Bracadale, Isle of Skye, 1802

Map of Scotland showing Keiss and Leith

The Highland Clearances are underway on the Island of Skye. The Brig Duke of Kent has come to collect 600 emigrants and transport them to Wilmington, North Carolina, in the U.S.A.

“She takes her course from the west of Skye. She is not to call at any port till the passengers reach their destination. Before they embark, big fires are kindled outside the houses, bags of oatmeal are taken out, and soon piles of oatcakes are ready and shipped with the other necessary provisions to supply them on the voyage.”

They may have been put off their lands and forced to emigrate, but they are sensible people. They must prepare to cross the vast Atlantic ocean: “… big fires are kindled outside the houses, bags of oatmeal are taken out, and soon piles of oatcakes are ready and shipped with the other necessary provisions to supply them on the voyage.”

They were now ready to undertake this journey into the unknown.

What is the greatest journey you will undertake? Across the Atlantic? To Australia? To the moon? The greatest journey any man or woman will undertake is passing out of life into death. Our own experience teaches that life will end, and death will follow.

Is it not sensible for every man and woman to prepare for this journey? The Old Testament saint, Job, said: “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” So will you and I! Let us be prepared, because this journey can come unexpectedly at any time. We can do all we want to avoid the journey, but it is one we will unavoidably take.

Where does the journey into death take us? To a separation point. “And He (Jesus Christ) shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” The Bible goes on to say, “Then shall the King (Christ) say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

Death is the journey, but to which destination are we bound? To a “blessed kingdom prepared for us” – or into an “everlasting fire” of regret and remorse? How do we prepare for such a journey? Some will tell us to do good, attend a place of religion, be kind to everyone - surely then we will be prepared?

Not so. Preparation for eternity involves looking into our hearts, remembering and noting those things that we have done. Preparation also involves looking at God's holiness, righteousness, and justice; then we will see that those bad things that lie in our hearts are not small things, but things that separate us from God. They are sins, and “The soul that sinneth it shall die” (physical and spiritual death). And “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

But true preparation is more than just learning we are sinners. It is learning of God's love and mercy. God offers us life if we turn away from our sin and trust in Christ Jesus. He took our sins upon Himself, and suffered, bled, and died in the sinner's place, that we might be saved. But He also rose again from the grave, conquering death. Because of this, any man or woman trusting in Christ shall be raised up from the grave into new life for eternity.

Jesus said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Reader, say with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

That is preparation for the journey through “the valley of the shadow of death,” Let us start to prepare now!

What of those left behind? “The people, with tears in their eyes, men, women, and children, bid farewell for ever to their remaining friends; and the latter are equally sorrowful that they are never more to see their nearest and dearest friends in the world ...” That quotation relates to the people of Bracadale – how much more when death takes us from our loved ones?

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)