Prepare you war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe to us! for the day goes away…
There is something at once grand and solemn in a setting sun. It is the sinking to rest of the great king of day; the withdrawing from the busy world the light that has called out its activity, and the covering up with the veil of darkness the scenes that glistened with the radiance of noon. There is, however, in the setting of the sun of life, that which is equally grand, still more solemn, and surpassingly sublime.
1. The sun, when it sets, has run a whole day's circuit; his pathway has apparently traversed an entire are of the heavens, and slowly, patiently, but surely, it has done its allotted work. And so the aged Christian, when he dies, is described as having "run his race," as having "finished his course." He has toiled a whole day of life, and has come to his grave in a "good old age," having "finished the work which was given him to do"; and though all his labours have been imperfectly done, though he himself feels more deeply than he can express his unprofitableness before God, yet he looks for acceptance, not to any merit of his own, but only for Christ Jesus sake, who of God and by faith is made unto him "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." We can contemplate with satisfaction, then, the aged disciple, having "borne the burden and heat of the day," patiently waiting for the stretching out of the evening shadows and the hour of his own sunset.
2. Another point to be considered is, the fact that the setting of the sun is not always like the day which it closes. The morning may have been bright, and the evening hour dark with tempests; or the rising may have been obscured by clouds and mists, which gradually faded away and left a clear sky at sunset. So the sunset hour of Christian life does not always correspond to his previous day. We have seen the last hours of the believer shrouded in impenetrable gloom, and we have seen them gilded with hope and radiant with the forecast glories of the upper world. The way in which a Christian dies is not always an index of his spiritual condition. He is to be judged by his life, not by his death. Self-denial, the mortification of our passions, the resisting of earthly temptations, the putting into active exercise, and amidst opposing difficulties, the whole class of Christian affections which flow out from the simple principle of loving our neighbour as ourselves, and the manifestation of that life of faith, of prayer, of holiness, of zeal, which necessarily results from the constraining love of Christ in the heart all these qualities and tests of character scarcely find a place on a dying bed, so that persons thus situated have few opportunities to develop the true evidences of the work of grace. The varieties of Christian experience are literally innumerable; but whatever their nature, we must not judge of the validity of one's hope, or the genuineness of one's conversion, by his dying hour. Yet, when that dying hour accords with a long life of piety, or a true profession maintained in health and strength; when it is but a concentrating within itself of the glories which have been more or less visible in the whole track of his experience, then is it eloquent in its revelations of the riches, and peace, and joy which God generally gives to those who are faithful unto death: and though we cannot order when or how our lives shall close upon earth, yet it should be our aim so to live as to secure, if God pleases, a serene, if not a triumphant exit, that our setting sun may, like the sun in the firmament, grow larger and more resplendent as it declines, until passing away it shall leave behind a trail of glory spread all over the place of our departure.
3. Another interesting thought connected with this subject is, that the sun is not lost or extinguished when it sets. This may seem a very trite remark concerning the natural sun, but it is not so trite when we speak of the soul set in death. For are we not apt to grieve over the going down of our friends to the grave, as if they were to be forever hidden in its dark chamber — as if the bright spark of their immortality had been suddenly quenched?
4. And this leads us to make one final observation, namely, that when we see the sun set, we know that it will rise again; and so when we see the body of our friends borne to the voiceless dwelling of the tomb, we know that they also shall rise again.
Parallel VersesKJV: Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.