Martha Noyes Williams.

Voices from the silent land; or, Leaves of consolation for the afflicted online

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cha^-ed for him — even that strength proportioned to his day which is
doubly precious as being a fulfilled promise." — Charlotte Elizabeth.





One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists, one only — an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power ;
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good.
The darts of anguish fix not where the seat
Of suffering hath been thoroughly fortified
By acquiescence in the Will Supreme,
For time and for eternity ; by faith.
Faith absolute in God, including hope.
And the defence that lies in boundless love
Of his perfections ; with habitual dread
Of aught unworthily conceived, endured
Impatiently ; ill done, or left undone,
To the dishonor of his holy name.
Soul of our souls, and saftiguard of the world,
Sustain — thou only canst — the sick of heart ;
Restore their languid spirits, and recall
Their lost affections unto thee and thine !


^Tis, by comparison, an easy task

Earth to despise ; but to converse with Heaven —

This is not easy : to relinquish all

We have, or hope, of happiness and joy.

And stand in freedom loosened from this world,

I deem not arduous ; but must needs confess

That 'tis a thing impossible to frame

Conceptions equal to the soul's desires,

And the most difficult of tasks to keep

Heights which the soul is competent to gain.

Man is of dust ; ethereal hopes are his.

Which, when they should sustain themselves aloft,

Want due consistence ; like a pillar of smoke,

That with majestic energy from earth

Rises, but, having reached the thinner air,

Melts, and dissolves, and is no longer seen.

From this infirmity of mortal kind

Sorrow proceeds, which else were not ; at least,

If grief be something hallowed and ordained.

If, in proportion, it be just and meet,

Through this, 'tis able to maintain its hold.

In that excess which conscience disapproves.

For who could sink and settle to that point

Of selfishness ? so senseless who could be

In framing estimates of loss and gain.

As long and perseveringly to mourn

For any object of his love, removed

From this unstable w^rld, if he could fix

A satisfying view upon that state

Of pure, imperishable blessedness.

Which reason promises and holy writ

Insures to all believers ? Yet mistrust


Is of sucli incapacity, metliinks,

No natural branch ; despondency far less.

And, if there be whose tender frames have drooped

Even to the dust, apparently, through weight

Of anguish unrelieved, and lack of power

An agonizing sorrow to transmute,

Infer not hence a hope from those withheld

When wanted most ; a confidence impaired

So pitiably, that, having ceased to see

With bodily eyes, they are borne down by love

Of what is lost, and perish through regret.

0, no ; full oft the innocent sufferer sees
Too clearly, feels too vividly, and longs
To realize the vision with intense

And over-constant yearning ; there, there lies
The excess, by which the balance is destroyed.
Too, too contracted are these walls of flesh,
This vital warmth too cold, these visual orbs,
Though inconceivably endowed, too dim
For any passion of the soul that leads
To ecstasy ; and, all the crooked paths
Of time and change disdaining, takes its course
Along the line of limitless desires.

1, speaking now from such disorder free,
Nor rapt, nor craving, but in settled peace,
I cannot doubt that they whom you deplore
Are glorified ; or, if they sleep, shall wake
From sleep, and dwell with God in endless love.
Hope, below this, consists not with belief

In mercy, carried infinite degrees
Beyond the tenderness of human hearts :
Hope, below this, consists not with belief


In perfect wisdom, guiding mightiest power,
That finds no limits but her own pure will.

But, above all, the victory is most sure

For him who, seeking faith by virtue, strives

To yield entire submission to the law

Of conscience ; conscience reverenced and obeyed

As God's most intimate presence in the soul,

And his most perfect image in the world.

Endeavor thus to live ; these rules regard ;

These helps solicit ; and a steadfast seat

Shall then be yours among the happy few

Who dwell on earth, yet breathe empyreal air, —

Sons of the morning. For your nobler part,

Ere disencumbered of her mortal chains,

Doubt shall be quelled, and trouble chased away ;

With only such degree of sadness left

As may support longings of pure desire,

And strengthen love, rejoicing secretly

In the sublime attractions of the grave.


. Symon Patrick, D. D.

For whose sake dost thou weep ? For the sake of
him that is dead,, or for thy own ? Not for him that
is dead, sure, for we suppose him to be happy. Is it
reasonable to say, Ah me, what shall I do ? I have


lost a dear friend that shall eat and drink no more.
Alas ! he shall never hunger again ; never be sick
again ; never be vexed and troubled ; and, which is
more, he shall never die again. Yet this is the fran-
tic language of our tears, if we weep for the sake of
him that is gone. Suppose thy friend should come to
thee, and shake thee by the hand, and say. My good
friend, why dost thou lament, and afflict thy soul ? I
am gone to the paradise of God, a sight most beautiful
to be beheld, and more rare to be enjoyed. To that
paradise am I flown, where there is nothing but joy
and triumph, nothing but friendship and endless love.
There am I, where the Head of us all is, and where we
enjoy the light of his most blessed face. I would not
live, if I might, again ; no, not for the love of thee. I
have no such affection to thy society — once most dear
unto me — that I would exchange my present com-
pany to hold commerce with thee. But do thou
rather come hither as soon as thou canst. And bid
thy friends that they mourn not for thee when thou
diest, unless they would wish thee to be miserable

If we should have such a short converse with one
of our acquaintance, what should we think? what
should we say ? Should we fall a mourning and cry-
ing again ? Would it open a new sluice for our tears
to flow out ? Would we pray him to go to heaven
no more, but stay with us ? Would we entreat him to
beg of God that he might come and comfort us? If
not, then let us be well content, unless we can give
a better reason for our immoderate tears than our love
to him.


Holcoth * reports of a learned man that was found
dead in his study with his book before him : a friend
of his was exceedingly amazed at the sight when he
first came into the room ; but when he looked a little
further, he found his fore finger pointing at this place
in the Book of Wisdom, chapter 4, verse 7 : " But
though the righteous be prevented with death, yet
shall he be in rest." And when he observed this, he
was as much comforted as he was before dejected.
We have no reason to lament them who are made im-
mortal, and that live with God. If we respect them
only, we should carry them forth as the Egyptians did
the great prophet of Isis when he died,t not with
bowlings and sorrow, but with hymns and joy, as being-
made an heir with our betters, and gone to possess most
glorious things.

The truth of it is, if it were rational love to him
that expresseth these tears, then we should not begin
them so soon, nor make such a noise, nor cry, when
men are dying. For the sad countenances and the
miserable lamentations wherewith we encompass sick
men's beds make death seem more frightful to them
than it is in itself. What misery am I falling into —
may a man think — that causes them to make such a
moan ? What is this death, that makes even them look
so ghastly who are not like to die? What a mis-
chief is it to leave so many sad hearts behind me, and
to go myself — it should seem by them — to some sad
and dismal place also ! I tell you, a dying man had
need have a double courage to look both death and
them in the faces, or else their indiscrete shrieks and

* In 4 Sap. o. 7. f Holoid. 1, 7, ^.thi



lamentations will make a poor soul fall into such dark
and cloudy thoughts. Men are fain, therefore, to say
that it is indeed love to themselves that forces them
thus to bemoan the death of their friends. But what
are you, that cannot be contented one should be made
much better by making of you a little worse ? Is this
the great love you pretend to your friend, that you are
extremely sorry he is gone to heaven. Are you a
friend, that look more at your own small benefit than
at his great gain ? Was he not much beholden to you
for your love, that would have had him lived till you were
dead, that he might have been so miserable in mourning
for you, as you think now yourselves to be ? . . .

But how doth it appear that mere self-love is the
original of these tears ? Suppose this person to have
been at so wide a distance from us for a year or two,
that no tidings of him could come to us. Did we weep
and lament all that while because he was not with us ?
Did not the thoughts that he lived, and hopes to see
him again, comfort us ? And yet, was he not then in a
manner dead, when we neither saw, nor felt, nor heard
from him ? What help did we receive from him at
that distance ? or wherein did he pleasure us ? If we
did not account ourselves so miserable all that time as
to spend it in tears, we ought not to do it now. We
are now as we were then ; in all things the very same,
save only in the knowledge that he is dead. But
was he not dead, as I said, to us before ? Was he not
like a man in another world ? What was there that
he did for us which we do not now receive at his
hands ? Let us be as quiet now as we would have
been on such an occasion ; especially since we know


our friend still lives, and we have hope to see him
again. Natural affection, I confess, in either case will
make us big with sighs, and burst forth often into tears.
We feel we are not as we were before. There is some-
thing wanting which we formerly enjoyed. And it is
an old friend, perhaps, which nature cannot but be
loath to part withal. Get a new nature, then, and that
will mend all. Though the first motions be so free
that they owe no tribute to reason, yet, when they
come, we shall be careful not to follow them ; if we do,
it will not be very far. Religion and reason, if we
hearken to them, will teach us to restrain ourselves.
" Religion," as a great person speaks, " will not suffer
us not to will what God wills. And reason will teach
us to bear those things with an equal mind which do
not happen to us alone, and which we cannot by all
our tears make not to have happened." They will not
let us expect that time should take away this sickness
from us. That is the remedy of vulgar spirits : Sapi-
entis est, tempus ipsum antevenire, et dolori ipsi nascenti oc-
currere — it is the part of a wise man to outstrip time,
and get before it ; to prevent a grief that is growing,
and strangle it in the very birth. And, indeed, from
hence we conclude that it is not mere natural affection
either to which we commonly owe our sadness and
sorrows, but the freshness and presence of the cause
of them. For time, as was said, will make us forget
them ; or if our parents had died a little after we were
born, we should never have wept, when we came of age,
to think that they were departed. It is no hard mat-
ter, then, for a considerate person to cease his grief
seeing it depends upon such small causes. And if one



shall say that it is love to the good of the world that
makes him mourn for the loss of a useful person, he
hath reason to rejoice that he loves the good of men
so much. For then he will labor to do much good in
the world himself ; and he will persuade all the friends
he hath remaining, that they would do all the good
they can, and repair that loss.

If he were a good man, then thou needest not mourn
now, for thou mayst hope to see him again, if thou art
good. Thus thou mayst comfort thyself : My friend is
not gone, but gone before. He is separated from us,
but not lost. He is absent, but not dead. He hath
taken a journey into a far country, and there I may go
to see him. What matter is it whether my friend re-
turn to me, or I go to him ? None but this — that if
he be in a better place, then it is better that I go to
see him than that he come to see me. Should we not
desire to be better ourselves, and not to have him made
worse ? Then let us contentedly follow as fast as we
can, hoping there where he is to embrace again. We
cannot expect him in our house, but he expects us in
his. He cannot come down to us, but we may go up
to him. He cannot come back, but we may follow
after. And there is no difference, as I said, between
his visiting of us at our home, and our going to see
him at his, but only this — that it is a great deal better
for us to see him there where he is, and not where we
are now ourselves. Let us not mourn, therefore, for
that which cannot be, but rejoice for that which may
and will be. And let it comfort us that we shall come
together again, but in a better place than we would
have it ; we shall have our desires fulfilled, but in a


more excellent manner than we desire. And if, in the
mean time, he can do us any good, we may be sure that
we shall not want it. . . . Think, then, of the time
past, and rejoice that thou didst find so sweet a friend.
Imagine not how long thou mightst have enjoyed him,
but think how long thou didst. It was but natural
to lose him ; but it was supernatural to enjoy him. All
men are born to die, but all men are not born to live
so long before they die. All men have acquaintance,
but all men have not friends. Therefore he that hath
a friend, and hath him so long, is to acknowledge that
God is very much his Friend. He was not ours, but
was given us by God ; or rather, he was not given, but
only lent. We had not the propriety, but only the use.
We have not lost any thing that was our own, but only
restored that which was another's. And, therefore,
now that he is taken away, we are not to be angry that
God requires his own, but to be thankful that he hath
lent us so long that which was none of our own. And
assure yourselves there is nothing more unreasonable
than to mourn that God gave us a thing no longer,
and not to rejoice that he gave us that which is so de-
sirable at all. Cease your tears, I beseech you, unless
you will show that you deserved to have wept a little
sooner. Either say that he was not worth the having,
and then you need not weep at all, or else give God
the thanks that you had a person so worthy, and that
Avill stay your immoderate weeping. . . . When
you are apt to fetch a sigh, and say, 0, my dear friend
is gone ! call it in again, and say. Thanks be to God
that I had such a one to lose. Who would not be
willing to spend some tears after so much joy ? But


then the remembrance of the joy will command that
the tears do not overflow. It is an excellent saying
of Seneca, " I ever think of my friends with joy ; for
I had them as if I should lose them, and I have lost
them as if I had them." If we could but think of them
as dying while they are alive, then we should more
easily think of them as alive when they are dead. If
we could be willing to part with them when we have
them, we should think that Ave have them when we
have parted with them. And the truth is, we cannot
please ourselves long in the remembrance of them, un-
less it be accompanied with some joy. I do not advise
you to forget your friends, and put them out of mind,
but to remember them, and keep them in your thoughts.
But how short a remembrance, saith the same Seneca,
must that be, which is always joined with grief and
sorrow ! If we would remember one always, we must
remember him with pleasure ; for no man will return
willingly to that which he cannot think of without his
torment. And if there be any little grief intermixed
with our thoughts, yet that grief hath its pleasure.
As the sharpness of old wine doth make it more ac-
ceptable to men's palates, and as apples are more
grateful for their sour sweetness, so Attains was wont
to say, that the remembrance of our friends is the
more pleasant for that little sorrow that is mingled
with it. . . .

Ask thyself. Who is it that governs the world ? Is it
the will of God, or thy will, that thou prayest may be
done ? Shall not he that made a thing have leave to
dispose of it as he thinks good ? By what law is it
that he shall not do what he pleases with his own ?


Must we have our wills in all things, and must not he
have his will also ? Must not he be pleased as well as
we ? If we think it so reasonable to have what we
will, then it is more reasonable that he should have
what pleases him. Now, if our will and his will can-
not stand together, which shall bend and submit them-
selves to the other ? Is not his will most wise ? If he
had considered better, would he have done otherwise ?
Could we have told him what would be most fit for
us ? If we had been of his counsel, should not this
friend have been taken away ? Doth he will things
because he will ? Perhaps there is no reason at all
for our wills, and we are in love with a thing we
know not why. Shall we think that he is so in like
manner? Or, if we have any reasons, are not his bet-
ter ? We would have the life of a child, that he may
be a comfort unto us : God will have us to part with
him, that he himself may be our only comfort. We
should choose his life, that he might enjoy the things
that we have got ; but God thinks fit that he should
die, that we may put our estates to better uses, where-
by we are assured he may be more glorified. Or per-
haps we desire our children may live for God's glory's
sake, that they may honor and serve him in the world.
But cannot he tell what is best for his own glory ? Is
he so careless of that as to take away the things with-
out which he cannot be served ? Let us, then, cease
our complaints, unless we would have him to let us
govern the world. . . .

Doth not God do all things for our good ? Do we
wish better to ourselves than God doth? Hath not
he the greatest care of all his creatures, to see that it



be well with them ? Did he make them for any other
end than that they might be happy ? Is there the least
sparrow that falls to the ground without our Father's
providence? Then mankind must needs be under a
greater love, and none of them can die by chance, but
by his direction. And, above all other men, he hath
a singular care over the persons of good Christians,
the very hairs of whose heads are all numbered. If
not so much as a hair can drop off without him, much
less can any body of them fall into their graves but
he hath a hand in it. But still he hath a more special
providence over such Christians as are fatherless and
widows, helpless, and destitute of all succor. And,
therefore, as it was his goodness that took their friends
away, so much more will his goodness take care of
them whom he hath left none else to take care of. He
considers us not only as his children, but as children
placed in the midst of such and such circumstances, as
desolate and sad, as left only to his providence and
tuition. And therefore it is that the Psalmist saith,
" Thou art the helper of the fatherless." (Ps. x. 14.)
And, in another place, " A father of the fatherless, and
a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation."
(Ps. Ixviii. 5.) "I am poor and sorrowful ; let thy
salvation, God, set me up on high." (Ps. Ixix. 29.)
Yea, and all good men are full of compassion to such
persons ; so that " the blessing of those who are ready
to perish " comes upon them, and they cause " the
widow's heart to sing for joy." (Job xxix. 13.)

It is an excellent saying of the royal philosoplier
Antoninus, worthy to be engraven upon our minds,
"If there be a God, then nothing can be hurtful to


US, for he will not involve us in evil. But if either
there be none, or he take no care of men's matters,
what shall I live for in a world that is without a
God, or without a providence ? But there is a God,
and he cares for men also, and hath put it into their
power not to fall into those things which are truly
evil. And for the rest that befall us, if any thing of
them had been evil, he would have provided that we
should have been able not to have fallen into that
either." But if this great person had known, also,
that God leaves us not alone to our own power, when
he sends any thing upon us, but that he hath a pecu-
liar love to his servants when they are in trouble, and
affords them his assistance, he would have said on this
sort : " If we be not alone without God, then nothing
need discomfort us, for he is the God of all comfort.
If we be alone, then we had need to be most dis-
comforted for that, and never endure in a condition
without God. But we are not alone, and we are
least alone when we are alone ; and have him most
when we have other things least. Therefore he
hath put it into our power not to be troubled, but
to go to him for comfort in all that befalls us ; and
if there were no comfort in him for us in such cases,
then they should not have befallen us. Let us not,
therefore, mourn as long as we have a God, and as
long as all things make us seek for our comfort in



S \V A I N E .

There is a secret in the ways of God,

With his own children, which none others know,

That sweetens all he does ; and if such peace,

While under his afflicting hand, we find.

What will it be to see him as he is.

And past the reach of all that now disturbs

The tranquil soul's repose ? to contemplate.

In retrospect unclouded, all the means

By which his wisdom has prepared his saints

For the vast weight of glory which remains ?

Come, then. Affliction, if my Father bids,

And be my frowning friend : a friend that frowns

Is better than a smiling enemy.


Caholine Fky.

For what shall I praise thee, my God and my King ?
For what blessings the tribute of gratitude bring ?
Shall I praise thee for pleasure, for health, or for ease ?
For the spring of delight and the sunshine of peace ?


Shall I praise tlice for flowers that bloom on my

breast ?
For joys in perspective, and pleasures possessed ?
For the spirits that brightened my days of delight,
And the slumbers that sat on my pillow by night ?

For this I should praise thee ; but only for this,
I should leave half untold the donation of bliss :
I thank thee for sickness, for sorrow, for care.
For the thorns I have gathered, the anguish I bear ; —

For nights of anxiety, watchings, and tears,

A present of pain, a perspective of fears :

I praise thee, I bless thee, my King and my God,

For the good and the evil thy hand hath bestowed.

The flowers were sweet, but their fragrance is flown ;
They yielded no fruit ; they are withered and gone :
The thorn it was poignant, but precious to me ;
'Twas the message of mercy — it led me to thee.

" It is vnth. the wind and storm of tribulation that God, in the gamer of
the soul, separates the true wheat from the chaff. Always remember,
therefore, that God comes to thee in thy sorrows, as really as in thy joys.
He lays low, and he builds up. Hold thy peace, and let thyself be guided
by the hand of God ; suffer in patience, and walk on in strong faith. De-
sire of God only one thing — that thou mayst spend thy life for his sake in
true obedience and subjection. The way in which our blessed Sa\ior trod
was not one of softness and sweetness." — MoLixos.




Shrink not, human spirit ;
The everlasting arm is strong to save :
Look up, look up, frail nature ; put thy trust
In Him who went down mourning to the dust,

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Online LibraryMartha Noyes WilliamsVoices from the silent land; or, Leaves of consolation for the afflicted → online text (page 10 of 14)