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Into Thy hands I commend my spirit, — Luke xxiii. 40. THE suspicious despots of old dared not drink of any cup before it had been tasted by some submissive subject. Our Lord and King drank of mankind's most bitter cup that it might be freed from its poison, even for His most humble followers. He tasted death for every man, and robbed it of its terrors. He has shown his brethren in mortal form where to find their trust and help in the dying hour. How many saints on the verge of glory have echoed the words of the crucified Master, " Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit ! " In peace and trust they have passed from earth to heaven. Why is it that the faith on which alone we can rely for support in our last moments is not summoned to sustain us in the worries and emergencies that throng around our daily path? We seem content to leave the stars in their courses to the care of the great Creator, never fearing
MI ISTERI G. 167 that they shall swerve from their appointed round; yet we shrink from wholly confiding the details of our insignificant lot to the ordering of the All-wise. We are too much like the timid woman who, in a moment of sudden danger by the way, snatches the reins, stupidly fancying her weakness and inexperience her best reliance.
Why cannot we trust our Heavenly Friend day by day and hour by hour, in the sacred confidence which says sincerely, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit ! " It is the spirit for which we fear. We tremble lest it should not have strength to triumph over the bodily pain which threatens us, or to endure the affliction that is hanging over us or the humiliations and mortifications that are in store for us. We fear the temptation that has before mastered us, the doubts that have once desolated our peace, the loss of the consciousness of the presence of God, which is our best treasure. We are harassed by forebodings and distressed by circumstances, instead of quietly, without anxious misgivings, commending the spirit to God, and doing faithfully in simplicity and peace the present duty that is plainly set before us. Here is the secret of calm serenity in the midst of "the chances and changes of this mortal life." This mortal life! That we are mortal, doomed to die, is sometimes the secret source of the
168 OUR ELDER BROTHER. gloom that overshadows some sincere but trembling Christian. This may be, though our Lord has Himself descended into the grave that there should be light from the tomb, and hope in the valley of the shadow. Death is, must be, for the true believer, the rising of the Sun. ot that the physical sun really rises for us, but we are turned so that we see its perpetual shining. So is it with the Sun of Eighteousness. He knows no shadow, but the veil of the body hides the fulness of His light from our spiritual vision. Even while yet
in the flesh, many devout souls have been able to say in the hour of departure, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." The burst of heavenly glory has reached the dying saint, even before the parting pang. The eye has glowed with rapture, the face has been glorified by a holy light, telling of a foretaste of heavenly joy in the Christian life's triumphant close. Why should we fancy we have a long journey to take to reach the loving Lord, whom we have believed to be ever at our side, and to whom, in the stillness of the solemn night, we have spoken, in the depths of our spirit, in voiceless prayer? Away with the thought that we are to be suddenly thrust into an unknown and awful presence ! " God is Love ! " The Lord Jesus is His express image! He with whom we have
MI ISTERI G. 169 walked by the way and sat down at meat, lie who has been our chosen companion and comfort and refuge all the days of our pilgrimage, will not be suddenly withdrawn from our side. It is the will of the risen Lord that we should be with Him where He is. Of His welcome of indescribable love beyond the bed of death we may be sure. Let us not fear the dying hour, but rather fear anything that may separate us from the present companionship of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. There may even be no death awaiting us. The light of the everlasting day may give us a glad surprise, and we may see the Lord coming to claim as His own the most humble of His followers.
How human nature clings to the conviction that death is to be prefaced by some sacred, hallowed time, in which the heart will be purified and prepared for the great change ! The common hours of this workaday world are in most cases the only time of preparation for the solemn moment of departure. There is generally an illness, trifling it may be at first, but growing more and more serious, with more and more absorbing pain, or discomfort, or dimness and wandering of mind, and then a short, hurried close, a surprise to the surrounding friends, perhaps, as well as to the patient.
170 OUR ELDER BROTHER. The messenger of death may even come to the strong man in the midst of the struggle of life, and call him at once to an account. A long period of discipline is awarded to some earthly pilgrims, and blessed to open their eyes to holy things and their souls to a personal share in the great salvation. These are exceptions. The Christian's life is the only wise, sure preparation for the Christian's death. Men would also fancy that some great change is to take place on earth before the second coming of our Lord. He tells us that in the midst of the ordinary occupations of life, the round of pleasure or the stir of business, the sudden glory may dawn. When we lie down tranquilly at night we may wake to the coming of the Lord, "with ten thousands of His saints," to reign the King Everlasting. Can we say from the depths of our heart,
"Even so! Come, Lord Jesus!" death has indeed no power over us, for we have already passed from death unto life !
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