In the Jewish temple and tabernacle there burned a lamp, a light of sacrifice that never went out. Day and night, summer and winter, it shed its soft and mystic glow within the holy place. In the temple of the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ there was a lamp, a light that never went out. The oil that supplied it was never exhausted. No scorn, no hostility, no hatred could ever quench it. It was the light of love. "Having loved his own ... he loved them unto the end." (John 13:1.)
Absalom had denied David, but when the father heard that his son was dead, his father's love covered all the boy's faults. Great love always does that, for love hopeth all things and believeth all things. A very distinguished clergyman who had a son, handsome and gifted like Absalom, but who, following his father into the ministry, brought reproach to the cause of Christ and immeasurable anguish to his father. The son was deposed from the ministry. Years afterward the father appeared before the synod of the church and pleaded with his brethren to restore the son to holy office. Those who were present describe the scene as the most moving and dramatic they had ever witnessed. The theologian, the wise counselor, the man who took thought for the church, the guardian of the honor of the cause—all these were gone, or forgotten for the moment, and only the father stood there pleading for his beloved son.
O love, love of fathers for sons, love of frail creatures of the dust for passing shadows like themselves, love that wilt not let any go without a tear, a sigh, a lamentation, by thine ever-burning flame thou dost teach us to read the noble characters which are writ large in human nature and, reading them, to think more highly of ourselves and hope more firmly in God!
A woman is married to a man who turns out to be, in the common saying, "no good." He is unfaithful, he is intemperate, shiftless, at times cruel, the very caricature of husband and father. All that he means to the woman is want, shame, dread, and pain. His irregularities reach their climax in some criminal act, and the man forfeits his liberty for a season and is confined within the walls of the penitentiary. To the world, outside of that woman, he ceases to exist. His own brothers and sisters disown him and only hope never to set eyes upon him again. His old friends forget him. The years slip by. The term of imprisonment is ended. He is discharged. The penitentiary gates open for him as he steps back into the world on a bleak winter's day; and there, like an angel of mercy, stands his wife, with open arms, to welcome him back to life again.
How can you account for it? Only thus: she loves him. Marvelous, august, enduring love! Love that beareth all things. Many waters of adversity cannot quench it, neither can all the raging floods of sin drown it.
In George Eliot's Scenes from Clerical Life there is a passage where she describes the grief of the rector, Amos Barton, over his departed wife. So keen was his distress that he felt as though her passing must be only a dream: "Oh, the anguish of that thought that we can never atone to our dead for the stinted affection we gave them, for the light answer we turned to their plaints or pleas, for the little reverence we showed to that sacred soul that lived so close to us and was the divinest thing that God had given us to know!"
In George Eliot's great book Silas Marner, the wounded, rebuffed, and finally embittered and God-rejecting old miser, coming into his cabin and mourning the loss of his hoard of gold, was stooping to push the logs together—when to his blurred vision it seemed as if there were gold on the floor in front of the hearth. He thought his gold had come back again. It was gold; but when he put out his hand to seize the metallic treasure, his hand touched the soft golden curls of a little child who had crawled from its dead mother's arms in the snow outside to the light of the fire. At first Silas thought it was his sister—whom as a child he had carried about in his arms, in the long ago—come back to him. "He had a dreamy feeling that this child was somehow a message come to him from that far-off'life; it stirred fibres that had not been moved for many a year, old quiverings of tenderness, old impressions of awe at the presentiment of some Power presiding over his life."
The golden-haired child had come— as many another child has come and will come—to lead the gloomy man out from his false self and back to his real self. He came to himself. But a little child led him. Do you wonder that when God came to seek and to save the lost, he came as a little child?
A great character was that man of storm and thunder, Andrew Jackson. Perhaps no man in American history ever received so much adulation and so much execration and malediction. When at length he retired to the Hermitage, near Nashville, to end his days, he had back of him the memory of the great victory over Wellington's veterans at New Orleans and his two terms as president of the United States. Yet, in those sunset days at the Hermitage, these were not the things of which he was thinking, nor were they the things which brought him comfort and consolation. Visitors at the Hermitage who entered his room relate how they would find the old man sitting before the fire, in one hand his Bible and in the other hand a miniature of his beloved Rachel. On her tomb, near the Hermitage, on a bright spring morning when the trees were white with blossoms and the mockingbirds sang in their branches, one can read the inscription which Jackson composed, his beautiful tribute to the companion of thirty-five years: "Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died the twenty-second of December, 1828. Age 61 years. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, her heart kind. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he bore her from the arms of her husband, could but transport her to the bosom of her God."
What the old warrior took comfort in was not the huzzas of the multitude after his marvelous victory at New Orleans, nor the recollections of his eight years of absolute power at Washington, but rather the affections and devotions of his beloved Rachel. There, in the realm of the heart, and not in the realm of things, are to be found the abiding satisfactions of life.
On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, when the Union artillery had ceased firing, creating the mistaken impression among the Confederates that the Union guns had been silenced, the Confederate chief of artillery, Alexander, sent a message to Longstreet, who commanded the corps from which Pickett's division was taken for the famous charge. As soon as this message was received, Pickett sprang to his feet, and, looking toward Longstreet, said, "General, shall I go forward?" Unable to speak the order which he was convinced must end in disaster, Longstreet grasped Pickett by the hand and bowed his head. The next moment Pickett was on his horse and off at a gallop. But in a few minutes he came riding back to Longstreet and handed him a letter addressed to his fiancee at Richmond. On the back of the envelope he had written in pencil, "If Old Peter's [Longstreet's sobriquet] nod means death, good-by, and God bless you, little one."
As he went to the head of his lines again, Wilcox, another commander, rode up to him and, taking a flask from his pocket, said, "Pickett, take a drink with me. In an hour you will be in hell or glory." Pickett refused to drink, saying: "I promised the little girl who is waiting and praying for me down in Virginia that I would keep fresh upon my lips, until we should meet again, the breath of the violets she gave me when we parted. Whatever my fate, Wilcox, I shall try to do my duty like a man; and I hope that, by that little girl's prayer, I shall today reach glory or glory." Thus "for her sake," without the smell of whisky upon him, Pickett rode to glory.
Who can tell how much evil has been refrained from and how much good has been done for the love of a noble woman?