This is a psalm of prosperity, and of how it comes. It is sung in the ear of those who boast themselves as able to command success. They have, to begin with, the common ambition to rear a home, to keep it safe, and to fill it with plenty. Since, however, they do not ask these things of God, they cannot be sure of them. If God does not work with them, their own labour will be lost. They may toil at the walls and find that the rain or the wind foils them. They may build on a peopled hill, and take turns to man the ramparts, and yet, by stealth or force, the city may be taken and their home wrecked. They may be up before dawn, and be busy until the light fails, only to sit down to a table where the very bread seems made of the pains by which it was earned. For nothing they have made themselves so anxious that they could not sleep when they would.
As a pendant to that bustling scene, we have this picture of peace. The figure is that of the man who cares only to do God’s will and trusts God to work by him and for him. He lies under a canopy of Love Divine, with closed eyes, calm face, and restful hands. As we look, we seem to know that these sheltering walls are God-built; and that this peace is God-kept; and that God, with the morn, shall spread the table, and call His guest. All that the sleepless pant after, this man has, and he has his sleep too, both full and sound. “So”—by God Himself being builder, keeper, host—“he giveth unto his beloved sleep.”
Mrs. Browning has told us that there was no verse in the Book of Psalms which fell upon her ear with such comfort as this—
Of all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward unto souls afar,
Along the Psalmist’s music deep,
Now tell me if that any is,
For gift or grace, surpassing this—
“He giveth His beloved, sleep”?
The text yields three shades of meaning. In the one precious gift of sleep, there are really three givings—
The Giving of Sleep.
The Giving in Sleep.
The Giving by Sleep.
The Giving of Sleep
1. “He giveth unto his beloved sleep.” The persons to whom this language must be taken to be addressed are the builders and the watchmen of the foregoing verse. For them God provided the gift of sleep. And the harder the building in the daytime, and the keener the watching while the sentry goes his round, the more certain is the man to value the blessing of slumber when God, in love, gives it to him. No doubt, “the sleep of the labouring man is sweet.” But, if it be only genuine sleep, the boon is far richer when it comes after care than when it comes only after muscular fatigue. We all know how natural are the cries for sleep which Henry IV. is represented as pouring out when he contrasts the lighter woes of the poor, allowing the gift to come, with the heavier anxieties he endured, banishing it from his pillow.
This is what Sancho Panza—the little Spanish peasant with the short legs who acted as squire to Don Quixote—said about sleep. Sancho’s words were: “Now blessings light on him who first invented sleep! It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.”1 [Note: C. Jerdan, Messages to the Children, 195.]
I cannot help my heart feeling heavy. I wonder during how many years of my life bed has been the one haven and longed for forgetfulness of care. I do not mean that I have not had much, very much, that I am grateful for, of mere human pleasantness, but that, on the whole, the cares of the day have outweighed the joys and made one glad of bed as an escape. Truly, bed is a wonderful haven, and I do thank God for having given me through so many years sleep. “He giveth his beloved sleep”; may it not be in this lower sense as well as in the higher? I would fain think so; at least, I know His gift of sleep has been nothing less than a gift of life to me.1 [Note: Life and Letters of Edward Thring, ii. 29.]
I sat up alone; two or three times I paid a visit to the children’s room. It seemed to me, young mothers, that I understood you!—Sleep is the mystery of life; there is a profound charm in this darkness broken by the tranquil light of the night-lamp, and in this silence measured by the rhythmic breathings of two young sleeping creatures. It was brought home to me that I Was looking on at a marvellous operation of nature, and I watched it in no profane spirit. I sat silently listening, a moved and hushed spectator of this poetry of the cradle, this ancient and ever new benediction of the family, this symbol of creation sleeping under the wing of God, of our consciousness withdrawing into the shade that it may rest from the burden of thought, and of the tomb, that Divine bed, where the soul in its turn rests from life. To sleep is to strain and purify our emotions, to deposit the mud of life, to calm the fever of the soul, to return into the bosom of maternal nature, thence to re-issue, healed and strong. Sleep is a sort of innocence and purification. Blessed be He who gave it to the poor sons of men as the sure and faithful companion of life, our daily healer and consoler.2 [Note: Amiel’s Journal (trans. by Mrs. Humphry Ward), 38.]
When to soft sleep we give ourselves away,
And in a dream as in a fairy bark
Drift on and on through the enchanted dark
To purple daybreak—little thought we pay
To that sweet better world we know by day.
We are clean quit of it, as is a lark
So high in heaven no human eye can mark
The thin swift pinion cleaving through the gray.
Till we awake ill fate can do no ill,
The resting heart shall not take up again
The heavy load that yet must make it bleed;
For this brief space the loud world’s voice is still,
No faintest echo of it brings us pain.
How will it be when we shall sleep indeed?3 [Note: Thomas Bailey Aldrich.]
2. Sleep, gift of love and more than golden, is but a word to stand for a rest yet sweeter and deeper. The blessing that drops as from the hovering hands of God upon the wearied frame is but the Amen to the better blessing breathed by the Spirit of God into the spirit of man. First He giveth His beloved peace of heart, and then comes the sign of it in the slumbering nerve and limb. This inner hush and rest is God’s own gift and His dearest love-token. Well do we know that it is no easy boon from His overflowing hand. It is no less than the gift of Himself. He gave Himself to live in our nature and to be for ever one with us and one of us. He gave Himself to do our part and bear our curse. He is ceaselessly giving Himself to us in ruling our lot and touching our heart. Jesus gives each of us the privilege of John, and we are wooed to lie back on His breast and lose ourselves in Him. The moment we do so, His peace flows from His heart to our heart. He giveth His beloved sleep.
Peace within makes peace without. Where there is no disturbance in the heart, there can be none in the billows, there can be none in the storm. These may wanton furiously. Their wild sport may threaten shipwreck to the vessel. But God’s sleep can exist amid them. It can hold in sweet oblivion the untroubled soul. And herein lies its chiefest virtue, its most refreshing use. Among storms and billows it is that the righteous man obtains the full blessedness of sleep. He cannot escape the troubles of life; they are part of the heritage of humanity. He is not exempt from business cares. He can claim no immunity from disaster and defeat. But in all perplexities and all distresses he enjoys the inestimable blessing of a quiet conscience at peace with man, at peace with God. And this will give him rest, refreshment, repose. After the longest and weariest day, he can lie down and lose all painful recollections in the untroubled atmosphere of sleep. For weary heads and aching hearts there is no remedy like this.
How beautifully has the sleep of one at peace with God been represented in a well-known modern picture. The amphitheatre is crowded by a fierce and eager throng; tier after tier is lined with the cruel faces of those who have come there to see the Christian martyr torn to pieces by savage beasts. The arena is prepared. The hungry tiger leaps with impatient roar at the bars of his cage, thirsting for blood. A slave pushes back the doors of the cell where lies the man doomed to death for his adherence to Christ, that he may come forth, and with his dying agonies make sport for the emperor, his court and the people. And what do you see there, as the door opens, and the cell of the martyr is disclosed? A youth sleeping peacefully, with the symbol of his faith clasped to his heart, and heaven’s own sunshine resting on his face; for all is well between him and God. The death which he knew last night was to be met to-day has no terrors for him; he has made it “Christ to live,” and shall find it “gain to die.” Looking on that scene, we have a comment on the inspired verse, “Even so he giveth unto his beloved sleep.”1 [Note: Canon Bell, The Name above every Name, 237.]
Remember the last moments of a noble Scottish Covenanter, the Earl of Argyle—son of the Great Marquis—who was beheaded in 1685. An officer of State came to see him an hour before his execution, and found that he was taking his usual after-dinner sleep. The officer rushed home in a highly excited state, exclaiming, “Argyle within an hour of eternity, and sleeping as pleasantly as a child!”2 [Note: C. Jerdan, Messages to the Children, 198.]
3. For the enjoyment of this deeper gift, as of the nightly rest, we must put ourselves in the way of it. We have to prepare a welcome for it. We have to let ourselves sleep. We cease from self; we resign responsibility for ourselves; we pass into God’s hands. We are content to do His will and to wait His will. We are sure that His will, whatever it may be, is our true good. We trust a love and wisdom and might infinitely better than our own. Hence a peace that passeth all understanding—no care, no fear, no duty too hard, no trial too sore, death no longer a foe and judgment a welcome! Even God—the Giving God—could give His beloved no more; for bliss itself shall be but this same peace free from all dispeace and made fully aware of itself.
Martyrs, confessors, and saints have tasted this rest, and counted themselves happy in that they endured. A countless host of God’s faithful servants have drunk deeply of it amid the daily burden of a weary life—dull, commonplace, painful, or desolate. All that God has been to them, He is ready to be to you; He only asks that you should seek no other rest save in Him. It is a rest which has never failed those who honestly sought it. The heart once fairly given to God, with a clear conscience, a fitting rule of life, and a steadfast purpose of obedience, you will find a wonderful sense of rest coming over you. What once fretted you ceases to do so; former unworthy exciting pleasures cease to attract you. No miser ever so feared to lose his treasure as the faithful soul fears to lose this rest when once tasted. Such words may seem exaggeration to those who have not tried it; but the saints will tell you otherwise. St. Paul will tell you of a peace which passeth understanding; Jesus Christ tells you of His peace which the world can neither give nor take away, because it is God’s gift only. Such peace may undergo many an assault, but it will but be confirmed thereby, and rise above all that would trouble it. He who has tasted it would not give it in exchange for all this life can give; and death is to him a passage from this rest to that of eternity.1 [Note: Jean Nicolas Grou, The Hidden Life of the Soul.]
Giving in Sleep
There cannot be the slightest doubt that the English equivalent for the Hebrew words is, “He giveth to His beloved in sleep.” “He giveth blessing to His beloved during sleep.” If the words so rendered are less perfect rhythmically, and suggest a less beautiful meaning or no meaning at all, we cannot help it. Some may think that this is almost a wanton and needless interference with a verse rendered sacred by long association; but when we consider that it really is the deepest line in the poem, the line which sums up and expresses the central thought of the poet, that where it stands it is a highly original thought, a genuine poetic flash, and that the old rendering of it robs it of its freshness and makes it very commonplace, we feel bound to make a little sacrifice of association and soothing sound in the interest of truth and fact.
The theme of the Psalmist is that, apart from the Divine blessing and working, all human effort is vain. By his own unaided efforts man can effect nothing. Even in such a matter as the building of a house, where, apparently, the hands of man accomplish everything and God is not in evidence at all, it is really God who builds. He has supplied the material. He has supplied the mind and the strength by which the material is shaped and put in its place. The watchers on the walls of the city may be never so vigilant and active, and everything may seem to depend on their wakefulness and care; but unless God watches with them and through them, their vigilance will avail nothing.
Moreover, God works when men do not work at all. He blesses and prospers them without effort of their own. The builders go home after a hard day’s toil and, laying themselves down to rest, get fresh strength for their work; and God, by giving them sleep, is really building the house. The guards on the city wall retire in turn and betake themselves to repose, and God by this gift of sleep is Himself watching all the while. He blesses all who love Him when they know it not. He blesses us and furthers the work of spiritual life while we work not, blesses us silently, as if in the watches of the night, when we are all unconscious of it. Yes, He giveth to His beloved in sleep.
The whole thought has a certain kinship with the teaching of our Lord when He says, “Be not anxious for the morrow. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” God blesses them, as it were, without effort of their own; they, as it were, dream through life. They are silent, receptive; He gives them beauty in their flower-sleep. Or perhaps it comes still closer to our Lord’s beautiful parable of the silent, unseen, unconscious growth of the spiritual life, both in the soul of man and in the spread of His Kingdom in the world: “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.”1 [Note: E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, 280.]
1. God’s secret ministry is patent in our infancy. The little child is yet, so to say, asleep. His conscious environment is a very tiny and a very dreamy one. His heaven, as some one has said, “is only three feet high!” The familiar cares that are lying upon the hearts of those about him mean nothing for him; still less is he awake to the greater life that is passing out of doors. And that is as it should be. We would feel it unnatural if he understood too much of what went on about him. The things that occupy his elders’ minds, the work of which their hands are full, ought to have no concern for him. It is right that he should be unconscious of all that. Watchers by a bedside may settle great affairs while the sleeper does not stir. And so, pillowed on innocence, the little child should be all unaware of the life that plays around it; so far as this goes, it should be asleep. All the while stooping over it there is a mother’s love, and all the splendour of a mother’s patience. Shielding it there is a father’s strength, and to provide for all it needs, a father’s labour. And it is clad, and fed with food convenient, and cradled to rest, and sheltered from the storm. And should it ail, the best skill in the city is urgently summoned to the tiny sufferer. What a wealth of love and of love’s care is here, yet who more passive than that little infant! Have these small hands helped in the preparation? Has that new heart done any of the planning? Helpless it lies, and doomed to certain death, if life depended on its puny efforts. But God “giveth unto his beloved sleep.”
We cannot underrate the enormous importance of discipline and training in childhood and youth, nor the enormous importance of teaching children to help themselves; but how much of the influence which goes to mould our human nature in its early days, and to build it up, is of the silent sort—subtle influences from nature with which children have an inborn kinship; subtle influences from the impalpable atmosphere of home—nay, whisperings to the child’s soul, we know not from whence; voices coming to them in their pure slumbers while they are Still in the temple of first intuitions and innocence, and have not yet gone out to mingle in the deafening din of the busy world? “Samuel, Samuel”: and Samuel, knowing not who calls, answered in his dreams, “Here am I.”1 [Note: E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, 285.]
You cast an acorn into the ground and for a time it lies as dead. But nature’s hidden ministries gather round it. The humours of the earth begin to soften its dry husk; the gentle rain sets the sap aflowing; heaven’s sunshine tempts the tender shoot above the ground; and by-and-by a noble tree stands there, tossing its arms in defiance of the tempest through a thousand winters. And the roots of all true life and character are planted as deep as this, and nourished in ways as subtle and unknown. Long before men are alive to His presence with them in their life, long before they have learned to resist temptation and to cultivate the love of His will, long before they know to choose the good and refuse the evil, God has begun His wonderful ministry to their souls. Already His good Spirit is putting the seed of a true manhood in them, and straightway it springeth and groweth up, a man knoweth not how. So in the opening of their days He may bless His children while they reck not of it—giving to them, so to say, in sleep.1 [Note: A. Martin, Winning the Soul, 69.]
2. The same gracious ministry accompanies us in our pursuit of happiness. If anywhere in life, it is just there that it is vain to rise up early and to sit up late. Not when we are determined, come what may, to have a pleasant and a happy life; not then, as the reward of that insistence, does God bestow the music of the heart. He gives us when there is forgetfulness of self, and the struggle to be true to what is highest, though the morning break without a glimpse of blue, and the path be through the valley of the shadow. The one sure way to miss the gift of happiness is to rise early and to sit up late for it. To be bent at every cost on a good time is the sure harbinger of dreary days. It is when we have the courage to forget all that, and to lift up our hearts to do the will of God, that, like a swallow flashing from the eaves, happiness glances out with glad surprise.
In spite of his depressed condition, John Stuart Mill was able to do his usual work at the India Office. But it was done mechanically. He felt no interest in it. Melancholy ruled him. He began to ask whether life was worth living on such terms. “I generally answered to myself,” he says, “that I did not think I could possibly bear it beyond a year.” At length relief came to him. It came in a curious way. He was reading some biography, in which the pathos of an incident in the story so overcame him that he gave way to tears. The discovery that emotion was still within him, and that he had the power to feel for others, was salvation to him. “From this moment my burden grew lighter. The oppression of the thought that all feeling was dead within me was gone. I was no longer hopeless. I was not a stock or a stone. I had still, it seemed, some of the material out of which all worth of character, and all capacity for happiness, are made.” His old interests now revived. The cloud which had so darkened his life withdrew, and existence became to him once again pleasant and useful. He still believed that “happiness is the test of all rules of conduct,” but he had learned that “this end was to be attained only by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.”1 [Note: H. Lewis, Modern Rationalism, 103.]
3. All through our life God’s secret ministry is at work, and we owe much to it when we are called to lift the burden off our shoulders and rest a little. Less or more these grateful interruptions of our toil occur in the lives of all men, and, living at the pressure most of us do, they are as necessary as they are welcome. And it would be a pity if any one failed to reap from such a season the full benefit it was meant to bring him. Leisure is a good gift, and to be used wisely; and for leisure also we shall give account. Therefore let a man use it even earnestly if he will. Let him take advantage of it to pass his life’s affairs heedfully in review. Let him ask how things stand with him in God’s sight. Let him examine carefully his works and ways, and mend his plans for the future. But let him not forget the wisdom of “a wise passiveness.” Besides this conscious rearrangement of the life with all its interests and duties there is another benefit conceivable. Simply to have escaped from the crush and din of the life we have been living, and to breathe a freer, calmer atmosphere—this alone may mean much for us. While the mind lies fallow it may gather to itself fresh life and power. The finest invigoration of the soul’s whole faculties may come to it in the profoundest rest. For God blesses His beloved while they sleep.
The sect called the Quietists, who flourished in the seventeenth century, and who taught that God came closest to the soul when it simply waited for Him, and did not actively search for Him, may have too exclusively chosen the Psalmist’s line for their motto, and its spirit as their guide in the religious life. But there is a sense in which we must all be Quietists, and rest from thinking and working that God may come to us in our dreams. To cherish such a belief, to feel that everything does not depend on us, far from being a hindrance to work, a temptation to spiritual idleness, is just the one thing which can enable us to do our work efficiently, because it enables us to do it without worry and over-anxiety.2 [Note: E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, 290.]
God gives to many of us in our waking state, but not to the highest, not to the best beloved. Talent is got by waking, but not genius. Genius is like the nightingale—unconscious of the beauty of its own song. Even so is there a genius of the spirit. There are souls that win their virtue in the school of stern experience; God gives to them in waking. But there are others, like the garden of Eden, who need not a man to till the ground. They yield their fruit spontaneously. They are beautiful, not because they ought, but because they must. They can no more help being kind than the bee can help making its hive. They are not under the law, but under grace, and so they do everything, not legally, but gracefully. The flowers of their hearts are wild flowers; God alone has tended them; they have bloomed in the light of His smile; they have called no man master. These are they to whom the Father giveth in sleep.1 [Note: G. Matheson, Searchings in the Silence, 101.]
Giving by Sleep
1. A Godlike boon it is that frees us from our drudgery, heals our weariness, lifts our anxiety, and blinds us to the morrow. It is a blessed thing to be thus saved, even for a little while, from ourselves. But the night draws to dawn, and the gift of sleep is spent, and the old life claims the man anew. Now is it that he finds the gifts which God brings by sleep. He faces life with these in hand, and faces it therefore with new courage and vigour. His body has been strengthened, his mind cleared, his heart nerved, his will re-strung.
Wonderful is the work of repair in life that goes on while we sleep. Men bring the great ships to dock after they have ploughed the waves or battled with the storms and are battered and strained and damaged, and there they are repaired and made ready to go to sea again. At night our jaded and exhausted bodies are dry-docked after the day’s conflict and toils, and while we sleep the mysterious process of restoration and reinvigoration goes on; and when morning comes we are ready to begin a new day of toil and care. We lie down tired, feeling sometimes that we can never do another day’s work; but the morning comes again, and we rise renewed in body and spirit, full of enthusiasm, and strong and brave for the hardest duties.
The author of The Mystery of Sleep, Dr. John Bigelow, is not satisfied with the ordinary answer, that we sleep in order that we may rest and repair the waste tissues. He does not believe that that is a satisfactory answer to the question as to why we are compelled to sleep one hour out of three, eight hours out of every twenty-four, four months out of every year, and twenty-three years out of every threescore years and ten. He seriously assails this position by asserting that we do not rest when we sleep in any sense in which we do not rest when awake. He pertinently asks: “What faculty of the spiritual or the physical nature of man is in repose during sleep? What single function or energy of the body is then absolutely suspended? Certainly not our hearts, which do not enjoy a moment’s rest from the hour of our birth to our decease. The heart is always engaged in the effort to send our blood, latent with vital energy, through every vein, artery, and tissue of our bodies.” And so he goes on, taking up various organs of the human frame, and shows that nothing rests while we sleep.
He goes on to say that the great purpose of sleep is to dissociate us periodically from the world in which we live, and in a sense to regenerate us morally and spiritually. To his mind, we have in sleep conditions which are in harmony with one of the supreme behests of a Christian life—utter deliverance from the domination of the phenomenal world; entire emancipation, for these few sleeping hours, from the cares and ambitions of the life into which we were born, and to the indulgence of which we are inclined by nature to surrender the service of all our vital energies. If it be a good thing to live above the world, to regard our earthly life as transitory, as designed to educate us for a more elevated existence, to serve us as a means, not an end, then we have in sleep, apparently, an ally and coadjutor—at least, to the extent of delivering us for several hours every day from a servile dependence upon what ought to be a good slave, but is always a bad master.1 [Note: 1 L. A. Banks, The Great Promises of the Bible, 88.]
2. Gifts of spiritual illumination and direction have come through sleep. When God shuts the doors of sense, He keeps open His own way into the spirit; and many a time He gives His beloved thoughts of truth and desires for good that surprise the sleeper when he gets himself back again. He awakes to earth as one come from heaven, with the life of heaven still pulsing in his heart. How plain his duty is! how sure his help! how bright his hope! Abraham fell into a deep sleep, and in it God gave him a vision of what we often desire, that of the future; he told him that four hundred years hence the people of Israel would come out of Egypt and march in triumph to the Promised Land. Jacob, when he ran away from home, lay down to sleep, putting a stone beneath his head for a pillow, and as he lay there he dreamed of heaven. A ladder of light came down from the Throne of God, and on it angels ascending and descending; what a delightful experience in sleep, a vision of Heaven, a sight of Home. But there is still more in the vision; the ladder is a beautiful type of Jesus Christ. He has been let down from God’s Throne, so that men may reach the feet of their Father in Heaven.
There is an advice of my old mother’s which I have often acted upon, and I pass it on to you: “Before doing an action which may mean, by-and-by, a great crisis, sleep on it for a night or two. Do not act at once, or you may be foolish. After a good sleep, at least a man’s nerves are steady and his brain and mind are well-balanced.” God gives these to men in their sleep.1 [Note: W. K. Bryce, Appeals to the Soul, 68.]
The hours of day are like the waves
That fret against the shores of sin:
They touch the human everywhere,
The bright-divine fades in their glare,
And God’s sweet voice the spirit craves
Is heard too faintly in the din.
When all the senses are awake,
The mortal presses overmuch
Upon the great immortal part,
And God seems farther from the heart.
Must souls, like skies when day-dawns break,
Lose star by star at sunlight’s touch?
But when the sun kneels in the west
And gradually sinks as great hearts sink,
And in his sinking flings adown
Bright blessings from his fading crown,
The stars begin their song of rest
And shadows make the thoughtless think.
The human seems to fade away,
And down the starred and shadowed skies
The heavenly comes, as memories come
Of home to hearts afar from home,
And through the darkness after day
Many a winged angel flies.
And somehow, tho’ the eyes see less,
Our spirits seem to see the more;
When we look thro’ night’s shadow-bars,
The soul Bees more than shining stars—
Yea, sees the very loveliness
That rests upon the golden shore.1 [Note: Father Ryan.]
3. By a last sleep God leads His beloved to a perfect life and an endless day. Death is the sinking of the wearied man into the lap of Nature that she may soothe and refresh him. It is the draught that relaxes the strained energies, and smoothes the brow of care, and cools the fever of the heart; and from its gentle sway the man emerges with his powers refitted and rebraced for the toil and endeavours of his life. And what is Death but this? It is a sleep, no more; a sleep in which earth’s weariness is drowned for ever and care and sorrow sink into perpetual oblivion and the whole nature is finally recruited and refreshed for unending service elsewhere.
After forty years of indefatigable toil, Huxley retired to his home at Eastbourne on the cliffs of England’s southern coasts, still to breast the storms and enjoy the love and confidence of friends and foes, who, however much they agreed with or differed from him, gave him their united and hearty esteem. He died on June 29, 1895. His gravestone bears these significant and touching lines written by his wife:
Be not afraid, ye waiting hearts that weep:
For still He giveth His belovëd sleep:
And if an endless sleep He wills,
This is beautiful resignation; but we believe that He who giveth His belovëd sleep will assign to him eternal rest from earthly misgiving and fear, and also an appropriate sphere of future activity. Surely an existence so nobly filled with higher forms of human effort cannot be doomed to the extinction of endless sleep!1 [Note: S. P. Cadman, Charles Darwin, and Other English Thinkers, 86.]
Out yonder in the moonlight, wherein God’s Acre lies,
Go angels walking to and fro, singing their lullabies.
Their radiant wings are folded, and their eyes are bended low,
As they sing among the beds whereon the flowers delight to grow—
“Sleep, oh, sleep!
The Shepherd guardeth His sheep.
Fast speedeth the night away,
Soon cometh the glorious day;
Sleep, weary ones, while ye may,—
Sleep, oh, sleep!”
The flowers within God’s Acre see that fair and wondrous sight,
And hear the angels singing to the sleepers through the night;
And, lo! throughout the hours of day those gentle flowers prolong
The music of the angels in that tender slumber-song,—
“Sleep, oh, sleep!
The Shepherd loveth His sheep.
He that guardeth His flock the best
Hath folded them to His loving breast;
So sleep ye now, and take your rest,—
Sleep, oh, sleep!”
From angel and from flower the years have learned that soothing song,
And with its heavenly music speed the days and nights along;
So through all time, whose flight the Shepherd’s vigils glorify,
God’s Acre slumbereth in the grace of that sweet lullaby,—
“Sleep, oh, sleep!
The Shepherd loveth His sheep.
Fast speedeth the night away,
Soon cometh the glorious day;
Sleep, weary ones, while ye may,—
Sleep, oh, sleep!”2 [Note: Eugene Field, Second Book of Verse, 25.]
Banks (L. A.), The Great Promises of the Bible, 87.
Bell (C. D.), The Name above every Name, 232.
Boyd (A. K. H.), The Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, i. 54.
Bryce (W. K.), Appeals to the Soul, 60.
Burns (D.), The Song of the Well, 77.
Christopherson (H.), Sermons, 43.
Jerdan (C.), Messages to the Children, 193.
Lefroy (E. C.), The Christian Ideal, 92.
McFadyen (J. E.), The Divine Pursuit, 83.
Martin (A.), Winning the Soul, 65.
Matheson (G.), Searchings in the Silence, 101.
Matheson (G.), Rests by the River, 198.
Miller (J. R.), A Help for the Common Days, 247.
Morrison (G. H.), The Wings of the Morning, 24.
Purves (P. C.), The Divine Cure for Heart Trouble, 295.
Speirs (E. B.), A Present Advent, 276.
Spurgeon (C. H.), New Park Street Pulpit, i. (1855), No. 12.
Church of England Pulpit, xxxvii. 205 (C. L. Coghlan).