The Fool and the Baron by Anonymous
In one of the baronial halls of England lived Harold, a celebrated jester. He was a faithful servant, and a great favourite in the family. His master was so pleased with his drollery that on one occasion he gave him a white wand, saying, "There, Harold, keep that as your staff of office, till you find a greater fool than yourself, and then you may give it to him."
The wand was henceforth Harold's companion; and as years passed by he still made fun, and was still high in favour. At length his master was ill, and there was gloom on every countenance. People passed hither and thither, and spoke in a whisper, and the whisper was, "He is going to die." At last the servants were sent for to take their leave; and Harold, who, averse to sorrow, had hid himself away, was sought out and conducted to the turret chamber to say a final good-bye to his lord.
"Ill, my noble master?"
"Yes, Harold! I'm going on a long journey."
"I do not know."
"When, most noble?"
"I cannot say."
"When will it please you to return, my lord?"
"Will you take poor Harold with you?"
"I must go alone."
"Have you prepared for this sudden journey?"
"No; I knew of it long ago, but I put it off."
"Why, now," said the jester, "here is a wise thing! You go a journey——so long, so soon; you know not when nor where; you go alone; you will never return: and you have not made ready, though you were told! There, poor noble cousin! take with thee Harold's wand; for in truth this day thou hast found for him a greater fool than himself."
What the fool said to his master was perfectly true, although told in a quaint, blunt style. It suggests some thoughts and reminds us of certain facts which we shall do well to think about.
We shall all have to go on a journey soon. You and I, my friend, must be such travellers as the jester and his master talked of. The journey of death we must each take. What a mysterious journey it is! There are certain roads that we know quite well. So frequently have we travelled them, that we are perfectly familiar with them. The houses we have to pass have an old look. We recognise each field through which we pass. Even many of the trees under whose shade we walk are distinctly remembered by us from time to time. But how different is it with the last road along which we shall travel! None of us know it. It is enshrouded in darkness. We shall travel it for the first as well as for the last time; and those who have trodden it have sent no message to tell us about it.
And this journey is unavoidable. Many journeys are a matter of choice. We can either take them or remain at home. But it is not so with the pilgrimage of death. "It is appointed unto men once to die." Reader, remember this. Do not, like many, try to banish the thought of death from your mind. The last day must come to you. Putting death out of your thoughts will not put it out of existence. Forgetfulness of it cannot destroy it. Since, then, death must come, let us, like wise men, look it full in the face. Let us think solemnly about it.
But to return to the story with which we set out. The jester asked the nobleman if he were prepared for the journey which he was about to take. All journeys require preparation. No one thinks of taking a journey without making ready beforehand; we think the matter well over, find out what we shall need, and provide accordingly. Before the Asiatic traveller mounts the camel which is to bear him across the hot, sandy, dreary wilderness, he takes care to fill his wallet with food and his leathern bottles with water. When the adventurer resolves to make his way through Indian jungles where the tiger lurks, he shoulders his gun, and takes with him a native guide. The wary explorer, ere he steps into his reindeer sledge to cross the ice-bound rivers and snow-clad plains of Arctic regions, arms himself well against the intense cold.
But how shall you prepare for this journey? You are by nature a lost and ruined sinner. You have broken God's commands in your heart and in your daily life; your transgressions are numberless. You cannot change your own heart, and you cannot blot out your own sins. You can of yourself make no preparation for the journey you are about to take; you can do nothing to make yourself meet for God's presence. So far as you are concerned, the words must stand: "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you" (Isa. lix. 2). To provide for your helpless condition, God, in tender love and compassion, gave His only begotten Son, that He should "die for your sins, and rise again for your justification." Is it, then, the language of your broken and contrite heart, "What must I do to be saved? How shall I prepare to meet God?" God's gracious reply is plain and simple: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Yes, the blood of Christ shall cleanse you from all unrighteousness, shall justify you freely and fully before God.
But perhaps you say, "I have not that broken heart, and I lack that saving faith." Then may God by His Spirit apply these words powerfully to your heart: "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts v. 31). All you need is the Saviour's precious gift, and He waits to be gracious. "Ask, and it shall be given you."
Thus faith in Christ will make you ready for the last and solemn journey. It will give you pardon and peace; it will sanctify your heart and life; it will enable you to say with happy assurance, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."