SLEEPING AND WAKING
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"She is not dead, but asleep." Luke 8:52
"Your brother will rise again." John 11:23
Let these words suggest thoughts of unutterable solace
and refreshment to those who may now be seated in tears and sackcloth under
the "Palms of the Valley."
Death is but a quiet sleep. The 'Bible,' it has
been said, 'with its finger of love, turns what we dread into gold.'
Here the Bible, with its finger of life, turns dreaded death into a
peaceful slumber. Soon the morning hour shall strike; the waking time of
immortality arrive; and the voice of Jesus will be heard, saying, "I go that
I may awake them out of sleep."
It has been often noted that there is a beautiful and
striking progression in our Lord's three miraculous raisings from the
dead. The first in point of time was in the case of the daughter of
Jairus, spoken of in our first motto-verse. She was raised immediately after
death had taken place; when the body was still laid on its death couch. Her
soul had but taken its flight to the spirit-world, when the angels that bore
it away were summoned to restore it. The second, in chronological
order, was the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. Death had here
achieved a longer triumph. The customary time for mourning had intervened;
he was being borne to his last home when the voice of Deity sounded over his
funeral casket. The third and last of this class of miracles, was the
raising of Lazarus of Bethany. Over him death had attained a still more
significant mastery. The funeral rites were over; the tomb held in its
embrace 'the loved and lost'—four days had these lips been sealed before the
life-giving and life-restoring word was uttered.
There is one other gigantic step in this progression—"The
hour is coming when all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the
Son of God, and shall come forth!"
In the first case cited, the time elapsing between the
dismissal of the spirit and its recall was measured by moments, the
second by hours, the third by days; the fourth is measured by
ages—centuries—a MILLENNIUM. But what of that? What though in
conventional language we speak of the tomb as the "long home," and death as
"the long sleep"? By Him (with whom a thousand years is as one day), that
precious, because redeemed dust, shall be gathered together, particle by
particle. "I will ransom them," He says, as He looks forward through the
vista of ages to this glorious consummation, "I will ransom them from the
power of the grave, I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be your
plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction." Blessed, thrice blessed
As in the case of Jairus, it was his own loved daughter
who, in form and feature, was again restored; as the widow of Nain gazed on
the unaltered countenance of her own cherished boy; as the sisters of
Lazarus saw in him who came forth from the grave, no alien form, strangely
altered, but the brother of their hearts; so, we believe, on that wondrous
morning of immortality, shall the loved on earth wear their old familiar
smiles and loving looks. They shall retain their personal identity.
No, further; as in the case of the ruler's daughter, her
parents received her once more into their arms; as in the case of the
widow's son, it is expressly said, "they delivered him to his MOTHER;" as in
Bethany, we are allowed to look into the home circle again reunited—Jesus,
once more, loving "Martha and Mary and Lazarus," and they loving one
another—so may we believe that, on the Resurrection day, the affections
which gladdened and hallowed homesteads here, shall not be dulled, quenched,
annihilated; but rather ennobled and purified. Like the fabled Phoenix (the
"Palm-bird") they shall rise from their ashes in forms of new and more
glorious life. Brothers, sisters, parents, children, shall be linked in the
fond ties and memories of earth, gathering in loving groups under the shade
of immortal palms, by the living fountains of waters, and singing together
the Song of Eternity.
"We must not doubt, or fear, or dread,
That love for life is only given,
And that the calm and sainted dead
Will meet estranged and cold in heaven.
Oh, love were poor and vain indeed,
Based on so harsh and stern a creed.
But that which makes this life so sweet
Shall render heaven's joy complete."
"And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.
"Oh, not in cruelty, not in wrath
The Reaper came that day,
'Twas an angel visited the green earth
And took the flowers away."
"He grants sleep to those He loves."