DIVINE unearthly day! dim indeed with the shadow of the valley of death, but instinct with a marvellous significance which draws our spirits into a strange consciousness of the realms of the departed.
"This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."
It almost seems to us on this day of heavenly rest, typical of the intermediate state, as if the words spoken to the penitent malefactor and fraught to him indeed with eternal blessedness, might yet in a limited sense be true of all who have sought to follow their beloved Master closely through the stages of His sacred Passion. For now dead with Him to all earthly desire, seeking JESUS alone in time and in eternity, we seem to rise from beneath His Cross where we too have offered up ourselves, and follow Him in spirit along the trackless way to the restful abodes of Hades. Turning from all human sights and sounds, we yield ourselves to the mysterious perception of the unseen state, which seems to be the peculiar grace accorded to those who keep this day in union with their departed LORD.
A supernatural stillness appears to be all around us with a cool soft air, such as breathes amid summer heat from some dark cavern deep among the rocks, while our whole spiritual intelligence thrills with intense realization of the Presence of our Incarnate GOD in the home of the faithful dead. We seem in some strange sense conscious that He is there, pervading the whole dim quiet atmosphere; His Hands extended even as on the Cross in universal benediction, while at His Feet are resting calm and still the vast multitudes of our brethren gone before, drawn by His coming through the solemn shades to gather at that one Centre of all hope and joy. There amid the unnumbered throngs we seem to gain a veiled glimpse of beloved faces, vanished long since in mournful days from our longing eyes, and now, seeking for us no more, intent on Him alone for Whom they wait, their Resurrection and their Life.
With Him, with them, and all who have departed in His faith and fear, we may indeed abide this one calm day in Paradise, but since not yet for us the tyranny of life is overpast, it may not all be spent in peaceful contemplation of the rest that remains for the people of GOD.
We have yet a task to finish upon earth, we have to labour that we may indeed enter into that rest, lest in our bitter struggle with the enemies of GOD within us and without, we should after all come short of it. There is laid on us yet the stern necessity of becoming, in life, that which in death we would desire to be, for it seems plain that no new regeneration takes place within the undying soul when the mortal body is given to the dust; that which it has been in tendencies and desire upon earth, it still must be, when it goes out into the unknown realm where its eternal destiny shall be accomplished.
The lessons of the Holy Week which have taught us how to live, are now gathered up and concentrated in the teaching of this sacred Eve which instructs us how to die, not in words, but by the stupendous facts commemorated in it, which convey to us the certainty of those divine Truths that have taken the sting from death, and robbed the grave of its victory. That grave need have no terrors for us now, since the Incarnate Love Himself has slept within its narrow walls, that He might render all the conditions of our nature pure and harmless in death as well as in life; and this mysterious day should be the seal set on our immutable purpose, so to live in Him and with Him here, that we may pass through the grave and gate of death to be with Him for ever. The end of our years on earth may seem to us yet far off, and till it come, the troubled anxious interval is like that night of toil and sorrow, spent by the disciples on the stormy Tiberian sea, before the glorious dawn which brought them at last the blissful sight of their own Risen LORD.
We too are out upon the restless waves on life's dark sea, struggling with the baffling winds of error, and temptation, and toiling to reach the land of everlasting joy, and ever as we hurry onwards, the world grows drearier, and our spirits fainter, in their loneliness and gloom,--the scenes of youth and riper years recede into the distance, and the voices we have loved, die away from us to be heard no more, the lights of earth go out one by one, and the whelming waters rise higher and higher, as we drift we know not whither, helpless and alone.
The night--the dark unknown night whose mystery no living eye has ever pierced, is closing round us, yet we need not shrink or fear, for all will be well eternally, if only it can be said of each one of us, that when the morn was come--