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“ The silver cord is loosed.” The mysterious bond by which the soul was united to the body is now dissolved; and the delicate nerves by which sensation was conveyed to the brain, are now relaxed for ever. “ The golden bowl is broken,” and “the pitcher is broken at the fountain.” The heart which is the well or reservoir of the blood, out of which it is, so to say, drawn in a bowl or pitcher, and thus made to circulate through the veins, now fails to supply the living stream. The lungs cease to play, the heart to beat, the blood to circulate; just as when a pitcher is broken at a fountain, or a wheel at a cistern, the water can no longer be drawn up. And thus “the body returns to the earth as it was; and the spirit returns to God who
gave How unsuitable then is the period of old age to a work which requires so earnest an exertion of all our faculties, as the work of remembering our duty to our Creator, and preparing for death, and judgment! How needful is it to apply ourselves to this most necessary duty, while we have yet the use of our various powers, and may glorify God by using them in His service! Let those sacred admonitions sink into our hearts, “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work?' And, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest ?.”
XXXVI.-THE EARLY WORKMAN.
“ I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up
early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and mend your doings." Jer. xxxv. 15.-See also
Jer. xxv. 4. Luke x. 16; xx. 9. My child, long before your head had left its pillow,
1 John ix. 4.
2 Eccles. ix. 10.
our neighbour was busily employed upon his daily task. With the first dawn of daylight in the east, he rose from his scanty rest, and resumed with cheerful industry the work which he had left unfinished. No longer than was absolutely necessary for exhausted nature did he “give sleep to his eyes, and slumber to his eyelids." While spirits less earnest than his own were still buried in the forgetfulness of sleep; and few, not bound by necessary duty to such early wakefulness, were yet abroad; he had made good way in the employment which he is so anxious to accomplish. Is it zeal for the progress of some important work that prompts him to such unusual sacrifice of welcome and refreshing rest? or is it his tender concern for those who are dearest to him, and his earnest desire to provide for them what is necessary to their welfare, or enjoyment ? Perhaps some afflicted relative is supported by the proceeds of these hours which he gains from sleep; or the earnings are wanted for the education of some beloved son, for whose sake the father thus willingly denies himself, and thinks nothing of his toil, while working for the child of his affections. Or it may be, that he is “constrained ” thus to “spend himself,” in order to earn, in these additional hours, the means which he would not otherwise possess of contributing to the relief of Christ's poorer members, or to the propagation of His Gospel among the heathen. If this be the holy purpose for which he thus “rises early," how heavenly must be the peace of his heart, as he busily plies his task ! and how happy must be his consciousness that he is serving the best of masters; and permitted thus to testify to Him by a willing service the sincerity of his love! In any wise, he is a pattern to us of industry, and patient 'self-denial; and reminds us how much may be done by abridging at times the hours which we allot to sleep. Let us learn of him that zeal must show itself not in word, but in deed; and be persuaded that we never work so well (whether it be in the work of
3 Ps. cxxxii. 4.
prayer and praise, or in the daily duties of our calling,) as when we act in the spirit of the Psalmist's resolution with respect to prayer: “My voice shalt Thou hear betimes, O Lord ! early in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look
But there is yet a holier and a more blessed lesson which the instance of one thus early at his daily work suggests to us. God has been pleased to borrow the terms, descriptive properly of such earnestness in labour as we have noted, and to apply them as an illustration of His own dealings with His rebellious creatures. He uses the case of one thus zealous and earnest in self-sacrifice, as a figure or similitude of His own unspeakable mercy, His Divine zeal, and His ceaseless endeavours to win us to our own happiness. “I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not 5." And again, “ The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place.” Praise is given in Scripture to the virtuous woman, who riseth while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens?; and we see what an instance of love was shown by the holy women, who had indeed rested on the Sabbath-day in dutiful observance of the law, but were “very early in the morning” at the sepulchre ® ; “when it was yet dark °;” “ at the rising of the sun ";" in order to show all honour in their power to the lifeless body of their Blessed Master." In such instances as these, or, when you are yourself stirred up by some special cause to any unusual exertion, or self-sacrifice, remember that God has given us herein an image of His own un
4 Ps. v. 3.
6 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15. 7 Prov. xxxi. 10. 15. 8 Luke xxiv. 1. 9 John xx. 1.
1 Mark xvi. 2.
wearied love, in preparing the way of our salvation; and of His own ceaseless endeavours to persuade us to walk in it. It was an instance of this mercy, when our Saviour, in the exercise of that zeal which even consumed Him, “rising up a great while before day, went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed ?." And it is written: “He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned 3." We need to be awakened day by day, or we should soon sleep the sleep of death in sins and trespasses. It is God who wakens us morning by morning ; “rising early” (for thus He authorizes us to say with reverence), that He may thus 6 waken our ear to hear as the learned ;" in other words, that we may readily and meekly receive instruction, and not be like those who refuse to learn. May such an image of His compassion indeed awaken us to the call of duty; and may we thus “prevent the dawning of the morning,” that we “may meditate in His word * !”
XXXVII.-THE WATCHMAN ON THE HEIGHT.
“ He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watch
man, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye : return, come.” Isa. xxi. 11, 12.-See also Isa, lvi. 10. Ezek. iii. 17. Hab. ii, 1.
Heb. xiii. 17. THERE is a mound on the brow of yonder hill that swells so proudly from the woodland below. It marks the spot where a watchman was placed in time of war, and a beacon constructed, that, in case of invasion, an alarm might speedily be given, and the means of repelling the enemy might be provided in
ne. From such a danger the gracious providence of God protected this favoured land-and let us trust and pray that the same over-ruling hand may ever thus protect it—but while the apprehension existed, it may be that many an anxious eye was daily directed towards the beacon on the height; and many a heart was anxious to inquire, like the Edomite of old, “ Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” What tidings do you give us of the night ? has any fresh symptom of danger shown itself? or, may we again apply ourselves with fearless diligence to our daily duties and occupations ?
2 Mark i. 35.
3 Isa. 1. 4.
4 Ps. cxix. 147, 148. 5 A hill near the writer's home, in one of the southern counties, is here alluded to.
It does not appear certain on what occasion the watchman of old was thus interrogated by the Edomite from Mount Seir. It is probable that the prophet Isaiah found himself in vision thus questioned, in his character of a watchman for the city of God, by one of the enemies of God's people. He is asked how long the night should yet continue; that is, perhaps, the night of the Babylonish captivity; during which, not the land of Israel only, but the surrounding nations also, were oppressed by the power of the Assyrian empire. The Edomite, it may be, inquires how much of this period of affliction was yet to come? in what degree was it passing away? And to such an inquiry, the Prophet seems to reply by an assurance that the morning was indeed at hand—the morning of deliverance; which, however, would be succeeded by a night of sorrow to all those who should not have profited by the opportunity afforded for returning unto God. And he adds the warning, “ If ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come;" that is, inquire in earnest; with a real purpose to learn the way of salvation; return to God in truth and sincerity; come without delay, and receive the lessons of true wisdom.
There is some obscurity in this passage of Holy Scripture; and yet it brings before us with singular force the office of God's ministers, and the earnestness with which the people should inquire of them the warnings, or counsels, which they are appointed to deliver.