"I said that in the prime of my life I must go to the gates of Sheol; I will be deprived of the remainder of my years.
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 -
1. Come hither, ye proud! Look around you on this scene of universal stillness, and show us the trace of those distinctions in which you glory. Tell us which is noble and which is vulgar dust l
I shall go to the gates of the grave.1. It was doubtless from veneration for the dead, that the practice first arose of depositing their ashes around the temple where the living worship. That dust, which once was tenanted by an immortal spirit, — that dust, through which once the intelligence and the feelings of an immortal spirit shone, — becomes in itself hallowed to the fancy. Collecting it around the place which most we honour, we trust that we remove it beyond the reach of profane intrusion.
2. To the Christian there appears a peculiar propriety in this simple and affecting arrangement. The dust of the departed is doubly valuable in the Christian's regard, who knows that "this mortal" is destined to "put on immortality." In placing it near the temple of our God, we seem to express our humble confidence in the promise which He hath given; we seem to leave it under His own especial protection.
3. The practice which arose from reverence for the dead, is powerfully enforced by its usefulness to the living. If we would listen to the thought, there is in it eloquence irresistible, that around the place where we assemble to worship our God, the ashes of our fathers and of our brethren sleep. We act the part of fools when we banish from our minds any theme, uninviting though its aspect be, by which our spiritual welfare might he so essentially advanced.
(A. Brunton, D. D.)
2. Come hither, ye who value yourselves upon the graces of your outward form. Have you courage to meet the aspect here of that which late was lovely?
3. Come hither, ye votaries of wealth; and show us in this receptacle of human dust, what advantages have gone down to the grave with him who preceded you in your anxious labours. The riches of this world descend not into the grave. But there are treasures of which the value outlives the tomb.
4. Children of intemperance and folly, those who once were your associates in riot, are laid in the grave. Silent is now the wit that was to charm for ever; and quenched the smile that was never to fade! Are you prepared for a change like this?
5. Son of wisdom, and holiness, and piety, thine associates also are sleeping here.
6. Come hither, and stand by this new-formed grave. It is the grave of thine enemy. He cannot harm thee now. Thou mournest to think that the remembrance of injuries which he had done or suffered may have agonised his deathbed. Thou shudderest at the thought, either that he died execrating and abhorring thee, or suing for reconciliation and peace in vain; that the departing spirit may have gone hence, unforgiving or unforgiven. Is there, then, one to whom, at this moment, thou bearest enmity? "Go," while yet the lesson is warm upon thy heart, "leave thy gift before the altar," &c.
7. Reverence and attachment lead thee onward to the spot where the instructor of thy youth, the guide of thy childhood, lies. All the lessons of his wisdom rush upon thy remembrance, as thou standest by his grave. Improve the moment, — it is rich in usefulness.
8. The scene around may well rouse thee to self-examination. For, see, here is laid thine equal in age. He began with thee the career of life, gay and careless as thyself. The same with thine own were his pursuits. The same with thine own were his hopes. Seest thou that vacant space by his side? God only knows, how soon thou mayest be called to fill it. In this land of shadows one thing is certain, — it is death; "one thing is needful," — it is an interest in Him who hath vanquished death and the grave.
(A. Brunton, D. D.)
I. ALL MEN'S DREAD. Through —
2. Natural fear of the unknown.
3. Want of faith.
II. ALL MEN'S DESTINY.
2. Men may approach these gates and return, but once passed they are passed for ever.
3. They are the portals of endless joy or woe.
(W. O. Lilley.)
I am deprived of the residue of my years.
I. CONSIDER WHEN GOD DOES THIS.
1. God deprives all those of the residue of their years whom He calls out of the world before they have reached the limits of life which are to be found in Scripture.
2. Whom He calls out of the world before they have reached the bounds of life fixed by Providence. Though the Scriptures limit life to seventy or eighty years, yet Providence oftens extends it to a longer period.
3. Who die before they have reached the bounds of life which are imposed by the laws of nature. Nature sets bounds to every kind of life in this world. All, therefore, who die by sickness, or accident, or violence, or any other cause than the course of nature, are really deprived of the residue of their days.
II. Inquire WHY GOD THUS SHORTENS THE LIVES OF MEN.
1. To teach the living that He is not dependent upon them in the least degree.
2. To teach mankind their constant and absolute dependence upon Himself.
3. To teach the living the necessity of being continually prepared for another life.
4. To teach the living the importance of faithfully improving life as long as they enjoy it.
5. God may sometimes cut short the days of the wicked to prevent their doing evil in time to come.
6. God may sometimes shorten the lives of His faithful servants to prevent their seeing and suffering public calamities.
1. If God does not always deprive men of the residue of their years, but allows some to reach the bounds of nature, then there is propriety in praying for the lives of the aged as well as of the young.
2. If God so often deprives men of the residue of their years, then it is extremely unreasonable and dangerous to flatter ourselves with the hopes of living a great while in the world.
3. We ought to beware of placing too much dependence upon the lives of others, as well as upon our own.
4. Long life is a great as well as distinguishing favour.
5. If God always has wise and good reasons for depriving men of the residue of their years, then it is as reasonable to submit to His providence in one instance of mortality as another.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
I. ARE, WITH US, UNCERTAIN.
II. SHOULD BE GUIDED BY THE EXPERIENCES OF PAST YEARS.
III. SHOULD BE MOST SERENE AND HAPPY.
IV. SHOULD BE MOST PIOUS AND FRUITFUL IN GOOD TO OTHERS.
(W. O. Lilley.)
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