“Ours is a dying world; and immortality has no place upon this earth. That which is deathless is beyond these hills. Mortality is here; immortality is yonder! Mortality is below; immortality is above. “Neither can they die any more,” is the prediction of something future, not the announcement of anything either present or past. At every moment one of the sons of Adam passes from this life; and each swing of the pendulum is the death-warrant of some child of time. ‘Death,’ ‘death,’ is the sound of its dismal vibration. ‘Death,’ ‘death,’ it says, unceasingly, as it oscillates to and fro. The gate of death stands ever open, as if it had neither locks nor bars. The river of death flows sullenly past our dwellings; and continually we hear the splash and the cry of one, and another, and another, as they are flung into the rushing torrent, and carried down to the sea of eternity.
Earth is full of death-beds. The groan of pain is heard everywhere,—in cottage or castle, in prince’s palace or peasant’s hut. The tear of parting is seen falling everywhere; rich and poor, good and evil, are called to weep over the departure of beloved kindred, husband or wife, or child, or friend. Who can bind the strong man that he shall not lay his hand upon us or our beloved ones? Who can say to sickness, Thou shalt not touch my frame; or to pain, Thou shalt not come nigh; or to death, Thou shalt not enter here? Who can light up the dimmed eye, or recolour the faded cheek, or reinvigorate the icy hand, or bid the sealed lip open, or the stiffened tongue speak once more the words of warm affection? Who can enter the death-chamber, and speak the ‘Talitha Cumi’ of resurrection? Who can look into the coffin, and say, Young man, arise? Who can go into the tomb, and say, Lazarus, come forth?
The voice of death is heard everywhere. Not from the bier alone, nor the funeral procession, nor the dark vault, nor the heaving churchyard. Death springs up all around. Each season speaks of death. The dropping spring-blossom; the scorched leaf of summer; the ripe sheaf of autumn; the bare black winter mould,—all tell of death. The wild storm, with its thick clouds and hurrying shadows; the sharp lightning, bent on smiting; the dark torrent, ravaging field and vale; the cold seawave; the ebbing tide; the crumbling rock; the up-torn tree,—all speak of dissolution and corruption. Earth numbers its grave-yards by hundreds of thousands; and the sea covers the dust of uncounted millions, who, coffined and uncoffined, have gone down into its unknown darkness.
Death reigns over earth and sea; city and village are his. Into every house this last enemy has entered, in spite of man’s desperate efforts to keep him out. There is no family without some empty seat or crib; no fireside without a blank; no circle out of which some brightness has not departed. There is no garden without some faded rose; no forest without some sere leaf; no tree without some shattered bough; no harp without some broken string.
In Adam all die. He is the head of death, and we its mortal members. There is no exemption from this necessity; there is no discharge in this war. The old man dies; but the young also; the grey and the golden head are laid in the same cold clay. The sinner dies; so also does the saint; the common earth from which they sprang receives them both. The fool dies; so also does the wise. The poor man dies; so also does the rich. ‘All flesh is grass.’
The first Adam died; so also died the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. But there is a difference. The first Adam died, and, therefore, we die. The second Adam died, and therefore, we live; for the last Adam was made a quickening spirit; and this is the pledge of final victory over death and the tomb. Thus, the grave is the cradle of life; night is the womb of day; and sunset has become sunrise to our shaded and sorrowful earth. Yet, this is not yet realised. We are still under the reign of death, and this is the hour and the power of darkness. The day of the destruction of death, and the unlocking of sepulchres is not yet. It will come in due time. Meanwhile we have to look on death; for our dwelling is in a world of death,—a land of graves.
If, then, we would get beyond death’s circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. We must take the wings of the morning and fly away to the region of the unsorrowing and the undying; where ‘that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power, and death be swallowed up in victory.’”
Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 416–419.