The Gate Shut

In many Eastern countries the cities are surrounded by high and massive stonewalls. The people pass in and out of these cities by gates, which remain open by day, but are always closed at night. They are shut at a certain time each night, and just before that time a signal-gun is fired, to let any who may be without the walls know that they must hasten in, as the gates are to be closed. When the appointed time arrives, the heavy gates are swung to, and barred; and woe to the luckless one who arrives just too late; for it is said that under no consideration will they open the gate after it is once closed; so there is no other way but for the laggard to seek a place of rest outside the walls.

Not many years ago a party of travelers were visiting one of these old cities in Egypt. They had been out of the city many times, but had always returned before the closing of the gates. Now they were to leave on the morrow, but wished to spend their last day in sailing on the far famed Nile. They went out in a rowboat, so as to be able to land when they chose.

The day passed very pleasantly; sometimes they landed to look at the ruined temples by the side of the river, or to pluck the gay blossoms that grew on the banks. Finally one of their number suggested that the boat be turned about; for they had gone some distance from the city, and must return that night, as they were to sail early in the morning, and must obtain their passports that evening.

So the boat was turned about; but now that they had started toward home, they would surely be in good time; there was no need to hurry. So they proceeded very leisurely, frequently landing to see some new curiosity, or to gather some bright flower. Sometimes they would row for a while, and then again would let the boat drift back with the current.

By and by the golden gleam of the sun was seen on the broad waters, warning them that it would soon set; still they thought only of their own pleasure, or that they could, by rowing diligently, make up for lost time. At last the sky began to darken; and, as if for- the first time, the thought occurred to them that they might, after all, be too late. The hour for shutting the city gates they knew was not far off. Now the rowers pulled at the oars with all their might. They reached the place where they were to land, and, springing from the boat, ran toward the gate, which was not far distant. Only a little way more; but all at once a flash, and the report of the signal-gun. The hour had come; the gates were shut; the travelers were a little too late. They cast away their flowers, whose beauty seemed half gone, now that they could not repay the delay and loss. The next day the ship sailed, leaving the travelers behind, with no one but themselves to blame for their disappointment.

 Our life is a journey, a voyage. There is a gate "a strait gate" which we should strive to enter. How often are we so taken up with the pleasures that lie by our path, that we loiter by the way. As the travelers lost their time in gathering flowers on the banks of the sunny Nile, so may it be with us. We may be so busy in pleasing ourselves, that we shall forget to row; and how shall we feel, if we wake too late, to find the door of mercy closed, the gate shut?

It is not enough to start toward the city; we shall never reach it unless we keep pulling.

  If we stop to gather flowers, we shall drift back with the current, as did the travelers. 

And, ah, how worthless will seem our fading treasures, as we stand before the shut gate! How we shall have only ourselves to blame, if we reach not the gates of the shining city!

"Seek, my soul, the narrow gate. 

Enter ere it be too late; 

Many'll ask to enter there 

When too late to offer prayer."