but calling-places, in which a wayfaring man tarries for a few days and nights in pursuing a great journey; but in this long home 'man lieth down and riseth not, till the heavens be no more.' There is no earth quite so profound as that of a quiet country churchyard. The hills stand in silence watching. The river, as it flows by, seems to hush its waters in passing; and the trees make soft and melancholy music with the evening wind, or stand in calm, voiceless grief, lest they should disturb the sleepers. Quiet is the dust below - quiet the scarcely moving grass of the graves - quiet the shadows of the tombstones - quiet the overarching sky. It is, indeed, a quiet resting-place, where we may lie in stillness for a while, until Christ shall bring us to another home, the last, the best of all - in heaven, the quietest restingplace of all." And Jesus our Lord said," Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." That is all. Death is only the sleep of God's beloved ones; over it he watches with more than motherly care, and, one wondrous day, the sweet morning light of the great glory shall stream in at the windows, and wake the sleeping children. After showing thus the mingling of sadness with hope in the Bible figures of hurrying life and masterful death, illustrate the things which help to make dying and death seem to us a foe so greatly to be dreaded. It is a foe -
I. BECAUSE OF THE BREAKING DOWN AND CORRUPTION OF THE BODY WHICH IT INVOLVES. There is something humiliating and revolting even in the change through which our bodies must pass. We turn away from the sight of the dead, and cannot bear to think that we must be even as they.
II. BECAUSE IT INVOLVES THE ENDING OF ALL OUR EARTHLY PLEASURES. And there are pleasures and friendships and scenes which make life very dear to us all - rightly dear. It is no way of honouring God to call this earth and life that he has given us a "desert land, which yields us no supplies." But death takes the cup right away from our lips, and bids us leave all the playthings on the board, and come away.
III. BECAUSE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING IT. As Bacon long ago reminded us, it is the suffering body, the darkened chamber, the weeping friends, the pangs of separation, the trappings of woe, that make so much of the bitterness of death.
IV. BECAUSE OF THE UNTIMELINESS OF ITS COMING. And it is almost always untimely; oftentimes painfully so. He plucks young buds. He takes opening flowers. He cuts down bearded grain. He delays until the grain is shed, and the straw is trembling to its winter fall. Always coming; almost never wanted. Yet, for true and trustful hearts, changed into an angel of light, the Father's messenger calling his children home. They are quiet even from the fear of death who can pray with McCheyne -
"In whatsoever form death comes to me -
In midnight storm, whelming my bark, or in my nest
Gently dismissing me to rest;
Oh, give me in thy Word to see
A risen Saviour beckoning me.
My Lamp and Light
In the dark night." ? R.T,
Parallel VersesKJV: I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.