Henry Ward Beecher.

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tion so frequently that at last it be-

comes to us a road hard and dusty.
We arc accustomed to take certain
phrases, as men take medicinal herbs,
and apply them to bruised, and
wounded, and suffering hearts, until
we come to have a kind of ritualistic
formality. It is good, therefore, that
every one of us, now and then, should
be brought back to the reality of the
living truth of the Gospel by some
hcartquake — by some sorrow — by
some suffering.

248. Effect of Sorrow. — Sorrows
work upon the soul as late rains do
upon vegetation. All night a cold
rain falls, and in the morning the
leaves are gone. The coverts are no
longer shady, trees hold up bare
branches, and the air with every pufif
of wind is filled with leaves, languidly
descending to the ground. After the
first shock and excitement of grief,
which sometimes carries the soul high
up towards serene experiences, comes
the reaction. The nerve of pleasure
is paralyzed. All objects report them-
selves to the senses in somber colors.
Values are changed or destroyed.
Life is empty and effort useless. In
thoughtful natures next arise anxious
questionings. The breaking up of the
heart seems, for a time, to overturn
the conclusions of the reason itself.
Men doubt their most settled beliefs,
and bold skepticisms invade the secret
calm of Faith. While the nobler
sentiments are silent and torpid, there
spring up in their place sudden repul-
sions and capricious disgusts.

The valley and shadow of Death is
not dreadful to those who pass through
it, but to those who follow after but
may not pass through !

249. Persistence in Sorrow. — There
are those who think it is wrong to let
their sorrows die out. If they find
that their pain is becoming alleviated,
they blow the embers again, and rake



out the coals from the ashes that
threaten to hide it. They are almost
alarmed at themselves when now and
then some old joy breaks out. They
seem to feel that there is a sacred
duty of sorrow, and that midnight
ought to be their symbol and signal.

250. Limited Value of Sorrow. —
The ascetic doctrine of Christianity,
while it did a certain good work in a
certain poor way, as a type of uni-
versal Christianity was a wretched

Sorrow is very much like the acids
which men use to make etchings with.
They take a plate, and, covering it
with a wax film, mark the lines of the
picture with a little scratcher through
to the copper, and they pour acid on,
and then leave it just long enough for
it to eat in a little bit, and wash it off" ;
but if they let the acid stand all day
and all night it makes a great black
blur, and no picture. In the spirit
life God etches pictures on us by bit-
ing sorrows, here and there ; but if
we think, " It was sorrow that did me
good, it was because I was made sor-
rowful that I was blessed, and if a
man would be a Christian he must be
steeped in sorrow," that is letting the
picture stand in acid all day and all
night, and there will be no picture.

251. Recalling Griefs. — Never re-
member the past to renew your grief,
but only to renew your courage.
There be many persons that sit
on their grief as miserable fowls sit
upon eggs that are spent ; and the
longer they sit the worse they are.
When a grief has had its way, let it
go ; make no rest for it ; warm it with
no feathers ; abandon it. Sufficient
unto the day is the grief and the
trouble thereof; and certainly do not
cosset your griefs, nor pity yourself.

252. Sorrow not Typical of Chris-
tjaijjt^, — Sorrow and suffering may be

made instruments of reformation —
nay, of manhood, but, on the other
hand, sorrow is not the type of Chris-
tianity. When a man is sick by dis-
turbance or interior arrangements, he
loathes food, his head swims, fever
beats in every vein, and he takes
nauseous medicine, a good deal of it
usually. Yet nobody wants to have
medicine about his table as a dish, as
if it were the best thing a man could
eat every day. It is good relative to
recovery from a worse state, but not
to set forth a type. In the ministra-
tion of God's providence in this world,
tears and heartbreak, and all forms of
moral or social suffering are good for
what they do to a man who is sick or
out of the way, but when he is brought
by suffering into some affinity with tlie
right way, not suffering is the type of
the right way, but joy, peace, hope.

253. Benumbing Effect of Suffering.
— Sometimes there are illusory effects
of trouble. There is an element of
exhaustion, and there is a reactionary
element, by which those in suffering
are wrongly judged. Frequently,
when persons seem to have grown
harder, they are not harder. They
have merely lost the power of much
feeling. A person is not necessarily
hard because he does not feel. His
want of feeling is often nothing but
nature insisting upon suffering no
more till it has had an opportunity to
recuperate itself. I have known per-
sons who, after great trouble, could
not read the Bible, and did not wish
to pray, or go to an assembly of God's
people. Singing was discord in their
ear. And so it was with them some-
times for weeks and months. But it
was simply nature attempting to re-
store their wasted energies. There
was no moral character in it.

254- Joy in Trouble. — There is a
joy that rises higher than any suffer-



ing ; there is a happiness that can
have an undertone of sorrow and an
uppertone of ecstasy ; and wliile there
is a great variety of enjoyments — the
scale is long — no man has touched
the ecstasy of happiness who has not
been able to find it while under great
sorrows and crushing griefs. No man
ever made wine until he had crushed
the cluster, and the heart-wine never
is expressed till after the affections
have been crushed.

255. Between Sorrow and Gladness.
— It overwhelms me to baptize chil-
dren bearing the names of my own
children that are in heaven, although
many years have rolled between their
going and my present thought and
feeling. When the bereavement was
fresh upon me, I was as one that stood
half-way in darkness and half-way in
the light. With my upper nature I
felt, "The Lord gave, and the Lord
hath taken away: blessed be the name
of the Lord ; " I loved God, and
thanked him and blessed his name ;
there was nothing that I could not say
easily and sincerely in his praise ; but
I dropped out of that feeling every
moment. It was as though I were
beating hither and thither like a pen-
dulum. I vibrated between sorrow
and gladness. In thinking the matter
over I came to this consciousness :
" Heartache is good for you." There-
fore I said, " Ache, heart, and take it
out in aching." I did not try to stop
grieving. I let the tears run down my
cheeks as freely as they would. Wak-
ing in the night, I had, I was going to
say, my sorrow as a luxury. When
1 saw other people's children, and
thought of my own, and anguish took
hold of me, I said, " It is good for you
to suffer. Christ sits as a refiner, and
is trying the gold ; and when it is
enough refined he will cease trying

255. Comfort in Trouble. — It is re-
corded of the wife of one of our gen-
erals in the West — General Wallace,
who fell at the battle of Pittsburg
Landing — that, hearing that he was
wounded, she went forth to seek him,
and that not until she reached that
dismal and disastrous place, and found
his body, did she learn that he was
dead. After the body was placed
upon the steamboat, and the descent
of the river had begun, she gave way
to inconsolable grief, from which she
was aroused by the groans of the
wounded that were on board. Little
by little she forgot her own sorrows,
and devoted herself to ministering to
those poor men in their distress. From
that moment during the whole of the
Iiospital voyage she overcame her bit-
ter grief. How? By prayer? By
withdrawing herself to her own cabin ?
She did it by binding up the wounds
of the suffering ; by bearing the cup
to fevered lips ; by wiping the brow
that was covered with the sweat of
death ; by pouring consolation into
the ears of young men who longed for
father and mother to whom to utter
their last words. She comforted others,
and forgot her own trouble. And yet
she was a widow — and that is a word
that compasses a world of unreveala-
ble trouble,

257. Mourning for Death. — The very
slender hold which Christ has taken
of our life is nowhere else shown so
much as in the wantonness of our
grief and surprise at the death of our
beloved ones. Why should they not
die ? Were they given to us that we
might sequester them ? Does no one
else love our children but ourselves?
Are we to employ our love as chains
and bonds, that we may bind them
forever to the earth ? I have never
seen any man hanging crape upon
trees because the blossoms had fallen,



tliat the fruit might swell ; but I see
people putting crape upon their doors,
and upon their own persons, because
summer had come sooner to their chil-
dren and their companions than they

258. Bearing of Trouble. — True pa-
tience always sees, or believes in, some
benefit to arise from bearing trouble.
In other words, it is a moral exchange,
suffering being the price that one pays
for a greater good to be enjoyed by
and by. The coin which we give for
higher elevation is iron, and hard to
circulate ; but the product is golden.
The endurance of suffering is that
which turns everything it touches into
gold. It is the philosopher's stone
that transmutes to a higher form all
that is low and groveling in us.

259. Meaning of Sorrow. — You do
not know what is going on, you do
not know all the meaning of your sor-
row ; God does. Do you suppose that
the wool on the sheep's back knows
what it is coming to when it is sheared ?
When it was scoured and washed and
spun, and twisted of its life almost ;
when it went into the hateful bath of
color; when it was put into the shuttle,
and was thrust back and forth, back
and forth, in the darkness, and out
came the royal robe, it did not know
what it started for ; yet that is what it
comes to — kings wear it.

260. Lost Cares Precious. — Ah !
our cares, even, are dear to us,
though we may not know it when we
are in the midst of them. I remember
me when, with impatient voice, I com-
manded the children to cease the
racket of their sport. Could I not be
permitted to read ? Must my house
be as a bedlam ? — I would to God that
I had children to cry there now. I
wish there would something make a
noise there now. Was your little babe
so troublesome that you sometimes

wondered that God should make it
fretful all night, so that you must
needs rise every hour to nurse it and
to care for it? and did you begin the
cant of the nurse, and talk about your
weariness and great pain in taking
care of the child ? Peradventure God
heard you ; for he took it to himself.
He never begrudges the care of any-
thing. And then, when you saw the
child's little shoe, and its little things
that were put away in the drawer,
how, in the anguish of your soul, you
said, " Oh ! if it were a thousand times
as much pain and care to me, would to
God that I might have it back again ! '"

261. Suffering, a Ripener. — Dr.
Spurzheim used to say that no woman
was fit to be a wife and mother till she
had been educated in suffering. I say
that no man or woman is fit for the
highest offices of friendship and of life
until he or she has had a full experience
of suffering. I do not say that there are
not admirable people who never have
suffered ; but I say that they would be
more admirable, good as they are, if
they had suffered more. I do say that
suffering is necessary to turn the acids
of life into sugar — to make the saps
sweet. I do say that suffering should
be to human dispositions what the
early frosts of autumn are to the al-
most ripened leaves, which turn them
into gorgeous colors, and fill the whole
sky with the tokens of coming death
and glorious beauty.

262. The Lost Baby Kept. — When
the young mother sheds the first glow-
ing leaf in autumn, and the babe is
carried from her arms and buried, and
she, like some fragrant bush in the
morning covered with dew, shakes
tears from every twig, because I, too,
do not measure every one of her sighs,
and every one of her sobs, do 1 not
sympathize with her? For I say to
myself, "What is this loss but the




making of a greater nature in yon ? "
She buries the babe to keep it. So
only do we keep our children, as
children, when we put them away
from us in infancy, and see them no
more until we meet them in heaven.
They remain shrined in the imagina-
tion, little children forever.

263. Chastening — Now and After-
ward. — " No chastening for the pres-
ent seemeth to be joyous," not only,
but none « joyous. It is grievous.

"Nevertheless—!" That "never-
theless" always seemed to me like a
golden door thrown open to a man
who stood in a dreary, stained
passage, and disclosed to him a gor-
geous parlor full of all brightness and
beauty. " Nevertheless, afterward it
yieldeth the peaceable fruit of right-
eousness unto them that are exercised

264. Exercised by Sorrow. — It is
said that sorrow worketh. Look at
some of those exquisite and extraordi-
narily rare workings in iron at old
Nuremberg (one of the most charm-
ing, I think, of the cities of Europe), in
the cathedral. Do you suppose the
iron was just pinched out into shape ?
How many strokes did it receive ?
How many hittings did it undergo on
the anvil ? How was it beaten here
and there ? How was it bent forward,
and backward, and forward, and back-
ward again ? How was it distorted
and contorted? How w^as it worked
and worked till by and by it was cov-
ered with little specules as multitu-
dinous as those in frost-pictures, and
more delicate and more permanent ?
They were wrought out by incessant
workings in the fire, and on the anvil,
under the hammer. Suffering makes
a man, or spoils him. A good many
are spoiled in the making.

265. Dear Ones Gone. — 1 go, in the
autumn, and sow my seeds through

my garden — for many of them nnist bo
autumn-sown ; and when the spring
comes, and I visit my grounds again,
I shall find not what I sowed.

I threw the brown-black seeds into
the dirt ; there stands the glowing spike
all a-blossom. I sowed to the flesh : I
shall reap of the spirit. I gave dust
to dust. God wrapped in his arms my
child. He tended my dear ones. He
loved into sweeter beauty my friends.
They are nobler than when I elected
them. And in the heavenly land they
wait. What? How looking? In
what occupations ? We know not pre-
cisely ; but this we know, generally :
that faith, hope, love, and all that can
be evolved out of them in human ex-
perience, are forever unchanged, ex-
cept to grow brighter and Ijrighter.

266. Rejoicing Amid Sorrow. — As
in storms, sometimes there are mo-
ments when the clouds part and let
through the whole gusii of the sun,
and change in a moment the terror to
sublime beauty ; so out of anguish,
often, the soul rises to a vision of that
which sorrow does for men, and of
what is its real interior and after na-
ture. In these high moods we look
back upon sorrows as if they had been
no sorrows.

267. Cleansing Power of Great
Troubles. — In the sultry insect-breed-
ing days of summer, how insects
abound ! Every tree is a harbor for
stinging pests. Wherever you sit,
they swarm around and annoy you,
and destroy your peace and comfort.
By and by there come those vast
floods of clouds that bring tornadoes,
and that are thunder-voiced ; and
up through tlie valleys, and over the
hills and mountains, sweep drenching
and cleansing rains. And when the
storm has ceased, and the clouds are
gone, and you sit under the dripping
tree, not a fly, not a gnat, not a pesti-



lent insect is to be seen. Tlie winds
and rains have driven them all away.
Has it never been so with those ten
thousand little pests of pride, and van-
ity, and envying, and jealousy, and
unlawful desire, that for days have
teased and fretted you, and kept
you in conflict with conscience, and
affection, and all the higher faculties,
until God sent upon you some great
searching sorrow, some overwhelming
trouble ? And in those hours he gra-
ciously sustained you, and lifted you
up towards himself, so that, although
you suffered unutterable affliction, you
felt that it had cleansed you from jeal-
ousies, envies, vanity, pride, the
whole swarm of venomous and sting-
ing insects that had beset you.

268. Maturing JJnder Sorrow, —
There are many fruits that never turn
sweet until the frost has lain upon
them ; there are many nuts that never
fall from the bough of the tree of life
till the frost has opened and ripened
them : and there are many elements
of life that never grow sweet and
beautiful till sorrow touches them.

269. The Sorrow of Humanity. —
The whole creation has been travail-
ing and groaning in pain until now.
There is a great deal of joy yet, there
is a great deal of success yet ; but the
wail can always be heard if one has an
ear to hear, and will listen to the un-
dertone of sorrow. I remember going
down on Long Island a few years ago,
and reaching, about sundown, a place
where I was to speak. Stepping up to
the door, I heard the whole heaven
murmur with a deep, wonderful sound.

I was thirty miles from the ocean ;
but my host said, "That is the sea
breaking on the shore ; we have just
had a storm." As the storm sub-
sided, still there was that everlasting
moan. Night and day the ocean is
not still. And so it seems to me,
often, that it is with human life itself.
There is an underlying moan and bass
to all the melodies of hfe.

270. Bereavement, Expansion of
Life. — There is many and many a
man who never knew that there were
more than twenty-five thousand miles
in the universe until love sent him a
mourning pilgrim seeking after the
absent one. Then he learned that
there was an infinity. For, when a
soul stricken through and through,
goes mourning, and saying, " Where
is it ? where is it? '" and the sun says,
" Not in me," and night says, *' Not
in me," and the grave mutely says,
" Not in me," and God says, " Here,"
and the Spirit and Bride say, " Come,"
— oh ! then the heart learns circum-
navigation and largeness, and has re-
stored to it in the long run, in the
augmented sense of love, and in the
power of augmented moral being,
more than has been taken from it.
Absence is for a day, but knowledge
is for eternity.

271. The Baptism of Suffering. —
O, the cleansing of suffering ! God
grant that we may have the cleansing,
and not the baptism alone !

272. The Night of Sorrow. — Afflic-
tion, like the blackness of night, is in-
dispensable to the outshining of the


273. Blessedness of Age. — When
the burdens of life press us down, and
seem to crush us into the very earth,
we hear Thee say. Come unto me, all

ye that labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest. And the
very thought of Thy willingness and
of thy power brings refreshing rest,



as we wilt under the fierce sun all the
day through ; but as the evening
draws near, and cool breezes come
from the sea, as we toil in the midst
of the fierce attritions of life, its rival-
ries and fiery temptations, and our
years are consumed, and we draw
near to the end of them, there set off
from the other land, far beyond our
sight, those sweet influences in which
is all the strength of God ; and out of
which Thou hast made manifest what
Thou art.

274. Weakness and Joy of Old Age.
— I have seen the eagle in his own
sphere. How strangely does it stir a
man's soul to see one of those birds
of light lying afloat, as it were, in the
upper ocean, slowly swinging, as if
but his thought kept him there, and
not his wing-beat. And I have seen
that same bird tied and caged, caring
not to plume his feathers, and his
wings all drooping. How utterly un-
like that bird of God in the heavens is
this miserable bird of man in the
cage !

It is pretty much that way with men
that have been in the thunder of
youth, and in the power and freshness
of manhood, and that at last go drag-
gled and drooping and all disheveled
into a piping, pining, complaining,
suffering, helpless, and hopeless old
age. Is that the eagle ? That is the
eagle! Is it not piteous? "Oh! to
die early," you say. No, no! there
is a better view than that. Does
earthly joy sound far distant, like the
very memory of a dream to you ?
Listen, then, to those sounds that
come wafting over from the other
land — joys that are undimmed forever
at the right hand of God.

275. Perfectibility. — There are no
perfect persons in this world until
very late in life — if then ! In early
life men are like fires of snapping

wood, burning in imperfect chimneys,
puffing out a good deal of smoke,
oftentimes throwing coals of impa-
tience clear out into the room. And
when at last the fire has burned out
and gone to ashes or red coals, and
the danger is gone, comfort comes.
There are persons almost intolerable
in early life that, after age comes, and
quietness, become very beautiful and
very charming. And the other way,
there are many persons that are like
sweet wine when young, but the fer-
mentation is not checked and they
turn out vinegar. We frequently
spoil what we have, and then mourn
to think we have it not.

276. A Good Life. — A noble life,
begun early and completed wisely,
looks to me like a fair building which
taste erects. The left hand is taste,
and the right hand wealth. Although
when the house is being built men do
not see exactly what is meant, be-
holding dirt thrown out, the materials
scattered around, and the workmen's
chips and shavings, the mortar and
the lime surrounding and the scaffold
hiding it, yet, when the building is
completed, the scaffolding taken down,
the soil and dirt removed, and the
household are moved in, and the
lights burn in the windows, and there
is music in every room, and love con-
secrates every hall and passage, how
beautiful then is that accomplished
building ! Such is the life of a good

277. Late Maturity in Life. — The
aster has not wasted spring and sum-
mer because it has not blossomed. It
has been all the time preparing for
what is to follow, and in autumn it is
the glory of the field, and only the
frost lays it low. So there are many
people who must live forty or fifty
years, and have the crude sap of
their natural dispositions changed and



sweetened before the blossoming time
can come : but their hfe has not been
wasted ; it has been growing.

278. Work, to the End of Life. —
On the first of January let every
man gird himself once more, with his
face to the front, and take interest in
tlie things that are and are to be, and
not in the things that were and are
past. Be in sympathy with the time.
Concern yourself with all that is going
on. Some persons talk about a man
having passed through a stormy life,
and sitting now at the end of his life
in quiet, preparing himself for heaven.
Heaven does not want any such
preparation as that. That is the best
preparation which a man makes when
he is using the whole force of his
being in his day and time. I love
those streams that run full, clear to the
ocean. Some men there are who are
like mountain streams, torrent-fed,
that boom in the spring, with won-
drous glory of fullness and power, and
go rushing through the earlier months,
but slacken their speed, and by mid-
summer are only a trickling reminis-
cence of the river. I like to think of
streams like the old Merrimac, that
begin work up near their head-waters,
and never run a league without turn-
ing some mighty wheel of industry,
and have no vacation to the end, but
go into the sea with the very foam on
their surface.

279. Weakness of Old Age. — How
beautiful is a tree full and round with
wide-spreading branches ! How beau-
tiful are those evergreens that stand,
to-day, in New England, immortal em-
blems of the old Puritan manhood and
love of liberty, and that are green the
year round without variableness or
shadow of turning, so far as their
color is concerned, but whose form
changes with every winter. They
cannot long preserve their present

symmetry. For now, soon, there will

Online LibraryHenry Ward BeecherA treasury of illustration → online text (page 10 of 94)