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“All my children,” said the venerable John Eliot, of Roxbury, “are either with Christ or in Christ.” Happy, happy man! The little ones, blighted soon by the touch of death, surely are with Christ; “for of such is the kingdom of God.” The cherub boy, and the blooming, broken flower, the young daughter,—the young man in his strength, the young maiden in her beauty,—are there. As we commune together, in the pages which follow, on themes touching this subject, God grant that every one who has not yet gladdened the heart of parent, and pastor, nay, of that infinite Friend, our Saviour, by the surrender of the heart to God, and every father and mother who is yet unprepared to join the growing circle of the family in heaven,—(’how grows in Paradise their store!’)—may, as we reach the last page, find that with cords of a man, with bands of love, He who made Pleiades, and Arcturus and his sons, has united them in eternal fellowship with their departed loved ones, through faith in Christ. This, while it hallows the remainder of life with the rich, mellowed beauty of the changing leaf, and ripening grain, and shortening days, lays the foundation of that perfect happiness for which our homes are intended to prepare us; their joys alluring, their separations pointing, us to heaven.
The fear of death alleviated.
Yea, and moreover this full
well know I:
He that’s at any time afraid to die
Is in weak case, and (whatsoe’er he saith)
Hath but a wavering and a feeble faith.
Unless we know the customs of the wandering shepherds with their flocks, one verse in the twenty-third Psalm, so often quoted in view of death, appears abrupt, but otherwise appropriate and very beautiful. One of a flock is expressing his confidence in God, his Shepherd: “When I have satisfied my hunger from the green pastures, he makes me to lie down in them; and the still, clear streams are my drink.” Then a thought occurs which appears as though a dying man were speaking, and not a sheep: but it is still the language of a sheep. Keeping this in mind, let it be remembered that the shepherds wandered from place to place to find pasture. In doing so, they were sometimes obliged to pass through dark, lonely valleys. Wild beasts, and creatures less formidable, but of hateful sight, and with doleful voices, made it difficult for the flocks to be led through such passages. There was frequently no other way from one pasturage to another but through these places of death-shade, or valleys of the shadow of death,—which was a term to express any dark and dismal place.
Now, let us imagine a flock reposing in a green pasture, and by the side of still waters, conversing about their shepherd, their pastures, and streams. One of them says, “In the midst of all this peace and contentment, there is a thought which spoils my comfort. We cannot stay here forever; we are to go, presently, beyond the mountains; they say that there are valleys, in those regions, full of dangers. My expectation is, that we shall be torn to pieces. My enjoyment of these pastures and waters is nearly destroyed by my forebodings about those valleys.”