But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.’–DANIEL xii. 13.
… Some of you will remember how, in a stormy October night, many years ago, the Royal Charter went down when three hours from Liverpool, and the passengers had met in the saloon and voted a testimonial to the captain because he had brought them across the ocean in safety. Until the anchor is down and we are inside the harbour, we may be shipwrecked, if we are careless in our navigation. Go thou thy way until the end.’ And remember, you older people, that until that end is reached you have to use all your power, and to labour as earnestly, and guard yourself as carefully, as at any period before.
And not only till the end,’ but go thou thy way to the end.’ That is to say, let the thought that the road has a termination be ever present with us all. Now, there is a great deal of the so-called devout contemplation of death which is anything but wholesome. People were never meant to be always looking forward to that close. Men may think of the end’ in a hundred different connections. One man may say, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.’ Another man may say, I have only a little while to master this science, to make a name for myself, to win wealth. Let me bend all my efforts in a fierce determination– made the fiercer because of the thought of the brevity of life–to win the end.’ The mere contemplation of the shortness of our days may be an ally of immorality, of selfishness, of meanness, of earthly ambitions, or it may lay a cooling hand on fevered brows, and lessen the pulsations of hearts that throb for earth.
But whilst it is not wholesome to be always thinking of death, it is more unwholesome still never to let the contemplation of that end come into our calculations of the future, and to shape our lives in an obstinate blindness to what is the one certain fact which rises up through the whirling mists of the unknown future, like some black cliff from the clouds that wreath around it. Is it not strange that the surest thing is the thing that we forget most of all? It sometimes seems to me as if the sky rained down opiates upon people, as if all mankind were in a conspiracy of lunacy, because they, with one accord, ignore the most prominent and forget the only certain fact about their future; and in all their calculations do not’ so number their days’ as to apply’ their hearts unto wisdom.’ Go thou thy way until the end,’ and let thy way be marked out with a constant eye towards the end.
Alexander Maclaren, “A NEW YEARS MESSAGE”, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Ezekiel, Daniel and the Minor Prophets; and Matthew Chaps. I to VIII
Alexander Maclaren was a nonconformist Baptist pastor in England who died around 1910. He wrote several bible commentaries.
It may seem to be a bit odd for one of our prayer focus words in this blog to be a proper name of a ship. I was wondering how often some of our pastor friends here spoke of contemporaneous disasters or tragedies. The Royal Charter was a clipper ship that wrecked in 1859. The ship was returning from Melbourne, Australia, to England, and crashed not too far from home. There were 100 MPH winds. It’s said more died from the waves on the rocks in the shallows than by drowning. Some 450 people died.
Maclaren uses the unexpectedness of this tragedy to remind people to put their affairs in order. He says it may be unhealthy to be focused on one’s end, “it is more unwholesome” not to consider it at all.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, we pray for those who mourn over the sudden and unexpected loss of life. Bind up their hearts and give us all reassurance of your promises. Protect the traveler and sojourner and all who must venture to sea for their livelihood. Let us, as we consider our own demise, neither be focused with dread nor develop an indifference that makes us careless and indifferent. Let us know the rest that you have planned for us. AMEN.