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The Question

The Question


One night Daniel sat after every other worker in the village was fast asleep, working busily at his trade as a shoemaker. As he bored, and stitched, and hammered, his mind dwelt upon his father’s death, and many thoughts began to stir that had often come and gone with no very visible results - thoughts of death and immorality, memories of words and events that had impressed him in his childhood, and now awoke from their long slumber with strange force; how that he, too, must pass away, and whither should he go?

Suddenly the old clock in the corner took up the message with its slow and solemn ticking. In that still hour it kept repeating with measured beat and strange monotony, its brief sentence - For ever, where? For ever, where? For ever, where’? Without a pause for a moment, without a break, it ticked on its dreadful question. Every other sound was hushed, and in the lonely stillness the ticking clock seemed to become almost unbearably loud. It was troublesome, and Daniel hammered more vigorously, but the ticking only grew louder - the question was pressed home the more closely.

Distinct and incessant it repeated itself - For ever, where? Daniel’s deepest feelings began to be stirred. The memory of his father’s last words broke upon him -”Good-bye, Daniel, but not for ever.” And again, slow and solemn, the old clock took up its strain - For ever, where? For ever, where?

Daniel could bear it no longer. He rose, laid down his work, and resolved to stop this persistent messenger. He walked over to it and opened the narrow door. More loudly the question began, “For ever,” but before it could be finished Daniel put his finger on the pendulum. At once all was still, and he returned to his work.

But the silence was more impressive than the slow ticking, and from within himself a voice began to say some plain things.

“Daniel,” it whispered, “you are a coward and a fool.”

“So I am!” he cried aloud, as he flung down his work; “stopping the clock won’t stop the time. The moments are going all the same whether I hear them or not. And am I going with them? For ever, where? For ever, where? No: I’ll set it going again, for it does no good to stop it.”

He set it off once more. But the work lay at his feet, and with clasped hands and head hung down he gave himself up to thoughts that impressed him so deeply - the thought of God, of His claims, of His goodness, of His righteousness grew upon him; of sin, of its horribleness, and its awful peril. All the sins of his life began to rise up before him, especially the one great sin of neglecting and forgetting God; and amidst it all came every now and then that slow, solemn ticking - For ever, where? For ever, where?

His distress became unbearable. He flung himself upon his knees and cried, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Long he wrestled in earnest prayer, but all was in vain. No help, no light, no peace came. In despair he ceased to pray, and buried his face in his hands.

“For ever, where? For ever, where?” rang again from the clock in that lonely silence. What could he do? Goaded and driven on by that dreadful message, whither could he fly? All he could do was to fall, as a poor, helpless sinner, into the Saviour’s arms. He flung himself helplessly on his knees and groaned -”O Lord, a broken heart thou wilt not despise! Broken and crushed, have mercy upon me and save me for Christ’s sake.”

That moment light dawned upon him. He rested upon Christ, his crucified Redeemer, and that was everything. Helpless and undone he just simply clung to the Cross of Christ, and there he found what the thousands of the redeemed have found there - pardon, peace and Heaven.

For His sins the Lord had died; for him that Life had been laid down. Daniel knelt, hushed in adoring gratitude. Again through the stillness came the message from the corner welcomed now with strangely different feelings - For ever, where? For ever, where? From Daniel’s heart there burst the rapturous response: “I thank Thee, Lord! with Thee forever!”

“He that believeth hath everlasting life.”

As he rose from his knees the old clock struck twelve. “The old things are passed away,” he whispered, and “all things are become new.” Well may the old clock strike twelve and finish this strange night; yes, and that old life! A new day begins for me. And he left it in the darkness ticking on its solemn message - For ever, where? For ever, where?

My dear friend, will you listen to the message on this day of grace? And what shall the answer be? Onward, downward, towards the eternal darkness, or forward, upward, towards the Saviour who died for you, and everlasting light? Why not repent and receive Christ now as Saviour and Lord?

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