Between the saint in his earthly pilgrimage and the unclouded glory of the eternal Sun of Righteousness death has drawn a dark curtain, which casts a gloomy shadow over all the enjoyments and pleasures of time. This earthly journey through a land of pits and snares, sorrow, sickness and death, may well be termed a pilgrimage through the “valley of the shadow of death.” The word valley in the scriptures is sometimes used to denote sorrow and trouble, as, “the valley of Achor;” the “valley of Megiddon.” – Zech. xii. 11. The word mountain, or hill, to denote joy; as, “The mountains and the hill shall break forth before you into singing.” “Let the hills be joyful together.” The joys and trials of the saints seem to be figuratively represented in the expression, “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys.” – Deut. xi. 11. In this sense the word valley in the twenty-third Psalm may well be applied to the mortal pilgrimage of saints. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” A journey through a dark and deep valley, beset with snares and frightful scenes, and surrounded by dangers of every form and name, is well calculated to fill the mind with fear and trembling. Such is the journey of the christian pilgrim through the wilderness of this world. Frequently he is made to exclaim,
“Is this, dear Lord, that thorny road
Which leads me to the mount of God?
Are these the toils thy people know
While in the wilderness below?”
Strait and narrow is the way of life that leadeth through the dark “Valley of the shadow of death,” yet so plainly wrought in the experience of the tempted pilgrim that “the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” It is true that there are times when the poor pilgrim feels to be left alone in the dark and dreary valley. Says the psalmist, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I watch and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop.” “I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind.” It is at such times that the sights and sounds of death around him tearrify him greatly. A thousand imaginary and terrible forms are seen, and horrible sounds are heard, in the mysterious depths of darkness and death around him. But it is not all imagination, for he is oppressed with the knowledge of the terrible dangers that surround him, and from which nothing but the grace of God can guard him, “Thou makest darkness, and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.”
But let us contemplate for a moment the expression, “shadow of death.” There can be no danger in a shadow, however terrible and dangerous the substance from which it proceeds may be. We walk in the shadow of death, but grace has extracted the terrible sting. The shadow of death, but grace has extracted the terrible sting. The shadow of death that falls about the pathway of the saved sinner reminds him constantly of the terrible death from which he has been saved. He feels within him “the body of this death.” What a terrible sight is the depravity of the human heart! How terrible are the effects of sin and death! What heart-thrilling pleasure to the poor and needy sinner, when he is brought to realize his complete deliverance from the bondage of death through the finished work of Christ. Death becomes but
“A port at the heavenly gate,
To let the pilgrims in.”
But let the dark shadow that it casts must ever fall around his mortal pathway, throwing a mantle of gloom over the brightest of earth’s joys. The psalmist speaks of walking through the valley. The journey of the believer must lead him through the dark and dismal scenes, the sorrows and conflicts, the sights and sounds that are heard in this earthly cavern. But securely guarded by the grace of God, he passes safely through. He does not fall in the darkness of death to rise no more in life, but sustained by him who has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” he endures the toils, survives the conflicts, passing safely through them all to the bright glory of the eternal world. In the darkest hour through which he has passed, faith has assured him of this final and glorious endurance. It is this which has supported him through all the toils, pain and anguish of the way. He has seen, though “through a glass darkly,” the brilliant glory of eternal day. The happy moment has at last arrived and from the dark way of death he passes to the uninterrupted joys of unfading glory, from the land of the dying to the land of the living; and death, sorrow, sin and sickness are known no more forever.
WM. M. SMOOT.
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 18
September 15, 1880