In his enthusiastic support of the long wars with France, Edmund Burke seemed never to think of the sorrows those wars brought home to multitudes of hearts. But when his own son was killed in battle it was as if all world politics and personal pursuits had lost their meaning. "The storms," he wrote, "have gone over me, and I die like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane has scattered about me. I am stripped of all my honors; I am torn up by the roots and lie prostrate on the earth. I am alone. I have none to meet my enemies in the gate. I live in an inverted order. They who ought to have succeeded me have gone before me. They who should have been to me as posterity are in the place of ancestors."
Margaret Ogilvy, by James M. Barrie, is one of the fairest tributes ever paid to a mother. The first chapter in that moving story is entitled "How My Mother Got Her Soft Face." Margaret Ogilvy had the Scottish mother's ambitions for her sons' advancement in the intellectual world. Her oldest boy had gone far away to school. His younger brother remembered him only as a merry-faced lad who ran like a squirrel up a tree and shook the cherries into his lap. When he was thirteen the terrible news came that he was very ill. The whole family trooped down the brae to the wooden station to see the mother off on her journey to get between death and her boy. Just after the train had gone, the father came out of the telegraph office and said huskily, "He's gone!"
"From that day," writes the son, "I knew my mother forever. When she got home the first thing she expressed a wish to see was the christening robe, and she looked long at it and then turned her face to the wall. That is how she got her soft face and her pathetic ways and her large charity, and why other mothers ran to her when they had lost a child. 'Dinna greet, poor Janet,' she would say to them; and they would answer, 'Ah, Margaret, but you're greeting yourself.' "
That is how all mothers get their soft faces, and all men their soft voices and women their soft touch. They have "greeted" themselves.
Sometimes men wrestle with sorrow as with a dangerous adversary, only to find out in the end that the sorrow through which they have passed was their friend. One of the most notable preachers of the last century relates how he left his home in Liverpool one day to fill an engagement in the city of Glasgow. As he left the house to go to the station, the last sight on which his eye rested was that of his little daughter held up at the window in her grandmother's arms. As the carriage drove off, the child waved her father a fond and laughing farewell. Many a time, he said, during the railroad trip to Glasgow, that vision of his little daughter rose up before his memory and filled his heart with joy. But he was never to see her again. The next morning he was stunned by a telegram which told of her sudden death. At first it seemed to him a blow that staggered his faith and crushed his hopes, and put out the lamp of his joy. But as the years went by and the vision of that child waving him farewell came back to him, it seemed as if God had set her in the window of heaven to beckon him upward to his eternal home. "I would not give that memory," he said, "for all the gold of earth. I would not part with the inspiration which it stirs within me for all the world could bestow."
In 1862 Eleanor Siddal, the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who immortalized her beauty in his paintings, died from an overdose of laudanum. In the first paroxysm of his sorrow Rossetti resolved to sacrifice to her memory the poems which he had written and which were still in manuscript. These manuscripts were accordingly buried in her coffin. But seven years afterward they were exhumed and the world greeted them with gladness. The enrichment of English literature was a far higher tribute to his wife than the obliteration of the sepulcher.
There are sorrows that come to men, and are noted of others, which may evoke sympathy, but which in their fullness are incommunicable. What a perfect picture of humanity in this respect is our Saviour! When entering into his sorest grief and yearning for human sympathy he took with him into the recesses of the garden Peter and James and John, and then withdrew himself from them a stone's cast, and there entered into his agony. Always there is that distance, the stone's cast, between the heart in the bitterness of its grief and the nearest and the dearest friend.
A great preacher, Joseph Parker, used to say that there is one preacher who is always up to date—the preacher who preaches to aching hearts.
When his son William died in 1862 Lincoln resumed his duties—but mechanically, and with a heavy heart. Every Thursday, the anniversary of the lad's death, he observed as a day of mourning. One day the rector of Trinity Church, New York, at the solicitation of Lincoln's friends, called on him and told him that the continued indulgence of such feelings, though natural, was sinful, and unworthy of one who believed in the Christian religion, and that he was unfitting himself for his duties as the leader of his people. From that day Lincoln ceased his mourning, at least that outward mourning at stated seasons which interfered with his own happiness and usefulness.
"They whisper, 'She's a shut-in,'
As they pass my cottage door,
Where daily, by my window,
I've sat twenty years or more.
My feet are lame, I cannot walk,
I've been that way since birth;
I'll never travel 'round and see
The wonders of this earth.
They whisper, 'What a pity
She should be afflicted so!
She just sits there in her wheel chair,
Never has a chance to go!'
They wonder how I bear it,
And perhaps you wonder, too?
Well, it really is no secret,
And a simple reason, too.
It's because I have a Promise
That was given long ago,
By another One who suffered
Greater pain than I can know.
And He's building me a mansion,
In a Land more wondrous far
Than the majesty of oceans,
Than the lofty mountains are.
And I know when I shall go there,
The very first thing I'll do,
Is exchange these withered feet of clay
For others straight and new!
Then, up and down the Golden Streets,
On limbs so fine and strong,
I'll wend my way 'mid angels fair,
And lift my voice in song!"—Gospel Herald.