On the Cornish coast of England, on a jutting crag with the waves of the Atlantic rolling in and breaking upon it in thunderous refrain, are the ruins of the legendary castle of King Arthur. It was near that same Tintagel that King Arthur fought his last battle. When he was dying he gave his famous sword, Excalibur, to one of his knights, with the command to cast it into the sea. The sword had been drawn by the boy Arthur from the miraculous stone by the church door—a feat which caused the people to proclaim him king. When Sir Bedivere hurled Excalibur back into the sea, an arm clothed in white, mystic and wonderful, caught the sword by the hilt, brandished it three times aloft, and drew it under.
This is a parable of the truth that the righteous life girds a man with power. By your own life you forge the Excalibur with which you will win your victories. There is no other sword like that. May everyone be able to say, as David said about the sword of Goliath the Philistine, "There is none like that; give it me" (I Sam. 21:9).
One of the most beautiful of all the creations of Dickens was the lovely child Nell. The victim of misfortune from the beginning of her life, faithful to her aged grandparent in whose breast burns the flame of the gambler, Little Nell wanders to and fro over England, often homeless, fireless, cold, coming in contact with coarse and rude men—gypsies, gamblers, bargemen, furnacemen, and showmen—and yet, wherever she went, by the sweetness and kindness of her disposition awakening kindness in others and speaking to that better angel which sleeps in every human breast. "When I die," was her request, "put near me some thing that has loved the light, and had the sky above it always."
"She was dead. Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell, was dead. . . . And still her former self lay there, unaltered in this change. Yes. The old fireside had smiled upon that same sweet face; it had passed, like a dream, through haunts of misery and care; at the door of the poor schoolmaster on the summer evening, before the furnace fire upon the cold wet night, at the still bedside of the dying boy, there had been the same mild lovely look. So shall we know the angels in their majesty, after death."
Every heart responds to that beautiful passage in The Old Curiosity Shop, for whoever looked upon the still, calm face of the godly dead and felt that their life had been in vain, or that godliness was not profitable for this life as well as for the life to come?
Perhaps the greatest of all Christmas stories is that masterpiece of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. When the third phantom, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, arrived at the door of Scrooge, the hard-as-flint miser who had accumulated so much silver and gold, he conducted him to a low, beetling pawnshop in one of the poorer districts of London.
There he saw an old hag bring in a bag and empty it on the floor, and he was horrified to discover that the articles had been stripped from his own chambers. Then the phantom touched him, and he found himself in his own bedroom.
On the bed lay a still, sheeted form. Scrooge dared not lift the sheet to look upon the face. Then said the phantom, "O cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honored head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man's. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!"
When the Master of Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott, lay dying, he called for his son-in-law and biographer, Lockhart, and said to him, "Lockhart, my dear sir, be a' good man. Be virtuous, be religious, be a good man. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here."