Foot-prints on the Sands of Time; Or,
Words of Hope and Comfort for Hours of Sorrow


By William Thoseby, 1869

 

INTRODUCTION.
Circumstances over which no one had any control suggested the plan of this little volume and in submitting it to the Christian public the author makes no pretense to profound originality, ingenuity, or quaintness.

It is earnestly hoped that the following pages by the blessing of the great Head of the Church may serve in some humble measure . . .
to point sinners to the Cross of Christ,
to comfort those who have been bereaved of loved ones,
to console those who are in trouble,
to strengthen and encourage those who are endeavoring to progress well through life's duties amid life's perplexities,
to invigorate the young that though their path may sometimes seem rough, rugged and cheerless it is still open and onward,
to inspire the aged that Christ will go with them through the whole of their life, and will not leave them in the shadows which hang about its close; but will throw open the gates of paradise to all his ransomed followers, when a thousand sights of beauty will fill the delightful eyes of the pilgrims, and a thousand voices of welcome will hail their incoming home. "There remains therefore a rest to the people of God!"

 

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And there reader, you are going!

"It is appointed unto man once to die; but after death the judgment." Hebrews 9:27

"In Adam all die." 1 Corinthians 9:15

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" Romans 5:12

"On this side, and on that, men see their friends drop off, like leaves in autumn."
 

Memories of the dearly departed, crowd in upon us all, and often "fill the haunted chambers of the night." Who has not some friend or family member among the past deceased millions?

What is our life?
"It is even as a vapor which appears for a little while, and then vanishes away!" Nothing can exempt us from the common lot of humanity.

What is the history of our race? It is a lengthened bill of mortality a vast Aceldama (field of blood), on whose gates are written, "Lamentation, mourning and woe!"

What are the words that apply alike to all? It is the solemn sentence "Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return!" Everywhere we meet with the grim and ghastly triumphs of death. In every language you may hear his hoarse, bass voice calling "Return O children of men!" The pyramids of Egypt, while they are a monument of human labor are likewise a monument of human mortality. The thickening grave-stones in our cemeteries preach to us their reminder, "Remember death!"

The brief allusions of the inspired writers to the ravages of death are fitted to arrest the attention of our readers:
 
"How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear!" Job 14:1-2
 
"We finish our years like a sigh. Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away!" Psalm 90:9-10
 
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass!" Isaiah 40:6-7

These are but a few, out of the many, of the ever recurring cries of humanity, respecting the ravages of death. Into how many of our homes has the "King of Terrors" and the terror of kings entered unbidden and smitten down some of our nearest, dearest, and best of friends! May we not ask:

Where is the husband who stood by you at the altar, and under the protection of whose arm you felt secure?

Where is the wife with whom you took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God, to whose accents you surrender your soul, and to whose language of affection you desired to listen forever?

Where is the father who toiled for you with his brawny arms, and loved you with a manly heart?

Where is the mother who watched over your infancy, hushed you to sleep on her gentle bosom, and tended your sick-bed through many a fevered dream?

Where are the children, those angels of your home over whom you shed your hottest tears?

Are they not gone, some of them at least, to the cold damp bed, the grave, where there is . . .
  no pillow but the cold clay;
  no covering but the sod;
  no curtain but the dark coffin lid;
  no companion but the worm!

And there reader, you are going!

But death is not your final resting-place.

"It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

As death leaves you so judgment shall find you!
As the judgment finds you so shall eternity keep you!

"Prepare to meet your God!" Amos 4:12
 

"Like crowded forest trees we stand,
 And some are marked to fall;
 The axe will smite at God's command,
 And soon will smite us all!"
 

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Love photographs them in the heart!

"The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death!" Isaiah 57:1-2

It is true there are strong consolations and compensations in Divine providence, but even the Christian consolations cannot drink up all the heart's sorrow in the hour of separating death. We cry with truth, but yet in tears, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" "Yes in all these things we are more than conquerors," but we are conquerors with bleeding wounds and scars of the conflict upon us.

When a dear life is taken from the near presence of our own life, no antidote of reasoning, nor cordial of promise even, can make us oblivious of the loss. In the moment of most entire submission and most exultant faith we feel the pang of separation. Our affections grope and wander uneasily in the vacancy that has been made, and we return home companionless and sorrowing. We are awed by the voiceless room, and the vacant chair affects us with sadness. Every relic and memorial of the life that is ended, tells us that it is ended indeed. The dearly departed live in the chambers of our soul. We see their lovely forms, hear their sweet voices, feel their tender touch, and almost grasp their hands. Love photographs them in the heart!

When therefore a dear life is taken, the person who is left must suffer. And since so it is, we come, through "many a winding maze" to conclude that thus it ought to be. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" "Now we see through a glass darkly."

But in our ignorance and blind unbelief, we are too apt to arraign the rectitude of the Divine procedure, exclaiming:
How bewildering is this afflictive dealing!
How baffling is this mystery!
Where is now my God?
This sickness why prolonged?
This thorn in the flesh why still buffeting?
This family blank why permitted?
Why the most treasured and useful life taken the blow aimed where it cut most severely?

Hush the secret atheism! for the day is coming when every dark hieroglyphic in the Roll of Divine Providence, will be made plain and clear. When what are called . . .
"dark providences"
"harmful calamities"
"strokes of misfortune"
"unmitigated evils"
trials, sorrows, crosses, losses, adversities, sicknesses
  the emptied cup,
  the withered gourd,
  the lingering illness,
  the early grave,
  the useful lives taken,
  blossoms prematurely plucked,
  spiritual props removed,
  benevolent schemes blown upon
  over all these, will not this grand motto be written as in characters of living light which may be read on anguished pillows and aching hearts, yes, on the very portals of the tomb itself, "This also comes from the LORD almighty; He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom!" Isaiah 28:29

Let us "be still and know that He is God." "We know" says the apostle, "that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

We do not always see the bright light in the clouds, but it "shall come to pass that at evening time, it shall be light!"

Child of sorrow! Mourning over the withdrawal of some beloved object of earthly affection dry your tears! An early death has been an early crown! The tie sundered here, links you to the throne of God. You have a Christian parent, a brother, a sister, in Heaven! You are the relative of a redeemed saint. "He shall enter" (he has entered) "into peace" the "rest which remains for the people of God!"

We can only see one side of a Christian's death the setting side, the expiring breath, the vanishing life, the cold clay corpse. We cannot see the risings on the other side the angel convoy, Heaven's open gate, the Savior's welcome of the enraptured departed one. Yet it is none the less real.

Death to the Christian, is a birth into heavenly life a life more real, more sweet, more calm, more pure than could be enjoyed on earth.

"Beloved! think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, but rejoice!" Soon you shall hear the sweet chimes wafted from the towers of the heavenly Jerusalem, "Enter into the joy of your Lord!" "The Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces!"

Christian Mourner! Do not go to the grave to weep there. The devourer shall be devoured! The resurrection shall restore to you, all that death snatches away. And then, Oh! joyous hope, "death shall be swallowed up of life!" Glorious day! "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection!"


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Reader, turn aside and see this great sight!

"When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you!" Isaiah 43:2

John Bunyan writes in his Pilgrim's Progress: "Now I further saw that between the pilgrims and the gate of the Celestial City, was a river but there was no bridge to go over, and the river was very deep. At the sight of this river, the pilgrims were much stunned; but those who went with them, said, 'You must go through or you cannot come at the gate.' The pilgrims then began to despond in their minds, and looked this way and that, but no way could be found by them, by which they might escape the river."

How true and touching is this description. There is no way from this world to the Celestial City, but through the river of death. Whether men go to eternal glory or to eternal gloom they have to ford its depths. There is no way of reaching the Celestial City, without crossing the narrow stream of death. When the summons for our departure arrives, we must enter the deep dark waters. None can disregard the call, nor choose any other mode of transit. But it is given to the Christian pilgrim to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd sounding like sweet music in the intervals of storm, "It is I, do not be afraid!" Jesus may allow you to hear some touches of richest music, and feel some waftings of balmiest air. It has even seemed to some of the pilgrims, that their very names were called; and then with new thrillings of the inner sense, they have joyfully answered, "We are coming we are coming home!"

But as we near the banks of the river, the prospect of parting with beloved relatives and friends is sometimes deeply affecting. It was a touching scene in ancient Israel "When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for him thirty days." Oh, there is a luxury in tears! The tears of tenderness, are the jewelry of our humanity. The man who never sheds a tear, is by no means to be envied. Have we not heard of the weeping Savior? Reader, turn aside and see this great sight the Creator of all worlds in tears! "Jesus wept!" John 11:35. And those tears formed one of the most touching episodes in His sacred story.

Looking along the line of coming years, the Savior had before Him the believing bereaved of all ages a picture gallery of the world's aching hearts a far and wide spread view of all the deserted chambers, vacant seats and open graves down to the end of time. Therefore, weeping believer, your anguished heart was included in the Savior's tear drops!

"Shudder not to pass the stream,
Venture all your care on Him,
Him whose dying love and power
Stilled its tossing, hushed its roar.
Not one object of His care,
Ever suffered shipwreck there;
See the haven full in view;
Love Divine shall bear you through!"


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The key of death!


"It is appointed unto man once to die; but after death the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

"I hold the keys of death and the grave!" Revelation 1:18

Christ has the key of death suspended at His belt!

None can enter among the immortals until Christ has turned the key for him.
None can stay among the mortals after that key has been turned upon him.

And as the key may be turned at any possible hour how important it is that we should get ready and keep ready for its turning. We know not "what a day nor an hour may bring forth." There may be the sudden burst, the instant call, the midnight cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom comes!"

"Prepare to meet your God!" Amos 4:12


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Help, O LORD, for the godly are fast disappearing!


"Like crowded forest trees we stand,
 And some are marked to fall;
 The axe will smite at God's command,
 And soon will smite us all!"

"On this side, and on that, men see their friends drop off, like leaves in autumn."

"In a moment they die. In the middle of the night they pass away; the mighty are removed without human hand!" Job 34:20

"Help, O LORD, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth!" Psalm 12:1

"In the midst of life, we are in death." Year after year the best friends of Zion are being taken from our midst gifted pastors pious members devoted ministers are fast passing away to the house appointed for all living. We look around us, as old age creeps on, and find that the companions of our youth are gone noble forest trees, one by one have bowed to the axe! "The place that once knew them, knows them no more." "Our fathers, where are they? The prophets, do they live forever?"

Heaven is being enriched, but the spoils are being gathered from our fields. Often have we been heard to say that "earth's loss is Heaven's gain." True enough, but is not Heaven's gain, earth's loss? And while so many precious lives are being taken from us should we not value more tenderly those that remain? Some of them near the ripening. Above all, should we not try to make our own lives more sublime, more gracious, and more useful. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

That so many of the great and good are frequently taken very suddenly from us, in the midst of their useful and holy work, and in the midst of their days, while the wicked often live on to a bad old age is to us a profound mystery and we can only find relief in the following passage of Scripture; "Jesus replied: You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." John 13:7

"They pass us on their way
 To glory and immortality!"

We need not therefore even question the progress of Divine truth in the world. We have good reason to hope that God will take care of His Church. We see missionaries die in the field, and ministers die in the Church; but we likewise see that ample compensations are supplied in God's providence, even when labors of the greatest effect are ended, and we are called to mourn the loss of a distinguished life. We are deeply sensible of the loss which we from time to time sustain; we mourn over so much departed worth. Let us come now in our sorrow, to meet God's unutterable love.

But on the other hand, God can do without any particular instrument. He can lay the best of them aside, and yet carry on His cause. This should certainly teach us to be humble. "How disposed, we are," says a popular writer, "to imagine that we are important persons in the world that the world could ill spare us! We may sometimes even suppose that there would be a pause in the world's progress, if we were called away.

Ah! my friend that is all a mistake the world can do without you! Very few men will pause when they hear of your death. Very few will talk about it, and fewer still will go to your grave and drop a tear. The world can do without you! You are not all that important. You are but a single blade of grass in the field the landscape will bloom without you. You are but a drop in the ocean the mighty billows will not miss you. Your great question should be, how so to live, how so to act, how so to spend your life that when the last hour shall come, God may say unto you, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord!"


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He was evidently a great preacher


"In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 'Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!'
John's clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John!" Matthew 3

John was no empty proclaimer of trite sayings, bald platitudes, and hackneyed phrases passing them off in a lively manner, but with an awfully loud voice. He would not be likely to gain his popularity in that way. He was evidently a great preacher and there must have been something very uncommon about his speeches. No doubt the common people heard him gladly.

We suspect that the vast majority of church-goers and sermon hearers today do not want fine words, deep philosophy, metaphysical abstractions, elaborate compositions or profound learning. But they want great plainness of speech. They delight in simple ideas, forcible illustrations, direct appeals to the heart and conscience delivered in fervent, loving earnestness of manner. He who possesses such qualifications will seldom preach to empty pews.


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Personal piety is the one needful requisite for useful living and happy dying.


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You fool! You will die this very night!

"You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away!" James 4:14

Both the sinner and the saint should remember that death comes unexpected, and the arrow is unseen which strikes through the heart!

"You fool! You will die this very night!" Luke 12:20


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A certain nobleman had a spacious garden

We have read of a minister who at a Funeral Service, most beautifully set forth this truth in a parable. He spoke as follows: "A certain nobleman had a spacious garden, which he left to the care of a faithful servant, whose delight it was to train the creepers along the trellis, to water the plants, to support the stalks of the tender plants, and to do every work which could render the garden a Paradise of flowers.

"One morning he arose with joy, expecting to tend his beloved flowers, and hoping to find his favorites increased in beauty. To his surprise, he found one of his choicest beauties torn from its stem, and, looking around him, he missed the most precious of his blooming flowers from every bed of his garden. Full of grief and anger, he hurried to his fellow servants and demanded who had thus robbed him of his treasures. They had not done it, but he found no solace for his grief until one of them remarked: "The Master was walking in the garden this morning, and I saw him pluck the flowers and carry them away." Then truly he found he had no cause for his trouble. He felt it was well that his master had been pleased to take his own and he went away, smiling at his loss, because his Master had taken them."

"So" said the preacher, turning to the mourners; "You have lost one whom you regarded with much tender affection. The bonds of endearment have not availed for her retention upon earth. I know your wounded feelings, when instead of the lovely form which was the embodiment of all that is excellent and amiable, you behold nothing but ashes and corruption. But remember my beloved, the Lord has done it! He has removed the tender mother, the affectionate wife, the inestimable friend. I say again, remember that your Lord has done it. Therefore do not murmur, or yield yourselves to an excess of grief."

We may not be able to understand it at present but one day we shall come to find that even our very worst trials, afflictions, and bereavements are as God's best blessings. And we are by no means rightly "exercised," if those things do not make us more trustful, loving and true, and thus more fit to meet again our glorified friends from whom we have been separated now.

"They will not return to us," but if by the parting a purer tone be given to our whole life, and we are more and more prepared for "going to them," all will be well. They seem to say to us, "Hasten and come away to these delightful regions! Little did we conceive of these glories, while we sojourned with you."

The veil is removed from their sight and the light of Heaven, so effulgent, and clear, and glorious, breaks upon their souls now. Heaven's sublime beauties gleam before their unclouded vision now. Heaven's joyous music of the new song sweeps over their enraptured ears now! As pilgrims they have passed away from the winter to the summer residence, from one of the outlying provinces up to the near and central home even to the "Many Mansions," which Jesus has gone to prepare. Oh, sweet sleep of death that has such a grand awaking! Happy close of life's day if at the close we are safely brought within the portals of that house, whence we shall go out no more forever.

"In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you." Cold and dull must the heart be, that does not quiver with delight at these words. Oh, what a wonderful place Heaven must be! How wonderful for its vastness and magnitude. Believers have been going into it for well near six thousand years. Thus, "a great multitude which no man could number," has been passing in ceaseless procession to the happy regions beyond. And still there is room. There is no crowding in God's infinite dominion. There is room enough for all who are washed in Christ's blood, renewed by Christ's Spirit, and who hold Christ as the Head, and as the Prophet, Priest, and King. Yes! there is room in our Father's house for all who are true-hearted believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. "If it were not so," He says "I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."