Upon the Shadow of a Man
How absolute as well as general is David’s assertion, Surely every man walketh in a vain shew, or image [Ps. 39:6]: leading an imaginary life rather than a real life: fleeing away as a shadow, rather than abiding as a substance.
How shall I therefore fix a meditation upon the shadow of a shadow? Or hint ought that may be useful to any man, which grows only from so slender a principle as a shadow? And yet, if it be there which Lorinus says, that the art of imagery was first learned from a due observation of those resemblances and proportions which the shadow bears unto the body; why may not some moral considerations be suggested unto us from the different motions, opposite variations, sudden vanishings, which every man may daily behold in his own shadow?
Are not these genuine thoughts for a man to conceive that it is with him and with every Christian as it is with those who walk with their faces towards the sun, the dark shadow behind them; but when they turn from the sun, it forthwith changes its place comes before them. When they travel with their facts to the Sun of Righteousness, their paths are full of light and comfort; but when they turn from him, what dark images of death. What ghastly apparitions of hell and destruction go before them every step they tread. Yea, the further they wander from God, how does their terror increase, and their fears multiply, which are stretched out like the shadows of evening, until at length they be swallowed up in the black darkness of night?
O that the apostates would think of this, who after they have set their faces towards heaven do again turn them towards hell; who, after they have known the way of righteousness depart from the holy commandment delivered uno them.
Can you hearts endure those dismal spectrums that you shall continually behold? Will you not, like the hypocrites of Zion, at length cry out, Who shall swell devouring fire and everlasting burnings? [Is. 33:14]
O that the children of light and of the day would consider this, what great changes are made in their estate and comforts by the aversions from God? Have they not cause to say and wish as Job did, O that I were as the daies when God preserved me, when his candle shined upon my head. [Job 29:3]
When his favor was like the sun in the zenith which casts its beams directly, as that it makes no shadow at all. Surely they will find that the shades of sin are far more dismal than the darkest nights of affliction; and that unless the light of God’s favor, which like the sun on the dial of Ahaz has gone down many degrees, do return back again as many [2 Kings 20:11]; they cannot, like Ezekiel, have any comfortable assurance that they shall live and not die.
Therefore, hold up my goings in thy paths
That my footsteps be not moved
And let me always be rather as those who faces are towards Zion
Though I go weeping,
Than as those who turns he back upon thee
And consider not that their steps go down to the chambers of death.