CENTRAL REPUBLICATION BOOK AND JOB OFFICE.
O'BRIEN'S BLOCK, MAIN STREET.
BELOVED:--"Farewell" is a sad word. The young whisper it with tears, the aged speak it with a heavy heart; and yet while tears flow fastest and the heart is heaviest, hope whispers "you will meet again." These are earthly partings. These are oft recurring worldly separations, a part of life's checkered history of sunshine and of tears. We parted and we meet again, and so hope rises over all, and our trusting hearts say "the thing which has been, is the thing which shall be;" as ye parted, so will ye meet again.
There is another "farewell" which spoils all earthly ties and snaps assunder every bond which affection weaves around the heart. The loved had been with us until they seemed a part of our very self. And while life was without a cloud, there came a messenger with no sound of footfall to call them away. There was an icy chill, a flush of fever, a few days hanging on the physicians medicated skill, some painful watching to see life fretted out by suffering, and that last farewell was spoken. There is no cloud which so shuts out the sunshine from an earthly scene as that cloud of the shadow of death.
We meet to-day around a new made grace. It is a Christian grace. It has no darkness or gloom for it is the place where JESUS laid. It is a grave; a grave which we shall water with our tears. In the quiet hour of evening you will go there to weep. It must needs be. The grave is the only path heavenward. The way JESUS trod is the only way that leads His ransomed children home. For a little while the body will sleep where "dust is changed to dust," but JESUS made such graves the seed beds of immortal beauty. "It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." The spirit rests in Paradise. She is now with that vast company of sainted ones who have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. Now she knows face to face those of whom she had heard by the hearing of the ear. Now she is of the cloud of witnesses who watch our warfare, and who wait for our coming that in the Resurrection morn, they, with us, may be made perfect. "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of GOD, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us for utter destruction; but they are in peace." Call ye this sorrow? It ought to be joy to know that one we call our own has escaped out of the fowler's snare to be with JESUS forevermore, and that "nothing shall be able to pluck them out of His hand." We weep for the holy dead; rather might we weep for the fainting, tempted weary pilgrim. Weep not for the one who has won the race and received the prize; weep not for the weary child who has entered the rest of the people of GOD. There shall be no more battling with temptation, no more bitterness of repentance, no more doubting faith. There shall be no more bleeding feet and weary heart. The world shall no more be a hard task master to make broad the furrows and bow the heart in weakness. All this is passed, the last battle is fought and the victory won; they have entered into rest. Rest with JESUS, where "GOD shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." Blessed rest with JESUS, to be with the Shepherd and lack nothing. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of water." Eternal rest with the people of GOD. "I heard a voice from heaven as the voice of a great thunder, and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps," "and no man could learn that song but they who were redeemed among men." Faith shall build upon it, hope shall cherish it. They are for you, for me, for all who have loved and lost. Call this sorrow? All is darkened but the cross, and this is a way of sunlight now, the light from heaven shines where JESUS trod to guide his children home. It is a Christian grave. For long years she had been gathering manna for this journey, and when the call came the heart knew in whom she trusted and so she could sweetly say "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no ill, Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."
I know not when or where the SAVIOUR'S love first fell on her. Her parents were earnest Christians and loved the Church. They were wont to go eighteen miles to attend its services. Christian training won the child. It is long years since she found a woman's trusting place of love at His feet. In her girlhood, so her old pastor told me, she loved CHRIST'S work. It so happened the more she worked the more she longed to work. It is always so. She became a missionary teacher in the Indian's wilderness home. In loving JESUS, she loved those whom JESUS loved, and so again love grew by what it fed upon, until her heathen lambs were printed on her heart. When GOD called her, a wife and mother, to another field, these forest birdlings had their old place within her heart and home. They never lost it; they were first in work, in love, in prayers. Even death did not spoil her love. She said "Let my lambs sing that dear old song at my burial, 'Lay me beside Ellen's grave in the acre of GOD,'" and so she will sleep beside her Indian lambs who came to us from their wigwam to find a SAVIOUR and a home, and when the Resurrection morn shall break may say, "Behold I and the children GOD has given me."
I dare not speak of her relations as a sister, wife and mother. They are treasured in the heart. Need I tell you of what she was as the faithful pastor's wife. All these years she has gone in and out among you, and your hearts are her epistles. There are some here who could tell us of another Dorcas work. Which of your homes was ever touched with sorrow when she did not come? Where was there sickness that she did not minister? Whose heart has no memories of her loving words and work? You will all miss her; the poor will miss her hand that scattered bounty; the sick will miss the coming of her feet. There are few homes where sorrow comes which will not miss her. We shall all miss her but most of all in the church. She will be missed in the Sunday School and Parish work. "She will not only be missed, she will be wanted." There will be few dry eyes to-day around her grave. I feel myself bereaved, not only for my brother's loss, I feel bereaved for you, for myself, and the church of GOD, to lose such a laborer from our work. I shall weep with those who weep to-day, but they are no bitter tears, they are waterings of faith to cleanse my eye to look afar to her eternal home. You know with what sorrow the last message came. There was disappointment and thwarted hopes, and where she looked for life there was death. It was a sudden call; so sudden it startled all. The way was very rough; few ever suffered greater pain, few had more to leave behind. She loved life, and it never seemed more blessed than when the summons came. It found her ready. She meekly bowed her head and said "Thy will be done." There was no faltering, no drawing back, not a murmer passed her lips, grace conquered all. I met her in her sick room, where you read her anguish in every lineament of her face; but there was not the shadow of a passing cloud upon her faith. With her stricken household we met beside the table of the LORD and she ate of angels' food for the last rough stages of the journey. There were a few more days of suffering, a few more hours of sorrow, some prayers for rest, and she fell asleep, saying, "come quickly." She sleeps in JESUS. "We sorrow not as those who have no hope, for if we believe that JESUS died and rose again, even so them also who sleep in JESUS will GOD bring with him." So, dear friends, with faith and love we shall lay her in the grave to sleep till the world's last Easter, when she will awake in the likeness of her risen LORD.
Beloved, a few days more and there will be another grave. It is not every grave that is a homeward path to heaven. It is only theirs who reach it by the cross, for whom JESUS, their SAVIOUR, is their Judge. There will be a next summons and another grave. Are you ready? The road, be it longer or be it shorter, leads there. Will it be for you the Christian's grave? Oh, how many warnings cluster around this one grave! How it speaks to wives and mothers; how it touches the church of CHRIST; how near it comes to this Missionary band. Of our little company it makes a large vacant place when one is called. It ought to knit our hearts as one; it should deepen love and quicken faith; it should awaken zeal and earnest work, that the Missionary band may all have garments girdled when the cry shall come, 'The Master calleth thee." How it touches the parish flock. What lessons for you all, in these parted ties. Will you not write them on your hearts? Will you not gain closer fellowship with CHRIST? If you only live for Him, when He calls He will lead you home. Scholars, pupils, teachers, see in this coffin how soon our work is done. What a dark grave this would be without its hope! What sorrow in this grave if it had no shadow of the cross! Let us be wise to betake ourselves to JESUS; together there all we call our own, that so, though our home may be broken, we may know that they who sleep in JESUS shall be one in heaven.