Sleeping with the Fathers
James Smith, 1860
"Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers" Deuteronomy 31:16
There are two beautiful sights in creation which have a most fascinating effect upon the mind. A healthy, well-formed, lovely infant, with its sparkling eyes, dimpled cheeks, and ruby lips; and a godly old man, with his benevolent countenance, snow-white hair, and venerable appearance. Looking at the former, we are led instinctively to imprint the kiss of affection on the face; and looking at the other, we feel almost impelled to arise, and bow the head.
What a beautiful sight must Moses have been, when he stood before Israel, and said, "I am a hundred and twenty years old this day, I can no more go out and come in." And how kindly the Lord dealt with him, when he directed him to ascend the mount Nebo, that he might gratify him with a sight of the good land, before he closed his eyes in death. And how sweet the representation of death which was given him, when the Lord said to him, "Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers," or as the margin reads, "You shall lie down with your fathers." Deuteronomy 31:16.
What is the State of the Fathers? Where are they? Their bodies rest in the grave — and their souls are happy with their God. In what state are they? In a state of repose. They sleep, not that they are unconscious — but they are at rest. The day of life with them is ended. Its duties are ended. Its responsibilities are past. Its hours are fled away. The evening, the season for rest is come.
What a trying day some of them had! How stormy. How sultry. How often overcast. How gloomy. But it is now past — and past forever. The toils of the wilderness are over. They had . . .
a difficult and dangerous journey,
a long wearisome march,
many a heavy cross to carry,
many a determined foe to face,
many a painful doubt,
numerous gloomy fears
to afflict and pain them. But now the wilderness is all behind them!
The afflictions of the pilgrimage are terminated. Those sufferings were sharp, and some of them continued long. Many of them were endured in secret without sympathy, and without relief. They were soul sorrows, agony of mind — as well as sharp pains of body. But however multiplied, however severe, however protracted those sorrows — they are past and gone, never, never to return! The sweetest repose is enjoyed. The poor tabernacle has been taken down, and is laid in a quiet resting-place, until the resurrection morning. The soul is gone to be with Jesus. It has traveled through the path of life — and is now in God's presence, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore! They rest from all their labors. They sleep in Jesus. They have rejoined beloved and holy relatives, who had gone before them. "Weeping may remain for a night — but rejoicing comes in the morning!" Psalm 30:5. What are,
The Prospects of the Children. We shall sleep with our fathers. We are going to the same place. The graves will soon be ready for our bodies — and the mansions of glory for our souls. We are going home! Home to our Father's house. Home where our brethren are collecting. Home where our hearts have long been. Home where all our prayers will be answered, and all our best desires will be gratified. "Home, sweet home! There is no place like home!" — especially our home. We shall lie down under the same protection.
Even the grave is not a prison — but a safe and quiet chamber. Not a chamber in some poor unprotected cottage, exposed to the depredations of depraved and wicked men; but a chamber in some castle or rock, where thief can never enter, fire consume, or terrific storm destroy.
And the resting-place of the soul is in paradise. A paradise without a tempting serpent. A paradise where all are holy, all are safe, all are happy. We shall enter into the same enjoyments. Those pure and perpetual joys, which are at God's right hand await us! We taste them now, and are delighted with a sip — but there we shall drink full draughts! They enter into us now, under the gracious direction of the Holy Spirit; but there we shall enter into them, for they will be as the atmosphere we breathe, the river in which we bathe, the food on which we live!
Think, think, O my soul, of an eternity of enjoyment, when the sufferings of time are ended! We shall rest until the same period. That is, until God's purposes in reference to the world and the church, under the present dispensation, are accomplished. Until all the elect are called and sanctified. Until all the scattered children are collected. Until Jesus shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. And then, we shall only awake, that the body may share with the soul its liberty, spirituality and holiness! Awake, to greater glory, greater joy, and greater blessedness. Observe,
The Note of Admiration. "Behold! you shall sleep with your fathers." Behold, and improve the fact, by often thinking of it. When wearied, way-worn, and tempted to fret — remember that you will soon lie down with your fathers — by looking forward to it, especially amidst toils and trials, dangers and distresses, these things, however painful, cannot last long, for you will soon sleep with your fathers — by preparing for it, keeping the conscience clean and tender, the robes white, the evidences bright, and the work under, for you will soon sink into repose with your fathers — by familiarizing the mind with it. I die daily, said the apostle, and the believer should so familiarize his mind, with his departure to be with Christ — that he should fear it no more, than going into his chamber to bed. Behold! for it is certain, certain to all God's children.
We must die — for it is appointed. We must die — and it may be soon! Death is a merciful appointment. Not more merciful is the appointment of sleep for the repose of the body, after the exhausting labors of the day, than the appointment of death for the rest of the soul, after the toils and troubles of life. It may be sudden. As we are sometimes suddenly overtaken with sleep when the body has been overtasked and overworked; so sometimes death comes in an hour we are not expecting. Let us therefore be ready, that so whether we are laid to sleep by a sudden stroke, or fall asleep after a long season of restless suffering, it may be all one to us, because to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.
Beloved, if we sleep, we shall do well, for we shall awake again; none of God's children ever die in their sleep. Death cannot separate us from Jesus, or from the love of God in him. Death cannot devour one particle of the body, which is necessary to its identity, or completeness. If we lie down in the grave with our fathers, at eventide, we shall awake with them in the morning. Their night may appear to be longer than ours — but the morning will be the same to each. Nor will it appear long to them. The repose they enjoy is so sweet, the pleasures they realize are so fascinating, the happiness apportioned to them is so solid and satisfying, that we can scarcely imagine their longing for a change. Only, as now, their wills are wholly swallowed up in the will of God, whatever pleases him — pleases them, and whatever appears to be preferable to him — is preferred by them.
When we awake again, we shall be greatly refreshed. How pleasant we have found it, to awake up after a good night's refreshing sleep. But how much more pleasant will it be, to awake up out of the dust of the earth! When we lie down wearied at night, darkness covers the earth and hides its beauties, and weariness of body unfits us to admire and enjoy them; but in the morning, everything appears fresh, lovely, and inviting, and we enjoy the beauties and bounties of creation more than ever.
Just so, lying down with our fathers, after suffering from disease, violent conflicts, and exhausting labors — we are ready to say with Job, "I despise my life; I would not live forever!" But when we awake in the morning of the first resurrection, how different will the world look. No more sighs or groans, no more sufferings or sorrows, no more sin nor sadness; but all will be holy, all will be happy, and all will be worthy of a God of love. The curse will be completely rolled from creation, and all the traces of that curse will be done away. The wicked will have perished out of the earth, and the saints of the Most High God shall possess the Kingdom. The tabernacle of God shall be with men, and he shall dwell among them.
The meek shall inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The pure in heart shall see God, and the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth. O glorious morning! A morning without clouds. O blissful prospect, may my soul anticipate it, prepare for it, and so fully enjoy it!
Reader, what will death be to you? A sleep? What will the resurrection be to you? A joyful morning! If you are in Christ it will — but if you are not in Christ it will not, it cannot be!