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summits of the mountains of Moab, the last objects that it illumines are those in the foreground of the picture,—the two weeping Marys, as they sit with bleeding hearts, gazing on the closed and silent sepulchre of Jesus. As that dark and dreary night goes down over the battlements of the guilty City, the last forms that are visible to us, are those of these loving disciples, who are sitting in mute and motionless agony, looking through their tears on the grave of their crucified Master. It is often said that woman was “last at the cross, and first at the sepulchre." It should also be remembered that she was likewise last at the sepulchre; that when Joseph, Nicodemus, and John had all returned to their homes, and when the infuriate rabble of the city might well be dreaded, even by men, that even then, as that awful night of the crucifixion came down upon the guilty city, the Marys were the last to leave the spot, where the Lord lay, Hence, as a picture of woman's heroism, and woman's fidelity, it is one of most exquisite and touching beauty.
But it is as suggestive, as it is beautiful. The weeping Marys, gazing on the silent sepulchre, are but a striking type of the rest of the disciples on that mournful and memorable evening. The Shepherd had been smitten, and the flock was scattered. It is very difficult for us, with the light we have, to understand the feelings of the disciples at that time, or appreciate their conduct. We see so clearly that Christ ought to have suffered these things, before entering into his glory, that we can hardly comprehend their bewildered and stagger. ing state of mind at that period. They evidently did not understand either that Christ must die, or that his death was to be followed by a resurrection. These things had been announced to them, it is true, but they doubtless regarded them as symbolical, and could not think that he who had raised others from the grave must himself enter it. Hence when he was arrested, mocked, scourged, and crucified; when the heavens grew dark, and the earth quaked, and all nature gave token of some fearful utterance of wrath, they were bewildered, and unable to see why Jesus should be the subject of such manifestations. They had painful misgivings that all was lost; that he in whom they trusted had for some unknown reason failed in the hour of trial, and been forsaken of God; that all their fond dreams of the return of Israel's ancient glory were now dashed, and they left lonely and orphaned, the victims of some strange delusion, or some fearful failure. They were realizing the first utterance of the prophet Isaiah, " We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted," and had not yet reached the next, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities,” and hence their
souls were unutterably dark. They saw only the descending night and the unopened grave, and felt themselves in the valley and shadow of death, without the comforting rod and the supporting staff of the Shepherd. .
Hence this Sabbath eve was the darkest that ever fell on the earth, since the closing of the gates of Eden. He who seemed to be the hope of Israel and the world, was cruelly murdered, and God appeared to have abandoned the church and the world to their fate. The dawn of the next morning brought no relief to their darkened souls. The stillness of the Sabbath must have had a sepulchral oppressiveness to their souls, for it could only remind them of the dead Jesus. Even to an ordinary mourner there is something grating in the bright sunlight and glad skies, so mournfully in contrast with the darkness of the sorrowing heart; but to them with such a grief, having lost such a friend, under circumstances so unparalleled and appalling, the sweet light of the Sabbath must have seemed like a mockery of their gloom.
It is not unworthy of note, that in spite of the eager desire of the Marys to return to the sepulchre, “they rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” With many the Sabbath is peculiarly the day for visiting the resting-place of the dead, and the cemeteries of our cities and
villages are commonly thronged on that day by crowds of visitors, with many of whom it is to be feared affection for the dead is the least powerful motive for the excursion. It is often but part of that general disposition to take the time of the Sabbath for doing that which can be postponed during the week, and thus to save time which is money, by using time which is ‘only holy. With many the Sabbath is the day for taking medicine, for visiting sick friends, for making up lost sleep, and for performing miscellaneous duties, that would cost more time than they are willing to give during the working days of the week. It is in touching rebuke of this effort to rob God of his time to do our own work, that we find the Marys resting on the Sabbath according to the commandment. We have no desire to see a Jewish austerity infused into the Christian Sabbath, nor
is there the least danger of such an extreme. - But we have a desire to see it observed as a day of
holy rest, and neither as a day which is saddled with the odds and ends of things for which men are unwilling to give the working time of the week, nor as a day in which release from the control and demands of labour gives a leisure that is used in education for hell, if it is not used for education for heaven. Between the Sabbath as a holy day, and the Sabbath as a holiday, we have no hesitation in making a choice; and were it observed
seen that, ding the rise in their path.
more frequently as the Marys did it, "according to the commandment,” men would more frequently enjoy such visions as they had, when the darkness of the sorrowing night gave way to the dawn of the blessed morning..
It will be seen that, in this time of deep gloom, the disciples were nearing the rise of a brighter light than had ever yet appeared on their path. Then, as ever since, God was bringing light out of darkness, joy out of sorrow, life out of death, pearls of the richest glory out of tears of the bitterest sorrow, and making the very facts that caused the sadness to be the means of working out the good. This is the Divine plan, and is needed in a world of sin, and ought not therefore to be regarded with surprise when it comes upon us. We shall find, as the disciples did, that the cloud is big with blessing and not with wrath, and that the darkest hour is that before the dawn.