Henry Ward Beecher.

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man, who, with his immense broad
sides, sweeps like a frigate down the



street, and scorns help, aiding every-
body, and receiving help from none,
— and let him fall a prey to disease,
and hang like a rag without power to
open his mouth, or to knock a fly off
his face when it alights there ; let him
find himself so reduced that he is ab-
solutely like a child, and it humbles
him. It makes him feel that he is re-
duced to nothing. Sometimes sick-
ness is better than sermons or reflec-
tion to make men feel how little they
are, after all, and to teach them the
necessity of falling back for strength
upon some power higher than them-
selves.

215. Teaching of Physical Pain. —
It teaches men patience ; it teaches
men to bear valiantly. Many and
many a man has been burned at the
stake without so much suffering as a
man has had in his bed through ten
or fifteen years' suffering and pain,
and if during all that time while the
body anguished, the soul is learning
self-control, endurance, bravery, faith,
even physical pain becomes a mis-
sionary and a minister of grace.
Cheerfulness under physical suffering
is a wonderful victory, repining is a
defeat. I suppose that there is more
martyrdom of a quiescent kind than
there ever was of a flaming. I would
rather be broken on the wheel out-
right — horrible as it is, yet it has this
benefaction in it, it is immediate and
you get through it pretty quickly —
than have the gout. A gouty man is
broken on the wheel through days and
nights with no terminable period be-
fore him, again and again with recur-
rent anguish. A man who being a
martyr in suffering for a principle is
inspired with heroism, and can go to
the stake and bear torments is not so
great as the man that without pub-
licity and without any great moral end
in view nevertheless has courage and



52



NATURAL LIFE



endurunce to bear up under these
various bodily tortures.

216. Sickness, Remorse of Body. —
With very few exceptions sickness is
the testimony of God to a man tliat he
has violated natural law. Sickness is
a punishment for the abuse of the
body, just as remorse of conscience is
punishment for the violation of any
known law of conduct. God meant
that the world should be full of healthy
men, and it is a flagrant sin for a man
to fall from obedience to the laws of
health.

217. The Temple of God. — Far be
it from me to say that all sickness is
disgraceful. Much of it is honorable.
They that have made a living sacrifice
of their body to love or patriotism
have offered up the noblest thing that
one can well offer. As in our streets
there are many men whom we almost
envy because they limp ; as there is
many an empty sleeve that fires the
heart as no physically perfect man
could ; so there are those who have
broken down in the service of love and
the cause of humanity, for whom we
feel reverence, and whom we honor.
But they that are prematurely old by
reason of an unnecessary waste of
life ; they that by neglect, by defile-
ment through the passions, have un-
roofed this temple, and broken its fair
cornices, and shattered its beautiful
statues, and cast down its pillars,
have indeed degraded the temple of
God.

218. Love-Light in Darkness. —
When the mother gives away her
daughter at the altar, she does not
feel towards her half the motherliness
which she does when she is trying to
save her on the couch in the trial of
death. It is in darkness that love
flames, and has wondrous power,

219. Heroism in Sickness. — Some
of God's most heroic soldiers are the



bed-ridden. Look at that sweet child
of eighteen, full of aspiration and
hope, to whom has been denied, not
loving father, not loving mother, not
sisters and more than anxious broth-
ers, but health. She has made a
weary fight for one year, for two
years, for three years, and at last she
says, " If God has planted me to grow
as a nightshade here ; if I am to be a
flower in the forest, that knows no
sun ; if it is here that God wants me
to show patience and zeal, then I am
content with my lot ; I accept it, and
I will ask and expect nothing more.
Let this be my sphere of duty, and let
my life be spent on the bed, the
couch, the cot, if God wishes it. If
sickness be God's will, even so. His
will be done, not mine."

The time of the singing of birds has
come to such a heart. To such a
heart spring has come, and summer
is not far off.

220. Help, when Needed. — To-day
I walked in the rooms of my dear
brother and neighbor Camp, where
the body of his eldest boy lay await-
ing burial, and I put myself in the
father's place. I said to myself,
" Suppose it were my eldest boy, or
my youngest, that lay there? " As I
looked upon the lifeless form, I said
to myself, " How many things I can
bear ! but could I bear that ? " Then
I thought, " Can I turn my eyes up,
open, frank, clear, cool and consider-
ate, and say, • Lord Jesus, do as you
please. Here are the boys— take
your choice ' ? " Could I do it ? No,
blessed be God, I could not. The
time has not come ; till it comes I
cannot ; but I have no doubt that if
the time does come God will give me
grace to do it.

221. Time for Resignation. — My
darling child lies sick — my only
daughter ; and am I, as a minister of



BEREAVEMENT AND SORROW



53



God and an exemplar to men, in sub-
mission to the will of my Master, to
say that this sickness is unto death ?
Because the physician says she will
not recover, and the nurse says she
can not recover, and my own fears say
she may not recover, am I to say " It
is the will of the Lord she should die ;
the will of the Lord be done " ? No !
I will fight death to the last ; and
when I have made good battle with
all the love, and wisdom, and pa-
tience, and fidelity I possess, and the



shadow has fallen, and I am defeated,
then I accept the event ; it is proved
a true prophet at last ; but I would
not believe it until 1 had tested it.
Then I say, " It was the will of tlie
Lord she should die ; the will of the
Lord be done." Not when the storm-
cloud first comes do I accept it as an
expression of the will of God, but
when it has done its last work — that
is the revelation. Facts threatening
are not revelations ; facts accom-
plished are.



VII. BEREAVEMENT AND SORROW



222. Joy in Grief. — Sorrows are
like seeds planted for a little while, but
always breaking up towards the light
after a short time. They die first, and
then live again; and every sorrow ought
to carry in it the germ-form of joy.

223. Loss of Children. — I have
sent children on before me. Once,
wading knee-deep in the snow, I
buried the earliest. It was March,
and dreary, and shivering, and awful.
Then the doctrine that Christ sat in
an eternal summer of love, and that
my child was not buried, but had gone
up to One that loved it better than I,
was the only comfort I had. If I
thought that my children, dying, went
out to wander little pilgrims in dark-
ness, and that they went wandering,
they knew not where, in all the realm
of spirits, I could not be consoled,
and only stoicism could cover the
wound which it could not heal ; but
since I know that God loves my chil-
dren, that he has said, " Of such is
the kingdom of heaven," and that he
wants them to be permitted to come
to him, though it is with pain and
sorrow that I yield them up, I am not
without hope and consolation.

224. Joy in Affliction. — Some mourn-
ers that I see at funerals I am deeply



sorry for. Their rain is turned to ice.
This chilled grief may be beautiful, as
in winter ice-clad trees are beautiful,
when the sun shines upon them ; but
it is dangerous. Ice breaks many a
branch ; and so I see a great many
persons bowed down and crushed by
their afflictions. But now and then I
meet with those who sing in affliction.
Then I thank God for my own sake as
well as for theirs. There is no such
sweet singing as a song in the night.
You recollect the story of the woman
who, when her only child died, in
rapture looked up, as with the face of
an angel, and said, "I give you joy,
my darling." That singular sentence
has gone with me years and years,
down through my life, quickening
and comforting me. If it had not
been spoken, or if it had not been re-
ported, it would have been lost to you
and to me.

225. Present Grief, Future Glory. —
Sorrow and pain and disaster are
woven in the loom of God ; and in
the end we, too, shall be permitted to
discern the fair pattern, and under-
stand how that which brought tears
here shall bring righteousness there.

226. Tears. — " May not I cry,
then?" Yes, just as the night does.



54



NATURAL LIFE



and in the morning it is dew. Tiicrc
is not a flower that docs not look
sweeter for it. True tears make souls
beautiful. True sorrows are, after all,
but the seeds out of which come
fairer joys.

227. Bearing Afflictions. — Many,
when they lose their children or
friends, are made bitter by their be-
reavements, and say. "Why was I
robbed ? What have I done that (lod
should strike me?" They complain
of God's dealings with them. They
are vulgar ; they are low ; they are
insensitive. Afflictions, in the cases
of such persons, oftentimes leave them
worse than they find them. But oth-
ers, instead of being like clay which
is made harder by fire, are like wax
that is made softer, and when afflic-
tions visit them, oh, what wondrous
truths come out of tears ! what pre-
cious lessons come out of aching
hearts ! They learn things that they
never knew before, and can walk in a
humble way behind the psalmist, and
say, " Yea, Lord, it is good for me
that I have been afflicted."

228. Relief of Tears in Sorrow. —
At first, grief was too great. They
were winter-stricken. The very rigor
of their sorrow would let nothing flow.
But as warmth makes even glaciers
trickle, and opens streams in the ribs
of frozen mountains, so the heart knows
the full flow and life of its grief only
when it begins to melt and pass away.

229. Enrichment by Trouble. —
" Man that is born of a woman is of few
days, and full of trouble." It comes
to us all : not to make us sad, but to
make us sober; not to make us sorry,
but to make us wise ; not to make us
despondent, but by its darkness to re-
fresh us, as the night refreshes the
day ; not to impoverish us, but to en-
rich us, as the plough enriches the
field, — to multiply our joy, as the seed



is multiplied a hundredfold by plant-
ing.

230. We Shall Know Hereafter. —
I shall not forget, while I have con-
scious being, the look of grief and
reproach which my little child gave
me, in his anguish, when he was dy-
ing. He had always run to me for
relief, and I had given it ; but now,
when mortal anguish was on him, why
did I not help him? What could I
say ? What could I do, but stand by
and tremble in agony ? I could not
tell him that he was not old enough to
understand ; and if he had been ever
so old I could not have told him why
I could not relieve him, and act the
part of a father. So I think Jesus
stands by, often, and is absolutely
unable to let us know why it is that
he is deahng with us as he is. He
cannot impart it to us. We are
not susceptible of receiving instruc-
tions respecting the great beyond, the
infinite and eternal, in which he is
acting, and which is prefigured by the
part which our hfe is performing, and
with reference to which the events of
our earthly career are arranged and
conducted. All that he can do is to
say again, as he has said before,
" What I do ye know not now, but ye
shall know hereafter."

231. Departed Children. — Do you
ever notice the dandelion when it first
comes up in the spring, and is nothing
but a mat of little, flat and notched
leaves lying snugly on the ground? A
few days of summer sun will bring out
the plaited bud, nippled in the soil.
In a few days more it will lift itself
higher, and open its golden circle. It
is now born ; and so are our children
born to us. Wait yet a few days, and
that blossom is shut up. Its beauty is
gone. Wait a few days again, and
out it comes once more. But now it
is an airy globe, white as pearl, and



BEREAVEMENT AND SORROW



55



exquisite in form as no compass could
score it. An ethereal globe it is ; the
wind could blow it away. And such
are our children who have died ; they
have gone from us, beautiful to tlie
last. Through all ages they shall
live, and bud, and blossom. They
have been wafted away to the celestial
sphere.

232. Joy After Sorrow. — After the
storm has brooded all day long, and
hung low, so that the clouds shut out
all forms, and there was but gray and
haze, you have often seen the wind
shift, and roll away the clouds, and
the clouds bank themselves up and
sweep out, so that at last the sun, to-
wards sunset, struck them at the
proper angle, and all that had been so
dark and gloomy through the day be-
gan to light itself up, and stood like a
heavenly portal glowing wide, and the
glories began to flash out on those
banks that now had lifted themselves
up into the very brightness of heaven.
And yet it was the same thing that at
one time made the darkness, and at
another time seemed to be the glory
of heaven itself.

The sorrows and trials and mischiefs
of this world are dark enough in the
passing and in the brooding ; but the
time is coming when the light of God's
countenance shall be so let in upon
them that they shall be marvels and
magnitudes of glory and of beauty.

233. Suffering, the Test of Love. —
To-day we are called on for a renewed
expression of fealty and fidelity. The
taking of this bread and the drinking
of this wine is emptiness itself, unless
we can quicken our faith and our
thought by some such identification
with Christ as shall give meaning to
these materials. Are you broken as a
loaf is broken ? Is your heart wrung
as the cluster of grapes is wrung out
into wine ? Is the very blood, almost.



of suffering wrung out of you ? Christ
the Sufferer, Christ the Burden-Bearer,
Christ — though he first crowned him-
self least and lowest — is your master ;
and are you willing to follow him in
the way of suffering, in the way of
strife, and make proof of what love is,
not by the joyousness of a flaming
love, but by the power of love to bear,
to endure, to suffer?

234. " Not Joyous, but Grievous." —
God IS not like foolish parents, who
take the spoon of noxious medicine,
and put it to the lips of the child, and
say, lying, "Take it, my dear: it is
sweet and good." God is like an
honest parent, who says to the child,
"It is very bitter, my dear ; but you
must take it, for it will make you feel
better by and by." So it is of be-
reavement and of all such sufferings.

235. Revelations of Grief. — Astron-
omers have built telescopes which can
show myriads of stars unseen before ;
but when a man looks through a tear
in his own eye, that is a lens which
reaches to the unknown, and reveals
orbs which no telescope, however
skilfully constructed, could do : nay,
which brings to view even the throne
of God, and pierces that nebulous dis-
tance where are those eternal verities
in which true hfe consists.

236. Christianity not Stoicism. —
Some seem to think that a man, to be
a Christian, ought to be able not to
suffer when suftering comes ; but the
ache of suffering is a part of its medi-
cine. You might as well say that
manliness requires that a man should
drink bitter draughts, and not taste
them, and call them sweet, as to say
that Christianity requires that a man
should bear suffering, and say that it
is not suffering. It requires no such
thing. It does not even require that
we should illumine suffering so that
for the present it shall seem joyous.



ff'



NATURAL LIFE



The Cluislian, when his companion is
taken from him, is not leqiiired to say,
" I am so wondertuUy strengthened
that I have no suffering." A mother
is not called upon, when she has given
up her child to God, to say, " I suffer
none." You have a right to suffer.

237. What Sorrow Does for Us. —
A vine planted in a rich soil tends to
outgrow its fruit. It grows rank, and
runs and rushes over the trellis. Then
comes the vintner with his pruning-
knifc, and cuts it back. He will not
suffer it to bear leaves alone, but com-
pels it to bear grapes. And so, when,
according to the tendency of our na-
ture, we grow rank, and bear leaves
in abundance, but no fruit, we are put
upon a course of discipline, we are cut
back, and are brought into some sort
of proportion. We need to be cut
back, and suffering is the pruning-
knife that does the work.

238. Earthly Sadness, Heavenly
Joy. — All day and all night for two
long weeks I lay stretched in my
wretched berth in the steamship, mak-
ing my hideous, purgatorial passage
from Europe to America. The berth
was so short that I could but just
straighten myself therein, and so nar-
row that I could but just keep myself
thereon. The concomitants were all
after the same scant pattern. And do
you suppose I ever stretched myself
out there that I was not reminded, by
my limitation, of that which I had
been used to, and which I was seek-
ing in my own home? Do you sup-
pose I ever looked through that bull's-
eye window without thinking of my
own ample window that overlooks the
bay ? Do you suppose I ever smelled
the damp, sticky furniture of the close
cabin that I did not think of my own
airy chambers, and the sweet breath
of heaven in my own halls? There
was not one discomfort that did not



suggest a comfort. There was not
one unpleasant thing that did not sug-
gest something pleasant.

And as it is in a voyage upon the
ocean, so it is in the voyage across the
sea of life to the heavenly land. Our
experiences and sufferings are but so
many hands that point us to the other
world, saying, " There it shall not be
as it is here ; for here it is imperfect,
there perfect ; here sorrowful, there
joyful ; here weak, there strong ; here
crumbling, there undccaying ; here
sinful, there holy ; here exiled, there
children at home."

239. Affliction, and its Comfort. — I
have known a woman who, because
her children were taken from her,
went forth to embrace and adopt
within the wide margin of her heart
children that had no parents. She
multiplied her household and filled and
filled again the places that were left
vacant in her own cradle. Pouring
out thus her divinity, she rose towards
the origin of divinity in man towards
God. He that afflicts also consoles
and comforts. Some of the greatest
works of charity, in the form of hos-
pitals, of monuments in cemeteries,
and of mighty colored windows in
cathedrals, have been testimonies of
hearts that have been pierced and
have sought to come out of their sor-
row by doing something to benefit or
console other men. The moment men
begin to feel that affliction is sent to
make them comforters of others who
are in affliction, the remedy in them-
selves has begun, their wound has
commenced to heal, and their ache
diminishes.

240. Sorrows Intermittent. — Our
troubles are not at all times alike troub-
lesome to us. Even the sea ceases its
motion at times, and its surf forgets to
murmur. Griefs and cares, bitter mem-
ories, and heavy troubles intermit their



BEREAVEMENT AND SORROW



57



tyranny, to come again with redoubled
oppressions. Like tides, sorrows seem
sometimes to flow out and leave the
sands bare. But again they some-
times rush in upon us like tides, as if
they feared that something should
have snatched from them their lawful
prey.

241. " Blessed Are They That
Mourn." — For perfect beings sorrow is
not needed ; but to creatures like men,
seeking to escape the thrall and bur-
den of animal life, sorrow is helpful.
As frosts unlock the hard shells of
seeds and help the germ to get free, so
trouble develops in men the germs of
force, patience, and ingenuity, and in
noble natures " works the peaceable
fruits of righteousness." A gentle
schoolmaster it is to those who are
" exercised thereby."

242. Praise Lightens Trouble. — You
will say, " How shall a man praise
God who seems to himself to be in
continuous trouble?" Look at the
history of David, and see how you
will do it. You will find that in some
of the Psalms the soul begins in a
minor key, and by and by rises to the
major key, and then flies away. If a
man is in trouble, let him go to God in
his trouble, till he gets a sense of the
Divine loving, pitying, sympathetic
nature, and see if there does not spring
up in him a spirit of praise.

243. No choosing of Losses. — There
is many a man who builds his house as
the old Egyptians built their pyramids.
Nothing should shake them — no,
nothing. But what was in the middle
of them? Coffins, and the dust of
royalty. And there is many a man
whose fine house contains only coffins
and the dust of departed loved ones.
Where is that wife ? Where are those
children ? Where is that brother or
that sister ? Where is that friend ?
The man's heart has been desolated ;



and he says, "If God had taken
everything else, and left them, I would
not have called it affliction." That is
it ; he did not ask you what you would
rather part with. You had been going
on, and building up, forgetting that
there was a point where your career
came within the bounds of the divine
government ; and when the finger of
God was laid upon that which was
precious to you, you thought that the
day of judgment had come, such was
the pain and anguish which you ex-
perienced.

244. Meaning of the Sepulcher. —
Christian brethren, do you know how
to be glad, and to make others glad,
in the midst of trouble? Do you
know how to be peaceful in the midst
of deepest bereavements ? Do you
know how to seek Christ in the very
tomb ? Do you know how to employ
the tomb as the astronomer employs
the lens, which in the darkness re-
veals to him vast depths and infinite
stretches of created things in the space
beyond ? Do you know how to look
through the grave and see what there
is on the other side — the glory and
power of God ? Blessed are they to
whom Christ hath revealed the mean-
ing of the sepulcher.

245. Softening the Heart by Trouble.
— They used to engrave, you know,
on copper-plates ; but these wore out
so quick that there had to be some-
thing invented to take their place. So
Perkins, our countryman, introduced
the practice of engraving on steel
plates. But steel was so hard that it
was with great difficulty that pictures
could be cut upon it. The conse-
quence was, that the plates were
softened by a chemical process, and
while they were in that stnte, the pic-
ture was cut upon them ; and then
they were put into a furnace and har-
dened. So when God wants beautiful







NATURAL LIKE



pictures, lie softens a man with trouble,
and etches all over him ; and when
his nature has received and solidified
tiie pictures as of his own substance,
he is in a condition to print from.
This process, which is so beneficial in
its results, is one of the most disagree-
able blessings that ever come to us,

246. Assassination of Lincoln. —
Never did two such orbs of experience
meet in one hemisphere, as the joy and
the sorrow of the same week in this
land. The joy of final victory was as
sudden as if no man had expected it,
and as entrancing as if it had fallen a
sphere from heaven. It rose up over
sobriety, and swept business from its
moorings, and ran down through the
land in irresistible course. Men em-
braced each other in brotherhood that
were strangers in the flesh. They
sang, or prayed, or, deeper yet, many
could only think thanksgiving and
weep gladness. In one hour, under
the blow of a single bereavement, joy
lay without a pulse, without a gleam,
or breath. A sorrow came that swept
through the land as huge storms sweep
through the forest and field, rolling
thunder along the sky, disheveling the
flowers, daunting every singer in
thicket or forest, and pouring black-
ness and darkness across the land and
upon the mountains. Did ever so
many hearts, in so brief a time, touch
two such boundless feelings? It was
the uttermost of joy ; it was the utter-
most of sorrow ; — noon and midnight
without a space between !

247. Sorrow a Revealer. — In so
great a congregation as this, where
there are so many thousands that by
invisible threads are connected with
this vital teaching-point, sorrow be-
comes almost a literature, and grief
almost a lore, and we are in danger
of walking over the road of consola-



Online LibraryHenry Ward BeecherA treasury of illustration → online text (page 9 of 94)