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Our scene opens upon two young men conversing together. One is of very earnest and animated countenance, with a manly bearing and the stamp of virtue upon his face; the other is of a manner more carefree and inclined to enjoy the youthful pleasures of life without considering the more sober, but necessary elements. We come upon Joseph, the former, speaking sincerely upon the matter of death.

4cc8c8d67e88a5f9e1c04bc07325f876“The voice of a dying man seems to be more readily hearkened to than that of his lusty neighbours. Perhaps this is on account that death strips away vanity from his thoughts, and he is given new eyes to shun that which is of no account in the ever-approaching light of the world to come. Death! How it banishes the thoughts of vain pleasures and the care for esteem of men. For who so foolish as  to seek the acclaim of masses when his soul is quickly departing to the Presence of the One before whom the opinions and esteem of men hold no weight?”

Joseph paused his elaborations. Charles rested a firm chin in his hand and gazed across the fielded meadows and hills below. “But,” he answered, “I have known men to die in very different states than such as you have described. Why, John Cosper not a year ago, with the knowledge of his impending death, spent his last days carousing and drinking until he was laid so low that he was unable to rise from his bed, and even then kept up his profane speech.”

“This,” said Joseph with a smile mingled with sadness, “is too often a manifestation of the effects of death upon the unconverted soul. They cannot bear the agony of their spirits which should surely attend them should they allow themselves one moment’s solemn reflection. So, to quench such uncomfortable thoughts from their minds, they throw themselves into as much distraction and gratification as they can. Indeed, I have known men who are not faced with death to behave so. It is not uncommon— no, for it is the very nature of every man to have a void in his soul which clamours to be filled. And only one thing can fill it!”
Joseph rose to his feet and walked about excitedly. “only one thing can satisfy the deepest want that lies in the bosom of every man since Adam. And that thing is the Lord Jesus.”

“I knew it would come back to that,” said Charley whimsically. “You always manage to cram a great deal of religion into your lectures, Joseph.”
Joseph was not swayed by the carelessness of his companion. “Death is said to be man’s enemy, but I cannot help but think that the Lord has also given him the touch of a friend. For, though many men reject his calling, he bids them to take a close inspection of their lives and see whether they will pass muster on the final day. Death sometimes merely passes the door of a man, giving him a good shaking-up before passing on, which gives a renewed view of life, its brevity, and the importance of seeking those things which hold eternal value.”

“It’s all very well for you to speak so,” returned Charley, “but I have no thoughts so morbid as those which you seem to find pleasant companions. The way you talk, one would think that you derive pleasure from an evening at the grave-yard, among the foreboding stones.”

“As well I do, after a fashion,” replied Joseph, smiling. “I have often improved an idle hour by taking my books to the quiet solitude of gravesides to reflect upon the brevity of life and to prepare my soul for the life to come. It is not an unwholesome practice as it might seem, Charley. Oh, it could be rendered so by such modern thinkers as regard death with a sort of worship, considering those things that are manifestations of the Fall and sin as worthy of much contemplation and study. They are lacking the very element that makes such reflections profitable- and that is looking always upward to the Cross of our Savior and King. All studies must ultimately point there. If they do not, no matter how highly regarded, they are worthless and destructive. The light of the Cross alone gives wisdom, and no scholar or university can profess to know anything apart from it.”