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SUBJECT : The Gates of Death.
“Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death ?”—Job xxxviii. 17.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Thirtieth.
These remarkable words are part of a wonderfully sublime address which the Infinite Maker of the Universe delivered to Job amidst the rush and the roar of an eastern whirlwind. The long, earnest, and unsatisfactory, debate which had been carried on between the patriarch and his friends touching the government of God, was thus terminated awfully grand abruptness. It is noteworthy, that in these communications of the Almighty, He does not condescend to propound a solution of the difficulty which had perplexed their judgment and engrossed their discussion. He gives no explanation of His doings, but the grand aim of His appeal is to impress the importance and duty of confidence in His character. Man, intellectually, is too small to comprehend His doings. A firm unshaken trustfulness therefore is at once his duty and interest.
Amongst the many things He appeals to in order to impress Job with his insignificance, as compared with his Maker, is the dark region of death expressed in the text ;-" Have the gates of death,” &c. The allusion here is to the state which in the Hebrew is called Sheol, and in the Greek Hades ; which means the dark abode of the dead—the deep, dark, vast realm to whicb all past generations are gone-to which the present generation is going, and whither all coming men, up to the day of doom will proceed. The ancients supposed this region to be under ground, entered by the grave, and enclosed by gates and bars.
I will take this divine appeal as suggesting four things :
I. THE MENTAL DARKNESS THAT ENSHROUDS US. All the phepomena of the heavens, the earth, and the multiform operations of the Creator, referred to in this divine address, were designed and fitted to impress Job with the necessary limitation of his knowledge, and the ignorance that encircled him on all questions; and the region of death is but one of the many points to which he is directed as an example of his ignorance.
How ignorant are we of the great world of departed men! What a thick veil of mystery enfolds the whole ! What questions often start within us to which we can get no satisfactory reply, either from philosophy or the Bible !
I am thankful that we are left in ignorance :
First : Of the exact condition of each individual in that great and ever-growing realm. In general, the Bible tells us that the good are happy and the wicked miserable. This is enough. We would have no more light. We would not know all about those whom we have known and loved; we would not know the exact pursuits they are following, and the exact thoughts and emotions that circulate in an incessant flow through their souls. If we saw them as they are, should we be fit to enjoy the few days of this brief life, or to perform its duties? We should stand, I think, paralyzed at the vision.
I am thankful that we are left in ignorance :
Secondly : Of our exact proximity to the great realm of the departed. We would not have the day or the hour disclosed. The men to whom the day of death was made known were confounded. Saul heard from Samuel, &c. Peter told Sapphira, &c.
Who if he knew it would undertake any enterprize? Would Moses have undertaken the guidance of the Israelites if he had known that neither he nor they would cross the Jordan ?” &c. Would Jonathan have ascended Gilboa? David, &c. I am thankful for the ignorance. The Divine appeal suggests :
II. THE SOLEMN CHANGE THAT AWAITS US. have not opened to us, but must. Speaking of death according to the figure before us we observe :
First: The gates are in constant motion. No sooner are they closed to one, than another enters. It is computed that one enters every moment. Secondly: The gates open to all
classes. There are gates which are to be entered only by persons of distinction ; but here are kings and beggars, &c. Thirdly: The gates open only one way-into eternity. We have, it is true, an account of a few that have come back. But only one that had not to go that way again. No coming back. (Job. vi. 7–13.) “They shall," says Job, “ return no more.” Hezekiah. David said, “I shall go to him," &c.
I rejoice in this. I would not have the good back againnor the bad. The Cæsars, the Alexanders, the Napoleons, back again! No! Thank God for death. Fourthly : The gates separate the probationary from the retributionary. When we pass those gates what do we leave behind ?-on what do we enter? Fifthly: The gates are under supreme authority. There is only ONE Being that can open them. Not accident, &c. The Divine appeal suggests :
III. TAE First : We have always been near those gates. We dwell in “houses of clay." Secondly : Thousands have gone through since we began the journey of life. Younger and better too. Thirdly: We have often been made to feel ourselves near. (1) In personal affliction. We have felt the cold breeze coming up freezing the temple and chilling the blood. (2) In bereave
While we have stood by holy death beds we have felt the aroma wafted from the lovely scenes on the other side. “ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness.” The Divine appeal suggests:
IV. THE SERVICE
First: It assures us there is life on the other side the gates. In stepping through them, we do not step into black extinction. So much light as this, the old philosophers never reached. Secondly: It assures us there is blessedness on the other side the gates. It opens the door of the future and shows us a world of men in heaven. “I saw a great multitude,” &c.
“They live, the beautiful, the dead,
Thirdly : It takes away the instinctive repugnance we feel in stepping through those gates. “ It delivers those who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage." It takes the sting of death away,
&c. My young brethren, you, like our young friend,* must soon pass through these gates. You are very near them now. ""What is your life? A vapour,” &c.—the flitting rays of a meteor. With the first breath you drew you took a step towards those gates, and thither you have been wending ever since.
“Your hearts, like muffled drums,
I would not lessen the pleasures of young life. I would not cool your blood, nor throw one shade over those bright and glowing prospects which imagination pictures ; but I would have you take life as it is, and enjoy it for what it is worth. Enjoy it, as I have often enjoyed on my native mountains the setting of a summer's sun. The streaks of glory which played upon the western sky, as the great orb went down in blazing splendor, kindled within me unutterable emotions of delight, yet I felt as I admired, that the magnificent scene would soon vanish, and all above and below would be darkness.
“Time, is a Prince, whose resistless sway
This discourse was delivered on the occasion of the death of a pious young lady who was a teacher in the Stockwell Sabbath School. The Young Man occupied in Thinking of his Father's House : --
The Crisis in Depravity.
(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 95.)
“And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger ! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." -Luke xv. 17-19.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Thirty-first.
We have followed this young man through three stages of his history; discontented with his father's home; departing from his father's home; and far away from his father's home; we have now to look upon him in another, and for some reasons, the most interesting stage of his history,--inasmuch as it is the crisis, the turning point of his destiny. Imagination may picture him driven to the last extremity of want, sitting down under the shadow of some old tree, emaciated, desolate, depressed, with the past beginning to rise on his memory, and the future growing more and more terrible to his eye. He comes to himself. “Now," says Trench,“the crisis has arrived, the TIESITÉTELA of this soul's tragedy.” In sketching this soulcrisis I shall notice three mental states suggested by the text:—The return of reason—The commencement of thoughtThe formation of purpose.
I. THE RETURN OF REASON. “He came to himself.” The sinner is morally mad; he is a subject of fearful aberration.
Two thoughts are here suggested :
First: Moral distance from our father is moral distance from ourselves. “ To come to oneself,” says Trench, "and to come to God are one and the same thing...... He being the true ground of our being, when we find ourselves, we find Him.” The sinner lives away from his moral self—the ego of his being. He is not at home; he is in the material, &c. In other words, he is mad on moral subjects. This is no figure.